Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)


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Hi Blog.  Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas.  The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau.  I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically.  But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japanese immigration policy

A nation’s bouncers

A suspicious death in police custody

May 13th 2010 | TOKYO | From The Economist print edition

ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was already unconscious when the cabin crew of EgyptAir MS965 saw him on board, before the Tokyo-to-Cairo flight. Shortly later he was dead. A Ghanaian who had lived illegally in Japan, Mr Suraj was being deported on March 22nd, when he was lifted and forced onto the plane in handcuffs with a towel gagging him and knotted in the back to restrain him. An autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, yet his widow saw facial injuries when she identified the body. Three days later an Immigration Bureau official admitted: “It is a sorry thing that we have done.”

The death is putting Japan’s controversial immigration policy under a sharper spotlight. The country has long eschewed immigration. In recent months, however, its resistance has become even tougher. Families have been broken apart as parents of children born in Japan have been detained and deported. People who seemed to qualify for a special residency permit (SRP), designed for those who overstay their visa but wish to remain, have been denied. Forced deportations have become more frequent and rougher, according to the Asian People’s Friendship Society, a Japanese immigrant-support group. Japan’s Immigration Control Centres, where many illegal residents are detained, have faced special criticism. This year alone, two detainees have committed suicide, one has publicly complained of abuse, and 70 inmates staged a hunger strike demanding better treatment.

Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The SRP system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.


39 comments on “Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)

  • i>…when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name…
    I would of thought it was their shoddy and uncomassionate treatment of her that sullied the firm’s name, no?

  • The readers comments at the bottom of the article are very interesting too.

    Slight digression and spamming several threads, but this address the reaction the world finally took against South Africa. It was basically ostracized by the world community and humiliated into accepting that their openly apartheid system and racist views and actions and behaviour in general, was unacceptable and as such the world did not want to do business with them.

    Why are the same actions not taken against Japan? Is it because no one knows what is going on here, because Japanese “Apartheid” is never spoken about, or like Religion no one is allowed to questions faith and must give instant servitude and due deference, or the world wants/needs Japanese goods, or….well make up your own mind. Since what ever reasons/conclusions you arrive at, it still in no way justifies the behaviour by the Govt on foreigner nationals and racism etc etc, just as it was equally abhorrent to the wider world of the actions by South Africa and its apartheid system.

    The media and wider world should change tack. Lessons learnt from ostracising South Africa made it become so economically weak, the only course of action, was change.

  • @John K

    One small problem with not doing business with Japan. They currently are the 2nd largest economy in the world. I did a quick bit of research on South Africa’s economy and it never came anywhere near that large and influential.

    It would be economically disastrous to just out and out isolate Japan’s economy, its too large and would affect the entire financial world.

  • Japanese immigration officials inadvertently kill an African while forcibly deporting him, and yet barely a blip from the domestic media. Has anyone seen this on a major television news program?? Like News Station (Asahi) at 10pm with Furutachi? I first learned about it whilst reading a letter-to-the-editor in the Japan Times!

    I guess the domestic press don’t like to report on matters that make “Team Japan” look bad. In any normal civilized country, the press would be all over the story because it is an abuse of power and injustice. But not in Japan. Don’t air our dirty laundry. Hide it!

    And then only in Japan would a company actually fire the widow of a man wrongly killed – for fear of bad press?? What the heck is that?! She should sue their pants off for wrongful termination, but the poor woman probably has so much to deal with now she doesn’t have the time or money. I also think there’s a racial aspect to this as well. I’ve never heard of a company firing a widow when their spouse was Japanese and killed. People normally feel sorry for widows whose spouses have been wrongly killed. But not if the widow was married to a foreigner! Fire her!

  • Jib Halyard says:

    anyone know what the name of the firm that fired Mrs Suraj? That seems like a rock that should be turned over and exposed to bit of sunlight…

    — According to a communication from the organization helping Mr Suraj’s widow to me yesterday, they have have decided not to release the company’s name. To me that’s not smart (the company should take the heat for a heartless and stupid decision), but that’s their decision.

    To me this is one reason why victims in this society remain weak — victims don’t use all possible publicity avenues they can to shame and expose their attackers.

  • I thought it very telling that, in contrast to the domestic media blackout on the Suraj killing (and yes, he may not have been murdered, but he was killed. No one can convince me that he just suddently ‘died’ of natural causes as J immigration handcuffed him and stuffed a towel in his mouth while he was hyperventilating), the Japanese big nightly news programs reported incessantly around the same time about the shooting of Japanese cameraman Muramoto during anti-government clashes in Bangkok. The reporting was overblown in my view. However tragic, reporters die in the line of duty around the world all the time. This is an occupational hazard of covering stories in dangerous parts of the world.

    But Suraj was killed by immigration authorities – however unintentional – in Japan, one of the wealthiest and peaceful nations in the world. This should not have happened. There is no excuse. It is a gross injustice in and of itself, and yet the injustice has been compounded because no one has been charged in the killing, let alone disciplined! This case screams out for justice. And yet not a single major nightly news program has deigned to cover it.

    I have seen TV documentaries in Japan about lawsuits brought against prison guards for excessive restraint leading to injury or death. But that’s J on J.

    When it comes to J on NJ, the calculus seems to change. Don’t forget that the J punk who killed Scott Tucker for complaining about loud music avoided serving any prison time.

    The inescapable conclusion is that the lives of foreigners in Japan are just not worth the same as the lives of Japanese. Not just in the eyes of officialdom and in the eyes of the law – scary enough – but in the eyes of the media as well.

