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Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
27 Feb
JT/Kyodo: Two Chinese men taking part in a foreign trainee program on a farm in Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, were attacked by a group of men with knives Sunday evening, leaving one dead and the other wounded, police said. Sun Wenjun, 33, was pronounced dead at a hospital and the other man, identified only as being 32 years old, was being treated for his wounds, the police said. They were attacked by several men, apparently non-Japanese, at around 9:50 p.m. near the farm. The two were riding bicycles on their way from the home of an acquaintance about 1.5 km from the farm. A kitchen knife with bloodstains was found near the scene, NHK reported. The surviving trainee was quoted as saying the men came out of nowhere, attacked with knives and left in a car. ENDS COMMENT: Believe it or not, that's the entire article -- short enough to include within the blog post summary. It's been a couple of days since the article came out, and I have an unusually busy week with several deadlines, so let me ask Debito.org Readers to look around the Japanese and English-language media and see if there has been anything more afoot (especially since the article alleges that NJ were perps as well as victims). Please place articles with links in the Comments Section below. Or if you find little to nothing more in the media, that's also a significant indicator on how crime perpetrated against NJ is reported and handled in Japan, so please comment on that too. This would be a much larger media scrum if Japanese were stabbed to death allegedly by NJ.
23 Feb
Getting back to another issue in Japan that has long needed fixing -- the judiciary -- here are some overseas experts talking in a comparative perspective about Japan's Immigration Detention Centers (aka Gaijin Tanks) that they liken to "prisons". In fact, they're worse than prisons, because they don't come under the same judicial oversight for minimum standards that Japanese prisons do, and detainees, unlike the criminally-incarcerated, do not have a "prison sentence" with a limited time-frame attached to it. Not to mention Gaijin Tanks add a second layer of incarceration for NJ only, where even the NJ exonerated of a criminal offense get released from prison only to wind up in a Gaijin Tank for "overstaying" the visa they couldn't renew because they were incarcerated. For people in Gaijin Tanks, detention can be perpetual, and that's before we get to the horrible, even lethal, treatment they suffer from while in custody. Read on: JT: When British incarceration inspection expert Hindpal Singh Bhui last month paid his first visit to a Japanese immigration detention center, his overriding initial impression was that it looked like a prison. “The fact that if someone comes to visit detainees, the starting point is that you’re behind a glass screen and you can’t touch someone — that feels quite restrictive,” Bhui, team leader for London-based Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, told The Japan Times during a recent visit to Japan. “It’s something which perhaps is a prison-style approach and which was surprising to see in immigration detention centers,” Bhui said of his visit to the government facility in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture. Established in 1982, HMIP is an independent inspectorate with unchallenged authority to probe state-run institutions, from prisons to immigration and military detention centers. The British system stands in contrast with Japan’s immigration inspectorate, which is poorly funded and regarded as having little independence from the government, Japanese lawyers say...
19 Feb
I had heard about this issue of blackface in Japan by musical performers Rats & Star and Momoiro Clover Z (a la other racialized "gaijin" characteristics in Japan, including blond wigs and stuck-on big noses), but wasn't sure how to raise it (Debito.org was embroiled enough in the Japartheid issue enough over the past few days). However, Baye McNeil does it instead, and better than I could. The part of the article I like best is about the lack of historical research these performers who profess to love the people they so carelessly imitate: McNeil: "All of which speaks directly to this racist bullsh-t — I mean, this cultural misunderstanding — one that could have been avoided in the 30-some-odd years this band [Rats & Star] has existed if, while they were researching the music, costumes and other aspects of black music and performance, they had simply taken a second to see if what they wanted to do with blackface had ever been done before. You know, just a little proactive research about the industry they would spend the next three f-cking decades profiting handsomely from...."
16 Feb
SCMP: [Sono's] comments have provoked anger among human-rights activists. "It's a stunning cognitive dissonance. After calling the apartheid system 'racial discrimination' in her column, she advocates it," said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is foreign. "Is it no longer racial discrimination in a Japanese context?" he asked. "Or does she think racial discrimination is not a bad thing? I hope - and I stress hope - this will be dismissed as the wistful musings of a very old lady who is way out of touch," he added. "But she occupies a position of authority, and I fear her attitudes are but the tip of the iceberg in Japan's ultra-conservative ruling elite."...
