Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 73, “J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM” on Saitama Stadium “Japanese Only” Urawa Reds s...
J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM JBC Column 73 for the Japan Times Community Page To be published March 13, 2014 By ARUDOU Debito (This blog entry is the permanent archive of the article, so feel free to make comments below) Last Saturday, during a soccer game at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans displayed a “Japanese Only” banner over an entranceway to the stands. It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas media in English, covered it. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and on Monday it found that the banner maker had had “no discriminatory intent.” So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media (which only published brief articles, without digging deeper) is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign… ============================== Read the rest in tomorrow’s Japan Times!
Table of Contents: MORE RACIALIZED NASTINESS 1) “Japanese Only” banner in Saitama Stadium at Urawa Reds soccer game; yet media minces words about the inherent racism behind it 2) Immigration Bureau: Points System visa and visual images of who might be qualified to apply (mostly White people; melanin need not apply) 3) SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots 4) YouTube: Police NJ Passport Checkpoint at Shibuya March 3, 2014 (targeted NJ does not comply) 5) Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed MORE RACIALIZED SILLINESS 6) ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian! 7) The consequent Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 72: “Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad”, Jan 25, 2014 8 ) Discussion: How about this ad by COCO’s English Juku, learning English to get a competitive advantage over foreign rivals? 9) Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave” 10) Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired. A case-study template AS LIFE CONTINUES TO DRAIN OUT OF THE SYSTEM 11) Bloomberg column: “A rebuke to Japanese nationalism”, gets it about right 12) Fun facts #18: More than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, will be nearly a quarter by 2028 13) Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008! 14) NHK World: Tokyo Court orders Tokyo Metro Govt to compensate Muslim NJ for breach of privacy after NPA document online leaks (but rules that police spying on NJ is permitted) … and finally… 15) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 71 January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”
“Japanese Only” banner in Saitama Stadium at Urawa Reds soccer game; yet media minces words about the inherent racism behind it
Going viral on Saturday was news of a banner up at a sports meet on March 8, 2014, that said "Japanese Only" (the Urawa Reds soccer team in Saitama Stadium, which according to Wikipedia has some of the best-attended games in Japan). Here it is: According to media outlets like Al Jazeera, "the sign could be considered racist", Kyodo: "seen as racist", or Mainichi: "could be construed as racist". (Oh, well, how else could it be considered, seen, or construed then? That only the Japanese language is spoken here?). Urawa Stadium management just called it "discriminatory" (sabetsu teki) and promised to investigate. Fortunately it was removed with some solid condemnations. But no media outlet is bothering to do more than blurb articles on it, barely scratching the surface of the issue. And that issue they should scratch up is this: Since at least 1999, as Debito.org has covered more than any other media on the planet, Japan has had public language of exclusion (specifically, "Japanese Only" signs spreading around Japan) that have justified a narrative that says it's perfectly all right to allow places to say "no" to foreigners", particularly those as determined on sight. It's also perfectly legal, since the GOJ refuses to pass any laws against racial discrimination, despite promises to the contrary it made back in 1995 when signing the UN CERD. This much you all know if you've been reading this space over the decades. But it bears repeating, over and over again if necessary. Because this sort of thing is not a one-off. It is based upon a mindset that "foreigners" can be treated as subordinate to Japanese in any circumstances, including in this case the allegedly level playing field of sports, and it is so unquestioned and hegemonic that it has become embedded -- to the point where it gets dismissed as one of Japan's "cultural quirks", and the language of the original Otaru Onsens "Japanese Only" sign has become standardized language for the exclusionary. But the problem is also in the enforcement of anti-racism measures. You think any official international sports body governing soccer (which has zero tolerance for racism and is often very quick to act on it) will investigate this any further? Or that the Olympic Committee before Tokyo 2020 is going to raise any public eyebrows about Japan's lackadaisical attitude towards racism in its sports? For example, its outright racism and handicapping/excluding/bashing foreigners (even naturalized "foreigners") in Sumo, baseball, hockey, rugby, figure skating, the Kokutai, or in the Ekiden Sports Races, which deliberately and overtly handicaps or outright excludes NJ from participation? I'm not going to bet my lunch on it, as scrutiny and responsibility-taking (as in, finding out who put that banner up and why -- speculation abounds) could happen. But it probably won't. Because people can't even say clearly and definitively that what just happened in Urawa was "racism" (and Al Jazeera, the Asahi, or the Mainichi didn't even see fit to publish a photo of the banner, so readers could feel the full force and context of it). And that we're going to see ever more expressions of it in our xenophobic youth (which was a huge political force in Tokyo's last gubernatorial election) as Japan continues its rightward swing into bigotry.
