My SNA Visible Minorities column 7: “Japan’s Botched Response to the Diamond Princess Coronavirus isn’t Racism; it’s Stupidity”, Feb 17, 2020

The Diamond Princess cruise ship case (which has been discussed extensively on Debito.org this past week) fell within my SNA monthly column window this time, so here’s my take on it:

Visible Minorities: Japan’s Botched Response to the Coronavirus
By Debito Arudou, Shingetsu News Agency, Feb 17, 2020

SNA (Tokyo) — The drama of cruise ship Diamond Princess, currently moored at Yokohama and quarantined by Japan’s Health Ministry due to some of the 3,700 passengers and crew testing positive for the coronavirus, is a human rights crisis.

The Covid-19 outbreak that originated in China has killed more than 1700 people and sickened tens of thousands.

Here’s my take: Surprise! I’m not going to argue that the prison-ship conditions are due to racism, but more a matter of official stupidity…

Read the rest at the Shingetsu News Agency website at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/02/17/visible-minorities-japans-botched-response-to-the-coronavirus/

German journalism on Japan Govt’s COVID policy: Tohoku’s Dr. Oshitani: Foreigners (not Japanese) brought it in. And that’s why govt policies specifically exclude only foreigners, even NJ Permanent Residents.

When the Japanese media observes omertà on how Japan’s policymakers engage in racist politics, it’s sometimes up to overseas media to expose it.  Debito.org Reader Maximilian Doe offers a full report from German media:  How even Japan’s scientists (particularly a Dr. Oshitani Hitoshi, professor of virology at Tohoku University, and leader of the health advisors to the Japanese government) couched COVID as an overseas contagion, not something also brought into Japan by Japanese (such as the cruise ship Diamond Princess).  This led to policies that reflectively exclude all “foreigners” (including NJ Residents with valid visas) from entry or even quarantine.

OSHITANI:  Spread of COVID-19 in Japan had two major waves so far. The first wave was originated by people with travel history to Wuhan and other places in China. From January to early February, the number of cases from China found in Japan was 11. Of course, there were considered to be more imported cases from China in reality, but it was likely somewhere around several tens to about a hundred. These people traveled to Japan for sightseeing or other purposes, and later, through places where people congregate, such as sports gyms and small concert houses, transmissions spread across the country including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, and Osaka. This first wave had come under control by mid March with number of cases relatively low, but the second wave came as the first wave was calming down. Second wave was originated by infected people from a wide range of countries, such as Europe, US, Southeast Asia, and Egypt. We confirmed about 300 cases who had entered Japan from such countries, so the actual number of cases who entered Japan is estimated to be around 1,000 ~ 2,000. Although local transmissions of the second wave in Japan began in early February, infected people from abroad were coming to Japan and able to move around the country almost without any restriction, until the government put restrictions on travel at the end of March. This resulted in a large outbreak.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Virologist and government advisor Hitoshi Oshitani says: “The data clearly shows that Japan’s measures were more effective than those of Western countries.” No G7 country has so few Covid-19 fatalities as Japan. The high standard of hygiene of the Japanese is also claimed as an additional reason for this. Now the government of the right-wing conservative Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wants to make sure that foreigners will not cause the next wave.

COMMENT FROM DOE:  These German articles are not hard proof whether Dr. Oshitani is actively okay with shutting out even legal residents or not, but in combination with the Japanese and English articles published on the website of Oshitani’s lab I get the impression that he and his team of other advisors had a very strong influence, if not the most critical influence, on the government implementing this current entry ban. I also think that it’s enough evidence that he at least doesn’t care about the problem for stranded NJ residents. A curious behavior for an academic or one of Japan’s national apex universities, since universities are those “businesses” disproportionately affected by this. Besides this he’s clearly responsible for the – let’s say – special testing policy Japan has implemented. I’d like to hear your thoughts about this.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: My thoughts are there is a pattern here.  Foreigners, as we’ve seen from the days of AIDS, SARS, and even the Otaru Onsens Case, are more likely to be seen as riddled with contagion, and treated as such by policymakers either with benign neglect or overt reactionary policies.  However, instead of having a government and civil society that rightfully points out that associating disease with citizenship leads to racism, in Japan we get blanket exclusion.  And it’s even backed up by Japan’s scientists.

