Morning all. Arudou Debito here with a weekly roundup of events:
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 7, 2007
1) GAIJIN HANZAI PUBLISHER GOES BANKRUPT
2) METROPOLIS ON POLICE TREATMENT OF CRIMES AGAINST NJ
3) IRISH TIMES AND NYT ON J HISTORICAL REVISIONISM
4) “GUESTISM” PLACED IN A HISTORICAL CONTEXT
5) GET READY FOR A DIVORCE-RATE BOOM IN JAPAN
6) U OF HYOGO AND IUHW ADDED TO UNIVERSITY BLACKLIST
and finally… FUN FACTS! RE LOCAL GOVTS
1) GAIJIN HANZAI PUBLISHER GOES BANKRUPT
This just in (thanks to Trans-Pacific Radio (http://www.transpacificradio.com)): Japan Probe and Fukumimi blogs report that Eichi Shuppan, publisher of the infamous GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine (http://www.debito.org/?cat=27), has gone bankrupt (and I don’t mean just morally bankrupt).
Good bye and good riddance to the publisher of racially inflammatory content.
Eichi Shuppan has closed its doors and is being liquidated. It had oustanding debts of JPY2.3B (about $20 million give or take).
I’m sure people like Debito and JapanProbe will be celebrating, although the failure of the business is unrelated to the recent fuss over racist publications, and is rather due to the fact that its parent company has closed its doors and Eichi was one of the subsidiaries which was already in trouble and could not stand on its own two feet. The publishing of smut had been transferred to a different company a long time ago (Eichi seems to have retained the sales rights in that reorganization, which was due to the company being busted on pornography charges), and that was the cash cow business anyway, although this line is no doubt also feeling the heat from internet sites (many of which apparently feature many scanned images from old magazines, including those of Eichi, so I’m told.)
Addendum: The news is courtesy of Teikoku DataBank via a Nikkei Telecon subscription (no link available to the actual data regarding Eichi, but see here for an article: http://www.zakzak.co.jp/gei/2007_04/g2007040515.html (Japanese)).
COMMENT: Now, before anyone says we dood it: As Fukumimi points out, it’s unclear that GAIJIN HANZAI magazine was entirely responsible (but the bath they took on it certainly didn’t help).
Then this begs the question: What was a publisher in such fragile condition trying to pull by taking on this high-risk (if they even saw it as that) controversial magazine? If it was merely trying to stir up debate, as the editor asserted throughout the debacle, then it should have had a bit more of a buffer cash flow in its safe.
Naw. In the end, they were just trying to sell magazines through provocation, for they never expected it to be a flop (they obviously couldn’t afford one). No wonder they were on tenterhooks the whole time during this debate.
Okay, people are probably expecting me to crow a bit. Well… let’s just state the obvious: Darwin Awards for the publishing industry. Eichi Shuppan was just stupid. Glass houses and stones? Publishing houses and racist overtones? Reap and sow.
Some friends in the media have since let me know that this sort of thing is not unusual in the publishing industry–where publishers create presses for their saleable ideas, which ultimately run their course, and the publisher winks out of existence. If I get permission to reprint their mails, I’ll blog them presently.
Meanwhile, speaking of “gaijin hanzai”–how about crimes which go the other way round?
2) METROPOLIS ON POLICE TREATMENT OF CRIMES AGAINST NON-JAPANESE
I just got a call this evening from an African and his J wife regarding a recent Civil Court loss against the police, where negligence regarding his case (he still suffers physical debilitation due to the assault) was downplayed to the point where his friend’s testimony was dismissed because he was a “foreigner and a friend”, and the Defense’s doctor claimed his injuries were due to his overlong African legs. I hear about these sorts of things a lot nowadays. (More info later after I meet them in Tokyo in two weeks.)
Here’s an excerpt from an article which will hopefully start the pendulum swinging backwards on the whole “foreigners are potential criminals” starting point, often found whenever NJ interact which the police. Several cases of probable police negligence are included.
Foreigners who turn to Japan’s justice system for help find themselves ignored. Is incompetence to blame… or racism?
