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Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
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/
4 Dec
Table of Contents: 1) Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights 2014 on raising public awareness of NJ human rights (full site scanned with analysis: it’s underwhelming business as usual) 2) “Japanese Only” nightclubs “W” in Nagoya and newly-opening “CLUB Leopard” in Hiroshima 3) Japan Procter & Gamble’s racialized laundry detergent ad: “Cinderella and the Nose Ballroom Dance” 4) Mainichi: Thousands of anti-hate speech demonstrators take to Tokyo streets Nov 2, 2014 5) Louis Carlet et al. on the misunderstood July 2014 Supreme Court Ruling denying welfare benefits to NJ: “no rights” does not mean automatic NJ denials 6) University of Hawaii at Manoa Center for Japanese Studies presents, “Japan’s Visible Minorities: Appearance and Prejudice in Japanese Society”, by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito And finally… 7) Japan Times JBC 81, Nov 5 2014, “Does social change in Japan come from the top down or bottom up?”
30 Nov
DEBITO.ORG READER AM: Debito, I saw an internet banner ad on the asahi.com website that along with a cartoon figure, posed the question "gaikokujin no jinken mamotteru?" [Are you protecting the human rights of NJ?] I thought I must have been seeing things, but clicking through I landed on a Japan Ministry of Justice page offering advice on how to protect the rights of non-Japanese. http://www.moj.go.jp/JINKEN/jinken04_00101.html It seems that this is a campaign is part of Japan's push to ready the country for the 2020 Olympics, addressing issues such as ryokan denying service to non Japanese. Definitely a nice change from the focus on hooliganism leading up to the World Cup in 2002. DEBITO: I would agree. It's much better to see Non-Japanese as people with rights than as rapacious and devious criminals who deserve no rights because, according to the Ministry of Justice's own surveys, NJ aren't as equally human as Japanese. And this is not the first antidiscrimination campaign by the Japanese Government, in the guise of the mostly-potemkin Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu, or BOHR) nominally assigned to protect human rights in Japan (which, as Debito.org has pointed out before, have put out some pretty biased and insensitive campaigns specifically regarding NJ residents in Japan). And did I mention the Japanese Government in general has a habit of portraying important international issues in very biased ways if there's ever a chance of NJ anywhere getting equal treatment or having any alleged power over Japanese people? It's rarely a level playing field or a fair fight in Japan's debate arenas or awareness campaigns. So now that it's 2014, and another influential Olympics looms, how does the BOHR do this time? (And I bother with this periodic evaluation because the Japanese Government DOES watch what we do here at Debito.org, and makes modifications after sufficient embarrassments...) I'll take screen captures of the whole site, since they have a habit of disappearing after appearing here. Here's the top page: CONCLUSION: Again, much talk about NJ and their lives here with minimized involvement of the NJ themselves. As my friend noted, it's better this than having NJ openly denigrated or treated as a social threat. However, having them being treated as visitors, or as animals that need pacifying through Wajin interlocutors, is not exactly what I'd call terribly progressive steps, or even good social science. But that's what the BOHR, as I mentioned above, keeps doing year after year, and it keeps their line items funded and their underwhelming claims of progressive action to the United Nations window-dressed.
