A Critique
of JapanReview.net's book review entitled
"The Dave and Tony Show"
released January 2005
which compares book JAPANESE ONLY
with Oguri Saori's manga DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN

By Arudou Debito, author, JAPANESE ONLY
(Made public February 11, 2005)
Addendum made February 17, 2005)

(A SECOND OPINION: Another critique of the JapanReview.net review from fellow activist, former ISSHO BENCI Member Bern Mulvey, who was there as the Otaru Onsens Case unfolded and is a primary witness,
is available here.)

To the Reader: This is a longer critique of the JapanReview.net book review of "JAPANESE ONLY--The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan" (Akashi Shoten Inc 2004). This page will give a fuller treatment of the problems I briefly outlined in a letter to the editors atJapanReview.net

Under provisions of Fair Use, I reprint the whole review below (sans footnotes, available here), with my comment and critique interspliced. I think there is utility in taking up all questions raised within the review, to capitulate where warranted, and explain where necessary.


Let me open with a disclaimer. I am not writing this critique simply because somebody gave my book a negative review. I am not adverse to criticism. Given what I do in Japan, I'm used to it, facing it every single day. I also do not mind people pointing out things I could have written better, or just plain correctly. I believe that constructive criticism is a necessary factor in the search for the truth, and a natural part of the process towards betterment of human society.

I am writing this critique because I believe JapanReview.net's review is unfair. And not merely because it compares a nonfiction book with a comic book (and faults it inter alia for not being as funny).

The review contains (click to page down to examples) unbalanced critique, fallacious comparisons, erroneous assertions, careless misreadings, glaring and unprofessional misquotes, unreasonable expectations, unwarranted jabs, and even gross inaccuracies. This makes the review less a constructive criticism, more like an intellectual exercise bordering on a hatchet job.

The JapanReview.net's full review follows below in bold italic. My comments come afterwards in plain text.


"The Dave and Tony Show"
By: Yuki Allyson Honjo
Courtesy http://www.japanreview.net/review_arudou_and_lazlo.htm

COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO: From the very title, the reviewer is trying to force two very different books (even the languages are different) into oddly predetermined slots.

One book, JAPANESE ONLY (JO), is about the rise and fall and rise again of a complex social issue--one potentially powerful enough to change the very concept of a "foreigner" in Japan, written from the perspective of a key activist.

The other, DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN (DWG), is a comic book. Depicting the follies of an international couple, DWG was not written or created by Tony Laszlo--but by his wife, the highly-talented manga artist Oguri Saori (whom I know personally, and who, I will state for the record here without any sarcasm, deserves all the kudos she gets). Thus the "shows" are different. JO may be framed as "my show", because I wrote it, but the other book is not "Tony's show". It is Oguri Saori's show. This may seem a small point, but the perspectives (semiautobiographical vs ?biographical?) and their inherent differences in approach are thus glossed over.

Moreover, obvious problems arise (discussed below) when comparing a nonfiction work with a comic book. It's like comparing Inose Naoki with Monkey Punch. Better would have been, say, JAPANESE ONLY with Jeffrey Kingston's JAPAN'S QUIET TRANSFORMATION, for its cataloging of how things do change in Japan (contrasted with how they apparently don't, in JO).

Here's how the reviewer justifies the comparison:

The "How" of it All

As the film critic Roger Ebert noted, it's not so much what a movie is about, but how it is about it. That is, a mark of a good film is defined not so much by its subject matter, but rather by how the story is told.

The same could be said of good books, be it fiction or non-fiction. Some of the most mundane subjects can be the most beautiful of books. Take, for example, Edward Tufte's book Envisioning Information; it tackles the seemingly dull topic of how to make effective charts, graphs, and tables. Yet, the resulting volume is sublime, the perfect combination of art and science, and delightful and surprising as a child's picture book.

COMMENT: This paradigm does not seem to require too much mental contortionism. But remember that the quotes above discuss evaluations of art, entertainment, a story well-told etc. Not on the information within the work per se.

However, oddly enough, the review below winds up concentrating less on whether the story is told well, more on whether said book meets the reviewer's expection of how books are supposed to be presented within a genre.

In other words, the reviewer doesn't allow the book to stand on its own as a story (she in fact, as we will see below, gets key points of the story wrong). Instead, she tries to force it into a preassigned slot (a research-friendly reference book), and when it doesn't fit, she faults the book, not her categorization process. This ultimately throws the review off-kilter because the genres don't match.

Debito Arudou (ne David Christopher Aldwinckle) and Saori Oguri both tackle similar issues in their books: racial integration and tolerance in Japan. Arudou, in his 400 plus page tome Japanese Only, seeks to chart the "emergence of volunteerism and civil society in Japan through one particular event--the Otaru Onsens Case" (Arudou, p. i). In this lawsuit, Arudou sued a bath house in Japan because of its "Japanese Only" policies. Oguri's Darin wa Gaikokujin, or My Darling is a Foreigner, is a slim bestselling comic (manga) book in Japanese on her life with husband Tony Laszlo, who also happened to play an instrumental role in Arudou's activism.

FINE POINT: At the time of the book's publication, Tony Laszlo was not Oguri Saori's husband. They married, according to Oguri's website, in January 2004. DWG was published in December 2002.

The point is, this is one example of unbalanced research. Judging by the fine-tooth combing that happens below, the reviewer did a lot of preparation when reviewing JO. She did considerably less on DWG (taking the book at face value, due to its genre as a manga?), most clearly visible in the amount of the space below devoted to each critique (5400 words for JO vs 840 words for DWG). Which means there are very different standards being applied.

"Upon getting married," Oguri writes, "I think the issue of a life together is not so much whether you are a Japanese or a foreigner, but how your personalities are alike or different" (Oguri, p. 2). But, like every marriage, occasional misunderstandings and frictions occur in the Oguri household.

While their media and methodology are dissimilar, both Arudou and Oguri offer us case studies in Japanese racial tolerance towards "foreigners." Nevertheless, it is in the "how" that both authors not only go about telling their stories, but also in how they diverge; one succeeds, one does not.

COMMENT: It's quite a stretch to call DWG a "case study". As a manga, it succeeds, very very well. But as a case study, it is merely a series of amusing vignettes with a thread of love connecting them. It's like saying that manga "Sazae-san" is a "case study" of Japanese families (even though the original comic and the animated TV version have fundamentally different tones), or that "Peanuts" (aka Schulz's "Charlie Brown") is a "case study" of American schoolkids. Again, if the same standards, applied below to JO, were used to critique DWG as a "case study", I doubt the "success" rate would be similar. More when I talk about manga as a genre below.

The Dave Show

First, a disclosure: I know Arudou personally and have sympathy for his lawsuit. I firmly believe that Japan has little excuse to allow businesses to openly reject patrons based on race. I have very little time for apologists such as former Tama University President Gregory Clark: he implies that discrimination is a justifiable defense to preserve Japanese culture. "True, discrimination against foreigners can be unpleasant," Clark argues. ". . .But as often as not, that is because they do not want to obey Japan's rules and customs" (Arudou, p. 95). Nor do I give much credence to the idea that it is "un-Japanese" to sue: the lack of Japanese lawsuits is more a reflection of inefficiencies in the Japanese document-based court system rather than some amorphous and undefined notions of "culture." Given my contact with Arudou, I think his commitment to this lawsuit is genuine and sincere. It should also be noted that JapanReview.Net co-editor, Paul J. Scalise, had vetted a draft manuscript and is included in the acknowledgements. I have--to the best of my abilities--tried to set aside my personal biases and empathies in this review: if I failed, it is solely my responsibility.

COMMENT: My turn for disclosure. I concur that Dr. Honjo and I have known each other personally for some years now. She and husband (and co-JapanReview.net founder) Paul Scalise have helped me with this case financially, ideologically (the idea to separate www.debito.org into an "Activists' Page" and a "Residents' Page" was Dr Honjo's; similarly I introduced them to the designer of the JapanReview.net website), timewise, and materially (I have stayed in their apartment on a number of occasions during long trips to Tokyo, as they have stayed in my house in Hokkaido), with my full due gratitude. Politically, she and I are pretty much on the same page. However, for what it's worth, personally we do not get along.

