Wash Times on UN Diene visit, Ibuki, Gaijin Hanzai etc


Hi Blog. Two nice articles on issues we’re covering on this blog: UN Rep Doudou Diene’s recent Japan visit and the forces working against Japan’s inevitable internationalization(including Ed Minister Ibuki’s comments, PM Abe’s support of Japan’s alleged homogeneity, and “Japanese Only” signs nationwide). Bravo. Thanks to the author for notifying me. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Insular power poses unique issues on bias
Published March 9, 2007 Washington Times
By Takehiko Kambayashi


Doudou Diene, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, who was in Tokyo last week, spoke with Takehiko Kambayashi of The Washington Times about racism and xenophobia in Japan. His report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission last year urged Japan to immediately adopt a law against racism, race discrimination and xenophobia.

Question: What made you investigate racism in Japan?

Answer: I was elected by the United Nations Human Rights Commission as a special rapporteur and given a mandate to investigate racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. I issue a yearly report on racism worldwide and investigate racism in different countries.

First, Japan is a global economic power, but the country is insular. This contradiction interested me, and I investigated racism in Japan. Japan’s population had been isolated for long [from the 1630s to the 1850s, under a national policy], but it is now becoming more multicultural and multiethnic. So I wanted to investigate how Japan is coping with this.

Second, I’ve come to Japan many times. I knew about the Burakumin, which made me interested. I visited Buraku communities. I spent a great amount of time with the people and looked at their situations and listened to them.

I also met the Ainu, [indigenous people living mostly on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island] and learned how they tried to save their identity and were facing different forms of discrimination. And finally, I realized the complexities among Japan, China and Korea. I also learned of the discrimination Koreans and Chinese suffered in Japan.

[Editor’s note: The Burakumin are not a racial minority but a castelike minority among the Japanese. They are recognized as descendents of an outcast population of the feudal days. According to the Buraku Liberation League, Japan has 6,000 Buraku communities with more than 3 million people.]

Q: Can you tell us how the issues of racism in Japan differ from those in other countries?

A: Each country has its own history, its own culture and dynamic population. It is difficult to compare.

In Japan, one of the deep roots of discrimination is history – not only the history of Japan but the history of the relationship between Japan and neighboring countries. It is in the context of this history that discrimination has been built up strongly. It is clear that the history of discrimination against the Burakumin and the Ainu has been profoundly related with the history of Japanese feudal society and Japan’s history.

It is also clear that discrimination against Koreans living in Japan is also the consequence of the history of Imperial Japan, the way Japan dominated their country with an ideology of cultural domination and contempt. History is a very important factor.

Q: So this is a challenge to Japan?

A: The challenge to Japan is the writing and teaching of history. The Ainu and the Burakumin are absent in national history. Their history, their culture, the process of the discrimination, the deep causes of the discrimination, all of these are absent in Japanese history.

Japanese history, as it’s taught in schools, is also silent about the way China and Korea profoundly influenced the construction of Japanese identity. China and Korea are considered to be the father and mother of Japan, in a way, in terms of language, culture and religion.

My recommendation is for Japan to agree with China, Korea and other countries in the region and start a joint drafting of the region’s history. I recommended that these countries call upon [the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] to coordinate.



Japanese confront differences
By Takehiko Kambayashi
THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published March 9, 2007


TOKYO–While Japan is becoming more multicultural and multiethnic, some say coping with it is still a daunting task. That is exemplified by recent comments by Japan’s Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki, critics say.

“Japan has been historically governed by the Yamato race [ethnic Japanese],” Mr. Ibuki told a convention of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chapter in Nagasaki late last month, adding that the country is “extremely homogeneous.”

However, international marriages in Japan increased from 27,727 in 1995 to 41,481 in 2005.

Mr. Ibuki, who describes himself on his Web site as an “internationally minded person acquainted with many foreign dignitaries,” shocked the Japanese with his comments and infuriated minorities like the Ainu indigenous people.

Yupo Abe, vice president of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, said he was astonished to hear Mr. Ibuki’s comments, adding that the head of Japan’s Education Ministry “lacks an understanding of history.”

Mr. Abe said the Ainu people had long lived in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, which makes up about 20 percent of the country’s land mass, but in 1869 Japan took away their land.

The stir created by Mr. Ibuki’s remarks coincided with a visit by Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance who wrote a report on Japan.

“I am surprised that these comments were made by the minister of education, whose function is to educate children, enlighten them and transmit values to them,” said Mr. Diene. “There is no such thing as a homogeneous society.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, said there was nothing wrong with Mr. Ibuki’s remarks.

