Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
Koike Yuriko in World Economic Forum: “Why inequality is different in Japan” (= because “We Japanese have a deeply ingrained stoicism”)
Koike: We Japanese have a deeply ingrained stoicism, reflecting the Confucian notion that people do not lament poverty when others lament it equally. This willingness to accept a situation, however bad, as long as it affects everyone equally is what enabled Japan to endure two decades of deflation, without a public outcry over the authorities’ repeated failure to redress it. This national characteristic is not limited to individuals. The government, the central bank, the media, and companies wasted far too much time simply enduring deflation – time that they should have spent working actively to address it. Japan finally has a government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that is committed to ending deflation and reinvigorating economic growth, using a combination of expansionary monetary policy, active fiscal policy, and deregulation. Now in its third year, so-called “Abenomics” is showing some positive results. COMMENT: Here we have another LDP spokesperson peddling Japan's exceptionalism to worldwide socioeconomic forces, and to an international audience. While food for thought, it's clear by the end that this is just Koike shilling for PM Abe's economic policies, spiced up with some Nihonjinron. Once again Japan gets away with shoehorning in "Japan-is-unique" mysticism within any social scientific analysis just because Japanese are seen as "funny quirky people from an island country affected by a long history of self-imposed isolation". I'll be talking a bit about the politics of that in my next Japan Times column, coming up on Monday (out a few days earlier starting this month).
JT: “Should Japan beef up its anti-terrorism measures?” Renewed political opportunism to further erode Postwar civil liberties, go soft on ri...
Related to the increasingly tightening domestic security over Japanese society in the wake of attacks on Japanese citizens abroad, here is an overlooked article by Eric Johnston in the Japan Times a few days ago. It's a long one, with contents excerpted below as germane to Debito.org. As we have talked in detail in the wake of other wakes, e.g., the G8 Summit in Hokkaido, the G8 Summit in Nago, the 2002 World Cup, other anti-democratic habits brought out in Japanese society whenever Japan holds an international event, and also a longstanding theory that Gaijin are mere Guinea Pigs (since they have fewer civil or political rights) to test out pupal public policy before applying it to the rest of the Japanese population, I believe what's going on here is a long arc of further eroding Postwar civil liberties in the name of security and ever-strengthening police power in Japan -- in favor of rightist elements. Read on: JT: However, former Aum members are not the [Public Security Intelligence Agency’s] only concern. Another four pages are devoted to the activities of groups trying to stop the construction of a replacement facility at Henoko for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, voicing support for keeping the 1995 Kono Statement regarding the “comfort women,” criticizing the government’s pro-nuclear energy policy, or protesting collective self-defense and the state secrets law that went into effect late last year... Over three pages, the Public Security Intelligence Agency claimed “extremist” groups were cooperating with overseas organizations to criticize the government’s position on the comfort women issue, and that the Japan Communist Party was involved in anti-nuclear demonstrations in Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, and in front of the Diet and the prime minister’s office... Two pages were devoted solely to the Japan Communist Party’s leadership and membership, and its criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government... By contrast, only 2½ of the report’s 75 pages were devoted to right-wing groups.... There was no mention, by name, in the Public Security Intelligence Agency report of Zaitokukai...
Renewed GOJ projections of hard and soft power: Yomiuri argues for remilitarization “to protect J-nationals abroad”, Reuters reports GOJ reinve...
Yomiuri: To prevent Japanese nationals from being targeted by international terrorism, the government must comprehensively reinforce countermeasures to protect Japanese living abroad, gather information on terrorism and guard key facilities. [...] Terrorist attacks must also be prevented in Japan. Immigration checks need to be tightened further to block terrorists at the water’s edge. Security at governmental organizations, airports, nuclear power plants and other key facilities should be enhanced. It is also vital for the government to cooperate with the intelligence agencies of other countries. [...] Are there suspicious people apparently devoted to radicalism, collecting weapons and explosives? Investigative authorities must vigilantly monitor online activity, detect any sign of terrorism and respond swiftly. Reuters: The Abe government has budgeted more than $15 million to fund Japan studies at nine universities overseas, including Georgetown and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of a “soft power” push to counter the growing influence of China and South Korea. The program, the first time in over 40 years that Japan has funded such studies at U.S. universities, coincides with efforts by conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to address perceived biases in accounts of the wartime past — moves critics say are an attempt to whitewash history. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Georgetown University in Washington will receive $5 million each from the Foreign Ministry’s budget for fiscal 2015...