Arudou gained domestic and international fame through his protests against anti-foreign sentiments in the port city of Otaru, in northern Japan. In Sept 10, 1999, Arudou came across an anonymous e-mail post to the Issho Kikaku Mailing list by a South American woman married to a Japanese (Arudou, pp. 14-5). The multinational family was ejected by a hot spring in the Otaru area for being "foreign." In reaction, Arudou and his colleagues created an informal group to test this assertion.

FINE POINT: "To test this assertion"? Badly framed. We went to the hot spring with our families to take a bath, and to see what was on the managers' mind regarding their refusal policy. "To test this assertion" sounds as if we went there to do some sort of social science experiment.

This may sound minor, but our motivation for going there has been questioned by many critics (mentioned in the book) who think we just went there to get refused, so we could sue people afterwards. Yes, Dr Honjo gives more details below, but if "how a story is told" is the crux of this review, the reviewer should afford the story the same amount of care in execution.

Arudou, who is Caucasian and a long-term resident of Japan, was ejected from a hot spring bath house (onsen), Yunohana Onsen. A movement was born.

The onsen owners, who had had problems with inebriated and rowdy Russian sailors, asked Arudou, his Japanese family, and his non-Asian looking cohorts to leave. The businesses had posted signs stating that bath facilities were for "Japanese Only" (see photo Arudou, pp. 31, 39, 113). The onsen owners argued that it was discriminatory to reject only Russians, so they turned away all foreigners. Later, one onsen voluntarily lifted its ban.

FINE POINT: It was not "one onsen". Two Otaru onsens voluntary lifted their bans (Panorama in November 1999, then Osupa in March 2000). And we were ejected from more than one onsen the day we were ejected from Yunohana. Again, please tell the story well. Correctly, even.

Arudou, in reaction to Yunohana onsen's continued discrimination, sued the business for damages and the city for violation against the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Arudou and his co-plaintiffs (Olaf Karthaus and Ken Sutherland), together with the head of Issho Kikaku, "dapper and intelligent, European-born [Tony] Laszlo," worked on the BENCI (Businesses Excluding Non-Japanese Customers Issho) Project. Ishho
[sic] Kikaku, according to its website, is a Tokyo based NGO "that aims to monitor issues related to human diversity, language, culture and coexistence worldwide, and strives to facilitate a greater recognition and understanding of these issues, both in the East Asian region and worldwide." It was a sensible alliance: Ana Bortz, a Brazilian journalist and Issho Kikaku member, won one of the first lawsuits in Japan that ruled the refusal of service based on nationality was illegal based on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Later, Arudou became a naturalized Japanese citizen and changed his name from David Aldwinckle to Debito Arudou. When he returned to the onsen wielding his new citizenship, he was again rejected based on his "foreign" race.

Disagreements with Laszlo later erupt: he becomes the villain of the piece. Arudou and his partners then win the initial case against the onsen, but not against the city. Arudou, who once enjoyed a wide base of support, eventually finds himself alone, abandoned by his lawyer and co-plaintiffs, begging an anonymous government clerk to help him file his appeal against Otaru in Japanese. (Arudou, p. 365).

NOT SO FINE POINTS: This timeline is jumbled, misrepresenting the facts of the case.

As written above, it sounds as if we sued, then ("later") I got naturalized, and then Laszlo and I had a tiff. Not so.

Skip this comment if you think dates are irrelevant, but: As the book makes clear, Olaf and I were refused in 1999, BENCI existed with us two working within from 1999 to 2000. Olaf and I left the group in early autumn 2000. Then I naturalized in October 2000, and was refused at Yunohana yet once again (a third time, the first as a citizen) on Hallowe'en night. Then came the search for plaintiffs, which is where Ken came in. The lawsuit, with Ken and Olaf, was launched in February 2001. My appeal against Otaru happened in late 2002.

Ken Sutherland was never a part of BENCI. He was a member of ISSHO, but he joined the lawsuit completely independent of ISSHO. As the book says.

Moreover, ISSHO Kikaku, as the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit Website makes clear, was never a party to this lawsuit in any way, as per their request. See http://www.debito.org/lawsuitbackground.html

Thus "disagreements with Laszlo" did not "later erupt". We went our separate ways long before the lawsuit happened, as the book, if carefully read, makes clear.

Y'know, it should be pretty hard to get this so jumbled. Chapters even separate these events. It feels as though the reviewer was in such a hurry to get to her critique, she paid less attention to the facts of the case.

Sorry, but that is no longer a story merely being badly told. It is sloppy scholarship, and it undermines the credibility of the review.

It all seems like gripping material for a book and, indeed, could (and should) be. However, Japanese Only never works--and on several operating levels, at that.

Assessing Japanese Only

In judging the merits or demerits of Japanese Only, one has to decide the standards and bench marks from which to gauge it. Just as a bubblegum horror movie is not judged on the same standard as an art house film, so the basis on which one reviews a work of social science (with its demands for rigor and hypothesis testing) must be suspended for the navel-gazing travelogue.

COMMENT: Okay, here are the reviewer's pet tools for analysis: "hypothesis testing", and "rigor". Fine, espeically if you are reviewing dissertation for a doctoral thesis. But it's hard to apply these to a manga--and that is why they never should have been in this review.

Yet, as the review demonstrates below, these tools don't really get applied. Sorry to spoil the suspense, but the manga gets let off the hook because it is 1) humorous, and 2) less ambitious. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

But therein lies the problem: what is Arudou's book? Is it social science, a handbook for activists in Japan, a primary resource cum compendium of media reports, didactic literature, propaganda, autobiography or a public policy memoir? Is it an impassioned plea for the end of discrimination? Does it argue for the merits of tolerance in Japan? It is unclear to the reader, and perhaps to the author himself, what the book is meant to achieve.

COMMENT: The answer is "yes".

But seriously folks, as I wrote at the beginning of the book (which was included above in this review), I was trying to "chart the emergence of volunteerism and civil society in Japan through one particular event--the Otaru Onsens Case".

Is this social science? Matter of opinion, as the depiction of social science cleaves into many camps. What's the reviewer's opinion?

A compendium of media reports and primary sources? Yes, definitely, as they are evidence of how the public received the issue. But that is not what gets evaluated in this review.

An impassioned plea for the end of discrimination? You betcha! The entire last chapter is exactly that.

Propaganda? This is reductio ad adsurdum--an unnecessary needle (as is the word "didactic"). What kind of writer would ever admit to "writing propaganda"?

Is JO a story well told, with a moral and a lesson? I think so. So did, for what it's worth, other reviewers publishing in The Japan Times, The Daily Yomiuri, and several other famous writers and Japan scholars. They seemed to have little trouble grasping what the book is trying to accomplish.

Et cetera. Instead of just loosing a list of rhetorical questions to swat, the reviewer should answer them herself in her critique.

More importantly, what is this *review* trying to achieve? To tell us what this book is about and whether it is worth the read? Or to tell us it is too epistemologically flawed (especially when compared to a comic book) to be worthy of the reader's bookshelf space?

Japanese Only is loosely structured as a narrative in chronological order. Arudou tells us a story because "it reads better and sounds less tendentious than an essay" (Arudou, p. 391). To some extent, characters and a story unfold. Arudou is most effective in drawing Karthaus, his German co-plaintiff. He succinctly captures Karthaus's quiet faith and humanity. In a few deft strokes, the reader has a glimmer of understanding Karthaus's commitment to stopping racism and his largely Burkean world view. Sutherland, the other co-plaintiff, remains a fun loving but ultimately flat character.

COMMENT: Sorry about that. Ken remains a flat character because several difficult circumstances in his personal life happened while the case was on. I felt obligated to keep quiet about these. I couldn't just leave him out of the book entirely. But I couldn't develop his character as much as I would have liked. I did include one of his essays, and included a few of our conversations and statements of motivation, but that's all I could do. Sorry. Guilty as charged. But I stand by my choice.

One key problem with the narrative is development of the main character: Debito Arudou himself. First, Arudou's name changes, almost inexplicably: Dave, Debito, Me, David, the translator, the transcriber, etc. We never truly understand what drives him nor the true costs of his activism, personally or professionally. For example, the author has said multiple times that he embarked on this journey to save his two young daughters from racism. Yet, he deliberately placed them in a situation where he knew his children would be discriminated against when he first took them to Yunohana Onsen to "make our point clearer" (Arudou, p. 23). The onsen manager looked at Arudou's children and declared that older Japanese looking daughter could enter the onsen, but her younger Western looking sister could not.