  • John K: Insinuating that Japanese treatment of NJ is comparable to South African apartheid is so absurdly overblown as to be offensive, not to mention counterproductive in getting anything changed. Can we please try not to grossly exaggerate the problems here? A death in custody is a tragedy and (should be) a scandal, and doesn’t deserve to be treated as fodder for such statements.

  • @David Chart: This is the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying “Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed Entry” oops, I mean “Japanese Only, no Non-Japanese Allowed Entry”.

    So while you think that John K has not noticed the differences between South Africa’s former Apartheid and Japan’s current Legal Racial Discrimination, I think David you have not yet noticed the similarities.

    — I can’t find where David Chart says this. Link please or it’s deleted.

  • I agree with David when he says that comparison to South African apartheid is a gross exaggeration.

    What is very interesting here is the lack of media coverage since Japan has apparently evolved from the pre world war restrictions on the press, why wouldn’t this make front page? An angle that could be taken is, why is it that in the middle of a population crisis is Japan deporting long time, admittedly illegal but after 20 years?, persons after they have contributed to the system, paid taxes, taken a wife..etc.

    Seems contrary to the best interests of Japan’s future survival.

    just speculation but maybe the reason why the “world”, meaning western Europe and America, does not take notice is a fear of being seen as ethnocentric, since racism is a buzz word, and the Japanese are very quick to say every action can be explained by their “culture”, stepping forward might look insensitive and imperialistic.

  • This case was widely reported in Japanese media in March.
    強制送還のガーナ人死亡 機内で暴れ、入管職員が制止
    2010.3.22 22:41
    成田で強制送還のガーナ人死亡 機内で暴れ、入管職員制止
    2010/03/23 01:30 【共同通信】



    強制送還のガーナ人 機内で暴れ死亡
    [ 2010年03月23日 ]
    The following is a copy of a follow-up article by Tokyo Shinbun in April and is a good reading.
    強制送還中 ガーナ人男性死亡 詳細伝えず「捜査中」(04.11東京新聞)
    強制送還中 ガーナ人男性死亡 詳細伝えず「捜査中」
         ◇     ◇     ◇
    The topic is so widely known as to be discussed in 2ch.

    If you want to see more, search 強制送還 死亡 ガーナ.

  • Great Views by all

    South Africa at least called it what it what it was,UK,US,Aussie,NZ and others never could call the racist views in their lands what it really was.

    I am often asked what Apartheid was like as I lived and fought on the borders and externally for two of the countries there. Then two choices Jail or Military, as in the US at the time Vietnam/Korea.
    A wrong and an abused system by many.Africans from many countries wanting to go to Rhodesia/S.Africa asked why? there is Apartheid there. OH!! I can earn money there.

    Japan Apartheid,,,, ETA / Buraku( Japanese sic, `we Japanese do not talk about them`) Ainu, Any Asian/NJ blacks

    US Apartheid Whites cannot be African American EVEN if you have an African and US passport, I was told but that is S.African ( I am white)

    When will the US have White entertainment awards ? they have all the other Ethnic groups

    ITS in every country APARTHEID just by another name

  • David Chart wrote:
    “John K: Insinuating that Japanese treatment of NJ is comparable to South African apartheid is so absurdly overblown as to be offensive”

    Steve wrote:
    “@David Chart: This is the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying “Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed Entry” oops, I mean “Japanese Only, no Non-Japanese Allowed Entry”.
    So while you think that John K has not noticed the differences between South Africa’s former Apartheid and Japan’s current Legal Racial Discrimination, I think David you have not yet noticed the similarities.””

    Debito wrote:
    “– I can’t find where David Chart says this. Link please or it’s deleted.”

    OK Debito, I’m not misrepresenting David’s at all, here I’ll make it clear:

    David’s point: Japanese treatment of NJ is not comparable to South African apartheid.

    My point: Japanese treatment of NJ is comparable to South African apartheid.

    John K’s point: A real possible solution to the Japanese treatment of NJ (the reacial discrimination Debito and all of us Non-Japanese-Gene-Carriers experience here in Japan) is: the world realizing the situation and ostracising Japan until Japan officially creates a law making racial discrimination illegal as the rest of the world has already.

    John K wrote:
    “Slight digression and spamming several threads, but this addresses the reaction the world finally took against South Africa. It was basically ostracized by the world community and humiliated into accepting that their openly apartheid system and racist views and actions and behaviour in general, was unacceptable and as such the world did not want to do business with them. …
    The media and wider world should change tack. Lessons learnt from ostracising South Africa: The ostracising made South Africa become so economically weak, the only course of action, was change.”

    — This conversation is getting tangled. Comb it out by attributing properly with quotes.

  • 同便は予定より約50分遅れで出発した。

    HO this sentence freezes the blood in my veins.
    ALL those three news talk about the DEATH of a MAN (just a few lines
    where it seems he’s the bad guy: 暴れ出した)
    and end saying “the flight has been delayed by 50 minutes”.

    This says it all.

    Welcome to Japan.

    The flight has been delayed by 50 minutes !!!

    So the conclusion is: a man resisted deportation and died….

    The important thing is: 50 minutes delay


  • Hi Debito 🙂

    (OK, here I’ll restate the conversation in a chronological easy-to-understand way, with quotes, and then you can erase the previous two posts from me on this page.)

