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Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
30 Aug
Asahi: The Supreme Court confirmed that authorities can revoke the Japanese nationality of children born outside Japan whose parents fail to submit the proper paperwork within three months of their babies’ births. The top court’s ruling on March 10, [2015], said Article 12 of the Nationality Law, which defines the procedures to maintain Japanese nationality, does not violate the Constitution. As a result of the ruling, 15 female and male children born in the Philippines to Japanese fathers married to Filipino mothers have lost their Japanese nationality. They had argued that the article was irrational and discriminatory against Japanese born abroad. [...] According to the plaintiffs, their Japanese nationality was revoked because their parents did not know about the provision and failed to submit the documents to Japanese authorities within the designated three-month period. COMMENT: This is what can happen if you dare give birth outside of the motherland and legally acquire a suspicious second passport. Debito.org has mentioned before how creative judicial interpretations of Japan's Nationality Law Article 12 are a) systematically stripping children born to mixed-nationality couples of their Japanese citizenship simply for bureaucratic expedience (for if both parents were Japanese nationals, Article 12 did not apply); and b) effectively absolving Japanese men from taking responsibility for sowing their wild oats abroad. Now according to the ruling reported to below, it looks like Article 12 now does apply even if both parents are Japanese nationals -- you have three whole months to get registered, otherwise you clearly aren't a real Japanese. Except that in the case cited, the exclusionism is again being enforced on mudblood kids simply because their parents slipped up with proper procedure. It remains unclear if a Japanese mother who gives birth overseas (and would hitherto automatically retain Japanese nationality for her child) and does not register her child would void the Japanese citizenship, but the intent of the interpretation below is basically to prevent dual nationality, not honor jus sanguinis ties under the law. So this looks to be an affirmation and expansion of the 2012 Tokyo District Court case, a reversal of the 2008 Supreme Court case, moreover expanded to both parents regardless of nationality.
26 Aug
According the Japan Times re a new Bill submitted by the LDP to penalize "fraud visa holders", Immigration and the NPA go beyond merely "resetting your visa clock" and making your visa more temporary due to bureaucratic technicalities. This time they're going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices: Consider how you could lose your current visa because you changed jobs from one arbitrary work classification to another? (Or worse yet, because your new employer messes up your paperwork?) Consider how you could lose your Spouse Visa because, oh, you get a divorce or your spouse DIES! (Yes, people have lost their Spouse Visas because of that; however, until now, you had a grace period, meaning the remaining validity of the visa period to make life adjustments. Not any more, under this new system.) Consider how vulnerable NJ become to any Japanese employer (or neighbor, ex-lover, or jilted person in a love triangle, for that matter), who can easily report you as a criminal (or at least put you through the horrible experience of criminal investigation in Japan) via anonymous Government "Snitch Sites" empowering the general public to bully NJ residents? Which means you're likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy). For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can't renew your visa while in jail). Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan -- simply because of an oversight or subterfuge. Yet more human rights being taken away from NJ residents.
22 Aug
Morris-Suzuki: [S]ome observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs... The story presented in Abe’s statement goes like this. Western colonial expansionism forced Japan to modernise, which it did with remarkable success. Japan’s victory in the Russo–Japanese War gave hope to the colonised peoples of the world. After World War I, there was a move to create a peaceful world order. Japan actively participated, but following the Great Depression, the Western powers created economic blocs based on their colonial empires. This dealt a ‘major blow’ to Japan. Forced into a corner, Japan ‘attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force’. The result was the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, and everything that followed. ‘Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war’. The narrative of war that Abe presents leads naturally to the lessons that he derives from history. Nations should avoid the use of force to break ‘deadlock’. They should promote free trade so that economic blocs will never again become a cause of war. And they should avoid challenging the international order. The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong. This is perhaps not surprising, since the committee of experts on whom he relied included only four historians in its 16 members. And its report, running to some 31 pages, contains less than a page about the causes and events of the Asia Pacific War... Economic historians note that the Japanese empire was the first to take serious steps towards imperial protectionism. The slide into global protectionism had barely started at the time of the Manchurian Incident. Britain did not create its imperial preference system until 1932. The economic blockade that strangled the Japanese economy in 1940–41 was the response to Japan’s invasion of China, not its cause. This is not academic quibbling. These things really matter, and vividly illustrate why historical knowledge is vital to any understanding of contemporary international affairs....