Dave (so the whole room could hear): "Okay kids. We're being ejected from the premises. For reasons we were born with." (Arudou, p. 35).

This is an extraordinary decision and deserves explanation: facing such blatant discrimination at a young age (both were under 7 years old at the time) must have had a profound impact on their lives.

COMMENT: The story is told with the reader following along in real time, learning as the protagonist learns, so it was difficult to write in future results. Even today, it is difficult to assess what impact that situation has had on my kids. Ask me (or better yet, them) when they become adults.

Mind you, before the insinuation arises that I set my kids up, i.e. "deliberately" placed them in harm's way (again, like some kind of science experiment), remember that Olaf did the same thing. He brought his kids along that day to the onsen. So did the other American couple with us. So did our Chinese friend with her Japanese children. We sincerely hoped the fact that we were families would sway the onsen managers' hearts. Families in Japan like any other.

Then again, it turned out to be not like any other, as the kids look different. And it became clear that the onsen managers would thus treat them differently. That is an important fact of the case to establish. But this outcome was not intentional on our part. If you think we expected our kids to be treated like this, think again.

Moreover, the reviewer's style of excerpting is unprofessional. The review includes the above quote, "to make our point clearer", without further context (pg 23, same paragraph as the quote, where I say "to expand the issue beyond us and into Japan's future..."). That is a point which cannot be ignored, and by doing so, the reviewer is misrepresenting the case. Shame on her.

Moreover, from his narrative, Arudou seems to be forever off on fact-finding missions and dedicating his time and energy away from his young family and career. His very understanding Japanese wife is only given passing mention, although she too fielded harassment. His family receives death threats in the mail: "FUCK YOU. . .WE WILL KILL YOUR KIDS." (Arudou, p. 304) Arudou's response is a rather bland cliche "You don't make deals with terrorists. . .stay the course." (Arudou, pp. 305-6).

COMMENT: If that foils the reviewer's expectations of seeing a grown man cry or shiver with fear, sorry. How much one discloses about a family and their reactions is solely the prerogative of the author. If not having a pipeline into one's private life is something the reviewer will fault in a book, then again, I plead guilty. Sorry if JO seems a bit "bland". How would the reviewer react in this situation when she has kids, and would she write her feelings in a book?

Events simply follow one after the other, and introspection or in-depth commentary is scant. Arudou's mistakes are never acknowledged, his flaws (aside from a weight problem) are never sketched.

COMMENT: Incorrect. For example, my error of calling Otaru a "discrimination paradise" ("sabetsu no paradaisu"--a quote lifted out of context for a TV sound bite), and how it caused fractures within our working group, is included in the book (pg 171). As are my problems working with others (always charging ahead without waiting for consensus, etc.), outlined fully in Chapters One through Three. One of the reasons why the conflict within the group is so compelling is because I too am a flawed character, and Laszlo too has compelling criticisms about my behavior.

Moreover, events do "simply follow one after another", because this is a plot-driven narrative. That's how some books are written, sorry. And there is plenty of introspection within. Olaf and I have a number of conversations about motive and future, and plenty of introspective thoughts out loud (JO pg 43-45, pg 101-108, pg 242-243, pg 267-269, for example). And in terms of the development of my character, my denouement (pg 362-367) is probably the best part of the book.

Indeed, one suspects the reader is deliberately treated to a one-dimensional character with neither rhyme nor reason beyond the occasional sound bite: "it's all for his children." He almost never looks back. We wonder, Does he have a life outside of activism?

COMMENT: See pages referred to immediately above. Anyway, does it matter what my life is like outside activism? (It's not that interesting, and the book is already more than 400 pages long.) Is this a viable source of criticism? A shortcoming of the book? Sounds more like a matter of taste.

True, in one section Arudou muses that his friend thought that he may have been used by his fellow activists. He takes comfort in the fact that "human rights activism" has a common pattern of "dissent and discordance" (Arudou, p. 255).

"Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and Booker T. Washington, Mohandas Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Seale, Malcolm X and Elijah Mohammad and even Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, they all dissented--often bitterly. (Arudou, p. 255)"

One would think that on this journey, Arudou would have made a misstep: no one was hurt? No one was left behind? He does not respond to many of his critics and justifies this with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Seldom if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas." (Arudou, p. 299)

COMMENT: Misquote. The reviewer lifts this out of context, without giving the book's justification for quoting it. If the reviewer had quoted King quote in full from the book, it would read:

MARTIN LUTHER KING: "...But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms." (JO pg 299)

Ditto for my reasoning: On the previous page, pg 298, I talk about the sheer number of critics and how answering them is exhausting, especially when some people are not constructive, reasonable, or sincere. As I wrote, "There are lots of them and one of you." It's not as if I (or Martin Luther King) ignored our critics just because they were critics.

Why doesn't the reviewer include the quotes in full, anyway? As JapanReview.net is a website, it's not as if there is a space constraint.

At almost every step, the reader is treated to a litany of cliches from a group of mostly anonymous
cheerleaders that he labels as "Friends" (viz. Arudou, p. 285).:

"He's like a BENCI Hurricane."; "Amazing how you find the time to type all this stuff, Dave." (Arudou, p. 58); "Thanks for the report." (p. 85); "Well done! Looks like we're gaining ground!" (p. 88); "Great report, Dave!" (p. 126); "Bravo, Dave. Don't take this lying down." (p. 96); "Dave. . . you've been doing a Herculean job." (p. 106) ". . . You work like a bicycle." (p. 108); "Dave, thanks for all you have done on this issue." (p. 137); "Dave, don't let this go unanswered." (p. 193); "Attaboy, Dave. Keep it up." (p. 194); "Yes, we've accomplished miracles." (p. 241); "No, you [Dave] will be the lightening [sic] rod, as usual." (p. 283); "Stay the course you three!" "You are doing a great job!" (p. 290)

COMMENT: I call these people "Friends" because they ARE my friends. I know them personally, and that is what they said. Do I have to give their names in order to prove they exist? Then I would be accused of having more flat characters...

Moreover, the quotes from pg 108 and pg 283 above are from Olaf Karthaus. Not anonymous, and not merely labelled a "Friend". Sloppy.

Those he dislikes or disagrees with are relegated to the "Peanut gallery," which he abbreviates as "PG" (viz. Arudou, p. 285): "Well congratulations. Signs are down. . .Now are you dropping the suit?" (Arudou, p. 285).

COMMENT: This is a complete misrepresentation of the "Peanut Gallery". It's not a matter of "dislike or disagree". It is whether or not these comments are coming from people hiding behind internet pseudonyms, taking gratuitous potshots, liberated from making responsible or sincere comments. As I define in the book.

I don't answer the Peanut Gallery. I do answer critics that make constructive comments. Hence I am writing a critique of this very review.

Criticizing the narrative may be unfair. The author states in the first paragraph that the book is "a record of how social movements rise and fall in the age of the Internet" and a case study so that readers too can "make the world a better place" (Arudou, p. i). If we take Arudou at his word, the book is indeed a record, in as much as he does reprint the media reports, old e-mails sent to his "Friends" mailing list, transcripts, court documents and other miscellany.

COMMENT: Rigor, please. This is where I really get confused by the reviewer's analytical method.

"If we take Arudou at his word" above implies some suspension of belief, as if one cannot trust me to portray the primary source materials properly (even though all the media source materials are reproduced at www.debito.org, many even footnoted in the book). Two paragraphs down, the reviewer even renders the word "record" (of events) in incredulous quotes. Despite quoting the public media all over the place, I'm not to be trusted, it seems.

Yet, as we will see below, in the tone of the review of DWG, the reviewer clearly buys into Oguri Saori's depiction of Tony Laszlo, as the reviewer puts it below, as "sweet and kooky". However, by the very nature of the genre, manga makes itself a manga through distortion and exaggeration. Enormous eyes, spindly legs, enlarged heads and exaggerated facial features with every emotional change. Stories where people may or may not have said certain things. But who cares? It's funny. Sweet. Kooky.