    John K wrote:
    “Slight digression and spamming several threads, but this addresses the reaction the world finally took against South Africa. It was basically ostracized by the world community and humiliated into accepting that their openly apartheid system and racist views and actions and behaviour in general, was unacceptable and as such the world did not want to do business with them. … The media and wider world should change tack. Lessons learnt from ostracising South Africa: The ostracising made South Africa become so economically weak, the only course of action, was change.”

    About John K’s statement, I think the following:
    Comment 1: Yes. The Japanese treatment of NJ is comparable to South African apartheid.
    Comment 2: Yes. just as the world community economically ostracized South Africa until South Africa declared racial discrimination illegal, the world community should now economically ostracize Japan until Japan declares racial discrimination illegal.

    David Chart wrote:
    “John K: Insinuating that Japanese treatment of NJ is comparable to South African apartheid is so absurdly overblown as to be offensive”

    About David Chart’s statement, I think the following:
    Comment 3: No. The Japanese treatment of NJ IS comparable to South African apartheid. Case in point: South Africa was the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying “Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed Entry”. Japan IS the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying, “Japanese Only, no Non-Japanese Allowed Entry”.
    Comment 4: So people, if you think that Japanese treatment of NJ is NOT comparable to South African apartheid, I think you merely haven’t yet noticed the similarities between the racial discrimination that was being done in South Africa and the racial discrimination that is being done in Japan.

    — Thanks for restating.

  • “South Africa was the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying ‘Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed Entry’.

    Reliable third-party source (and citation and link if possible) for this bold assertion, please. Or are you assuming it must be true?

    “Japan IS the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying, ‘Japanese Only, no Non-Japanese Allowed Entry’.”

    Reliable third-party source (and citation and link if possible) for this bold assertion, too, please. There are over 190 countries in the world. Are you saying that a reliable source has meticulously researched this thorny legal issue thoroughly and concluded that Japan is the only country? If so, I wouldn’t be the only one interested in reading this important study.

  • Thanks for pointing that out Massimo. Yes, it is truly unbelievable the way the few Japanese media sources that took the story up have managed to report on the case. The story is not the injustice – but the flight delay!

    But again, the press don’t like to show Team Japan in a bad light.

    Remember the way the murder of Scott Tucker was first reported? They quoted some elderly J guy in the area saying, and I paraphrase, “those foreigners are always making trouble around here, I see them jay-walking all the time. Something like this was bound to happen.” So the article framed the story as: foreigners are jaywalkers so it was inevitable that one of them would eventually be murdered by Japanese. Again, the first impulse is to justify Team Japan’s actions.

    Ever debated a Japanese about WWII? The rebuttal – probably learned in school – is always “You made us attack Pearl Harbor because you wouldn’t sell us oil (to support our invasion of southeast Asia and the plundering of China).” Really scary when the psychology is defend Team Japan at all costs.

    Also, the rightwing troller HO said “This case was widely reported in Japanese media in March” and then links to some obscure news articles on the Internet. HO: “Widely reported” should include not just print media but the major TV news programs and the “wide show” programs. The death of the cameraman Muramoto in Bangkok around the same time was “widely reported” on all the major TV news and wide show programs. Suraj’s death was not.

  • @Gary, I understand your point.

    I think that 1980s South Africa was the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying ‘Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed Entry’.

    I think that 2010s Japan IS the only country still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying, “Japanese Only, No Non-Japanese Allowed Entry”.

    I understand your point is that there may be have been other countries then and there may be other countries now, we don’t know for sure.

    OK, if the sentences above seem too bold, fine, here are two sentences which are undeniable:

    In the 1980s South Africa was still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying ‘Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed Entry’.

    In the 2010s Japan IS still legally allowing places to have signs outside saying, “Japanese Only, No Non-Japanese Allowed Entry”.

    Economically Ostracizing South Africa for it’s racist laws: created financial motivation for change there.

    Economically Ostracizing Japan for it’s racist laws: can create financial motivation for change here.

    Economically Ostracizing any country that allows racial discrimination: can create financial motivation for change.

  • Steve,

    Thanks for the reply. Just very quickly, I think it’s important to understand why South Africa was easily ostracized and why no one has ever seriously attempted to boycott Japan. It comes down to two things: money and degree. The reason no one boycotts Japan is for the same reason that no one seriously attempts to ostracize Chinese markets over their Tibet policy (occupation?). On balance, these two countries (China and Japan) offer more investment opportunities and products to the world than whatever criticisms of their human rights record detract from the overall picture. Put differently, the world very much needs China and Japan as much as they need them. No one really needed South Africa (except for some minor military base issues) and the South African government knew it.

    Once people understand the difference, the political situation begins to make sense.

    South Africa was a small, geographically remote, insignificant economy with blatantly outdated policies. It wasn’t the only country with such policies (e.g, Malaysia), but it was an easy target of criticism for the Reagan Administration. A majority of native Africans were being suppressed by a minority of white Afrikaners for centuries. Nationwide, the discrimination was institutionalized in such an explicitly legal way that it was increasingly difficult to maintain. Not so in Japan or China. A majority is not being suppressed by a minority. It’s the opposite, actually, and even then the situation is debatable.

