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From a minstrel no-show to a black beauty queen, in a week

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“I actually want them to perform,” a fellow writer told me, referring to the blackface minstrel show starring doo-wop group Rats & Star and idol group Momoiro Clover Z that was scheduled to be broadcast nationally on March 7. “I want them to explain the meaning behind the face paint.”

Among black folk, opinions on this issue were mixed, and there’s nothing astounding about that: Every black person knows that the belief that blacks are monolithic is a misconception. When it comes to any issue, whether it be the shooting of unarmed black men or whether Barack Obama is a good president, opinions vary wildly. So, I knew the modern-day use of blackface for entertainment purposes would garner a variety of perspectives, even from people of color.

“I’m sick and tired of the knee-jerk response to everything that happens on this side of the planet when it comes to our own perceived notions of race,” the writer added, “especially in a homogenous society that doesn’t have a real feel for it.”

“Our” in this case meant people originating from the other side of the planet.

“I hope Fuji TV airs it,” wrote Eric Robinson, who runs the Black Tokyo blog. “Maybe they will suffer the same type of backlash Sony America faced” after their emails were hacked and some of the executives’ racist and twisted thoughts were leaked. “Viewers should see the ‘rest of the story’ regarding Japan.”

I shook my head at both these gentlemen, but a part of me also agreed with them: that since Rats & Star are Japanese, they’re entitled to do as they please . . . in Japan; that blackface’s history in America isn’t directly related to its current manifestation here; that their intentions have for 30-plus petition-free years been and continue to be good. And why shouldn’t that lack of racist intent supersede any negative impact it might have on expats living in their country, foreigners visiting their country or even those viewing it from abroad? And since they’ve even reportedly performed their minstrel show in the U.S. a couple of times (and, astonishingly, weren’t lambasted for doing so), does that not serve as proof that their racialized idiosyncrasy has been tacitly sanctioned by black America?

And as much as I’m an advocate of sparing the rod, I also partially agree that an international reaming is potentially more powerful a catalyst for effective change (or at least a needful discourse) than a warmhearted warning and a group hug, in the same way a drug intervention by friends and loved ones is sometimes less effective than jail time or some traumatic event in motivating a junkie to take the necessary steps toward rehabilitation.

But 4,576 souls, most of whom are native to or reside on this side of the planet, signed a petition calling on Fuji TV to refrain from forcing Japan into a regrettable position on such a sensitive and easily misconstrued issue — one that would have surely soured the perception of Japan and Japanese people globally. These souls decided their voices ought to be heard and heeded on this matter.

And heard and heeded they were, for at the beginning of the show on March 7, a caption appeared on the screen announcing, “Tonight’s ‘Music Fair’ broadcast has been edited.” And the remainder of the show consisted of de-racialized entertainment — the adverse of what had been advertised — edited to be consistent with the petition’s demands.

It came as a surprise to many who fully expected to see this spectacle air as promised, myself included. In my experience, activism of this nature generally falls on deaf ears. Success stories are far and few between. But Fuji TV would later confirm that it had come to a “comprehensive judgment” and decided to edit the show.

The network hasn’t, to date, expanded on that statement and detailed exactly what was edited from the program, and what the factors were that led the network to make these edits — leaving way too much to speculation. But, judging from the chatter on social media, by Japanese and non-Japanese alike, many people are gratified that Japan was spared the disgrace.

And most, duly or unduly, credit the petition.


Editing out the offending portions of the show saved Japan from the PR equivalent of being thrown like raw meat to a pack of ravenous carnivores — namely, the international media. It would have been extremely bad timing, particularly in light of recent events that have garnered global attention and made even mildly racial issues into hot-button ones.

This blackface story, if aired, would have broken amid the media’s current chorus of condemnation for a bus-full of white college kids merrily caroling about lynching black people from trees, and over the heightened tension in Ferguson, Missouri, where long-feared retaliation against police officers has occurred.

The fact that Fuji TV would choose this time to air a modern-day minstrel show likely would have reflected very poorly on Japan’s judgment, and the country’s perennial excuse of perpetual obliviousness would not have deterred the press any more than praying would a hungry shark with blood in its nostrils. And the whole country might have found itself undeservedly trending with that busload of racists.

So, unlike my colleagues above, I’m glad the petition was successful. Japan deserves a chance to show the world it doesn’t intend to hide forever behind an isolation that ended 150 years ago (fr’Chrissakes) and tired tropes about its homogeneity. And Fuji TV’s decision, whether it exemplifies the guts to do the right thing or simply a desire to stay out of the path of a fecal storm, resulted in a change that benefited the nation. And since this occurred on a national stage where everyone could—

Oh wait — check that.

Unfortunately, none of the major news outlets in Japan covered the editing of the segment in any significant manner. So, aside from 4,576 signatories, as well as readers of The Japan Times and USA Today, it’s likely the vast majority of Japanese people, and of non-Japanese living here, have very little knowledge of this event. Even AP’s Tokyo bureau was mysteriously oblivious about this controversy and unaware of the petition’s existence until yours truly brought it to their attention by phone two days after the fact. (By then, of course, it wasn’t breaking news, so . . .)

Why is Fuji TV behaving badly by airing a minstrel show newsworthy while Fuji, for whatever reason, deciding to behave responsibly is deemed unworthy of any press?

“I don’t know what to make of it,” a writer for a major publication here in Japan told me, in reference to writing about this aborted incident. “Since it didn’t happen there is less of a story for me. ‘J-band doesn’t perform in blackface’ is not a story.”

While it’s presumable that Fuji TV’s decision to edit was done in the best interests of the company and not the nation, some believe that perhaps a teachable moment and a chance to raise awareness of important issues nationally was squandered here, big time.

“I think probably the biggest problem is that Japanese people tend not to be aware of the connotations of ‘blacking up,’ ” said Tokyo-based DJ and broadcaster Peter Barakan, a familiar face on Japanese TV. “Admittedly the minstrel show was a phenomenon of the 19th century, but even without knowledge of that history, the caricature aspect of Rats & Star is something that would make most Westerners cringe. In order to get the Japanese to understand that cultural difference, there has to be a process of education that takes in much more than just this one particular problem, and which involves educating the mass media first.”

Dante Carver, Japan-based actor and CEO of AtAt Designs, agreed.

“I feel it would’ve been a better idea and more profound to do some research and have a segment about that research,” Carver said. “Having both Japanese and non-Japanese guests, for example, would be such a positive step in the right direction. Educate the public. Knowledge is power. If they must show blackface on TV, a portion of that show should be dedicated to its history.”

I agree.

Then, a week later, something occurred that further convinced me that urging Fuji TV to kill that blackface noise was the right thing to do. The event was something that could also be readily racialized — something that I’m certain would have been marred by this blackface business, had the controversy over the show gone global.

Yes, I’m talking about the crowning of the new Miss Universe Japan.

The new face of Japan, at least as far as beauty contests (which is to say, the perpetuation of this blatant objectification of women) are concerned, is a self-described hāfu by the name of Ariana Miyamoto. “Hāfu” in this case means the multiethnic, multicultural offspring of a Japanese woman and a black American man.

This absolutely stunning young woman, who was born in Nagasaki and spent most of her wonder years in both Japan and America, was selected from among Japanese women from every prefecture to represent the country in the upcoming Miss Universe pageant!

So, in one week, we went from preventing a blackface broadcast from giving Japan a black eye on a global scale to the nation embracing the black face of an Asian woman as the embodiment of Japanese beauty, style and grace.

In one week!

Japan, you never cease to amaze me.