NYT Opinion: Mindy Kotler on “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth”, an excellent primer on the issue
Kotler: We know of Lieutenant Nakasone’s role in setting up a comfort station thanks to his 1978 memoir, “Commander of 3,000 Men at Age 23.” At that time, such accounts were relatively commonplace and uncontroversial — and no obstacle to a political career. From 1982 to 1987, Mr. Nakasone was the prime minister of Japan. Today, however, the Japanese military’s involvement in comfort stations is bitterly contested. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is engaged in an all-out effort to portray the historical record as a tissue of lies designed to discredit the nation. Mr. Abe’s administration denies that imperial Japan ran a system of human trafficking and coerced prostitution, implying that comfort women were simply camp-following prostitutes. The latest move came at the end of October when, with no intended irony, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party appointed Mr. Nakasone’s own son, former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, to chair a commission established to “consider concrete measures to restore Japan’s honor with regard to the comfort women issue.” The official narrative in Japan is fast becoming detached from reality, as it seeks to cast the Japanese people — rather than the comfort women of the Asia-Pacific theater — as the victims of this story. The Abe administration sees this historical revision as integral to restoring Japan’s imperial wartime honor and modern-day national pride. But the broader effect of the campaign has been to cause Japan to back away from international efforts against human rights abuses and to weaken its desire to be seen as a responsible partner in prosecuting possible war crimes.
Kyodo: Japan didn’t meddle with U.S. “Comfort Women” textbook, Japanese Ambassador to US Sasae claims; meanwhile GOJ panel established to “...
Out come the Gaijin Handlers, backed up by officially-complicit revisionists... Kyodo: Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae has rejected criticism by U.S.-based historians that Japan tried to meddle with descriptions in an American textbook over the use of “comfort women” at wartime Japanese military brothels. The academics “allege interference by the government, but this is not a matter to be considered from that angle in the first place,” Sasae told Japanese reporters Friday in Washington. Japan Times: A special Liberal Democratic Party committee on Thursday discussed ways to better convey Japan’s views on wartime historical issues to counter a public relations blitz by South Korea. During the sixth gathering of the Special Mission Committee to Restore the Honor and Trust of Japan, chaired by Hirofumi Nakasone, some members said a carefully crafted strategic plan is needed to gain the understanding of the international community when it comes to the issue of “comfort women,” a euphemism for those who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus carries full text of my interview with Dr. Ziegler on GOJ pressure to censor his history book of “Comfort Wome...
Last week I offered Japan Times readers an abridged version of an interview with Dr. Herbert Ziegler, historian at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, on Japanese Government pressure to censor all mention of Japan's official sexual slavery during WWII (the "Comfort Women" issue). The full text of the interview is now available at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus's website (a very valuable resource, in case you haven't heard of it before). An excerpt that did not make the cut in The Japan Times due to space limitations: Dr. Ziegler: I mentioned earlier about the woman who came as the Consul’s interpreter and I looked into this a little bit. I remember some time ago that she came to my office, I didn’t know her well but she was a student at this university, and she asked if I had a collection of World History books. And I do, sort of, just to see what the competition is like. So my whole shelf over there is full of World History textbooks. So she asked if she could go through them and look at them. And now, with hindsight, I’m thinking, “She was on a spying mission.” Not that I cared then, but this is my thinking now: This was started some time ago, perhaps. I mean, how does the Consul, who barely reads English I assure you, read my textbook? Go to http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/246 for the rest.
PNS: Deaths of unknown persons in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police: At least 5 in past year
PNS: A troubling pattern of deaths of suspects in police custody is emerging in Tokyo, Japan. At least five people have died in police custody in the last year, with little publicity or investigation. The names of the victims have not apparently been released, which puts Japan at odds with international norms of transparency and police accountability. Unknown man arrested May 12, 2014 in Meguro Ward Unknown man arrested May 25, 2014 in Shinjuku Unknown man arrested May 31, 2014 in Konan Unknown man arrested August 25, 2014 in Shinagawa Unknown man arrested February 11, 2015 in Akasaka All cases have resulted in fatalities of those in custody.
Suspicious recent death of NJ after being “restrained” on the street by Tokyo Police in daytime warrants more investigation and attention
Tokyo Weekender: A short article reporting the death of a 29-year-old English teacher who fell into a coma after being restrained by the police raises more questions than it answers. The Jiji Press reported that the teacher, who was from the US, died in a hospital following a February 11 incident in the Akasaka area of Minato Ward. The Jiji article, reprinted on the Japanese version of the Wall Street Journal, is scant on details, aside from the following: At around 5:30 pm on the Foundation Day holiday, police received a call about a foreigner behaving violently. When police approached the man, who was reported as a resident of Setagaya Ward, he responded violently. A total of six officers restrained the American by his arms and legs. In the struggle, the man went into cardiac arrest and was taken to a nearby hospital. The man did not regain consciousness after the incident, and died on March 1. Police stated that the man did not seem to have suffered any external injuries. No other information —- the man’s name, his home town, employer, or additional details about the conflict—has been provided thus far. COMMENT: That's the entire article, and nobody is being held accountable for fuller disclosure. However, we can speculate with some certainty on the following: 1) This happened on a Wednesday afternoon before it was fully dark, meaning the chances of this person being drunk and disorderly were pretty low. 2) This happened in a part of Tokyo that sees NJ as a public-security threat, with cops trained to racially-profile potential perps and carry out legally-questionable search activities. 3) This happened on National Foundation Day, a day where there were nationalistic demonstrations by Japanese celebrating the accession of Japan's first emperor. While demonstrations on a day like this are not newsworthy enough to indicate that there was a concurrent demonstration in Akasaka, it is not a stretch to imagine this person being targeted by violent xenophobic elements, and the NPA taking the side of the rightists and targeting the NJ. 4) The NPA not only has a record of lethally subduing NJ in custody, but also of covering it up. 5) We don't even have the basic information on who he is or even if international officials have gotten involved in the investigation. All we have is the deceased's age, nationality, and occupation. That is insufficient, and the fact that more details are not forthcoming suggests a mishap or a coverup on the part of the NPA. (It's happened before. Many times.)... We simply don't have enough information for a more informed assessment. And we should. Were there no witnesses? With this much commotion and no doubt an ambulance called, didn't anyone see anything in this densely-populated part of Tokyo? Or is this just another case of another unknown fungible NJ winding up as the Dead Gaijin on a Gurney?
