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Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world

by Debito Arudou

Special To The Japan Times

Hang around Japan long enough and you’re bound to hear the refrain that the Japanese have an inferiority complex (rettōkan) towards “Westerners” (ōbeijin).

You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, paler skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising strategies, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery.

This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary complimentary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.

But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior.

For example, Japan’s pundits have already begun arguing that Japan’s disappointing performance in the World Cup in Brazil was partly down to the fallacy that Japanese bodies are smaller and weaker than those of foreigners. Japan’s sports leagues have long used this belief to justify limiting foreign players on teams — as if it somehow “equalizes” things.

This “equalization” is not limited to the infamous examples of baseball and sumo. The National Sports Festival (kokutai), Japan’s largest amateur athletic meeting, bans almost all foreigners. Japan’s popular Ekiden footrace bans all foreigners from the first leg of the marathon, and from 2007 has capped foreign participants on teams at two (the logic being that the Ekiden would become “dull” (kyōzame) without a Japanese winning).

Who is a “foreigner”? It’s not just a matter of citizenship: The Japan Sumo Association decided to count even naturalized Japanese citizens as “foreign” in 2010, in clear violation of the Nationality Law. (Somebody, please sue!)

These limitations also apply to intellectual contests. Until 2006, Japan’s national Takamado English Speech Contests barred all people (including Japanese) with “foreign ancestry”. This included non-English-speaking countries, the argument being that any foreign blood somehow injects an unfair linguistic advantage. (After 2006, Takamado provided a list of English-speaking countries whose descendants would continue to be ineligible.)

This is atrocious reasoning. But it is so hegemonic because of Japan’s long history of race-based superiority studies.

In 1875, Yukichi Fukuzawa (the man gracing our ¥10,000 note) wrote an influential treatise called “An Outline of a Theory of Civilization.” Borrowing from Western eugenics, he reordered the world to correlate levels of civilization with skin color.

White-hued people were at the top, dark-skinned people at the bottom. Naturally for Fukuzawa, Asians were ranked just below whites. And, naturally, Japanese were the most “civilized” of the Asians.

The West has largely moved on from this dangerous bunkum, thanks to the “master race” excesses of World War II and Nazi Germany’s Final Solution. However, Japan’s social sciences still largely ascribe to century-old social stratification systems that see race as a biological construct, and bloodlines and blood types as determinants of behavior.

So far, so Japanese Society 101. But the point I want to stress here is that inferiority complexes are counterintuitively counterproductive.

I say counterintuitive because they foster feelings not of humility towards people they admire, but of anger. Yes, anger.

Harvard University anthropologist Ayu Majima discusses this in her 2013 essay “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan.” She talks about how the elites of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) (who would set Japan’s nascent national narratives) felt a sense of “distance, inferiority and disjuncture towards the West.”

Distance was a big theme back then. Although Japan is of course geographically Asian, with deep historical connections to China, Fukuzawa and other Meiji Era elites advocated that Japan “quit Asia and enter Europe” (datsu-a nyū-ō).

So that’s what happened. Over several decades, Japan industrialized, militarized, colonized and adopted the fashions and trappings of “Western civilization.” Japan sought recognition and acceptance from the West not as an inferior, but as a fellow world power. Japan wanted the sense of distance to disappear.

But that didn’t happen. Japan’s elites were shocked when the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) refused to include in its 1919 Covenant an anti-racial discrimination clause that Japan (yes!) had demanded. More shocking was when Japan was treated like a “colored,” “uncivilized” nation under America’s Asian Exclusion Act of 1924.

This is where the psychology of inferiority complexes is generally misunderstood. When people try this hard for validation and don’t get it, it doesn’t engender the passive humility and must-try-harder attitudes so often gushed about in the Western media regarding Japan.

Majima argues, “While an inferiority complex is generally regarded as a sense of inferiority towards oneself, it should rather be regarded as a sense of indignity and anger towards the lack of recognition of one’s worth . . . for not being recognized, approved or admitted by the important ‘other.’ “

So instead you get isolation, loneliness, anxiety and scant sense of belonging. (I’m sure you long-termers who feel unrecognized for all your efforts to “fit in to Japan” can relate to this.)

How did Japan react to being rebuffed? Policymakers declared that Japan neither belonged to the East nor the West. It isolated itself.

Worse, according to Majima, “Japan sought to identify itself through the unstable ‘distance’ between self and others as ‘tradition.’ “

Ah, tradition. Lovely thing, that. It turns this angry mindset from a phase in Japan’s history into part of its permanent self-image.

This feeling of isolation gave rise to Japan’s “cult of uniqueness,” and it dominates Japan’s self-image today, constantly vacillating between superiority and inferiority when dealing with foreigners. This “tradition” of ranking oneself in comparison with others, particularly in terms of degrees of civilization, has become ingrained as cultural habit and reflex.

And that’s why inferiority complexes are counterproductive for Japan’s relationship to the outside world: They make it more difficult for “foreigners” to be seen and treated as individuals. Instead, they get thrust into the impossible role of national or cultural representative of a whole society.

They also make it more difficult for Japanese to be neutral towards foreigners. Rather, the default reflex is to see them in terms of comparative national development and civilization.

These complexes also interfere with constructive conversations. For if acceptance, recognition and superlative praise of Japan as a safe, peaceful, developed country are not forthcoming from the outsider, insult and anger almost inevitably ensue. After all, criticism of Japan besmirches its self-image as a civilized society.

This is especially true when it comes to issues of racial discrimination in Japan. Japanese society is loath to admit it ever happens here — because discrimination is not what “civilized” societies do. I will discuss this in a future column.

Debito Arudou received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • kyushuphil

    It’s not we foreigners who suffer most. It’s the Japanese.

    The conceit that “we” (Japanese) are different, unique, ushers in and enlarges the worst stereotyping — especially that of he myth of kyō-chō-sei ( 協 調 性), or group harmony. This has gotten so established in all schools now that group activity and rote regimentation has totally taken over. Students scarcely anywhere write essays. They scarcely ever learn any ways to see others as individuals. They can’t see or imagine this, so strangling has become the myth of group harmony.

    I don’t suffer at all from the reductions to group conformities that now rule. It saddens me to see contemporary teachers going along with, never questioning the mindlessness. It angers me to see so many really bright, sparkling kids — and then to see them crushed, crammed, lied to about their lives and those of others by all the zombie schools.

    • 6810

      @kyushuphil – I presume that you’re in Japan. You speak with the relentlessly objective omniscient voice of god about Japan… perhaps it is safe to say that you are basing your observations on your own experience, right?

      1. When not in Japan, what’s your occupation? I’m a teacher, been in schools for a very long time. I can only speak to Australia and Japan but I can say without hesitation that a development of essay writing skills among students at junior levels leaves a lot to be desired. We live in a world of shorter attention spans and greater access to technology for intellectual and social expression. Do I agree that this is for the best? Not necessarily, but I don’t discount it either.

      2. I don’t know what schools you have attended or taught at in Japan but at the ones I have, essay writing (albeit in Japanese, this is Japan) is a commonly available assessment method. Certainly, students struggle with the medium but this is not as a result of some inherint, irredeemable Japanese mindset – it’s because as a literary form in the present it has become less relevant. Again, do I like or support this? Not necessarily. See above.

      3. Finally, the expression of “we” and uniqueness seems to unsettle you. Cultures and languages across the world have been flattened and extinguished in the name of globalisation. Increased knowledge of the world has been used to create increasingly complex marketing and advertising… but it has also resulted in conformity to certain standards, brandished by western economic powers as universal for a very long time.

      Japanese evoke their cultural specificity, a will to preserve culture and language and when taken out of context by frequently illiterate, socially marginal, tranisient “foregners” is then reconstituted as exclusionism and racism.

      As I said elsewhere – might be high time to befriend a few locals outside of your social context – this is a big (well not geographically) country with a lot of people and as many views… get to know a few.

      • kyushuphil

        Yes, “6810,” I’m basing my remarks on experience I’ve had in Japan, and larger experience for many years reading things, many things, in translation. Doing some co-translations of some very good poems, too.

        Many years here now. Many friends in many cities — and much contact with Japanese in the U.S. before I came here.

        I base these remarks I’ve been making, too, on other experiences I’ve had teaching, writing, and doing human rights work for many years in many other countries. This larger context has involved many languages I learned well enough to rely on, much reading, of course, too, along with many good personal interactions.

        I’m surprised not so much that your fellow Japanese teachers value regular essays from their students — there must be exceptions to the rule — but that you presume your (exceptional) experience to be the rule. It’s not. Most kids cram mercilessly for most mercilessly depersonalized tests, in very stressful, competitive situations, for the schools they next want to attend. There’s a huge industry across Japan for cram schools that millions of youth attend nights after school and weekends.

        If you are not aware of this larger picture, sorry if I disturb a unique local experience you take pains to tell me you enjoy.

        Phil, in the mountains of Kyushu, Japan

      • Gordon Graham

        I have a friend who runs an Inn in the town of Tsuetate, Kyushu…Lovely town! Lovely people! I also have a daughter attending a Japanese high school who has an English writing class. She is to write her opinion on a given topic every week. Topics up to this point have included “Should Japan rely on nuclear energy?” “Are we sacrificing too much for the sake of convenience?” “Should we or shouldn’t we have a school marathon?”…I do agree with you that writing essays is a good way of working out our ideas and thinking for ourselves.

      • kyushuphil

        Best to your girl.

        They have a speech contest here in the Kuju-Taketa region –but only for junior high schools. The kids deliver their speeches after some time working them up in English, with help from ALT’s. And the speeches show incredible resources, wide skills of rhetorical technique, and humanity. Just so many amazing kids.

        It all dies in high schools, when the pressure takes over simply and constantly to cram for the next set of schools, and all that essaying and speechifying (or, most all) gets left behind..

    • Greg Estelcherry

      I wonder if others are equally tiring of the monolithic, sweeping statements made about “the Japanese”, with all the know-it-all hubris typical of the far-too-certain. This is a country of 130,000,000 people, folks! There are many types of Japanese. Why support the uniform, one-ness myth? Because that’s what you’re doing.
      It’s one thing to make negative blanket statements about people who are my (Japanese) family and friends, which would normally be sufficient to warrant a step outside challenge. But this type of racial stereotyping becomes amplified when they are supported by claims made out of thin air — such as Debito’s unfounded statement as to how the Japanese pundits are rationalizing Japan’s World Cup exit and the above poster’s preposterous, and factually false, blanket claims about what is allegedly taught or not in Japan. These are concoctions based on old stereotypes and outdated prejudices about what the Japanese allegedly think and feel.
      It has become increasingly evident that Debito and most of his supporters are out of touch with the realities of modern Japan and thereby resort to bad sociological alchemy.

      • kyushuphil

        Many people, Greg, get educated badly.

        They learn to stick to orthodoxies that wall off departments from other departments. They learn to fear and avoid the personal — far better for careerism to preen as always “objective” (a cover for cowardly depersonalization). And few in any one field get any reward for seeking examples and references from the wider culture and from other cultures.

        The result: too many balk at dealing with life’s complexities — with what the poet Joseph Brodsky called “loose ends.” Better just to scheme for what you can get in a neat package. And so, too, better to use pre-packaged ideas, clichéd language.