12 Feb
Here's another one for the Debito.org archives. Sono Ayako, famous conservative novelist, has just had a ponderous opinion piece published in the reactionary right-wing Sankei Shinbun daily newspaper. This is the same newspaper that last decade serialized professional bigot Ishihara Shintaro's "Nihon Yo" columns (which, among other things, saw Chinese as criminal due to their "ethnic DNA" (minzokuteki DNA)). This is what the Sankei is getting up to now: Publishing opinion pieces advocating Japan institute an Apartheid system for foreign residents, separating their living areas by races. Seriously: SONO: "I have come to believe, after 20-30 years knowing about the actual situation in the Republic of South Africa, that when it comes to residential zones, the Whites, Asians, and Blacks should be separated and live in different areas [in Japan]." She describes how Black Africans have come to despoil the areas (particularly infrastructurally) that were reserved for Whites in the RSA, and feels that "immigrants" (imin) would do the same thing to Japan. And there's lots more to mine from a remarkable capsule of bigotry and ethnic overgeneralizations that only cantankerous eldsters, who live in intellectual sound chambers because they are too old to be criticized properly anymore, can spew. Huffpost Japan and original article follows: COMMENT: While I hope (and I stress: hope) that nobody is going to take seriously the rants of a octogenarian who has clearly lost touch with the modern world, it is distressing to see that this was not consigned to the regular netto-uyoku far-right internet denizens who regularly preach intolerance and spew xenophobic bile as a matter of reflex. Shame on you, Sankei, for adding credibility to this article by publishing it. Let's hope (and I stress again: hope) that it is not a bellwether of public policy to come. UPDATE FEB 13: A protest letter in Japanese and English from the Africa-Japan Forum hits the media, demanding a retraction and an apology. Enclosed. UPDATE FEB 14: South African Ambassador to Japan protests Sono Ayako's pro-Apartheid column <産経新聞>曽野氏コラム、南ア大使も抗議文 人種隔離許容(毎日新聞) - Yahoo!ニュース
9 Feb
As a tangent to what Debito.org usually takes up, let's consider something interesting that affects everyone in Japan: the pretty insane work ethic. Caveat: Having a society that works hard pays out enormous benefits in terms of convenience. Who can grumble about being able to, say, get a good meal at any time from a convenience store, or have bureaucrats and postal workers working on weekends? Well, those people working those kinds of jobs. And while I see a similar erosion of working hours in the United States (according to the OECD, both Americans and Japanese work fewer hours per year in 2013 than they did in 2000, but Americans still work more hours than Japanese -- not surprising seeing how inhumane the amount of time people in retail have to work, especially here in Hawaii), one big issue is the ability to take vacations. I see people working full-time around here able to take sick days and even vacations without much blowback from their colleagues. Not in Japan, according to the article below. That's why the GOJ is considering making the vacations mandatory. This is good news. However, a closer consideration of the stats given below show an disturbing tendency: Western Europeans take almost all of their mandatory paid holidays off (up to more than a month), while Japanese take less than half of the half of the paid holidays days off they possibly could (i.e., around nine days a year, according to the article below). And what are the labor unions pushing for? Eight days. How underwhelming. Earn your dues, unions! I think anyone reading Debito.org (since so many of us have worked for Japanese companies) understands why Japanese workers take so few days off and sometimes work themselves to death -- peer pressure...
4 Feb
JBC: Consider this: Anyone you see in a silent film is dead, and I mean long dead. So is almost everyone from any movie predating the 1950s. People from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans are now in their 90s. Close behind are the Korean and Vietnam War vets (my growing up in a country that habitually wages war offers easy milestones). Even the people who protested their actions, the famed hippies of the 1960s, are wrinkly and retiring. Soon it’ll be the Desert Storm vets, who are already into paunchy middle age, as time marches on. I was born at an odd time. Just 13 days shy of what the media calls the baby boomers, people my age aren’t part of Generation X either. I don’t really understand, for example, why people insist on getting tattoos or body piercings, or find public humiliation funny (e.g., “Borat”? “The Office”?), but I do understand why they keep stealing from their elders’ music (rock, psychedelic and progressive — all genres I grew up with and still listen to). But it eventually dawns on us fogies just how derivative popular culture is, and always has been. Straddling two media-manufactured generations meant I more easily saw an arc. Now permit me to make you feel old too: We are now well into the 21st century, 15 years since Y2K, 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. No children in developed countries know a time without the Internet; some can’t imagine not submitting their homework online, and are no longer learning cursive. Google a recent photo of any media personality you grew up with and you’ll see their wrinkles either starting or becoming well-advanced. Then look in the mirror yourself and trace...