METROPOLIS MAGAZINE #677 MARCH 16, 2007
By Oscar Johnson
Trying to extract redress from Japan’s criminal justice system can be an exercise in the absurd for anyone. But add in the suspicion that’s associated with a foreign face or name, and that absurdity can turn into dismay and outrage. Many non-Japanese say their crime reports are routinely dismissed by police, who may instead turn a suspicious eye on them for daring to complain about being victims. At best, police negligence can underscore a foreigners’ second-class status; at worst, it can lead to an atmosphere where crimes against gaijin are tacitly condoned…
Negative perceptions of foreigners by the police and public is a reality in Japan, just as it is elsewhere, says H. Richard Friman, director of the Institute for Transnational Justice and a political science professor at Wisconsin’s Marquette University. But in Japan, he notes in an email interview, the situation is exacerbated by several factors, not least of which is “the willingness of political officials to play the ‘crime-by-foreigners’ card for political gain… Japanese aggregate crime data rarely specifies the victim of the crime, and anecdotal evidence… tends to stress those cases where Japanese are victims, or high profile cases of foreigner-on-foreigner violence. Thus, the common image is that Japanese especially are at risk.”
[T]here are a few things that can be done to increase the chances of an adequate police response, according to activist Arudou. The first is to be patient and not expect a quick resoltion. “If you get flustered, it’s only going to turn the cops off,” he says. “Have everything ready for presentation. If it’s rape or robbery, have photos of the location or stolen property; if there’s a language problem, take someone with you to interpret.” Arudou stresses that when dealing with the police, “establishing your credibility is paramount”–even if theirs may be on shaky ground.
Here is some information I should have added to my comment:
ADDENDUM FROM LAURIE TROST, HEAD OF THE US CITIZENS’ SERVICES SECTION OF THE US EMBASSY (FORWARDED FROM A FRIEND REGARDING A RECENT INQUIRY TO DEBITO FROM A VICTIM OF ASSAULT)
“Thank you for forwarding this. Since the American filed a report he might be able to get some funding from his state for Victim’s Assistance for his medical bills… I confirmed… that it’s better to report an assault at a Police Station rather than a koban. And yes, the police tell us the incident should be reported where it happened.”
Finally, if you are going to deal with police–any police–anywhere in the world, get everything you need in reproduceable document form (on paper, digitally, electronically, etc as best you can) before, during, and after police investigations. Otherwise you have no case. Might be tough, but that’s whatcha gotta do. More in our upcoming GUIDEBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS (http://www.debito.org/?p=189).
3) IRISH TIMES AND NYT ON J HISTORICAL REVISIONISM
It’s business as usual as Japan Inc. takes on the world’s political arenas with spin doctoring over “Comfort Women” etc., to feint with the left hand while fiddling with the right. Distract with snow jobs while whitewashing the historical record. Only this time I think we’ve got enough people on the ground over here who know what our government is doing for a change. David McNeill releases an excellent article for the Irish Times, while Norimitsu Onishi, on an incredible roll these days, continues unearthing for the New York Times (who’da thunk it, considering Nori’s articles when he first got here…?)
ABE UNLEASHES THE DENIERS OF HISTORY
By David McNeill
Irish Times, April 2, 2007
Available by subscription only, so see full article blogged at
One of the Japanese TV networks recently pointed out that some of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ministers no longer stood up when he walked into the Cabinet meeting room. Even worse, fumed one observer, they kept chatting as he tries to start the meeting… [M]ost concluded: Mr. Abe had lost the respect of his troops.
The unruly Cabinet coincides with a period of plummeting approval ratings for the government, which started last year at 63 percent and now speed inexorably toward the low thirties as elections loom…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Mr. Abe is taking shelter under a political umbrella he has always found comfortable: nationalism. The man who coined the election slogan “beautiful Japan” and who will, if nothing else be remembered for re-injecting patriotism into the nation’s schools (in an education law approved Friday) is also unleashing the historical deniers and whitewashers who have long been kept tied up in the dungeons of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The deniers offer a startling historical counter-narrative: Japan was not the aggressor in the Pacific War but the liberator, fighting to defend itself from the U.S. and European powers and free Asia from the yoke of white colonialism; Imperial troops were not guilty, as most historians suggest, of some of the worst war crimes of the 20th century but the “normal excesses” of armies everywhere.