        What I love about reading Japanese lit is that over and over so many writers and poets argue strongly against the conformist culture Japan is famously totally supposed to have (and like).

        Maybe too many schools stress regimentation and group activities too much, but anyone who starts into the actual literature here will see wondrous voices articulate the opposite.

        Thanks.

      • seth0et0holth

        SERIOUSLY. I must jump in to say here that a lot of the 1980s-1990s (and even the modern) Visual Kei subculture is entirely in the face of the conformist culture (except for the people who made it its own conformist culture in the late 1990s and 2000s, but then that happens anywhere). Look at the appearance and lyrics of hide or Imai or Kiyoharu…. some of the true innovators of the genre and scene among many others…

      • kyushuphil

        I’d love to believe the insurgent claim for some.

        The “kawaii” culture now makes billions of yen yearly for Japanese designers, marketers, and others in retail and production. So many young women — and men — attire themselves in outlandishly excessive frills, ruffles, lace, pleats, and garishly jarring, wildly colorful or simply pastel patterns. The music corollary extends to popular youth festivals internationally.

        Does “kawaii” really promote consciousness? I can see how the music does this — aggressively, happily so — but I also see the extension to TV advertising, where all women’s voices — all, in all commercials — come off as those of babies.

      • Gordon Graham

        Perhaps you should refrain from watching TV programs fit for the consumption of teenage girls.

      • kyushuphil

        True.

        But I don’t have a TV. Haven’t had one in decades — either in the U.S. or abroad.

        I see the commercials on TV, however, in friends’ homes I visit. And I see “kawaii” paraded on the streets of Japanese cities I also visit — even on my schoolgirl students on occasions they don’t have to wear their uniforms.

        Remember that John Prine song, celebrating how we might throw away our TV, move to the country, eat a lot of peaches?

      • Gordon Graham

        I commend you for your good sense. The only TV I watch is the nightly NHK news between which you can see Yoshinaga Sayuri pitching for JR in the wise calm voice of a woman of her 60 years. There is also a Subaru commercial in which a woman with a hushed voice lauds the coolness of the car to the background of “House of the Rising Sun”…As an aside, my son is now appearing in a Bandi Toy commercial that runs with the Annpanman show…He’s dressed in a black turtleneck a la Steve Jobs, pitching the Annpanman colour pad to the faithful. Yes, there is a culture of cute, but like any generation their is fashion and trend. There is also much more both outside and inside those trends.

      • kyushuphil

        J. woman airing “Lauren Bacallesque husky voice”?

        Sign me up! I’m buying, I’m believing — whatever.

      • Steve Jackman

        “The only TV I watch is the NHK nightly news”. Thanks for a good laugh, Gordon. I wouldn’t exactly call the nightly NHK PR program “news”. This explains perfectly your limited understanding of Japan and narrow world view. You do know that there are other channels like CNN and BBC news available in Japan?

      • Gordon Graham

        I watch the CBC online. And yes, I do have a “narrow” world view: the view of the world in which I live while you are busy watching TV.

      • Steve Jackman

        That would mean refraining from watching 99 percent of Japanese TV programs.

      • Gordon Graham

        Of the TV programs I watch (NHK News, Close-up Gendai, The Grand Sumo Tournament, The National High School Baseball Tournament…and Crayon Shin Chan) none holds the least big of interest for my teenage daughter. Once again, your imagination and the real Japan which I inhabit don’t jibe.

      • seth0et0holth

        And two out of three of those are still alive – Imai is still writing and performing with Buck-Tick, and Kiyoharu is still an active lyricist and musician. While it could be argued that the pressure of the fight against conformity (and to be open about bisexuality in both an “ignore it and hope it goes away” Japan of the time, and a just barely baby stepping out of universally outright hateful US of the time) likely drove hide further into the alcoholism/drug use and secrecy about fetish that would kill him (and into not seeking mental health care, because unfortunately mental health care of the era was too often about conforming) – the other two are still alive and still active artists. As are many others who actually aren’t about conformity or not rocking the boat etc…

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        Can you give some reading tips for Japanese writers who write about the “man behind the curtain” in Japanese society and against the conformist culture? I’ve been looking for such literature since long, but nothing convincing has turned up so far.

      • kyushuphil

        Yosano Akiko “Midaregami”

        Sōseki”s “Kokoro,” “Kusamakura,” “Light and Dark,” and “Sore Kara.”

        Junichiro Tanizaki’s “The Makioka Sisters”

        Ariyoshi Sawako’s “The River Ki,,” and “The Doctor’s Wife”

        “Floating Clouds,” in either that of Futabatei Shimei (three volumes, 1887-89) or Hayashi Fumiko (1951)

        “As an Unrealistic Dreamer,” Haruki Murakami’s acceptance speech on receiving the Catalunya International Prize 2011

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        Hmm. I wonder if we were talking about the same thing.

      • Taro-nechan

        @kyushuphil, worse than getting educated badly is getting educated badly yet somehow being made to think that you’re well educated.

      • Taro-nechan

        No one would buy an optimistic Arudou Debito book.

      • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

        Now, now…

        I hear the section on Hokkaido in the Lonely Planet guide, which Arudou seems quite proud of having written, is quite upbeat and positive. It is supposedly an excellent guide to Hokkaido, written by and for foreign tourists.

      • Taro-nechan

        lol, actually I bought Debito’s book on Japanese immigration rules, as well. Nothing optimistic nor pessimistic, actually quite factually dry, quite lacking any special insight.

        Nevertheless, if I wanted any book on (optimistic) immigration trends in Japan I will stay away from Arudou Debito.

      • Steve Jackman

        Can you point to a single (optimistic) immigration trend in Japan, as you put it?

      • Taro-nechan

        I have, 21 hours ago, repasted here below:

        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
        My criticism wasn’t that Arudou Debito’s pieces are lies or that Japanese do not have racial views. My criticism was that Arudou Debito’s pieces show only one side, and the angry side at that.

        Arudou Debito’s stories do not reflect my experiences when:

        I went to a small town in Gunma where an old woman spontaneously told me she was thankful for the town’s Brazilians otherwise there would not be young people anymore;

        Of the dozens of small farming villages I visited where the villagers cannot get over themselves singing praises to the Filipinas who joined their communities as wives and mothers and made their lives richer;

        Of half Japanese-half Iranian kids who are so good looking they are so popular at school because being half-something is so popular right now;

        Of scores of Japanese who come to Koreatown trying to find a Korean boy or girl to date because they are so tall and handsome;

        Of a half Bangladeshi lawyer and a half Pakistani colleague of mine whose internationalism enriches our work.

        Of Filipinos, Chinese, a Kiwi, a German, and American colleagues of mine who have decided to naturalize and take on obligations pertaining to Japanese citizenship.

        My gripe with Arudou Debito is that his fame is built on one Sapporo Onsen where a white person was refused, but I have been to so many onsen with so many white friends and we have never been molested. Which experiences are more valid?

        Maybe Arudou Debito was the pioneer who enabled our white friends to join us at onsens. But maybe it is also time to acknowledge that, while not perfect, Japanese society has progressed leaps and bounds and now is perfectly able to see the individual rather than the ethnic membership.
        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      • Steve Jackman

        It doesn’t matter how much you try to white wash the racist reality of life in Japan for non-Japanese. It is not going to help all the Brazilians whose dreams of settling in Japan were suddenly dashed when the Japanese government bought them one-way tickets back to Brazil several years ago if they promised not to return. Or, how about the ethnic Koreans born in Japan who have to endure regular marches through their neighborhoods by nationalists spewing hate speech, calling ethnic Koreans cockroaches and threatning to kill them.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        Yes . Thanks to Japan’s (relatively) high standards for immigration for decades, crime amongst foreigners in Japan is low, unemployment amongst foreigners in Japan is low, and poverty amongst foreigners in Japan is low — compared to developed countries with more permissive immigration policies

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, your comment is both, uninformed and paranoid of immigration in general.

        First, your implication that immigrants are somehow more prone to crime, unemployment and poverty, is simply wrong. Do you not know that several immigrant groups in the U.S., including those from China, South Asia and SE Asia are some of the most highly educated, wealthy and prosperous Americans and these communities also have some of the lowest crime rates? I think you may have been relying too much on headline news, without having a good understanding of all the positive effects of immigration in the U.S.

        Second, it does not take a rocket scientist to know that by limiting the numbers of anything, you are going to limit its impact, but that goes for both the good and the bad. There is a tradeoff for everything in life. It’s no different for immigration, but no credible person I know of disputes the fact that the benefits of immigration far out weigh any temporary setbacks in the case of the U.S. (I am talking about legal immigration, here).

        Lastly, even for the short-term challenges due to immigration sometimes faced by communities in the U.S, in the long-term these communities become stronger, more prosperous and more resillient as a result of immigration. In this respect, America has benefitted by becoming anti-fragile ( a system which becomes stronger when faced with external challenges), whereas, Japan risks becoming merely fragile (extremely insular and homogenous systems like Japan are much more fragile than systems which are more diverse).

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        Eido, your comment is both, uninformed and paranoid of immigration in general.

        Uninformed? So I’m wrong? You asked a direct question. I gave a direct answer. And now you’re protesting with a VERY indirect rebuttal that has nothing to do with your question.

        Are you claiming my answer was wrong? That foreigners in Japan commit more crime, are poorer, and are more unemployed than other countries with open immigration? I didn’t think so.

        You’re just mad that I could answer your question that you thought was unanswerable.

        Paranoid of immigration? Far from it. I’m pro immigration. Pro controlled immigration. Know of an immigrant that has a higher education in science/math/engineering/tech, a clean criminal record, and a job offer? Hell yeah, I don’t care what race, ethnicity, sex, or nationality they are. Let them in!

        Am I pro “open” immigration aka “open borders”? No.

        Regarding your naive comparison to 20th century American immigration: you’re out of date, pal. Your “American Immigrant Dream” story was true in a certain day (20th century) in certain lands (lots of open spaces and natural resources) during certain phases of the economy (industrial revolution, before the knowledge and information economy took over), but saying that we should just let almost everybody in and like magic pixie dust both the country and the immigrants will prosper is kumbaya wishful thinking of applying solutions to yesteryear to today. It’s like saying what Japan needs to do is build more steel factories. Good answer in 1957. Bad answer in 2014.

        Open immigration in the 21st century: a short term solution that enriches the multinational companies that in the long term, is both a bad deal for the country and more importantly, a bad deal for the immigrant.

      • Toolonggone

        Eido, you obviously have no clue why Japan has been widely and severely criticized (both in domestic and overseas) for its utterly misguided policy on immigration and labor. Do you really know that those who were born and raised in Japan under foreign status–e.g., Zainichies, outnumber what you refer to ‘foreigners,’ especially those who have some cultural and socio-economic privilege and skills (for the sake of your argument)? How many of those who come to Japan as foreign tourist are willing to become as a permanent resident, and eventually as a citizen, as of today?

        Contrary to your dubious assumption on seemingly ‘quality’ immigration policy, Japan is making a horrible choice for continuing back-door labor scheme.

