DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 25, 2009

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 25, 2009
Table of Contents:

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DISCRIMINATION TOPICS
1) UN CERD Questions to GOJ re elimination of racial discrim (CERD/C/JPN/Q/3-6 Nov 17 2009)
2) NPR interview with Jake Adelstein, author “Tokyo Vice”, on how police and laws do not stop NJ human trafficking in Japan
3) “Japanese speakers only” Kyoto exclusionary hotel stands by its rules, says it’s doing nothing unlawful
4) UPDATE: Kyoto Tourist Association replies, tells Kyoto hotel “Kyou no Yado” to stop “Japanese speakers only” rules

IMMIGRATION TOPICS
5) AFP: PM Hatoyama strongly hints he wants immigration to Japan (bonus: PM Hatoyama Newsletter Nov 4)
6) Ruling coalition currently not considering NJ human rights laws beyond PR suffrage: Dietmember Aihara
7) Mainichi: DPJ split over bill to give NJ permanent residents right to vote
8 ) Mainichi: Schools for foreigners, technical colleges included in DPJ’s free high school lesson plan. IF already MOE “accredited”
9) Xinhua & Chosun Ilbo: South Korea has drafted dual nationality laws
10) Scotchneat on Fuji TV show laying blind biological claims to intellectual Asian kids abroad

UPDATED TOPICS
11) TODAY show (USA) on Savoie Child Abduction Case: father Chris’s treatment by J police, return to US, aftermath
12) Mutantfrog’s Joe Jones’s excellent discussion of rights and wrongs of divorce in Japan; causes stark conclusions for me
13) Brief essay on Nov 13 Hatoyama-Obama press conference; discussion of Obama’s Japan visit

OFFBEAT TOPICS
14) DEBITO.ORG POLL: What do you think about Obama’s “deep bow cum handshake” with the Emperor?
15) Tangent: Korea Herald: Attitudes in Korea towards budget travelers: open up love hotels?
16) Holiday Tangent: Delightful Maure Memorial Museum in the middle of nowhere, Hokkaido

DEBITO.ORG TOPICS
17) All of DEBITO.ORG’S PODCASTS are now available at iTunes, subscribe for free
18) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out Tues Dec 1, on advice to DPJ re NJ policies

… and finally …
19) Sunday Tangent: SAPPORO SOURCE DEBITO Column on the power of humor and how it preserves sanity (full text)
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Newsletter subscriptions, RSS, and daily updates at www.debito.org
Debito.org Podcasts available at iTunes (search term: Debito.org)
Freely Forwardable

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DISCRIMINATION TOPICS

1) UN CERD Questions to GOJ re elimination of racial discrim (CERD/C/JPN/Q/3-6 Nov 17 2009)

Here’s the United Nations CERD Committee giving the Japanese Government its due for its Third through Sixth Report (Japan is supposed to submit a report, on what it’s doing to eliminate domestic racial discrimination, every two years since it became a Signatory in 1996. That should be a total of six times by now; however, it has only submitted twice so far, lumping them together. Hazukashii). These are questions the UN wants answered before its periodic review of Japan in February of next year. Have a look.

We activists have already readied our counterreports for submission to the UN (I was asked some weeks ago to cover refusals of NJ by businesses; I handed in an 800-worder, which I’ll have up here in due course). Let’s see how the GOJ tries to squirm out of it this time (see last time and the time before that here).

http://www.debito.org/?p=5219

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2) NPR interview with Jake Adelstein, author “Tokyo Vice”, on how police and laws do not stop NJ human trafficking in Japan

Jake Adelstein, whose new book TOKYO VICE just came out, was interviewed on America’s National Public Radio program “FRESH AIR” on November 10, 2009. What follows is an excerpt from their podcast, minute 23:45 onwards, which talks about how domestic laws hamstring the NPA from actually cracking down on human trafficking and exploiting NJ for Japan’s sex trades. Jake’s work in part enabled the US State Department to list Japan as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker, and got Japan to pass more effective domestic laws against it.

Read on to see how the process works in particular against NJ, given their especially weak position (both legally and languagewise). If NJ go to the police to report their exploitation, it’s the NJ who get arrested (and deported), not the trafficker. And then the trafficker goes after the NJ’s family overseas. Glad people like Jake are out there exposing this sort of thing.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5148

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3) “Japanese speakers only” Kyoto exclusionary hotel stands by its rules, says it’s doing nothing unlawful

As is my wont, I don’t like to leave exclusionary business practices alone. Even if that means letter writing and cajoling people to cease a bad habit. What gets me is when even cajoling doesn’t work, and the cajoled turns uncharacteristically rude towards a paying customer. Then I get mad.