February 23, 2014 Hi Debito! Don't want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but the illustration at the top of this page [of the Immigration Bureau site, re Japan's "Points System" visa,] interests me: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/index.html Almost all of the "highly-skilled" people have non-Asian looking noses. The only people that look like they might be from Korea or China are a family and the father is dressed as a factory worker. Like I say, I don't want to read too much into this illustration but it does seem to be indicative of a tendency to want to exclude people from neighboring countries from the "preferred" group of foreigners. Here's the image:
Just got this one from RS, where he writes about something that happened last night in Shibuya: March 3, 2014: Debito-san, Thanks for your work. This incident happened tonight and we've already put it up on Youtube. Please have a look. Because I've read your articles, I knew that I did not have to comply, and did not. Thank you and keep up the good work. ======================================== Well done. Although the video is a bit incomplete (it's not clear how this started or how it ended), it's clear that the police certainly do not want to be filmed, and it's a good guess that BECAUSE it was filmed that the police showed restraint, if this video is any guide: Anyway, what RS is referring to is this section here on Debito.org which says that the Japanese police cannot ask you personal questions (let alone passports, as in above) without probable cause. Except if you're a NJ, under the Foreign Registry Law. But the NJ can also ask for the cop's ID before showing his, so ask for it first, has been the point. However, with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law in 2012, it remains unclear under what law in specific the Japanese police are empowered to ask NJ without probable cause. I have consulted informally with legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones (of Doshisha and The Japan Times), and he too has had trouble finding anything in specific codified in the laws that now empowers cops in this manner. Nevertheless the institutional practice is in place, encouraging racial profiling, as last night's performance indicates. UPDATE MARCH 5: Debito.org has received word that there is at least one case of somebody in mufti flashing badges and asking select NJ (what appears to be visibly-NJ women, in Kichijouji, Tokyo) for their ID. In all cases, check the police badge (keisatsu techou o misete kudasai), as you are legally entitled to. What to look for (image courtesy of Reddit):
Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed
Aaand, the inevitable has happened: Japan's apparently underperforming athletes (particularly its ice skaters) have invited criticism from Japan's elite. Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori Yoshiro, one of Japan's biggest gaffemeisters when he served an abysmal stint as Prime Minister, decided to shoot his mouth off about champion skater Asada Mao's propensity to choke under pressure. But more importantly, as far as Debito.org is concerned, about how the American-Japanese skating siblings Cathy and Chris Reed's racial background has negatively affected their performance: "They live in America," Mori said. "Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team." Oh. But wait. They're not naturalized. They always had Japanese citizenship, since their mother is Japanese. And how about Japan's other athletes that also train if not live overseas (such as Gold Medalist Skater Hanyu Yuzuru, who now hails from Toronto)? Oh, but he won, so that's okay. He's a real pureblooded Japanese with the requisite yamato damashi. In fact, the existence of people like Mori are exactly the reason why Japan's athletes choke. As I've written before, they put so much pressure and expectation on them to perform perfectly as national representatives, not as individuals trying to achieve their personal best, so if they don't medal (or worse yet, don't Gold), they are a national shame. It's a very high-stakes game for Japan's international athletes, and this much pressure is counterproductive for Japan: It in fact shortens their lives not only as competitors, but as human beings (see article by Mark Schreiber after the Japanese articles). Fortunately, this has not escaped the world media's glance. As CBS News put it: "Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!" But expect more of this, for this is how "sporting spirit" is hard-wired in Japan. Because these types of people (especially their invisible counterparts in the media and internet) are not only unaccountable, they're devoid of any self-awareness or empathy. If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don't they try doing it themselves? Then she was taken off the team, never to return.
