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Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad

by Debito Arudou

A commercial for All Nippon Airlines, one of Japan’s flagship carriers, has been making headlines recently. Released last Saturday, the 30-second spot shows two Japanese men (one a comedian named Bakarhythm, but let’s call them A and B) standing by an airport observation-deck window, speaking English with Japanese subtitles.

Looking out at the jets, A says, “Haneda Airport has more international flights nowadays.” B replies, “Finally.” Their exchange goes on: “Next stop, Vancouver.” “Next stop, Hanoi.” “Exciting, isn’t it?” Then B says, rather oddly, “You want a hug?” When A only gives him a nonplussed look, B continues, “Such a Japanese reaction.” When A explains, “But I am Japanese,” B counters, “I see. Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” And A, smiling broadly, agrees. (Ad archived here.)

All right so far. Except that A is now wearing a strapped-on long nose and a big blond wig. Off they fly to their destinations.

This ad has occasioned considerable debate and media coverage. Many commenters in English-language online forums have called it “racist” (one even said “Debito bait”; I’m chuffed) and have made moves to take their business elsewhere. Others have said the advert isn’t racist, just lame. A few managed to find a deep pocket of latent irony, saying it’s actually poking fun at the Japanese people and their insular attitudes. Meanwhile, within Japanese-language forums, according to a Yahoo Japan poll, 82 percent of respondents see no problem with it.

It will probably come as no surprise to learn that JBC objects to this ad. If ANA had really wanted to “change the image of Japan,” it should have avoided racializing its product. Instead, it’s just business as usual.

Consider some other racist marketing strategies from not so long ago (visuals and reports archived here)

Last year, Toshiba marketed a bread-maker with an obnoxiously overexuberant Japanese girl speaking katakana Japanese, wearing a blond wig and a big nose. (Ad archived here.)

In 2010, Nagasaki Prefecture promoted its “foreign” buildings by showing Japanese tourists wearing — you guessed it — blond wigs and big noses. (Ad archived here.)

In 2005, Mandom sold men’s cosmetics with a Rasta-man motif, juxtaposing black people with a chimpanzee. (Ad archived here.)

Dare I mention the resurrection of the book “Little Black Sambo” in 2005 for children, which inspired a racist nursery-school song in Saitama about “black butts”? (See “Sambo racism row reignites over kids’ play,” by Matthew Chozick.)

And how about the Choya plum sake commercials in 2008, featuring three girls (two Caucasian, one Japanese), the latter sporting a big plastic nose and stick-on paper blue eyes? Although most of these ads were soon pulled after complaints, you can still go to Amazon Japan or Tokyu Hands and buy gaijin” stick-on blue eyes and nose (with the caption “Harō gaijin-san“) to sport at parties!

Har har. Can’t you see it’s all just a joke, imbued with a deep sense of irony subversively directed at Japanese people? Except that, as I’ve pointed out in JBCs passim, ironic humor is not one of Japan’s strong suits.

Moreover, remember when McDonald’s Japan was using a nerdy white guy to hawk newfangled burgers? JBC argued (“Meet Mr. James, gaijin clown,” Sept. 1, 2009) that stereotyping of this nature only works as humor if, among other things, it passes a “switch test” — i.e., if everyone is fair game for parody.

But in Japan it’s not fair game. Japanese society and its media are quick to take umbrage at being lampooned by the outside world, especially in a racialized manner. Put succinctly: “Our big-nose humor is OK, but your buck-teeth humor isn’t.”

Case in point: To commemorate the publication of “Little Black Sambo,” I drew up a parody called “Little Yellow Jap” to put the shoe on the other foot, I made the protagonist as stereotypically exaggerated as the ink-black golliwogs in the book: bright yellow skin, round glasses, buck teeth, and clad in a fundoshi loincloth. I pointed out on every page that this was a parody of Japan’s “Sambo,” and contextualized it with a full explanation in Japanese of why racialized books for children are bad.

Yet for years now in the Japanese version of Wikipedia’s entry on me, this parody is cited as an example of my “discrimination against Japanese.” Clearly turnabout is not considered fair play.

Or take the case of British TV show “QI” (See “Cultural insensitivity no laughing matter” by Philip Brasor). Producers were forced to apologize for a joke about a recently deceased Japanese man who, in 1945, experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and was then unlucky enough to travel to Nagasaki in time to catch the second one. A panelist had dryly quipped, “He never got the train again, I tell you.”

That’s not funny — that’s insensitive! And insulting! And racist, according to the more unified online communities in Japan, backed up by protesting Japanese government officials, all of whom clearly understand irony. (For the record, I’m being ironic. Please laugh.)

Back to ANA. In tepid apology letters, ANA used a standard disclaimer: “We didn’t mean to offend anyone.” OK. And I’m sure many of your potential customers didn’t “mean” to be offended either. But many were. And if you have any pretensions to being an international company, you wouldn’t have found yourself on a sticky wicket like this in the first place.

To be fair, this campaign was probably cooked up not by ANA, but by one of Japan’s advertising behemoths (my guess is Dentsu, which has nearly a third of Japan’s market share). Anyone with an eye on the Japanese media knows how they make silly amounts of money on silly stereotypes (including the one that Japanese don’t hug), while reaffirming the binary between “Japan” and “the rest of the world.”

Nevertheless, ANA deserves its lumps, because its reps simply don’t know what they’re apologizing for. In fact, they clumsily reinforced the binary in their press releases, stating that complaints have “mostly come from foreign customers” (as opposed to real customers?) before finally pulling the ad on Tuesday.

Now consider this: Gerry Nacpil, supervisor of ANA’s Sky Web site, wrote in his apology, “The intention of this commercial was . . . to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens.”

So, “global citizens” equals white people? Now the ad is even more problematic.

Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you must be prepared to face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes according to 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 the majority who are “Asian.”

There will be no change in marketing strategies until Japan’s business leaders (and feudal-era advertisers) see non-Japanese as a significant customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior. Non-Japanese should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by second-guessing the true intentions behind racially grounded messages. Clearly the Japanese public, brought up on “big nose” and “black butt” humor, won’t pressure them to stop.

Don’t let ANA off the hook. This is a prime opportunity to act. Otherwise the idea that foreigners can be ridiculed for their racial traits (which also affects Japan’s multiethnic children) will become normalized, and tackling Japan’s racialized commodification will remain a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole,” with Japanese society looking ever more hypocritical and bigoted.

Just Be Cause usually appears on the first Thursday of the month but will be taking a break in February. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.

  • Julian Garrett

    Come on guys. Really?

    It was on many the western news websites too, and we, as people who deal with a lot of really serious racism on a daily basis, I dont think too many took it too seriously.

    Reading the Sydney Morning Herald, most of the comments were along the lines they thought it was cute and funny, rather than in your face and offensive.

    For some real racism, try the middle east. Those guys all have a lot to apologise for.

  • john walker

    i agree that the history of discrimination in america makes the yellow face ad quite offensive. but lets look at what japan is doing to foreigners today. right now in japan having blonde hair and a big nose (looking foreign in general) increase
    police attention and limit job opportunities and housing options. if there were equal protection under the law for japanese and for big nosed blondes, i would see the ad as less offensive.

  • anoninjapan

    “..Japan does not have a history of legislating white labourers out of work,
    rounding up white civilians and sending them to internment camps, etc..”

    That’s
    because Japan imports dirt cheap labour, giving those from SE Asian
    countries a 2 year “work” visa and false hope of real work and real pay.
    Since they pay them peanuts and after 2 years ship them home. Walk past
    any Panasonic/Sharp etc factory at closing time…all the manual
    workers are non-Japanese, all paid peanuts.

    You know very little about your own country!

    But
    of course, rather than face up to the assertion being made, the Japanese
    way of addressing such issues is…yup..misdirection and blame others
    or use another country as their “answer”. Japan is never wrong and is
    never negative is it??….yawn!

    • Sam Gilman

      If the ad had depicted South East or East Asians and in a derogatory light, you’d have a point. As it is, you actually seem to be regrettably keen to downplay the significant historical legacy of oppression of many other ethnic groups by white western nations. Jeannie, the person you were responding to, was not suggesting the advertisement was acceptable or the fault of non-Japanese. It seems you were outraged at the mere mention of what makes white derogatory depictions of others especially problematic. Perhaps while you may think you know your own history, I’m not sure you’ve ever genuinely confronted it.

  • Gordon Graham

    I agree. Mr.Debito’s Blackface reference is hardly fitting comparison when you consider that whites were never slaves to the Japanese. The black caricature can certainly be seen as demeaning and dehumanising while if we are completely honest the depiction for foreigners in Japan is one that stems from a position of inferiority and as such is a form of flattery. If anyone is upset it should be the Japanese for the implication that they are not good enough unless they become more Westernised.

  • thirdman

    I saw the ad and it’s clearly a tongue-in-cheek joke (making fun of (now rather outdated) Japanese’ narrow sense of what foreigners should look like). Maybe one of the major side-effects of living in Japan for the foreigners is losing a sense of humor.