18 Aug
One of the age-old debates about how to eliminate racial discrimination in Japan is a matter of process. Do you wait for society to soften up to the idea of people who are (and/or look) "foreign" being "Japanese", or do you legislate and force people to stop being discriminatory? Critics of anti-discrimination activists often recommend that the latter apply the brakes on their social movement and wait for society in general to catch up -- as in, "You can't force people by law to be tolerant." Well, yes you can. History has shown that without a law (be it a US Civil Rights Act, a UK Race Relations Act, etc.) and active media campaigns to force and foment tolerance, it doesn't necessarily occur naturally. As we have seen in the Japanese example, which is approaching the 20th Anniversary of its signing the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination without keeping its promise to pass a law against racial discrimination. I submit to Debito.org Readers two interesting case studies of how tolerance towards a) same-sex marriage, and b) transgender issues have been promoted in the American example. The speed at which LGBT tolerance and legal equality in many areas of American society has been breathtaking. Why have walls come tumbling down so fast? Because proponents of marriage equality managed to back its opponents into such a corner that any other position they might have taken would have been seen as bigotry. And because proponents of tolerance have managed to achieve positions of power within media to make sure an accurate message gets out. Neither of these things have been true in the Japanese example, because bigotry is still a tenable position in Japan, and NJ are so shut out of Japanese media that they have no voice to counteract it.
14 Aug
JK: Hi Debito. Here's something you may not have considered -- unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims. From the article below: "But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers." And this: "Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan." Finally: "I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live." There's obviously plenty of fodder here for a blog entry on debito.org, but putting that aside for the moment, there's something subtle I noticed when reading the article: In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors' Support Law "has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state." Did you catch it? It's this: reasonableness / unreasonableness as the basis for legal opinion (i.e. unreasonable exclusion of foreign medical expenses). Does this ring a bell for you? Recall the legal opinion of a one Mr. Keiichi Sakamoto with regard to unreasonable discrimination [when ruling against you in the Otaru Onsens Case]. Now, I am no lawyer, but the problem I see with using the notion of reasonableness / unreasonableness in this way is that it leaves the door open to abuse (e.g. there may be a scenario where excluding medical expenses incurred abroad by foreign A-bomb victims is, in the opinion of the court, reasonable, or discrimination by an onsen refusing to admit NJ *is* reasonable, etc.). [Let's see what the Supreme Court hands down on September 8.]
10 Aug
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific, I do a textual analysis of two interesting documents: The Imperial Rescript declaring War and the Imperial Rescript declaring surrender (well, not exactly). They are interesting not only because of the language justifying war and peace, but also how the narratives they promote (that of Japan as Asian liberator and later victim of of "world trends" and "a most cruel bomb") can still be easily found today in Japan's domestic WWII narratives. The point is, the designers of these documents have managed to keep their legacy alive to the present day. The Rescripts don't resonate as the "What the hell were they thinking back then?" sort of thing when horrible ideas are consigned to the ash-heap of history. In fact, they don't seem all that out of place at all. "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" doesn't seem to apply here. Which is, quite frankly, scary.
6 Aug
JT: The Diet started deliberations Tuesday on a bill that would ban racial discrimination, including harassment and hate speech, and oblige the government to draw up anti-discrimination programs that report every year to lawmakers. The bill, submitted to the Upper House by opposition lawmakers, was crafted to cope with a recent rise in discrimination against non-Japanese, in particular ethnic Koreans. However, it does not have punitive provisions and whether it will ever be enacted remains unclear, as lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reportedly remain reluctant to support the proposal.... COMMENT: Well, I'm heartened that somebody in Japanese politics these days still cares about the plight of Japan's minorities, particularly its Visible Minorities in particular, who will be affected by, as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan put it, "racial discrimination" (jinshu sabetsu). Sadly, it's already front-loaded for failure...