But I can say with confidence, after years of knowing Mr Laszlo as a close personal friend, and lodging with him and Saori several times for several days, that, for example, that he does not get so apoplectic about pizza (DWG pg 31). Again, who cares? It's merely a genre-driven style.

Why is one's personal depiction of an event any less credible than another in this case? Are there newspaper articles, television transcripts, even emailed conversations between characters as confirmable evidence of exchanges and information transfer in DWG?

Of course not. That much rigor is not necessary for a manga. Which is why a manga should never have been included in this review for comparison in the first place.

Many of these items can be found on his website (www.debito.org) for free, thus saving the reader 3500JPY(US$1=105JPY, $33) to purchase the book. On his website, one can use a search engine making it a useful resource: lacking an index or a developed reference list, the same cannot be said about the book.

COMMENT: So is the reviewer saying that people with websites should never collate things into books? That resources on the net, since they are free of charge, are better than taking the trouble to render things in costly binder form?

The reviewer is on target, however, to complain about the lack of an index. Mea culpa. I will rectify that in my next print run.

In fact, as of Feb 27, 2005, I created an Index for the first edition available online here.

Did my best with that. But I doubt that any index will ever match the ease and comprehensiveness of web page meta tags and search engines. Shame on me for investing all those years (eight, and counting) putting things up on my website and ever expecting to ever write a book afterwards.

As a primary resource, Japanese Only is virtually unusable. The appendix, which contains two excerpts of the court judgments, is curiously underdeveloped.

COMMENT: This is because most of a Japanese court decision, if the reviewer has ever read one, describes the case in detail (as can be seen in the excerpt of the Bortz Case decision (JO pg 61-3)). Doing this was unnecessary for the JO appendices, since the reader already knows the background of the case after reading the book. So I focussed on the precedent-setting legal text. If that equals an "underdeveloped" section, again, I plead guilty. But then again, including the whole decision would no doubt have been seen as "repetitious". Can't win.

Many of the newspaper clippings incorporated into the text belonged in this section. An unwieldy chapter/sub-chapter structure, an addiction to random capitalization, all uppercase text, bold print, and shifting fonts: hunting for information in this book is tedious. Arudou quotes long passages in full that could have been summarized in a few sentences. He also uses a number of unsuccessful stylistic devices that detract from the "record." His Japanese father-in-law, for example, appears to have an Italian accent: "Hey shaddappa you face." (Arudou, p. 312). The self-indulgent writing is in desperate need of an editor: "One lit kiss later, they took deep breaths of shared fire" (Arudou, p. 101). (Would you know a couple is smoking cigarettes?) He finds it necessary to tell us that we have reached the end of a chapter by writing, "END OF CHAPTER ONE" (Arudou, p. 109).

COMMENT: Jeez, many of these points are matters of style. Even criticism of the way I ended a chapter? Apologies to the reviewer for not accounting for her sense of taste.

And the glossary, bizarrely, is in the front with what seems like a random selection of words, such as "snakku" (hostess bars) that are only peripheral to the issues at hand. One wonders why he found it necessary to point out that "girls" in the snakku will "probably not put out" (Arudou, p. x).

COMMENT: Not random at all. These are all Japan-specific that that come up in the course of the book and warrant explanation. Doing so in the text proper would have disrupted the flow of the narrative. So I had a choice--footnotes, endnotes, or glossary. If they had been rendered as footnotes or endnotes, would they have been similarly criticized as "random"?

As for the "putting out" bit, this is fundamental to the case of foreigner exclusions in, say, Monbetsu, Hokkaido. One of the reasons why the Sunakku (see Glossary) there refused Russian sailors is because the latter allegedly got upset at being charged so much for drinking yet not getting the "payoff", as it were. The ruckus (or fear of said ruckus) from the ensuing misunderstanding justified putting up "JAPANESE ONLY" signs on the front doors of half the bars and restaurants in the area.

But wait. Come to think of it, that was explained in the Glossary entry for "Sunakku" anyway. The reason why should have been clear to the careful reader. So I guess the objection is to the turn of phrase. Sorry.

As for the claim of Internet activism, the book does not provide much useful information for the activist-to-be, aside from a few short passages. It seems unlikely that this book would help a would-be Algerian activist facing discrimination in France, or a Turk in Germany. The book remains focused on the specifics of Arudou's case and makes no effort to contextualize, compare or contrast it to other movements.

COMMENT: Jeez, how much information would satisfy? JO is a record of this issue and movement in Japan in particular. Sorry I didn't expand it into other countries and make it applicable to Turks and Algerians. That would have been pretty ambitious. But, as we see below, being "ambitious" becomes a source of criticism. Again, can't win.

The advice he does give is sensible: keep the main points of e-mail articles on the first screen and write stand-alone articles with "snappy writing" and a "sunny style" (Arudou pp. 111-2). He also gives a few tips about dealing with the press and press conferences. The serious internet activist may, however, find it more useful to go to NetAction's website (
www.netaction.org/) for stereo instructions on writing effective activist e-mail and other comprehensive guides to Internet outreach and advocacy.

COMMENT: I'm sure there are plenty of other online sources out there that go into more depth. Let them be known about. But just because JO (at more than 400 pages) is not as in-depth as some net sources with huge databases (in stereo, no less), is a bit of a harsh criticism.

In the post "Battle of Seattle" age in which tens of thousands of people rioted on the streets, many linked by cell phones, instant messaging, GPS, PDAs, and laptops, Arudou's brand of "Internet activism" of cranking out "Nyuu Yoku Times" for his "Friends" e-list seems almost quaint. Arudou makes little use of technology to organize flash mobs, blogs, google bombs, or wikis: he remains the old-fashioned pamphleteer. Unfortunately, his thorough and comprehensive website with thousands of pages of material, which is by far one of the most effective tools in his Internet arsenal, gets short shrift: the book has only passing references to this excellent resource within the main text (Arudou, pp. iv, 13, 57, 281, 307, 376-7).

COMMENT: What? I also quote www.debito.org on pages 50, 130 (twice), 132, 136, 151 (twice), 152, 154, 175, 176, 181, 200, 207, 208, 211 (twice), 227, 230, 232, 248, 257, 258, 259, 266 (twice), 268, 282, 290, 291, 301, 306, 323, 325 (twice), 327, 328, 330, 335, 338, 358, 373, 380, 381, 382 (twice), 383 (twice), 384 (twice), 386, 387 (thrice), 388, 389, 396, 398 (twice), and 401. In other words, towards the end, on almost every single page.

That's a total of 66 citations. You can't miss them. They're footnotes. Pages 181 and 398 even contain a link to an artery site, with links to issues all over www.debito.org

Oh, but that's not "within the main text", then. Even then, www.debito.org is not quoted at all on page 57, despite what the reviewer claims.

A mistake of this degree calls into question just how carefully the reviewer actually read the book, and makes the review feel like a hatchet job.

Perhaps, then, this book is best understood not as a narrative, nor as a handbook for activists, but as a personal account of intolerant attitudes in Japan. It would be unfair to judge the book as social science, as it is clearly not designed with structured analytical content in mind. This is not as criticism per se, but simply an observation: Arudou himself writes that he aimed to create a book in which "a nonfiction event [was] told as a story with characters and a narrative" (Arudou, p. 391). It is somewhat of a pity that Arudou did not take advantage of his training from his Masters course under political science professor Chalmers Johnson at University of California San Diego and develop some of the intriguing themes he introduces in the book.

COMMENT: That snipe about Chalmers is unwarranted. It insinuates that I ignored or defied my education by allegedly not "developing" intriguing themes. The reviewer could have sufficiently said, "Arudou didn't develop these themes well enough".

I guess pulling a punch like that would have defied JapanReview.net's announced style of being "even-handed, informative and entertaining" (Daily Yomiuri, January 6, 2004). Still waiting for the "even-handed", though.

He posits, for example, that anti-foreign sentiment was spreading in Japan, yet offers little except anecdotal evidence. One could see future graduate students investigating his claims.

COMMENT: Re the claim of "developing themes": For the theme of "spreading anti-foreign sentiment", I provide a link to a website (JO pg 386) entitled "The Rogues Gallery" http://www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html, with addresses, dates, and photos of places with JAPANESE ONLY signs up, and links to full reports of the whats and whys. If this physical evidence of exclusionary signs and shops remains mere "anecdotal evidence", then what counts? Something "statistically significant" gleaned through in a regression analysis?