    Yes, there is the occasional “Japanese Only” sign. I emphasize the word “occasional”. Despite the hyperbole of some, the signs are not on every street corner or in every town or in every city. In South Africa, it was pervasive. There are no laws emphasizing that the color of your skin determines where you can eat, sleep, and work. Yes, there is the occasional allegation of discrimination against foreigners in the housing market on “racial grounds”. I say “allegation” because unless a landlord explicitly states that a racial bias was the deciding factor, it’s open to interpretation and debate in a court of law as is often the case. Many times, landlords will not rent to foreigners because they allegedly leave in the middle of the night and don’t pay their rent, or allegedly damage the apartment without landlord recourse, or they are not able to communicate effectively with the foreigner as opposed to a native speaker of Japanese, etc. Not so in the case of South Africa. It was very explicitly a racial issue, not a nationality issue or a sovereignty issue or a business issue.

    With respect, the point that needs to be emphasized is that the political situation in Japan and China is not as black-and-white (pardon the pun) as some mistakenly seem to think. That’s why it’s also important to keep the rhetoric to a minimum. For that reason, I agree with David Chart. Comparisons with South Africa can be counterproductive and — dare I say it? — offensive.

    — So are your claims that attribute behavior to nationality.

  • “So are your claims that attribute behavior to nationality.”

    Excuse me, but your comment doesn’t make any sense. All I stated were the facts. You may find them politically inconvenient (as is your right), but you will have a difficult time building a case (and finding serious support) that Japan is like South Africa. I would recommend that you not even try. It damages the credibility of everyone trying to seek incremental changes to the legal system in Japan.

    — Now you’re making an argument I didn’t make. More attribution. Simmer down and don’t put words in my mouth.

  • Gary wrote:
    “It (South Africa) was very explicitly a racial issue, not a nationality issue (Japan)…”

    Steve thinks:
    Gary, someday you will be denied entry into a Japanese establishment due to the color of your skin, even though you have become a Japanese national, and your daughter will be denied entry into a Japanese establishment due to the color of her skin, even though she is a Japanese national born in Japan, then you will realize that what is happening in Japan is RACIAL Discrimination, and that this RACIAL Discrimination is still legal in Japan.

    Japan has not passed a law against RACIAL Discrimination, and that’s why RACIAL Discrimination is still practiced legally in Japan.

    Trying to call Racial Discrimination something else, like “a nationality issue or a sovereignty issue or a business issue” is offensive.

    Racial Discrimination is Racial Discrimination.

    All rationalizers, after you’ve experienced the following:
    1. you have officially become a Japanese national,
    2. you’ve created a child in Japan who is racially “half”,
    3. you and your child are both denied entry based on your RACE,
    Then you will finally admit that Racial Discrimination is still practiced legally in Japan.

    It’s 2010, and Japan has still not passed a law against Racial Discrimination.

    And let’s return to the original point of this thread, the Japanese feelings about the deliberate/accidental murder of Mr. Suraj versus their Japanese feelings about the accidental death of a Japanese journalist shows that in Japan: a Japanese person’s life is worth more than a Non-Japanese person’s life.

    Equal Rights for Racially-Non-Japanese seems like a contradiction in terms to the Japanese majority who unconsciously believe that Racially-Non-Japanese are Racially-Sub-Equal.

    “You can’t just say what you perceive to be true, you must provide a link to an official study that proves the unconscious belief of the Japanese majority!”

    I’m simply sharing my perception, based on my experiences, I am describing reality as I see it. If you really think the Japanese majority unconsciously believe that Racially-Non-Japanese are Racially-Equal, you are welcome to share your perception.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Gary, gotta disagree with your post. One death by police is enough to warrant very strong criticisms and comparisons to other societies that do / have done this. When do we start devaluing one person’s life? Hopefully never. I am continually baffled by people who act as apologists and relativists for ethically and morally wrong actions. Thousands of people in Japan suffer daily from racism in the form of bullying, teasing, occasional violence, ostracism, and denial of services, to name a few forms. This is wrong and comparisons to societies that have done this and continue to allow this is very much justified to make people more aware. Cheers.

  • “I am continually baffled by people who act as apologists and relativists for ethically and morally wrong actions.”


    No, I’m sorry. I have to say this. Emotional name-calling is not necessary here or ever. You don’t have to call anyone an “apologist” to a have a disagreement based on publicly verifiable facts that are grounded in historical perspective. Reasonable people can disagree about reasonable things. Comparing Japanese institutions to South African apartheid without any basis in cross-national fact checking is not a reasonable discussion. Also, to call someone an “apologist” simply because you disagree with the need to look at these issues in comparative depth and compare and contrast countries based on the historical similarities (or lack thereof) is offensive to many people and has no place in a civil discussion, either. It’s the equivalent of getting quickly heated and calling someone a “fascist” or a “communist” or a derogatory name simply because one gets frustrated and doesn’t want to think about the issue any further. It might make you feel good, but it quickly signals to the other person that the objective is to get excited and shout the other person down, not convey any useful information. If the name calling continues, it’s not worth anyone’s time to discuss comparative histories. We will have to agree to disagree. Thank you.

    — Back on topic, please.

  • Steve, why dont you stop that inaccurate statement “Japan has not passed a law against RACIAL Discrimination”?
    Contrary to what you say, there are many laws that prohibit racial discrimination.

    日本国憲法第十四条  すべて国民は、法の下に平等であつて、人種、信条、性別、社会的身分又は門地により、政治的、経済的又は社会的関係において、差別されない。
    教育基本法第四条  すべて国民は、ひとしく、その能力に応じた教育を受ける機会を与えられなければならず、人種、信条、性別、社会的身分、経済的地位又は門地によって、教育上差別されない。
    労働基準法第三条  使用者は、労働者の国籍、信条又は社会的身分を理由として、賃金、労働時間その他の労働条件について、差別的取扱をしてはならない。

    I live in Japan for 40 years and have never seen any “Japanese only” sign myself. That is how rare it is. Even if there is, a foreigner can sue the shop and win compensation as debito did in his famous Otaru Onsen case.