  • Don Ho

    Lets not get carried away here, its not 125,000,000 Japanese people who scripted this ad, only a few boneheads. Its partly due to the island mentality i.e. living on a island with no borders, sometimes they realize there is no one else in this world hence, partly and mostly naivete abounds. Think about it.

  • ceej

    First, who is ‘us’? There is no homogenous ‘foreigner’ community in Japan. Second, it is not knee-jerk to say this was a racist ad. It was and it is better for everyone to say that directly. Do I think ANA intended it to be racist? No. Do I think people intend to be racist when they call me ‘Mr. Foreigner’? No. But it is still racism. Imagine if I shouted at a Japanese person across the street ‘Jap’ or ‘Asian san’ or whatever. Would they accept this? I think not. Yet this has happened to me with the ‘Mr. Foreigner’ thing many times. Do I accept this or tell them straight I don’t like it and it’s racist? The second option is better IMO.

  • Gordon Graham

    So the “blackface” comparison doesn’t apply as the implicit yearning in this ad is to become more like white people. It’s flattery not insult

  • http://www.jlist.com Peter Payne

    As there’s no Japanese equivalent of the “me so solly” Jerry Lewis style tradition of making fools of Japanese/Asians in the West, I’d say it a just a thing. There’s no cultural framework for us to be offended, unless we want to be.

  • Toolonggone

    In other words, some people have no clue about how the ad sends the message through the context that conveys hidden assumptions on Japanese people and race. Your uncalled accusation of foreigners for being “naturally racist” clearly indicates an absurdity of your argument.

  • Gordon Graham

    Then its fair to say ANA should do this and that and are this and that, but what you’re doing is the same as what you criticise…The Japanese are this the Japanese are that. You’re making assumptions about the entire race based on a few tasteless commercials…Ever been to a Halloween party in America?

    • JapanDad

      This is a VERY common comment – “You’re criticizing [the majority] for over-generalizing, but aren’t you doing the same thing by generalizing about [the majority]?”

      Two points here: 1) A member of a minority group generalizing about a member of the majority group is not the same as a majority generalizing about a minority. There is a HUGE qualitative difference. If I went back to America and criticized non-whites in the same way, yes, I would be in the wrong. In Japan, I am not in the same position of power and privilege vis-a-vis Japanese people that I am in America. So your criticism has no validity whatsoever.

      2) Generalizations about groups are possible and, in fact, are ok. I have no problem with someone saying, “Foreigners don’t tend to understand X about Japan.” To be blunt, it is simple common sense. Use your common sense – are my generalizations about the Japanese fair? Am I using hedges (such as, “some Japanese,” “many Japanese,” “in my experience, Japanese people are…”) to make clear that my generalization is not to be taken as a 100% fact? Am I making it clear that my generalization is my own experience and not meant to be taken as cold, hard fact?

      Use your common sense. Some generalizations, when presented clearly, fairly, and with appropriate hedges to make it clear that you are expressing an opinion, observation, or personal experience are ok.

      For example, if I say, “Many foreigners in Japan” – are all foreigners foreign? Yes! That generalization is probably ok. If I say, “All foreigners have big noses,” is that generalization correct? No! And you can use your common sense to parse this out for yourself.

  • Gordon Graham

    Only a matter of time before Nanjing entered the conversation about an airline commercial…Shall we now closely review the histories of, lets say, ummm, every nation?

    • anoninjapan

      Yes I think so. Since the whole point of this is that Japan constantly sees history very very differently from the rest of the world. To the point of “air brushing” it out to make it palatable to those in Japan. Ergo…its myopia and an ever growing criticism for its “oh this is what we do” stance is being exposed in a global highway of instant information where Japan cannot control such narratives as they do inside Japan.

      Perhaps you would like to discuss the new NHK boss for his ignroance on the Sex-Slaves issue too…or are you complicit in Japan’s warped myopic version of “history”, which perpetuates such ads as ANA’s “we didnt mean it” to be defended by those as ignorant of past events as Japan.

      Being ignorant is no defence.

  • Mateusz82

    What makes the cartoon strip incomplete, if anything, is that racism in the West is not tolerated. Making excuses for Japan’s anti-Western racism does not help, and people need to stop rationalizing it. Regardless of Japanese history (which did include the use of slave labor during the second world war), the fact is that whites in Japan are treated as second class. Japan currently denigrates whites, and it does so with the blessing of people (white and yellow) who say it’s not so bad.

    Also, we need to stop buying into the view that white people can not be Asian (including Japanese), that the two are mutual exclusive. As a white resident of China, I find it insulting that I will never be accepted considered Chinese, nor accepted, due to my skin color. If views like “White people are the only people who are really European, and the only people who belong in Europe” sound racist, then how is the view “Yellow people are not the only people who are Asian, or who belong in Asia” any more acceptable? Ethnic nationalism, such as shown in the mentioned ads, needs to be challenged.

    That’s why I find it especially grating when white people make excuses for this sort of thing. It makes it harder for those of us who ask for basic respect when people claim it’s no big deal.

    • Sam Gilman

      From everything I have heard from western residents in China, and from international survey data, I think it’s unwise to assume that the situation regarding minorities in China is identical with Japan. The empirical evidence suggests that Japan is the most liberal-minded of societies in the region; while of course Japanese may frequently be surprised or occasionally mildly confused by a white person being a Japanese citizen, it’s not something that most people will actively kick back against. Here – it seems to me – relatively much greater stress is placed on manner and acculturation (and language) as badges of national identity (as well as language) rather than ethnicity compared to other places in Asia. That’s still a barrier to incomers, but it’s not a biologically insurmountable one. (Note: “most”. Of course there are idiots in any country; to be honest, the racists here are less worried about whites than they are about Koreans and Chinese). For me, that’s actually the thing I really dislike about the advert, particularly because my children are mixed race Japanese – the implied identification of being Japanese with Japanese ethnicity. It just seems really, really backward.

      • Mateusz82

        I’m not assuming it’s identical, just similar.

        How many Western residents of China do you know, and what data are you referring to? Even if Japan was the most liberal-minded society in the region, that is damning with faint praise. There won’t be a lot of people kicking back, since white Japanese are still a very small minority. The other problem with it is people perpetuate this notion that white people are “foreign”, often without thinking about it.

      • Gordon Graham

        …most likely because of the “very small minority” thing

      • Sam Gilman

        I honestly think the difference may be bigger than you think.

        The examples from anecdotes that come most prominently to mind are relationships and marriages. My impression is that in mainland China there is a rather stronger familial resistance to children, particularly daughters, marrying westerners. I struggle to think of a western acquaintance whose Japanese partner’s parents have resolutely opposed a marriage. Of course, there’s been cases of initial surprise and tutting, but nothing long-lasting. I have heard of a couple of cases of friends of friends over the course of a decade or so where there have been serious problems, but it really doesn’t seem to be at all common. In mainland China, on the other hand, my impression from western bloggers talking to each other is that it’s it’s a much more common issue. Of course, cases of Japanese parents objecting to an ethnic Korean marrying their child seem to be more common, but I’m not sure it’s so widespread, although if we want to worry about problems of malicious rather than inadvertent Japanese racism, it’s that which is directed to ethnic Chinese and Koreans, not to white people, that people living here need to be vigilant for and get angry about.

        There are also comparison and contrasts to be made between the experiences of a mixed-race performer in China like Lou jing, and those of the African-American-ethnic Korean Japanese singer Crystal Kay (whose biggest complaint seems to be that people who don’t know who she is often assume she’s an English-speaking foreigner) or the warm welcome given to Jero, the quarter-Japanese African-American enka singer. I’ve never heard of “traitor” accusations against people with western partners here (I’m sure someone somewhere has said it, but it’s certainly not common currency).

        Of course, these are anecdotes and subject to all kinds of biases.

        The data I was thinking of are two surveys, which suggest that on average, Japanese, and I should have also mentioned Taiwanese, are much more open to foreigners as visitors and other races as neighbours than the populations of the countries around them. Here’s the stuff:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/03/21/a-fascinating-map-of-countries-color-coded-by-their-openness-to-foreigners/

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15/a-fascinating-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-racially-tolerant-countries/

        That is, these days these two countries resemble contemporary western Europe in their outlook. That coincides with my experience.

        I should also say that I think this openness may be a fairly recent development. It was only in the mid 1980s that large numbers of non-military visible foreigners really started coming to Japan to live. Accounts of half-Japanese or ethnically non-Japanese citizens seem to suggest that life is much better now than it was. Society is clearly adjusting. There are still problems, for example with a few housing rental places, and quite plainly (and importantly), as this advert shows, there’s a serious widespread need for a whole lot of awareness and sensitivity training. However, most westerners go about their daily lives quite unhassled and unabused, so much so that stories of serious institutional or chronic harassment are often greeted in the blogosphere with a good deal of skepticism, a skepticism which is, I have to say, often borne out by subsequent revelations.

