Taiwanese-Japanese Dietmember Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member; racist Dietmember Hiranuma continues ranting about it


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Hi Blog.  The new Kan Cabinet started out yesterday, and it would of course be remiss of me to not mention that one of the Cabinet members, Renho, has become the first multicultural multiethnic Dietmember to serve in the highest echelons of elected political power in Japan.  Congratulations!

She is, however, a constant target of criticism by the Far Right in Japan, who accuse her of not being a real Japanese (she is of Japanese-Taiwanese extraction, who chose Japanese citizenship).  Dietmember Hiranuma Takeo most notably.  He continued his invective against her on May 7 from a soundtruck, and it made the next day’s Tokyo Sports Shinbun.  Courtesy of Dave Spector.

It goes without saying that this is a basically a rant about a Cabinet member by a former Cabinet member who will never be a Cabinet member again, an aging ideological dinosaur raging against tide and evolution.  Sucks to be a bigot and in a position of perpetual weakness as well, I guess.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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21 comments on “Taiwanese-Japanese Dietmember Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member; racist Dietmember Hiranuma continues ranting about it

  • > has become the first multicultural Dietmember

    As opposed to the far right above, I must be on the far left because I cannot understand how she is even considered multicultural. She was born in Japan as a Japanese citizen. To me, that is the end of the matter. The fact that she once had dual citizenship with Taiwan or has a Taiwanese father does not make her any more multicultural.

    Anyway, congratulations to her.
    She graduated from the same university that I did.

    — Point taken. Thanks.

    That said, certain elements are making an issue of her background, and since that is probably inevitable in present-day Japan, I would choose not to hide it (which invites secrecy and shame), but rather celebrate it (and hopefully eventually invite a more constructive “so what?” attitude). Taiwan is certainly celebrating it.

    Matter of opinion, but again, I see your point.

  • Well it is surely a matter of choice (and her upbringing) to what extent she considers herself multicultural. There are certainly lots of UK citizens who maintain cultural ties to ancestral countries, and I see nothing wrong in that.

  • Racists in Sound Trucks… now there’s one thing I don’t miss when I’m stuck out of Country for a while.

  • Bucky Sheftall says:

    I think that from the typical and anthropologically unsophisticated “Blood and Soil” J-Wingnut perspective, their problem with Ren is not so much that she is “multicultural” but that she is “multiethnic” (n.b., the most sophisticated genome-mapping technology in the world would have a very hard time establishing this – but this is besides the point).

    — Yes, multiethnic. Now why didn’t I come up with that word this morning? Silly me.

  • Hiranuma is technically right. Renho was not originally a Japanese national: nationality was only passed patrilineally (through the father) until the law changed in 1985. Once the law changed, she became a dual citizen, and she renounced her Taiwanese citizenship shortly thereafter.

    Of course, this says less about Renho, who was as Japanese as she could possibly be under the circumstances, than it says about the insanely slow progress of change in Japan under Hiranuma’s beloved LDP.

  • Correction: Ren Ho was born to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother which did not make her a Japanese citizen at the time of her birth in 1967 under the provisions of the Nationality Law. She obtained Japanese citizenship in 1985 when the Nationality Law was amended — as she states herself on her website: http://renho.jp/profile

  • I’m sitting at a distance here wondering if/when some J-Dr. Mengele type will decide s/he’s going to announce the discovery of the J-Chromosome, without which nobody will be able to claim Japaneseness. Maybe I shouldn’t give the Hiranumas of the world any ideas!

  • Banker Cat says:

    It’s Hiranuma’s answer to the question “So what?” that I’d like to hear. The article shown above didn’t go into his goofy xenophobia too much.

    I didn’t get the bit at the end with the guy who handed Nakahata a pair of cigarette packs and told him to give them to Hiranuma and Yosano. If anyone gets the joke, let me in on it…

    “Sunrise Party of Japan” still makes me laugh.

  • Banker Cat, regarding the notion of thrusting fags at Hiranuma and Yosano, something I am sure they would appreciate under certain circumstances, I thought you were referring to the new eco-friendly products featured in The Onion recently:


    Sorry, a bit off track there. These grumpy old fools also need to be laughed at. Not that they would appreciate being the butt of gaijin humor, I am sure. It’s enough to make your eyes water.

  • I have to wonder whether Hiranuma would stand on a truckbed and argue that Sadaharu Oh should not have been the head of Team Japan in the Baseball World Classic, because Manager Oh has never renounced his Taiwanese citizenship. And yet was born and raised in Japan.

    The “ageing dinosaur” description is apt, I think. Have they changed the party name to “Tachiagare Kuso-Ojiji” yet?

  • Agree with Banker Cat. Would love some reporter to pin these bigots down. Debito’s article about the last gasps of this xenophobic/misogynistic political generation was excellent and prompted me to dig a bit deeper into the history of Japan’s education and propaganda during Meji, Taisho and Showa eras. Very enlightening couple of hours spent online.

  • As a follow up from my previous post, La Sexta News (Channel Six), based in Barcelona, but broadcast across Spain reported Renho’s appointment to Kan’s Cabinet today. It was a short piece, 25 seconds or less, but the newscaster read that, “This woman, passing by, is Renho Murata and has been appointed to the Japanese cabinet, as part of a measure to deal with a political crisis in Japan. She is known for being particularly intelligent, a former model and news anchor, and is of Taiwanese origin, and known for influencing people by her ideas.” Unfortunately I can’t find the report in print on the news program’s web page, but they have this Spanish only blurb at No. 19 here: http://www.lasextanoticias.com/inicio

    (Apologies to all the Instituto Cervantes students and alumni for my liberal and ad lib translation from the audio.)