        The government has been criticized for inviting tens of thousands of foreign individuals from its neighbors and the Southeast Asia under various work visa scheme–not as “workers”–as a sweatshop labor. PM Abe and LDP leaders still want to keep this scheme to attract naïve foreign workers for low-wage, 3-D jobs(construction, farming) and nursing as of today.

        Moreover, poverty is growing widely in the Japanese society–not just among foreigners, but among Japanese in general. Government’s controversial labor law reform in the late 90s and structural deregulation by PM Koizumi allowed many corporations to utilize temporary and contract workers. This went hand in hand with sluggish national economy since the 90s, jeopardizing workers’ job security. This creates the divide between those who have cultural and socio-economic privileges and those who don’t. That’s exactly what is happening in Japan today.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        you obviously have no clue …

        Interesting you could deduce all that from an answer that had nothing to do with your talking points. And speaking of having “no clue”:

        Zainichies, outnumber what you refer to ‘foreigners,’

        Suggest you look at modern 2014 stats. That factoid hasn’t been true for quite some time. Not only do PRs now outnumber SPRs — whose numbers are rapidly dwindling as they intermarry with Japanese nationals thus their children qualify for natural born Japanese nationality, as well as the younger generation of ethnic Koreans choosing to naturalize. Chinese (mainland, not ethnic born in Japan) now outnumber Koreans.

        Surprised you didn’t know that.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        Eido, you obviously have no clue …

        Interesting you could deduce all that from an answer that had nothing to do with your talking points. And speaking of having “no clue”:

        Zainichis, outnumber what you refer to ‘foreigners,’

        Suggest you look at 2014 numbers, not numbers from last decade That factoid hasn’t been true for quite some time. Not only do PRs now outnumber SPRs (whose numbers are rapidly dwindling as they intermarry with Japanese nationals and thus their children qualify for Japanese nationality at birth), but Chinese (mainland, not ethnic born in Japan) now outnumber Koreans.

        Surprised you didn’t know that. Call me the next time you need a “clue”.

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        In a country where organised crime is at the basis of its “democracy” (Yoshio Kodama), and runs most of the country (government, companies, law enforcement), I don’t think any sane person would even start to believe in crime statistics coming from said country.

      • Gordon Graham

        One only has to regularly walk the streets at night (in any neighbourhood at any time) to get a gist of crime rates in this country.

      • Gordon Graham

        I think you were asked for a single trend, not several.

      • Steve Jackman

        In case you haven’t noticed, it is the Japanese themselves who are responsible for the continuous drum beat of Japanese uniqueness (Nihonjinron), homogeneity and one race. Debito and other non-Japanese are just trying to understand this peculiar Japanese phenomenon through discourse.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        Ummmm, did I say otherwise?

        Steve, you have the habit of treating the most elementary discourse about Japan as if you’ve suddenly come across a deep insider insight that you must now proclaim to others.

        Rest assured that almost anyone with a high school education and/or who has read a few beginner-intro pages about Japan is familiar with the type of simplistic claims that you appear to think are substantial.

        The reality is that people like myself who have the skills to integrate into this society, as well as like-minded people who abhor simple-minded racist narratives, have challenged this basic mindset to become aware that Japan and the Japanese are a complex and diverse people that deserve more than the jejune binary descriptions that both you and Debito employ.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackman requires that we graduate from high school first before we understand his deep insights about Japan.

      • Steve Jackman

        Greg Estelcherry, after reading your comments here, a reader not familiar with Japan would get a completely fabricated image of the country.

        I’ve been living and working in Japan for over a decade and your comments are such outliers that I find them lacking in credibility. I don’t know if you are some black swan-type of an exceptional person to whom the everyday realities of life in Japan simply don’t apply, or if you have a hidden agenda or ulterior motives for writing your comments. I suspect, it is the later, since your comments come across as dishonest and disingenuous.

      • Gordon Graham

        Don’t you ever get bored of yourself? How long have you been living here, Steve?

      • Steve Jackman

        No, Gordon, I’ll never tire or get bored of asking Japan to be better. You see, unlike you, I actually care about what happens to Japan and would like to see the country improve its record in areas such as its racism, sexism and insularity. Contrary to you, I don’t want Japan to lag the rest of the developed world in these areas, since I know Japan can, and should, do better.

        I treat the Japanese like adults who should be able to take direct criticism, when I feel it is warranted. You, on the other hand, seem to be either in denial, or insist on treating the Japanese with kid gloves by ignoring and sugar coating the important social issues facing Japanese society.

      • Gordon Graham

        Just keep reminding Japan that you’ve been here all of 10 years so YOU should know how it can improve itself.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, you just remember that in your own comments in the JT recently, you called yourself a “guest”, an “outsider” and a “drag” on Japan, in spite of living in Japan for 27 years. Yes, I am vested in Japan after living here for 10 years and have no intention of ever calling myself a “guest”.

      • Gordon Graham

        “Drag” on Japan”?! Misquote away if it serves your narrative eh Stever? I’m comfortable in my own skin.

      • Steve Jackman

        How am I misquoting you, Gordon? You cannot disown your own past comments so easily. In your posts two weeks ago in The Japan Times, under the article titled, “Harassers exploit Gaba’s “man-to-man” lesson format”, you referred to yourself as a “guest” and an outsider in Japan by calling the Japanese your “hosts”, even though, you’ve lived here for 27 years, have a Japanese wife and kids who are half Japanese.

        You further wrote in the same comments about your life in Japan that, “I’m just grateful that they’ve let me mooch a ride in it for the past 27 years” and “hopefully they’ll continue to drag me along”. These are your words, Gordon! Go back and read your own comments.

        In case you don’t understand the words you wrote, let me explain to you. The term “mooch a ride” refers to someone who begs or steals a free ride. The term “continue to drag me along” means you’re saying that Japan is currently dragging you along, since it cannot continue doing something which it is not doing already. Since, in your own words, you are mooching a ride from Japan and it is dragging you along, are you not a drag on Japan?

      • Gordon Graham

        You’d think that someone who regurgitates logic 101 ad nauseam would have a better grasp of the English language. Let me help you out a bit there, Stever. Drag ALONG implies mutual consent, accord, concurrence, agreement, while BE a drag ON implies an unwanted, deadweight, hinderance. Now, you see, Stever, I have a job and a valued role in the community in which I live. I provide fulfilment, elation and opportunity to the youth where I live. I don’t have to be a child to understand the joy we share in our common experience. I need not be a Japanese to enjoy my life here either. I’m comfortable being a Canadian and being known and treated as one. You see, Stever…I’m comfortable in my skin.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, I’m not buying it. Keep digging, the hole’s getting deeper!

      • Gordon Graham

        The “drag” part meaning that I retain the luxury of not having to accept the full responsibility of a citizen. So if and when that first missile from North Korea or China flies across the Island of my gracious hosts, I’ll be on the first plane home…Well, not the first plane as that will already be full with the likes of you, RonNJ, anoninjapan, GaijinToy et al

      • Taro-nechan

        Did Gordon Graham ever say he actually wants Japan to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of racism, sexism and insularity?

        Steve Jackman, are you really sure you know what the term “straw man” means?
        Your declarations paint otherwise….

      • Greg Estelcherry

        My ‘agenda’ in writing my comments, in line with the purpose of a comments section, is indeed to discredit Debito’s arguments and, in particular, his narrative, for the reasons I’ve already explained:

        1) His blanket satements about Japan/Japanese do not reflect in any way my vast, widespread, and varied experiences in Japan and with the Japanese people. Debito does not speak for foreigners in Japan (especially since he is neither).
        2) Debito and his supporters endorse a Nihonjin-ron script, regularly claiming Japanese exceptionalism and uniqueness. I do not subscribe to this dubious racial belief.
        3) Debito and his NJ supporters maintain an exclusive and limited notion of Japanese-ness. Such attributions regarding ‘the Japanese’ marginalize mixed-race children, such as my own, who should be treated as equally Japanese (as for example, they are in my Japanese neighborhood)..
        By writing, I hope to escalate the notion to international organizations and agencies who still believe that Debito is a legitimate human-rights activist with his finger on the pulse of Japan, that the reality is very far from so.
        Thank you for giving me numerous opportunities to make this point.

  • Steve Jackman

    The worst thing people can do is to not be comfortable in their own skin.

    It leads them to have all kinds of phobias, complexes, depression, self-loathing, low self esteem, insecurities and internal conflicts.

    This is also why many people exhibit active-passive behavior, fail to develop basic social skills or become socially withdrawn, all problems which are quite common in Japan.

    • Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson

      Can you clarify if you are talking about native Japanese or of foreigners, please.

      • Steve Jackman

        Not sure it matters. Every country attracts like-minded foreigners to its shores. For other foreigners, they generally learn to adapt to local mores over time, usually out of necessity.

      • Taro-nechan

        I fail to get your point

      • Steve Jackman

        I’m not surprised that you failed to get the point. Judging from your numerous comments here, you seem to have the intellectual level of a High School kid.

      • Taro-nechan

        Once I graduate from high school maybe your drivel will make more sense to me.

    • Squidhead

      Some of those people move to Hawaii.

      • Taro-nechan

        Why did Arudou Debito move from Sapporo?

      • Steve Jackman

        “Why did Arudou Debito move from Sapporo?”
        How is your question, which incidently you also posted below a second time, relevant to this discussion? It just confirms in my mind that you are not here for a constructive discussion of the important issues raised in Debito’s article.

      • Taro-nechan

        Curiosity

  • ChuckRamone

    You see this in reverse too when soccer commentators are talking about the “size advantage” that European, South American or African teams have over Asian players. I don’t think there is such a drastic size difference anymore among professional athletes in soccer that it could be considered a major factor. There’s still a pretty big technique and strategy gap in soccer though between Asia and the rest of the world.

  • Ostap Bender

    Japan’s elites were shocked when the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) refused to include in its 1919 Covenant an anti-racial discrimination clause that Japan (yes!) had demanded. More shocking was when Japan was treated like a “colored,” “uncivilized” nation under America’s Asian Exclusion Act of 1924.

    Here is where Arudo’s argument breaks down. He’s blaming the Japanese when they in fact were the victims of discrimination.
    And by the way, as a long term gaijin here, I do get credit for my efforts to fit in.
    If Arudo hates Japan so much, why doesn’t he just leave?

    • Taro-nechan

      Ostap Bender, you write harshly but I have to admit Arudou Debito’s writings make me feel the same way as you a lot of the times.

      At the end of the day Arudou Debito’s visceral “the Japanese are out to get me because I look white even though I have Japanese citizenship” message is his brand and that’s his source of income. Beyonce sells her legs, Arudou Debito sells his anger.

      However, I did read one good article by Arudou Debito once and I commended him for it.

      • Steve Jackman

        I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Debito has taken a very rational and logical approach in this article, which happens to be well researched and well written. There is nothing visceral or angry about it. Perhaps you are projecting your own anger and frustration at Debito.

      • Taro-nechan

        Only those who haven’t graduated from high school will understand what I write.
        Your level is too high for us, so just be generous with your kindness.

    • Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson

      FYI, Mr Arudou has been, as far as I am aware, non-resident in Japan for about three years.

      • Taro-nechan

        Why did Arudou Debito leave Sapporo?