        That’s why quite a few people here, while objecting to the ANA ad, also object to the assumption that this is evidence of a nationwide hatred or contempt for westerners or white people. That’s just not really how it is here. There are instances of anti-western racism here and there, but it’s really quite rare, and it would be unfair to characterise the country in general has having a “Problem” about westerners. If it had been something dodgy depicting a Korean or someone from a poorer East or Southeast Asian country, we would be having a very different conversation, as that is a more serious problem.

        You should be aware that the author, Debito Arudou (a naturalised citizen from the US), is rather controversial amongst westerners in Japan. He styles himself as an activist for human rights, but it’s fair to say a rather large number of westerners feel he exaggerates and misrepresents in a way that borders on straightforward anti-Japanese prejudice (before you ask, the naturalisation was undertaken for financial reasons). However, he does have a core support that are rather (cough) “forthright” in their condemnations of both of pretty much anything Japanese, and of anyone who dares even to question the factual or logical basis for that condemnation. His articles also get a lot of clicks.

  • Mateusz82

    How many people in England shout “Ni hao, foreigner!” at your wife, or assume that because she’s yellow, she’s “One of them”? If someone made the “slanty eye” gesture to her, would she laugh it off as a hilarious joke, or be offended?

    In fact, how many times is she even called “foreigner”? Do you introduce her as your “foreign wife”? I know for certain that in the US, referring to someone as “foreign” based on their ethnicity is not acceptable at all, yet those of us who live in Asia (both as citizens or as temporary residents) are expected to take the status of “One of them”.

    No one is “crying racism”. Debito is standing up for the dignity of a minority Asian group, a minority I belong to.

  • Mateusz82

    Yeah, if Caucasians started darkening their skin, then there’s something to talk about. Like, if they were to lay on the beach, after applying some manner of cream for the purpose of making their skin darker, more tan, if you will, then they’d have a point. If they made use of some sort of, let’s call it a “bed” for “tanning”, then they would have something.

    • robertwgordonesq

      Are you saying that Caucasians who get sun tans do it because they hate appearing or being seen as “white”? If so, I seriously doubt any Caucasian getting a sun tan does so because they want to take part in the “privileges” of being “black”. Except for maybe the Caucasian rapper Eminem and film producer Quentin Tarantino who certainly want to “be” black, but without having to accept all the other baggage that goes along with actually being “black”. Two different motives there my friend. (unless you meant something else by your comment).

      • Mateusz82

        They do it because pale skin is seen as less attractive than darker skin. It’s not much different than in Asia (the people getting plastic surgery don’t try to claim to be Western, or deny any ethnic heritage. Pale skin being seen as beautiful existed in China for centuries, for example).

        As to wome Cacasians wanting to be black, that could be true in some cases. There is a significant amount of self-hatred and deeply rooted guilt among Caucasians, and a desire to be anything but white can be a manifestation of this guilt.

  • Sam Gilman

    I think you’ve misunderstood what you were objecting to in the first place, but let’s put that to one side and look at something you’ve said that really gets to the heart of why some of the complaints by westerners about this advert – which, I apparently have to stress again, I do think is objectionable and involves bad racial stereotypes – are themselves objectionable and leave me and clearly also others feeling a touch queasy.

    If I may quote you:

    I think the whole of the EU confronts its history in a far far better light than Japan.

    You think so? You’ve invited several people to know their history better, so let’s see what you, given that apparently you know history very well, plainly think is a “far far better” way of confronting the crimes of a colonial history. Let’s look at the European colonial powers’ history of apology and acknowledgement for what they did. It’s a valuable exercise in exposing a common form of absent-minded apologism in Europe and the west. This is real apologism too, not the lazy label applied to anyone who does not share the racially charged dislike of Japan that is all too common amongst certain groups of ex-pats.

    The thing is, in engaging in this practice in this context, you end up validating one of the most common claims of the hard right in Japan. When they protest the west’s hypocrisy in criticising Japan, because of people like you they have a point. I wish people like you, who like to assume a moral superiority, would stop giving these extremists ammunition, as it strengthens them. Shall we read on?

    Remember what we’re looking at: not how bad were the histories (they all involve the deaths and persecution of millions), but how do countries address these darker aspects of those histories – and I hope there is no denying these darker aspects from anyone here on any side. We have Japan, which, as soon as diplomatic relations were restored with the countries it had brutalised, apologised and offered compensation, with a pledge never to go to war again, a pledge even reaffirmed by a very right-wing prime minister in Abe. His attempts to re-examine comfort women apologies were slapped down by media, politicians and society in general in 2007. I hope you are familiar with the material on this page; it’s depressing how many journalists are not. How about some leading members of the EU, which you think have done “far far better” than Japan since the end of the colonial era in confronting their past. I’ll try to keep my examples to within the last decade or so, just so we don’t have a pointless “yes but things are different now” dance.

    Let’s start with Britain, a country basking in the warm fuzzy glow of colonial amnesia. In 2013, the British Prime Minister visits Amritsar, the site of a notorious colonial massacre. He refuses to apologise, praises aspects of the British empire and describes the despoliation of India as a “net help” for the country, and dismisses the repatriation of cultural items ransacked from former colonial possessions as “returnism”. A leading newspaper subsequently publishes an article called “Yes, mistakes were made, but we must never stop being proud of the Empire”, and there is not a national or international scandal in the slightest because it’s quite a common thing to hear in certain circles in the UK, in public. You think this is an example of doing “far far better”. Curiously, this “we did more good than harm” line is similar to the line of the hard right in Japan about the Korean occupation, not the government itself which daren’t go there. In 2012 we also discover that the British destroyed documentation of colonial atrocities, again a parallel with Japan, and one that the government kept secret for forty years. Far far better?

    In 2012, the French President, visiting Algeria, refuses to “repent or apologise” for French colonialism. The war itself led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. French historians generally dispute Algerian estimates of 1.5 million, claiming it was 900,000 while the French government acknowledges only 350,000. Now, where have I heard such “oh, we didn’t kill that many” disputes before? Oh yes, Nanjing. But somehow, you think the French do it all “far, far better”. Into the bargain, Hollande said something vague about France temporarily “forgetting its universal values”. That’s the same France that ruled half of West Africa for well over a century. It took forty years for France even to admit the state-sanctioned massacre of Algerian protesters in Paris in 1961; the person who ordered the action – that is, the person given power by the French state to do so – was finally convicted in 1999 of being a Nazi Vichy collaborator. Not the grandson of one, an actual one. Again, there are strong parallels with crimes by Japan that the extreme right here want to gloss over. Only with France it’s a mainstream centre-left politician.

    Belgium still has not apologised for its general behaviour in the Congo,where they killed upwards of ten million people. To fair, Belgium did apologise, a whole forty years late, for involvement in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, plunging the region into forty years of first tyrannical and then violent and extremely bloody misery post-independence. Spain has not apologised for the utter destruction of the Americas or for its possession of Equatorial Guinea (independence: 1975) where it engaged in forced labour. How is this “far, far better”?

    Still, there’s the model country Germany. How did it do over its African possessions? It didn’t apologise for the 1904
    Herero massacre
    (100,000 dead) until 100 years later in 2004 (and after much resistance and concealment), and there hasn’t been an apology for German colonialism in east Africa at all, where they engaged in slavery even after the general abolition worldwide. Even its modern post-WWII record isn’t perfect.In a parallel with the extreme right’s nastiness over comfort women (“We’re not the only ones! Koreans also helped recruit them!!”), the German state won’t compensate Slovakian jews whose 57,000 relatives were transported to German extermination camps with the transport paid through confiscation of their property because it was a decision by the Nazi-client Slovak state at the time, not the German state.

    On the topic of timely apologies, we should have honourable mentions for the British almost-apologising for the Irish famine 140 years later (and, paralleling the ghastly and asinine remarks by the new head of NHK yesterday about comfort women, a leading BBC journalist describing the almost-apology as “moral vacuousness” – why apologise for something you yourself did not do), and to the Maoris 150 years later. Another telling case is that of the Dutch, who, fresh from the Nazi experience, massacred thousands of Indonesians in an attempt to retake the country after the Japanese had been defeated in 1945-7. They apologised for this almost immediately afterwards, if by “immediately afterwards” we actually mean September last year. You think this is far, far better? Seriously?

    As an EU citizen all this deeply pains me, but again and again, the state representatives of the leading members of the EU, and their media, particularly when confronting those dark parts of their past which didn’t involve killing other white people, whitewash it, ignore it, and occasionally glorify it. (There are lots of US examples too; for example here). I do not see how anyone coming from the EU can start lecturing others on how good Europeans are at coming to terms with what they have done to other peoples. By contrast, you, by declaring that this is all “far, far better”, are pretty much supporting the whitewashing of European colonial history.This is why, when people like you leap at the chance this ad has offered you to go on about Japan’s racism and unreconciled history as if you yourself are from some morally superior ethnos, I have to be honest, it kind of turns my stomach. I struggle to see the qualitative difference between your way of viewing history and that of the hardline nationalist groups here in Japan. You’re just on opposite sides, fuelled by contempt for each other’s country, throwing s**t at each other with the sole purpose of making yourself look – and feel – cleaner. No good comes from thinking like this. Nothing about it suggests you actually want to make the situation better, either in your country of origin or here.