4 Feb
Table of Contents: ON BIRTHDAYS AND BIRTHDAY PRESENTS 1) I turned 50 years old on January 13, 2015. Photo on the day. 2) A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss. 3) Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, so nothing came of it. NOW BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL EXCLUSIONISM 4) IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine) 5) Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign MIXED MESSAGES 6) Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan” 7) Fukuoka Subway Poster Contest winner: Rude Statue of Liberty “overdoes freedom”, takes space from J passengers MISPLACED HOPE 8 ) Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots! 9) Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns …and finally… 10) My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014
31 Jan
IPC Digital via Google Translate (from Portuguese original): Video of alleged discrimination in hospital resonates with Japanese Internet: The video shows a Brazilian accusing a doctor of refusing care and offended her daughter with curses, wishing his death (Kuso, Shine), reflected in forums of discussions and Japanese blogs. Dozens of posts in livedoor.biz blogs and other forums, highlighted the event... The vast majority of comments were against the alleged discrimination. Some Japanese netizens pointed out that, despite the apparent exaltation of the father, the doctor should have attended the transfer request and that should never have used those words with the child. Even in anonymous forums where it is not necessary to identify to post a comment, most Internet users showed outrage at the perceived attitude of the doctor, saying that "certainly should be fired," and that "the university should be responsible for the wrong attitudes of physicians." COMMENT: It has made the news. Unlike, say, this "Japanese Only" hospital reported on Debito.org back in 2012, which wound up being ignored by the local media. It pays to video these things -- they go viral, and force apologies. Not sure how this will stop it from happening in future, but glad that somebody is paying attention this time. Portuguese videos first, then Portuguese article, Google translated version, and finally Japanese articles.
27 Jan
RocketNews: In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world. If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave... “In the world, Japanese people [have] the worst English performance,” he said. “Only they are concerned about Japanese life. That’s a problem.” He also said that lack of exposure to foreign cultures breeds a parochial ethnocentrism and makes young Japanese susceptible to “mind control” by the government. COMMENT: Wow. "Slave" Nakamura not only refused to settle for the pittance regularly doled out to inventors in Japan that transform innovation and profit for Japan's corporate behemoths (yes, he sued -- millions of people do in Japan every year -- and he won!), but also he wouldn't settle for life in Japan as it is. He emigrated and now publicly extols the virtues of not being stifled by Japan's insularity (and mind control!?). Pretty brave and bracing stuff. Bravo. It isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened within Japan's intelligentsia. How many readers remember the "Tonegawa Shock" of 1987? It set off a chain of events that led to the despotic Ministry of Education deciding to "enliven" (kasseika) Japan's education system by doing away with tenure. Sounds great to people who don't understand why tenure exists in an education system, but what happened is that the MOE first downsized everyone that they could who was not on tenure -- the NJ educators on perpetual contract eemployment (ninkisei) -- in what was called the "Great Gaijin Massacre" of 1992-1994 where most NJ teachers working in Japan's prestigious National and Public Universities over the age of 35 were fired by bureaucratic fiat. It was the first activism that I took up back in 1993, and the underlying "Academic Apartheid" of Japan's higher education system exposed by this policy putsch became the bedrock issue for Debito.org when it was established in 1996. With this in mind, I wonder what reverberations will result from Dr. Nakamura encouraging an exodus? Hopefully not something that will further damage the NJ communities in Japan. But if is there more NJ scapegoating in the offing, you'll probably hear about it on Debito.org. That's what we're here for.