From next month, Black Eye will appear in print on the third Monday of every month. Baye McNeil is the author of two books and writes the Loco in Yokohama blog. See www.bayemcneil.com. Comments and ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Yay, further fetishization of “Haafu”!

    • blackpassenger

      baka desu ne?

    • Gordon Graham

      If we’re going to celebrate beauty, then I’m glad they chose the most beautiful girl. Congratulations, Ms. Miyamoto! Your beauty is absolutely radiant!

      • Steve Jackman

        Sit down, sit down, Gordon! You shouldn’t be getting so excited at your age.

      • Gordon Graham

        Thanks for your concern, Steve, but at 53 I run 5k every morning, run two 1.5 hour practices on ice everyday and could surely tear a strip off of the likes of you. But I appreciate the concern, anyway. Cheers!

      • Steve Jackman

        “(I) could surely tear a strip off of the like of you”. Gordon, that’s quite a claim of your prowess, given that you’ve never met me and know nothing about me. Some may find your over confidence distasteful, but I won’t make such claims.

      • Gordon Graham

        Well, I am always willing to back up my claims Canadian style…Japan is not that big of an Island that we can’t arrange to meet. We could post the result of our meeting here for the amusement of the JT regulars. I’m sure they’d get a kick out of it. What say, young man? Are you up for it?

      • Jonathan Fields

        I literally LOLed at this. Stop it, Gordon. Just stop it.

      • Gordon Graham

        Why…I’m serious. Where I’m from we step up like a man and meet such challenges.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon Graham wrote: “Well, I am always willing to back up my “confidence” Canadian style…Japan is not that big of an Island that we can’t arrange to meet. We could post the result of our meeting here for the amusement of the JT regulars. I’m sure they’d get a kick out of it. What say, young man? Are you up for it?”, and “Why…I’m serious. Where I’m from we step up like a man and meet such challenges.”

        Well, Gordon, I rest my case. I think most reasonable readers here will read what you’ve written and decide for themselves on how seriously to take all of your other comments here. You may have just shot yourself in the foot again for the millionth time and destroyed what little credibility you may have had left with some readers here.

      • Gordon Graham

        Well, Steve…It’s a pretty simple challenge. Yes or No…I’ll be in Tokyo next week. We can pick a spot like Yoyogi park at an appointed time and people can come and see if you’ve got what it takes to back up that smart mouth of yours…and they can judge for themselves how serious I am about what I say.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Well, Steve…It’s a pretty simple challenge. Yes or No…I’ll be in Tokyo next week.”

        Gordon, are you serious??? I’d rather get into a drunken bar brawl with the village idiot than stoop down to your level.

      • Gordon Graham

        No guy, you’d rather hide behind the skirt of the Internet then have to step up like a man and answer to your chirp. Listen, Skirt…there’s more to life than chirping on the Internet…a little vigour and blunt force will do you good. Life is a banquet…step up from behind that skirt and be a man, it’ll do you good. I promise not to hospitalise you

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon Graham wrote, “No guy, you’d rather hide behind the skirt of the Internet then have to step up like a man. Listen, Skirt…there’s more to life than chirping on the Internet…a little vigour and blunt force will do you good. Life is a banquet…step up from behind that skirt and be a man, it’ll do you good. I promise not to hospitalise you”

        Once again, Gordon, I suggest you take a deep breath and calm down.

    • R0ninX3ph

      Not to mention the angry right wingers coming out to say she isn’t Japanese enough to represent Japan…

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

        One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of Japanese are concerned with how Miss Universe portrays Japan, as in recent years they’ve been known to portray “Japanese” in ways that, yes, given the overseas media some laughs and caused both raised-in-Japan and raised-overseas Japanese to shake their heads.

        Recent case in point: anybody remember the ridiculous half-lingerie / half-kimono getup that [California influenced; where she learned her English] Miss Japan 2009 chose to wear? How about the lap dance she did on stage AS PART OF HER DANCE COMPETITION to get there? There are many other examples of Miss Universe Japan contestants with a lot of time spent overseas portraying Japan in a rather bizarre way (faux samurai armour, etc.).

        It may be true that she started her life in Japan and has Japanese nationality† and speaks Japanese, but she hasn’t been / lived in Japan for a very long time (since junior high school — over a half decade or more than a quarter of her life; she’s just recently got a part time job as a bartender as part of her return to Japan as an freshly minted adult [still too young to drink in America], where Miss Universe stays during her rein and is the organization is headquarter-ed).

        Thus, Japanese are extra sensitive to how Miss Universe portrays Japan, and Miss Universe is, well, a visual medium, so if she doesn’t look or act Japanese now‡, then they should be worried about how she’ll represent Japan in the next phase. Japanese have past history as evidence for being concerned with how she/they might butcher Japanese culture (which includes make-up, fashion, and display of talent) in the competition.

        Is she going to portray beautiful Japanese kimono sensibilities and soft, non-sharp, make-up, that is the common beauty aesthetic in Japan? Or is she going to be like past contestants, dress like a character from OneeChanbara: Bikini Samurai (A video game reference for Brian Ashcraft) and show everybody how to make a “Japanese” Philly Roll during the sushi competition?

        And most importantly, is she required to sleep with Donald Trump?

        Yes, there will always be a few racists that judge somebody by their skin colour on message boards — that goes not just for Japan, but the U.S. and Europe and Asia as well — and that’s never going to change. Getting rid of racists is like trying to get rid of stupid people.

        However, there are those that wonder, given her separation from her “homeland” for such a long time — as evidenced by her superficial appearance that has nothing to do with skin colour — are out of the mainstream for Japanese beauty standards. Will her fashion and looks (as in make-up and hairstyle etc) be respectfully representative of Japan (after all, she is representing Japan, as her body sash says … not just herself), rather than being representative of some American’s crazy idea of “American/Asian fusion” in order to please the Western culture biased judges?

        That being said, I’ve seen the interviews she’s done after her victory. In addition to being naturally gorgeous, she has spoken and acted wonderfully, with grace and humility that is befitting of and representative of what makes Japan beautiful. Thus personally I’m optimistic that this year’s contestant will, perhaps ironically, appear and act “more Japanese” (whatever that means) than contestants from the years past. I hope she wins.

        † She’s currently (legally) dual national and hasn’t chosen her
        nationality yet, as required by Japanese nationality law by the age of 22; so it is in theory possible she may choose to be a U.S. citizen in two years.
        ‡ The comments may mention/question using the word “hāfu” — but that’s because she keeps bringing it up first (and over and over; perhaps that’s her way of “owning” it).

      • Steve Jackman

        Wow, Eido, you certainly know a lot about Japanese beauty queens and have clearly done your “research” on them. Who would have guessed?

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

        Thank you. I do research things before I comment about it. You should try it sometime.

      • Steve Jackman

        I actually do research things, but often give greater credence to personal experience and things I have witnessed myself. You see, “research” can sometimes be driven by ulterior motives of biased parties whose aim is not to seek the truth or be objective in their findings, but rather to further their agendas. I have no such qualms when relying on my own experiences, senses and judgement.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Yeah, it was well researched, but it’s just a bunch of excuses. Someone expressed disappointment in the reaction of right-wingers and your response was “yeah, but we have to remember blahblahblah Japanese culture and the image of Japan.” Pretty standard apologia, really.

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

        Well, there are certain people that automatically assume that certain people are racist or are right wingers without knowing much about them.

        They see a mere 140 characters with no or little context, and see the language it’s written in, and assume it’s racist.

        You know what they say? If you have a tendency to presume everything a certain race/ethnicity is racist with only a cursory observation (like a tweet), then the person that’s racist might be yourself.