Although I have been commenting at length at Japan's right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn't quite my specialty. That said, I'm happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant "victim" narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border. These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ's behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally. Bloomberg: Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality. Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul. Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone. The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual.
Going into my Drafts folder once more, I uncovered this little gem of "Pinprick Protest" from more than two years ago -- the Papa John's "lady chinky eyes case" where an individual took action against another individual (representing a corporation) for a racial slur at a pizza chain, and through the pressure of public outrage and social opprobrium made somebody take responsibility. As in getting that idiot fired for making the slur. Not sure this would happen as successfully (or at all) in Japan -- where the tendency would be to dismiss this as some kind of cultural/linguistic misunderstanding (or else -- shake your head --- claim that this differentiation was meant in a positive light; hey, we like chinky lady eyes/big gaijin noses etc., and there was no intention to discriminate). The best example I can think of right now where social opprobrium worked was in the Otaru Onsens Case, where media pressure got two racist bathhouses to remove their signs. Eventually. The third bathhouse, of course, left their signs up. And it took a court case to get theirs down. And there are lots more exclusionary signs and rules around Japan, so social opprobrium clearly isn't enough. Anyway, here's the story. I cite this as a template for nipping discriminatory speech in the bud.
With some media outlets forecasting a rise in rents due to an alleged economic recovery Abenomics (somehow seeing rising fixed costs for businesses and people as a harbinger of something good), here's an article stating that Japan's depopulation (except in Tokyo, where any real opportunity for economic upward mobility is clustering) is probably going to render that moot. Japan's housing (as you longer-termers probably know, it's already pretty crappy and not built to last) is also depopulating, as this fascinating article from the Japan Times excerpted below demonstrates. Already more than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, and in less than a generation it will be nearly a quarter. And yet there are forecasts for rents (okay, office rents) to rise again. I smell another real estate bubble in the works, although media-driven instead of demand-pulled. Should be some bargains out there for those who can find the realtors and renters who aren't "Japanese Only." JT: As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, run-down, uninhabited properties like this are becoming more common. As of 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 7.57 million vacant homes, or 13.1 percent of all houses in Japan, up from 3.94 million in 1988 and 5.76 million in 1998, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The rate is expected to rise to 23.7 percent in 2028.
SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots
When looking through my "Draft" posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It's another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or "See I Told You So"). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4). When the GOJ came out with its "Points System" in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that -- in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn't as attractive a labor market as Japan's bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades. And yes, as the article below substantiates, the "Points System" has failed -- less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.
Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!
JIJI: The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday. The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007. COMMENT: Okay, there's something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに９３万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) -- a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above. I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as you note. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years.
Discussion: How about this ad by COCO’s English Juku, learning English to get a competitive advantage over foreign rivals?
Debito.org Reader: I'm emailing you to let you know about a new campaign going around in Tokyo for COCO's English Juku. English Juku advertisements have always been rather lowbrow at times, but this one has hit multiple lows in my opinion. The ads in the trains are the same advertisement banner used at the top of their main website here. At first I laughed due to how awkward and confusing it appeared. On second glance on the train today I took a closer look and thought about it within the context of the Japanese text and statements made. Is this playing on racial overtones to push for a reason to be learning English? What if the bride was Indian, African, or of another Asian ethnic background such as Chinese? Are these overtones really appropriate for an advertisement? Furthermore, a few friends of mine also pointed out how downright sexist the ad was as well. It is clearly exclusively aimed at Japanese men with the woman being just an object of possession and trade with no say on who she marries, especially in the YouTube video. While I laughed at first, I have to say I find this ad campaign simply offensive on many levels.