Japan Times JBC 85, Mar 5 2015: “US author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests”, with targe...
JBC: The debate on Japan’s history of wartime sexual slavery (aka the “comfort women” issue) has heated up again, with the Japanese government extending its efforts to revise school textbooks overseas. In November, McGraw-Hill, publisher of the world history textbook “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past” Vol. 2, by history professors Herbert Ziegler and Jerry Bentley, was contacted by Japan’s Consulate General in New York. The request: that two paragraphs (i.e., the entire entry) on the comfort women be deleted. On Jan. 15, McGraw-Hill representatives met with Japanese diplomats and refused the request, stating that the scholars had properly established the historical facts. Later that month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly targeted the textbook in a parliamentary session, stating that he was “shocked” to learn that his government had “failed to correct the things it should have.” In the March issue of the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine “Perspectives on History,” 20 prominent historians, including professor Ziegler, signed a letter to the editor titled “Standing with the historians of Japan.” They stated that they “agree with Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history,” and “oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes.” Professor Ziegler met with JBC on Feb. 17... Excerpt ends. For the record, what follows is the full text of the textbook entry on the "Comfort Women" issue being targeted by the Japanese Government:
Table of Contents: JAPARTHEID 1) Sankei columnist Sono Ayako advocates separation of NJ residential zones by race in Japan, cites Apartheid South Africa as example 2) Japan Times: Inflammatory articles (such as Sono Ayako’s “Japartheid” Sankei column) aren’t helping mags’ circulation numbers 3) Debito.org quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid BLACKFACE AND BLACKOUTS 4) Good JT article on historically-ignorant blackface on Japanese performers and “modern-day minstrel shows” in Japan 5) Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article 6) Japan Times: UK inspectors say Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers are like “prisons”. In fact, they’re worse. 7) Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable … and finally… 8 ) Japan Times JBC 84 Feb. 5, 2015, “At age 50, seeing the writing on the wall”
Japan Times: Inflammatory articles (such as Sono Ayako’s “Japartheid” Sankei column) aren’t helping mags’ circulation numbers
An excellent round-up article by Mark Schreiber in the Japan Times featured some analysis of the media ripples following Sono Ayako's column advocating a Japan version of South African Apartheid. He has a good look at not only the domestic reaction to this xenophobic proposal for state-enfranchised segregation (surprisingly favorable towards it, especially in a younger-age group!), but also the battle for Japan's soul through control of the historical narrative. He also gives us some statistics on how the most common denominator for fanning xenophobia though the media -- profit motive -- doesn't seem to be working: Sales of the scandalous Weeklies are significantly down across the board. Then it concludes with Japan's rapidly declining press freedoms as measured worldwide, and offers the lack of trust in the media as a possible cause for people not buying it because they don't buy into it. It's an insightful piece into how Japan's media-manufactured national mentalities are descending into a Pravda-style official groupthink. JT: Remarks on the [Sano] article appeared in Shukan Post (March 6), Asahi Geino (March 5), Flash (March 10) and Weekly Playboy (March 9). Sono also defended her column in the Shukan Bunshun (Feb. 26). While the general tone of the responses was supportive of Sono’s right to express her opinions, Weekly Playboy went the extra mile and surveyed 100 adults between the ages of 20 and 79. When asked about her stance, 42.3 percent of respondents replied, “I can understand what she’s saying, in part.” This exceeded the 36.6 percent who responded, “It’s understandable for her to be criticized” and 21 percent who saw no problem with the column’s contents.
Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article (UPDATED with news of another underreported NJ death)
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.
Japan Times: UK inspectors say Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers are like “prisons”. In fact, they’re worse.
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...
Good JT article on historically-ignorant blackface on Japanese performers and “modern-day minstrel shows” in Japan
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...."
Debito.org quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid
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."...
Sankei columnist Sono Ayako advocates separation of NJ residential zones by race in Japan, cites Apartheid South Africa as example (UPDATED)
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
Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable
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...
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...
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
IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (k...
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.
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.
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.
Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, s...
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.
Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!
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.)...
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...