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Arudou Debito s Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
15 Apr
Mainichi: Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments or other residences was given as an ongoing violation of their human rights by almost half of respondents to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. COMMENT: It is indeed good to see people acknowledging that discrimination towards NJ exists. And that the most common answer by respondents chosen (since it is probably the most normalized and systemic NJ discrimination) is in residence rentals. After all, take a look at this new system of guarantor-free housing by "Tokyo Sharehouse" -- which has at least fifteen "sharehouses" advertised as "Japanese Only": LaFelice Ikejiri (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1324/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1324/ Claris Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1325/ (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1325/ Domondo Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1095/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1095/ Aviril Shibuya (Japanese Only in both meanings): http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1431/ Pleades Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/847/ La Vita Komazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/500/ La Levre Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/846/ Leviair Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/506/ Flora Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/502/ La Famille (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/503/ Pechka Shimo-Kitazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/507/ Amitie Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/508/ Cerisier Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/504/ Stella Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/501/ Solare Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/509/ Y'know, that's funny. Why would this company go through all the trouble to put up a website in English and then use it to refuse NJ? So they'd look international? Or so they'd look exclusionary to an international audience? And you gotta love how they pretentiously put the names of the residences in faux French, yet won't take French people...! So, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, thanks for those surveys saying how sad it is that NJ are being discriminated against in housing. But what are they for, exactly? Mere omphaloskepsis? How about doing something to stop these bigots from discriminating?
10 Apr
As Japan's right-wing swing begins to be noticed and acknowledged overseas (I predicted this swing would happen quite a while ago), foreign media are increasingly taking off the kid gloves, and dealing forcefully with Japan's perpetual historical amnesia. So much so that it's making some Japanese opinion leaders uncomfortable, and, as the article below attests, they're pushing back against the apparent gaiatsu by claiming the foreign correspondents are succumbing to "propaganda". Have a read. Within, note how opportunist NJ panderer Henry Scott-Stokes is being tossed around like a ball in play as evidence of something (hey, revisionism has more credibility if someone, anyone, from the NJ side will parrot their views). Debito.org has already covered the profiteering that some NJ (particularly those who have no idea what has been written for them in Japanese) will engage in. Shame on them for becoming the monkey to the organ grinder. As a bracing counterpose, check out this other extremely angry article by Robert Fisk in the UK Independent on the Abe Administration and Japan's burgeoning (and hypocritical) revisionism; he's clearly commenting outside of his comfort zone, but this is what will increasingly come out as the mask of "peaceful Western ally" that Japan's elites have shamelessly worn for two generations continues to slip. And this generation of elites, who have never known war (and will never have to serve even if there ever is one), will continue to extol the glory of it.
6 Apr
Another to add to the Rogues' Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments. This time, a restaurant, as submitter YT notified me via email and photographs: ==================================== April 5, 2014, YT wrote: Please would you mind helping me? Today I went to a restaurant in Asakusa with my wife and some Japanese friends. They didn't allow us to enter, because me and my wife are not Japanese. In the entrance there is a paper that says "Japanese only" in English, and other advertisement in Japanese. My Japanese friend, entered to the restaurant and kindly asked the manager if me and my wife could enter, too. The manager said they doesn't allow foreigners, no matter if they speak Japanese nor have been living in Japan for long. I hope you can help me, and write some article about this discrimination. I think discrimination is one of the worst problem in our world, so we must stop it immediately. Thank you for your time!!! ==================================== Photos of sign, storefront, and shopfront noren: (NB: The Japanese below the JAPANESE ONLY text on the sign reads, "The inside of this restaurant is very small. In order to avoid accidents, we are sorry, but we refuse entry to all children below the age of 5. We ask for our customers understanding and cooperation.") Contact: "Ten-take" tempura restaurant, Tokyo-to Taitou-ku Asakusa 2-4-1, phone 03-3841-5519 COMMENT: I called Tentake today to confirm with the management that yes, they do have a "Japanese Only" restriction. Their reasons given: 1) Hygiene (eiseimen), which were, when asked, issues of "foreigners" not taking off their shoes when entering, 2) NJ causing problems (meiwaku) to other customers, and 3) a language barrier, as in NJ not speaking Japanese. Basic Otaru Onsen exclusionary excuses. When asked if he didn't think these were prejudicial generalizations about all NJ, he said repeatedly that he couldn't deal with "foreigners" (tai'ou o shi kirenai). Then he hung up. Readers who feel that this restaurant is behaving inappropriately for a business open to the general public are welcome to phone them at the number above, or drop by and say so to the management.
