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Debito takes on Donald: readers’ responses

Some readers’ responses to Debito Arudou’s April 3 column, “Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths“:

Pandering to racial profiling

Donald Keene has done much to promote a greater cultural understanding of Japan in the Western world. Why would he denigrate those foreign residents in Japan who strive to do the same?

Keene’s insinuation that the “foreign devil” is a source of increasing criminality in Japan is akin to racial profiling in places like New York city or Sanford, Florida! As for the “flyjin” nonsense, how many wealthy Japanese fled Tokyo and the Tohoku region after hearing about the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in March 2011? These individuals are not mentioned alongside the so-called flyjin, are they? Considering the fact that both Tepco and the prime minister’s office were guilty of downplaying the severity of the nuclear disaster, can you blame any sane person for seeking safety overseas?

In regard to the April 3 article “Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths,” I am in complete agreement with the author. However, having criticized Keene for his thoughtless remarks, I should add that I still admire the work he has done over the years to provide the world with a greater understanding of Japan’s cultural and literary arts. He is the modern era’s Lafcadio Hearn and should be praised for his keen knowledge in the field of Japanology.

ROBERT MCKINNEY
Winona, Missouri

Exporting political correctness

Normally, I would not bother to comment about something like this, but this time I could not help myself.

Debito needs to stop taking himself and life so seriously, seeing enemies where there are none. I found his calling for Donald Keene to “publicly retract his denigrating statements with apologies” absolutely ridiculous. “Denigrating statements”? Give me a break! My reasoning:

1) Keene never said foreigners commit most crimes, nor did he even imply it. As the author himself points out, Keene said as a joke that he promises not to commit any crimes. Making such a joke doesn’t mean he supports the notion that foreigners commit most crimes in Japan, nor does making a joke about it somehow condone it. Rather, it sounds to me like he is doing exactly the sort of thing I would do: poking fun at a silly stereotype without resorting to anger and hostility.

Not everyone in Japan is likes us foreigners — get over it. Not everyone back in the States likes foreigners either! It does not mean that everyone thinks that way, and a bit of lighthearted sarcasm does more to highlight the absurdity of that belief than an angry tirade.

2) Regarding the “flyjin” phenomena, there were a lot of foreigners that left Japan at that time. The anecdotal evidence was astounding. I, as a foreigner who didn’t leave, poked fun of people who did. So what? It was their choice, but it was also the choice of my friends and I to ridicule such behavior, especially when we saw managers who felt they should get out of Tokyo, but made no efforts to offer similar “safety” options to the people in their employ.

Looking at statistics on the number of foreigners living in Japan as proof it didn’t happen is silly — not everyone left permanently, so they would not impact those statistics. And yet these points are secondary, as Keene never outwardly criticized the flyjin; this was simply an overly sensitive interpretation of his words by the author.

My point here is, stop looking for a reason to be angry. Clearly, the author must like Japan to have lived here as long as he has (and gotten citizenship to boot). Address the idiots directly — if (Tokyo Gov. Shintaro) Ishihara makes yet another inflammatory comment, call him on it (our home country is certainly no stranger to idiocy). No problem with that.

After 20 years living here, I can clearly see the good that is in Japan, and enjoy my life. Yes, there are still some annoying stereotypes kicking about out there, but are we really so fragile that we need to be protected from the imagined slights from an 89-year-old professor?

The U.S. is already drowning in a sea of political correctness, with whiners up in arms about imagined slights over every word spoken or written by a public figure. Let’s not make that one of our exports.

KEITH MARTIN
Tokyo

In agreement with Arudou

I am a foreigner who has been living in Japan for eight years, first as a graduate student and now working in a Japanese company. I am writing with respect to Mr. Arudou’s latest column, titled “Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths.”

I frequently read Mr. Arudou’s column, and I am always amazed by how blunt he can be with his opinions.

However, I must say that I agree completely with most of his opinions, and I understand and relate to Mr. Arudou’s statements.

The reason I am writing an e-mail now is that I have the feeling there will be many readers’ letters opposing Mr. Arudou’s statements; thus, I just wanted to say that I completely agree with Mr. Arudou’s point of view on this matter.

I always look forward to Mr. Arudou’s column, because his opinions are very honest, yet critical, in spite of his being a Japanese citizen.

LUIS S.
Tokyo

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