2 Aug
Here's my next Japan Times JBC Column 90, disputing the discourse that people 1) have to "look Japanese" in order to be "Japanese", and 2) cannot be Japanese AND something else (such as a different nationality, "race", or ethnicity). I make the case that many things such as these, once ascribed from birth, are now a matter of personal choice -- and that person must claim it (in the face of constant identity policing) in order to own it. ============================= JBC: “A Japanese passport? You don’t look Japanese.” I get this all the time. Understandably: Most people don’t expect a Caucasian to have Japanese citizenship. It’s just a shame they so carelessly articulate their surprise. No matter where I go, a natural curiosity about my background soon turns into vocalized judgment. “What an unusual name. Where are you from?” Me: “Japan” (or, “Born in the U.S., lived in Japan,” if I’m feeling chatty). Their most common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.” Or Customs and Immigration at any border: “What’s with the Japanese passport?” “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.” Again, “You don’t look Japanese.” (That’s the milder reaction. In Jamaica, officials took my passport around the office for a laugh. In the U.S., they rendered me to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition until I missed my next flight. Seriously.) Trying to dodge these questions by saying “It’s a long story” often doesn’t cut it. (American official: “Oh? We’ve got time.”) Having to school everyone about my background on a daily basis gets tiring, and biting my lip through many an intrusive and sometimes humiliating experience leaves psychological “triggers” after a while. I realized that last month on vacation in Canada, when a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.” [...] ==================================== Rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/02/issues/claiming-right-japanese/
2 Aug
Table of Contents: THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE FOR NJ WITH THE REACTIONARY-NATIONALIST ABE ADMINISTRATION 2) Discussion: Abe rams through Japan’s new security guidelines: How will this affect NJ and Visible Minorities in Japan? 3) Japan Times: Govt “Snitch Sites” being used to target Zainichi Koreans for harassment 4) Kyodo: “Overseas work, study seen as negative point for hiring anyone handling state secrets” Such as multiethnic Japanese? 5) Mainichi: “Not Japanese Enough?” Bog-standard article about Miss Japan Miyamoto Ariana’s fight against racial discrim in Japan, not in Japanese for J-audience MISCELLANY 6) Update to Canada bank racism issue: Fascinating FB conversation gets me to capitulate 7) “Gaikokujin ja arimasen: An Analysis of the Interactive Construction and Contestation of Being a Foreigner in Japan”, an academic paper by Dr. Cade Bushnell analyzing the conversation I had with Yunohana management during Otaru Onsen Case … and finally … 8 ) Japan Times Just Be Cause 89, “Media redraw battle lines in bid for reach”, on Fuji network’s acquisition of Japan Today.com, July 6, 2015
31 Jul
Continuing with this month's theme of how a reactionary-nationalist Japan will treat its NJ and Visible Minorities in future, the article below is very indicative. Although I did refer to it in my end-year JT roundup of Japan's Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2014, somehow it escaped being properly archived on Debito.org as a single blog entry. So here it is: people with connections abroad will be considered a security risk and potentially be excluded from pubic service. No doubt that will include Japanese citizens with NJ roots. This is, in a word, odious. Kyoto: The Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office has warned government offices before the new state secrecy law takes effect Wednesday that people who have studied or worked abroad have a higher risk of leaking secrets. [...] The documents presented by the intelligence and research office at a meeting with other government bodies in November 2011 state that the experience of attending schools overseas or foreign schools in Japan as well as working abroad or working for foreign companies “could be an opportunity to nurture a special feeling about foreign countries.” The papers said such people “tend to be influenced by” approaches from foreign countries and there is a “risk” that they “prioritize the benefits of foreign countries and voluntarily leak secrets.”
27 Jul
I've been withholding comment on the very good news about Miyamoto Ariana's ascension to the role of Miss Japan, and for the role that she is taking on of her own volition to fight "racial discrimination" (yes, explicitly jinshu sabetsu -- something that the J-media generally refuses to even acknowledge exists in Japan). What I've been waiting for is how the J-media (as opposed to the predictable reaction from the J-xenophobes) would react to her activism. And here's a good example from the Mainichi Shinbun: (A few comments follow the article.) Mainichi: At first glance, Ariana Miyamoto does not look like an ordinary Japanese woman. But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age. In March, she became the first mixed race contestant to be crowned "Miss Universe Japan," but not everyone cheered the result... Debito: Okay, a few points: 1) The opening paragraph, where the article says, "But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age." Well, she IS a native speaker of Japanese, and she IS a typical Japanese her age. Because she IS a Japanese. 100%. Even she says so. Front-loading the articles to reinforce the narrative that she isn't a Japanese because she has mixed roots is one major problem in this unnecessary debate about Miyamoto-san's identity....