Background: Last October, I attended a writers’ conference in Kyoto, and discovered that even in September just about all hotels in Kyoto were booked (it was approaching peak fall color season). The only one left was a place in Fushimi that advertised online that they refused anyone who could not speak Japanese. This is, by the way, contrary to the Hotel Management Law (Ryokan Gyouhou, which can only refuse customers if all rooms are taken, or if there is a health or a “public morals” problem).

I tried to vote with my feet and find alternative accommodation, but wound up having no choice, and made the reservation with the Fushimi place. I did, however, the night before going down, find last-minute alternative accommodations at an unexclusionary hotel (at more than double the price). Then I paid in cash by post to the Fushimi place the sizeable cancellation fee for the last-minute switch.

But I also enclosed a handwritten letter telling them why I cancelled, expressing my discontent with the rule that people would be refused for a lack of Japanese language ability (what with this tourist town, there are always ways to communicate — including speaking electronic dictionaries; how does one judge sufficient “language abilities”? and what about deaf or mute Japanese? etc. etc.). I also asked them to repeal this exclusionary rule, pointing out that it was an unlawful practice.

I got a rude reply back. Without addressing me by name, I got a terse letter without any of the formal aisatsu or written tone that a customer-client relationship in this society would warrant. It also included further spurious insinuated logic that since they couldn’t speak any foreign languages, this business open to the public was somehow not bound to provide service to the general public. They also categorically denied that their rules are unlawful, coupled with the presumptuous claim that since they didn’t refuse me it was odd for me to feel any disfavor with their system. And more. In other words, thanks for your money, but we can do as we please, so sod you.

Now I’m mad. I sent this exchange off yesterday with a handwritten note to the Kyoto City Government Department of Tourism and the Kyoto Tourist Association, advising them to engage in some Administrative Guidance. The latter organization has already told me that they are a private-sector institution, and that since this hotel is not one of their members they have no influence in this situation. And if the city does get back to me (I’ve done this sort of thing before; government agencies in Japan have even abetted “Japanese Only” hotels), I’ll be surprised. But I’m not letting this nasty place slide without at least notifying the authorities. This is just one more reason why we need a law against racial discrimination.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4879

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4) UPDATE: Kyoto Tourist Association replies, tells Kyoto hotel “Kyou no Yado” to stop “Japanese speakers only” rules

Regarding an issue I blogged here about earlier this week, about a hotel named “Kyou no Yado” that advertised on its Rakuten Travel listing that it would refuse any customer who did not speak Japanese, an update:

I contacted the Kyoto Tourist Association, the Kyoto City Tourism Board, and the National Tourism Agency in Tokyo about this issue with handwritten letters last Monday. I received a letter yesterday sokutatsu (included below) from the Kyoto Tourist Association, as well as a personal phone call yesterday afternoon from a Mr Sunagawa there, who told me the following:

The hotel was indeed violating the Hotel Management Law (which holds that people may only be refused lodgings if all rooms were booked, there was threat of contagious disease, or endangerment of “public morals”) by refusing people who could not speak Japanese,

The hotel was hereby advised by KTA to change its rules and open its doors to people regardless of language ability,

The hotel did not protest, and in fact would “fix” (naosu) its writeup on its Rakuten Travel entry,

The hotel hasn’t gotten to it yet, but assuredly would. (It still hasn’t as of this writing.)

I asked what was meant by “fix”, and whether the language would just be shifted to find another way to refuse people again in violation of the Hotel Management Law. Mr Sunagawa wasn’t sure what would be done, but they would keep an eye on it, he said.

Mr Sunagawa was very apologetic about my treatment, especially given the rudeness of Kyou no Yado’s written reply, and hoped that I would consider coming back to Kyoto soon and not have an unfavorable impression of it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5114

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IMMIGRATION TOPICS

5) AFP: PM Hatoyama strongly hints he wants immigration to Japan (bonus: PM Hatoyama Newsletter Nov 4)

AFP — Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Nov 14 that his country, which is battling low birth rates and an ageing population, should make itself more attractive to migrants.

Japan has some of the world’s strictest controls on immigration, and Hatoyama admitted that he was broaching a “sensitive issue”.

