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Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
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.
31 May
This time I'm talking about the geopolitics and historical amnesia behind PM Abe's April visit to the United States, and what all the misdirected fanfare means not only for Asia as a region, but also NJ residents in Japan. Here's the opening: JT JBC: As I’ve often written, I’m a big proponent of the historical record — if for no other reason, so we can look back at the past and learn from our mistakes. That has been a major issue for the current Japanese government. As hundreds of historians have publicly stated, the Shinzo Abe administration has been systematically working to deny (or in Abe-speak, “beautify”) Japan’s worst wartime ugliness, on an increasingly obvious quest to reconfigure Japan as a military power. In other words, the right is marching the country back to the Japan that nearly annihilated itself 70 years ago. But I’m even more disappointed with the historical amnesia of the Americans. Abe’s standing-ovation tour of the United States in April, during which the two allies established the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, has basically helped Abe further destabilize the region. That’s awful news. The U.S., Japan’s strongest ally and chaperone for most of its foreign policy, is, given Japan’s powerless leftist opposition, basically the only one who can stop this. [But they won't. In fact, they've done exactly the opposite by publicly legitimizing Japan's march back to militarism...]
30 May
Table of Contents: HOW BAD IT’S GETTING 1)  Arimura Haruko, Minister for the Empowerment of Women: Immigration is a “Pandora’s Box”, offers weird Team Abe arguments to justify 2)  Online media outlet Japan Today acquired by right-wing Fuji Media Holdings, meaning Japan Times is last E-media news organization independent of J-media conglomerates 3)  J Times Kingston on Abe’s intimidation of media: You know it’s getting bad when even apologist bigot Gregory Clark complains about Rightists targeting him 4)  Debito.org Dejima Award #6 to Mishima Village, Kagoshima Prefecture, for subsidizing outsiders to move and live there — unless they are foreign 5)  Japan at Expo Milano 2015: Official display claims Japan is a land of “harmonious diversity” (in English). SRSLY? Yep. Let’s parse. 6)  Tangent: NYT Op-Ed: Foreigners Are Attacking … American TV, within US TV programs. Contrast with Japan. … and finally … 7)  Japan Times JBC 87 May 4, 2015: Interview with M.G. Sheftall: “Japan-U.S. effort to tell Kamikaze suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise”
27 May
As Japan's depopulation proceeds and the countryside continues to empty out, we have seen ruralities offering FREE land if people will only build, move, and live there. Now we have another place offering even more generous terms. From The Japan Times, May 25, 2015: "The village of Mishima, composed of the small islands of Takeshima, Iojima and Kuroshima, has been trying to lure people to move there by offering the choice of a calf or a ¥500,000 lump sum, plus another ¥100,000 to help with moving expenses." But then... "Of all the emails the village received in the two-week period between the end of April and mid-May, 90 percent came from Serbians, Croatians and Brazilians, a local official said Monday,.. The official said that eventually, for various reasons, the village decided not to accept any of the applicants... “People are not aware that life here is not as simple as they imagined,” he said, adding that the language barrier may lead to problems of communication." Oh. Suddenly, life there is tough. So tough they'll turn people away, sight unseen. If those people happen to be foreign. How open-minded. I assume the next argument will be that if the place becomes overrun with foreigners, they will vote to secede from Japan. Seriously, this argument has been made before. So allow me to award the Village of Mishima in Kagoshima Prefecture a coveted Debito.org Dejima Award, granted only to those who display eye-blinkingly stupefying bigotry and closed-mindedness that defies all logic, reason, and entreaty.