Mr. Abe’s cabinet is dominated by such revisionists…
JAPAN’S TEXTBOOKS REFLECT REVISED HISTORY
By Norimitsu Onishi, The New York Times April 1, 2007
In another sign that Japan is pressing ahead in revising its history of World War II, new high school textbooks will no longer acknowledge that the Imperial Army was responsible for a major atrocity in Okinawa, the government announced late Friday.
The Ministry of Education ordered publishers to delete passages stating that the Imperial Army ordered civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa, as the island was about to fall to American troops in the final months of the war.
The decision was announced as part of the ministry’s annual screening of textbooks used in all public schools. The ministry also ordered changes to other delicate issues to dovetail with government assertions, though the screening is supposed to be free of political interference.
“I believe the screening system has been followed appropriately,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe…
Mr. Abe, after helping to found the Group of Young Parliamentarians Concerned About Japan’s Future and History Education in 1997, long led a campaign to reject what nationalists call a masochistic view of history that has robbed postwar Japanese of their pride.
Yasuhiro Nakasone, a former prime minister who is a staunch ally of Mr. Abe, recently denied what he wrote in 1978. In a memoir about his Imperial Navy experiences in Indonesia, titled “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23,” he wrote that some of his men “started attacking local women or became addicted to gambling.
“For them, I went to great pains, and had a comfort station built,” Mr. Nakasone wrote, using the euphemism for a military brothel.
But in a meeting with foreign journalists a week ago, Mr. Nakasone, now 88, issued a flat denial. He said he had actually set up a “recreation center,” where his men played Japanese board games like go and shogi…
Games people play. Speaking of tinkering with the record:
4) “GUESTISM” PLACED IN A HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Some time ago, Alex Kerr, author of DOGS AND DEMONS and LOST JAPAN (and a person I have great respect for), was asked in an interview with the Japan Times (Oct 25, 2005) about he thought about activists (and, er, about me in particular). He responded:
JT: In Dogs and Demons you argue that Japan has failed to internationalize. What do you think about the work of Debito Arudou and others to combat racial discrimination in Japan?
AK: Well, somebody has to do it. I’m glad that there is a whistle-blower out there. But, I am doubtful whether in the long run it really helps. One would hope that he could do it another way. He’s not doing it the Japanese way. He’s being very gaijin in his openly combative attitude, and usually in Japan that approach fails.
I fear that his activities might tend to just confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.
That said, perhaps we who live here are slow to stick our necks out when we sense an injustice, and quick to self-censor in order to get along smoothly in our communities.
To me the most interesting aspect of Arudou Debito is that, in taking on Japanese citizenship, he has brought the dialogue inside Japan. His activities reveal the fact that gaijin and their gaijin ways are now a part of the fabric of Japan’s new society. A very small part of course, but a vocal and real part.
This sticks in my craw for two reasons: One is that Alex, who does incredible amounts of research for his books, seems ill-informed about the ways we have combatted racial discrimination. If he had read my book JAPANESE ONLY (and despite receiving a copy from me nearly two years ago, he wrote me last January that he still hadn’t read it), he might understand that ARE doing it the so-called “Japanese Way”. We took every channel and route available to us WITHIN the Japanese system, as I meticulously detail in the book. In fact, there are plenty of Japanese who do exactly what we do (and more), and don’t get slapped with a “gaijin” label. It is out of character for Alex to comment on something he hasn’t done thorough research on.
The other reason is that this quote has been lifted out of context and selectedly reproduced by the unscrupulous on places like Wikipedia:
Some critics question Arudou’s brand of conflict resolution: the judicial system. Alex Kerr, author of the best-selling Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan (ISBN 0-8090-3943-5), criticize such tactics as “too combative,” is doubtful “whether in the long run it really helps,” noting that “in Japan…[the combative] approach fails.” Acknowledging that “gaijin and their gaijin ways are now part of the fabric of Japan’s new society,” Kerr also notes that Arudou’s activities may “confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.”