But he said that as well as introducing pro-family policies, Japan should attempt to encourage migrants to live and work there…

“I am not sure if I can call this ‘immigration policy’, but what’s important is to create an environment that is friendly to people all around the world so that they voluntarily live in Japan,” he said.

COMMENT: Again, wait and see, but I still find it disappointing that very little that would protect NJ rights in Japan is even on the drawing board. So we should be demanding it wherever possible. We’ve tried bringing a million or so NJ here since 1990 without protecting their rights and lifestyles from discrimination. Look where it got us. Let’s learn from that already, shall we?

http://www.debito.org/?p=5141

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6) Ruling coalition currently not considering NJ human rights laws beyond PR suffrage: Dietmember Aihara

I had a conversation with Upper House Dietmember Aihara Kumiko (62, from Hokkaido, elected 2007 on Proportional Representation) on Saturday, November 14. With a labor union background, she has an eye on a number of human rights issues, including the Nikkei Visa and NJ “Trainee” Programs.

I took the opportunity to ask about a few things that are overdue for NJ resident rights in Japan (which the recent polls on Debito.org cover), namely:

  • Japan signing the Hague Convention on Child Abductions
  • Japan passing the long-proposed general law protecting human rights (jinken yougo houan)
  • Japan passing a law against racial discrimination
  • Japan approving local suffrage for NJ residents with Permanent Residency

She answered that the DPJ ruling coalition would be submitting the bill for local suffrage in next year’s Diet session.

The other three were currently not being considered in any committee or study group at this time. I asked when they might be, and she didn’t know.

Just letting readers of Debito.org know.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5125

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7) Mainichi: DPJ split over bill to give NJ permanent residents right to vote

Here’s a little update on the current debate regarding granting local suffrage to PR holders. As ruling parties go, the Social Democrats led by Fukushima Mizuho support it, the (tiny) Kokumin Shintou led by Kamei Shizuka opposes it, and the DPJ itself (as usual) is split. No surprises there, but we’ll see how the cards fall if and when it’s brought to a vote. Of course, watching public policy being made is famously like watching sausages being made (you don’t want to know what goes into it), but the fact that the Cabinet in general supports it is telling. And enough people are feeling threatened by it that there is quite visible public protest (but I’ll get to that later), which is also telling (if people felt no threat of it actually coming to pass, they wouldn’t bother).

My take is that whenever you have an opposition party in power (particularly a leftist one), you always have deep internal divisions, because the left in particular has trouble rallying around one issue. The right has it a lot easier: either rally around money issues (very clear cut), or else just keep the status quo (“there’s a good reason why things are the way they are, so if they ain’t broke…”). So the DPJ having divisions and mixed feelings about this is only natural — it’s par for the course on the political spectrum. Majority rules, anyway. So let people grouse about it for an adequate amount of time, and let’s see how the vote turns out.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5032

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8 ) Mainichi: Schools for foreigners, technical colleges included in DPJ’s free high school lesson plan. IF already MOE “accredited”

Mainichi: Technical colleges and schools attended by foreigners will be included in the Democratic Party of Japan’s pledge to make high school lessons free of charge, it has emerged…

Various schools operating under the School Education Law will be included in the measure, even if their students are of foreign nationality, meaning the DPJ’s move will apply to schools for Korean students and to international schools. However, Suzuki indicated that schools operating without approval — commonly seen among schools such as those for Brazilian children — would not be included.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5030

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9) Xinhua & Chosun Ilbo: South Korea has drafted dual nationality laws

Xinhua: The South Korean government has drafted legal revisions to adopt multiple citizenship, easing regulations for foreigners seeking to become naturalized Korean citizens, to attract talent from abroad, the government Thursday.

According to the Justice Ministry, it will soon submit a proposal on the revisions to parliament for approval.

The envisioned law allows those who hold foreign passports to hold more than one nationality on condition that they provide written pledges forswearing their rights as foreigners while in the country, including tax exemptions…

“There has been a growing voice need for the revision, as the present law sat as an obstacle in attracting and retaining talented foreigners,” an official at the ministry, was quoted as saying to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

“We hope the revisions will help prevent a brain drain and provide relief measures for the country’s low birth rate and its aging society,” the official told Yonhap.