Fact is, there are more places with "Japanese Only" signs up now than there were at the start of JAPANESE ONLY in 1999. That constitutes a "spread". Signposted exclusionism is not just an Otaru issue. The book also charts its spread to other cities, other industries, and finally, nationwide. Hopefullly as a launching pad for further research.

So the review can see "future grad students investigating [the] claims". Great! Is that a criticism? That is what a seminal work provides--a jumping-off point for further development and study. In fact, that is exactly what's happening. Several students are writing their graduate theses and basing their law school studies on this case (I know because they interview us and follow us around when we investigate exclusionary places). Students at Waseda even consider the Otaru Onsen Lawsuit to be one of the more important cases in Postwar Japan, and are currently writing a book on it. Their primary source? The Japanese version of JAPANESE ONLY (yes, there is a Japanese version, but you wouldn't know it from this review), published in 2003, revised 2004.

And yet, Arudou makes some not so easily overlooked errors: in the glossary, he writes within the context of defining Zainichi Gaikokujin (Japan-born foreigners):

Because Japanese citizenship laws are jus sanguinis, only those with blood ties to Japan may be Japanese (as opposed to just about every other developed country, where if you are born there, you are automatically a citizen). This means that if Japan behaved like a normal developed country, the Zainichis would be Japanese citizens. (Arudou, p. vii)

To posit that "just about every other developed country" does not base citizenship on jus sanguinis is simply incorrect: citizenship in countries such as Austria, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, Norway, and Italy (to name just a few) is not automatically based on place of birth, that is jus solis, but rather jus sanguinis. All would argue that they are "developed." In fact, no country solely bases their citizenship on jus solis: many countries use a combination of jus sanguinis, jus solis, and/or a process of naturalization. While in the New World jus solis is commonplace--77% of countries in the Organization of American States (OAS, a mix of developed and undeveloped states) has jus solis--only 8% of countries in the European Union (EU) and 20% of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) apply this law. (For a JapanReview.Net analysis of jus solis/jus sanguinis in the world, click here).

COMMENT: Points taken. As for Paul Scalise's abovementioned JapanReview.net analysis on jus sanguinis, I will do an analysis of the information provided therein (with more subtle variations of citizenship conferral, and definitions of "developed") at a later date.

Meanwhile, in a nutshell, here's the problem with the approach behind Paul's analysis:

The approach does not take up my point as I asserted it within JO . It's not a matter of whether other countries have as much jus solis as, say, "one-end-of-the-spectrum America", but rather if other countries have jus sanguinis as much as "the-other-end-of-the-spectrum Japan". Thus the test hypothesis is backwards.

Nor does it take into account the effects of a Japan as modern yet still egregious polity. How few developed countries have such an absolute rule of jus sanguinis, as Japan has? How this has resulted in former (or potential) citizens being historically disinfranchised from birth--despite being residents of Japan for now up to four generations. This number is not small--it's around half a million people, or about a third of all registered foreigners in Japan. How many other developed countries have the phenomenon of "the Zainichis"?

There is also a problem with the science. Refer to Paul's diagram at http://www.japanreview.net/essays_measuring_citizenship.htm. entitled "Jittered scatterplot of countries with GDP Per Capita vs Jus Solis". It only circles the "developed" countries in column one with "America-esque" jus solis. It neglects to similarly circle the "developed" countries with "as much Jus Sanguinis as Japan" in column two. This would show the difference in number vis-a-vis "developed" countries (which is no doubt smaller). Paul's diagram also shows the citizenship conferrals vis-a-vis all 190 countries (or so--the number charted is unclear), not all of which are "developed". Paul has since claimed in follow-up emails that a larger sample size is more legitimate for a survey. But really, it's not. Quality, not quantity, matters, as we expect better behavior from richer countries. Point is, again, the issue should have been dealt with as I originally raised it in the book.

I grant that I could have written my assertion more clearly in JO (and I will in the next edition; thanks for the clarification). But my point is still, "the Zainichis would be citizens anyway in any other developed country". How many other countries (particularly in the "developed" category) can you think of that took away citizenship from former forced laborers and conscripted colonials, and to this day still consign them to a "special foreign" inherited legal category from birth?

Unfortunately, JapanReview.net has proven to be quite blind to the Zainichi issue. As came out in early February 2005 during an internet debate on "The Community" yahoogroups mailing list:

in response to Paul's original post at
(archives accessible only to Community members only, sorry)

I answered Paul Scalise thus on a matter of granting citizenship to Zainichis:

At 0:46 PM +0000 05.2.7, Paul Scalise wrote, in part:
> Unfortunately, it is now a politically confusing and impractical mess
> with slippery slope implications to try to separate between newly
> arrived immigrants and second and third generation former citizens of
> the Empire. For example, who should receive citizenship and who should
> not at this stage? If just the "Koreans," what of the Taiwanese (also a
> former colony)?

Arudou Debito replies:
It's really very simple. All those who have the special legal status of the
"Zainichi", those with "Special Permanent Residency" (tokubetsu eijuuken),
which includes Kankoku, Chousen, and Chuugoku (including Taiwanese), (with a
smattering of Subcontinental Indians) should have been made citizens long
ago. SPR is a special, separate, inherited, legal status of "foreigner".
Anyone who has done any research on the Zainichi situation would know that
even legally, SPRs are legally treated differently than other foreigners,
including regular Eijuuken (which is why they were first offered voting
rights in local elections (chihou sanseiken).)

Unfortunately, JapanReview.net (which Paul co-founded, and is the fount of
our recent debate) is blind to the issue. It doesn't even offer us a
breakdown on Zainichis in their stats of foreigners in Japan, cf their site
on "Japan's Non-Citizens: Facts & Figures"

[NB: as of February 11, 2005; hopefully they've rectified the situation by now]

This is a sad oversight for such assiduous researchers. All this legwork
researching points to point out flaws in a book, but insufficient research
on information that just might support a thesis that Japan just might be an
outlier in terms of citizenship requirements, to the tune of excluding
[half] a million special permanent residents (the original point, however
misunderstandably written, in my book).

Consider also proof of the positive, not just the negative, or face possible
claims that said research has a bias. I won't claim as such, of course, but
it is disappointing that researchers can pose yet cannot answer these questions
themselves. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

: The Ministry of Justice:
The data is old (2000), but it will do the trick for now and make the point,
both as a pie chart and a time series.

The point is: There's more to the issue than meets the eye, especially to JapanReview.net's eyes. So even though my rendering of the point was not optimal in the book, JapanReview.net's counterarguments are ignorant and skewed towards overlooking evidence contrary to their claims.

Back to Dr Honjo's review:

I point out the problems with this definition, not for gratuitous stone throwing, but to highlight a key underlying premise of the book: Japan, Arudou implies, is an outlier in its legal treatment of foreigners. Yet this implication is simply wrong in the above case. Moreover, the concepts and definition of citizenship are fundamental to this argument. Arudou should get them right: in failing to do so, his credibility is undermined. Such mistakes and omissions further undermine his credibility when he reports that "Japan happens to be the only OECD country without any form of domestic law against racial discrimination" (Arudou, p. 306) and neither provides a single citation to support his claim nor outlines how he arrived at this conclusion in the first place. A shame, really.

COMMENT: Okay, see above. Again, I will refine my assertions a bit more sapiently in my next print run. I appreciate the correction. It's a shame, however, that the tone turned from a mere correction into an indictment of one's credibility.

Arudou's argument that racism is wrong, especially for non-ethic Japanese citizens, is presented clearly: both ethic and non-ethnic Japanese carry the same burdens of citizenship. Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution does, after all, guarantee racial equity to Japanese nationals: "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin." One of Arudou's complaints was that Japanese legal scaffolding was not sufficient to enforce Article 14. Moreover, non-citizens are unprotected from racial discrimination.