Debito’s SNA column: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, Visible Minorities col 9, April 20, 2020

My regular monthly Visible Minorities column is out at the Shingetsu News Agency, where I talk about how Japan is reverting to exclusionary type (egged on by an unaccountable ruling elite) when dealing with minorities in pandemic times. People in Japan are generally “live and let live” and “keep calm and carry on” when it comes to treating each other. It’s Japan’s incompetent leaders (notably a self-hating haafu American-Japanese politician named Onoda Kimi) who normalize discrimination in the name of shifting blame, I’m arguing. Here’s the column’s opening:

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SNA (Tokyo) — Pandemics can bring out the best in people. Newton came up with theories on calculus, optics, and gravity while in quarantine. Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays, and Edvard Munch created iconic paintings in isolation. Even today, we’re seeing heroes in the health care industry, volunteers sewing and distributing basic personal protective equipment, neighbors checking up on each other, and leaders stepping up their organizational skills. When the daily normal becomes a struggle between life and death, we see what people are really made of.

In Japan, we’re seeing much of the “keep calm and carry on” mettle found in a society girded for frequent natural disasters. But that grit hasn’t trickled upward to Japan’s political elite, which has ruled largely without accountability for generations, and at times like these appears particularly out of touch. More concerned about the economics of cancelling the Tokyo Olympics than about the safety of the general public, Japan’s policymakers haven’t conducted adequate Covid-19 testing, exercised timely or sufficient social distancing, or even tallied accurate infection statistics.

As happened in prior outbreaks, such as SARS and AIDS, leaders have deflected blame onto foreigners. First China, then outsiders in general, starting with the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship (which, despite a third of its passengers being Japanese citizens, was even excluded from Japan’s coronavirus patient tallies). But treating outsiders like contagion has consequences: Society develops antibodies, and Japan’s already-normalized discrimination intensifies. Consider the case of Mio Sugita, a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House Diet Member from Tottori…

Read the rest at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/04/20/visible-minorities-pandemic-releases-antibodies-toward-non-japanese/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 16, 2020

Table of Contents:
DIVERSITY AND ITS ADVERSARIES
1) 2020 Tokyo Olympics drops Ainu performance from its Opening Ceremonies, despite 2019 law officially recognizing and promoting them as an indigenous people in Japan
2) BBC: “Is Japan embracing diversity?” A Pollyannaish article highlighting a few celebrity examples without data on broad public attitudes or government policy re immigration
3) DF on Chugoku bank unlawfully demanding to check NJ customers’ visa stay durations and photocopy their Gaijin Cards, or face discontinuation of service
4) Senaiho “Hair Police” School Bullying Case Update 4: Civil lawsuit launched against school bullies, gaining traction with other international couples
5) “Gaikokujin Shimin”: Kawaguchi City Mayor Okunoki (kinda) answers a query about the racialized application of this term that officially makes Japanese into “foreigners” (UPDATED)
RECENT DEBITO COLUMNS
6) SNA Visible Minorities Col 6: “Carlos Ghosn’s Escape from Japan Was the Right Move”, Jan 20, 2020
7) My Japan Times JBC 118: “Remain calm when stopped by the police”, on what to do if stopped by Japanese police for an Instant ID Checkpoint, Jan 20, 2020
… and finally…
8 ) My SNA Visible Minorities column 7: “Japan’s Botched Response to the Diamond Princess Coronavirus isn’t Racism; it’s Stupidity”, Feb 17, 2020

SNA: “Japanese Only” elevators at Tokyo Akasaka Hotel Excel Tokyu; hotel blames Olympic Organizing Committee! Plus Duty-Free Stores asked to rat on foreigners.

SNA: Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu separated its elevators between “Japanese Only” and “Foreigner Only.” SNA called the hotel to ask them why they did it. The answer is that this was their interpretation of guidance from the Olympic authorities. Seems all non-Japanese are visitors. (MP)

COMMENT: The assumption is, as usual, that rates of infection for foreigners and Japanese are different.  Never mind that:
1) “Foreigners” as signposted includes ALL Non-Japanese (including Residents), regardless of whether they’ve actually left Japan and come back  As Michael mentioned above, foreigners are no matter what treated as an exogenous force.
2) Plenty of Japanese have gotten infected from each other, not from foreigners.  In fact, many cases of variants have been carried in and incubated by Japanese themselves.
3) Even foreigners who HAVE come in from overseas have been checked and cleared both inside and outside Japan for infection, and if the systems are working properly, the foreigners (only) are barred entry.  That especially goes for people connected with the Olympics, as we have seen.
4) And many of those foreigners have gotten their vaccines overseas already, and at rates higher and more successful than Japan’s current lackluster (and slowing down) procedures for getting vaccinated.
5) I’m not an epidemiologist, but I daresay you’re LESS likely to get infected from inbound foreigners going through the current GOJ quarantine procedures than from the (generally unvaccinated) average Japanese clustered in poorly-ventilated urban transportation, non-remote workplaces, and eateries.