      • saitamarama

        At its core, he decided he wanted to further his academic career and has since been in Hawaii. Presumably, he will be returning to Japan sometime in the future to further his research.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Why did Arudou Debito leave Sapporo”.
        Taro-nechan, this is the second time you’ve posted this same question here. What possible motive can you have for trying to distract other commenters from having a constructive discussion about important issues raised by Debito his article? If your intention is merely to troll, I suggest you do it elsewhere.

      • Taro-nechan

        I had to ask twice before saitamarama below gave me an answer

      • Steve Jackman

        Nothing wrong with Debito being out of Japan. I understand he’s been spending most of his time researching, writing and getting his Ph.D about Japan, while he’s been out of the country. He did after all live in Japan for a very long time and received his Japanese nationality. Have you never noticed how being away from a place you’ve been living in for a long time can give you a great fresh perspective on things?

    • Steve Jackman

      I believe times have changed a little since 1919 and 1924, so the context is entirely different between then and now. I guess a plus/minus 100 years makes little differnce to you when making comparisons.

      • Gordon Graham

        Interesting how you allow for Debito’s citation of Dr.Majima’s “A Social and Cultural Study on the Perception of Race and Aesthetics of the Body among Elites in Modern Japan 1853~1926″ to support his claims…I suppose 100 years makes less of a difference when you need to reach back and pick something up that helps feed your narrative. Well researched indeed.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, can you honestly not see the difference when comparing these two very disparate things?

        In the case of Debito, he is using history to provide background and context for his article. This is quite different from someone justifying racism and sexism in Japan today because they also existed in the U.S. a 100 years ago. I really hope for your sake that you are able to tell the two apart.

      • Gordon Graham

        I can tell when someone is short on current examples to facilitate a weak idea. An argument that uses a conclusion as a starting point often finds itself scrambling for justification. Luckily for Debito you can Google just about any idea and get enough random samples to support almost any half-baked conclusion…even if you have to go back some 100 years to do so.

  • Taro-nechan

    I recently asked my best friend (young Japanese) what he thinks of our Vietnamese, Korean, American, Chinese, Filipino and Thai neighbours. He answered back “what do you mean by what do I think?” I clarified “do you value them differently because of their nationality or ethnicity?” He thought for a while then he answered “I don’t think of their nationality nor their ethnicity. I think of them on an individual basis. There are ones that I like and ones that I don’t.”

    Arudou Debito got famous writing about the Japanese/Non-Japanese divide. I’m not saying what Arudou Debito is saying is not true. In fact, I know a lot of what he’s saying is true. But Arudou Debito does everyone a disservice by not pointing out that Japan’s young people are international, open minded, have more varied interpersonal experiences than their parents, and are generally much more interested in pursuing their own life, dreams and friendships and have gotten to the point where they realise that individuals matter more than ethnic prejudices.

    I know Arudou Debito has good points and he is fighting for the rights of NJ in Japanese in Japan. But it can get tiring to read his uniformly pessimistic articles.

    • phu

      Arudou’s consistent railing against… everything… is definitely one of his weaker points (and I almost always find his writing hard to stomach because of it), but in this case I will definitely say I think he’s done much better than usual. I was actually wondering whether I was going to see a note saying this was archived from a long time ago when he was less shrewish.

      My Japanese friends definitely fall into the category you’re referring to… which both contributes to your point and makes it hard for me to comment on the correctness of the more subjective views presented in the article.

      However, in an unprecedented leap, Arudou actually cites writers and researchers other than himself here — quite often! — and makes an honest attempt to back up his statements. How well he actually does is obviously and understandably a topic of debate in the comments here, but I think this is a radical improvement for him, even over his last column.

      Without attempting to analyze it, I’m just going to go ahead and hope that this marks a more constructive and thoughtful (if not overly positive; the topics he covers don’t often lend themselves to that) direction for this writer and his column.

      • Steve Jackman

        I, for one, always appreciate Debito’s thought provoking articles and I think this one is a particularly well researched and well written piece. This is confirmed by the fact that all the usual haters are out in force making personal attacks on him. Debito, consider the snide comments by the haters a badge of honor and wear it with pride. Don’t let the vocal minority of haters drown out the opinions and concerns of the silent majority.

      • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

        I am certain that Debito appreciates the support fine folks like you show him.

        I know I, for one, sure do!

      • Taro-nechan

        I get what you’re saying but I find that there are legion of quotable pessimist writers on nihonjinron but very few which actually match my, quite positive, experiences.

        I think the explanation is quite simple: Sensationally pessimistic pseudo-academic writing sells books and syndicated articles, while day-to-day ordinarily optimistic anecdotes tend to be dismissed as mere “human interest” and not deserving of serious consideration.

      • Steve Jackman

        What a BS comment! You seem to be under the illusion that the more big words you can forcibly pack into a sentence, the more credible it will sound. Once you graduate from high school, you’ll find that that’s not how the real world works.

      • Taro-nechan

        Whether I have or am about to graduate from high school is not relevant to any points you or I raised.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are being completely disingenuous, since the vast majority of news and discourse one sees in Japan is about “day-to-day ordinarily optimistic anecdotes”, similar to your anecdote in one your other comments that your best friend, a young Japanese, told you that he views foreigners like Koreans, Chinese and Filipino just the same as he views fellow Japanese. If this is not being dishonest, then I don’t know what is.

    • Steve Jackman

      I think your alarm clock is going off, so time to wake up from your dream and join the rest of us who live in the real Japan, not some dreamscape.

      • Taro-nechan

        Dunno about you, Steve Jackman, but I do live in the real Japan.

      • Gordon Graham

        …and be quick to shoot down any real experiences anyone else has.

    • Tonyed

      As a long-term NJ living in Japan, I think you have made an excellent counterclaim to this author’s arguements. Generalisations and disingenuous rationalisations are invariably blown clean out of the water by fact.

      Japan may be more racially homogenous than the West (whatever that definition of ‘homogenous’ or ‘The West’ may be), but prejudices are, unfortunately, universal and multilayered in equal measure the world over.

    • GaijinToy

      Taro, I don’t mean to doubt your story, or second-guess your experiences. But this:

      ‘”I don’t think of their nationality nor their ethnicity. I think of them on an individual basis. There are ones that I like and ones that I don’t.”‘

      One thing about prejudice is that – no one ever admits it. No one. I don’t doubt that your friend is lovely, and I’m not accusing him of being racist, but what I am saying is: yes, your friend SAYS that he “doesn’t see color” but that’s what EVERYONE says if you ask them about their prejudices.

      So it’s nice that your friend SAYS he “thinks of them on an individual basis,” but his actions will always speak louder than his words on this.

      • Steve Jackman

        GaijinToy, I entirely agree with you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned living in Japan all these years, it is to look at what people do, not what they say. I’ve never met a Japanese person who will say that they are racist to my face, even when their actions and attitudes are clearly racist. Yes, actions speak louder than words, especially in Japan.

      • Gordon Graham

        And what Steve Jackman does is attack the Japanese any chance he gets. Thank goodness for the Japan
        Times hate section eh Stever…

      • Steve Jackman

        So, says Gordon Graham, who in the comments section of another story in The Japan Times recently called himself a “guest” and an “outsider” in Japan, in spite, of living here for 27 years (in addition to writing that he hoped Japan continues to “drag” him along).

        Gordon, unlike you, I am vested in Japan and actually care about what happens to Japan. For, this reason, I like to participate and treat the Japanese like adults by trying to have an honest discussion about social issues facing the country. I have no interest in being a freeloader like some others who are here just for the ride.

      • Gordon Graham

        In other words, Gaijin Toy, too is prejudiced. I doubt she’d admit it though…

      • GaijinToy

        Gordon, I was going to write up a response to this, but then I decided, no – you know full well that your comment is a low-blow, trolling, immature comment. You know full well that there is no way I can confirm or deny your point without you crowing in triumph.

        But your comment is immature because:

        1) You think I’m a she? Ok, so if I’m not male, how do you know I’m white? How do you know that I am in any ethnic/racial majority in any country? Even if I am white, how do you know I enjoy social privilege in my home country? Do you know my country? Do you know what brings social privilege? Do you even know what prejudices I might or might not have, and what social pressure I would face to acknowledge or admit them? Of course you don’t.

        2) You have firmly established that YOU are an ethnic and social majority in your country and enjoy similar privileges in Japan. A white, male athlete, hm. That’s pretty much the single most privileged person you can find in North America (or even in Japan). What prejudice are YOU even able to admit in your own life? How is your little barb any less applicable to you, than me? Are you trying to say that you are the righteous one here, who is above prejudice? Hm…like I said: the prejudiced and privileged will never admit prejudice.

        Anyway, I wondered how long it would take you to follow me to this thread and start trolling me here, too. Took longer than I expected, but here you are!

      • Gordon Graham

        I simply thought it unfair of you to imply Taro-nechan’s friend was racist, never having met him and that Taro-nechan is too naive to know better. It’s your didactic tone that I find annoying.

      • Taro-nechan

        I agree that actions talk louder than words.
        If someone I know told me he was not prejudiced but he acted in a prejudiced manner then I would assume that he is either a liar or he subconsciously does not know that he is prejudiced.

        In addition to my best friend, my observation of most of the people closest me tells me they are not prejudiced.
        Maybe they have done a good job of hiding their behavior from me, or maybe I have bad judgment. But those are my observations.

        In the particular case of my best friend I am willing to brawl with anyone who second-guesses my opinion that that he is prejudiced, exactly because I know him very well and love the beautiful person that he is. I won’t do that for just anybody.

    • Steve Jackman

      Taro-nechan, your comment lacks credibility for me, since you’ve made the cardinal sin of basing your argument on an anecdote about your best friend, a young Japanese, telling you that he is not a racist.

      Anyone who’s lived in Japan for any period of time knows that one needs to pay attention to what people here do, not what they say. This point seems to have escaped you.

      I have met many Japanese here in Japan who I find to be extremely racist in their actions and attitudes, yet they never think of themselves as racist. This is one of the biggest problems about racism in Japan, since the first step to addressing any problem is to first admit that the problem exists. Most Japanese are in denial of the deeply ingrained racism and sexism within Japanese society and therein lies the problem.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackson, the account about my best friend was an anecdote and never was it attempted to to be presented otherwise.

        You seem to to confuse me with someone arguing that because my best friend said something that sounds not racist then are no real racist Japanese. I do not know how you made your logical leap.

        My best friend’s anecdote was meant to illuminate that some (most, I suspect) young people are more open than their parents, and that Japan is changing (rapidly, I believe).
        Japan can have a lot of racists while rapidly changing at the same time.

  • Upageya

    It is a rare occasion, to agree with something written by this gentleman in toto.
    But, when he is right, he is right. So I started thinking why that would be so, and I realised, that this time he writes about what and how the Japanese people ARE. Usually he writes about things they DO, and he always wants them to be different, to better suit his preferences.
    Even if I were to accept japanese nationality, I would never be anything than a guest in their country. If this is no longer good enough for me…. Haneda, here I come.

    People in Japan will let you do your own thing, as long as you let them do theirs. If this happens to be sitting without a foreigner in the same onsen water or eating without a foreigner at the next table in a restaurant, why should I have a problem with this?