However, his arguments become far more cloudy when he calls for a civil rights act that is "effective at all levels of government, enshrining the basic rights for Japanese residents, regardless of citizenship" (Arudou, p. 398). He mixes together an anti-racism message, the rights of non-ethnic Japanese citizens, and "pro-foreigner" rights. While few would disagree that an anti-discrimination law is desirable, broadly undefined "rights" for non-citizens are another matter altogether. Arudou posits that it should be mandated "simply because it is a good idea" (Arudou, p. 398). But it begs the question: Why? On what basis is it good? Good for a small minority of foreign residents? (Click
here for Japan's Non-Citizens: Facts & Figures) Good for the economy? Good for Japan over all? And what exactly are "basic rights"--does it include rights to welfare? Should the Japanese government, for example, fund foreign schools? Arudou mentions political rights (Arudou, p. iii): which political rights? Should foreigners be allowed to vote or hold office? What do non-citizens have to do to earn these rights? Taxation, draft, or social service? Arudou does not attempt to distinguish between negative rights (i.e. do not discriminate) and the positive rights that would flow from his proposed civil rights act.

COMMENT: Y'know, it's funny how we have to reinvent the wheel all over again from a human-rights standpoint just because we're in Japan. Would have thought anyone with a good liberal arts education and knowledge of the history behind international treaties would understand the background behind the meta. I could have spelled it out (and maybe I should have, just to make sure everybody gets it), I guess. But I sincerely thought I wouldn't have to. I just thought everybody knew that discrimination is wrong and that every society should have anti-discrimination laws. Sorry that is not so evident to the reviewer (who no doubt benefited from the anti-discrimination laws within the United States).

Too often the need for tolerance is presented as a feel-good sound bite; however, it is a complex issue. Given all the problems that Arudou faced, it is odd that he does not present a case for why tolerance is a "good thing" for Japan. Questioning the limits, successes, and failures of cultural tolerance is no longer just the realm of the ultra-right. Take, for example, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh's assassination in which he was allegedly shot and stabbed by dual Dutch-Moroccan national Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004. This murder sparked a wide debate: many feared that the one million Muslims in the Netherlands were eroding traditional Dutch values of tolerance and liberalism. Many "native" Dutch felt that traditional Muslims did not respect key values such as equality of the sexes, religion, or sexuality. Holland is not alone in this debate. Similarly, France's wrangling over Muslim girls wearing headscarves in school has polarized debate. In Thailand, after the East Asian currency crisis, Thais were not necessarily xenophobic (in that they welcomed tourism and foreign visitors), but were chary of foreign capital. Would Arudou debate that this too was a violation of civil and human rights? This book does not do the thought-provoking and complex topic of racial integration and cultural tolerance justice: Arudou merely sings loudly to the choir.

COMMENT: I have heard this criticism many times in critical conversations with Dr Honjo. Anything that she personally does not find convincing becomes "preaching to the choir". In other words, if she's not convinced, it's not going to convince anyone else except those already convinced.

I'd like some statistical analysis to back that up. Just kidding.

Given her high hurdles for rigor and evidence, especially when it comes to the necessity of anti-discrimination laws, I daresay she is a few standard deviations above the norm for convincability.

The Tony Show

As mentioned above, Tony Laszlo, the head of the mailing list Issho Kikaku, emerges as the villain of the narrative in Japanese Only. We realize quickly that Laszlo is different, as he is "Mr. Tony Laszlo:" the non-Japanese whom Arudou likes are referred to by their first name, for example, Ken, Olaf, Mike, Natasha, etc.

COMMENT: Sorry. I guess that must sound terribly sinister.

After being initially ejected by the Yunohana Onsen, Laszlo invited Arudou and Karthaus to combine resources with Issho Kikaku to create the BENCI project. Arudou depicts Laszlo as the wet blanket: Laszlo, in Arudou's version of events, slows progress by asking for information and coordination: "David, once again, please stop charging forward without waiting for group consensus." (Arudou, p. 86) Laszlo is also painted in an unflattering light when he asks for Arudou to remind the press that the BENCI project is in fact a group project, and not just Arudou acting on his own initiative. Arudou finds this petty. "Just who does this Laszlo think he is?" asks his friend Natasha (Arudou, p. 101).

COMMENT: Sorry. That is what Natasha said. I ran the conversation by her before publication. As I did the entire manuscript before fellow BENCI members Bern Mulvey and Olaf Karthaus, who corroborate my depiction of events.

Things eventually come to a head at what can only be termed as a misunderstanding. While the BENCI group was temporarily in recess, Laszlo went on his own fact finding mission using BENCI contacts that Arudou and Karthaus had gathered. Laszlo did not contact the other men in advance of his plans. According to Arudou's version of events, he chose not to do so as Arudou was out of the country and Karthaus was mourning the recent death of his young son.

COMMENT: "According to Arudou's version of events"? According to former BENCI members Olaf's and Bern's version of events as well. I did not write this book in a vacuum.

Arudou is incensed and feels that they were deliberately left out of the loop: "That does it. I will not remain in a group where the leader can justify anything by saying 'I am boss, and I can do what I like because of it'. . .This is not how a volunteer organization treats its volunteers." (Arudou, pp. 253-4) They storm out of BENCI. Accusations and recriminations ensue: like a bad divorce, they wrangle over custody of BENCI and Issho Kikaku.

COMMENT: Read the book again (JO pg 251-5). That is not what happened. There was no wrangling over custody of BENCI or ISSHO Kikaku. Olaf and I simply left. That was it. There is no more mention of BENCI afterwards in the book, and nobody contested founder Tony Laszlo's ownership of ISSHO Kikaku. This misrepresentation shows a glaring lack of dispassion on the part of the reviewer towards the facts of the case.

One is tempted to recall the bon mot commonly attributed to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "The battles are so fierce because the stakes are so small."

Thus it is odd to see Tony Laszlo again as depicted by his wife Saori Oguri's manga, Darin wa Gaikokujin, or My Darling is a Foreigner. A slim 160 page volume of rough drawings, it was a nationwide best-seller of over a million copies. It was even advertised on the Tokyo subway system. Not surprisingly, in his wife's book, Laszlo is not the Svengali-esque character of Arudou's work, but sweet and slightly kooky: at one point she points out his resemblance to an alpaca (Oguri, p. 71).

COMMENT: An alpaca. That's cute. This is included in the review because....?

Assessing My Darling is a Foreigner

COMMENT: Hey, finally, we reach the other book! After 4100 words, that is.

Now how much space is given DWG?

Answer: About 840 words.

Then we go back to JO essentially for another 1300 words and end the review. Meaning over six times more scrutiny space given to JO than DWG. Thanks, I guess.

Obviously Oguri's work is not social science or even meant to be particularly deep. To some extent, it indulges in feel-good multiculturalism. However, Oguri succeeds where Arudou fails: she maintains a sense of scale and does not overreach. On the other hand, Arudou seems self-important: "[saying] that it's only an onsen. . .[is] just like Rosa Parks' action was 'only about a seat in front of the bus.'" (Arudou, p. 313)

COMMENT: Crikey. Putting the onsen case in perspective, answering the critics who claim that being refused entry to a bathhouse is no big deal, is "self-important" and "overreaching"?

Oguri's book, first and foremost, is a story of a relationship. The situations are well observed domestic humor in the same vein as Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck. In one particular strip, she talks about her resentment, as a working woman, of doing most of the housework. Laszlo offers to do the dishes: initially, they never get done, and he inexplicably does not wash the back rims (Oguri, p. 59). I laughed out loud as I had a nearly identical conversation with my own partner. In another, she complains to Laszlo that he doesn't call her "Honey" or "Darling" (as in American TV shows such as Bewitched). Laszlo points out that Americans haven't done this since the 1950s (Oguri, p. 67).

Oguri knows her audience--she is speaking to a nation of Japanese.

COMMENT: Right. Because the book is in Japanese. The English version of JO is speaking to a much wider, international audience--because an English-reading audience is that much bigger. Call that overreach, perhaps. But I don't see that as grounds for criticism.

Moreover, nowhere does this review mention that JO was originally written in *Japanese*, for a *Japanese audience*, in 2003 (revised 2004).

A comparison of the two *Japanese* versions of these two books might have made a more viable review, perhaps. But that did not happen. The two JO books are not direct translations--they are aimed at different audiences, so they are not substitutable. There is definitely a sense of apples and oranges here.

Especially when comparing points of humor. More below.