    If you keep saying “Japan has not passed a law against RACIAL Discrimination”, that is same as lying.

    I am not saying that Japan is perfect. Most of anti-discrimination laws do not have criminal penalty. The punishment clause in Labor Standard Law is a small exception. But Japan should be blamed where blame is due. Criticizing Japan for “lack of anti-discrimination laws” is just clueless.

    — Oh brother, here we go again. We’ve discussed this before, HO. You’re not listening.

    And I’m not a foreigner.

  • OK, it’s 2010, and Japan has still not passed a law WITH A PENALTY that protects ALL PEOPLE against Racial Discrimination.

    The words you posted above merely say one shouldn’t discriminate against Japanese nationals, and provides no penalty. A law without any penalty is simply nice sounding advice.

    And: when a racially-non-japanese Japanese-national like Debito experienced blatant racial discrimination based on the color of his skin and the color of one of his “half” daughters’ skin, and rightly sued in court, the judge wrongfully claimed it was not racial discrimination.

    — Actually, the judge did say it was racial discrimination. But he said it was not the illegal activity in question in this case. He said what was illegal was discriminating TOO MUCH. But this hardly undermines your point. Read up at

    More telling of the mindset involved is HO’s semantic treatment of me as a foreigner. Your slip is showing, HO.

  • HO,

    Surely you must be aware how 国民 is legally defined.
    Specifically, you must have Japanese nationality to be a 国民.
    This definition is problematic and is often the root of many legal injustices.

    Also, you implied that Debito is a foreigner. How do you define foreigner?
    Legally, 日本人 is left undefined. There are two main options for “foreigner”:
    1) One who is not 日本国民, ie does not have Japanese nationality. This is essentially equivalent to 外国人.
    2) 外人, which I will not try to define.

    It should be clear that any naturalized person no longer falls into option 1.
    Option 2 is not so clear. Realistically, my experience is that naturalized citizens will often continue to be treated as 外人 in society. This is a mindset that I do not agree, but I can not argue with reality. However, I can and do try to actively change this. Regardless, the law will not deal with option 2.

  • It seems if one looks carefully at the ruling, the court fined the onsen for “unrational discrimination”, they did not fine the onsen for “racial discrimination”.

    “Therefore, in this particular case of bathing refusals, refusing all foreigners without exception is ‘unrational discrimination’ (fugouri na sabetsu).”

    I see somewhere in there the middle of that ruling, the judge mentioned “racial discrimination”, but in the end he back-pedaled and fined the onsen for commiting mere “fugouri na sabetsu”.

    It seems page 22 called it mere “kubetsu”, page 23 admitted it is “jinshu sabetsu”, but after that the reason for the fine is mere “fugouri na sabetsu”.

  • HO wrote:
    “Most of (Japan’s) anti-discrimination laws do not have criminal penalty.”

    My thoughts:
    Crimes have penalties: if there’s no criminal penalty than it isn’t a crime.
    It seems obvious that: a “law” without a penalty isn’t a law at all.

    Debito wrote: (Nov 12, 2002)
    “THE BAD NEWS is that the decision held that RACIAL DISCRIMINATION in itself is not the punishable activity. On the bottom of page 23 it reads (my translation):

    “Therefore, in this particular case of bathing refusals, refusing all foreigners without exception is ‘unrational discrimination’ (fugouri na sabetsu). As it can be said to go beyond permissable societal limits, this is illegal and thus illegal activity.”

    The point being: “racial discrimination” per se is not the problem in this case. It is the act of discriminating TOO MUCH that made this activity illegal (with the underlying assumption behind “rational discrimination” being some discrimination is unavoidable, if not logically justifiable, in society).

    Nowhere in this judgment are questions clarified of “What is the ‘socially permissible limit’ of discrimination?” and “When does it become ‘too much’?” Nor is the premise of “Rational Discrimination” defined. (I asked reporters at our press conference to research and debate this.)”

    Debito wrote: (Sept 16, 2004)
    “All other legal arguments made in the District Court were essentially affirmed (by the High Court), i.e. that ‘unrational discrimination’ (discriminating ‘too much’) was illegal, not ‘racial discrimination’ per se.”

  • HO wrote:
    “There are many laws (in Japan) that prohibit racial discrimination.”

    HO, even though you seem to me to be overly proud and defensive of the race which you happened to have been born into by chance, I think you are honestly interested in the truth, and I think you have a lot of knowledge to share about Japanese laws, and I think we should sincerely thank you for sharing with us.

    Debito, I think we should call a truce with HO, even though his past actions often seem to be defending racism, let’s forgive him and give him the benefit of the doubt, and let’s give HO a chance to show us what he knows. I think it is very possible that although we seem like rivals, if we unite as humans searching for the truth, HO might invest his time and energy to post a comprehensive collection of laws in Japan that prohibit racial discrimination, and within that collection we might find a law, a usable law, than can help us towards our goal of creating more.

    Meanwhile, here I’ll post a summary of what I currently think:

    Step 1: America wrote a constitution for Japan that said rightly “No Racial Discrimination against People.”

    Step 2: Japan purposefully translated that into “No Racial Discrimination against ‘Japanese citizens’.”