3 Apr
Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops BY DEBITO ARUDOU, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, APR 2, 2014 Long-time readers of The Japan Times will already be aware of some of the information in today’s column. But within is an important update, so press on. As you no doubt know (or should know), non-Japanese residents are required to carry ID 24/7 in the form of wallet-size “gaijin cards,” nowadays known as zairyū kādo (resident cards). (People without those cards — i.e., tourists here for less than three months — must instead always carry a passport.) Don’t leave home without yours, for you could face detention and a criminal penalty if a police officer suddenly demands it. Which they can do at any time — underscoring the weakened position of non-Japanese under domestic law and social policy. According to the former Foreign Registry Law, any public official empowered by the Ministry of Justice may demand ID from a non-Japanese person, whenever. Inevitably, this encourages racial profiling, as cops with systematic regularity target people who “look foreign” (including naturalized citizens, such as this writer) for public shakedowns that are intimidating, alienating and humiliating... Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/04/02/issues/rights-can-protect-against-fake-cops/
2 Apr
Table of Contents: 1) My latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 74, Apr 3, 2014: “Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops”, updating the NJ Spot ID Checkpoints issue 2) Neo-Nazis march in Tokyo Edogawa-ku March 23, 2014, bearing swastika flags! Here’s how counter-demos could sharpen their anti-racism message 3) JT: Motley crew of foreigners backing Japan’s revisionists basks in media glare 4) Briefly interviewed by BBC Radio program “BBC Trending”: “Scrubbing anti-foreigner scribbling from Tokyo’s Streets”, March 16, 2014 CLOSURE 5) Suraj Case: Tokyo District Court finds “illegal” excessive force, orders GOJ restitution to family of NJ killed during deportation (contrast with UK case) 6) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 73, “J.League and Media Must Show Red Card to Racism” on Saitama Stadium “Japanese Only” Urawa Reds soccer fans, Mar 13, 2014 …and finally… 7) Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case: Conclusions and Lessons I learned from it
29 Mar
JT: In the war of words — particularly with South Korea and China — over World War II-era issues that has intensified over the past 18 months, foreigners — both Westerners and Asians — have also waded into the fray. And some have even sided with revisionist positions, raising questions over the Japanese military’s alleged recruitment of sex slaves (“comfort women”) and other contentious wartime topics. For these individuals, preaching to the Japanese choir does appear to have its rewards. At a gathering in Tokyo last autumn, veteran British journalist Henry Scott Stokes commemorated the 70th anniversary of the showpiece meeting of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan’s short-lived effort to align Asians against European colonial powers. “Japan is a country of rising sun,” he told his audience. “Joining hands together with the fellow Asian people who desire truly Free Asia, I sincerely hope that Japan will play a vital role for realizing democratic Asian unity.” COMMENT: In light of the recent Nazi Swastika flags appearing in right-wing marches, it's pretty wrong-headed for anyone who wants to keep a good reputation to publicly align with people like these. But it's within character. I've heard plenty of pretty unflattering things about Mr. Scott-Stokes through the grapevine over the years. But another NJ bozo mentioned in the article as being in the pocket of Japan's revisionist right is Tony Marano, a YouTube Vlogger (a sample video of his is up at the JT site; follow above link), who has in the past ignorantly commented on the "Japanese Only" signs issue -- by blaming NJ (i.e., the "ugly Americans") for the signs' existence. Particularly one "liberal" foreigner (guess who; and I'm not a foreigner) who sues "them" and "messes up their legal system": (video) I wonder if Marano will ever get over his ignorance by actually doing any reading up on the issue. Probably not. Critics of his ilk rarely do -- it makes the maintenance of their world view that much simpler. And, clearly, as the JT article establishes, more profitable. UPDATE APRIL 1 (No, this isn't an April Fool's prank): Marano gets a regular column with tabloid weekly Asahi Geino (see scan). Now all he has to do is spout off, and it gets translated into a language and culture he doesn't understand. I love how they try to directly translate his "god bless" at the end of the article.  Marano has no idea what he's getting himself into. UPDATE APRIL 2: Scott-Stokes also admits that he can't even read his own revisionist book, let alone write it: FCCJ: "Oddly, perhaps, he admits to not knowing exactly what’s between the pages of the book that carries his name – he says he reads little Japanese and an English translation has yet to be produced. It was dictated over hundreds of hours to another FCCJ member..." So like Marano, Scott-Stokes has no idea how he's being rendered in Japanese. Seems like for some, Japanese language fluency and apologist/revisionist stances are inversely proportional.