According to the justice ministry figures, the number of losing or renouncing their South Korean nationality hit 6,741 between 2004 and October this year, far surpassing the 518 who opted for it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5111

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10) Scotchneat on Fuji TV show laying blind biological claims to intellectual Asian kids abroad

Guest writing an essay for Debito.org is Scotchneat, regarding how some Japanese media editorial policies bring in tribal tendencies no matter how tenuous the link to the tribe. Read and consider. Excerpt:

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Ironically, it seems that the Japanese, based on my impressions from watching the TV show, would like to claim the Yano siblings as their own. They get to be “Japanese”, despite being born, raised and educated in the US and having a Korean mother (normally any of these factors would raise suspicions of not being properly Japanese) and not speaking Japanese (considered mandatory for citizenship).

Moreover, child prodigies in Japan are not allowed to enter university (aside from a few small experiments), ostensibly because they lack “maturity”. Anyone familiar with Japanese university students will find that quite ironic. However, as often is the case, appeals to logic and common sense are useless in the face of entrenched prejudicial thinking. Basically, allowing two children to attend university (even for purposes of auditing) goes against an engrained dislike of breaking with conformity in Japan.
============================

http://www.debito.org/?p=4962

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UPDATED TOPICS

11) TODAY show (USA) on Savoie Child Abduction Case: father Chris’s treatment by J police, return to US, aftermath

The Today Show (USA) has an update on the Savoie Child Abduction Case from the perspective of left-behind father Christopher, notably his treatment in Japanese police custody and how he is, in his words, “dead to my kids”.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5063

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12) Mutantfrog’s Joe Jones’s excellent discussion of rights and wrongs of divorce in Japan; causes stark conclusions for me

I often stop by an excellent website run by some young-Turk commentators on Japan called Mutantfrog. Full of insight and well-thought-out essays, one caught my eye a few weeks ago regarding what the Savoie Child Abduction Case has brought to the fore about divorce in Japan. It made me draw some harsh conclusions. Here they are:

NOBODY SHOULD GET MARRIED AND HAVE CHILDREN UNDER THE CURRENT MARRIAGE LAWS AND FAMILY REGISTRATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN.

NOT JAPANESE. NOT NON-JAPANESE. NOT ANYONE.

Because if people marry and have kids, one parent will lose them, meaning all legal ties, custody rights, and visitation rights, in the event of a divorce. This is not good for the children.

Japan has had marriage laws essentially unamended since 1898! (See Fuess, Divorce in Japan) Clearly this does not reflect a modern situation, and until this changes people should go Common-Law (also not an option in Japan), and make it clear to their representatives that Japan’s current legal situation is not family-friendly enough for them to tie the knot.

Some reforms necessary:

  • Abolition of the Koseki Family Registration system (because that is what makes children property of one parent or the other, and puts NJ at a huge disadvantage).
  • Recognize Visitation Rights (menkai ken) for both parents during separation and after divorce.
  • Recognize Joint Custody (kyoudou kango ken) after divorce.
  • Enforce the Hague Convention on Child Abductions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Enforce overseas custody court decisions in Japanese courts.
  • Recognize “Irreconcilable Differences” (seikaku no fuitchi) as grounds for divorce.
  • Shorten legal separation (bekkyo) times from the current benchmark of around five years to one or two.
  • Stock the Mediation Councils (choutei) with real professionals and trained marriage counselors (not yuushikisha (“people with awareness”), who are essentially folks off the street with no standardized credentials).
  • Strengthen Family Court powers to enforce contempt of court for perjury (lying is frequent in divorce proceedings and currently essentially unpunishable), and force police to enforce court orders involving restraining orders and domestic violence (Japanese police are disinclined to get involved in family disputes).

http://www.debito.org/?p=4878

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13) Brief essay on Nov 13 Hatoyama-Obama press conference; discussion of Obama’s Japan visit

Just a quick word, having watched the the 8:30-9:05 joint press conference tonight between PM Hatoyama and Pres Obama.

For those who did not see it, they focussed on issues that were of a larger geopolitical nature, including Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, North Korea, global warming, moving Guantanamo trials to the US, and, foremost, the need for maintaining the strength of the Japan-US Alliance and its positive effects on the wealth, security, and stability of East Asia as a region.

They took only one question each from the press corps (so each of them asked lots of questions). The child abductions, the point most germane to Debito.org at this time, did not come up.

I open this blog entry so that others can discuss what they thought about the press conference, as well as Obama’s Japan visit this time around in general. Go for it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5120

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OFFBEAT TOPICS

14) What do you think about Obama’s “deep bow cum handshake” with the Emperor?