She answers the usual round of questions ("Does Tony eat nattou (fermented soybeans)?" (Oguri, p. 73) and gently points out that Tony likes and eats many things, not so much because he is a foreigner but because he likes to eat (Oguri, pp. 76-77). Does she speak English? "A little desu!," she answers (Oguri, p. 96). She doesn't have to, as Laszlo speaks fluent Japanese. Unlike what Japanese women imagine the stereotypical foreign male to be, Laszlo can't cook (although he admits this is not a good thing) (Oguri, p. 74), nor does he bring Oguri breakfast in bed (Oguri, p. 73). Sticky situations such as her mother's initial misgivings (won over by Laszlo's charm offensive) (Oguri, p. 41) and the father bemoaning that his daughter would soon move away to a faraway land (they live in Kawasaki, a Tokyo suburb) (Oguri, p. 44), are treated with humor. She scatters the text with mini-household tips from housewives around the world (Bangladesh, Cote d'Ivoire, and Germany).

Oguri is clever with her message of tolerance. She does not bludgeon the reader with the message, and instead points out the unreasonableness of a given situation by showing how it affected the relationship. After introducing the reader to their romance and announcing their intention to live together to her parents, Oguri finds out that many Japanese real estate agencies will not rent to them because Laszlo is a foreigner.

FINE POINT: Oguri Saori was also refused by the same realtor because she is a manga artist (which turns out to be the bigger shock to her). Again, tell the story accurately.

The reasons cited:

1. They don't understand Japanese
2. They have parties
3. It becomes a nuisance when foreigners leave for their home country without paying. (Oguri, p.53)

Oguri's visions of a new life and romance with Laszlo are smashed. Disappointed, she curls up into a fetal ball. She points out that "rules" are completely unreasonable: Laszlo speaks fluent Japanese, they don't have parties, and Oguri's Japanese parents are the guarantor on the lease. All ends well: someone is eventually willing to rent to them. A smiling cartoon Oguri and Laszlo ask potential landlords to "not lump foreigners in one group" and "look at each person as an individual" (Oguri, p. 55)

This message that "We are all individuals (thus stereotypes are unreasonable) is woven seamlessly into the entire work. The resentments and fights that occur in the relationship are not so much because Laszlo is foreign, but because he is, occasionally, a thoughtless, inconsiderate mate.

The three steps to a fight:
1. When I talk to him, he doesn't answer. We get to the next step when
2. I have to repeat myself. Then
3. He doesn't remember what I just said to him (p. 132)

Being an inconsiderate mate is clearly not restricted to foreigners: there is a certain degree of universality to this trait. This format is even more effective as Oguri allows her own faults and peccadilloes to come through: for example, she can't stand it when Laszlo eats his grated radish (daikon) separately from his grilled fish. She knows she's being silly, but it still drives her mad (Oguri, p. 144). Most can empathize when a mate does something that annoys for completely arbitrary reasons. Again, "foreignness" is not the issue.

Unlike Arudou who tries to use folksy mannerisms ("There is usually something to watch--a silly program on the boob tube, braless ladies in bathrobes jiggling about," Arudou, p. 4) masquerading as humor, Oguri does one better: she is genuinely funny and revealing.

COMMENT: Sorry that I wasn't funny. The tones of the books are quite different, and the languages they are rendered in are completely different. That is merely a matter of taste. But whether or not somebody personally finds something funny is not a terribly scientific comparison of these two books.

Glad you liked Oguri's book. So did I--both versions. May she write more and, I repeat, get all the success she is entitled to for being such a talented person.

But how she writes comic books shouldn't be held against my book.

Now then: Guess what--the review of DWG is already finished. That was concise.

The "What" of it All

With an audience of millions of domestic Japanese, Oguri's manga may be a far more effective bully pulpit than Arudou's. Both books have essentially the same simple take home message: "Tolerance is good; stereotypes and discrimination are bad." However, by illustrating it with specific examples from Oguri's life with Laszlo, the message is clear and focused. Arudou's book is far more ambitious. It wants many things: to make you laugh, to educate you on the law, to tell you about Arudou, to give a history about "the movement"--the list goes on and on. By trying to be a little of everything, the message is lost in the muddle.

COMMENT: Apologies for being overambitious. I'll try drawing something funny next time.

But it is worth discussing the "what" that Arudou was trying to do: one should not be so quick to dismiss the issues surrounding the Otraru onsens' discrimination.

Was Arudou right to sue the onsen? Unequivocally, yes. What the establishments were doing is unacceptable among developed nations and illegal under international law: they were discriminating based on race. Also, one can only imagine a furor that would ensue in Japan if, for example, shops in the US denied service to Japanese because of perceived shoplifting problems from Chinese gangs.

Arudou's rights were violated. The Japanese Constitution, however weak it is, still guarantees racial equity. The onsen was not a private club with a member selection process, it had no real right to refuse service. As a paying customer, he had the right to enter the onsen. Arudou had the right to demand redress: the onsen deserved to be financially punished. While one could imagine a convoluted legal argument that could have been made in defense of the onsens when Arudou was a foreigner, there was even less of a case once he naturalized.

Is it "un-Japanese" to sue? Perhaps, in that few "average" Japanese would subject themselves to the hassles and costs of hiring a lawyer and suing, but what exactly is being "Japanese?" Many, including Japanese themselves like to say that they are a nation that dislikes confrontation, thus pursuing a lawsuit is "un-Japanese." Fingers are pointed at Americans for being overly litigious and some have accused Arudou for importing his American world view to the issue. And yet, such cultural arguments belie the facts. According to the Supreme Court of Japan, the number of total civil lawsuits in Japan has materially risen since the late 1960s. Assuming it is "un-Japanese" to sue, one would expect the number of civil lawsuits in Japan to be virtually non-existent, let alone rising. (Click
here for a link on civil lawsuits in Japan).

Japan had adopted, at the turn of the century, document based jurisprudence. Compared to the testimony based system in the US, it is a much slower process. For various reasons (including possibly self-interest on the part of lawyers) the number of attorneys and judges per capita is low compared to that of the US. All these factors lead to high costs (after all, time equals money) which in turn, results in relatively lower numbers of lawsuits. There is little credible evidence that stands up to statistical scrutiny that supports the idea that "culture" is the reason why Japanese do not sue.

Arudou and his cohort were simply more willing to put up with the cost in both time and money to bring the issue to trial. While Arudou does not give us the break down of the time and money involved, it appears that he invested a large amount of energy and man hours to "earn" 1m JPY (US$1=105JPY, $9523) from the court case. A true commercial venture would have quit due to the inefficiencies involved. This may sound cynical but it is not meant to be: it merely points out that suing is not an attractive option because it is inefficient in Japan. But, Arudou and his band were not seeking redress in a business deal gone sour: they were forcing the court to rule against the onsen. The onsen and the city of Otaru were embarrassed in the process, and rightfully so.

COMMENT: Thanks. Obviously I have no beef with what's being said here. Like I said above, the reviewer and I are politically on the same page.

Does this case matter? Arudou, of course, thinks that his case is important: "For the first time, even disenfranchised non-native speakers of Japanese could turn the domestic media into a fulcrum, getting the word out so effectively we could influence public policy, even alter the very perception of a 'foreigner' in Japan" (Arudou, pp. 13-4). However, will the court case cause the social reform that he is so desperately seeking? Arudou places great weight on the courts to provide justice and reform: "We need a law or racial discrimination will not be eliminated." (Arudou, p. 384) His world view is legal-centrist in the sense that he believes that government (which includes the courts) is the chief source of rules and enforcement efforts (Ellickson, p. 138). This seems to be an overly simplistic response to an extremely complex issue.

COMMENT: Not simplistic at all. I wrote this book to show how complex this issue is.

How we spent years going through EVERY OTHER ALTERNATIVE extralegally to try and get those signs down, and make sure they never go back up. It is important to understand that there is NO OTHER CHOICE but to sue and to lobby for legislation in Japan. Maybe it won't work. But there's nothing else one can do. Even the Japanese Government has said the same to the UN time and time again--we don't need laws because we have the courts.

Re the effects of legislation on the public: Does the reviewer think that, say, seat belt use would be as widespread if there was no law requiring it? Of course not. Thus laws influence human behavior, and the imperfect obedience of them is not a convincing argument for their nonexistence.