    The football worldcup was indeed a perfect example for what Aroudo writes. I have played in two teams here and realised that they lack some of the basic skills to ever achieve greatness in this sport. They lack vision, cannot remain aware that space and other people exist on their sides and behind them also (you will all know this from traffic!) and can never disregard their “gambere, gambere” conditioning.
    But… it is their country and so it was my turn to simply stop playing with them, and not for them to do the impossible, and understand soccer.
    And yet, before the kick-off they were dreaming of successes and more or less made a joke of themselves.
    That is Japan, take it or be unhappy…. they are wonderfully kind an friendly people, and I enjoy my life here, so far 8 years.
    But why should I take them seriously? What to do, if they elect Abe (remember, the americans elected Bush… twice!) and if Abes “politics” push this country over a certain top into a war and I will be forced to leave it, so be it.

  • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

    Apparently the time difference between Japan and Hawaii is greater than I thought – that, or Japanese TV programs are only broadcast in Hawaii more than a week after they are shown in Japan.

    Arudou is right that, during the first round, the height disparity between Japanese players and Greek players (or Japanese players and Drogba of the Ivory Coast) was pointed out, although I don’t recall such commentary concerning Japan’s game with Colombia. Personally I don’t recall much of said commentary being “we lost because we are little weak girly men playing against tall strong manly men”, but perhaps such did exist.

    What commentary about height I saw was pointing out the obvious: when playing a team that is taller than you, who can run faster than you due to having longer legs, who can kick the ball harder than you or head a ball that is higher off the ground than you can, you need to play a close ground game and defend your possession harder, and play defense deeper as the other side can hit your goal from farther out than you can. Common sense stuff, actually.

    However the pundits, at least the ones I see on my TV here in Japan, have pointed the finger more at Japan’s lacking a Messi, Ronaldo, Shaqiri or Neymar. Japan’s team as a whole is a good one, and Honda is far from a slouch, but Japan lacks a truly dominating player. This hurts them. And is one reason why the JFA is looking at Aguirre for their next coach: Mexico’s national team faced the same handicaps and still plays competitively, so a coach who knows how to bring out Mexico’s strengths would, in theory, also know how to bring out Japan’s.

    Perhaps in another week or two the recordings of these discourses will make the trip across the Pacific by slow boat and Mr. Arudou will be able to catch up with what is actually being talked about in Japan.

    • Manfred Deutschmann

      I am glad to read you didn’t object to the idea of a divide created by Japan’s determination to rank the “races of the world” in order to find their own (too far up) place in this ranking. I was happy you limited your critique to football (or soccer, I guess you call it?), which is definitely more up your intellectual alley.

    • Steve Jackman

      Your comment is a classic example of someone failing to see the forest for the trees. I suggest you re-read the article and perhaps you’ll get the gist of it the second time around.

  • anoninjapan

    GT.

    I used to have “faith” in the next generation, as you indicate too, however, sadly it is all superficial. On many occasions I have met Japanese returning from overseas, either studying or simply living (for a period of years) yet wished to maintain their English skills via a native speaker, me/friends. Over the ensuing weeks and months i see their spark, zest and enthusiasm of life slowly ebb away. After several months of being back in Japan they are a shadow of their former self.

    Their openness and proactiveness and sense of freedom and being an individual has been snuffed out by Japan Inc. To exist inside Japan they must conform – they are Japanese after all. There is no alternative. They are able to work and live back in Japan so long as they tow the Japan Inc line of “we” and “conformity” and minimising fraternisation with NJs for fear of being “indoctrinated” by thoughts of self and thus never to behave as an individual. As such they slowly dispensed with “that” part of their lives where they had a life to do as they wished.

    After several months the visits became less and by the year out non-existent, save for the occasional text/email of hello. I simply reminded them too much of their former lives of freedom without scrutiny, a lifestyle they can no longer enjoy whilst in Japan.

    I no longer have faith in the next generation. Not because i have no faith in them, just no faith in the society to allow them to be who they want to be; whatever it may be.

    • Steve Jackman

      anoninjapan, your comment is by far one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Hats off to you!

      I’ve often wondered why many Japanese are so afraid and paranoid of fraternalising with foreigners and now, thanks to you, I know. I could never quite put my finger on it, but your explanation that they are afraid of being “indoctrinated” or corrupted by foreigners is spot on. This is why most Japanese are quite open to foreign products, but not foreign people.

      I wish more commenters here would follow your example and post comments which are insightful and provide food for thought. Instead, they choose to focus on making personal attacks on Debito, which does absolutely norhing to further the discussion.

    • Gordon Graham

      The same kind of thing happened to a friend of mine in reverse. He returned to Canada after living in Japan for 15 years. The excitement of having lived abroad made all around him inquisitive and filled with excitement to hear of life in a foreign land. He revelled in his role as expert on all things Japan. He enrolled his kids in a Japanese school to maintain their Japanese. He spoke to his kids in Japanese at home. He frequently posted photos of himself and his family for his friends back in Japan to keep tabs on his life in Canada…But sure enough the excitement waned, as people got tired of his “in Japan” stories, he relented to his kids’ incessant whining about having to go to Japanese school on Saturday, the kids fell into the pattern of naturally using the language of their daily lives, and my friend now posts roughly 2 or 3 photos a year on Facebook…The mundane tasks of everyday life take their toll no matter where one lives. I could say Canada Inc. got him but that would be ridiculous.

      • anoninjapan

        “.. I could say Canada Inc. got him but that would be ridiculous…”

        Indeed it is ridiculous.

        Since you’re equating a desire to maintain a link with another country with, being forced to totally abandon and relinquish one (or total conformity to another one).

        There exists a significant difference between “a desire” and being “coerced/required”. One being a craving an aspiration or a wish, whilst the other is obligatory and compulsory. Your inability to recognize the difference does not detract from the gulf between the two actions.

        Your friends kids, voiced their own individual opinions on having to go to saturday school and on top of that, their parents caved in. An expression of self and individuality that is common in countries outside of Japan, such as in Canada.

        In Canada the kids can choose and the parents can choose to accept it or not.

        In Japan no such choice exists. Children are not allowed to question authority/parents and the parents certainly would not accept such indolent requests from their children.

        All you’re demonstrating is a lack of understanding of how the society in Japan functions and not understanding the difference between a desire and a requirement.

      • Gordon Graham

        I know of scores of Japanese kids who refuse to go to juku in order to attend hockey practice here in Kushiro. The parents relent and allow them to play that good ol’ traditional Japanese sport “ice hockey”. I understand very well the world in which I live not the one you imagine.

      • anoninjapan

        My my, there you have it. Japanese kids refuse to go to juku with the quid pro quo of doing traditional japanese pursuits.

        I’ll let you what, i’ll go tell all the kids in the juku’s near me to go play ice hockey instead. Im sure their parents will be impressed with their proactive behaviour for self fulfillment. Hey why I am at it, I may as well tell the juku schools they are not needed as the kids prefer other pursuits as this is such common behaviour in Japan, as you’re suggesting.

        Mind you, its a bit late for one of my students. She could not wait until she finished high school. Having to do her saturday and sometimes sunday japanese pursuits. She hated every weekend for her last 5 years of school…but hey its ok being expected to conform is a myth in Japan, and juku is no longer required. Thanks for the tip :)

      • Gordon Graham

        There certainly are more experiences, variation and individualism out there than some would have us believe.

      • Gordon Graham

        “why I’m at it”?! Sir or Madame, I suggest you run, not walk to the nearest juku.

      • anoninjapan

        I shall indeed run and shot from the rooftops…stating it is common to refuse to go to juku just because parents tell you to go.

        Thanks for the tip :)

      • Gordon Graham

        Your grammar is barely legible. I think I understand what you’re trying to say.

      • anoninjapan

        aahh..that’s because i refused to attend juku and just accepted my auto spell checker blindly. Since why question it, as I’ve not been taught how too. As its common to skip juku in Japan, Neh.

        Glad your comprehension of the English language is slowly improving..keep it up :)

      • Gordon Graham

        Sir or Madame, spelling is the least of your problems.

      • anoninjapan

        Oh..and as for being mundane.

        The mundane task of everyday life of those Japanese that returned to Japan is simply a function of time and boredom. That is what mundane is, dull routine.

        As above, this has absolutely nothing to do with being required/coerced into behaving into the expected group collective in order to remove all traces of individualism and self expression and the questioning of “why” as they had previously enjoyed. Which is precisely what those kids in Canada clearly exercised, oh yeah, in Canada, funny that!!

        Being able to question authority is not dull nor routine at all. Seems you don’t understand the difference between mundane and coercion either.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        SJ
        I don’t see a lot of individualism or critiquing of authority in your rather timid and traditional , ahem, ‘observations’ about Japanese conformity and social coercion. Yours is, of course, the predictable, standard, unquestioned, conservative, old world view of Japan that is trotted out in every foreigner bar. Perhaps you should question the authority of these worn out World War 2 tropes a little more.

  • Tangerine 18

    Debito – I’m afraid your comments on Japan’s failure at the World Cup are as off the mark as a Shinji Kagawa pass. I’m not sure which “pundits” you are referring to but nobody connected with the game here in Japan is blaming a lack of height or strength for the team’s poor showing. The causes are many and varied: poor initial squad selection, outdated tactics, a reliance on clearly past-it veterans, unusual player selection, mis-timed and ineffective substitutions and the poor form of key players Honda and Kagawa. Zaccheroni has to shoulder a lot of the blame, I’m afraid. There have also been dark rumours of discord within the squad.
    On the other hand Japan’s best performers were Inter Milan’s Nagatomo ( 1.70m ) and Uchida of Schalke ( 1.76m ). Neither are giants but both played well and will remain first choices for their club teams next season.
    In contrast South Korea had one of the tallest squads in Brazil but also fell at the first hurdle and performed so badly they were pelted with toffees by disgruntled fans on their return home.
    Please stick to subjects you know something about; football clearly isn’t one of them.

    • Steve Jackman

      “Please stick to subjects you know something about; football clearly isn’t one of them.” Funny, how I read the entire article without realizing it was about football. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Tangerine 18

    Debito – I’m afraid your comments on Japan’s failure at the World Cup are as off the mark as a Shinji Kagawa pass. I’m not sure which “pundits” you are referring to but nobody connected with the game here in Japan is blaming a lack of height or strength for the team’s feeble showing. The causes are many and varied: poor initial squad selection, outdated tactics, a reliance on clearly past-it veterans, unusual player selection, mis-timed and ineffective substitutions and the dire form of key players Honda and Kagawa. Zaccheroni has to shoulder a lot of the blame I’m afraid. There have also been dark rumours of discord within the squad.
    On the other hand Japan’s best performers were Inter Milan’s Nagatomo ( 1.70m ) and Uchida of Schalke ( 1.76m ). Neither are giants but both played well and will remain first choices for their club teams next season.
    In contrast South Korea had one of the tallest squads in Brazil but also fell at the first hurdle and performed so badly they were pelted with toffees by disgruntled fans on their return home.
    Please stick to subjects you know something about; football clearly isn’t one of them.

    • wrle

      Note, the south korean team was pelted with toffees by two deranged men who were part of an unusual anti soccer internet cafe. The rest of the fans supported their national team.