24 Jan
Here's something for the Shoe on the Other Foot Dept.: A "No Japanese Passengers" taxi in Thailand, refusing to take all "Japanese" passengers (sign courtesy of Khaosod English). Naturally, Debito.org condemns all exclusionism of this type, and encourages people to challenge it and have these signs and rules repealed. We have devoted much cyberspace to recording and archiving the converse, "Japanese Only" signs that exclude all "foreigners" (that unfortunately have gone largely unchallenged in Japan). not to mention the occasional "Japanese Only" establishment run for Japanese clientele outside of Japan (that excludes all "foreigners" in their own country, natch). What's important is how swift and decisive the challenge from society is, and whether it is effective. In the Thai taxi case below, according to media, the taxi driver (rightly) lost his license to do business at the airport, and quite a furore happened both online and in print media denouncing this act as wrong-headed, even racist. Good. A similar furore also happened when a hotel in India had "Japanese Only" rules (the Indian authorities did not brook this kind of discrimination either). Now, if only the Japanese authorities would be so decisive about this kind of exclusionism in Japan (as Debito.org has demonstrated over these past twenty years, they generally aren't; they even deny racial discrimination ever happens in Japan, quite counterproductively). Of course, some hay has been made about this Thai taxi on Japanese social media, with rightly-deserved (but unironic) condemnations of the "discrimination" against Japanese overseas. One last point: Koki Aki, the Japanese gentleman who set this issue in motion by complaining online after being ripped off by a Thai cabbie (prompting the cabbie to exclude), subsequently defended himself against trolls who said he must not like Thailand: "I criticize Thailand, but I don't hate Thailand." Well put. Now, if only other debaters in Japan's debate arenas would be so cognizant.
21 Jan
I've been sitting on this blog post for nearly six years, so I think it's safe to say that nothing has come of this. Back in 2009, somebody claiming to be a lawyer representing the publisher of The Australian Magazine contacted me, claiming copyright infringement, and demanded that Debito.org remove from its archives a 1993 article concerning Japan pundit Gregory Clark (who writes articles occasionally so embarrassingly xenophobic and bigoted that at least one has been deleted from the Japan Times archive). Funny thing is that once I reproduced an email from 2000 from The Australian Magazine that permitted reproduction of said article on Debito.org, that somebody and her threat vanished. Again, that was back in 2009. It's now 2015, so let's put this up for the record. Something tells me that Gregory Clark really doesn't want you to read this very revealing article in The Australian about him, his modus operandi, and his motives in Japan.
16 Jan
Yomiuri: In an effort to address population declines in provincial areas, the government plans to create a database to provide people thinking of moving from urban to regional areas with information about potential destinations, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The government hopes to encourage more urbanites to move to regional areas by making it possible for them to extensively search for information on such issues as residency and welfare services anywhere in the country... The government plans to promote the development of robots for use in the service industry, such as at hotels and pubs, to cope with the industry’s worsening problems of labor shortages and heavy workloads, according to sources. In September, the government is expected to establish a panel dubbed the “committee for the realization of the robot revolution,” which will comprise manufacturers and users of robots, and plans to subsidize programs judged to have bright prospects. COMMENT: Of course, the Yomiuri diligently types it down and offers it up uncritically, with the typical pride of showing off "Japan's stuff". The policy assumption is that if you offer people information, they'll magically want to move out to the countryside -- up to now they were just chary because they didn't know where they could get an onigiri in Nakamura-son, Inaka-Ken. That's unrealistic. It's not a matter of lack of information. It's a matter of lack of economic opportunity for Japan's largely white-collar labor force (the "potential migrants" being mentioned, of course, are Japanese) being offered out in The Boonies. Hasn't the GOJ gotten the memo yet after more than a quarter century of Japanese turning their noses away from 3K blue-collar work? Not to mention the inevitable "Taro-come-lately" outsider treatment from the locals that greets many Japanese urbanites deciding to move out of the cities? Fact is, Japan's ruralities are even giving their land away for FREE, and it's not stemming the exodus from. Moreover, how about that other proposal below of introducing more robots in service areas to produce the 3K stuff? Laced within that Industrial Policy is an appeal to national pride, as in Japan's future as a world leader in robot use (without the actual substance of practicality behind it). Ooh, our robots can produce bentos? Can yours, France? Then what: build robots to consume what robots produce? No matter what, offering robots as replacements for humans in the labor market inevitably overlooks how this does nothing to revitalize Japan's taxpayer base, because ROBOTS DO NOT PAY TAXES. There is another option, the unmentionable: Immigrants assuming the mantle of Japan's farming economy and rural maintenance. No, you see, that would be a security risk. Too high a local foreign population would mean those areas might secede from Japan! (Seriously, that is the argument made.)...