    Of course, it’s possible that when you said that the EU dealt with its history “far, far better”, you were unaware of exactly what the leading countries of the EU have and have not said and done in examining their colonialism (and it would be big of you to admit you didn’t know). And that would be telling in itself – that we don’t actually teach ourselves our history, even though we like to pretend we’re so much better at that too.

  • Sam Gilman

    I think you’ve hit reply to the wrong person. I didn’t say anything about the joke depiction being a compliment.

  • Mateusz82

    Ah, I see. So it’s turning “natural” color. Their white skin is unnatural, and by tanning, they just are trying to look “natural”. That totally negates the fact that they hate their skin color.

    Also, if you don’t think that there are white folks out there with dreadlocks, then you need to get out more, or at least learn to do an Internet image search.

    If you want to talk about self-hatred and shame, just look at the comments here, how many whites are just taking the racist jabs, because the have been expected to shut up and take it. Hell, they’re even telling other whites to not be offended, because they don’t deserve to be offended. An ad that had white people dress up in yellow face would get protests and people fired, because yellow people have the self-respect to stand up for themselves, while white people welcome the abuse. When people won’t stand up for themselves, and demand that others of their group also sit down and take it, that is self-hatred.

    • Gordon Graham

      Self-hatred?! So, failing to take the ANA ad as a slur amounts to self-hatred? I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I’m perfectly comfortable being white. I wouldn’t want to be anything else. Not that I feel it’s in anyway superior, I don’t, it’s just who I am and contrary to your accusation I quite like myself and am brimming with self-confidence… to the point where I don’t mind being considered an outsider in an Asian society when in fact that’s what I am. I’m very much on the inside of the group to which I choose to belong. Nothing in this country has given me cause to feel like a victim. If others feel otherwise then that’s their prerogative but please don’t insist that I feel insulted because of YOUR experience. Your telling me what I should feel is far more insulting than anything suggested in this ad. Someone mentioned on this thread that it’s a good thing that this article was published as it will “get the conversation going”…I laughed at that as I knew for certain it would never be a “conversation” but merely digress into pedantic rants about “the narrative”. Of course any experience voiced that contradicts the mantra of oppression are certain to be considered either that of ignorance or complicity…To which I, in turn, well …yawn

  • Mateusz82

    Actually, no, it doesn’t. English speakers routinely use words from other languages informally (“Gracias” instead of “Thank you” or “Sayonara” instead of “Goodbye” are just some examples).

    Instead of traveling to Hypothetical Land, let’s stick to places that actually exist for now. She is not treated that way in the UK, because racism in the UK is not tolerated. In fact, the only people in the UK who would treat her the way Westerners are treated in Japan would be the British National Party. Basically, you are saying that the UK is less racist than Japan, but that’s alright.

    I’m not imposing US values upon you. When the “Japanese way” is of racism, then it is unacceptable. Ethnic nationalism is not acceptable, and racism should not be accepted as a “cultural practice”. Do you try to justify British colonization of India, or racism against Indians, as simply “the British way”?

    To answer that question, don’t extend it to being “one of them”, because racism doesn’t deserve to be tolerated. There are people in the American South who terrorize blacks and Jews. No one has to excuse that as simply “their culture”. Instead, the Ku Klux Klan is condemned as a hate group. Japanese racism (as well as Chinese racism) does not get a pass any more than the BNP, KKK, or any Neo-Nazi group, even though these groups can try to claim that racism is part of their culture. If someone from the BNP told your wife, “All slant-eyed Japs don’t belong in the UK. Britain is for the British.”, would you accept that it’s the culture of the BNP, or would you be offended? If you can understand why that is offensive and doesn’t deserve “tolerance”, then you can hopefully understand why racism from Japanese towards minorities in Japan doesn’t deserve tolerance.

  • Mateusz82

    So “tan” would be “natural”, and they’re just going from unnatural to normal?

    Also, there are whites who do wear dreadlocks. They often are mocked as wannabes, however, if they wore blackface makeup, they’d be condemned as racist. There’s a difference.

    • Gordon Graham

      natural as in the colour it naturally turns when exposed to the sun…Come on Matty, you’re the one on here lecturing about semantics

  • Mateusz82

    It doesn’t imply that, since English speakers routinely use non-English words (“Gracias”, Sayonara”, “Gesundheit”, etc.).

    That was my point. Instead of venturing to Hypothetical Land, let’s stick to the UK, where racism is not tolerated (unlike in Japan). Only the British National Party accepts racist views on the level of in Japan or China.

    No, I’m not imposing US values. Racism is unacceptable for me, and I don’t see why I should accept it.

    The Ku Klux Klan harrasses blacks and Jews, especially in the rural American south. Should they be allowed to burn crosses on the lawns of blacks, because it’s part of the Klan’s culture, and you don’t want to impose values on them? If members of the BNP made “slanty-eye” gestures, to mock your wife, or told her that “Britain is for the British, and she should go back to Japan”, would you feel offended, or just accept that this is part of the culture of the BNP. Should discrimination against Indians today, or British colonization of India ini the past, be accepted as part of British culture?

    If your wife was in the US during the second world war, she would likely have been put in an internment camp for her ethnicity. Now, the US has since made apologies, however, do you honestly think that America should, instead of apologizing, just told the Japanese that it was “part of American culture, and foreigners need to accept it”?

    Racist xenophobia is not something that should be tolerated, and it doesn’t matter who is the one practicing it. It’s wrong in the West, and it’s wrong in the East.

  • Gordon Graham

    Sorry, “prejudiced”…Is that better?

  • Gordon Graham

    except in this case it’s envy and flattery through imitation…not racial hatred. Unless you think the ad says “There are now more international flights out of Haneda, damn white people!”

  • JapanDad

    “do you really think it does more harm to let this kind of advert go”

    You don’t have kids, nor have you worked with them, in Japan, have you? Yes, 100%, a thousand times yes, it is FAR WORSE to let this commercial go than to look a little silly protesting it. “It’s a shame about your stepson” – no, that’s the entire point. The prejudice I face in Japan is not limited to me – it PERMEATES my life – my wife, my kids, everyone connected to me gets asked CONSTANTLY rude questions – things like, “Why don’t you speak English, since you spend so much time with foreigners?”

    The mere fact that you feel comfortable denigrating and infantilizing our protests demonstrates just how necessary those protests are. The fact that you feel comfortable dismissing a CHILD being pressured (maybe bullied, I don’t know yet) by his peers due to the race of his step-dad shows that you really don’t have much sympathy, and without sympathy – trust me – you can’t really overcome prejudice.

  • JapanDad

    Oh, and I never said we have bigger fish to fry. YOU might have bigger fish to fry. OTHER foreigners in Japan may have bigger fish to fry. But as I’ve pointed out, the prejudice that I personally face affects my entire family. My family’s safety and happiness is my main priority, so, no, I personally do not have bigger fish to fry.

    Now, you may not be married, or have kids – you may not even WANT kids. But I do. And they get pressured (bullied?) for having a white step-dad. THAT is my biggest concern.

    And it seems to me that the people who think this advertisement is ok don’t have a lot of sympathy for people actually living and raising families in Japan. Try to see things from our perspective and you might have a sense of WHY we don’t like this kind of commercial.

  • Sam Gilman

    Given that I clearly stated that one group’s racism does not excuse another group’s racism, and given that I have made no defence of the ANA advert (which I have said clearly is an objectionable racial portrayal), I think the problem is that you are not a very careful reader.

    I could be wrong, of course. It could be something more sinister. After all, to describe the ANA advert as an example of racial hatred suggests a paranoia that borders on quite profound prejudice about Japanese. It’s quite clearly not hateful. It’s stupid, offensive, unhelpful, whatever you like, but hateful? You think an international airline looking to expand is run by those who hate white people? In what universe does that make sense?

    • Mateusz82

      Given that you clearly are making an excuse, the problem is that you are duplicitous (or not a very careful rememberer of what you wrote).

      You made the claim that it’s being a colonial apologist to see this as more than just crass. It could be that you weren’t quite clear about the words you wrote.

      How is it paranoid to state that there are racists working for ANA? That’s not really the definition of paranoia. It makes sense in this universe. Why would you assume that working for ANA means they can’t logically be hateful?

      • Sam Gilman

        You’re mixing a few things up here. Perhaps instead of trying to have a go at me as a person because you’ve decided I’m wrong about something or other, you could spend a bit more time looking at what I’m actually saying, and paying attention to who it is I’m saying it to.

        First of all, I’m not excusing anything. We have a very different interpretation of how offensive this advert is, but me disagreeing with your interpretation is not the same as making an excuse.

        I don’t make the claim that someone is a colonial apologist if they think this advert is more sinister than crass. That is a discussion we can have, and I am trying to have with you in another part of these comments, if you’ll stop assuming that you’ll just disagree with everything I say before I say it.