25 Mar
I put this up as a matter of record of how Japan's overt xenophobia has mutated from the hatred of a specific people (the Chinese and/or Koreans); now it's piggybacking upon a historical campaign that ultimately led to genocide. Witness this video taken of xenophobic demonstrators doing one of their demonstrations (note that this ilk last year also advocated genocide with a sign saying "good or bad, kill all Koreans"). The video below is subtitled as filmed in Tokyo Edogawa-ku, Kodomo no Hiroba (a children's park), on Sunday, March 23, 2014: COMMENT: This is one of the outcomes of an education system that still hasn't come to grips with its fascist past, and thus has literate people appropriating symbols for shock value without historical awareness of what they're advocating (or, worse yet, they are aware, and actually support genocidal fanaticism!). For once I'm willing to give these demonstrators the benefit of the doubt (as we see plenty of swastikas around Asia more as ideological fashion statements; moreover, we still haven't seen a group manifesto specifically advocating murder). But not if Nazi Swastikas appear again. And I bet they will. The only good news one could point out in this Edogawa-ku video to is the presence of counter-demonstrators. Not so long ago, protests like these were just seen as venting, confined to rightist wingnuts without much political traction, so they were ignored by the public in general who just walked by tacitly. Now with Japan's sharp and overt right-wing swing, people ARE seeing the danger (as it increasingly gets noticed overseas) that these people represent, and coming out to show that racists do not represent all Japanese (their banners are, after all, also in English for foreign consumption). Good. Please continue. But the counter-demonstrators could do better with their message. One thing that keeps getting missed out in these racist vs. counter-racist demos is the notion that the foreign element being decried is not really foreign. They (particularly the Zainichi being targeted) are residents of Japan who have been contributing to Japanese society for decades and generations. Nobody is really pointing this out -- that NJ BELONG IN JAPAN and are INVESTED IN JAPAN just the same as citizens. Instead, it's more along the lines of "racism is embarrassing to Japan, so knock it off". It's a shame issue, not a moral issue of equality and equal treatment of other peoples. We saw that in the recent "Japanese Only" sign issue with the Urawa Reds soccer team earlier this month: Despite some really good condemnations of racism in Japanese soccer, nobody really had the balls to say explicitly that the problem with this exclusionary sign is that NJ are Urawa Reds fans too. So this foreigner-verboten "sacred ground" within Saitama Station is a stupid concept, because fandom in sport should (and does) transcend nationality and race. So if any counter-demonstrators are reading this blog (thanks if you are), may I suggest that you counter the evils of the "bad things foreigners in Japan do" propaganda with some "good things foreigners in Japan do" placards too? A simple, "外国人も日本人と同じ、住民だ!" would work magic in awareness raising and debate-agenda setting. Thanks.