14 Jan
Another complete tangent, but hey, it is January 13 where I am and it's my birthday and my blog, so... Did I mention it's my birthday? Well, I'm the type of person who loves to be wished "Happy Birthday!", so I even go out of my way tell people that today is the day. And as my Facebook shows, people very kindly respond with greetings and best wishes. Thanks! But since I broached the subject , I've had interesting conversations yesterday and today with people who take a dim view of birthdays. No, it's not for the reason you might think (i.e., growing older and more clearly one day, month, year closer to death). They put it down to modesty, even culture. One friend I talked to today never advertises his birthday because he's afraid that doing so will invite somebody to give him a present. Then he'd feel obligated to give something back and that causes him stress. He prefers his birthdays and his celebrations be immediate family affairs celebrated only by the people who care enough to remember it's his birthday without being told. Telling other people kinda spoils something. He'd rather enjoy fruit fallen from a tree due to a windfall, not because he deliberately shook the tree. Another friend talked about how birthdays are to him an artificial Western invention -- who celebrated birthdays in days of yore, and in his Eastern culture? He also feels that a celebration of oneself on one day is silly, when every day that one is alive should be a cause for celebration. Why focus in on one day? To them I said...
13 Jan
Just a personal entry for today. This sort of thing only happens once, and it's happening now in Japan (tomorrow in Hawaii), so I'll enjoy 48 hours of birthday this year. I turn fifty on January 13. This is a personal milestone in many ways...
11 Jan
This is a photograph of a subway banner last month designed by an eighth grader in a Fukuoka Junior High School, taking first place in a Fukuoka City Subway contest for "Riding Manners". The caption: "Don't overdo the freedom." December 25, 2014, Reader TJL remarks: Hmmm...Fukuoka is now jumping on the "ugly American" bandwagon by portraying a rude Lady Liberty taking up too much space and playing her music too loud...the poor old lady in kimono can't sit down and the salary man is disturbed by the noise. My graduate student from Chile found this on the subway. So much for the kinder, gentler Japan welcoming visitors by 2020 for the Olympics. COMMENT: First, praise. It's a clever, well-rendered poster by a Junior High School student who at a surprisingly young age has a great grasp of space, color, perspective, and poster layout (I've done a lot of posters in my day, and I wasn't anywhere near this quality until high school). I especially love the jutting out bare foot, the extra-spiky headdress, the update to include noisy iPod headphones, and the open flame of Liberty's torch on the seat. The artist also displays careful attention to detail -- he even remembered Liberty also carries a book (it's on the seat by the torch). Now, critique. It's sad to see such a young artist with an image of seeing freedom as an American symbol that can be so abused in a Japanese context. Remember, just about anything humanoid could have been posed here taking up too much space, and comically too. However, as rendered, it comes off more as a cheap shot at something foreign...
7 Jan
JDG: Hello Dr. Debito, I wondered if you had chanced upon this article in the JT: Now boastful Japan not really in tune with what visitors want, foreign expert warns | The Japan Times http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/25/national/now-boastful-japan-really-tune-visitors-want-foreign-expert-warns/ It's really interesting, since it was written about a guy who has no connection (AFAIK) to the debate about NJ human rights, and is not a scholar of Japan. However, he has independently reached a conclusion that you yourself have expressed several times on Debito.org; Japanese deciding amongst themselves what NJ want/need/have difficulty with, is a sign of cultural arrogance aimed at controlling NJ. I think this is important external reinforcement of your point of view. It shows that you are not alone and paranoid (as the apologists always try to portray you), but rather shows that in a totally different field of expertise, another observer has witnessed the same phenomena as you. There are many interesting points that he raises, and I agree with him, but the main takeaway from the article is that the concept of 'omotenashi' is being used as a system of control over NJ in Japan (and we know how much the Japanese establishment believes that NJ need to be controlled), whilst at the same time serving a very racist nihonjinrongiron function of reassuring the Japanese themselves that they are unique and superior to NJ.