26 Nov
Two more places to add to the roster of "Japanese Only" Exclusionary Establishments in Japan, and this time, they are places that Japan's youth frequent: nightclubs (nothing like catching them when they're young and possibly more open-minded...) 1) Nightclub "W" 名古屋市中区栄3-10-13 Wビル 6F&7F TEL 052-242-5705 Contributor SM writes: Last night I was in downtown Nagoya (Sakae) and I saw this sign posted at the entrance of a large dance club called "W." There was a very buff bouncer beside the sign. I approached him and asked if I'd be allowed to go in. He apologized and said no. I asked if it was because of dress code or because I was foreign. (I was in a nice outfit, having gone out for dinner with my husband earlier.) He said it was because I was foreign. I asked why this was a policy. He said it was the rule of management, and he had to enforce it. I took some photos (although he had said no photos allowed.) He didn't try to stop me from taking the photos, we said good night, and went on our way. 2) CLUB Leopard in Hiroshima (opening December 5) 住所 広島市中区流川町7-6 第五白菱ビルB1F TEL 082-569-7777 It also has a pretty impressive website: http://clubleopard.jp, and here is a very impressive number of rules that all patrons must follow, including those NJ who apparenty can't be patrons: "DO NOT ENTER NON-JAPANESE"
20 Nov
Debito.org Reader: Dear Dr. Arudou, Thank you for your continued work raising awareness on issues of race here in Japan. Have you seen this latest ad campaign for Bold detergent, [which retells the Cinderella story with exaggerated noses on their Caucasian characters]? Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjFsvkm7pws Campaign website: http://boldbutoukai.com/ Debito: After ANA airlines got pretty badly stung for its "change the image of Japan" (into a Caucasian Robert Redford lookalike) ad earlier this year, Toshiba got slapped for their racialized home bread maker ad, and McDonald's Japan faced enough pressure that they terminated their "Mr. James" burger campaign early, one wonders whether Japan's advertisers will ever learn their lesson that grounding their product in racialized stereotypes is pretty bad form. Imagine if you will some overseas company marketing an "Asian" product that was so delicious, it made your incisors go all "Asian buck teeth" reaching out to eat it? No doubt Japan's patrol of internet police would soon start howling racism and lobbying the company (and Japan's missions abroad) to send out protests and orders to withdraw the ad campaign. People making fun of Asian "slanted eyes" has been criticized before, and withdrawn with apologies. So what about this? Do you think Procter & Gamble HQ in the US would approve of this?
15 Nov
Good news. With the upswell in hate speech in Japan, particularly against Zainichi Koreans, we have social antibodies kicking in, with public counterdemonstrations on Nov. 2 to say that this behavior is unacceptable. Of course, this is only the second time that the anti-racists have demonstrated, as opposed to the many, many, many times the pro-racism forces have turned out on the streets. But it is a positive step that Debito.org salutes, and I hope that they will take a more proactive (as opposed to reactive) approach to set the public agenda. That agenda should be: punitive criminal laws against hate speech and racial discrimination in Japan. For the lack of legislation in Japan means that the xenophobic elements can essentially do as they please (short of breaking already-established laws involving more generic violence towards others) to normalize hatred in Japan. And they will probably succeed in doing so unless it is illegal. My fear is that opponents of public hatred might think that just counter-demonstrating is sufficient, and if hate speech ever dies down, they'll think problem solved. As the United Nations agrees, it won't be.
12 Nov
Two weeks ago Debito.org wrote on the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Japan's ruling that NJ have "no right" to social welfare (seikatsu hogo) because they are not citizens. I have been hearing rumblings that the media have been misinterpreting this ruling due to linguistics and politics, and that an adjudged no legal right has not resulted in denials. I submit to you the corrections from Tozen Union's Louis Carlet, with a followup from another Debito.org Commenter that are simply too good to languish within comments. Nevertheless, as noted in that earlier Debito.org post, the point remains that there are some very nasty and xenophobic people in Japan's political system who are capitalizing on what people think the Supreme Court said. Which may mean, in this increasingly ultra-rightist political climate, that the effect might ultimately be the same. CARLET: [Japan Times'] Otake’s article is mistaken on two major points. First, the Supreme Court in no way found foreigners ineligible for welfare. Second, the ruling, far from landmark, upheld the status quo. The highest court overturned the High Court’s actual landmark ruling which said that foreigners have “quasi rights” to welfare. Up until then foreigners never had the “guaranteed right” (kenri) to welfare but they were and are eligible just like Japanese citizens. I think the problem is mistranslation. Kenri means a guaranteed right whereas “no right” in English suggests ineligible. The only difference arising from not having the kenri is that if the welfare office rejects an application from a citizen then the Japanese person can appeal the decision to the office. A foreigner with no kenri for welfare cannot appeal at the office but only in court. That is the ONLY difference between how foreigners and Japanese are treated by the welfare office. Foreigners get welfare just like Japanese do. In fact the plaintiff currently gets welfare although originally rejected. OSFISH: The clarification that needs to be repeated over and over again is that “welfare” here does not mean “welfare” in its biggest sense of all social expenditures, such as pensions, health costs, unemployment insurance and so on. It does not mean shakai hoken in any sense at all. Welfare in this limited sense is a means-tested benefit for people who have fallen through the gaps of insurance-based social protection because they cannot contribute, or are not under the umbrella of a contributor. The main recipients are long-term disabled, single mothers (abandoned by their partners) and elderly with inadequate or no pension rights. It is a completely different system to shakai hoken and operates on a different logic of desert and eligibility. Broadly speaking, the same social insurance/social assistance split operates in large parts of the industrialised world. Japan more or less imported its system from Europe. To repeat: welfare here does not mean shakai hoken. Please rest easy, and do NOT consider opting out based on this ruling; it’s got nothing legally or logically to do with shakai hoken. And in any case, welfare is not being taken away. People in dire straits need to know that.