Here are the choices:

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  • Suitably respectful. Ii n ja nai?
  • A bit clumsy, but never mind.
  • Embarrassing. Obama has minders to teach him formalities, no?
  • Appalling. World leaders should not show this much deference to any royalty.
  • He has shamed America.
  • Who cares. This is a non-issue.
  • Something else / Don’t know.

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Vote at any blog page at www.debito.org

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15) Tangent: Korea Herald: Attitudes in Korea towards budget travelers: open up love hotels?

In light of the recent discussion we’ve been having about Japanese hotels and some of their attitudes towards international travellers (many hotels refuse NJ or non-J speakers outright, claiming their lack of ability to provide service), contrast with the situation in Korea and one columnist’s proposal.

KOREA HERALD: There’s been some talk about hotels and motels in the news recently, especially since Lee Charm, head of the Korea Tourism Organization, was criticized by a member of parliament for the country’s failure to provide budget accommodation to international travelers. One English-language paper indirectly quoted the lawmaker as saying “the nation is helpless in the face of the aggressive invasion of foreign budget hotels” and then said that one reason Korea can’t attract and keep foreign tourists is because accommodation is unsatisfactory…

An option I’ve always enjoyed is motels. You’ll rarely find information about them in English, but they’re certainly popular among Koreans — one recent estimate said there are 31,000 — and the newer ones are clean, conveniently-located, nicely-equipped, and a fraction of the cost of a tourist hotel…

This means international tourists must rely on the few tourist hotels that have English, Chinese or Japanese-language webpages, the few places that will show up on an internet search. These places are often two or three times as expensive as a motel room, though, and often not as nice. Amenities are frequently old, dirty, and disappointing. Guests often book rooms under the assumption that the hotel is in a convenient location, but arrive to find it’s in the middle of nowhere or in a seedy neighborhood. Likewise foreign-language travel websites will advertise restaurants, bakeries, and bars on the premises, though those who have seen the hotels in person will find no such features.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5020

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16) Holiday Tangent: Delightful Maure Memorial Museum in the middle of nowhere, Hokkaido

As a holiday tangent, I would like to pass along these brochures from the Maure Memorial Museum. In the middle of East Boofoo, excuse me, Maruseppu, northeastern Hokkaido, is this hidden little gem of a place, a converted schoolhouse, with all sorts of lovely little artworks by handicapped people, as well as by other artists, that is definitely worth a look somehow, somewhere. It also has a wonderful collection of butterflies, for some reason, and other bugs on pins (along with the occasional ammonite) that will delight all ages. Admission is free (there is a donation box you can ignore; I didn’t). If you have any occasion, go out there and see. Introduced me by James in Monbetsu just before it closed for winter.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5094

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DEBITO.ORG TOPICS

17) All of DEBITO.ORG’S PODCASTS are now available at iTunes, subscribe for free

Last week, after a quick contest for a new moniker for Debito.org (Reader Jarod Trebas won, see http://www.debito.org/?p=5181), I have just gotten approval from iTunes to feature my DEBITO.ORG PODCASTs from my server.

So if you’d like to listen to my articles while driving or exercising, feel free to subscribe for free via iTunes (search term: Debito.org). Every podcast I ever put out is up there (there are eleven so far), and I am to put out one a month reading from my large database of articles. Enjoy!

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18) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out Tues Dec 1, on advice to DPJ re NJ policies

Now that we have a new, more progressive government in elected office, it’s long been time for us to give them advice about what we want out of them. For my end-year article, I offer my advice on what the DPJ should do to improve the lot of NJ in Japan.

Out next Tuesday, December 1 (Weds in the provinces), so have a read!

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… and finally …

19) Sunday Tangent: SAPPORO SOURCE DEBITO Column on the power of humor and how it preserves sanity
(plus LIFER Cartoon on “Things to Do in Hokkaido”)

http://www.debito.org/?p=4883

My latest tangental column in SAPPORO SOURCE — not on human rights, but on humor. And the power it has over us.

Download the entire issue of SAPPORO SOURCE here in pdf format (http://www.sapporosource.com/). Text of the article follows.

ON HUMOR
SAPPORO SOURCE Column 5 published in November 2009 issue
DRAFT TWELVE AND FINAL DRAFT

Look at my photo above. I look like a real sourpuss, don’t I? (Hey Editor: Go ahead and insert witty comment here.) But don’t judge this puss by his fur. I am in fact the Cheshire Cat — a man who smiles and laughs a lot. In fact, without humor, I think we would all go insane.