    Step 3: This mistranslation limits the clause to protecting just ‘citizens who have Japanese nationality’ or is limits the clause to protecting only ‘citizens who are racially Japanese.” We’ll never know for sure which limit the mistranslators intended.

    Step 4: Over the next 63 years, Japan keeps refusing to create any laws with penalties for that “Racial Discrimination” clause in that American-written Japanese-constitution which Japan purposefully limited in scope to cover just “JAPANESE citizens”.

    Step 5: A black man and his half-black daughter (Debito, I’m changing your race now, hope that’s OK, because people who rationalize racism against “gaijin” don’t seem to be able to rationalize racism against blacks) these two humans naively believe they are “Japanese citizens” (well, their belief is understandable, the man gained the nationality of Japan, and the girl was born in Japan to a “racially Japanese” mother, so one would think they are “Japanese citizens”) and they see a sign in front of a Japanese establishment which says “Japanese Only.” The black man and his half-black daughter are told they still can’t enter because he is racially black and she is racially half-black. Even when they show proof of being “Japanese citizens”, the establishment owners still say that: blacks and even half-blacks can’t enter, because of their race.

    Step 6: The black man takes the racially discriminating establishment to court, thinking that the “No Racial Discrimination against ‘Japanese citizens'” constitutional clause protected them, but surprisingly: when the court gives its ruling, it doesn’t site any law with any penalty for racial discrimination (because it seems the Japanese legislators haven’t passed any law with any penalty for racial discrimination).

    Step 7: The black man and his half-black daughter realize that even though they have Japanese passports, they are not racially-Japanese, so they are not REAL Japanese citizens, and there is still no penalty for racial discrimination in Japan.

    Next, let’s take a journey into the mind of the average racially-Japanese, which I personally experienced first-hand today:

    Today, I had a revealing conversation with 4 average Japanese housewives. 3 of them are in their 60s, 1 of them is in her 40s. These 4 are good friends who have been meeting once-a-week for 11 years now, to practice their English with a native speaker (the first 10 years with an Australian, the most recent year with me, an American). They are in general relatively open and honest about their opinions, but they really surprised me with what 3 of them admitted to me today.

    First, I told them about this bold new idea of the world community Economically Ostracizing Japan to financially motivate Japan to create actual penalties for Racial Discrimination. I wanted to see if they could think up some other ways which would speed up the process of getting these penalties in place.

    Just to make sure we all were on the same starting point of logic, I began by confirming:

    “Now first, we all agree that Japan should have laws with penalties for Racial Discrimination, right?”

    Here comes the first big shock. Get ready.

    3 of the Japanese ladies do felt that Japan should NOT have laws with penalties for Racial Discrimination.

    What? I thought the point of disagreement was going to come later, like about HOW to motivate Japan to create the laws with penalties, about what KIND of penalties, about enforcement, about details.

    I was shocked to hear 3 of these ladies admit that they don’t think Japan should have laws with penalties for Racial Discrimination.

    I asked, “Wow, what reasons are there to NOT create laws with penalties against Racial Discrimination?”

    Wait for it…

    “Well,” the leader lady began, “Japan is an island country.”

    “And there are many criminal foreigners…” she said, I should have let her continue her sentence, but I just couldn’t contain myself.

    I interrupted, “Criminals? We’re not talking about criminals. We’re talking about racial discrimination.”

    “Well,” her best friend came to her rescue, “We don’t want to lose our Japanese culture.”

    “Yeah,” the 40 something year old suddenly gave her opinion, “Look at what’s happening in Sumo! The foreigners are taking over!”

    The fourth lady, who I’ve already learned is the only one of the group with what I call logic, remained quiet.

    The unlogical 3 started passionately talking about how the big foreigners are ruining Sumo, and worrying about that “problem”.

    I said, counting on my fingers, “OK, so let’s see here, #1 Japan is an island country, so racial discrimination is OK, #2 Some foreigners are criminals, so racial discrimination is OK, #3 You don’t want to lose your culture, so racial discrimination is OK, #4 Foreigners are winning at Sumo, so racial discrimination is OK.”

    The 3 weren’t fazed by this summary at all, they responded by enthusiastically jumping back into their passionate agreement with each other about the problem of foreigners winning at Sumo. The leader said “It’s not fair, they are too big.”

    I decided to try to approach from that angle, “OK ladies, so if the problem is the foreign sumo guys are relatively big, if that seems unfair, than how about doing what boxing and judo does, create weight divisions.”

    But one lady immediately replied she couldn’t agree to that, she said “No, it’s exciting to see a small person beat a large person.”

    To which I replied, “Yes, like David vs. Goliath, many people like to see that, but at the same time, you ladies are also saying you don’t like it when the big guy wins. So do you want the big guys to compete or not?”

    To which another lady said, “We should make a separate division for the Gaijin.”

    To which I replied, “Wait, do you realize that many of the people you are calling ‘gaijin’ are Japanese citizens? S,o even though they have become Japanese citizens, and even if they were even born in Japan, you still want to exclude them based on their race. This is the meaning of racial discrimination.”

    “Look, whites in America didn’t like the fact that in general blacks are on average faster and stronger, the whites tried to keep blacks out of baseball, basketball, running, etc. Then they made separate leagues to keep blacks from beating the whites. But eventually people realized we don’t just want to see the best of the best white athletes, we want to see the best of the best HUMAN athletes.”