Dismiss this as part of a "legal-centrist" world view if you like. The point is there was no other alternative. If that was not clear to the reviewer after reading this book (when it has been clear to many other people), then sorry.

As Arudou himself points out, the importance of case precedence in Japan is weak compared to that of the US legal system. Thus, the legal impact of his win is unknown or at least, unexplained. Arudou for one is treating the loss to Otaru City as an oppurtunity to press his case. He seeks an appeal to the Japanese Supreme Court; failing that, the United Nations. At present, he is starting proceedings againt the Japanese national government for failing to pass anti-discrimination laws. (For further information, please click
here) However, aside from himself and the onsen owners involved, it is unclear if the case really makes much of a difference in Japan. Arudou, aside from his article news clippings, fails to provide evidence that it does.

COMMENT: The case is not all that old. The jury, figuratively speaking, is still out. I would need a crystal ball to provide any further evidence. Demanding prognostication to this degree is unreasonable.

In the seminal work The Hollow Hope, Gerald N. Rosenberg argues that significant social reform through the US Supreme Court is difficult, at best. In Rosenberg's view, using the courts to create significant reforms in civil rights, abortion, and women's rights were largely failures. Rosenberg posits that the cases themselves made little impact. Using both quantitative and qualitative measures, he shows that landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade did not generate major social reform. In fact, vindication of constitutional principles accompanied by small change may have been mistaken for widespread significant social reform, inducing reformers to relax their efforts. Also, Rosenberg found that there is no evidence to suggest that Court decisions mobilize supporters of significant social reform, but data suggest the opposite can be true: opponents do mobilize. The court cases trailed the social movements, not the other way around. Movements and social mores had already made major headway before the court rulings were made. The faith placed on the court to create social reform may be unproved and suggests that it may be largely emotive.

COMMENT: Perhaps. But as we documented in the book, we are not just suing people. We have been working for years to raise consciousness in many extralegal ways, and the book contains hundreds of pages of our actions and their effects. And we are still at work. If that is invisible after reading JO, sorry, but I tried. Guess the reviewer can't "take my word for it" that "the record" is as such.

In a related vein, in Order without Law, Robert C. Ellickson, discusses the fact that while laws may exist, legal knowledge in the general population (in the US and abroad) is scanty, at best (Ellickson, pp. 144-6). Everyday best practice is based on a system of norms: when those norms come into conflict, various methods (including the courts) are used to coerce behavior. Ellickson suggests that legal case law is largely ignored in norm creation.

By depending so heavily on a visible sovereign for foreigner/non-ethnic Japanese rights, one wonders about the real success of Arudou's campaign. Japan and the US have different legal systems, so direct comparisons with Rosenberg's arguments are problematic. However, Arudou's faith in the Japanese court system may be misplaced. Without the mass support from a significant majority, the legal case alone seems unlikely to produce wide-reaching and sustainable reform.

COMMENT: File this in the "wait and see" category.

But since we're bringing out our arsenal of books read, I recommend the reviewer get around to reading Jeffery Kingston's JAPAN'S QUIET TRANSFORMATION--Social Change and Civil Society in the 21st Century (RoutledgeCurzon 2004). The chapters on the HIV Hemophiliac and the Hansen court cases (pgs 157-197) in particular are very instructive on how much of an impact lawsuits had on changing Japan's public perception of issues, and how they promoted the development of a stronger civil society. Rosenberg's thesis notwithstanding, court decisions do mobilize supporters of significant social reform in Japan.

But, with increasing immigration perhaps necessary to sustain Japan's economy, Arudou's tireless activism, and book's such as Oguri's manga, there is hope for mass support.

However, the Otaru Onsens Case made a difference for one man and his family and for one community, and that is what may matter most in the end.


FINAL WORDS: I still maintain the review was unbalanced, ill-conceived, inaccurate, and in places mean-spirited. I hope JapanReview.net will have a third party review their books as well. They are, according to Amazon.com:

Dr Yuki Allison Honjo:
"Japan's Early Experience of Contract Management in the Treaty Ports" (October 2003)

Paul Scalise (PhD candidate, Oxford University):
No books found on Amazon.com as of yet.

Here's hoping reviewers make good bookwriters themselves.

Arudou Debito

(A SECOND OPINION: Another critique of the JapanReview.net review from fellow activist, former ISSHO BENCI Member Bern Mulvey, who was there as the Otaru Onsens Case unfolded and is a primary witness, is available here.)


Added February 17, 2005. Taken from a public-access website.

Found an interesting blog on the subject of reviewing a book, at a site (now since taken down, but available on cache at Google) called "Urban Tokyo Neurotic". For what it's worth:

The original site was at

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Bully Pulpit

For my other (non-paid) work, I am reviewing a book written by an acquaintance and friend of The Other Half. He's an activist for a cause I believe in (although not his particular brand of protest activity) so I said I would review the book.

It is so so so so so very bad. And bad not in a good way.

It is self-indulgent, aggrandizing, long-winded, repetitive, wordy, and humorless. One would think that this is all some kind of a bizarre satire like a before picture in a
makeover ("How not to write!"). But then the reality sets in: the author takes himself with deadly seriousness.

I think monkeys edited this book: typos, sloppy language, incorrect syntax, slang ("Howcum?"). [cf.JAPANESE ONLY pg 116] At least two thirds of the text could be excised. No index. No analysis or introspection. No focus, no thesis, no organization. No proper citations nor context. I even found an egregious error in the glossary. And last but not least, it fails to deliver on any of what it promised in the introduction. Could a book be any worse?

When I agreed to review the book, I did say I can't guarantee a favorable review. But even in the worst book, one can always find something positive. The sad fact is-- and this is the truly astounding part-- there is nothing positive about this book: only the cause has merit.

I looked at my preliminary notes and it is a never ending list of what is wrong with the book. I sound like I'm being really mean. I feel like a seventh grader beating up on a kindergartener.

But then I think about it. The author studied social science at a graduate level in a top-tier university: he should know better. The purpose of the book is to teach others. And he is a college lecturer. He also knew in advance that I am extremely tough on work that lacks sound methodology or structure.

He's going to hate me forever (and The Other Half as well--I think he regards us as a boxed set). And I sympathize: my book was my baby too. And I am the typo queen--but I take steps to make sure my "real" work is clean (yes, I know this blog has tons). And I know I won't say what I really think of this book in a formal academic-ish book review--I'm writing this blog partly to vent my frustrations.

But I can't recommend this book. I think it is unethical not to point out the blatant errors. And I've already promised delivery of the review.

What do I do?

posted by Snowlet at 7:59 PM

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Irate Post

F*ckwit Author (demoted from Irate Author) is officially on my sh*t list (the asterisk is for the delicate sensibilities of The Other Half who doesn't want me to swearwf*ck that). Fu*ckwit Author is trolling cyberspace and calling names on various e-fora due to the Very Mean (but deserved) Review. It's all sticks and stones, but he's using words like "bias," "irresponsible", "inhumane" and "egg-head regression analysis." (OK, the last one is funny.) He sent me a note saying that using facts and analysis, only "confuses and hurts people." Come again?

[If said person referred to is me, I have sent her no such note--Ed]

This whole issue of bias is pretty amusing as politically, on the issue addressed in the book and in general, F*ckwit Author and I agree. I had to make sure not to appear biased toward him.

Unfortunately, he failed to make his case, had numerous factual errors and logical holes. The book would not convince a disintersted third party. He overstated a key number of by 152% -- not at
all an obscure one, got basic legal concepts completely wrong, and I could go on and on. I have the feeling that I am being punished as a heretic than tolerated as an unbeliever.

I know how hard it is to write. I published two books and write good deal of research. Mistakes happen. But when it is pointed out to me, I suck it up, thank the person for pointing it out to
me, and correct it. Usually, I'm dying of embarrassment and shame inside for letting the mistake through, but you have to fix the problem. The Professional Thing To Do is not going on-line and calling them names (especially when the stuff eventually gets back to the name-calleree). Hence my restraint in NOT naming F*ckwit Author.

But as Kissinger is said to have uttered on academe, "The battles were so fierce as the stakes were so small."

posted at 9:45 PM

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