22 May
Now let's get to the narrative by Team Abe on immigration. Despite calling for the expansion of the officially-sanctioned system of often-slavery that the "Trainee" Program constitutes (even cynically saying that we need cheap temporary foreign labor for constructing the 2020 Olympics), and the recognized need for caregivers below, we have a government official below charged with empowering people (a worthy goal in itself) also advocating the disempowerment of others -- not giving people who would be contributing to Japan any stake in its society. That's one thing. Another is how this Minister for the Empowerment of Women Arimura Haruko is justifying this organized disenfranchisement of NJ. Despite being married to a NJ herself, she uses him as a fulcrum (his family in Malaysia forcing their Indonesian nanny to sleep on the floor), alleging that mistreatment of immigrants is something that naturally happens (okay, without their proper enfranchisement, yes) and that it would be "unthinkable in Japan" (oh, is she as a government official ignorant of the much bigger abuses of that "Trainee" program that have been going on for more than two decades)? Completing the effect of working backwards from preset conclusions, Arimura then brings the song home by blaming foreigners for their own disenfranchisement: alleging their terroristic tendencies (a common trope for the past decade since PM Koizumi in 2005), and how bringing them here would be a "Pandora's Box": Bloomberg: Japan should fix its shrinking workforce by enabling women to work, before turning to the ‘Pandora’s box’ of immigration, the country’s minister for the empowerment of women said in an interview last week. Haruko Arimura, a 44-year-old mother of two, said Japan must act fast to change a trend that could otherwise see the workforce decline by almost half by 2060. But she warned if immigrants were mistreated -- something she’d witnessed overseas -- it raised the risk of creating resentment in their ranks. “Many developed countries have experienced immigration,” she said in her Tokyo office. “The world has been shaken by immigrants who come into contact with extremist thinking like that of ISIL, bundle themselves in explosives and kill people indiscriminately in the country where they were brought up,” Arimura said. “If we want to preserve the character of the country and pass it on to our children and grandchildren in better shape, there are reforms we need to carry out now to protect those values.”
18 May
JT: “[Government officials] have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” [US-based journalist Ayako Doi] says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike. Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.” “Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.” [...] Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked. “Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.” COMMENT: That's how bad it's getting for NJ in Japan -- even the worm has turned. But given the history of fabrications, profiteering from pandering, and columns so bigoted and xenophobic (one entitled "Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people", and another essentially denying racism in Japan) that one had to be deleted from the Japan Times archives), I'm not sure you have a leg to stand on here, Greg. After all, isn't discriminating against you a right for Japanese people? You made your bed, now sleep in it.
15 May
In my previous blog entry, I mentioned the disenfranchisement of foreigners from Japanese media, and my upcoming book (out in November) will discuss further the effects of that in terms of tolerance of difference and counteracting public defamation. As a Debito.org Tangent, let's contrast this with the degree of access that foreigners in America have to influence the domestic narrative and talking points. I don't know how unusual this is on a country-to-country scale (Debito.org Readers are welcome to mention the foreign anchors/pundits holding court outside the US and Japan), but given the influence that American media has worldwide, this is not a small matter. The NYT does a survey: NYT: American late-night television shows have probably never had so many anchors with foreign accents as they will have soon. Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, will become at least the third non-American native to host a popular TV comedy show later this year when he takes over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart. He will join two Britons, John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and James Corden, who recently started hosting “The Late Late Show” on CBS.
11 May
Something rather important happened within Japan's English-language media landscape last month, and it's only now starting (after some prodding) to come to light: Another NJ media voice has been absorbed by Japanese conglomerates: Japan Today, an online media outlet founded in 2001 by NJ. This matters. Back in the 1990s we had a number of other outlets employing NJ reporters and offering a degree of news that served and spoke to the NJ communities in Japan (those that read English, anyway). Since then almost all of them have withered or winked out. Left-leaning Mainichi Shimbun succumbed to economic pressures and made its English-language daily into an online-only outlet that is a mere shadow publication (moreover succumbed to the pressure of online trolls by crucifying their reporters who dared translate scandalous Japanese tabloid media for their popular WaiWai column). The Centrist-Right Asahi Evening News, to bust their unionizing NJ employees, fired all of their reporters and now merely offers a translation service for what they write in Japanese (their presses closed down completely in 2010). Rightist Yomiuri Shinbun whitewashed itself by recently changing its name of its English-language publication from Daily Yomiuri to the anodyne and root-free The Japan News, and since it takes any criticism of Japan by a NJ as a personal affront, it basically marginalized its English-langauge staff into writing book reviews and fluff pieces before Asahi-ing them into proofreaders also. The last major national news outlet, the Sankei Shinbun, never bothered projecting their farther-right views into English. Until now, when it bought up Japan Today. That just leaves the Japan Times as a serious news outlet outside of Japanese conglomerate control. I am proud to be amongst their ranks as a columnist pushing for media independence from a current political milieu under PM Abe increasingly intolerant of criticism. But even they have seen their Community Pages drop from four days per week to two. So support your Japan Times however and whenever you can, everyone. They're all that are left, and if they get absorbed, it's pretty clear that they'll just become a mouthpiece for the Japanese corporate narrative all over again.