        Where one verges into apologism for one’s own history is when white westerners start to claim that the ad is equivalent to something like blackface. If westerners think the offensiveness of blackface is simply down to a crude imitation of another race’s distinctive features, then they need to catch up on their history. It represents not simply the imitation, but the reasons and circumstances for the imitation. To ignore those is to play down the offence, and to play down the offence becomes apologism. You may notice that the people who think this is equivalent to blackface are also those who sail very close to the racist wind in terms of their comments about “the Japanese”.

        (Then there’s a particular charge of quite serious apologism at one particular commenter, who, even when confronted with clear evidence to the contrary, seems to think that European nations have been “far, far better” at acknowledging, apologising for and offering compensation for crimes against their colonial subjects. This is clear apologism, I’m sure you’ll agree.)

        It’s not a logical impossibility that someone who dislikes the idea of white people coming to Japan would be in charge of an international airline seeking to promote globalisation and intercultural exchange. It just seems highly unlikely. I’m sure there are one or two people somewhere in the world managing slaughterhouses who are vegetarians.

      • Mateusz82

        What is being mixed up? I actually have looked at what you said (including when you “had a go” at me). Also, when you insult someone, while lecturing someone about insulting, it looks disingenuous.

        Right, so now, you are not excusing anything. I hope you’ll stay consistent on that position for a while. That is true, though, making excuses is making excuses. Though, to your credit, you did back peddle. Since I never made that assumption, that part is pretty easy.

        First, there’s a difference between saying this is similar to blackface, or like blackface, or even analogous to blackface, and saying it is the same thing. There’s nothing apologetic by claiming that you can make comparisons. Things which are compared to each other, are not assumed to be the exact same. I haven’t noticed what you suggested. It could be possible that you are being a bit quick to attach motives to people. Let’s not project motived on them. Claiming that their objections to ADA’s racism is rooted in bigotry is quite a leap.

        Actually, I can’t agree. From what I was told by a Japanese national living in the US, children in Japan were often not told the whole truth regarding war crimes, and as a nation, Japan doesn’t confront its past (let alone its present). However, I have being in Germany, and have visited the Holocaust memorial, as well as the memorials in Auschwitz and Birkenau. From what I know from British people, Britain is rather forthcoming in admitting to a bloodstained past of colonization. From what I’ve seen, Japan more often downplays past and present discrimination. There is a problem with “far, far better”, as it is quite subjective, and the issue of how well a country is at “acknowledging, apologizing, and offering compensation”. There may be facts I am unaware of, and can change my view upon being presented with said facts. As it stands, I can’t say for sure that European nations are better in that regard, but I can’t say the reverse is true either. Perhaps you are using a different definition of “apologism”.

        Why would it be so unlikely? That is a flawed analogy. Vegetarians would have moral objections to the killing of animals. Racists don’t have such oppositions necessarily to people using their service and earning them profit. Even if they hate a demographic, they could easily still want to make money off of said demographic. Airlines are businesses, not charities, and there goals are nothing loftier than profit.

      • Sam Gilman

        For me, this is precisely *not* about proving that one country or one culture is essentially better than another. That’s a stupid competition only fit for bigots. Right now, with quite a few people making broadside accusations not only against the whole population and culture, but doing so as if their own country’s perceived superiority grants them special powers to say so, it’s actually about puncturing the conceit that a lot of westerners have that they are superior. It’s a common conceit that’s inculcated into us from an early age through all sorts of images and narratives. It’s very important to get rid of it, otherwise we’ll never see clearly. If we don’t see things clearly, we can’t make things better.

        This is why I picked up on anoninJapan’s comment about just how much better he thinks Europe is. At the formal government level, Japan has actually recognised far more of its crimes than most western countries have done. We go on about Germany admitting what the Nazis did, but what Europeans did to Africans and Asians goes little discussed, including in Germany; some contemporary European leaders have said some shockingly unrepentant things that would cause an utter s**tstorm inside Japan (let alone internationally) if said by a Japanese leader (by the way, the Okinawa Peace Park and museum should be on your itinerary if you ever visit). We go on about history textbooks (a fascinating read here), but, for example, I learnt absolutely nothing of specific British colonial atrocities when I was at school – I found out later. History isn’t even compulsory after 13. The point here is not (I repeat, NOT about Japan being “better”, but about the need to stop arrogantly thinking the Japanese are irredeemably and always “worse” about this sort of thing, and that we are always kinder, more compassionate, more self-critical. I honestly believe that to automatically conclude that this ANA advert was motivated by hatred of white people comes from that indoctrinated headspace – it’s the Japanese, so it must be cryptofascistic and hatefully racist because that’s what t h e s e p e o p l e are really like.

        Reinforcing that belief is this: even though I have described the advert as objectionable, crass, insensitive and backward, I am accused of excusing what ANA did, even defending it – simply because I don’t think there was any malicious intent. I’m being attacked not because I like the advert (I don’t), but because I don’t also buy into the rather widespread myth of the Japanese population’s secret hatred of the general outside. But hey, what right do I have to an opinion, I’ve only been living here for a long time. I’ll repeat something very important: if this had been about a mocking prosthetic or boot-polished portrayal of a member of one of those groups that have experienced damaging prejudice in Japanese society, we could be having a verrrry different conversation. Then I would be angry and worried, rather than just irritated.

      • anoninjapan

        Oh dear, there you go again, creating your own straw man argument to misdirect. I quote:

        “.. I honestly believe that to automatically conclude that this ANA advert was motivated by hatred of white people..”

        So, where does anyone here say that those whom oppose the ANA advert are stating that Japanese hate white people..??

        No one does. Those with an open unbiased and objective mind are stating it is racist. You appear to be bending over backwards to tell others that is not racist by misdirection and ignoring established facts.

        One simple measure of how one country views “others” inside its own borders is how it “classifies” them. Is there an antidiscrimination law in Japan…er…nope. Hmmm..

        But in true Japanese style….Japanese do not see discrimination until the shoe is on the other foot. And boy do they complain.

        Here:
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12260577

        In the same “joke” context of humour being local and aimed at locals, in this case the British, a joke was made about a guy who survive the 1st A-bomb attack only to die when fleeing to Nagasaki and hit by the 2nd A-bomb. What occurred…the Japanese Embassy got involved and complained.

        Funny…I thought it was humour that ANA and its advertising team seem to think is acceptable. But when Japan/ese is the “victim”…boy, one’s true colours really show.

      • Sam Gilman

        Mateusz82 described the advert as an example of “racial hatred”.

        Actually, searching for that phrase led me to find other comments he’s made here, which were a bit of an eye opener. He has described people who aren’t particularly upset by the advert as afflicted by self-hatred. According to him, a lot of caucasians are self-hating and wracked with guilt. He also says that white people need to stand up for themselves more, noting that (and I quote) “yellow people have the self-respect to stand up for themselves”.

        Basically, he’s making a call for white pride. Perhaps you should join him. Club together and you could get a sound truck.

  • anoninjapan

    You missed it because you’re too busy trying to defend the indefensible and their actions. The classic Japanese misdirection which has nothing to do with the question at hand. Just misdirect and ignore the very large elephant in the room, neh?

    If you wish to be ignorant of what racism is and factual events at the hands of the Japan which it ignores/denies to the point of absurdity, fine that is your prerogative. Just don’t assume everyone is a gullable and myopic as you are….

    • Gordon Graham

      I missed it because it’s not there…

  • JapanDad

    Oh, ok, I understand now. You don’t know what systematic racism means. You think that because there is no open bigotry in the commercial that it is not racist.

    Ok, well, look: the issue isn’t the long nose, and no, that’s not what “hurts” me (but thank you for being patronizing). Here, try Googling “racist dogwhistle” and you might understand why this commercial is a problem.

    • Gordon Graham

      I know enough about racism to make up my own mind about what does and doesn’t offend me. I also know enough about human nature to know whether or not something is malicious in intent. Your insistence on my being offended or your didactic stance toward me (and that goes for the author of this article, too) is more insulting than anything suggested in this ad. I know well enough when to defend myself and when to let something go. I also know enough about victimhood to know that wallowing in it is not the best way to overcome it. My kids both go to a Japanese school and have no problem whatsoever fitting in and getting along. They are secure in who and what they are. Friends naturally gravitate to them because they are friendly and confident. On the other hand if they were to walk around sullen and hurt with an attitude akin to a sign that screamed “Don’t Kick Me!”, I wouldn’t be the least surprised if they got the boot.

  • Gordon Graham

    ad hominem drivel is your response…I’m disapointed

  • Sam Gilman

    I think we both know that was something of a cowardly response from you. You could have written “sorry, I was unaware that European nations had failed to apologise so many of their colonial crimes and I was mistaken to say what I did”. You could have just dropped out of the conversation to have a think about what you had thought was true but actually wasn’t. Instead, when confronted with a list of the unrepented or barely repented killings of millions of Africans, Asians and native Americans that you had, I hope inadvertently, suggested represented a “far far better” approach to viewing one’s history, you decide instead it’s just really, really important for your ego to have a comeback and so, sod all those dead people, you try to change the subject. I’m not sure how well that reflects on you and your values.