      • Jonathan Fields

        You’re in full apologist mode now, huh. “You’re racist for seeing racism in that!” is a classic defense.

        I don’t believe I used the word “racist” except when referring to the blackface stuff. The negative reactions to her appointment (of which there were a lot) are pathetic and weird. Your attempts to defend them are equally so.

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

        Definition of “apologist”, according to commenters: something that somebody writes or says that contradicts my made up opinion on the matter and makes me angry!

      • Guest

        Defenition of apologist? look in the mirror… oh and where is you friend Timefox with his google translate… ?

      • Hendrix

        Defenition of an Apologist? … well look in the mirror… by the way where is Timefox with his google translate? that would be a barrel of laughs you and he with your views.

      • R0ninX3ph

        I don’t disagree with this at all. I just don’t believe the people that came out put anywhere near as much thought into their responses regarding her level of “Japanese-ness”.

      • Hendrix

        Cultural superiority written all over your rant, whats your next move? japanese persecution complex?… come on we are waiting.

  • Michey Peckitt

    Stories about Japan I’ve noticed often don’t appear because they do not have ‘international appeal.’ No interest in the story, and yet I suspect if we changed the country involved from Japan to the UK or America, they would be much interest. A nice piece Baye.

    • Steve Jackman

      “Stories about Japan I’ve noticed often don’t appear because they do not have ‘international appeal.'”

      Actually, the real reason for so few stories about Japan internationally is that most of the correspondents and reporters for large foreign news outlets in Japan are usually run out of the country by right-wing and conservative forces in Japan. Some of the best foreign reporters and correspondents have in the past been basically forced to leave Japan after conservatives and right-wingers here were displeased by what they considered to be their less than flattering coverage of Japan.

      • Gordon Graham

        and yet we get stories everyday from the Middle East. What does that say about the reporters “run out of Japan”?

      • Jonathan Fields

        That’s a pretty funny observation, but it doesn’t change the fact that Japan has very little freedom of press when compared to other OECD nations and that it’s a very hostile place for foreign members of the press.

        I know you’re sensitive about criticism of Japan, but on a site dedicated to news about Japan, it’s bound to come up. A lot of us are here for the long haul and the BS really gets to us. I complain about the United States as well.

  • Jonathan Fields

    That “we don’t have the same history as you, so don’t impose your values on us” thing is complete and utter nonsense. Racist portrayals of black people as savages, threats to women, and subservient animals can be seen in Japanese media as far back as the 1600s. Tell me how this isn’t in line with anti-black racism in the West? Stop making excuses.

    • Gordon Graham

      Check out Bill Maher’s latest post on FB…on which he exposes racist gun targets being sold at a gun show in Souix Falls, South Dakota…Unfortunately, we are talking about a clearly different degree of racism here, and I’m not talking about history.

      • Jonathan Fields

        How is that relevant to this discussion? And why are you comparing the “degree of racism,” anyway? Do you think that it makes this OK?

      • Gordon Graham

        “Japanese tend not to be aware of the connotations of “blacking up”…vs. the maliciousness of using pictures of “Running”N”ers” for target practice or taking glee in lynching songs. What I’m saying is, although racist, what some Japanese are guilty of is naivety, not malice.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oh, yeah, Gordon Graham, the selection of a mixed race beauty queen says so much about the great strides Japan has made in its otherwise dismal record of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination towards ethnic minorities, women and foreign residents! Way to go!!!

      • Jonathan Fields

        “The surprise at her success betrays a naïveté among the foreign community in Japan concerning the Japanese”

        Please explain, Gordon.

      • Steve Jackman

        I think Gordon means that some in the foreign community were unaware of the fetishisation of mixed-race women in Japan.

      • Gordon Graham

        No, what I meant was racism in Japan is not as prevalent as you would like us to believe, and while it most certainly exists, it’s mostly not of a malevolent nature.

      • Jonathan Fields

        So, how does this event do anything to dispel us of that apparent misconception? An independent organization appoints a half-Japanese woman to represent Japan in an international competition, and social media explodes with comments like, “half should not be allowed to represent Japan” or “half are zurui.” I hate to use the word “racist,” but how should we interpret that? If you continue to excuse it as simple naiveté, it’s never going to go away.

      • Gordon Graham

        I’m not excusing right-wing nationalist sentiments…Hey there are still plenty of members of the KKK. You want to own their sentiments? How about the sentiments of every other comment on any random Youtube video about race in America?

      • Jonathan Fields

        Gordon… really?

        That is such a weird way to argue. Stop trying to excuse and deflect. America’s issues, while heavy and numerous, do not change the fact that there are problems in Japan.

        And it’s not just the right-wingers. Plenty of people said really crazy things on Twitter, Facebook, and TV.

      • Gordon Graham

        We all know there are right-wing nazis in Japan, Johnny. Try not to be so surprised when a Japanese woman whose father is a black American was chosen by Japanese to represent Japanese beauty.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Again. Your replies have literally nothing to do with anything I’ve said.

        I’m positive you’re just trolling, but it’s fun to argue with you.

      • Gordon Graham

        You claim Japan is a racist nation, I say it’s not as racist as you claim. That’s the gist of it, Johnny. Not that anyone else really cares…except maybe Steve, who’s suddenly gone dark after my challenge. Maybe he’s off somewhere trying to grow a set.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Show me where I said “Japan is a racist nation.” In fact, I tend to go out of my way to avoid using that word. The only time I used it was in regards to the blackface stuff.

        You’re too emotionally involved. For someone trying to prove how manly they are, that seems a bit contradictory.

      • Gordon Graham

        Guy, if you’re going to edit in a sly insult about manliness an hour later you might want to consider the irony…

      • Jonathan Fields

        You’re trying to pick a physical fight with a guy on an online forum. You may be a male, but you’re most certainly not manly.

      • Gordon Graham

        Not that it’s any of your business, but what I’m trying to do is hold a guy accountable for personal insult by getting him to step out from behind the safety of this “online forum” and into a face to face, man to man situation where I can see if he’s got what it takes to talk to me like that in person…

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Tough guy…..Christ I’m sacred….

      • Steve Jackman

        What???

      • Gordon Graham

        You read it, pussy…step up

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon Graham wrote, “You read it, pussy…step up”.

        Gordon, take a deep breath and calm down!

      • Gordon Graham

        I’m calm, Steve…It stems from confidence

      • Gordon Graham

        TV reference please…Also, plenty of British, Australian, Swedish, American, Russian, Austrian, Canadian people say all kinds of horrible racist things on FB, Twitter and Youtube…Not just the KKK or EDL, regular people…Let’s talk about the “pushback” Japanese and not the idiots. What about the foreign press that run this rag who decided not to run the story of Ms.Miyamoto’s victory as a congratulatory piece, but rather used her for fodder to stir up clicks from the ex-pat community.

      • Hendrix

        It may not be malevolent to your face but it certainly is under the surface, take Zaitokukai the korean haters etc… and remember the twitter comments from the japanese about this lady, slagging her off for being “half” … oh i could go on, such as the japanese comments in favour of the Sono woman and her idea of apartheid in japan…

      • Gordon Graham

        sure, guy…go own all the Twitter and Youtube comments throughout the rest of the world

      • Gordon Graham

        Do you really need an explanation, Johnny?

  • Winter 冬

    I’m glad the minstrel show wasn’t aired – at least we made a difference, however small! And it’s great to hear about Ariana Miyamoto, she really is beautiful.

    Another great article, as always! Keep it up.