23 Jul
In the previous blog entry, I pondered aloud a future Japan after the rule of law and the Japanese Constitution is further eroded for the sake of reactionary nationalism. Under Debito.org's purview, without clearer evidence I wasn't able to speculate how this would affect NJ residents of Japan. Now there is some evidence (which was brought up elsewhere on Debito.org within Comments starting from here) within a Japan Times article excerpted below. Not all that long ago, NJ residents of Japan were basically seen as misunderstood guests. As I describe in great detail in my upcoming book "Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination" (out in November), thanks to GOJ campaigns in the 2000s the narrative officially shifted to seeing NJ as a source of crime, illegal overstaying, infectious diseases, and terrorism. As can be seen in the JT article, this attitude has percolated down to the interpersonal level. Again, not that long ago, Japanese in general were quite unaware that NJ had to carry "Gaijin Cards" 24-7 or face arrest, detention, and financial penalty (many I talked to were even more flabbergasted when they realized that NJ fingerprinting -- the hallmark of criminal tracking in Japan -- was once involved). This has clearly changed: anonymous xenophobes-cum-bullies empowered by the Internet are now aware enough of NJs' vulnerable status as something trackable by Gaijin Cards (thanks to official NJ-targeting campaigns such as this one, found in places like subway stations back in 2011) that they are now spreading false rumors about Gaijin Card conversion (from the ARC to the remotely-trackable Zairyuu Card) and visa overstaying (in this case targeting the Zainichi Korean "generational foreigners" ethnic minority in Japan). They are now "overwhelming Immigration" with "tips from bounty seekers". The kicker to this incident is that the internet bullies have been empowered by a system of "snitch sites" that the Japanese Government set up long ago (and Debito.org has long decried as incredibly open to abuse: see also here) to anonymously rat on any NJ based upon any reason whatsoever. Did the fools who set up this system really think that sooner or later this wouldn't happen? What's next, as Japan's general public starts to get involved in this GOJ-sponsored "Gaijin Hunt"?
19 Jul
What's happening these days in Japan under PM Abe, i.e., the ramming of new security guidelines through the Diet, will have ripple effects for years, particularly in terms of Japan's legislative practices and constitutional jurisprudence. Not since the days of Abe's grandfather doing much the same thing, ramming through the US-Japan Security Treaty more than five decades ago (which also did remarkable damage to Japan as a civil society), have recent policy measures been given the potential to undermine the rule of law in Japan. And I say this with all the disappointment of a Japanese citizen, voter, and Japanophile. The Japanese Government has truly shamed itself as a proponent of its own civilization, and its short-sighted voting public has done too little too late to prevent a self-entitled single-minded person as awful as Abe being given a second crack at governance (this time with a majority in both parliamentary houses, no less). Debito.org, with its focus on life and human rights in Japan as relates to NJ and Visible Minorities, isn't really in a position to comment on this until it becomes clear how these policy outcomes will affect them. Right now, all can say is that I told you this would happen. Consider my record in real time in my previous Japan Times columns on the rise of Abe and Japan's looming remilitarization (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Meanwhile, I'm not one to speculate further without more concrete evidence. Speculation, however, can be your job. What do Debito.org Readers think the future is for NJ and Visible Minorities under this new Japan where fundamentally-pacifist policy underpinnings are being undermined and circumvented? (We can see the forthcoming attitudes within LDP propaganda very sharply critiqued by Colin P.A. Jones recently in The Japan Times.) Your turn to crystal-ball. Opening this up for discussion:
15 Jul
A couple of weeks ago, shortly before bedtime when I was tired and on vacation, I tossed off a blog entry on Debito.org about my recent experience with what I considered to be racism towards me at a Canadian bank for not having a passport that matched the bank teller's expectation of phenotype. In other words, the teller said my having a Japanese passport was "funny" to him, as I didn't "look Japanese". This was quickly dealt with in a way that I had never seen done in, for example, Japan (where this behavior would in my experience be explained away as a cultural misunderstanding, oversensitivity on my part, etc.). In Canada, the manager intervened, and (unbeknownst to us at the time) sent the teller home. The manager, who happened to be a minority in Canada, then said he well understood my distaste for identity policing of this ilk. In