  • Taro-nechan

    My criticism wasn’t that Arudou Debito’s pieces are lies or that Japanese do not have racial views. My criticism was that Arudou Debito’s pieces show only one side, and the angry side at that.

    Arudou Debito’s stories do not reflect my experiences when:

    I went to a small town in Gunma where an old woman spontaneously told me she was thankful for the town’s Brazilians otherwise there would not be young people anymore;

    Of the dozens of small farming villages I visited where the villagers cannot get over themselves singing praises to the Filipinas who joined their communities as wives and mothers and made their lives richer;

    Of half Japanese-half Iranian kids who are so good looking they are so popular at school because being half-something is so popular right now;

    Of scores of Japanese who come to Koreatown trying to find a Korean boy or girl to date because they are so tall and handsome;

    Of a half Bangladeshi lawyer and a half Pakistani colleague of mine whose internationalism enriches our work.

    Of Filipinos, Chinese, a Kiwi, a German, and American colleagues of mine who have decided to naturalize and take on obligations pertaining to Japanese citizenship.

    My gripe with Arudou Debito is that his fame is built on one Sapporo Onsen where a white person was refused, but I have been to so many onsen with so many white friends and we have never been molested. Which experiences are more valid?

    Maybe Arudou Debito was the pioneer who enabled our white friends to join us at onsens. But maybe it is also time to acknowledge that, while not perfect, Japanese society has progressed leaps and bounds and now is perfectly able to see the individual rather than the ethnic membership.

    • Steve Jackman

      Yes, Debito takes clear and strong positions on important issues facing Japan and that is a good thing as far as I am concerned. It is much needed, since the other 99 percent of the popular discourse in Japan is about ignoring and sugar coating important social issues in Japan, which no one else seems to be addressing.

    • Manfred Deutschmann

      But given the mountain of writing about Japan that perpetuates the myths and is overly positive and optimistic, why do we need Debito to be balanced? Why don’t you ask the others to be balanced first and start to write about the real Japan?
      They are a huge majority. Debito doesn’t need to be balanced and “also write about the good things”.

      • Gordon Graham

        Most Japanese have never heard of Debito, so essentially his writings are kindling for expat squabbles, nothing more. If He were balanced he wouldn’t be of much use to the Japan Times.

      • Steve Jackman

        Now, now, Gordon, I thought using a capital H when writing “He” was reserved for when people referred to God. Are you elevating Debito to God-status when you wrote above, “If He were balanced he wouldn’t be of much use to the Japan Times”? BTW, you probably consider The Daily Gomiuri to be balanced news, eh?

      • Gordon Graham

        I prefer the Japan Times. I rather enjoy the squabble and mewl section.

      • Taro-nechan

        I don’t need for Arudou Debito to be balanced.
        In fact I don’t need him at all, the biggest reason is that he does not reflect my experiences in this country.

        As far as I am concerned Arudou Debito is just trying to sell his writings and to do that he cultivates a brand of being the angry NJ who has Japanese citizenship but can’t be treated the same as Japanese because he’s white.

        - Japanese won’t read/buy what he writes.
        - Optimistic NJ like me would probably stay away more often than not.
        - Only pessimistic NJ, whose raison d’etre is to point out how much they suffer under nihonjinron, will read/buy his books/articles.

        I have no need for such a pathetic brand. I’d rather go with the Son Masayoshi brand, i.e. I’m a Korean outsider but I mastered the Japanese and US systems and I came out on top of both.

        Let them throw their brickbats at me, but I will survive and prosper.

      • Squidhead

        Pretty much. Life is too short for these “sad bear” kind of articles.

        I hope the Japan Times editors realize that these racebait clickbait articles are a huge turn-off.

    • GaijinToy

      Taro, I love your positivity, but two things that bother me here:

      “being half-something is so popular right now.”
      Are you sure this doesn’t creep into simply objectifying people? I mean, “half-something” people are minorities, and so you have to be careful that such reverence doesn’t simply collapse into objectification. WHY are these kids popular – because they look good? That’s it? That’s not positive.

      I say this because:
      “Of scores of Japanese who come to Koreatown”
      This absolutely IS straight-up objectification. This is not positive in any way. This is objectifying an ethnic minority as a desirable partner – for what? Because they are “tall and handsome?” That’s it? That’s not positive.

      Again, I love your positivity, but these two trends in particular are not necessarily as positive as you want to think they are.

      Otherwise, your anecdotes are absolutely lovely, and I’m glad you live in such a nice area.

      • Taro-nechan

        Thank you for your response to my post.
        Yes, you are correct that there are elements of objectification and it partly negates my message that Japanese see individuals, not ethnic groupings.

        I had a sub-message, that being part foreign now enjoys some “positive discrimination”. I know this is not “seeing the individual as individual”, but this is also a step-up from suffering “negative discrimination”.

        The sub-message reflects my own 3-part journey in Japan:

        1) I started off being negatively discriminated against because I was NJ;

        2) I was able to master the system and benefit from positive discrimination (work the system to my advantage as an NJ);

        3) Now enough neighbours and colleagues know me on an individual-basis that they do not need to discriminate for or against me on any ethnic basis.

        On a related point, human beings have eyes so I think it is pointless to expect zero discrimination (whether positive or negative). What we should aim for is to minimise the initial negative discrimination so that enough interaction space is created and people can get to know each other on an individual basis. We can then decide whether we like on don’t like individual people from there.

      • Steve Jackman

        I don’t think you even realize it, but your comment here is a strong indictment against Japanese racism! I suggest you re-read your own post and perhaps it will allow you to shake up the state of denial you seem to be living in.

  • Taro-nechan

    You got it, Greg Estelcherry.
    Arudou Debito puts up a straw man than he can then take down himself then take credit.
    I am a NJ in Japan with mixed ethnicity and Arudou Debito does not speak for me nor describe my experiences.

    • Steve Jackman

      Debito may not speak for you, but he definitely speaks for me (I am also a long term non-Japanese resident of Japan). So, stop trying to muzzle free speech.

      • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

        No one is trying to muzzle free speech. It is not like anyone here is or has, for example, called someone’s employer and tried to get them fired for something they said.

        Oh wait…

      • Steve Jackman

        Making continuous and unrelenting personal attacks on a writer, the way many commenters here are doing, is tantamount to muzzling free speech.

      • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

        And telling others to stop pointing out that the writer doesn’t know of what he writes and doesn’t speak for them is…?

      • Gordon Graham

        Voicing disagreement is the opposite of muzzling free speech.

      • Steve Jackman

        Trolling, inventing unlikely anecdotes to make a point, personal attacks and nonsensical arguments ARE attempts to muzzle free speech. Don’t be so afraid and paranoid of the truth getting out, Gordon.

      • Gordon Graham

        I have absolutely no problems with the truth, Steve. You’re the one insulted to be called foreigner.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, there you go making up stuff again. I have never said that I have a problem being called a foreigner. I do, however, have a problem when someone like you calls himself a “guest” in Japan and refers to the Japanese as his “hosts” after living in Japan for 27 years, having a Japanese wife and kids who were born here.

      • Gordon Graham

        Try casting your vote in the upcoming election, Stever. Just as a reminder that you, too, are a guest.

      • Taro-nechan

        I do not understand how my exercise of my free speech would muzzle your expression of your free speech, however much tantamounting you claim.

      • Steve Jackman

        You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. You wrote above that Debito puts up a straw man and then takes it down himself to take credit. Do you know what a straw man approach is? Seems like you’re just recycling mumbo jumbo you heard somewhere, without comprehending what it means.

      • Taro-nechan

        I think you better aim your comments at yourself where they might hit a mark.

      • Steve Jackman

        Taro-nechan, I have to question your sincerity and if you have an ulterior motive for posting many of your comments here, since your anecdotes are so far off the charts about the reality of Japan.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackman, you do not have a monopoly on the “reality of Japan”.
        Not just because someone else’s experiences do not conform to your preconceived notions of “reality of Japan” doesn’t mean they other people’s experiences aren’t real.

        You are welcome to question my sincerity. What do you think my ulterior motive would be for sharing my experiences?

  • Steve Jackman

    Debito did not come up with the concept of Japan’s “Cult of Uniqueness”. If you know anything about Japan, you should know that the Japanese are the one’s who created a whole genre of Japanese uniqueness, which they refer to as Nihonjinron in Japanese.

    • Taro-nechan

      Greg Estelcherry did not say that Arudou Debito came up with the concept of Japan’s “Cult of Uniqueness”.

      What Greg Estelcherry said was that Debito and his followers are perhaps the foremost purveyors (and I would add “beneficiaries”) of this cult of Japanese uniqueness.

      You’re barking up the wrong tree.
      The 2 statements are not the same, however much tantamounting you do.

      Do you even realise you just did a usual Debito tactic there?

      1. Set up a straw man (Arudou Debito came up with the concept of Japan’s “Cult of Uniqueness”);
      2. Disprove the straw man (nihonjinron has existed even before Debito);
      3. Then take credit for disproving the straw man (now Greg Estelcherry received his education on nihonjinron).

      • Steve Jackman

        Your comment shows your lack of understanding of the straw man approach and what Debito has actually written about in his article. You are so desperate to try to discredit Debito at all costs, that you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t work!

      • Taro-nechan

        Must be because I have yet to graduate from high school.

    • Greg Estelcherry

      Steve, did you notice that thing that just flew over your head? That was my point.
      Pointing out Debito’s hyperbole and dubious racial generalizations, questioning his tone and the soundness of his rhetoric is not tantamount to personal insult. Nor does it muzzle free speech (that old desperate argument chestnut) but is in fact a manifestation of free speech- the kind that is not allowed on Debito’s own website.
      Since Debito adversely affects the perspective of some of his more impressionable, uncritical readers, inducing a paranoic mindset in some and tacitly endorsing a racist narrative in others (as can be seen in this comments section), I will continue to oppose him as a menace to the successful integration of foreigners into Japanese society.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackman thinks we all haven’t managed to graduate from high school and so we are unable to understand his deep insights about Japan.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        Taro,
        I think its important that people see the type of readership that Debito appeals to. Little more need be said on that point.
        What bothers me is that some members of the international media and organization see Debito as some type of representative of foreign residents in Japan (he is most definitely not), believe that he is an active member of the Japanese community (he is not), and think that he is an authority on domestic issues (see the above, he has almost no connection to daily life in Japan as lived by most residents and, obviously, the Japanese themselves).
        The man is completely out of touch with the realities that most foreign residents experience in Japan which is why his reading constituency has dwindled to a few hardcore malcontents.

      • Steve Jackman

        Greg Estelcherry, you are wrong once again. Not only is Debito a Japanese citizen, but he has much more street creds than the vast majority of people writing about Japan. His experiences and the positions he takes on important issues represent the views of the great majority of non-Japanese residents of Japan.