“I think he was referring to the fact that we [the Japanese] have gotten along with each other fairly well so far,” he said. “I don’t see any specific problem with that.”

“Such words will only fuel doubts about Mr. Abe’s integrity as a national leader,” countered the Japan Times, an English-language daily, in an editorial.

Last year, Mr. Diene submitted his report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and U.N. General Assembly, urging Japan to recognize the existence of racial discrimination and immediately adopt a law against it.

Some recent incidents seem to indicate the need for such a law.

Last month a sensational magazine titled “Secret Files of Foreigners’ Crimes” went on sale across the country with its cover screaming “Will we let gaijin [foreigners] lay waste to Japan?” and “Everyone will become a target of foreign crime in 2007!” [“Gaijin” is a loaded word that literally means “outsider.”] The magazine provoked outrage over its garish depictions of Chinese, Koreans, Iranians and U.S. servicemen.

A boycott movement prompted major convenience stores like Family Mart, 7-Eleven and others to pull the magazines off their shelves.

The magazine’s editor Shigeki Saka of Eichi Publishing was not apologetic. He said the magazine wanted to discuss crimes committed by foreigners and how to be prepared for them.

The Japanese press generally ignored the issue, said U.S.-born Debito Arudou, a Japanese citizen. “There’s a reason for that: It’s not something that people want to discuss when it comes to real, naked racism.”

Moreover, in a nation that aspires to a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, some businesses still display “Japanese Only” signs. In Koshigaya, a bedroom community of Tokyo, Eden, an “adult entertainment shop,” has posted a sign saying “Pure-Blooded Japanese Male Only,” and “Chinese and Naturalized people, Japanese war orphans left in China, people of mixed race with Chinese origin, Absolutely No Entry.”

A manager said the shop itself did not mean to discriminate against those at whom it pointed a finger, but its female staff members don’t want them.

Such “Japanese Only” signs can be seen across Japan, said Mr. Arudou, author of “Japanese Only.”

“It’s getting worse. It’s nationwide.”

” ‘Japanese Only’ signs are unconstitutional, but they are not illegal because there is no law to enforce the constitution,” Mr. Arudou said.

Ironically, since Japan’s current population of 127 million is expected to fall to below 100 million by 2050, some say more foreigners should be encouraged to live and work in Japan for the country’s own survival.


2 comments on “Wash Times on UN Diene visit, Ibuki, Gaijin Hanzai etc

  • You might find this article interesting:


    Female foreigners are OK in Japan, so long as they’re not Asian
    The Japan Times: Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s refusal to apologize anew for Japan’s sex-slave policy during World War II has a different meaning in Japan than it does abroad. The issue has come around again because the U.S. Congress is considering a resolution to demand that Japan clearly accept responsibility for the policy. Abe has said the government will stand by a 1993 apology issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, but has stressed that there is no evidence that the Japanese military “used coercion” to force women into frontline brothels.

    Overseas, Abe’s remarks made headlines and has provoked anger from those who say that the Japanese government has yet to own up to the sex-slave policy and is backtracking into denial. In Japan, Abe’s remarks have been buried in articles about Diet business or stuck at the end of TV news reports. The media see them as part of a strategy for Abe to appear more assertive in response to weakening public support for his administration.

    These reports rarely address the sex-slave issue itself. The Japanese media continue to use the euphemism “comfort women” to describe the sex slaves and have generally stopped discussing it as anything except a point of historical contention between Japan and certain groups outside of Japan. To the Japanese public it’s a nonissue.

    Abe can split hairs over the definition of “coercion” and claim that there is no evidence of government involvement in the forced recruitment of sex slaves because he knows the local press won’t challenge him. During that famous mock tribunal held in Tokyo in 2000, where international legal experts put the wartime government on trial for its sex-slave policy, plenty of testimony and evidence was given to show that the government had indeed forced women from Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries into frontline brothels. But that episode has since been turned into an entirely different matter of coercion — one having to do with whether or not the ruling party put pressure on NHK to water down its coverage of the tribunal. In other words, it was turned into a local issue.

    Knowing what it knows about the behavior of soldiers and the suffering of innocents during wartime, the world looks upon Abe’s remarks as being cold and cynical since they intensify the pain and humiliation of the surviving sex slaves, who couldn’t care less about the semantics of “coercion.” The Foreign Ministry has said that Abe’s remarks were “incorrectly conveyed” to the world and will attempt to educate the overseas media on “the real meaning of Japan’s position.” This transparent stab at spin control will fail because, in the end, Abe cares less about what the world thinks than about what his supporters think. And the media is willing to go along with it.