sum, the blog post was to give kudos to Canadian society for stopping this sort of thing in its tracks. I had thought this was a pretty summary case, and wrote it up as such. However, I had no idea that it would blow up in my face. So much so that I had to add an addendum to the post from a person accompanying me to that bank, filling in a number of things I hadn't bothered to mention -- such as the fact that we called the manager because we had a separate issue of business that needed a manager's attention, and the teller in fact interfered with that request, and more. This blog post is to archive the essence of a very informative discussion on my Facebook that was occasioned by that blog entry. The discussion cleaved into several quite distinct camps, essentially:
11 Jul
The landmark Otaru Onsens Case of "Japanese Only" signs continues to reverberate more than a decade later. Dr. Cade Bushnell of the University of Tsukuba kindly sent me the following notification of a research article he wrote, based upon a taped conversation I had with exclusionary management at Onsen Yunohana back in 2000, which precipitated the famous lawsuit. Please have a read, especially if you are interested in the field of Conversation Analysis. Gaikokujin ja Arimasen (I’m Not a Foreigner): An Analysis of the Interactive Construction and Contestation of Being a Foreigner in Japan Cade BUSHNELL University of Tsukuba, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Associate professor Journal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies, University of Tsukuba, Vol. 7, March 2015 Abstract (excerpt): In the present research, I examine a service encounter between a Caucasian Japanese national, his two friends, and the racially Japanese staff of a public bath house in Japan. In the analysis, I use conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis to examine the specific ways in which the participants co-construct the categories of Japanese and foreigner, how they constitute the category Japanese as being bound to differential sets of attributes, rights, legal statuses, and so forth, and how they treat these mutually different categorical constitutions as being problematic for assembling the real-world activity of using the bath house facilities. I also consider how the sequential and categorial aspects of the talk jointly work to make the interaction visible as being a dispute as the participants align to or contest categories in their interaction. Link to full text follows:
6 Jul
Opening paragraphs: Something significant happened in April that attracted only desultory press coverage, so let’s give it some more. GPlus Media Co., which operates English-language websites Japan Today and GaijinPot, was sold to Fuji TV-Lab, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings Inc. The Fuji Media group has the Fuji Television Network under its wing, as well as the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun as an affiliate. This matters to Japan’s resident non-Japanese (NJ) communities. Fuji TV was recently caught fabricating subtitles falsely quoting South Korean commenters as “hating Japan” (Japan Times, June 29). That’s an incredibly dishonest thing for a nationwide broadcaster to do, especially when it may have a nasty impact on Japan’s Korean minorities. However, the Sankei Shimbun as a newspaper I believe is no less nasty. Over the past 15 years, for example, they have run articles grossly exaggerating foreign crime (see “Generating The Foreigner Crime Wave”, Japan Times, Oct. 4, 2002), a column claiming that Chinese had criminal “ethnic DNA” (May 8, 2001, written by regular columnist and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro “let’s fight a war with China” Ishihara) and an opinion piece by Ayako Sono on Feb. 11 that praised the racial segregation of South African apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy. The Fuji-Sankei group offers pretty much unwavering support to the country’s right-wing causes and talking points. They are further right than the Yomiuri — and that’s saying something. Before I get to why we should care, let’s look briefly at the existing landscape of the nation’s English-language media... Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/07/05/issues/media-redraw-battleines-bid-global-reach/
6 Jul
Table of Contents: ACTIVISM AND ITS TRIBULATIONS 1) “The problem I have with David Aldwinkle [sic] is…” A stock criticism of me and my methods, then my answer. 2) Film record of Debito in action negotiating with a “Japanese Only” establishment in Shinjuku: excerpt from documentary “Sour Strawberries” (2009) 3) Tangent: How anti-discrimination measures are enforced elsewhere: Racism towards me at a bank in Canada 4) Honolulu Weekly Feb 9 1994: “Prints of Darkness”: Ronald Fujiyoshi, Hawaiian fighter of GOJ fingerprinting of NJ, 20 years ago says prescient things about future Japan INTERESTING TIDINGS IN OFFICIALDOM 5) AOL News: J-League soccer ref speaks English to, then denigrates Japanese-German player, denies anything discriminatory. But then official protests from club! 6) Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus extended interview with Dr. M.G. Sheftall: “Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu” 7) Tangent: Indo-Pacific Review article: “A Rope Bridge in a Fiber-Optic Age: The East-West Center in Hawaii” 8 ) Looking for substantiation of change in editorial bent at Japan Today etc. after acquisition by right-wing Fuji Media Holdings … and finally… 9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 88: “U.S. green-lights Japan’s march back to militarism”, on America’s historical amnesia in US-Japan Relations, June 1, 2015