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 72: “Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad”, Jan 25, 2014, “Director’s Cut”
Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here's my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the "Director's Cut" with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Conclusion: Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards. For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep. ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.” Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies. NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages. This is a prime opportunity. Don’t let ANA off the hook on this. Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”
ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!
It's times like these when people seem glad that a forum like Debito.org exists. I say this based on the large number of people who submitted information about the new ANA commercial on Haneda Airport's increased international flights. Seems that somebody, anybody, should express outrage. Well, you've come to the right place. Here it is: Well, let's have a think. With two Asian guys speaking only in English (one saying he's Japanese -- the noticeably shorter guy) noting that Japan will have more international access (Vancouver and Hanoi are mentioned as their destinations), the message of the ad is that the image of Japan will change. "Exciting, isn't it?", says the Japanese bloke. The taller dude says, "You want a hug?" When nothing happens (i.e., no hug), he oddly says, "Such a Japanese reaction." When the tall dude says, "Let's change the image of Japanese people," the short dude agrees to it. And this is what happens to him: He turns into Robert Redford! Yeah, that'll do it. Put on a wig and a fake nose, and that'll change Japan's image. Actually, no it won't. This in fact is business as usual, given how Japan has a nasty habit of racializing commodities. Check out but a few examples of racist Japanese commercial campaigns from Debito.org's archives (click on images to see more information). Then I'll comment about the ANA one: UPDATE JANUARY 20: Stating that they are now pulling the ad, ANA officially comments in a reply to complaints below (English original): "The intention of this commercial was to highlight how international flights from Haneda Airport will increase from March 30, 2014 and to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens." Interesting mindset. Good to know what ANA was thinking. But do you think this advertisement accomplishes that? Are "global citizens" therefore Robert Redford lookalikes? In light of this, the advertisement is to me even more problematic.
NHK World: Tokyo Court orders Tokyo Metro Govt to compensate Muslim NJ for breach of privacy after NPA document online leaks
In what I consider to be good and very significant news, the Tokyo District Court ruled that NJ who had their privacy violated, due to National Police Agency leaks of personal information, were entitled to compensation. This is good news because the government rarely loses in court. Considering past lawsuits covered by Debito.org, the police/GOJ can get away with negligence (Otaru Onsens Case), grievous bodily harm (Valentine Case), and even murder (Suraj Case). But not privacy violations. Interesting set of priorities. But at least sometimes they can protect NJ too. Note also what is not being ruled problematic. As mentioned below, it's not an issue of the NPA sending out moles to spy on NJ and collecting private information on them just because they happen to be Muslim (therefore possible terrorists). It's an issue of the NPA losing CONTROL of that information. In other words, the privacy breach was not what's being done by The State, but rather what's being done by letting it go public. That's also an interesting set of priorities. But anyway, somebody was forced to take responsibility for it. Good news for the Muslim community in Japan. More background from the Debito.org Archives on what the NPA was doing to Japan's Muslim residents (inadequately covered by the article below), and the scandal it caused in 2000, here, here, and here. UPDATE JAN 17: UPDATE JAN 17: I was convinced by a comment to the Japan Times yesterday to remove this entry from the "Good News" category. I now believe that the court approval of official racial profiling of Muslims has made the bad news outweigh the good.