    That’s because media companies are squeamish about anything having to do with Asian females. The popular TV Tokyo variety series, “The Wife is a Foreigner,” enthusiastically celebrates the assimilation of non-Japanese women into Japanese life — just as long as they aren’t Korean, Chinese, Filipino or Thai. Those four nationalities together represent the vast majority of expatriate wives in Japan, but for some reason they never appear on the program. Are they not “foreign” enough?

    These women now constitute substantial minorities, but minorities tend to become invisible when the government pushes the idea that Japan is one big happy “homogeneous” family. For years the United Nations has been pressuring the Japanese government to conduct a survey of its minority women to find out how they fare in Japanese society, but it hasn’t.

    It fell to nongovernment organizations to carry out the survey, and they found, unsurprisingly, that so-called “compound discrimination” against minority women in Japan is profound. Poverty, unemployment, domestic violence and divorce are higher among minority women than among women in the general population.

    This survey did not target foreigners, but rather Ainu, Burakumin and Koreans who were born here. According to one of the NGOs interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun, these women “don’t make their problems heard because they’re afraid of attracting attention to themselves” as members of minorities.

    So if women who have lived here all their lives and know only Japan can still feel like outsiders due to some arbitrary aspect of family heritage, how do Asian expatriate women feel? It’s difficult to know. Unless they are involved in lawsuits or crimes, they rarely get mentioned on TV or in periodicals. If there are any tarento of mixed Japanese-Asian parentage they don’t publicize the fact; or, at least, they don’t about it as readily and often as superstar tarento like Eiji Wentz or Becky talk about their Japanese-Western parentage.

    Asian women in Japan, whether or not they are married to Japanese men, still evoke unpleasant associations, starting with military sex slavery and continuing with trafficking and sex tourism, issues that have also drawn the world’s condemnation. These associations are by no means dispelled when Abe denies government involvement in the sex-slave business, but in the end his denial mainly reinforces the feeling that he values political expediency over everything, especially given his famous support for the families of North Korean abductees.

    Last May, when Shigeru Yokota visited South Korea to meet the mother of the North Korean husband of his abducted daughter Megumi, he was also invited to meet former sex slaves. In a letter to Yokota, a South Korean politician, perhaps advancing his own agenda, sympathized with Yokota’s suffering and said Yokota could gain incalculable goodwill from the Korean people if he acknowledged “the thousands of Megumis” who were kidnapped during Japan’s colonial rule. For whatever reason, Yokota didn’t meet with any sex slaves. Somebody assumed it wasn’t in his interest, or Japan’s.

    The Japan Times: Sunday, March 11, 2007

  • First, let me say– as a 40 year resident of Japan– how much I appreciate Mr Debito’s courageous work.
    Can I make a couple of points?
    First, the original Japanese are of course the Ainu, who can be equated with the Joumon people who have lived in Japan for about 10,000 years.
    Second, the so-called “Japanese”, must be given a lesson, at every opportunity, in the fact of their Mongolian/Korean origins. Their language is of course Ural-Altaic, closely related to Korean; their traditional architecture is very little different from Korean architecture. Korean historians often note that famous “Japanese” Temple of Houryuu-ji represents the summit of traditional Korean architecture; it just happens to be in Japan.
    Third: the problems attendant on the Japanese use of the word ‘gaijin’. This word of course has its roots in the Chinese term “foreign devil”. It is clearly a racial slur, used almost exclusively to refer to people of ethnic European origin.(Are all other foreigners then simply second-class ‘gaikoku-jin’?) ‘Gaijin’ certainly does not include other Asians(and here let us be clear that the Japanese are just as Asian as any other Asians, more so than the many Filipinos who have European blood, for example). The main problem with ‘gaijin’ is that it is always used as one side of a’gaijin-Nihonjin’ dichotomy. The lowercase ‘g’ of gaijin betrays its status as a racial slur; Nihonjin, by contrast, with its capital ‘N’, designates national identity. Thus, the dichotomy rests upon an unjustifiable comparison: race versus nationality. Most Japanese do not seem to realise this simple fact. In many ways the Japanese are themselves in fact the world’s ‘gaijin’– the eternal outsiders, who believe that they are in this world, but not quite of it.
    Biographical note: I am a former diplomat with a Japanese PhD in linguistics; the languages in which I am fluent are English, Japanese, and French.

    Once again, thanks to Mr Debito
    J A F Hopkins


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