8 May
An interesting exercise in propaganda is Japan's display at the Expo 2015, currently underway in Milano, Italy. It is a useful exercise to parse out the themes, memes, and dialectic within the display, as it is a good example of how Japan officially wants to be seen by the outside world. For example, chew on this word salad (the Exhibit Message) and digest the tropes: ==================================== Japan's agriculture, which coexists with nature, cherishing all forms of life. Japan's nutritionally balanced diet, as represented by the traditional menu of "one soup, three dishes" that is rich with diverse fermented foods and plant proteins. Japan's cherished food culture, produced and nurtured by tradition and innovation. Building upon the spirit of mutual respect and appreciation of coexisting diversity, we will creatively address global issues to pioneer a bright future. ==================================== That's amazingly easy to poke holes in, even before we get to calling Japan "diverse". The government makes its case, and I perforate away in this blog entry. Opening: ==================================== Scene Ⅱ DIVERSITY ●The diversity and additional development of Japan's agriculture, food, and food culture There is a great variety of agriculture in the world, with diverse food to match. Similarly in Japan, unique agriculture, food and food cultures have been cultivated in the various regions according to weather and climate, with additional developments based on learning from the world. In this zone, visitors will fully realize the diversity of Japan and the world by taking in an overview of more than 1000 content items related to agriculture, food and food culture... ====================================
5 May
THE JAPAN TIMES: ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE Japan-U.S. effort to tell suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise BY DR. DEBITO ARUDOU. MAY 3, 2015 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/ Dr. M.G. Sheftall, professor of modern Japanese history at Shizuoka University and author of “Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze,” was in Honolulu last month for the dedication of a temporary exhibition about the Tokkō kamikaze suicide pilots aboard the battleship USS Missouri, the site of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. JBC sat down for an interview with Dr. Sheftall about the kamikaze phenomenon and what makes this exhibition unique. Q: So, what’s going on here? You’ve witnessed something very historic, because the exhibit is the first about any kind of Japanese military activity in the modern era ever held outside of Japan with Japanese cooperation — in this case, with the Chiran Peace Museum on the kamikaze in southern Kyushu. What makes the USS Missouri an especially relevant venue is that it is to my knowledge only one of two still-existing ships — the other being the USS Intrepid — that were actually hit by kamikaze during the war. The USS Missouri was hit on April 12, 1945, exactly 70 years ago. There’s a feel-good aspect to this story — very hard to do when you’re talking about kamikaze attacks. The bomb on the plane that hit the Missouri did not detonate. The wreckage spilled onto the deck and amidst that was the pilot’s remains. When the crew was putting out the fire, the initial reaction had been to hose his remains off the deck. But the captain of the USS Missouri, William Callaghan, announced to the crew: “No, we’re going to give him a proper military burial. Now that he’s dead, he’s not the enemy anymore. He’s just another human being, like you and me, who died for his country.” The next day the crew formed on deck to consign their fallen former enemy to the depths with full naval honors. They even made a Japanese flag shroud from old unused signal flags. I think that’s a nice story. If there can be some recognition of humanity even in such circumstances, that shows hope for human beings in an otherwise insane and irrational situation dominated by hatred and fear. Q: How many ships were sunk in the kamikaze campaigns? ////////////////////////////////////////// Rest of the article up at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/05/03/issues/japan-u-s-effort-tell-suicide-pilots-stories-dodges-controversy-wins-praise/ There will be a longer version containing the whole hourlong interview with Dr. Sheftall out in a few days.
5 May
Table of Contents: GOOD NEWS 1) Debito.org Post #2500: Dr. M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall’s speeches at the opening of “Kamikaze” suicide pilots exhibit aboard USS Missouri, Apr 10 and 11, 2015 2) Kyodo: Summary Court overturns fine levied on Filipino-Japanese man after Osaka police botch assault probe — that punished him for defending himself against drunk Japanese assailants! SAME OLD, SAME OLD 3) Tokyo sushi shop Mizutani, with 2 Michelin stars, refuses NJ customers; awaiting Michelin Guides’ response 4) Kyodo: Ryukoku U exchange student denied “No Foreigner” Kyoto apartment in 2013; MOJ in 2015 decides it’s not a violation of human rights! 5) FCCJ’s Number One Shimbun on how GOJ is leaning on critical foreign correspondents (incl. accusing them of being on Chinese payroll!) AN INTERESTING TANGENT 6) 1912 essay: “Japanese Children are no Menace in Hawaii” (from a “Prosperity-Sharing System for Plantation Laborers” handbook), with surprisingly inclusive arguments … and finally… 7) My Japan Times JBC Column 86 April 6, 2015: “Japan makes more sense through a religious lens”
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