Finally, in addition to enlisting the general public to find “illegal foreigners” (including a downloadable app to scan Gaijin Cards like a game of Pokemon Go), the Japanese Government is now asking Duty-Free Stores to check passports and rat on foreigners for breaking quarantine (since after all, we can’t do that to Japanese).  From the Japan Times:

JT: The government will ask duty-free stores to check the date of entry to Japan in customers’ passports and report if they were shopping during their required 14-day quarantine period. […] In the request sent to shop operators, the health ministry asks them to provide information including the names, nationalities and passport numbers of violators to its Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants. If an Olympic-related visitor is found to be violating the rule, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will report the matter to the Tokyo Organising Committee.

UPDATE: “Foreigner Only” signs amended to “Foreigner Priority”. Fixed. Not.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 20, 2020: SPECIAL ISSUE ON JAPAN’S BLANKET BAN ON FOREIGN RESIDENT RE-ENTRY

Table of Contents:
JAPAN’S BLANKET BAN ON FOREIGN RESIDENT RE-ENTRY
1) German journalism on Japan Govt’s COVID policy: Tohoku’s Dr. Oshitani: Foreigners (not Japanese) brought it in. And that’s why govt policies specifically exclude only foreigners, even NJ Permanent Residents.
2) Japan’s National Universities call on the Education Ministry to protect int’l students from expulsion and exclusion (a report from Debito.org Reader Mark)
3) American Chamber of Commerce in Japan calls on J govt to cease “double standard restricting [Foreign Japan Residents’] travel, economic, and familial opportunities based on nationality” in Coronavirus policy

WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?
4) NHK TV’s racist video explaining Black Lives Matter for a children’s news program: Why their excuse of “not enough consideration made at broadcast” is BS
…and finally…
5) SNA Visible Minorities Column 11: Advice to Activists in Japan in general (in the wake of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Japan Movement), June 22, 2020.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 18, 2020

Table of Contents:
PROPAGANDISTS AND COLLABORATORS

1) Kyoto City issues comic book on local street safety to grade schoolers, created by Kyoto Seika Univ & Kyoto International Manga Museum, portraying “foreigners” as unintelligible ill-mannered tourists!

2) Kyoto City manga denigrating “foreigners”, produced by Kyoto Seika University, has naturalized African-Japanese citizen Dr. Oussouby Sacko as University President!

NJ TREATMENT DURING THE PANDEMIC
3) Debito interviewed by Shingetsu News Agency’s “Speakeasy” forum: “Japan’s Foreign Residents in the Coronavirus”, Apr 27, 2020

… and finally …
4) Debito’s SNA column: “Pandemic Releases Antibodies toward Non-Japanese”, Visible Minorities col 9, April 20, 2020

APJ-Japan Focus’s Jeff Kingston on PM Abe and postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics; plus the inhumanity of the Japanese Govt

It’s time to talk about the politics of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and how Prime Minister Abe has put Japan at risk for the sake of a sports meet. Dr. Jeff Kingston of Temple University Japan has posted a salient article today about the politicking between Abe’s minions and and the International Olympic Committee, and how Abe may exploit any crisis he exacerbated for his own political benefit.  It’s very much worth a read.

Kingston Abstract: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been widely criticized for ineptitude in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Keen to host the Olympics in 2020, he put public health at risk. Strong international criticism finally forced the IOC and Abe to accept the inevitable and defer the Olympics until 2021. Now both parties are now trying to claim credit for making this decision. The Japanese policy of limiting testing kept policymakers and citizens in the dark and handicapped responses to the outbreak. As the number of infections surges, the government is playing catch up. The combination of an accelerating COVID-19 outbreak in Japan and imminent global economic recession will hit Japan hard and could lead to Abe’s ouster. For now, there are growing concerns that he may exploit this crisis to advance his political agenda of constitutional revision.

Comment: All because the people who have money would rather risk the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised (as happened in the 1980s with Japan’s Health Ministry and HIV-tainted blood) than let any economic impacts of postponing an Olympics reduce their political power or their already-stuffed wallets. The short-sightedness and greed of people richer than God who won’t subsidize consumers and taxpayers (who have long subsidized THEIR lives) is astonishing.  Especially since a dead consumer/taxpayer and their remaining resentful kith and kin is of no use to them either.  This should be pointed out at every opportunity.

Instead (and this where the Debito.org subject matter comes in), we have media trying to blame foreigners again.  We’ve already seen the regular knee-jerk reaction (seen in health scares ere: e.g., “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003)) of treating it as a “Chinese virus” (and singling out Yokohama’s Chinatown).  Or even just as a general “foreign virus” and shutting out all “foreign” customers.  But since we can’t blame foreign tourists anymore (world tourism has screeched to a halt), we’re now seeing regular media portraying this as a “returnee” virus, where Japanese returning from infected gaikoku are stigmatized. Anything but blame the government for their political decision not embarrass or disrupt by testing widely and bringing on the lockdown.  People will die for this. Again, all for the sake of a sports meet.