  • Internet Terracotta Tiger

    Cheers and thumbs-up on a lovely photo and uplifting conclusion to this episode.
    While I know of a lot of North Americans make judgments on Japanese society as they see fit, I hope the same folks are also considering what WE NORTH AMERICANS could learn from JAPAN. To me, the tone of public discourse, can-do spirit, respect for others, and respect for society as whole is just getting worse and worse in both Canada and the United States. I think a little bit more Japanese-style politeness, respect for public space, interest in future-oriented projects, willingness to work together to get things like better public transportation actually done etc. would go a long way to making Canada and the US better places to live.

    Either way, while this writer’s attitude appears better than certain other columnists on such topics, my vote is for cultural exchange to not be a one-way lecture but a positive, forward-thinking two-way highway.

    • Steve Jackman

      It sounds like you’ve drunk a little too much of the Kool-Aid. I’m an American and you certainly do NOT speak for me as a North American. I prize the honesty, integrity and openness of discussion and debate which are part of American discourse. The roots of such discussion and debate go back to Greek times and it the cornerstone of what makes America great. It is a process of always questioning and understanding the problems and issues of our time and making continuous course adjustments.

      On the other hand, debate, discussion, independent thought and discenting opinions are routinely stifled in Japan, often times using fear, intimidation, coercion, blackmail, or threat of violence. The only free speech which is allowed in Japan is the one which toes the party line and furthers the official narrative. This is why things never change in Japan, since for every step forward, it takes two steps backwards. There is no concept of critical thinking or of questioning the status-quo in Japan. This bodes ill for the country’s future, since these skills are increasingly more important in today’s world.

      No, thank you, we Americans can learn nothing from Japan in this regards.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Then go back to your American paradise and leave us in peace.

      • Jonathan Fields

        We have a winner! The “if you don’t like it, you can get out!” defense.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Jonathan, it is not a defense. A thread is a conversation of sorts and this idiot dominates any thread that appears on JT. And it is always the same negative rhetoric about Japan being a racist country. So I stand by what I say, he should just go back to America and leave the rest of us in peace.

      • Jonathan Fields

        See, now I hate to use that word too much….

        Japan is a country with… issues surrounding ethnicity (better?). So is America. So are a lot of other countries. Getting defensive about it (and this applies to him too) or trying to argue that one is worse than the other is just silly.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Hello Jonathan, I can see you have shared your opinion a lot on this article, it obviously has resonated with you. Please respect that others may see things different from you, and that people on both side of the debate can develop intelligent and educated opinions.

        I usually do not comment because I find it is quite futile. Whereas in real conversation people share ideas and grow, unlike things quickly descend into idiotic one sidedness. So please see my post to SJ as out of character. That said I do stand by what I said.

        In my country we have a history of blackface/yellowface (Aus) however the key difference was that the performance was racial stereotyping – the asian guy with glasses, poor English and bad teeth comedy routine. But these routines in Japan are quite different no doubt – watch a youtube video and you will see they generally think they are paying homage. It would seem that the history and perspective on the matter is quite different. That does not mean to say it is acceptable. Just that it may not be due to deep racism.

        Again in my country, Australia, we have deep seated racism towards indigenous Australians. But we do not have deep racism towards african americans. The historical context thing is very very important.

        However for sure discrimination can be common in Japan. But for me it is just not a major issue, the level of discrimination is far from horrific and strangely (in my limited expertise) only bothers westerners, never my Asian coworkers and friends.

        But that was not why I commented. I commented because I am sick of seeing every thread hijacked by the SJ idiot with his one dimensional view of the world, raging a war on his perceived level of Japanese racism on the JT english comment threads. Seriously what does it achieve.

        Jonathan – if you are passionate about civil rights and discrimination I recommend searching for a better outlet for that passion than online debates.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Again in my country, Australia, we have deep seated racism towards indigenous Australians. But we do not have deep racism towards african americans.”

        I’m afraid you’re either misinformed or in denial. I’m not African American, but a good African American friend and colleague of mine once went on a business trip to Australia from the U.S. He was extremely shocked at the level of racism he encountered in Australia, as compared to what he was used to in the U.S. He felt that the Australians he came in contact with had no concept of dealing with a man of color who was well educated and a high level business executive like himself, which seemed to be a large part of the problem.

        Now, I’ve never been to Australia, but have read many news accounts of racism there against Asians and killings/burnings of Indian students in Melbourne, so I’m not sure Australia is a good model for racial tolerance. Perhaps, that’s why you are so keen to defend racism and xenophobia in Japan.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Great anecdote. You are well informed having had a friend visit Australia once. Wish I knew someone who had been to the US on a business trip so I could be an expert on that country.

        Who am I to argue with you?

      • Steve Jackman

        Yes, I am no expert on Australia. But, I have no reason to believe that my African American colleague’s exepriences there over the course of an extended business trip to Sydney lasting more than a month were not typical. Besides, I mentioned the news reports which I have no reason to doubt.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Yes, you are no expert on Australia.

        Perhaps I have never been to Japan, just my mate went there once and he didn’t experience discrimination. Besides, I read a few articles about successful foreigners at Softbank and Nissan.

      • Hokit

        Either you’re making up this “friend” of yours to substantiate whatever agenda you’re pushing, or your “friend” is as much of a moron as you are by interpreting every nuance as a racial slight. The “racism” and “killings/burnings” have happened, but not on the scale you’d like to think just so you can make a dig at Australia.

        I’m an ethnic minority and have been living in Australia for almost 30 years. So my understanding of the society is at least vastly superior than someone who’s never even stepped into the country. Conditions aren’t perfect because racism does exist and I’ve suffered from it. But guess what champ? It happens in your beloved America as well!

        You know what’s hilarious? You, YOURSELF, admitted that you’re “no expert on Australia” and that your so called “friend” made an assessment from just a month’s business trip. Yet these meagre scraps are apparently enough for you to characterise racism as being “typical” of the country.

        What was it again that you said about being “misinformed or in denial”?

        Pot. Kettle. Black.

      • Steve Jackman

        Sir, may I suggest that calling me an idiot and telling me to go back to America, just because I have expressed my personal opinions based on my experience in Japan, does not paint you in a very positive light in the eyes of most reasonable readers here.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Steve this is not a case of someone simply expressing their opinion. This is a case of someone so jaded by Japan that they spend a substantial part of their life neurotically fighting a war against it on the futile battlefield of JT. You are obviously an intelligent person but this is idiocy. And I am sick of seeing all comment threads absolutely dominated by you. If your problem with Japan is as deep as it appears then leaving it is a pretty simple solution.

      • Steve Jackman

        First, your characterization of me and my comments is absolutely wrong. I live a very active, positive and successful life in Japan, so I am far from jaded. I do believe Japan has a serious problem with racism, insularity, xenophobia and racial discrimination, and I want it to take measures to address these deep rooted and institutionalized problems, since I live in Japan and care deeply about the country.

        Second, how is that I dominate the comments threads here? I feel there are other posters like Gordon Graham, Sam Gilman, Oliver Mackie and Eido Inoue, etc, who are here just as much as I am and they are just as forceful in defending every negative aspect of Japan, regardless of how horrible it may be. It seems you don’t have a problem with their comments always defending Japan since you appear to agree with them. Well, I have as much of a right to be here as they do. No one forces you to read my comments, so feel free to not read them, since I’m not going anywhere.

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Steve perhaps I have no clout in the matter having grown up in such a xenophobic dark place as Melbourne, Australia. But hey, at least our police don’t shoot dead unarmed black youth on a regular basis.

        But tell me, what would you think of a Japanese person in Australia spending all their energies constantly debating about either perceived or real Australian racism on a Japanese language site? If you think such neurotic behaviour would be normal, then tell me, do you disclose your online obsession with others? Do you inform your family and friends?