        I feel that it is commenters like you and others who seem to have dubious and ulterior motives in your unrelenting personal attacks on Debito and your unfair criticism of his writings. Clearly this vocal minority makes a lot of noise because the truths in Debito’s articles makes you guys nervous.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        I have not attacked Debito personally. I am, however, strongly criticising the racialism that he and his followers regularly espouse, his tacit acceptance of the nihonjin-ron narrative, the fact that by maintaining a preposterous view of what constitutes ‘inevitable’ Japanese behavior, he not only contributes to the marginalization of Japanese people such as my children, but insults my wife, family, friends, and colleagues.
        You are free to ignore or deny the fact that views like mine are quite widely held and supported in the long-term foreign community (by that I mean people who have managed to adjust to life in Japan), since my target audience is not the Debito echo chamber.
        Anyway, I’m starting to repeat myself (you can see my other posts elsewhere in this thread) and I don’t think you have much of interest or significance to say so I’m cutting the signal-to-noise wire here.

      • Steve Jackman

        I still don’t understand what you and other commenters like you are so afraid of. If you folks had really strong convictions that Japan does not face the types of social issues Debito highlights in his writings (complexes, racism, sexism, discrimination, etc.), then you should have nothing to worry about. In that case, I would expect you guys to give Debito and those who agree with him the space to express their opinions without being harangued. However, your inability to do so is a clear indication to me that you are hiding some insecurities about Japan’s fragility in these areas. It reminds me of how the most homophobic people I’ve met are the ones who are insecure about their own sexuality. On the other hand people who are secure about their own sexuality are the ones who are most tolerant of homosexuality and give gays the right to express themselves in any way they see fit.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackman, you still do not understand that freedom of expression means you are free to harangue people whose opinions you do not agree with.

      • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

        “His experiences and the positions he takes on important issues represent the views of the great majority of upper-middle-class American Ivy-league frat boy white male residents of Japan.”

        FTFY – although I don’t think even the edited version holds true as I know more than a few individuals in that demographic, and to a man they reject the notion that Arudou speaks to or for them.

        More ridiculous is the notion that a middle-aged white man’s experiences in Japan in any way reflect the experiences of the “great majority of non-Japanese residents of Japan”, since the “great majority” would be the 80% that are from other Asian countries, not the 4% from white Anglophone countries. Arudou’s only “experience” shared with any member of the aforementioned 80% has been when he has demanded access to the clubs those of them on “entertainer” visas work in – and he wasn’t doing so to address any important issues that faced them, such as human trafficking or sexual slavery – he was there as a willing participant to the continuation of those ills.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Since Debito adversely affects the perspective of some of his more impressionable, uncritical readers, inducing a paranoic mindset in some and tacitly endorsing a racist narrative in others (as can be seen in this comments section), I will continue to oppose him as a menace to the successful integration of foreigners into Japanese society.”

        Ah, you’re resorting to the classic argument for stifling discourse and for censorship, i.e, I’m protecting impressionable and feeble minds from being corrupted. You’d fit right in in a place like North Korea or Iran.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        So, you conflate vocally opposing a dubious, objectionable narrative with, ahem, censorship. Wow. That sure makes sense.
        Keep digging yourself a gaping intellectual hole, buddy. You can bury your credibility there. In fact, I’m enjoying helping you.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackman thinks he has no gaping intellectual hole, he thinks that what he says credibly makes sense, and that we are just unable to appreciate his deep insights on Japan because we have yet to graduate from high school.

      • Steve Jackman

        I find your argument laughable that you want to protect “impressionable” and “uncritical readers” from being corrupted by Debito’s writings. Who are you to say who is “impressionable” and “uncritical”?

        Dictators and authoritarian regimes use this argument all the time to justify censorship and to muzzle free speech, since they are afraid of the truth getting out there. It seems like you are also afraid that the truths in Debito’s articles will resonate with readers, so you’d prefer to censor him.

      • robertwgordonesq

        Greg wrote: “Steve, did you notice that thing that just
        flew over your head? That was my point.”

        That was a good one. He’s witty too!

  • Upageya

    You write:

    „Debito has a way of taking the unspoken and making it easy to discuss.“

    That depends. Where I live, amongst Japanese, we talk about these subjects, the way we talk about the football worldcup. Its nothing special. These things are not unspoken, the truth of the problem is that there is nothing in Japan worthy of being called news-media, it all belongs to the same mafia. Debito writing in the Japan Times is nothing but a fig leaf. No one except us notices him, nothing he does has any consequences worth anything.

    It took a few years of living here, then I recognized the same phenomenon that I know from f.e. Australia.
    Japan is another isolated island at the ….. of the world. Surrounded by other third world countries, some of them rich, some of them poor. They all have one thing in common, whatever they ever had that might be called a culture and which never were anything but slave-societes, lies centuries in the past. In Europe every country has a dozen neighbours with competing cultures, you grow, you
    learn or you disappear, as so many cultures in Europe have done. What Japan sells as its culture does not exist today and never did in the past. Being confronted with a globalised world they now realise the ridiculously lousy quality of life for the people here and… of course, they cannot admit that openly and start changing.

    That is the true point that Debito makes..

    THAT is why the people elect gentlemen like Abe or Aso, as voting for change would mean admitting that this is not the best of all countries, and that would be extremely painful.

    So, they dislike foreigners, Debito explaines why.

    But, as long as I can enjoy sitting by myself in two seats in JR trains instead of being squeezed in, because all those standing do not want to sit next to me, a gaijin, I will stay. When this kind of behaviour becomes to overwhelming and repulsive, then I will leave…

    Asking the Japanese to change, because it makes Debito uncomfortable and even angry, is simply
    ridiculous.

    This is THEIR country, not mine, I am a guest and usually treated very exceptionally gracious….
    compared to some other countries I know.

    Because of the political incompetence of its people this country will sooner or later let itself
    be dragged into a war, to defend American interests. This is sad, but cannot be avoided. Japanese culture of putting appearances before being, and hypocrisy and NEVER speaking out openly (with single exceptions of course) will have their price and their consequences.

    There will come a time to leave… fighting against racism in an onsen is ridiculous, compared with the real problems in Japan.

    • Taro-nechan

      “Debito writing in the Japan Times is nothing but a fig leaf. No one except us notices him, nothing he does has any consequences worth anything.”

      That’s true.
      My partner, who is very international hasn’t even heard of Arudou Debito.
      I guess Arudou Debito exists for us NJ navel-gazers.

      • Steve Jackman

        You say that you live in Koreatown and your neighbors don’t know Debito.

        That may be well and fine, but I hope you are aware of the fact that the ethnic Koreans in Japan have many activists within their own community, who are fighting against racism and discrimination in Japan and for equal rights for ethnic Koreans living in Japan. They far outnumber Debito. Ethnic Koreans in Japan have their own newspapers, which highlight similar issues to the ones Debito does in his The Japan Times column.

  • iago

    So Ayu Majima said: “While an inferiority complex is generally regarded as a sense of inferiority towards oneself, it should rather be regarded as a sense of indignity and anger towards the lack of recognition of one’s worth . . . for not being recognized, approved or admitted by the important ‘other.’ ”

    Wait. Who are we talking about again? Reading through a number of the comments here and elsewhere, this seems to be less a trait unique to “The Japanese”, and more a trait of the human condition.

  • Taro-nechan

    I did watch the movie Hafu with a few hafu friends and half said they couldn’t relate to it, a reaction which I wasn’t expecting.

    My explanation is that even within hafu there are differences in background, situation, personality. Again, broad strokes fail to capture the full picture.

    In contrast with Arudou Debito’s writings, though, I did enjoy the movie as it showed kids dealing with and getting comfortable with their own skin, which we don’t need to be half-breeds in order to struggle through and appreciate.

  • Kenji

    But also we just get the weird foreigners

  • Simon Rudduck

    Excellent article.

  • anoninjapan

    “..All I can say to you is that I think you are misinterpreting the situation…”

    Couldn’t agree more. You’re barking up the wrong tree totally and trying to justify a position that you have made yourself based upon your own assumptions, incorrect as they are.

    My comment has nothing to do with “being friends”. All you’re demonstrating is that you’re myopic and superficial, even to the point of arrogance in your interactions with people. Bully for you. Not everyone is.

    As for a flimsy relationship….ugh!..er…please state where i have mentioned this above?…er…you can’t. Because it is not there, another strawman argument.

    If you’re going to comment at least attempt to make it about the subject matter at hand rather than a ramble about nothing in particular and a lame attempt create a link that is so clearly not there even a blind man could see it!

    • Gordon Graham

      Ouch! Now, I know why they stopped coming around.

      • anoninjapan

        Oh dear..more of the same. Nothing to say other than just incoherent rambling. You’re blocking the band width with such nonsense.

  • Greg Estelcherry

    Toolongone,
    I have three ‘hafu’ children. They are, to my mind, fully Japanese. I know of several other such hafu children. They, too, are fully Japanese. But do any of them correspond to Debito’s descriptions as to what “The Japanese” supposedly think and how they behave? (Use his preposterous notion as to how ‘anger and insults ineviably ensue’ if outsiders don’t praise Japan as a reference point).
    My hafu children don’t respond like that, in fact neither do my Japanese family, friends, neighbours, or colleagues. When Debito rails against “The Japanese” he is either not including our mixed-race children, because they apparently do not meet his criterion for Japanese-ness, or he thinks that this society is completely uniform and fails to recognize diversity, a standard ultra-rightist trope, which contradicts a good portion of what he has writttten in the past.

    • Steve Jackman

      When I read comments like yours about the acceptance of “hafu” children in Japanese society, I have to seriously question your motives and agenda for writing this stuff, since it is so far off the charts as compared to the experiences of hundreds or thousands of other non-Japanese living in Japan. You must be a black swan.

      • Gordon Graham

        His children are Japanese.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        Steve,
        For one thing I didn’t post about the ‘acceptance of half-children’. However, indeed my children have not had any problems regarding acceptance in Japan, nor has nn-acceptance even been close to a theme among the many international couples that I know. If anything, these children tire of foreigners implying that they are victims or that they can’t possibly be accepted.
        You read about things second-hand through a Debi-filter, Steve. I live them. 20 plus years here. Fully Japanese workplace. Fully Japanese extended family. Fully Japanese neighbourhod in a middle-sized Japanese city. Associations with an enormous number of Japanese, especially graduate students, professionals, and regular folks in the community I live in. Yes, my experience in Japan is more valid than yours and Debito’s.
        Anyway, my point is that Debito and his followers do not see people such as my children as fully Japanese. Go to Debito’s website or follow the commenters here like yourself commenting on, and making blanket attributions about, ‘the Japanese’. Do you think they are including this increasingly large demographic in their sweeping descriptions of ‘the Japanese’? Obviously not. Where problems exist with integration (and they do occur on occasion no doubt) attitudes like that are part of the problem.

      • Toolonggone

        >Debito and his followers do not see people such as my children as fully Japanese.

        OK. Why do think so? Is it because they are the first ones who brought that non-sense, even though the public stigma on bi-racial people was present many
        years before author came to Japan in the late 80s? Or is it because they are joining in conservative chorus of Yamato nativism non-sense while many of those
        are actually fighting against it?

        These two are NOT the same.

        And, speaking of demographic issue, you should always expect some sort of problems due to government’s horrible census survey. They don’t count ethnicity or race in Japanese citizen. Because of that, some of those who look closely to the majority(Yamato or Wajin) can walk free while others will fall into the cracks because of cultural/ethnic heritage considered foreign to many people (especially in national/local bureaucrats).