    Anyway, let’s look at your complaint that Japan’s defence budget is the fifth biggest in the world. I don’t know how good you are at maths, but it’s pretty common knowledge that Japan has the third largest economy. Fifth, I hope you’ll agree, is lower than third. That suggests that Japan may be spending less per capita on defence than many other industrialised nations. Shall we check the wikipedia page on that? . What rank are they there, in 2009? Oh look, they’re twenty-sixth.

    Who might be above them? Funnily enough, it includes all but one of the countries I listed above who have had terrible trouble apologising for killings of people other than each other’s citizens: The UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and, of course the US. All, in your words, “far, far better” at coming to terms with their militaristic past.. Well done peace-loving Spain for spending 1% per head less than Japan in 2009, on a per capita economy at the time that was 15% smaller.

    It’s worth pointing out that none of these other person-for-person higher spending defence countries have two militaristic undemocratic nuclear powers with openly aggressive intentions towards them on their doorstep. One of these nuclear powers is the second biggest defence spender in the world. Less per capita spend despite the clearly greater threat? What’s the problem here?

    Or we could look at defence spending as a proportion of GDP (after all, richer countries will spend more; per GDP indicates priority better), which we get by clicking on the GDP % column here for the 2012 figures and starting to count.

    I may have miscounted by one or two, but there I make Japan one hundred and fifteenth. Spain apparently cut back in those years and remains below Japan, but all the rest of those countries, as well as their inability to confront what they did in the past, even now spend more of what they own on their military than Japan.

    Yet there’s something especially offensive about Japan’s defence spending for you.

    Add this to your studied indifference as to whether or not European nations have ever actually properly apologised for the deaths of millions of Africans, Asians and native Americans in their colonies, and a rather unpleasant picture seems to emerge of you and your feelings about groups of people different to you.

    You are, of course, welcome at any time to take back any of your claims.

    • Gordon Graham

      Mr.Anon…I think when you’ve been handed your hat it’s customary to tip it.

  • ceej

    I agree people differ and if you’re ok with silly adverts like this and people shouting ‘gaijin san ‘ at you then that’s your choice. I wonder if you would laugh at an advert in the UK (or wlesehere) which used a similar portrayal of someone Japanese? I wonder if people in Japan would find it funny? I can’t see it somehow. And yet, we are asked to accept this advert, negative use of the word ‘gaijin’ etc etc etc as ‘cultural differences’, or ‘culturally dubious’. There are lots of fantastic aspects of Japan and Japanese culture but this kind of thing is not one of them and I think it’s more helpful to describe it as racist than to try and apologise for it or explain it away.

  • Sam Gilman

    I can hardly be avoiding or misdirecting away from the NHK head’s comments, since I mentioned them before you did. I called them ghastly and asinine. You also need to check the meaning of ad hominem. (Hint: I have no idea who you are.)

    Let’s look at what’s happened here. You make a claim that European nations have handled their past better than Japan. I show you quite clearly, with links showing facts, figures and dates, that this statement is horribly false. You don’t even acknowledge a bit of it. It genuinely looks like you don’t think the slaughter of Africans is worth apologising for, and certainly not if it gets in the way of having a good old go at those damned Japanese.

    Then you claim that Japan is an indefensibly large military spender. I show you with links that for a country of its size and wealth, Japan spends relatively less than other industrialised nations, despite having openly hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours – and that your model European nations spend more.

    Now you’re trying to dispute what I say by complaining I linked to Wikipedia, and that I should choose the SIPRI database instead. Only, if you’d actually looked at the Wikipedia page, you’d have found that all the numbers there are directly from the SIPRI database, including that top five list. In other words, you were not actually interested if my numbers were correct or not. You didn’t even check them.

    You also make a couple of statistical claims that are comically wrong. You say that Japan is increasing its annual military budget by 260 billion dollars (“does not include…”). The thing is, the BBC news story you linked to shows you that Japanese defence spending was 59.4 billion dollars in 2013. You are suggesting that Japan is increasing its defence budget by 440% next year! You actually believed that! Look, that 260-and-some billion dollars is all planned defence spending, and for the next five years. The latest draft foresees an annual increase next year of 440 million dollars, or around 0.8%. It means the recruitment of an extra 287 personnel. Still, you were only out by about a factor of 600.

    However, my favourite one is that you think Japan ranks 309th in the world for defence spending per GDP. anoninjapan, sweetheart, there are only 206 countries in the whole wide world. Go and look at the chart again. It’s a mess.

    From all this, it’s clear that it doesn’t seem to matter to you what the truth is, even to the point where you’ll make claims that are patently absurd or impossible. You’re certainly very keen to claim that everyone who disagrees with you is ill-informed, but when you are confronted with evidence that directly contradicts what you believe (and shows your own lack of knowledge), you carry on regardless, even if you end up defending the indefensible or believing the impossible, just so long as you can make yourself and your ethnicity feel morally superior to those damned conniving Japanese.

    I’m not arguing for anyone’s moral superiority. As I said before, that’s a game for people like yourself and those men in black buses who drive around making a noise. If they were doing the same thing you are here but in reverse, I’d be poking fun at them, too. You are as bad as each other. You are mirror images of each other. Just full of hate and nowhere to go. Except round the roundabout in the centre of town. Round and round and round.

  • Sam Gilman

    I’m glad you raise the case of Miki Dezaki, because it illustrates the point I’ve made a few times already. The kind of racism he talks about is not racism or prejudice against westerners, but against Koreans, Ainu (in Hokkaido), Okinawans, or Burakumin (a kind of untouchable caste of ethnic Japanese from a while back). It’s these kinds of topics that set off the ultra-right wing, not the “oppression” of white people. There’s something about the ultra nationalists that makes them want to emulate the glories of European empire.

    The real racism here is – as in most countries – much more specific than general. I’ll give you an example. A few years back there was a proposal to give foreign permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections. The ultra-right were up in arms about this, but not because foreigners *in general* would get to vote. I got an ultra-right/religious cult pamphlet through my door that stated (I paraphrase/translate from memory) “some people say this is a good thing, and that in Europe it is standard practice. Of course, if it were only a case of allowing permanent residents from Denmark or Finland to vote, this would be a good thing as they are from civilised countries. However, allowing citizens of North Korea, who are here in far greater numbers, to vote would lead to the undermining of the Japanese state”.

    I entirely support Miki Dezaki in his battle with the ultra-rightists. They are a horrible bunch and a serious problem in Japan is how they are allowed to intimidate way beyond their numbers (which are much smaller than one might think). Questions have been raised over his methodology – that some of the examples of racist language he discusses with students are archaic, or that he uses certain phrases about racial discrimination that misdirect students to think of racism in terms of the US civil rights struggle (with no parallel issue in Japan) – but, as I think lots of people on many sides of the “is Japan racist” argument also feel, anyone who annoys the ultra-rightists in the way he did is a good person.

    • Mateusz82

      While Dezaki talks about racism against Koreans (and others), that doesn’t mean racism against Westerners doesn’t exist. Dezaki was under heavy fire for merely bringing up racism against the mentioned groups. It would have been unthinkable to talk about racism against Westerners. Also, the quotes are wholly unnecessary.

      Aside from the fact that it seems interesting that they acknowledge Europe to be less xenophobic, it is hardly proof that the right only discriminates against North Koreans. For one, it is a single pamphlet, and second, it was through your door. It is likely that the message was one that would have been more palatable to you, in an attempt to get your support, something politicians and political parties often do. Sending you a pamphlet about how whites need to be kicked out of Japan would not have been all that wise.

      You entirely support him now, however, if he addressed racism beyond what he mentioned before, such as if he addressed racism against white expatriates, and white Japanese, would you still support him, or just hold that anti-Western racism doesn’t exist, and nothing can convince you to the contrary?

      While you acknowledge there is discrimination against certain groups in Asia, the problem is that the evidence shows there is discrimination against Westerners, expatriate, and Japanese citizens of European ancestry (or African ancestry, for that matter, discrimination which Debito has also condemned). Besides the ANA ad, there is are the other ads which use the same whiteface (and sometimes, in a more mocking fashion), the constant use of the term “foreigner” to anyone non-yellow, whether they are Japanese or not (enforcing the notion that white or black people simple are not Japanese, nor will they ever really be Japanese), as well as establishments and housing that are “Japanese only” (and run on the notion that white and black people are not Japanese). These are pretty systematic. To not acknowledge anti-white discrimination, along with the other forms, is to be in willful denial.

      • Sam Gilman

        I think you’re rather grasping at straws. I think you ought to be asking yourself why you have such a strong reaction to the idea that a country you have never lived in actually tends to contain far less prejudice towards someone like you than you had previously thought.

        You’re being told this by someone who admits there is racism, who condemns the racists in Japan.