[...] [According to this GOJ source] 66% of all recipients are Koreans – almost all probably zainichi SPRs: a group that really stretches the concept of “foreign”, I’m sure you’ll agree. Of those Koreans, and quite disproportionately compared to other groups, around half of the recipients are old people. I would hazard a guess that this is a strong reflection of the economic disenfranchisement of the first post-war generation of zainichi. These are people who were disproportionately not properly or poorly integrated into the economy and welfare system. (For what it’s worth, incomer “foreigners” claim less than their “share”, but this shouldn’t be too surprising or interpreted as anything meaningful, as residence status is attached to visa status, is attached to good evidence of financial stability. Of course there are going to be fewer incomer recipients.) Let’s combine this fact that Koreans make up the bulk of recipients with the far-right party’s suggestion that “foreign” recipients should naturalise or leave. For a westerner claiming social assistance, it would be very hard indeed to naturalise if you could not demonstrate financial stability. It’s pretty much out of the question. However, for zainichi Koreans, that financial stability condition doesn’t apply. The rules for SPR naturalisation are not strict. So it looks to me like an attempt to coerce elderly impoverished zainichi Koreans into giving up their nationality and identity. That’s why this relatively small amount of budget money matters to these thoroughly unpleasant people.
8 Nov
Forgot to put this up: Speaking at University of Hawaii at Manoa Campus November 7, 2014, on my doctoral research.
6 Nov
Opening: This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up? By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval. By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support. Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course... (Your thoughts on the question welcome here and at the JT site.)
5 Nov
Table of Contents: THE WEIRD EFFECTS OF JAPAN’S INTERNATIONAL BULLYING 1) From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; JINF Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas 2) Georgetown prof Dr. Kevin Doak honored by Sakurai Yoshiko’s JINF group for concept of “civic nationalism” (as opposed to ethnic nationalism) in Japan 3) Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype 4) Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys 5) Two recent JT columns (domestic & international authors) revealing the damage done by PM Abe to Japan’s int’l image … and finally… 6) Japan Times JBC column 80: “Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents”, on MOFA propagandizing re Hague Treaty on Child Abductions
2 Nov
Two good JT columns recently indicate how gaiatsu is becoming one of the last tools left for anyone to counter Japan's Right-Wing Swing. One from a long-time columnist (Hugh Cortazzi) who has written for decades about Japan with a diplomat's charm. But he's recently been quite undiplomatic in tone when assessing the PM Abe Administration: CORTAZZI: Extreme nationalism is a threat to democratic institutions and values everywhere. Recent reports in the British media about the growing influence of right-wing extremists in Japan have caused deep concern among friends of Japan here. [...] In the eyes of Japanese right-wing nationalists, the only crime committed by Japan’s military leaders was that they failed. The rightists lack ethical principles and are opposed to democratic institutions.[...] It seems that Japan has reverted to one-party government. This could lead to autocracy and the infringement of human rights. DEBITO: Quite strong language from a former ambassador to Japan. Now check this out, from a poli-sci professor at Housei University. It's even stronger: YAMAGUCHI: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his intention to counter China, has reiterated that Japan shares such Western values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. He has also reportedly proclaimed Japan’s intention to seek permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council as part of an attempt to expand his diplomacy on a global scale. Such remarks are an indication that his stupidity and egocentrism are beyond redemption. [...] It is hardly possible that [the UNSC] would welcome a nation whose leader denies its wartime aggression and atrocities. The head of a Cabinet whose members sympathize with racial discrimination and historical revisionism can hardly win international trust by merely voicing his support for freedom and democracy.[...] What he wanted to say, I presume, was that Japan’s freedom and democracy could be shoved aside when the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism spreads like wild fire. It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country. It is the job of members of the media and academics to tell people immersed in narcissism that they, in fact, have ugly aspects. DEBITO: It's nice when a Japanese academic in his field makes statements like "the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism", because at least he can get away with saying them without being accused of racism, cultural imperialism, or ignorance. When Japan's media follows a trend into intolerance to extremes not seen much in Japan's Postwar Era, it's time for denunciations to happen. Because they're not going to happen from within at this point. They must come from without. And to that end, Debito.org is happy to report when others are seeing it that way too.