      • http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/ GMainwaring

        “They don’t count ethnicity or race in Japanese citizen.” Which should be the goal, isn’t it? One either is Japanese (legally, a citizen), or one is not. If one is Japanese, one should be treated the same as every Japanese, period. Even Arudou has said so.

        Except, of course, when Arudou wanted to be treated as “special”, such as in his angry demand that the Japanese government allow him to record himself on the census as “white Japanese” or the patently impossible “American-Japanese”.

        What benefit is there to hyphenization? None that I can see.

      • Taro-nechan

        Steve Jackman, maybe you can share about the experience of your hafu children so we know more where you are coming from?

  • Maria

    wow… very good article! very well written and full of historical good reasoning! However, 500 years ago Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world, after being ‘approached/discovered’ by Europeans!

    Very good ideas in here though!

  • Maria

    It is a very well written article! However, is not to forget that 500 years ago Japan closed itself to foreigners only to open up again much later (Meiji Era) if I am correct!

  • Maria

    why are my comments being removed/deleted?!

  • robertwgordonesq

    Arudou–san has descended from the racial utopia of the United States to bring civilization to the savages of Nippon.

    The funniest part of his essay was where Arudou–san said:
    “The West has largely moved on from this dangerous bunkum, thanks to the “master race” excesses of World War II and Nazi Germany’s Final Solution.”

    Ha, ha, ha…ho, ho, ho..must…pick…my…self…up…from…floor.

    Ahem.

    What he should have said (if he were honest), would be:

    “The West has largely moved on from this dangerous [outward] bunkum, thanks to the “master race” excesses of World War II and Nazi Germany’s Final Solution, [but unfortunately has still maintained this worldview yet kept it more clandestine].

    I think Arudou–san’s piece in and of itself is racist as the above quote seems to imply that the Japanese should become more “Western” in order for them to be considered citizens of the world. As the West has “moved on”, so too must the Japanese “grow up” to catch up with their White idols.

    Phooey.

    The ancient reality, at least for China, was that the West were the barbarians, from whom nothing was needed. And the British, in order to enforce a racial hierarchy, pumped China full of Opium and invaded the country to bring it under Western submission through force of arms.

    Is it no wonder that Asians are leery and weary of foreigners?

    The Japanese merely adopted the racial stratagems already in use (and still in use) by the colonial West. When the West practiced this form of elitism…it is praised as the “White Man’s Burden” by Kipling. Yet, when the Japanese do it, it’s something to be condemned?

    In pre-Meiji times, it made sense to adopt Western ways since the West proved they had become a dominant power. Had the samurai and Tokugawa clan been able to keep the West at bay, perhaps we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    However, Arudou–san’s point is well taken and well made. I.e., when Japan saw itself as the inferior, it sought inclusion with the West via the League of Nations and the reforms of the Meiji Restoration.

    Perhaps Arudou–san is suffering from a similar sense of inferiority which prompts all of his efforts for inclusion into Japanese society???

    Arudou-san says it best himself when he says: “When people
    try this hard for validation and don’t get it, it doesn’t engender the passive humility and must-try-harder attitudes so often gushed about in the Western media regarding Japan”
    [rather, this inferiority complex generates] “….a sense of indignity and anger towards the lack of recognition of one’s worth . .. for not being recognized, approved or admitted by the important ‘other.’“

    By Jove! I think he’s got it!!!

    Thus, can’t we say the same of those like Arudou–san wishing to be included into Japanese society as “equals”?

    That is, the same theory applies to Arudou-san himself and we can now officially give him the nom de plume of “The Angry White Man”.

    Well, he himself even confirms this when he says “(I’m sure you long-termers who feel unrecognized for all your efforts to “fit in to Japan” can relate to this.)”

    Anyway Arudou-san, keep it coming. No one can ever accuse
    you of being uninteresting.

    Bob
    (the not so angry black man)

    • Steve Jackman

      I don’t think anyone has called the U.S. a “racial utopia”. However, there are two big differences between the U.S. and Japan in regards to racism.

      The first is a matter of degree. The racism in Japan is worse than the U.S. by a factor of many times and is much more universal.

      The second difference is that most people in the U.S. acknowledge racism when they see it. This leads to many people in the U.S. at all levels of society who are actively engaged in trying to eradicate racism. On the contrary, I have never seen proper acknowledgment by any Japanese that racism exists in Japan, even though it is ubiquitous and an epidemic in Japan. The first step to addressing any issue is to acknowledge that a problem exists and Japan has yet to take this first step.

      • robertwgordonesq

        The reference to the U.S. being a racial utopia was meant as a joke. Meaning, Arudou-san’s original home country is so perfect that he felt compelled to spread the blessings of “harmony” around the world.

        Obviously the U.S. isn’t perfect hence why does Arudou-san feel the need to bash the Japanese, when his own country needs work?

        To each his own I guess.

        In terms of racism being “worse” in Japan than in the U.S….First, I imagine that depends on who you were in the U.S. If you were a Caucasian in the U.S., then pretty much anywhere you go it will undoubtedly be “worse”…for you.

        Second, so are we using “Japan-is-worse-than-the-U.S.-therefore-OK-to-bash-at-will” rationale?

        If so, well, it’s not like Japan is begging anyone to stay. If anything, they (some) are trying to get people to leave.

        Further, it’s not like the the Japanese invaded America, captured some Caucasians and made them work as slaves in Japan for 300 plus years while at the same time having a founding document claiming all men are created equal (except for Caucasians who are counted as 3/5ths of a person and hamstrung by “Jim Snow” laws), worshiped the Christian god and professed Jesus’ universal brotherly love. If they did all that, then maybe…just maybe you’d have an argument that Japan is “worse”.

        As far as most people in the U.S. acknowledging racism…well…we probably run in different circles.

        Honestly, I don’t think it’s a problem to be a racist or to hold racist views.

        I do however think it is a problem to try and force someone to like you without first trying to understand why they don’t like you in the first place.

        That is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.
        (all puns intended).

        Bob
        (For the uninitiated…”Jim Snow” is a play on words for the “Jim Crow” laws against Blacks in the segregated southern United States, roughly spanning the years 1876 through 1965. The “3/5ths” reference is a reference to the U.S. Constitution’s 3/5ths compromise clause found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution which did not count Native Americans and African slaves as whole persons for the purposes of taxation and representation).

  • anoninjapan

    That would explain your incoherent baseless ramblings then.

  • anoninjapan

    Oh dear more non sequitur and misdirection rambling. But still, at least you’re true to form and consistent about it.

    • GaijinToy

      Dude, you’re just looking for a fight to vent your frustrations. I feel you, I do, but I’m responding to your comments as best as I can. If you aren’t happy with what I’m saying, don’t just snap at me. GTFO and take a nap, drink some warm milk, buy a gachapon.

      That’s what I do when I’m stressed. (Or, yeah, I troll racists on the internet, but son, even if some people here are racist, there are worse people out there. If you want a racist to troll, look up Phillip Dennis who runs a hate blog called “Angry White Dude.” I used to troll his website and, let me tell you: few things feel as good as swearing at racists. Trust me.)

      • anoninjapan

        “..Dude, you’re just looking for a fight to vent your frustrations. I feel you,..”

        Hahahaha…that’s where you’re so sooooo wrong.

        1) not looking for a ‘fight’ as you call it

        2) Not frustrated one bit…although your comment suggest that YOU are,.. very much. Classic mirroring

        3) Thus, you certainly don’t “feel” me at all. What utter nonsense.

        “..That’s what I do when I’m stressed…”

        Exactly. It is you that is stressed and as such your incoherent ramblings and misdirections are evidence of such.

  • Taro-nechan

    Thanks, GaijinToy. I do see your point. I think there are shades to this discussion but am unsure whether branching off from this thread at this time is the way to go. Would be open to hear what you think.

    Without being too dramatic, my stance is that I have lived through “negative discrimination” (stage 1) which makes me appreciate “positive discrimination” (stage 2) on the way to becoming “valued as an individual” (stage 3).

    As I said above, humans have eyes and it is impractical to expect them not judge everyone else. What I think people suffering from “negative discrimination” need is a “positive discrimination” respite/space, to enable them to develop until they can prove themselves to their classmates/colleagues, and finally be accepted or rejected on an “individual basis.”

    I have a corollary argument, although it is not ethnicity-based, just visual: Several studies have confirmed that taller, better looking kids end up getting better jobs and get paid more in the long run. I don’t think the answer is to penalise taller, better looking kids for their advantage. Nor is the answer to tell taller, better looking kids to hide their “advantages” just so the odds are equalised. I think the answer is to teach those taller, better looking kids to use all their luck of the draw to get ahead in life, while at the same time coaching shorter, less good looking kids that they should work harder and polish off some of their other skills to be able to get more attention from the taller, better looking kids.

    Thank you for your story about your stepchildren. I have no children so I haven’t really given it much thought but the first idea that came to me was for you to talk to your children and tell them that if someone asks again, they can say than ethnically they are not half-Japanese but their father loves them 100% and through their NJ father they can enjoy another culture, another language and another way of thinking that makes them richer otherwise than ordinary 100% Japanese, monocultural, mono-lingual children.

    Please feel free to treat my shortly considered idea with a grain of salt, but I sincerely believe that the trick is to always to focus on the glass half full.

  • Gordon Graham

    I read what you wrote. You might want to review your incredulous tone.

  • Taro-nechan

    When my best friend says he is not prejudiced I trust what he says because it matches his actions as I have seen in other occasions.

    On the contrary I do know other people who are quick to say they are not prejudiced but their subsequent actions and declarations somehow do not match. I try to stay away from these types of people.

  • Taro-nechan

    Again, when my best friend says he is not prejudiced I trust what he says because it matches his actions as I have seen in other occasions.

    On the contrary I do know other people who are quick to say they are not prejudiced but their subsequent actions and declarations somehow do not match. I try to stay away from these types of people.

  • Steve Jackman

    Calling out racism and sexism when one sees it should be everyone’s responsibility. Identifying racism does not make one a racist. Instead, I would argue that the real racists are those who ignore and deny it, and try to muzzle discourse about racism and how to combat it.

    Gordon, if you really believed that I was “insignificant” and my comments did not matter, then you wouldn’t spend hours following and responding to my comments. Clearly, you are afraid of the truth and try your utmost to discredit me every chance you get. By calling me a racist, you are once again showing your own racist and McCarthyite colors.

  • Steve Jackman

    Gordon Graham, you better turn your vitriol down, since it’s getting a bit much for a civil discussion.

  • Steve Jackman

    Gordon Graham, I see your trolling is in full gear today.

  • Gordon Graham

    See that one little tick there beneath your statement, Stever? That’s the reach of your ideas.

  • Gordon Graham

    Treating people’s genuine experiences (that don’t jibe with your narrative) as lies is not civil behaviour to the good people I live among.

  • Taro-nechan

    Steve Jackman thinks he has a monopoly on “the reality of Japan” and any experience that doesn’t agree with his preconceived notions is “insincere”.

    In previous (deleted) posts Steve Jackson also clearly states that people who were unable to understand his deep insights about Japan are like that because they have yet to graduate from high school.

    Steve Jackman thinks people that people who disagree with what he says are haranguing him and muzzle his freedom of expression.