        I honestly read the comment sections to see perspectives on the issue that challenge mine, or provide further insights into the matter. But I have become so tired of seeing the polarisation of debate and lack of constructive discussion. So it is not your opinion in itself that I am annoyed by. Yep the others can annoy me too, and I do hope they read this and heed my message. And guess what, I personally don’t align myself with either side of the debate in this instance.

        It is fantastic that you have a successful and happy life in
        Japan. Please understand that your comments make you appear extremely jaded and one dimensional, so I apologise for getting that wrong.

        Not going anywhere? Well perhaps have a self-imposed limit on how many times you comment on an article. Haha!

        Look in all seriousness you are in a relatively unique
        position of having lived in a country that due to historic reasons has, in the past, had very public discussions on racial discrimination, resulting in many of its populace being in-tune with the issue. You are obviously an intelligent person, and believe strongly in the cause, so surely there is a more productive way you could use your energies towards fighting against the discrimination and xenophobia that unfortunately does exist in Japan (and all other countries)?

        That’s me done, over and out.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Regarding ” I prize the honesty, integrity and openness of discussion and debate which are part of American discourse. The roots of such discussion and debate go back to Greek times and it the cornerstone of what makes America great.”,

        I am afraid there may be more Kool-Aid in perceiving the legacy of Plato & Aristotle in today’s moronic American mass media than in finding Japanese public transportation etc. to be hands-down better than ours. That’s not just the opinion of some irritating Canadian Japanophile. Youtube-search Bill Maher on why he never considered the Brian Williams bedroom baritone Ken Doll to be a real reporter in the first place (any more than the shrieking clowns on Fox “News”), or JibJab’s “What we call the news”.

        “There is no concept of critical thinking or of questioning the status-quo” in today’s America. That’s why CNN had to fire Piers Morgan for daring to suggest that mental illness sufferers such as Adam Lanza shouldn’t be able to purchase the kind of ammo to shoot up an entire kindergarten class, by leaning on an amendment from the days of pistols to fight off British colonists. And it worries me that the same media that got coerced into Iraq could now get coerced into Iran, courtesy the 47 Tea Party yahoos who tried to humiliate the President.

        “This bodes ill for the country’s future, since these skills are increasingly more important in today’s world.” Which is regrettable to me personally, because believe it or not, I happen to be quite fond of the USA – and hope more than anything for the less-dumb party to keep the WH and take back Congress.

  • Shaun O’Dwyer

    Yes, a shame about the missed opportunity for that “teachable moment”. I’ve seen some hopeful signs in online reactions to Ms Miyamoto’s success that ordinary Japanese are generating such teachable moments themselves, in criticizing some of their fellow citizens’ obsessions with “ethnic purity”.

    • Jonathan Fields

      This.

      At first I was disappointed by some of the reactions, but the pushback to those reactions was great.

  • Barry Rosenfeld

    Baye, go home. You are so irrelevant.

  • KobayashiDamien TakijiLucas

    why do we continually get this nonsense that Japan is ‘homogeneous’?That’s a nice slap in the face to the Ainu,to the Okinawans,to the Chinese who have been resident here for centuries.Japan is homogeneous only to those who can’t be bothered to look.

    • Gordon Graham

      wrong article, guy…

    • Selena

      Yup.

  • Andrew

    Solid article again.

  • Joe Kurosu, M.D.

    My impression was that Ms. Miyamoto was not exactly “embraced” by this nation after her win…and, not being pageant material myself, I hope that this is not the new standard to which we will be held in order to be embraced by our country…

    • Jonathan Fields

      No. She wasn’t. There were a lot of really negative reactions. Twitter was a zoo for a few days. Facebook, too.

      But many people in this comment section are conveniently ignoring that.

  • Rodney Gordon

    It will be hard to explain American racism to the Japanese.

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

    The headline is ridiculous. Ariana Miyamoto is not a “black beauty queen”, she is a Japanese beauty queen, full stop.

    • Steve Jackman

      It matters not what the headline says. Sadly, the truth is that her selection as a beauty queen says absolutely nothing about the dismal state of affairs in Japan for ethnic minorities, women and foreign residents, or about the deeply entrenched and institutionalized problem of racism and xenophobia in Japan.

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

        “Yo, Ariana, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Japan is has the worst racism of all time! Of all time!”

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, talk to me when Japan has made some real progress in its treatment of ethnic minorities, women and foreign residents. Treating them equally and fairly in employment and housing, giving them representation in the boardrooms and politics, or enacting a law to make racial discrimination illegal would be good starts. Electing a mixed-race beauty queen just validates the fetishisation of hafu which is all too common in Japan – nothing more.

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        I agree with you and hope that we won’t have some day in the future come back to articles like this and reminisce about the times when we were discussing institutionalised racism in Japan.
        The way Japan’s headed right now, and accelerating daily, my fear is that we will soon discuss Japan as a threat to world peace similar to what North Korea is now.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Steve, you know where you could go if you don’t like it…..And I don’t care what colour you are; if you’re white, tough, now you know how it feels how minorities have felt all these centuries under white rule or in their countries. If you’re black, keep your baggage back because brother, Japan is not the place to bring your chip on the shoulder to this country. if you don’t like it; go home.

      • Steve Jackman

        Barry, going back home is never the solution. It’s not a matter of being black or white. No baggage here, either. For me, it’s a matter of principle. My values dictate that I try to combat racism, xenophobia, sexism and racial discrimination when I encounter it, especially when it’s so serious in a country I live in and care about.

        I feel very fortunate and blessed that I have the physical, financial and emotional strength, fortitude and wherewithal to never let such ignorance and backward attitudes get to me. But I also know that not everyone is as lucky and many ethnic minorities, women and foreign residents here fall victim to racism, sexism and racial discrimination in Japan. My comments here are just as much for them as for me.

        Rest assured, commenting here is not the only way I am trying to combat racism and racial discrimination in Japan. This is just something I do on the side as a warming act.

      • Jonathan Fields

        This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read. My eyes are burning.

      • AndyLC

        You win

      • Hendrix

        Absolutely, the institutionalised racism and xenephobia is still alive and well in japan, this beauty queen thing is just fodder for the masses..

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

        No, it does matter. If the argument is that it is wrong for some Japanese to deny that a Japanese person is truly Japanese just because one parent is a non-Japanese, then it is equally wrong for some non-Japanese to refer to her as “black” and ignore or deny the fact that she is also ethnically Japanese as well as a Japanese citizen. It harks back to the days of the “one drop” rule.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Hear hear……Sick and tired of calling someone wholly black or else…..Like the President is Black; he’s half white for God’s sake….

      • tomado

        So you think people who define themselves as black must have all “black” ancestors? Hasn’t “black” long been a term used by people with some black heritage who suffer discrimination no matter the existence of some “white” heritage? I do think to a certain extent these terms make no sense – if one takes them as biological. But in the context of society (I’d rather not use the word “culture”) I think people can define themselves as they like, especially since many suffered from racism (which is a false perception of reality).

    • Jonathan Fields

      This is the best comment so far. A lot of people have been falling into the same “she’s a half” trap as the right-wingers.

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

        Watch the video interviews of her. SHE brings up the hāfu issue, and brings it up first, and brings it up over and over. If people are talking about it, it’s because she keeps bringing it up. Very publicly. In all the official interviews.

        P.S. Nitpick: the word is “hāfu”, not “half”. “Hāfu” is a Japanese word that doesn’t mean the exact same thing that the English word “half” does. (The writer, Baye, gets the definition and usage, as written in Japanese dictionaries, right on the mark in this article, and uses the proper spelling).