        You wanted data, I gave you data. You brushed it aside. I gave you some interesting comparisons on the treatment of minority ethnic celebrities in China and Japan, and you brushed it aside.

        You bring up Miki Dezaki, and i point out he talks about the racism I’m talking about. So suddenly Miki Dezaki is not that good any more.

        Now you’re asking me a kind of weird counterfactual about “well, what if Miki Dezaki had said X, would you support him then?” The point is, he didn’t. If he had said something I disagreed with, I would disagree with him.

        I had been hoping that as you approved of him, that might be common ground and you’d see what I was talking about.

  • Mateusz82

    That was part of it, that he was teaching about racism in a class that was ESL (I would be curious what classes the students had would have covered racism in Japan, if any, but that’s another issue).

    Can you show that it’s about his “arrogance”, rather than talking about an issue that Japanese would rather not discuss? Also, I’m well aware of that… though it shouldn’t matter (though it is significant to mention that to Americans, he is an American, not “foreigner”. This is in contrast to Japanese who consider people “foreigner” based on their ethnicity).

  • Sam Gilman

    It is not I that thinks Japan ranks 309th on the GDP, but the facts do. See, facts have a simple way of explaining the truth, unlike your misdirected opines.

    Seriously, there are only 206 countries in the world. I’m not joking.

    “..This entry gives spending on defense programs for the most recent year available as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP); the GDP is calculated on an exchange rate basis, i.e., not in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). For countries with no military forces, this figure can include expenditures on public security and police..”

    Therefore some counties have more than one entry,

    You’ve just quoted some fairly basic economic terms that it turns out you don’t understand. It doesn’t explain why there are three different numbers. It explains one single number: how GDP in different currencies are converted to dollars, something which is actually irrelevant to the number in the tables, which is a percentage derivable without the need for currency conversion. The three different numbers have a far simpler origin.They are for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

    So Japan as # 309 out of a total of 401, where most countries have 2 or some with 3 entries….Japan has 1 entry. Well we know how Japan likes to “cook the books”, just ask Michael Woodford.

    Priceless. Did you look at #313 and #314? Also Japan. It has three entries. There’s no special trick been pulled. You can’t even work the search function in your browser. As for the deliriously paranoid notion that Japan cooked the books to get only one entry (for what advantage?), you’re asking us to believe that Japanese agents infiltrated the CIA with the mission of deleting an entry in a poorly formatted table containing information that is in the public domain. Do you check under the bed every night for any lurking Japanese spies?

    therefore (sic) some counties have more than one entry, like that grand military power house South Sudan, ranked #1 and oh look, #2. Such a large military power house…I see why its number 1 now too, amazing!

    Don’t you read the news? That would be South Sudan that recently was born from a very bloody conflict with its neighbour Sudan, and which is on the verge of a civil war right now. So it’s a country that puts a high priority on defence spending. Did you seriously not hear about the conflict? I know it involves the tedious (for you) subject of dead Africans, but it was quite a big story.

    Oh, and that quote about the 232 billion not being additional to current levels, and being the total spending for the next five years – well done. That’s what I explained to you already.

    Tell me: a lot of native English speakers in Japan work in education. Do you?

    • anoninjapan

      So, here we go with the same tired old misdirection and deflection. Rather than actually discussing the point at hand, that of racism in Japan, since anything else has little to do with Japanese xenophobic racist attitudes;
      you continue to discuss misrepresentations of people comments for your own straw man arguments, as if anyone cares? It is amusing in that you clearly haven’t a clue, but I’ll continue as this is entertaining
      read as you try to respond to comments that are beyond your capacity to understand, which is probably why you make up your own interpretations of comments so you have something to say, meaningless as it is, but it prevents answering the question at hand, that of the racist advert by ANA.

      So, take for example:

      Quote:

      “..The thing is, the BBC news story you linked to shows you that Japanese defence spending was 59.4 billion dollars in 2013. You are suggesting that Japan is increasing its defence budget by 440% next year!..”

      No, I’m suggesting nothing of the sort, please state where I have said this. It is simply a factual statement they are spending $232Bn over the next five years. But for some reason you have issues with this fact and so decide to make up your own inferences about a statement which are not there. Interesting!

      And:

      “..Then you claim that Japan is an indefensibly large
      military spender. I show you with links that for a country of its size and wealth, Japan spends relatively less than other industrialised nations, despite having openly hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours – and that your model European nations spend more…”

      Well, cover me in feathers and call me birdy, but ranked
      no.5 in military spending in the world, does not constitute “relatively less”. Oh and by the way, India, has significantly larger land mass and borders and hostile
      nations on its borders, yet is #8. Oh yeah, those imperialist military non-apologetic nations you seem to like so much, Germany and those Italian fascist, oh dear, they are also lower! So being in close proximity to “danger Will Robison” and nuclear powers and more, Japan’s spending is still greater…and will be even
      more so with an extra $232Bn to boot.

      And unlike all other nations you wish to rope in….Japan
      has no borders with anyone, except for the UK

      And then, just to see whether you would indeed check the source, for once, I left a snippet for you, that of Japan ranked #309, and decided not to list its other 2 entries. If you reply noting the omission, great, finally, you can read a direct source correctly, rather than a mickymouse references you use. So there is perhaps hope for you yet.

      However, you then state:

      “…. As for the deliriously paranoid notion that Japan cooked the books to get only one entry (for what advantage?), you’re asking us to believe that Japanese agents infiltrated the CIA with the mission of deleting an entry in a poorly formatted table containing information that is in the public domain. Do you check under the bed every night for any lurking
      Japanese spies?…”

      Again, where does this come from?. You must be smoking some seriously strong stuff to infer such delusions, which are very clearly not supported by any
      facts. Again, making up your own delusional arguments for the sake of an opine. Interesting!

      And then comically you try this one:

      “..Or we could look at defence spending as a proportion of GDP (after all, richer countries will spend more; per GDP indicates priority better), which we get by clicking on the GDP % column here for the 2012 figures and starting to count…”

      So, that richer country South Sudan, fine economic power house that it is ranked #1, or Oman #2 (technically) in terms of GDP. Interesting!

      It goes on….more misinterpretation. But hey why let facts get in the way of a good opine, when you can make things up.

      You simply can’t help yourself:

      “..Tell me: a lot of native English speakers in Japan work
      in education. Do you?..”

      Again, what on earth has this to do with ANA’s racism or any of my comments. Oh, silly me, that’s the point, misdirection and reflection. Helps avoid defending a country/company that is the subject matter of the discussion and has no antidiscrimination law. As that would seal it.

      Oh, and as for apologises…..apologise by individuals whose comments constantly change according to their mood and who is listening (Just ask Hashimotto) clearly have little effect on its former ‘victim’s. That’s the
      thing about apologises, one must look to ones victims to see whether any apology is genuine and sincere and backed up by constitutional/legal frame work to
      prevent such occurring again (just like an antidiscrimination law). Seems the Chinese, South Korean, Taiwanese, Philippine et al Govt’s think otherwise and tend to disagree with your version of apologies. But hey, why let facts get in
      the way of a good opine.

      • Sam Gilman

        Ok, I think I’ve worked something out. Exhibit one:

        You said

        So Japan as # 309 out of a total of 401, where most countries have 2 or
        some with 3 entries….Japan has 1 entry. Well we know how Japan likes
        to “cook the books”, just ask Michael Woodford.

        and then, when I pointed out that Japan has three entries and that the Japanese have therefore not infiltrated the CIA to cook their books, you then immediately state – and this is when I’d already checked the source previous to your first post:

        And then, just to see whether you would indeed check the source, for
        once, I left a snippet for you, that of Japan ranked #309, and decided
        not to list its other 2 entries.

        Exhibit 2:

        “I [Sam Gilman] show you with links that for a country of its size and wealth,
        Japan spends relatively less than other industrialised nations, despite
        having openly hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours – and that your model
        European nations spend more…”

        Well, cover me in feathers and call me birdy, but ranked no.5 in military spending in the world, does not constitute “relatively less”.

        You’re a troll. The stupidity and dishonesty got just too implausible. Well done for keeping it up, though.

  • Sam Gilman

    Go back and check. I haven’t introduced any comparison. I mention the behaviour of other countries only if certain other people mention that behaviour first and in order to show themselves and their countries as better, or better “now”.

    They’re using this as an opportunity to feel superior, often deploying age-old European colonial tropes: we are blessed with being more enlightened, we are more civilised, we are less ignorant, we are more free (while sweeping all the bad stuff under the carpet). They actually need Japan, this “other” to be seriously racist to feel better about themselves.

    The thing is, the people doing this, as you can see from anoninjapan’s writings, typically end up being quite racist (“we all know how the Japanese love to cook the books” etc.). The same goes for that cartoon strip that Debito drew, which still leaves me with my head shaking.

    Pointing out how in some ways Japan could be seen as superior or better is simply an attempt to puncture this colonial confidence. When I have engaged with Japanese nationalists, I have done the same thing in reverse. They have similar delusions about the West.