28 Oct
JT: But the July ruling [that found permanent residents of Japan legally ineligible for public assistance] has given momentum to some forces, including those harboring anti-foreigner sentiments and advocates of cutting “waste” in government spending, to try to limit foreigners’ access to welfare. The minor opposition party Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), co-founded by ultranationalist Shintaro Ishihara, plans to submit bills to the extraordinary Diet session that would give destitute foreigners a year to choose between two extremes: becoming naturalized citizens or leaving the country. The move follows an August proposal, by a team of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic party tasked with eliminating wasteful state spending, to restrict welfare assistance to foreigners. “The welfare outlays to foreigners run up to ¥122 billion per year,” the Aug. 4 report by the LDP team said. “We must say it is difficult to maintain the status quo.” The team also said the government “should create guidelines (on public assistance) for foreigners who arrive in Japan, and consider deporting those who cannot maintain a living.” JT commenter: "According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s total social welfare benefits reached ¥103.487 trillion in fiscal 2010, topping ¥100 trillion for the first time." Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2012/12/12/editorials/footing-for-social-welfare/ Okay, so in Japan, the total welfare budget is 103.487 trillion yen. But only 0.122 trillion yen of that goes to foreigners, so that means that the other 103.365 trillion yen are going to Japanese people! Here, let's do some math: 103.487 trillion yen / 127 million Japanese = Each Japanese person is, on average, sucking 814,858 yen per year from the welfare system! Now let's do the math for foreigners: 122 billion yen / 2 million foreigners = Each foreigner is, on average, sucking 61,000 yen per year from the welfare system! Japan's GDP is 536,122,300,000,000 yen (over 536 TRILLION yen). So 122 billion yen is less than 0.03% of Japan's economy. Basically, Shintaro Ishihara with his Jisedai no Tou, and the LDP, are wasting countless hours of time on something that, at best, will save Japan 0.03% of its GDP. To make an analogy, I make about $28,000 a year. So this is the same as me OBSESSING and LOSING SLEEP AT NIGHT over how I can save $8 per year.
23 Oct
Kyodo: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other. The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names. Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned. During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.” Friend: I'm sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan's hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they "hate Japan", then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully. Debito: I disagree. Sakurai is a bully. I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation. And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did. People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto's actions. He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city. And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed. Good. Fire with fire. Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena. My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example. It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did. Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out. UPDATE OCT 23: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto has just come out, according to J-Cast.com, in favor of making the Regular and Special Permanent Residents into one unified category. Now it's time for me to make some qualifications...
19 Oct
Dovetailing with our previous blog entry, I noticed within the ranks of Sakurai Yoshiko's ultraconservative group Japan Institute for National Fundamentals the Guest Researcher Dr. Kevin Doak of Georgetown University. He was honored by them earlier this year: Yomiuri: A professor of Georgetown University in Washington has been selected for his study of nationalism in modern Japan as the first recipient of a private award established to promote research on Japan by foreign scholars. “It truly is a privilege and gives me the great confidence to continue my study,” said Prof. Kevin Doak at a July 8 ceremony in Tokyo to announce recipients of the first Terada Mari Japan Study Award established by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a Tokyo-based think tank. Doak, 54, received the Japan Study Award, top prize, for his 2009 book “A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan” (published in Japanese under the title “Ogoe de Utae ‘Kimigayo’ o”) and other works on Japan. In the book, he says English-language media do not necessarily provide correct explanations about nationalism in Japan. For instance, the book discusses a growing trend of “civic nationalism” in modern-day Japan, a concept opposite to ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism, Doak writes, is based not on ethnic roots but on civic engagement such as having a sense of belonging to the Japanese community. Academic colleague: "Kevin Doak is a serious scholar, but I don't know what has been happening with him in recent years. The Japanese translation of this book is entitled 大声で歌え、君が代 or Lustily Sing the Kimigayo, and it is being marketed as a polemic in favour of patriotism, not as a detached academic tome. In part it seems the book has been hijacked by a publisher with an agenda -- the two-star comment on Amazon Jp is instructive -- but then how did Kevin allow them to do this? It would be interesting to compare the English and Japanese texts, if only life were not so short. This case bears comparison with the recent hoo-hah about Henry Scott-Stokes' book, another publisher-driven right-wing venture." I of course respect the views of an academic colleague who has the training, knowledge, and rigor to express his views in a measured, balanced, and well-researched way. My comment is that his concept of civic nationalism (according to the Yomiuri writeup above) not being "based on ethnic roots, but on civic engagement such as having a sense of belonging to the Japanese community", doesn't quite square with my research on how "Japaneseness" is enforced not only through "Japanese Only" signs and rules, but also through the structure and enforcement of Japan's legal and administrative systems. That I believe goes beyond civic engagement and into issues of ethnicity (and racialization processes). Perhaps someday we'll have a chat about that.