The essence and thrust of Alex’s comment, which is in fact about two-thirds positive, is lost.
Anyhow, the reason I bring this up now is because Matt Dioguardi in a recent, thoughtful essay, grounds this phenomenon in historical context, from an angle I hadn’t considered before:
=========== MATT DIOGUARDI WRITES =================
As a foreign national who is making a life for himself in Japan, I’m personally concerned that remarks like his have a negative effect on me (as a so-called “gaijin”). Because regardless of what one may or may not think of Debito, unintentionally Kerr is commenting on all “gaijin”.
Compare this to C. Eric Lincoln’s vivid description of a “smart nigger” in Coming Through the Fire: Surviving Race and Place in America:
The smart nigger was likely to be everything the good nigger was not. Most likely he was educated above the norm considered sufficient for colored folks; whether he got it in school or some bigger fool than he had put it into his head, he had some dangerous notions. In either case, Mr. Martin said that the smart nigger was a pain in his own ass, and everybody else’s too. He wanted too much. He wanted his street paved, and he wanted it paved because he paid taxes rather than because his wife cooked for the judge. His house was painted and well kept and he didn’t waste his money on rattletrap cars. He didn’t “owe money downtown,” or “take up” advances on his pay every Monday morning. More than likely he had “been up North,” and he had a colored newspaper come to his house in the mail. The smart nigger paid his poll taxes, and he was mighty slow, it seemed to Mr. Dubbie Gee, to answer when somebody said “Boy!” He didn’t think that the bad nigger was funny, or that the good nigger could be trusted. Clearly, every smart nigger would bear watching. “They don’t last long,” Mr. Martin said, and he “flat out had no use for them.” He said that if he were colored he’d either kick a smart nigger’s ass down off his shoulders or keep away from him. A smart nigger, he said “is a damn fool hell-bent for trouble. And mark my words, he’s gon’ find it quicker’n a catfish can suck a chicken gut off a bent pin.”
Is Alex Kerr saying Debito is a “smart nigger”?
I’d like to note that Kerr should be more specific in his comments, because is it really the case that there are no non-“gaijin” doing the things that Debito does? Is he saying that when Japanese file lawsuits, this is a natural evolution of culture, but when Debito does it, it’s reinforcing the notion that “gaijin” have an “openly combative attitude”?
Is he saying the teachers who refuse to sing Kimigayo are acting like “gaijin”?
What exactly is the definitive way some one displays an “openly combative attitude”?
Moreover, what is the definitive “Japanese way”? And in what specific way is Debito not doing it?
It’s very disappointing to see some of Alex Kerr’s calibre engaging in Nihonjinron. He should know that there is nothing so destructive to Japan’s traditional local customs as Nihonjinron. Do I need to quote from his own books? Just like the centralization of construction standards begins to make all parks and all buildings look bleakly similar, the centralization of identity around the concept of “Japanese” in an essentialist sense is just as destructive to the development of a full personality.
=========== END MATT DIOGUARDI ==============
The point is, I always find it amazing how easily people can fall right back into the “Guestist”-sounding paradigms of “nicely, nicely, don’t get too uppity, for it’s not ‘The Japanese Way'”. When in fact everything we have ever done has also been done by Japanese. I hope Alex gets around to reading my book (http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html) and will offer more informed comments.
5) GET READY FOR A DIVORCE-RATE BOOM IN JAPAN
I’ve written a few essays on the problems with divorce in Japan in the past. Artery site at http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#divorce
Well, the BBC is projecting the same thing as I have: that this month’s pension reforms are going to bring about a few changes in the artificially low divorce rates in Japan.
JAPAN SET FOR DIVORCE RATE BOOM
By Chris Hogg BBC News, Tokyo
Published: 2007/04/01 05:44:14 GMT
New pension laws coming into effect in Japan could lead to an explosion in divorces, some experts are warning. The rules will make it easier for wives to claim up to half their husband’s pension once the marriage is over.