    So it’s not tu quoque. It’s two wrongs don’t make a right. That, and people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    I do find it interesting how so many apparently liberal westerners living in Asia, when you scratch them, start saying really rather suspect things about the locals. You have to admit, your saying that too many whites are full of self-hatred, and that they need to start standing up for themselves, and that they take on too much guilt – it’s not dissimilar to what you’d hear in a BNP or EDL discussion. And it’s very, very similar to what ultra-nationalists say in Japan about the Japanese.

    Mirroring bad people doesn’t make you good.

  • Sam Gilman

    What he did was with the blessing of the school. He wasn’t an English teacher going rogue.

  • PouncingAnt

    I can understand that. It is easy to fall into a specific mindset that you’re used to dealing with a specific issue with.

    I get your point with the sympathy. My concern is that by making complaint, while everyone will come to understand we don’t like racism, they’re not necessarily going to understand why. Maybe there is a better way of making our position more understandable? Of course, I’m not psychologist, but I feel us foreigners have further distanced ourselves by our harsh criticism.

    Certainly a possibility. I’m interested to bring that up with my wife now, as evidently this isn’t a location thing, like I was beginning to think.

    Yeah, I love it here. I’ve not done the 88 temples (I can only really manage ~10k steps a day at the moment (lol), and I don’t have the free time), but would love to.

    • JapanDad

      Re: harsh criticism, I don’t know that the criticism ever actually reaches the ears of Japanese people. I do point things out when I can, and most people respond with sympathy. As a lot of people point out in these discussions, Japanese racism is rarely violent and usually not even malicious. The average Japanese person would gladly change their behavior to be more polite if they simply realized what they were doing or saying hurt people.

      But when we’re talking about major corporations that hold a massive market share of advertising revenue, they really need to be called out harshly, because these ideas get into people’s heads, kids repeat them.

      In general, I’ve found that pointing out things makes people think, or even say, “Oh, yeah, I hate that, too!” Japan is great because their racism problems really are simple enough that if people only KNEW about it, a lot of them would gladly fix it. I mean, like I said, I’ve spent a lot of time arguing with American white racists, and the Japanese are MUCH more amenable to rethinking things.

  • Gordon Graham

    I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, Matty, but this is an opinion page. And it’s my opinion (along with many Japanese) that Mr.Dezaki displayed arrogance in that he:
    A) Took it upon himself to teach a Social Science lesson entirely in Japanese when he had no qualifications to do so (qualification being a teacher’s license issued by the State that certifies someone to teach in the classroom of a public or private school…I’m not sure about the education system in China but in Japan you need a license to qualify as a teacher. Mr.Dezaki was merely employed as a ALT, essentially a native speaker of a foreign language meant to model pronunciation, clarify idioms etc. but not run lessons as they are not certified to do so.
    B)Refused to take down a video of a “lecture” he posted on Youtube entitled “Racism in Japan”, even when his employer implored him to do so as it was causing great trouble for the school that was paying him to model pronunciation, his Western sense of an individuals principals trumping that of the Japanese sense of “Wa”, maintaining social harmony within the group, team, family, community and yes, workplace. (Curious aside…funny how his lecture to the students he was supposed to be teaching English conversation was entirely in Japanese, yet his Youtube posting which opens with “Racism in Japan” scrawled across the Japanese flag, is translated and presented in English with commentary on how his Japanese students are ignorant)
    C) Was being hypocritical as he, himself was guilty of that which he condemned (hypocrisy being a clear symptom of arrogance). Unless you don’t consider donning a wig and mocking the female population of a particular nation racist? That is perhaps there is an issue of semantics?

    • Mateusz82

      Actually, it’s not, but good try (also, what’s with the intentional misspelling of my name? Are you 10 years old?). This is the comments section of an article written in the “Issues” section of Japan Times. Also, you seem to be mixing up “opinion” with “facts”. I’m not disagreeing that it is your opinion, and the opinion of many Japanese. However, those opinions are based on ignorance.

      A). You’re really not sure about education at all. He was cleared by the authorities at the school. Also, if you don’t have a degree in meteorology, are you unqualified to tell if it’s raining? He was qualified to address something that was blatantly obvious.

      B) He had no obligation to do so. What he does outside of school is his business, unless it was in his contract. No, that’s not really funny. Since the school officials supported him, he wasn’t “supposed” to teach something else. Posting a video on his YouTube channel is not arrogance. Demanding that he take it down because it made racists uncomfortable to have their bigotry exposed, that is arrogant.

      C) He wasn’t guilty of what he condemned. He didn’t mock the female population of a particular nation (and he didn’t try to dress up as another race to make that race look bad). He shared some of what his students said. It’s not an issue of semantics, but an issue of facts not being what you think they are, and what you want them to be.

      The arrogance comes from the people who reacted so negatively (demanding his video be taken down, making death threats, harassing him, harassing his employer, etc.) to having a less savory part of Japan exposed. They wanted to believe that racism was something that only happened in America, and so refused to acknowledge it existed. When proof was shown that it does exist, they couldn’t handle it.

      You are totally free to have ignorant opinions. That’s your right. However, just because you think something, doesn’t make it true, no matter how much you want it to be.

      • Gordon Graham

        Here’s a fact: You need a license issued by the State to teach in a Japanese public or private school. Permission from the school doesn’t supersede the law. Do I have the authority to drive a truck because my boss allowed me to even though I don’t have a license. Being that Mr.Dezaki felt the rules set out by the State didn’t apply to him it’s not unfair to asses his behaviour as arrogant. Considering the repercussions his school could have faced it was reprehensible and arrogant of Mr.Dezaki to refuse to take down his Youtube video, especially when the authorities of his school stuck their necks out for him (If in fact they did…whether he was forthright with them about his intentions is suspect). As for “He didn’t dress up like another race to make that race look bad”…Is that what ANA did “dress up like another race to make that race look bad”? to make that race look bad, implies intent does it not?…”He shared what his students said”…In a wig and with a delightful mocking squeal “I want D*ick!” chuckle chuckle, being one of the things he was eager to share…So, in your opinion it’d be perfectly fine for me to bandy about the N word as I’d “just be sharing what black people say”? It seems your contempt is rather selective isn’t it Mr.Mateusz? Thank you for illustrating what was my original issue with those who take umbrage with the ad in the first place…Hypocrisy

  • ceej

    Did I suggest that? I don’t think I did. Racism exists everywhere but this discussion is about Japan.The ANA advert is an example of racism, even if that was not the intention. I have argued that negative use of the word ‘gaijin’ is another.

  • Gordon Graham

    “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”…exactly. Thank You

  • Gordon Graham

    Wow! Greek, Latin and Hebrew! I’m impressed! Did you do that all by your lonesome or did you need to spend a small fortune at a University where they teach you how to think?

  • Sam Gilman

    No, it’s really nothing like that at all. I don’t think Debito is an apologist for anything or anyone, except perhaps himself.

  • Sam Gilman

    Let me re-phrase your argument for you:
    “Just because Hitler thought the Jews were out to destroy Aryan civilisation, that does not logically mean that it’s wrong to believe that the Jews are out to destroy Aryan civilistion.”
    Of course, it was not essential to National socialism that there was a Jewish conspiracy against the Aryans….
    But fair enough, you don’t think that worrying about white self-hatred and the white race learning to stand up for itself has any connection at all to extreme right wing racist groups. I believe you. I don’t hate myself as it happens, and personally, my ethnicity has nothing to do with my sense of self-worth. I hope you don’t find that concept too upsetting.
    I don’t think it’s shameful that you take your opinions from Debito. I think it’s a shame, although given your views thus far expressed on ethnic and other identities, it’s perhaps not at all surprising you have gravitated towards him. In other attempts to twist words, you should also know I am not suffering from depression, but thank you for implying I am suffering from psychological ill-health, and that it is an imputation worth deploying in an argument to diminish the other person.
    You manage to be right about one thing – the true problem with the advert is the fusing of Japanese ethnicity with Japanese identity. But it’s a stopped clock thing. The anecdotal experience of foreign-born people who have naturalised suggests that natural-born Japanese, when faced with the fact of citizenship, are quick to accept that the people are Japanese; even pleased that someone has decided to naturalise. It appears not to be a very strong prejudice, just an unhelpful presumption. As a parent of mixed race children I could really do without this kind of thing bothering my kids as they grow up.
    Anyway, you clearly have your fixed opinions about “yellow people”, so I don’t see any point in continuing this discussion.

  • Gordon Graham

    Thanks, I appreciate the tip. Perhaps I should also invest a hundred grand in a liberal arts education so I can impress people with a handful of Greek and Latin phrases.

    • Mateusz82

      No problem. Glad you find loanwords to be impressive.

      Actually, I’d suggest working on learning how to improve your English before tackling anything more ambitious.

      • Gordon Graham

        Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps it would be better to forego university altogether. I’d only end up coming off as pompous while regurgitating other’s thoughts and never come to think for myself.

  • I the king

    I watched the ad and tried to be offended but couldn’t. Sorry.