      • Jonathan Fields

        I’m not going to use the word “hāfu,” Eido. I hate romanized Japanese. And there was plenty of discussion of the issue that has nothing to do with her bringing it up. Your attempts to push the blame onto her are laughable.

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

        I just consulted [Diajirin] and a couple of other dictionaries. The words mean the same thing.

        Uh… I have access to that dictionary too. And no it does not. And I’m not referring to nuance, positive or negative. I suggest you read more thoroughly and carefully. (Hint: read ALL the definitions)

      • Jonathan Fields

        How does that differ from English, then?

        You’re good, Eido. I should get the hook out of my cheek. You said something crazy and then easily changed the subject when called on it. Shame on me for falling for it.

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

        The definition that says “konketsu no hito” (“mixed”; literally “mixed blood person”). That definition/meaning doesn’t exist in the vast majority of English dictionaries, and there are lots of meanings in the English word that don’t exist in the similar sounding Japanese word.

        BTW, I romanize my Japanese in JT’s Disqus because it’s been my experience that the automatic moderation kicks in if you use too much non-alphabet; the JT commenting policy says use English, which I think is stupid for a newspaper about Japan personally.

      • Jonathan Fields

        And that’s relevant how? You’re really just arguing for the sake of arguing, aren’t you?

        That’s good. It gives me hope that you don’t really think that it’s Ariana Minamoto’s own fault that everyone is fixated on her half-ness or that it’s OK to question her appointment because she may not represent true Japanese values. I’m going to choose to believe that you said that just for the sake of argument, not because you actually think it.

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

        It is very relevant; the Japanese definition/meaning which applies to people says nothing about ethnicity, language, culture, or nationality, and it says nothing about which races, or especially how much (½ [half], ¼, ¾) or how many. It doesn’t even define it as “part Japanese, part something else.”

      • Jonathan Fields

        So, the definitions are basically the same. And Japanese people are very conscious of ethnicity, language, culture, and nationality, especially as it pertains to ones “blood.” Heck, it’s codified into law here. Saying that the word “half” contains none of this nuance because the dictionary simply says ”konketu no hito” is naive at best.

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

        Wrong again. The definitions couldn’t be more different, regardless of your insistence in ignoring facts (after we discovered you can’t read Japanese).

        And if you think that “blood” is “codified into [Japanese] law”, it just shows how ignorant you are of the Japanese nationality law. I’ll give you yet another hint: it’s possible, via Japanese law, to be born as a Japanese national without your parents or you having a drop of “Japanese blood”. Or even Japanese national parents. It’s also possible to be born without Japanese nationality even if your parents have 100% “Japanese blood”.

        Also, please don’t make sweeping generalizations such as “Japanese people are very conscious of…”. You may think that, and it says a lot about you and a tendency to stereotype ethnicities more than it says anything about Japanese. (That’s the second time you’ve made sweeping generalizations about Japanese in one thread)

      • R0ninX3ph

        Not saying you’re wrong, but it was my understanding that Japanese nationality law works on the basis of “jus sanguinis” and that to be “born” with Nationality in Japan requires both or one of your parents to be a Japanese national. Now, that person may have naturalised and become Japanese, but it doesn’t change the fact that it does require a blood link to a person who is already a Japanese citizen.

        If I am incorrect, I welcome a deeper explanation.

      • Jonathan Fields

        You’re correct. There are some exceptions for Japanese people born abroad or whatever, but basically you’re correct. Apparently, pointing out that this system and the general understanding of being “Japanese” can be problematic really made some people upset.

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

        Eido may be referring to a section of the law which states that if a very young child is found (as in: abandoned), and parentage cannot be determined, thus making the child a ward of the state, the child is declared a Japanese national. This is fairly common even in Jus Sanguinus countries. Therefore it is possible for a white baby to be given Japanese citizenship “from birth” (although the baby’s family register would be retroactive, and date of birth a guesstimate) even if there is no blood connection to Japan. However I still do not think it would work as it did for Dolph Lundgren’s character in “Showdown in Little Tokyo”.

      • Jonathan Fields

        You’re getting desperate, Eido. Here’s what I heard from your response:

        “Well, you can’t read Japanese anyway!”
        “Here are some exceptions, so you’re wrong!”
        “You’re the one with the problem!”

        You and Gordon argue like little kids with fingers in their ears.

      • Sam Gilman

        Hi Jonathan,

        I’m not quite sure where the difference of opinion lies here, but I know the debate over the word “hāfu”.

        Some people think the word denotes a devaluation of someone’s personhood – that they are only half Japanese.

        That interpretation is clearly wrong. “hāfu” simply means mixed race or, more laboriously, “parents of different nationalities”.

        Is that how you see it, or do you see something more sinister?

      • Jonathan Fields

        No, I just see it as meaning someone who is half-Japanese or half-American or whatever. The only difference in usage between the two languages is that in English, you have to specify at least one of the halves, and that has more to do with grammar than anything. I don’t know why some people are getting their panties in a bunch.

        I think in America and parts of Europe it has a more negative connotation than here in Japan, definitely. But they’re not different words.

        I don’t actually know why I let that other guy suck me into an argument. It’s a silly thing to argue about.

      • Sam Gilman

        Hi Jonathan,

        You don’t need to specify nationalities or ethnicities in English. “I’m mixed race”, for example, is natural English. It’s not using the word “half”, but I think that’s the point, and maybe what the disagreement, if there actually is one, is about here: that “hāfu” doesn’t always translate to “half” in English.

        “Half-[something]” doesn’t have any negative connotation in British English that I’m aware of. “I’m half-German”, “I’m half-Pakistani” is just a statement about your parents. What’s negative about it in the US?

        I agree that things are more heated than they need to be on this.

      • Steve Jackman

        “”Hāfu” is a Japanese word that doesn’t mean the exact same thing that the English word “half” does.”

        Here you go again, Eido! Yeah, sure, the Japanese and their language is so unique and different that non-Japanese illiterates and barbarians can never hope to understanding its intricacies and subtleties!

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

        Not at all. It’s called simple quick “research”. You should try it sometime. Look the word up in a Japanese-Japanese dictionary. Anybody can read and understand the definition. Even you!

      • Steve Jackman

        As I suspected, Eido, understanding sarcasm is not your strong suit.

    • Barry Rosenfeld

      I just wish to God that Baye returns to university one day and takes a class in Anthropology 101. To wholly claim a black person on the basis of her father’s heritage or predominant skin colour shows what a racist he is.

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

        I know – it is like those who claim Obama is America’s first black President, when it is equally true that he is just the latest in a long line of white male Presidents.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Notwithstanding her ‘hafuness’ I am glad on the one hand that the Japanese have recognised children of mixed marriage but I also wished that they chose a pure Japanese. I know I am going to get a lot of flak on this but I really think it should have gone to a pure Japanese. She’s a fine young lady and wish her well for the future.

      • Gordon Graham

        She IS Japanese. What’s this “pure” garbage?

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Nope, she’s ethnically half….Did you read my post? I don’t think so…..

      • R0ninX3ph

        So, is it your assertion that children of naturalised citizens whom are not “ethnically” Japanese, are also not Japanese, even if they have been born and raised in Japan?

        Culture plays a far bigger part in someone being who they are than the percentage of some kind of fanciful idea of “race”.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        There is certainly no doubt about it. She is what she is: she is half Black American and half Japanese. She is most certainly not a full ethnic Japanese nor of the other. She’s purely mixed.