3 Jul
Got an interesting story to tell: Recently I had business at a Canadian bank, so I went to a branch of it within Canada. My transaction required me to show government ID, so I showed my Japanese passport, of course. That's all I have. The teller verified my ID, but then made the comment, "It's funny that you should have a Japanese passport. You don't look Japanese." I said, "Let's not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction." Well, after the transaction was complete, I called for his manager, and...
29 Jun
Following the recent acquisition of GPlus Media by right-wing media conglomerate Fuji Media Holdings, I've been hearing murmurs about changes in editorial policy over at Japan Today (and Gaijin Pot) of deletion of comments that are critical of the Japanese government etc. Let's try to go beyond murmur. I have a reporter who would like some substantiation for an article. Has anyone saved copies of their critical comments that were deleted? Or if you comment there from now (keep your comments sane, please), could you keep an eye on it? (Screen captures would be nice.) Please let Debito.org know. Thanks. UPDATE JUNE 29, 2015: Proof of Fuji Media Holdings' editorial bent: Fuji TV apologizes for subtitles fabricating quotes from South Koreans as "hating Japan":
25 Jun
Honolulu Weekly: When civil-rights activist/missionary Ronald Fujiyoshi refused to be fingerprinted in compliance with Japan's Alien Registration Law in 1981, he launched a personal attack on the Japanese government which still hasn't ended. [...] After waging his own personal battle against the Japanese government for the greater part of the last two decades, [Ronald Fujiyoshi,] the 53-year-old Hilo resident is hopeful that the recent change in government is a sign that the Japanese people have at last begun to fight back against what he contends is a sinister system which has been unjustly subjugating them for centuries. Fujiyoshi’s personal beef is Japan’s latent racism, which he maintains is knowingly cultivated by the country’s ruling circles in order to foster an “us vs. them” mentality. Japan’s alien-registration laws are widely known to be among the most rigid and strictly enforced in the world. It has long been a complaint among non-Japanese immigrants in Japan that the laws are also part of a greater government scheme to prevent them from feeling completely at ease in their adopted homeland, withhold full citizenship rights and relegate them to positions of permanent underclass status in the overall economic tapestry of the nation. Especially onerous to Fujiyoshi was the Japanese government’s longstanding policy of insisting that all foreign residents and criminal suspects in Japan submit fingerprints for identification purposes. Being grouped with criminals and thus treated as undesirables created acute resentment in the Korean-Japanese community, over 700,000 strong and representing roughly four out of five of Japan’s foreign residents. Many of them have lived in Japan for several generations; their relatives were originally brought there forcibly during World War II as military conscripts or factory workers. They are still treated as outsiders, and their “alien” status frequently denies them jobs, housing and scholarships. Fujiyoshi contends that the fingerprint policy is both unconstitutional by Japan’s own admitted standards and an abhorrent violation of the United Nations International Covenant of Human Rights, to which Japan is a signatory. [...] For Fujiyoshi, state-sanctioned racism is bad enough, but even more repugnant is the denial of its existence by most Japanese. He maintains that the power structure, for its own purposes, is using its tremendous control over the media (and consequent influence on public opinion) to perpetuate the traditional notion that there are only three major races in the world. “According to this view, all there are are Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid stocks,” says Fujiyoshi, recounting the argument he has heard more times than he cares to remember. This belief is worse than oversimplistic: It makes it possible for the Japanese government to exclude from the category of racial discrimination its dealings with other Asian and Pacific peoples living in the country. Japan can safely perceive itself as a country of only one race and sincerely believe that the racial conflicts plaguing the rest of the world can’t happen there.