  • Bucky Sheftall says:

    >prompted me to dig a bit deeper into the history of Japan’s education and propaganda during Meji, Taisho and Showa eras.

    Mashu (Matthew?)
    If you’re interested in delving further into the history of discourses of Japanese identity, by all means, avail yourself of copies of:

    – Oguma Eiji’s “A Genealogy of ‘Japanese’ Self-Images”

    – Peter N. Dale’s “The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness” (ironically, written with a major grant from Toyota)

    – Anything by Harumi Befu

    Very enlightening (and Debito, on the off-chance that you haven’t read these, either, by all means DO!)

  • Renho was willing to pick up the ball and run with it. That’s how she got attention as a credible government policy maker over the past year.

    Now that the Ozawa wing has gone down a bit in power, Kan needs Renho and the other “workers” within Minshuto to enact some credible changes in Japanese government. For this reason, Renho went up. This is about more than just multicultural background, although I think that itself does help a bit to emphasize “change”.

    The old cronies within LDP wanted to make a stink about the “what’s wrong with #2 comment” to undermine Renho as she was putting the spotlight on certain well-connected persons’ good deals. Basically, they want people off the subject by throwing out whatever new thing they can get people to talk about.

    An old lawyering trick that drives me batty because it’s so obvious, and the people who do it have no shame.

    Congratulations and good luck to Renho!

    Me from May: https://hoofin.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/there-are-actually-two-people-working-in-japans-dpj-the-other-one-is-renho/

  • (株)飛日空 says:


    Unlike politics, sports does not have as much meaning. Compared to politics, it’s the rabble’s entertainment for lack of better description. There are lots of foreign and haafu athletes and coaches; Darvish Yuu, Bobby Valentine, Coach Osim, African marathon runners, Tulio etc. etc. Its probably the only area of Japanese culture where they have little to no social qualms of “becoming international”. The rules are well defined and sports culture is unique, simple and enclosed. To attack Japan’s sports heroes is to alienate the rabble and there’s no political point in doing that.

    Hiranuma is trying to play off the status quo’s suspicion of anything foreign for his own benefit. He says something and then backs off but the damage is already done. Renho can’t change her multiethnicity but the shallow electorate’s suspicion and doubt are already fed. In other words, dirty statements from a dirty old man.

    I think Minna No Tou’s leader Yoshimi Watanabe said it best. When asked for his opinion on the newly formed Tachiagare Nippon party, he replied “Eh? Tachimidare Nippon?”

  • (株)飛日空 says:

    Oh yeah and Renho cutting up and publicly humiliating those well-connected pork barrellers during the 事業仕分け sessions probably did little to be endear herself to their friends in high places. She even brought out the whip for known friends of 民主党 and then (rightly) defending it saying we do not pick favorites and that waste is waste….

  • Maybe I shouldn’t have posted No. 8 above? What was a very tongue in cheek comment seems to have materialized…

    Regardless of one’s position on Middle Eastern affairs, the BBC is reporting that, for all intents and purposes, a Jewish gene seems to have been isolated. Story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10276393.stm No doubt it will receive a lot of attention, both good and bad, for the usual plethora of reasons, and all way beyond the scope of debito.org

    Back to Japan: could a similar type of “study” be forthcoming? Would the study, probably published in Nature, reveal that most Japanese populations were “genetically closer” to each other than to their non-Japanese neighbours? Or reveal genetic ties between globally dispersed Japanese and non-Japanese populations in Asia or elsewhere? What about degrees of genetic, religious and cultural crossover when the Japanese communities in other areas became established, good, bad or otherwise? (I’m playing Devil’s advocate here.)

    And what, I ask, “novel analytical techniques” would allow the scientists to examine the genetic samples they’d take “in unprecedented detail.”

    I’m always skeptical when I read of a people’s “uniqueness” because it often implies “better” or “superior” in some way, a la Hiranuma and Ishihara. Denn es gibt zu Ubermenchen werden muss auch Untermenschen werden…for ‘superior’ people to exist, there must also be ‘inferior’ people too. And we all know where that gets us. As with the piece of what I consider to be ‘hasbara’ above, maybe we could soon be victims of what I’d coin as “jasbara” if Hiranuma’s and Ishihara’s ‘intellectuals’ have their way. Sure hope not.

  • FYI there was an enormous racket made by I think two speaker trucks screaming about Renho yesterday, driving up and down Kasumigaseki…but I think it must have been the B-team- enormous distortion and echo not helped by the mix of feedback and static grinding sounds.

    I actually burst out laughing at it at one point when one rant was sort of drowned out in feedback. I know I shouldn’t, have but….

    — Laugh away. That’s the best reaction to them.

  • Hiranuma, he is so funny. Imagine him filling in a little right wing questionnaire:

    At times of heightened tension between Japan and its Asian neighbors, would you visit the Yasukuni Shrine?

    What would you say to a female emperor – an empress?

    Do you believe Japan and its people are unique?

    Do you believe any foreign influence (in any form) is bad?

    Have you ever tried to trace your ancestry back to a prominent figure in Japanese history?

    Not caring what foreigners think anyway, do you have an English website?

    I love these old guys – the decrepit, backward old guard of this country. I also include Mr Shintaro Ishihara. The only guys who ever fantasise about warfare and its vaingloriousness are those who have never fought in a war. I hope that these ridiculous, backward old men (who have benefited from a social structure where revolution has never necessitated their removal) will soon pass on and let the country move forward. Those old guys may claim to love JAPAN, but they don’t give a damn for the Japanese people. Good riddance to them. And as far as intelligence goes, they do a disservice to this country’s young generation. Ishihara, I believe, won a literary award. Well, no one I have ever met has ever read one of his books.


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