The number of divorces in Japan has been rising for several decades, but the trend reversed four years ago when the new laws were first discussed. Many believe that wives in unhappy marriages have been waiting for the new laws to come into effect on Sunday…
And there is another factor at work. Japan’s baby boom generation is starting to retire this year… These absentee spouses will now have much more time to spend at home – all day, every day – perhaps for the first time in the couple’s married life. Many here believe that will prove too much for their wives to cope with.
Consequently, what happens to the retirees who come home to wives they don’t know? This week’s issue of Terrie’s Take speculates:
http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take (Click on Issue 415)
The wave of retirements will definitely bring about some interesting socio-economic changes. Not having a “family” of like-minded salarymen to report to every morning will be a big shock for most male baby boomers–who have been described as the “generation waiting for instructions”. They will be forced to make lifestyle changes and as a result, many will become angry, upset, and confused. We expect the suicide and divorce rate to soar as a result.
The problem, of course, is that many of these men have followed a rigid routine for the last 40 years and find it very difficult to make friends outside their work–particularly with their alienated wives. As a result, they are likely to become part of the statistics contributing to the pending divorce surge we wrote about several weeks ago.
After the divorce, the future is unremittingly bleak for many of these male retirees. A recent OECD survey found that Japanese men are amongst the loneliest in the world, with 16.7% of males rarely or never having contact with friends or colleagues outside work. However, with Need being the Mother of Invention (and life changes), we imagine that a growing number of retirees will realize that to save their marriages, they have to start a new life and get to know their partner again.
Anyway, this is getting beyond the purview of Debito.org, but this TT issue offers more interesting crystal-balling about life in Geriatric Japan (probably assuming rapid migration into Japan doesn’t happen). Click on the above link for more.
6) U OF HYOGO AND IUHW ADDED TO UNIVERSITY BLACKLIST
The Blacklist of Japanese Universities (http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html) has just been updated for the season.
Breaking the 100 mark with two more universities are:
NAME OF UNIVERSITY: International University of Health and Welfare (Kokusai Iryou Fukushi Daigaku) (Private)
LOCATION: Kita Kanamaru 2600-1, Odawara City, Tochigi Prefecture http://www.iuhw.ac.jp/
EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: “From its inception in 1995, International University of Health and Welfare, Tochigi Prefecture, has discriminated against its foreign teachers, and often its few foreign students. Foreign teachers, many of whom have been far more qualified than their Japanese counterparts, have suffered extreme marginalization born of . . . garden variety racism…”
SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Brave testimonial from Kevin Dobbs, Associate Professor, IUHW, available at http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html#IUHW
NAME OF UNIVERSITY: University of Hyogo (Hyogo Kenritsu Daigaku, or literally Hyogo Prefectural University) (Public) School of Human and Environmental Studies
LOCATION: 670-0092 Hyogo-ken, Himeji-shi, Shinzaike-Honmachi 1-1-12
EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Hiring gaikokujin kyoushi or “Foreign Lecturer” on a one-year contract (According to my source, the university already has three other people with this title.)even though the Ministry of Education has told universities to phase out this position.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Job advertisement at JREC-IN at http://jrecin.jst.go.jp/html/kyujin/main/D106101920.html (archived here) and http://jrecin.jst.go.jp/html/kyujin/main/D106101920_E.html (archived here)
Also added is an important essay, which winked out of existence when the Issho Kikaku website was rendered defunct (http://www.debito.org/?cat=25), resurrected by the author on Debito.org:
If you have been on a contract, renewed several times, then are suddenly facing dismissal, you can find out more about your rights in this essay by Steve van Dresser, “The Employment Rights of Repeatedly Renewed Private Sector Contract Workers” here:
and finally… FUN FACTS!
Kicking off my first two installments of FUN FACTS–an occasional series of interesting articles I’ve found and blogged for posterity. Not necessarily internationalization- or immigration-related, but fun to know nonetheless.