2 Jan
As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the Top Ten human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order: 10) WARMONGER SHINTARO ISHIHARA LOSES HIS DIET SEAT This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012), while gritting our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship. However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, he resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater... Read the next nine and five bubble-unders below with links to sources:
1 Jan
Table of Contents: 1) DEBITO.ORG ELECTION SPECIAL DECEMBER 2014: A clear LDP victory, normalizing Japan’s Rightward swing 2) Japan Election 2014: “Why taboo?” Grotesque foreigner-bashing cartoon by Hiranuma’s Jisedai Party, features “Taboo Pig” sliced in half over NJ welfare recipients “issue” 3) Grauniad: Police in Japan place anti-Korean extremist group Zaitokukai on watchlist; good news, if enforced 4) Holiday Tangent: Hanif Kureishi on UK’s Enoch Powell: How just one racist-populist politician can color the debate in an entire society 5) Quiet NJ Success Story: Go game master and naturalized citizen Seigen Go dies at age 100 …and finally… 6) My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014
25 Dec
As a Holiday Tangent, the Guardian offers an excellent account of life for migrants, immigrants, and citizens of color in a society in flux (Great Britain in the 1970s, as it adjusted to the effects of a post-empire Commonwealth). It depicts well how one racist-populist politician, Enoch Powell, could affect an entire society, and though fear-mongering invective effectively accelerate the othering and subordination of residents. But that was just one person. Imagine the effects of a proliferation of Enoch Powellesque racists and fearmongerers throughout a society, such as the leader of a party (Hiranuma Takeo), the governor of the capital city (like Ishihara Shintaro), or the Prime Minister of an entire country (like Abe Shinzo), or Japan's entire national police force (see here, here, and here in particular). Enoch had his effects, and Kureishi can now look back with some degree of "the past is a foreign country" relief. Japan cannot. Not right now. Kureishi: I was 14 in 1968 and one of the horrors of my teenage years was Enoch Powell. For a mixed-race kid, this stiff ex-colonial zealot – with his obscene, grand guignol talk of whips, blood, excreta, urination and wide-eyed piccaninnies – was a monstrous, scary bogeyman. I remember his name being whispered by my uncles for fear I would overhear. I grew up near Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, in the shadow of the second world war. We walked past bomb sites everyday. My grandmother had been a “fire watcher” and talked about the terror of the nightly Luftwaffe raids. With his stern prophet’s nostalgia, bulging eyes and military moustache, Powell reminded us of Hitler, and the pathology of his increasing number of followers soon became as disquieting as his pronouncements. At school, Powell’s name soon become one terrifying word – Enoch. As well as being an insult, it began to be used with elation. “Enoch will deal with you lot,” and, “Enoch will soon be knocking on your door, pal.” “Knock, knock, it’s Enoch,” people would say as they passed. Neighbours in the London suburbs began to state with some defiance: “Our family is with Enoch.” More skinheads appeared... The influence of Powell, this ghost of the empire, was not negligible; he moved British politics to the right and set the agenda we address today. It’s impossible not to summon his ghost now that immigration is once again the subject of national debate. Politicians attack minorities when they want to impress the public with their toughness as “truth-tellers”. And Powell’s influence extended far. In 1976 – the year before the Clash’s “White Riot” – and eight years after Powell’s major speeches, one of my heroes, Eric Clapton, ordered an audience to vote for Powell to prevent Britain becoming a “black colony”. Clapton said that, “Britain should get the wogs out, get the coons out,” before repeatedly shouting the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.
22 Dec
According to the Grauniad (article below), hate group Zaitokukai (which has been part of a group publicly advocating the killing of Japan's generational Korean residents, the Zainichi) has been placed on a National Police Agency "watchlist" as a threat to law and order. That is good news. However, I wonder if it will deter Zaitokukai's bullying activities, where they can verbally abuse, knock down, and even punch (watch the video to the end) an old man who counterdemonstrates against them: Where were the police then? (Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or then? Or within the movie Yasukuni?) As Debito.org has argued before, the Japanese police have a soft touch for extreme-rightists, but take a hard line against extreme(?) leftists. So placing this particular group on a watch list is a good thing. As having laws against violence and threats to law and order is a good thing. Alas, if those laws are not enforced by Japan's boys in blue, that makes little difference. We will have to wait and see whether we'll see a softening of Zaitokukai's rhetoric or Sakurai Makoto's bullying activities. Meanwhile, according to the Mainichi Shinbun at the very bottom, local governments (as opposed to the foot-dragging PM Abe Cabinet) are considering laws against hate speech (well, they're passing motions calling for one, anyway). That's good too, considering that not long ago they were actually passing panicky resolutions against allowing Permanent Residents (particularly those same Zainichi) the right to vote in local elections. Methinks that if the world (e.g., the United Nations) wasn't making an issue of Japan's rising hate speech (what with the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics and all), this would probably not be happening. In other words, the evidence suggests that it's less an issue of seeing the Zainichi as fellow residents and human beings deserving equal rights, more an issue of Japan avoiding international embarrassment. I would love to be proven wrong on this, but the former is a much more sustainable push than the latter.