Humor is a funny thing. Nobody can exactly define what a “joke” is, why something is “funny”, or how one develops or cultivates a “sense of humor”. But we all know its effects.

Humor, as you know, causes that wonderful instant reaction where you lose control of yourself — and emit a smile if not a full-on loud laugh. The longer you laugh, the better you feel. It is a catharsis.

You can tell when somebody’s been under a lot of stress lately when they laugh long and loud even at the lamest joke. Why? Like a volcano erupting, laughter releases the toxins of stress that build up in this modern world.

But it goes beyond that. Consider the power humor has over us.

There’s the “likeability” quotient: We might dislike a politician or opinion leader, but one good gag from him and suddenly he is “charming”. Televised debates in Japan must have the occasional joke or they get overbearing — viewers crave that spoonful of sugar for entertainment value. I know at least one politician who gets elected on amusing charisma alone. And look how much pressure is on Democratic Party of Japan’s Okada Katsuya just to smile!

There’s the popularity factor: Have a good jester attend a soiree, and suddenly he’s the “life of the party” and soon invited back. Remember your Class Clowns of yesteryear? (It’s easy to, isn’t it?) They often go on to bigger things. Some of the richest people in the world are comedians, literally laughing all the way to the bank.

Humor even influences love. One common reason for choosing a spouse? “He makes me laugh.”

Humor is also a powerful analytical tool. Consider one variant — irony — and the social service it provides. For example, listen to what comedian Stephen Colbert said about former President Bush in 2006 during a speech at the White House:

“The greatest thing about this man is that he is steady — He believes the same thing Wednesday as he did Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday.”

Not only did many laugh at that, but some also realized the Emperor Has No Clothes. A joke can penetrate farther into the psyche than reams of political commentary. Public figures: Alienate the stand-up comedians at your peril.

In Japan, however, the lack of irony as a source of humor severely impairs political analysis (one exception: outstanding political impressionist group “Newspaper”). But not to worry: Japan too has its fount of silliness and wordplay.

Thanks to a language replete with homophones, and a set time and place for laughter (be it manzai, rakugo, or konto), Japan has no shortage of belly laughs. Humorwise, I am at home here, being an incorrigible punster (so don’t encorrige me!). In fact, bring out the booze and the stereotypes of the sexes and suddenly you have an evening of mirth and jape.

Although Japan sometimes seems to have rules just to spoil your fun, it sure knows how and when to let loose and party. And laugh.

Back to my personal relationship with humor. I talk about serious topics every single day on my blog, Debito.org — so much so that people have said I depress them, and they ask why I don’t depress myself. Easy. Every single day, for at least an hour a day, I find something that is funny.

I own all of “South Park”, a show that defies gravity by getting better over the years. I collect “Simpsons”, “King of the Hill”, “Monty Python”, George Carlin, Stuart McLean, and Robin Williams. I subscribe to comic books and Britain’s Private Eye magazine (with so much irony you can’t take regular articles seriously again). I get silly in conversations with friends, and try to work in the occasional dirty joke. I guffaw at night and get back in my groove by morning.

So should you. As people who can understand English — and that means you, readers of this column — you can tap into a wellspring of well-developed humor culture, including racial and ethnic humor, accents, sarcasm, and no-holds-barred parody. Take advantage of it.

Because it is the people who do not laugh and erupt in small doses who wind up erupting in large doses — rending asunder all around them. The humorless never let themselves lose control however momentarily, and they smother their soul in the process.

Beware: It is the soulless who make the most inhumane decisions. Consider the company of some humorless historical figures: Spain’s Franco, Zaire’s Mobutu, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Turkmenistan’s Niyazov, Burma’s entire ruling junta. Not to mention Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the Kims.

I agree it’s certainly less enjoyable to be laughed at than laughed with, but the people who cannot laugh at themselves are the ones who, given enough power, actively stop anyone poking fun at them. Those paranoid about not being taken seriously are the ones most likely to become dictatorial, suppressing their public until they are straddling their own political volcanoes. Yet all you have to do is laugh at them, and the walls around naked emperors come crashing down.

Humor is what will save mankind from itself, for it rehumanizes people and puts things in perspective. So, everyone, every day find a way to laugh yourself silly. Even if it means just going down to the beach alone and sniggering at the seagulls. It’s good for you. No matter what’s bothering you, I guarantee you’ll have the last laugh.
ENDS
955 WORDS
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That’s all for this Newsletter! Thanks as always for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
Podcasts available at iTunes. Search term: Debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 25, 2009 ENDS

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