    The leader lady still didn’t get it, she said, “But that’s different. Whites doing Racial Discrimination against Blacks is different. Japan is not the same. We’re not doing the same thing.”

    Finally, here, the 4th lady, a human with logic, broke her silence, she spoke confidently, “It is the same, what he is saying is true. Whites discriminating against blacks, Japanese discriminating against gaijin, it’s the same thing. It’s racial discrimination.”

    Thank God, I thought to myself. Thank God this human has the logic, and the COURAGE to state this logic. Thank The Universe. Thank You!

    The 3 thought about her words for a few good seconds, and then I decided to create a little resolution that the 3 could easily agree about.

    I said, “I understand your feelings. You love your culture, and you want to see the best sumo possible, right? And you feel the big strong foreigners are not using enough technique, right? You feel they are mainly relying on their size and strength, and they aren’t using enough “waza” to win, they aren’t using enough special techniques, right? OK, here’s a solution, how about create a point system so that one HAS to use lots of waza to continue moving up the ranks. If a wrestler simply push-push-pushes, if he doesn’t use enough of the special techniques, then he simply can’t advance. Give points for the special techniques, just like other sports do, and make those points essential for becoming champion. That way, everyone will have the proper incentive to use the special techniques, the world won’t be able to complain about racial discrimination in sumo, and you can continue to enjoy seeing the person who uses the most special techniques crowned champion.”

    We agreed on that positive note, and I brought out some chocolate, and while we all ate the round Meiji Almond Chocolate balls, someone brought up potato chips, and that led to baked potato talk, and then we all agreed that real butter on baked potato is so good, and then we talked about this that and the other, all in the mood of agreement. We ended on a friendly note as always, and we’ll talk about something less controversial next week.

    But in my heart, I now know the bad news: 3 out of 4 actually felt that Japan should NOT have laws with penalties for Racial Discrimination.

    And yet, at the same time, in my heart I now know the good news: 1 has the logic, and the courage, to tell the others the truth. She said it clearly and confidently and the others heard her. There is a chance that together, we humans can unite as humans and create human solutions.

    PS – I recently found these positive pages, created by people who are showing logic. Not perfect, but relatively good, I applaud their efforts.

    PPS – I hope we can be forgiven for allowing this thread to speak beyond the original topic. If this results in preventing racial discrimination in the future, I can only hope Mr. Suraj would approve.

  • “..How do you define foreigner?
    Legally, 日本人 is left undefined…”

    Isn’t that the point though?

    Japan is defined by its endless ambiguities, to the point that it defends these ambiguities simply because it assists in not having to arriving at a conclusion or make a decision; ergo, a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ does not exist. So whilst, in the Japanese context, this is fine, no one can be wrong hence ‘harmony’ is maintained, it does not apply to anyone else, period.

    So, for the Japanese, why would they wish to define a situation that is ostensibly an anachronism to them?

    The mentality of having different people and their strange ways, come into “your” country, initially is the same for all countries. But, in time, when more and more of these “people” are seen and live everyday in the same country and society that ones also lives in, does constantly ignoring them, and not wishing to define them, indicate any form of compassion or empathy or even a willingness to recognise a changing state of the society. It also, or should, indicate to said country that their own country has been seen and recognised by ‘others’ and wish to be engaged by others. Thus, are they truly saying “we” don’t want to look beyond our own shores, or recognise ‘others’ for fear of having to arrive at a conclusion and one that may not be palatable?

    Is this how progress is defined, just ignore don’t recognise and don’t attempt to define, as it will go away? Is that what ‘they’ mean by a unique culture, a culture that prides itself on ignoring and not recognising anyone from another land?

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Steve…well done not blowing your stack. Your findings just about match mine – 25% of adults understanding what racism is. I’ve had much more success with kids. These three ladies are somewhat representative of the ‘honne’ of old, fusty, narrow-minded people like Ishihara who so successfully fearmonger among older people. For what its worth, I’ve had some success with older people on this issue by using examples of them possibly being discriminated against i.e. parallells to age discrimination and gender discrimination. That sometimes works. I’m really impressed with your group’s English level..must be fun. Apologies Debito for not addressing the original topic, but thought Steve deserved a cyber pat on the back!

    — He does. But now let’s get back on track. We’re talking about the underlying attitudes that may give rise to people not paying sufficient attention to a death in police custody, right?

  • I think it would be faster to calculate the number of articles in the Japanese constitution that _are_ followed in practice as well as speech.

    Steve: do any of those four ladies have a college education? Without proper training, it’s easy to confuse logic with prejudice (to paraphrase from William James)

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Interestingly enough, the Nagoya District Court has ordered the national government to pay ¥890000000 in damages in responce to deaths in custody as a result of being forced to wear those leather restrainers.
    I wonder if Mrs. Suraj will ever see any damages paid.

    — She’ll have to take it to court, it seems.

    I think you’re off by a zero.

  • Per Steve’s request, I attach a partial list of non-discrimination laws.