19 Jun
As a follow-up to the previous blog entry, where I cited somebody who (ironically) accused me of dealing with people by "launch[ing] immediately into angry, confrontational accusations", here's an actual movie record of me in action. This is part of a documentary by Daniel Kremers and Tilman Koenig named "Sour Strawberries: Japan's Hidden Guest Workers" (2009), talking about how Japan's NJ, as a labor force and a resident population, are being treated in Japanese society. It is an excellent film that touches upon many important subjects, and it can be previewed and purchased here. I appear for about five minutes within negotiating with a "Japanese Only" establishment, one of the dozens upon dozens I have talked with over the years, to confirm the facts of each case (recorded for posterity at the Rogues' Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments) and investigate the firmness of the exclusionary policy. See it for yourself:
16 Jun
April 6, 2014, by "Billy" (name changed): The problem I always have with David Aldwinkle [sic] comes in his suggestion at the end. Asking people to start harassing the restaurant owner with phone calls? Way to reinforce the 迷惑 stereotype of foreigners that this restaurant owner already has. Aldwinkle often seems to want to head up some kind of gaijin mafia hit squad that goes around naming, shaming, hounding, and publicly humiliating anyone suspected of mistreating foreigners in Japan. It's ugly mob tactics, and it makes him look just as ugly, if not uglier, than the people with the "Japanese Only" signs. In many cases, Aldwinkle's attitude and tactics earn some sympathy for those signs. Aldwinkle's crude approach especially comes to light in the fifth comment on that blog post. Someone suggests a sensible, conciliatory approach with the restaurant owner, offering to translate menus for him and to resolve other problems. Aldwinkle won't let this comment go up on his blog without attaching to it a snarky, bolded response that aims to humiliate the comment's author. Maybe Aldwinkle [sic] would be proven right in the end that this restaurant owner wouldn't budge, but Aldwinkle isn't particularly interested in finding out. His first pass in these situations is to accuse and attack, immediately putting anyone in his path on the defensive. He tosses hand grenades in situations where gentle words might have more effect. Arudou Debito...the guy who took Japanese citizenship so that he could try to force Japanese people to behave more like Americans. ================================= This is a common criticism leveled against me. Since the author has a doctorate (in English), I decided to take him up on his claims and show the shortcomings in his social science and research methods in an informative exhange.
13 Jun
AOL News: In the June 6 J2 match between teams Avispa Fukuoka and Tokushima Vortis, it has come to light in a club statement that will be filed with the J-League that Referee Takayama Hiroyoshi used discriminatory language against Fukuoka player Sakai Noriyoshi. Sakai Noriyoshi is the younger brother of Japan soccer representative Sakai Goutoku, who is half-Japanese, half-German. In the 35th minute of the second half during a foul, Referee Takayama asked in English "Are you OK?", to which Sakai answered in Japanese, "Daijoubu desu". Takayama then apparently said, "What the... you [using omae, a masculine, informal, often disparaging or belligerent way to say "you"], you can speak Japanese after all." To which the bystanding players protested. At that time Referee Takayama promised that he would apologize after the game, but no apologies were forthcoming. The club protested to the commissioner, but during investigations Takayama denied that there was any discriminatory statement made. COMMENT: When you read the whole article, you'll see that several positive precedents are being set here, sorely needed in Japan's sports milieu where racialization of athletes is quite normal. Bravo to the bystanding players, the club, the fans and even the reporter for not letting this migroaggression stand unchallenged.