22 Mar
Some moderately good news also came down the pipeline a few days ago, when the Suraj Case of police brutality and death in detention was drawn to a conclusion in Civil Court. The Tokyo District Court faulted the GOJ with "illegal" excessive force, and doled out restitution of a paltry sum of about USD $50,000 for a man's life. Hokay. For many (unless there is an appeal), that means case closed. It's good that somebody was found fault with. Up until now, Japan's Immigration Bureau got away with a clear case of cold-blooded murder of a NJ being manhandled by overzealous authorities. However, this was a decision that took place in CIVIL Court, not Criminal, meaning no criminal penalty has been applied to Suraj's killers. Contrast this with a very similar murder that just came down in the UK: The Mubenga Case. Same time line (an excruciatingly slow four years), same class of human being as far as the developed countries see it (a dark African man from Ghana/Angola), and same killing while in official custody. Except in the UK case, you get arrests, a charge of manslaughter, and killers' names made public. In other words, the System in the latter case is less likely to protect individuals for their excesses, which is the much better deterrent for them to do this brutal act again. Thus we're more likely to see Surajs happen than Mubengas, since Japan's criminal prosecutors decided not to pursue Suraj's case. And so the Suraj Case remains Japan's shame, and should be a deterrent for future immigrants to come to Japan: In Japan's overall criminal system of "hostage justice", an overstayed visa may become a capital offense.
19 Mar
Unrelated to the big flap last weekend about the Urawa Reds "Japanese Only" Saitama Stadium Banner issue, I was interviewed by the BBC regarding anti-NJ messages, and the public backlash against the xenophobes. Since I'm not an expert on Zainichi issues, I gave a bit more background on how Visible Minorities are treated in the following segment: BBC World Service BBC Trending, March 16, 2014 "Scrubbing anti-foreigner scribbling from Tokyo's streets" Segment duration: 9 minutes My bit comes in between 14:45 and 15:53, but please listen to the whole segment; it's a decent article. I'm very happy that people are charting racist graffiti using Google Maps. Kinda like what Debito.org has done for more than a decade with its Rogues' Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, complete with map to substantiate visually how widespread the issue has become. Bravo. Make a record, and make it permanent, because the only way we're going to show that a problem exists (and is getting worse) is by not letting racists become historical deniers.
15 Mar
LESSONS OF THE URAWA “JAPANESE ONLY” SOCCER STADIUM BANNER CASE OF MARCH 8, 2014 Let's sew this issue up: What happened this week is probably the most dramatic and progressive thing to happen to NJ in Japan, particularly its Visible Minorities, since the Otaru Onsens Case came down with its District Court Decision in November 2002. In this decision, a Japanese court ruled for only the second time (the first being the Ana Bortz Case back in October 1999) that “Japanese Only” signs and rules were racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu). It did not call it discrimination instead based on “ethnicity” (minzoku), “nationality” (kokuseki), outward appearance (gaiken), or some kind of “misunderstanding” (gokai), “ingrained cultural habit” or “necessary business practice” (shuukan no chigai, seikatsu shuukan, shakai tsuunen, shikatsu mondai etc.). All of these claims had merely been excuses made to ignore the elephant in the room that more invidious racialized processes were involved. But in the Urawa "Japanese Only" Soccer Stadium Banner Case, the word jinshu sabetsu reappeared in the terms of debate, and we may in fact have witnessed a watershed moment in Japan's race relations history. Yet it wouldn't have happened without the issue leaking outside of Japan, incurring gaiatsu (outside pressure), and a real threat to Japan's worldwide reputation as a "civilized" society. A full explication follows:
12 Mar
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, Version with links to sources On Saturday, during their J. League match against Sagan Tosu at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans hung a “Japanese only” banner over an entrance to the stands. It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas English media, covered the story. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and at the time of going to press Wednesday, reports were suggesting that the club had decided that the banner was discriminatory, reversing a previous finding that the fans behind the incident had “no discriminatory intent.” So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign.…
12 Mar
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”
10 Mar
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.
8 Mar
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:
4 Mar
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):
21 Feb
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.
20 Feb
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.
16 Feb
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.
10 Feb
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.
9 Feb
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.
2 Feb
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.
31 Jan
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.
25 Jan
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.”
19 Jan
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.
17 Jan
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.
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