15 Oct
It's the next natural step of Japan's Extreme Right: jingoism and terrorism. They feel empowered enough in present-day Japanese society (especially in the wake of the Asahi retracting some articles on Japan's "Comfort Women" wartime sexual slavery) to start making larger threats to bodily harm. No longer are they satisfied with being bully boys during demonstrations (beating up Leftists with relative impunity, see here and here) -- as seen in the article below they have to hound from livelihood those who oppose them using nail bombs. The tactics behind the practitioners of hate speech have morphed into real power to conduct ideological witch hunts. And it won't stop there -- the most powerful elements of the Extreme Right are gearing up like never before in the Postwar Era to rewrite history overseas too (see Yomiuri advert below). The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize did not go to people advocating for the conservation of Article 9 in Japan's "Peace Constitution" is more evidence that the outside world still hasn't caught up with what's really going on with Japan's Right Wing Swing. Mainichi: Two universities have received letters threatening to harm their students unless the institutions dismiss a pair of instructors, who as Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporters had written articles about the wartime comfort women issue. Yomiuri Ad: Now, more than ever, Japan needs to tell the world the facts about this matter and dispel entrenched misperceptions about comfort women. Instead, the Foreign Ministry will build “Japan House” public relations hubs in major cities overseas to promote Japanese cuisine and anime as a pillar of the “strategic proliferation of information abroad.” Does the ministry have its priorities in the right order? A task force charged with protecting Japan’s reputation and directly controlled by the prime minister should be set up, and a minister and dedicated secretariat placed in charge of handling this matter. A united effort by the whole government is required—urgently.
11 Oct
JT: After years of pressure from foreign governments, and enormous efforts by “left-behind” parents to have access to children abducted to and from Japan after marital separation or divorce, the Japanese government became a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April. That is, of course, good news. Now the issue becomes one of enforcement. And to that end, this column has serious doubts that the Japanese government will honor this treaty in good faith. These doubts are based on precedent. After all, Japan famously ignores human-rights treaties. For example, nearly 20 years after ratifying the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination, and nearly 30 since acceding to the U.N. Convention on Discrimination against Women, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, nor a statute guaranteeing workplace gender equality backed by enforceable criminal penalties. We have also seen Japan caveat its way out of enforcing the Hague before signing. For example, as noted in previous JT articles (e.g., “Solving parental child abduction problem no piece of cake” by Colin P.A. Jones, Mar. 1, 2011), the debate on custody has been muddied with ungrounded fears that returned children would, for example, face domestic violence (DV) from the foreign parent. DV in Japan is being redefined to include nontactile acts such as “yelling,” “angry looks” and “silent stares” (particularly from men). It is within this context that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently issued a pamphlet titled “What is the Hague Convention?” Available in Japanese (www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000033409.pdf) and English (www.mofa.go.jp/files/000034153.pdf), it offers a 12-page manga in which a Japanese father carefully explains the Hague Convention to his Japanese-French son. The pamphlet has sparked considerable controversy...