9 Jun
Now up with critique from an unexpected quarter is an extended interview I did with Dr. M.G. "Bucky" Sheftall on the WWII Japan Tokkō "Kamikaze" suicide missions, which appeared in an abridged version in the Japan Times as my JBC column on May 4 2015. This longer version features more questions from me and more candor from Bucky. Here's an excerpt: Japan’s Kamikaze Suicide Pilots Exhibit at the USS Missouri in Honolulu: an interview with M.G. Sheftall The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 22, No. 1, June 08, 2015 Dr. ARUDOU Debito, Dr. M.G. Sheftall 4) You mentioned earlier about other Tokkō missions, including the suicide motorboats. But we hear mostly about the pilots, hardly ever about the other types of Tokkō. Tell us a little more about these other branches, and why you think the pilots have garnered all the attention, especially in popular culture and at Yasukuni Shrine, where they are more famously enshrined as heroes? Sheftall: In addition to the iconic self-immolating bomb-laden fighter plane version of Tokkō almost anyone inside or outside of Japan associates with the term “Kamikaze”, there were three other major Tokkō platforms that we could deem significant in terms of: 1) the expenditure involved in their development and production; 2) the initial expectations the Japanese military had for their success; and 3) the loss in human lives caused by their deployment. These were the Kaiten (“Fortune-reverser”) manned torpedo, the Shin’yō (“Ocean-shaker”) rammer-motorboat, and the Ōka (“Cherry Blossom”) manned rocket bomb – which was essentially a 1940s cruise missile with a human being in place of a computerized guidance and target acquisition system. Really brutal contraption. In any case, all three of these platforms were bitter disappointments for the Japanese military. Each of them resulted in over a thousand “friendly” fatalities involved in attempts to deploy them – this is also counting the crew members of the “motherships” ferrying the Kaiten and Ōka (specially modified fleet submarines for the former, and specially modified twin-engined bombers for the latter) into battle – while only causing a few hundred Allied casualties in total between the three of them, as compared with “conventional” aviation Tokkō, which caused some 15 thousand Allied casualties just in the Battle of Okinawa alone. So, right off the bat I would say that this dismal operational history is certainly a sizable factor behind the rather low profile – and the poor reputation, when known at all – of these specialized Tokkō weapons in the postwar Japanese public imagination.
4 Jun
IPR: The East-West Center in Hawaii is timid, insular, and lacking in fresh, dynamic thinking about a region that has outpaced the institution as a whole. The East-West Center (EWC) in Hawaii is well-positioned geographically and conceptually to be a powerhouse of constructive, intellectual engagement with Indo-Pacific Asia. A 50-year legacy of providing academic and research fellowships to young students from Asia has developed a deep regional network of alumni now in senior government positions, multilateral organizations, and the private sector. Over the years, hundreds of experts in governance, policy, science, and history have resided in or served as visiting scholars at the institution. Its spacious facilities, some designed by a world-class architect, are immersed within a beautiful, serene campus setting. And yet this venerable soft-power institution has become flaccid. [...] The EWC president, Dr. Charles Morrison, has been in place for 16 years. During this period he is widely credited with keeping the non-profit Center from being shuttered (this instinct for survival applies to his own job, as he was once dismissed, but then returned to his position as president). Most recently he helped the institution weather the very public resignation of EWC’s entire energy team led by Dr. Fesharaki, which revealed the “turmoil” inside the Center. However, simple survival should never be the measure of institutional success. With a purported deadline of 2018 to achieve self-sufficiency, transformative change is required for the EWC to evolve from prolonged survival thinking to a thriving institution renowned for being a vanguard of engagement on critical issues. Founded in 1960 through the vision of the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, the EWC’s mission to promote “better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue” is of paramount importance. While a 1978 GAO report demonstrates that concerns about the EWC’s identity and quality of contributions were emerging in its early decades, the Obama administration’s “rebalance to Asia” is the sort of golden opportunity for which the EWC was designed. However, senior fellows are unable to articulate what the EWC’s role is in the rebalance effort. According to them, Dr. Morrison has never stated how the EWC mission fits in the rebalance. One expert said “more of the same I would assume,” while another questioned the relevance of the EWC now that flights no longer need to stop in Hawaii when crossing the Pacific. A striking statement considering that Pacific Command, the nation’s largest strategic command and most visible face of the “rebalance,” sits only a few miles away.
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