FUN FACTS #1: COMPARATIVE PREFECTURAL ECONOMIC PROWESS
I’ve heard many times from people that Japanese newspapers and media are boring. But that’s often because the bored don’t know where to look. For example, have a look at this article from February 7, 2007’s Asahi Shinbun (pg 23):
The article talks about PM Abe’s vision of “doushuusei”, the consolidation of prefectures, to cut down on local government costs and maybe even (*cough*… pipe dream at this stage) devolving more power to more self-sufficient local governments.
If Japan’s 47 prefectures/municipal governments were cut down to eleven regions (see chart above), this would produce the following results: (2003 GDP sizes, population figures from the 2005 Census)
1) HOKKAIDO (population 5.63 million) would be the world’s 36th largest economy, around the size of PORTUGAL.
2) TOUHOKU (pop. 9.63 million), 25th, around the size of NORWAY.
3) NORTH KANTO (pop. 16.27 million) 17th, between SWITZERLAND and HOLLAND.
4) SOUTH KANTO (including Tokyo and Yokohama, pop. 28.30 million), 8th, around the size of CANADA.
5) TOUKAI (including Nagoya, pop. 15.02 million), 17th, around the size of HOLLAND.
6) SHIKOKU (pop. 4.09 million), 41st, around the size of SINGAPORE.
7) OKINAWA (pop. 1.36 million), 64th, around the size of LUXEMBOURG.
8) HOKURIKU (pop. 5.54 million), 32nd, around the size of ARGENTINA.
9) KANSAI (pop. 20.89 million), 16th, around the size of AUSTRALIA.
10) CHUUGOKU (pop. 7.68 million), 27th, around the size of SOUTH AFRICA.
11) KYUSHU (pop. 13.35 million), 17th, around the size of SWITZERLAND.
From this you can get an inkling of which parts of Japan are richest and poorest, and which are more or less likely to be self-sufficient (if the tax-hungry and control-freak national government would ever allow any political devolution to the provinces; fat chance at this stage) post-Doushuusei on an economic basis alone.
Hokkaido, you might note, remains unchanged–which is probably why our governor (a protege of LDP Kingpin Machimura (http://www.debito.org/?p=130) supports it. Makes no difference either way–except more brownie points for her for going with the flow.
Old Debito.org essay on Hokkaido’s economic dependency on the mainland here.
FUN FACTS #2 ON REGIONAL NON-JAPANESE RESIDENT USER-FRIENDLINESS
Courtesy of the Minami Nihon Shinbun of February 12, 2007:
Blogged here is a color-coded chart of how each of Japan’s 47 municipal governments stack up in terms of NJ user-friendliness for their NJ residents (tabunka kyousei). This is behind the two other pillars the national government (Soumushou) determined in March 2006 to be the backbone of Japan’s internationalization: “International Communication” (kokusai kouryuu), and “International Cooperation” (kokusai kyouryoku). “Multicultural Coexistence”, the cleanest translation I can come up for tabunka kyousei, means, according to the article, “the mutual acknowledgement of peoples’ differences by nationality and ethnicity, and living together as equals in the local communities”.
Hm. This shows quite a bit of thought on the part of the government. Well and good. But in practice?
An NPO in Osaka (the Tabunka Kyousei Center) launched a survey to see how well each local government did. According to the article, they included services such as Japanese lessons, information in foreign languages, education for their children, and policies taking into consideration local non-Japanese residents, etc. The data was collected between October 2005 and August 2006. Full marks are 80 points.
As you can see by the color coding in the above article, Tokyo and Hyogo scored best, then high-foreign population centers near Aichi and Gifu bubbled under. Scoring worst were Aomori, Nagasaki, Saga, Ehime, and (gasp–seriously) Okinawa!
The Japan Times (Feb 15, 2007) also did a full article on this, blogged on Debito.org at
The average score was just above half marks, 41 points. So any prefecture in the map above colored orange or below should hang their heads in shame. Note how they are often the prefectures with depopulation problems (not to mention imported brides for farmers). So if local governments want to avoid acculturalization issues in the future, they had better get their acts together and make people more comfortable living there.
More FUN FACTS to follow. Finally going through a stack of a couple hundred newspapers I’ve saved over the years, and am uncovering lots of buried treasure…
All for now. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OF APRIL 7, 2007 ENDS