In an amazing bit of non-news completely devoid of historical context, some cub reporter at Kyodo reports that Tokyo bathhouses are taking steps to put up posters to explain Japanese bathing rules to foreigners!! To "ensure they behave" (those rapscallions!) and "avoid embarrassments" (such as being turned away at the door before they have the chance to display any deviant behavior?). Even though these types of posters have been up around Japanese bathing facilities for at least a decade (Introduction: Book JAPANESE ONLY) -- thanks in part to the landmark Otaru Onsens Case (which was not even mentioned in the article as background information). Again, it's not news. It's in fact recycling news from 2010. This is another reason that Japan's obsession with hosting international events (such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) is kinda dumb -- the domestic media has to reinforce the "Island Society" narrative by manufacturing yet another round of silly navel-gazing articles about how extraordinarily difficult it is for apparently insular Japan to cope with visitors from the outside world. At least this time the subjects are not hostilely treating all "foreigners" on sight as potential "hooligans" (World Cup 2002) or "terrorists" (2008 Hokkaido G8 Summit), or as the source of discomfort for hotel managers (such as in pre-Fukushima Fukushima Prefecture and other hotel surveys). Plus these bathhouses are recognizing NJ as an economic force that might help them survive. As opposed to the even more stupid behavior by, for example, Yuransen Onsen in Wakkanai, which booted out foreigners (okay, consigned them to an unlawful unisex separate "Gaijin Bath" at six times the price) until it finally went bankrupt anyway due to lack of customers. Good. But again, Kyodo, do some research.
Table of Contents: 1) NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and 2) PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime” 2) Best of 2013: What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting NJ in Japan? 3) Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company) 4) Holiday Tangent: Debito.org cited in Cracked.com! And finally… 5) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 70, Dec. 4, 2013: “In Japan, no escape from The Eye’s perpetual policing glare”
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″, with links to sources
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″ By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration: 6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia 5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty 4. Visa regimes get a rethink 3. Hate speech turns murderous 2. LDP holds both Diet chambers 1. The state secrets law Bubbling under: 11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat. 10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88. 9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89. 8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability. 7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests
NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime”
You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan's Extreme (I think we can call it "extreme" without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling "The Relationship", the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid "racist Japan bashing", and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the "danger" (and calls it that). It's time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and -- Dare I say it? Yes I do -- drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China. This is where we're heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one's eyes to Abe's true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan's neighbors. NYT: The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. [...] Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.
As the last post for 2013, let me ask you your opinion: What do you think were the most important issues/events affecting or concerning NJ in Japan during 2013? I will be doing my regular annual Top Ten recap in my next Japan Times JBC column (moved to Thursdays since November, so out January 2). I've already ready written up and submitted my list to the JT, but I don't want to influence your answers by doing a blog poll of options or anything like that. I'll keep the question open-ended and ask for your feedback in the Comments Section. So as 2013 draws to a close, I want to say thanks as always to everyone for reading Debito.org for yet another year. We're only two years and a bit from our twentieth anniversary (as we were created on March 15, 1996! Read a brief synopsis of our history here.) Here's to another successful (and hopefully hacker-free) year of reading and commenting on Japan and human rights issues.
Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company)
Hi Blog. I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship. Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook -- yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK). I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson -- yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!) My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a "traitor" by an official at the US State Department for doing so). Not true. As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake. It's a legal status like any other. And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.
As the year-end holidays approach, Debito.org usually puts up topics that are more tangental and less serious. As Japan is going through something I consider to be very serious (a return to Prewar values and political systems), this is hardly the time, but I think I've said so far all that one needs to say about the issues for now in previous blog posts. So today, let's look at a site that I have become quite a fan of: Cracked.com. I used to read CRACKED magazine, but always found it to be an insipid copy of MAD Magazine. But online, it's a place with an obnoxious, scatological tone that has thankfully graduated from its high-school smart-alecky roots. Their articles are some of the best diversions and procrastinations I've had over the years (they're quite well referenced, too). It seems that writers from them are fans of Debito.org as well. Check out this site: 5 Innocent Gestures That Make You Look Like a Dick Overseas (cites Debito.org!)
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 70, Dec. 4, 2013: “In Japan, no escape from The Eye’s perpetual policing glare”
JT: Hey, all you residents heading abroad for the holidays, here’s a little experiment to try on yourself: When you return to Japan, take note of an interesting phenomenon that starts just as you deplane and plug back into Japanese society. You’ll feel a palpable and intractable pressure — a pressure to conform to The Order, that standardized way of doing things in Japan. You can use it to get what you want, or you can defy it and feel the burn of its stare. I call this pressure The Eye. Of course, you can find The Eye in all societies. Also known as the “evil eye” or “hairy eyeball,” it’s a glare you get when you’re doing something the crowd doesn’t like. Humans as a species have an innate sensitivity to the feeling of being watched. Perhaps it’s a primal instinct to keep us in formation and out of trouble. But The Eye in Japan is so powerful that it doesn’t need a crowd...