      • R0ninX3ph

        The idea of ethnic purity is absolute rubbish. Are people of Okinawan or Ainu heritage not Japanese? They aren’t “ethnically pure Japanese”. Just because Japan is largely a homogenous society, doesn’t mean that the only way to be “Japanese” is to be ethnically Japanese.

        If a child is born and raised in Japan, in a Japanese family, they are without a doubt, Japanese. Regardless of what people want to believe about the fanciful idea of “ethnically pure” Japanese.

        Equally, a child born and raised in the West who is ethnically “Japanese” is not Japanese because they haven’t been raised in the Japanese culture, regardless of the level of “purity” (HAH) in their DNA.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        ”If a child is born and raised in Japan, in a Japanese family, they are without a doubt, Japanese. Regardless of what people want to believe about the fanciful idea of “ethnically pure” Japanese.”

        I don’t agree for two reasons. As I mentioned you are applying new world aspects of natiionality which does not apply everywhere in the world. Just because I am born in Korea (for example) does not make me Korean because I am enthnically not and will never be.

        You are making the mistake of confusing the political term with the citizen along with the nationality status. For example, my folks came from the Sudan, but I was born in the US. So yes, I am ethnically Sudanese because of my parents but I am American by birth so I am a native American because of the latter, Americans do not denote a single race or ethnicity but instead is a political term denoting citizenship. If you were born in the Sudan, I would not consider you Sudanese and neither would the government given your parentage. Now, this situation is the same with the Japanese. My wife is Japanese, I have 2 children who are triple nationals (US, Japanese, and Sudanese) Two recognise them by right of blood and the other (US) because of me. You may not like the idea but I fully agree with it. Its not wrong.

      • R0ninX3ph

        So, in the world of your fanciful thinking, 4th generation “purely ethnic” Japanese born in America are more Japanese as your children? Despite not speaking any Japanese, having nothing but a heritage link to Japan generations earlier and growing up entirely in America?

        I am talking about hypothetical people born with all their great-great-grandparents being Japanese, with their great-grandparents all having been born in America. In your world, these ethnically pure “Japanese” are more Japanese as your ethnically Half-Japanese children who are not Japanese (using your own explanation of half children not being Japanese), in your mind.

        Edit: I am not discussing nationality here, I don’t give a darn about citizenship. I am talking about what makes someone culturally identifiable as part of that culture.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        I’m sorry, but are you addressing me?

      • R0ninX3ph

        I… am not even sure how to respond to that. I click the reply button to a post and it quite clearly shows the name of the person I am replying to.

        But yes, I am addressing you. You, who has made the claim that Ariana Miyamoto isn’t Japanese because she isn’t pure, who has half-Japanese children who would also now, under your logic, not be Japanese because they aren’t “pure”. Yes, I am addressing you.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Well then address my last entry directly because you completely ignored my example and went off on a totally different tangent that had nothing to do with my remarks!

        I suggest that since you do not like my viewpoints well then, tough. They are my thoughts and there they are. You needn’t reply if you don’t like what I had to say.

        I suspect that you are black American judging from your tone (a white person wouldn’t be so indignant).

        And NO, she’s not pure Japanese. What is there to argue about? She’s half like my kids. Let’s call a spade a spade shall we?

        Geez.

      • tomado

        “Purity” is a fiction. Ethnic nationalism is a relatively recent idea. Japan has only existed for a few hundred years or so just as every other “nation.” This idea of “blood nationalism” is a modern belief propagandized through and through. I can’t even stand the olympics for this reason. But humanity organizes itself (rather destructively) through fictions.

      • R0ninX3ph

        I’m well aware its a fiction, one that I spent a large portion of my Friday trying to get Barry to realise. It obviously didn’t work ;-)

      • tomado

        It may not be possible for Barry. But you made a lot of good points and others might get something from reading through your argument. I didn’t have the patience at that moment. Someone has got to do it!

      • tomado

        I mean the patience for making the case.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Be my guest and remain uneducated as that troll R0ninX3ph.

      • R0ninX3ph

        You brought up the fact that you are ethnically Sudanese. Thats great, I do not deny that there are ethnically Japanese people. Okay, so thats sorted.

        You brought up your wife is Japanese. Okay, by Japanese you mean ethnically Japanese. We have established that you only consider someone who is ethnically pure as Japanese, so I can only assume she has two parents who are also ethnically pure Japanese and so on and so forth back through the generations.

        You have children with your wife, who are ethnically half-Sudanese and half-Japanese. Awesome, I believe I addressed this in my post, but okay.

        I proposed a hypothetical situation in that the great-great-grandparents of Asian-American people were all ethnically Japanese, thus producing completely pure through multiple generations, “Japanese” Americans. Using your argument, because they can trace their lineage through generations of pure “Japanese” bloodlines, they are “Japanese”. Your children, like Ariana Miyamoto, being half, are not Japanese.

        Barry Rosenfeld wrote: “Nope, she’s ethnically half….Did you read my post? I don’t think so…..”

        Using your own argument, your children, despite (I am only assuming here as you haven’t mentioned it) being raised by a Japanese mother (and yourself, I do not wish to claim you are not a good father, please don’t interpret it as this) within Japanese society, being surrounded by Japanese people, are less Japanese than the hypothetical “pure” yet culturally American “Japanese”.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        You are not accepting the reason of my argument because you refuse to accept the notion that nationality lies in blood; Americans don’t use this because of their history; the Japanese and Sudanese do because one of the parents must be of blood. I like both and agree with both because my children and I are the product of this. I never said that Miyamoto was not Japanese, don’t put words in my mouth; I said that she was not pure Japanese because her father was American. So he’s half ethnically. So, I don’t understand why my point doesn’t wash with you. It’s self evident. What more do you want? She’s not 100% Japanese ethnically period. Her birth is irrelevant here. Her father is American and her mom is Japanese. Half. Full stop.

      • R0ninX3ph

        Because you haven’t grasped my argument at all. I am not talking about nationality. I am discussing culture. You brought up it would be better for a “pure” Japanese to represent Japan, because “reasons”.

        Yes, she isn’t “ethnically” 100% Japanese, but you still haven’t explained why the hell that matters? Why is she any less a “Japanese person” based on her DNA? Her mother is Japanese, she was born in Japan and raised in Japan.

        Your children have a Japanese mother, and are presumably being raised in Japan, because they are not 100% ethnically Japanese, are they not Japanese? (I am not talking about nationality, so stop bringing it up. I haven’t been discussing nationality this entire time, you are the one twisting the argument into a discussion about legal terms).

        Culturally, your children are going to be far more Japanese than they are Sudanese, are they not? I wouldn’t deny that they have Sudanese heritage, but that doesn’t change the culture in which they are raised greatly affects the way they think, act and become adult human beings.

        You obviously don’t see the disconnect between your statements and the hypothetical I proposed. In your world, the children who have had nothing to do with Japan for generations, and have been raised in the United States, are still eligible to be called “Japanese” by virtue of their ethnic purity.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        My kids are born and raised in Japan (They are twins and are 20 years old) consider themselves to be Japanese (quarter Sudanese) and American(politically) but they know and recognise that they are half Japanese DNA wise but culturally they feel they are Japanese 100%. However, they consider themselves half DNA wise while enjoying the full benefits of society here. Their grandparents do not consider them other than Japanese and my wife thinks alike as well but does not ignore my side. Culture Yes, is indeed important and conditions the character of one like myself. I am not twisting anything here but I feel that you cannot divorce the legal from the cultural; its impossible. Unless you are of mixed birth yourself or like me, born in a country of foreign parents then you must understand what I am endevouring to make you comprehend this most interesting of topics. Now, I am off to bed.