15 Dec
In the Japanese media run-up to this election, there was enough narrative of doomsaying for opponents to PM Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), what with Japan's Left in disarray and Japan's Right ascendant after 2013's electoral rout. The LDP was to "win big by default" in a "landslide victory". The day after the election, we can say that yes, Abe won, but "big" is a bit of a relative term when you look at the numbers... CONCLUSIONS: The Far-Right (Jisedai) suffered most in this election, while the Far-Left (JCP) picked up more protest votes than the Center-Left (DPJ). My read is that disillusioned Japanese voters, if they bothered to vote at all, saw the LDP/KMT as possibly more centrist in contrast to the other far-right parties, and hedged their bets. With the doomsaying media awarding Abe the election well in advance, why would people waste their vote on a losing party unless they felt strongly enough about any non-issue being put up this election? Nevertheless, the result will not be centrist. With this election, Japan's lurch to the Right has been complete enough to become normalized. PM Abe will probably be able to claim a consolidated mandate for his alleged fiscal plans, but in reality his goals prioritize revising Japan's "Peace Constitution" and eroding other firewalls between Japan's "church and state" issues (e.g., Japan's remilitarization, inserting more Shinto/Emperor worship mysticism in Japan's laws, requiring more patriotism and "love of country" in Japan's education curriculum, and reinforcing anything Japan's corporatists and secretive bureaucrats don't want the public to know as "state secrets"). All of this bodes ill for NJ residents of Japan, as even Japanese citizens who have "foreign experiences" are to be treated as suspicious (and disqualified for jobs) in areas that the GOJ deems worthy of secrecy. And as Dr. Jeff Kingston at Temple University in Japan notes, even the guidelines for determining what falls into that category are secret. Nevertheless, it is clear that diversity of opinion, experience, or nationality/ethnicity is not what Japan's planners want for Japan's future.
12 Dec
As everyone in Japan probably knows (as they cover their ears due to the noise), it's election time again, and time for the sound trucks and stump speeches to come out in force until December 14. And with that, sadly, comes the requisite foreigner bashing so prevalent in recent years in Japan's election and policy campaigns (see for example here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Here's 2014's version, from "The Party for Future Generations" (Jisedai no Tou; frontman: racist xenophobe Dietmember from Okayama 3-ku Hiranuma Takeo), courtesy Debito.org Reader XY: XY: Today I ran across this election campaign video that isn't as bad as the usual CM fare, but seems to suggest that 8 times as many foreigners as native Japanese are receiving welfare hand-outs. Here's the lyrics (from the video's own description): DEBITO: Debito.org is concerned about this normalization of NJ bashing -- to the point of believing that blaming foreigners for just about anything gains you political capital. Look how this alleged "NJ welfare cheats" issue has become one of Jisedai's four (well, three, actually, since the first issue mentioned is a grumble instead of a substantive claim) planks in their platform. Even though, as we have discussed here earlier, this is a non-issue. Link to CM and screen captures enclosed with analysis.
8 Dec
Yomiuri Obit: Go master Seigen Go, heralded as the strongest professional player in the Showa era, died of old age early Sunday morning at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 100. Go was born in 1914 in Fujian Province, China. His talent at go was recognized at an early age, and in 1928 he came to Japan at the age of 14. Go became a disciple of Kensaku Segoe, a seventh-dan player, and was quickly promoted to third dan the following year. He was granted the ninth dan in 1950 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1979. Submitter JK: IMO there's more going on here than just a typical obituary -- to me, the article is an NJ success story. BTW, it's a shame the article doesn't detail Go's decision to naturalize at 65 instead of earlier (e.g. 1950 when he reached ninth dan). Debito: Quite. We hear all sorts of provincial navel-gazing whenever somebody foreign dominates a "Japanese" sport like sumo (to the point where the Sumo Association has to change to rules to count naturalized Japanese as "foreign", in violation of the Nationality Law). Maybe there was that kind of soul-searching when Go ascended, I don't know (it was two generations ago). But it is a remarkable legacy to leave behind, and I wonder if there are any Go-nerds out there who might give us some more background. Like JK, I think there's a deeper story here.
5 Dec
OPENING: I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on. After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning. Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. Maybe even governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.” Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed, if you happened to be male). Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money, and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in. But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much. Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan... Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/
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