Table of Contents: 1) Post-passage of State Secrets Bill, watch as Abe further dismantles Japan’s postwar anti-fascism safeguards 2) UN News: “Independent UN experts seriously concerned about Japan’s Special Secrets Bill” Fine, but too late. 3) Asahi: Hate speech protests spreading to smaller cities around Japan 4) Restoration Party Shinpuu’s xenophobic candidate in Tokyo Katsushika-ku elections: “Putting Japanese first before foreigners” 5) DVB News: Japan’s lack of transparency threatens Burma’s development (as PM Abe seeks to contain China) … and finally… 6) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 69, Nov 7 2013: “Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.” about PM Abe’s charm offensive through Gaijin Handler Kitaoka Shin’ichi
Post-passage of State Secrets Bill, watch as Abe further dismantles Japan’s postwar anti-fascism safeguards
My conclusions first: If you really want to "look on the bright side" of recent events, we could say "we live in interesting times". Given the normally glacial pace of reforms in Japan, the Abe Administration is proceeding with incredible speed -- which he can do, given LDP control over both houses of Parliament. It's a pity that things are heading in the Rightist direction, dismantling the Postwar order of governance and the safeguards against Prewar fascism faster than the public or media can keep up. As discussed here before Debito.org got tackled, both inside and outside observers (including the UN) were alarmed at the contents of the State Secrets Protection Law (himitsu hogo hou), the one that leaves vague what a "government secret" is exactly (for better public non-transparency), and offers criminal penalties of up to ten years' incarceration for violators, including journalists. The tone of this law is pretty clear: Anyone who gets in the way (and according to LDP Secretary General and defense policy wonk Ishiba Shigeru, "noisy" protestors will be labeled "terrorists"; I'm waiting for Ishiba to say the same thing about the perennially noisy, intimidating, and sometimes violent right-wing sound trucks) will be dealt with accordingly. Debito.org said that the protests in any case were too little, too late, and it would make no difference. It didn't (except in Abe's approval ratings, which dipped below 50% for the first time for this administration; never mind -- a few more saber rattlings with the Chinese bogeyman will remedy that), and the bill was rammed through both the Lower and Upper Houses and is now law. SITYS. This after, as also noted on Debito.org previously, Abe's Gaijin Handlers were sent off on a mission to placate the one country that might get them to avert this course: The United States. Top Abe advisor Kitaoka Shin'ichi recently visited Hawaii and points mainland to sell Japan's remilitarization as a means to help America's security exploits abroad, saying it would be possible by a mere circumvention of the Constitution by reinterpretation. Who needs to go through that laborious process of actual Constitutional revision when you can just ignore it? And it seems the Americans have signed off on it. And on Japan's new protection measures of "state secrets". And on a creation of a National Security Council that reports to Abe, modeled on the USG's NSC, so who could object? Checkmate. Look, some people might be surprised by all this, but I'm not. Debito.org saw this coming more than ten years ago, and watched it play out since 2000 as innate fears of outsiders in general were made into public policy seeing foreigners as criminals, then terrorists etc. Now. it's Chinese foreigners in specific (what with the two-plus "Lost Decades" of stagnant to negative growth causing Japan to be eclipsed by China as the largest economy in the region). I've charted the arc of this public debate here in a paper for Japan Focus, showing how officially-sponsored xenophobia was used to undermine, then decimate, Japan's Left. And with no opposition Left, there's nothing to stop a dedicated silver-spoon elite like Abe, who has known no war (and accepts no responsibility for Japan's historical role in it), for swinging the pendulum the furthest Right it has been in the Postwar Era. Provided his health holds up, he's got three years to do it. Just watch him do it as quickly as possible.