10 Oct
Table of Contents: HATE SPEECH AND THE BLAME GAME 1) Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law 2) Asahi Editorial: PM Abe and his Cabinet picks must clarify stance on Zaitokukai, racism 3) JT on hate speech and GOJ’s connections to organized crime: “Yakuza do what Abe Cabinet’s Yamatani can’t” 4) Blame Game #432: J-Cast.com reports Mt. Fuji is covered in human poop, speculates due to increase in foreign tourists OUTRIGHT MEANNESS AND DECEPTION 5) JT: Ishihara and Hiranuma’s conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy NJ a la July Supreme Court decision 6) 2014 MOFA pamphlet explaining Hague Treaty on Child Abductions to J citizens (full text with synopsis, including child-beating NJ father on cover & victimized J mothers throughout) 7) SCMP (Hong Kong) on MOFA Hague Pamphlet: “‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists”, cites Debito.org (UPDATE: Also makes Huffington Post Japan in Japanese & Al Jazeera) GOOD NEWS 8 ) Quoted in BBC Brasil (original Portuguese & machine E translation): “Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets” 9) Debito receives his Ph.D. Sept. 18, 2014, at Meiji Gakuin University ceremony. Photo included. … AND FINALLY… (I forgot to append my column to the Newsletter last month, so here are two of them this month) 10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 78, August 14, 2014, “Past victimhood blinds Japan to present-day racial discrimination” 11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 79, on Japan’s Visible Minorities, Sept. 4, 2014 (version with links to sources)
5 Oct
JT: In most countries, police officers and criminals are supposed to be on opposite sides of the law, especially the higher up the chain of command you go, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doesn’t appear to think this is necessary. Last month, photographs surfaced showing several members of Abe’s new Cabinet socializing with members of an anti-Korean hate group known as Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (more commonly known as Zaitokukai). The appearance of such images raises some disturbing issues. [...] At a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Sept. 25, [Cabinet member] Yamatani [Eriko] denied that the weekly’s article was true and alleged she had been misquoted. However, when she was asked to publicly repudiate Zaitokukai, she refused — three times. Shukan Bunshun last week published a follow-up article and included an audio recording of its interview with her, suggesting Yamatani did indeed lie at her news conference. It also added a proverb to its coverage: “All thieves start as liars.” But lying to the press is not a crime, nor is hate speech illegal in Japan. Hate crimes are not illegal either. That said, generating profit for organized crime is something else...
2 Oct
Continuing with the hate speech theme (and the perpetrators of it in Japan, e.g., Zaitokukai), here is an editorial from the Asahi decrying that support of this group (or at least the unwillingness to disavow or take measures against their spreading public hatred of minorities) appears to reside in the highest levels of government. As the person being cited, Yamatani Eriko, is the nation's top cop in the current PM Abe Cabinet, this information bodes ill for any legal measures or remedies against hate speech in Japan, something the UN recently advised Japan to adopt. BTW, this is the same Yamatani Eriko who spoke out against a memorial against Japan's wartime "Comfort Women" sexual slavery in Palisades Park, New Jersey (not the Glendale, California monument), including the following "explanation" in two languages on her blog of May 6, 2012 (courtesy of MS), with the requisite denialism: Conclusion: "Moreover, it cannot be tolerated that Japanese children are bullied and felt sorrowful due to a lie that Japan conducted the abduction of 200,000 girls which is not true at all, and that the lie has been spread throughout the world." These are the people who currently lead Japan. Is there any more doubt about the claim of Japan's right-wing swing?
28 Sep
Continuing on with the theme of Japan's Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don't want to take responsibility for), this blog entry talks about the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place -- they're usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them (article included). This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese (article). And it's not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon (article). Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ (article). Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can't say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on (article), what with the massacre of Korean residents back in 1923. To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed (article). That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples) (article). So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government's proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan's current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.
24 Sep
Continuing our occasional series on "The Blame Game" (I've written about this before in the Japan Times), where embarrassing and inconvenient domestic problems are blamed on foreigners, here's a report by a Japanese media source that Japan's venerable symbolic Mt. Fuji is covered in human hiker crap. Fine. I've hiked up many mountains, and I'm sure a hike up Fuji would challenge many an intestine. But then the article headlines that it might be due to the increase in foreign tourists (particularly Chinese and Koreans), parroting internet speculation. Not so fine. It does add "balance" by saying that others have said that Japanese also do it. But again, that's not what the headline says, and you'd have to read further to get that. The story should in fact be that people are bashing foreigners, not that NJ pooping on Fuji might be happening. Click bait is one thing, but the media practice of picking on foreigners because they are too weak in Japan's media to respond against group defamation (as I discuss in my doctoral dissertation; more on that later, sorry) is another. Japan needs stronger anti-defamation leagues (we at Debito.org have tried; remember McDonald's Japan's "Mr. James" campaign?) to nip this sort of thing in the bud.
19 Sep
I'm very happy to announce that yesterday I formally received my Ph.D. in International Studies from Meiji Gakuin University in a ceremony on their Shirogane Campus. Here's a photo:
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