    第十三条 すべて国民は、この法律の適用について、平等に取り扱われなければならず、人種、信条、性別、社会的身分若しくは門地によつて、又は第十六条第五号に規定する場合を除く外、政治的意見若しくは政治的所属関係によつて差別されてはならない。
    第四十七条 2 保護施設は、要保護者の入所又は処遇に当たり、人種、信条、社会的身分又は門地により、差別的又は優先的な取扱いをしてはならない。
    第六条 電気通信事業者は、電気通信役務の提供について、不当な差別的取扱いをしてはならない。
    第十四条 四 特定の者に対し不当な差別的取扱いをするものでないこと。
    第二十条 四 特定の利用者に対して不当な差別的取扱いをするものでないこと。
    第十四条 四 特定の者に対し不当な差別的取扱いをするものでないこと。
    第六十一条の二 開設者又は第五十八条第一項の許可を受けた者(以下この章において「卸売業者」という。)は、地方卸売市場における業務の運営に関し、出荷者、買受人その他地方卸売市場の利用者に対して、不当に差別的な取扱いをしてはならない。
    第二十五条 3 一般貨物自動車運送事業者は、特定の荷主に対し、不当な差別的取扱いをしてはならない。
    第十九条 2 四 特定の者に対して不当な差別的取扱いをするものでないこと。
    第二十条 2 四 特定の使用者に対し不当な差別的取扱をするものでないこと。
    第十四条 2 四 特定の者に対して不当な差別的取扱いをするものでないこと。
    第十七条 2 四 特定の者に対し不当な差別的取扱いをするものでないこと。

    — Not all of these are relevant, or even enforceable as written.

    Keep your list coming so we can see on what basis you stay delusional.

  • HO, Thank you.

    Even though some might not be relevant or enforceable, we still really appreciate your sharing what you know.

    Please do kindly share more if possible, because maybe, just maybe, within your extensive knowledge of Japanese laws, we might discover a usable gem.

  • “Keep your list coming so we can see on what basis you stay delusional.”

    Debito (Mr. Arudou? — whatever you prefer), whether you choose to include this message for public view is not very important to me. What *is* important is that you read this message at least twice and think very carefully about how you choose to behave in public.

    Calling someone “delusional”, constantly abusing your role as moderator by blatantly allowing only selected comments that you want your readers to see (many times with biased and ill-informed editorials attached to them), and often engaging in childish name calling is highly unprofessional and childish.

    For the sake of your own career, you might want to show some humility and restraint. Right now, reading your comments is very off-putting for disinterested third-parties trying to make sense of what all the fuss is about.

    — Fair enough. But again, it’s my blog. I’ll say what I like. You are welcome not to read. This blog is not my career.

    As for the whole HO thingie, as I wrote before last March, HO is a special case. After a couple of years reading him reading us, I’d say that about 80% of the comments (not including the asinine ones I occasionally have to delete) are ill-considered at best, disingenuous at worst. I don’t mind cogent arguments being made by people disagreeing (seriously). HO is not usually one of those arguers.

    Quite simply, he’s not listening. He just keeps asserting in a self-delusional vacuum. He’s earned the tough responses I give him.

    Don’t agree? That’s fine. If I only wanted those who agreed with me to be visible on, I wouldn’t approve anyone with even the slightest disagreement. That would include your comment above. Obviously that’s not the case.

    In any case, thanks for caring enough about my image to comment.

  • D.B. Cooper says:

    Perhaps the mighty Economist would like to put the U.K.’s ‘controversial immigration policy under a sharper spotlight’.

    Migrant rights activists across the UK are readying themselves for next week’s European Week of Action Against the Deportation Machine. Campaigners are calling out for a week of protest and direct action targeting the government agencies and private companies responsible for shipping migrants out of the U.K and back to the desperate situations they risked their lives to flee, often subjecting them to violent abuse on their way (see SchNEWS 669).

    With parties across the political spectrum baying for the removal of migrants – easy scapegoats for any number of society’s ills – the last government made the deportation of failed asylum seekers and immigration offenders (undocumented migrants who decided not to not to go through the torturous and twisted immigration process) a priority. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) shows scant regard for why these people may have risked their lives to come to Britain and unblinkingly deports them back to warzones, including Iraq and Afghanistan, or into the hands of the rapists and abusers they’ve escaped.

    The deportation process is often brutal and both mentally and physically abusive. A 2008 report by Medical Justice Network and the National Coalition of Anti-deportation Campaigns (NCADC), ‘Outsourcing Abuse’, recorded incidents of beatings, people who were punched, kicked, choked or gagged, ‘overzealously’ restrained, racially abused, dragged about by handcuffs or hair, sat on and even sexually abused.

  • Interesting parallel…

    Three guards held over death of deportee who collapsed on plane at Heathrow ‘after being held down’By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 11:39 PM on 18th October 2010

    Three civilian security guards were arrested today over the death of an Angolan man who died while they were deporting him from the UK.

    Jimmy Mubenga, 46, collapsed on a plane at Heathrow Airport while being escorted by the three men as he waited to be taken back to his homeland last week.

    The trio, aged 35, 48 and 49, were arrested at a west London police station today and have been released on police bail to December pending further inquiries.

    A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘The deceased was being deported from the UK under escort by civilian security guards.

    Inquiries continue to establish the full circumstances of the incident.

    ‘The death is being treated as unexplained at this stage.’

    Mr Mubenga became unwell while under the escort of the guards on a British Airways flight that was preparing to leave Heathrow for Angola shortly before 8.30pm on Tuesday last week.

    He was taken to Hillingdon Hospital, in Uxbridge, but pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

    Post mortem examinations to find out how Mr Mubenga died have so far proved inconclusive. Further tests will now take place.

    Eyewitnesses said that Mr Mubenga was held down on the aircraft and had complained of breathing difficulties.

    Scotland Yard confirmed their homicide unit had taken command of the investigation after it was initially dealt with by officers from Heathrow CID.

    The Home Office said it could not comment on claims that Mr Mubenga was restrained before his death.


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