      • R0ninX3ph

        Well, isn’t it great that Japan recognises their right to be citizens with only half the DNA.

        You can keep harping on about how legal terms and culture are linked, but they are not. Otherwise, someone couldn’t be an Australian citizen without being born and raised in Australia. Similarly, nobody could naturalise in Japan if they weren’t born and raised in Japan. So to say that culture and legality are undivorcable, is ridiculous. Would a “100% genetically Japanese” person look at myself as Japanese if I naturalised? No, they wouldn’t. But, legally, I am. To say I couldn’t be Japanese legally without the cultural background, is just as ludicrous as your previous assertions that the only way to be “Japanese” is to be ethnically pure.

        Edit: And before you start attacking me to say I am contradicting myself, I am only addressing your assertion that culture and legality are intrinsically linked. I assert that someone can be legally Japanese, whilst not being culturally Japanese. Similarly, someone can be culturally Japanese whilst not legally being a Japanese national, case in point, Zainichi Koreans who retain Korean citizenship generations after their families came to Japan.

      • tomado

        “Nationality lies in blood…”

        One of the most pernicious fictions hatched in modernity: ethnic nationalism. I fear this will be humanity’s undoing.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Okinawans are not Japanese and neither are the Ainu. Again being an uneducated PC man, you don’t read history. Okinawa was its own kingdom until 1614 when annexed by Satsuma and taken in by the Japanese as a colony in 1868. As for the Ainu, I would suggest you read the history of Hokkaido from 1870.

        You have shown repeatedly your willful ignorance and total lack of historical awareness not to mention uneducated background so just give your fingers and mind a rest won’t you? You’re getting boring.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        “Culture plays a far bigger part in someone being who they are than the percentage of some kind of fanciful idea of “race”.

        Yes, but that is a thought well received in countries of immigration like in NA, Australia, NZ and SA, but Japan is not a country of immigrants and so different ideas of what constitutes race. In this case, a pure Japanese is what my wife is, her parents are and down the line. Not mixed.

      • lasolitaria

        I agree. She doesn’t look very Japanese (yes, there is such a thing as a “Japanese” look) and most of us wouldn’t be able to tell her apart from, say, a group of Black girls at some corner in New York.

        One of the few highlights of these international beauty pageants is the chance to see beautiful women whose physical features are representative of the typical ethnicity of their countries (except the truly multicultural countries like the US, Canada, Brazil…). But if those non-multicultural countries are represented by women of mixed ancestry with generic looks -just for novelty’s sake or to appease the PC crowd- something feels amiss.

        In fact, I wonder if the Racial Reaction Force would cheer for a Miss Kenya who is a blonde with green eyes named “Helga” as much as they have for Ariana, and if they would condemn the ensuing complaints of the Kenyan people.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Thank you lasolitaria for seeing my point of view that the racist PC crowd refused to acknowledge. A Japanese is just that; a Japanese. No halves, no quarters and no decimals. And if you guys, except lasolitaria, don’t like it, well like we say in NYC and elsewhere, stick it up where the sun doesn’t shine.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Indeed and much agree. And she never will be a pure one as some commentators here like one guy who supposedly spent the better day of a Friday trying to convince me that Miyamoto was a full Japanese. Contaminated with the PC virus you are arguing in vain. If both one’s parents are not Japanese, you’re not a full Japanese. Like my kids. Period.

    • lasolitaria

      Agree. I’m even surprised that I haven’t read someone calling her an “African American queen” yet.

      I love the irony of how Black people so happily appropriate a constructed racial category such as “Black”, which the old Arabs from the Islamic golden age came up with and then the Europeans developed and propagated, both to justify negative attitudes towards “Blacks”. The peoples of Africa never saw themselves as members of a single “Black” race (actually, they never saw themselves united in anything), but now we’re told that everyone who has some African ancestry is “Black”. To hell with that ridiculous notion.

  • Dean A. Chandler

    Hey The Japan Times, something about this post bothers me and I’d rather not see it on Facebook. Would you please down the word racially offensive and derogatory ‘minstrel’ word?

    “MINSTREL SHOWS” were a style of entertainment based on racist Black stereotypes. Whether inadvertent and unaware, your term ‘minstrel no show’ The Japan Times is still a racist derogatory comment. Now that you have been educated on the facts, once again, could you please down the word ‘minstrel’?

    • Dean A. Chandler

      How long will The Japan Times allow the offensive #racist term ‘minstrel’ online or is it an intentional ploy to delay and cause offense?

      • Dean A. Chandler

        or is it an intentional ploy to delay and cause offense?

      • Dean A. Chandler

        Japan Times intentionally delaying to delete #racist #minstrel #journalism #BoycottJapanTimes

      • R0ninX3ph

        You do know the author of this article is African American right? Just saying…

      • Dean A. Chandler

        thank you for pointing out to me. Now you mentioned and having since browsed his other articles, but I had to read the headline several times over and over and over until I understood his meaning of the headline, he was referring to his previous article about fuji tv, thanks again

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Not sure about JT, but FYI normally a sub-editor constructs the headlines for a newspaper, not the writer.

      • J.P. Bunny

        “Minstrel”, a medieval singer, storyteller, balladeer, etc. The word is not offensive. Go away.

  • Sam Gilman

    This is a densely argued yet very elegantly written piece. Thank you very much, Mr McNeill.

    As a parent of hāfu children, I find it difficult to reconcile the insistence by a certain section of the western community here that Japanese are obsessive about ethnic purity with the general inclusiveness of the people I interact with, and the total lack of resistance to me describing my children as Japanese. A few older people struggle with the idea – for example trying to speak to them in English – but so much of this just seems to be an understandable struggle to adjust their notion of what Japaneseness is. (I actually get more annoyed by Japanese who have been taught by westerners to say “daburu” (“double”) instead of hāfu – this seems to emphasise their non-Japaneseness far more for me). There is a huge difference between a population adjusting to reality as it changes, and the ethnic purism and bigotry of those who kick back hard against acceptance of ethnic groups they have lived with for decades and centuries (which is what makes anti-Koreanism here so foul). Of course, there are such bigots in Japan, as there are everywhere, but all I personally meet is clumsiness and curiosity – and occasional insensitivity (which of course grates horribly, but it’s not vicious). I’m actually (pleasantly) surprised. The stuff I’ve heard from friends growing up as a member of an ethnic minority in the UK is so much worse.

    As for the media, the thing to remember is that they do not like to challenge preconceptions, and play provocatively to the lowest common denominators. That’s how they get clicks and how they stop you changing channel. The modern media deal in stereotypes as good business practice. All ethnic groups (except white people) are treated as homogenous.

  • Aaron B.

    Thanks for highlighting important cultural issues for broader consumption in Japan, Mr. McNeil. It is good for readers of the Japan Times to get an alternative perspective.

  • yulia okost

    author McNeil
    these kind of name is smelly

  • otisdelevator

    “…since Rats & Star are Japanese, they’re entitled to do as they please . . . in Japan; that blackface’s history in America isn’t directly related to its current manifestation here…”

    Two words: Global Village.

    The longer version: Anything put on the Internet is 100% guaranteed to give a raging arse ache to other people elsewhere on the planet. In this instance the offended group would be an extremely large group. Media produced in Japan is not exclusively kept in Japan. The same goes for all other countries.

    • tomado

      Yes. “Anyone is entitled” is saying nothing. They can walk down 5th ave in NYC and do it too.

  • Barry Rosenfeld

    Why don’t you dry up? What on earth does your jealous poisoned mind know? Nothing. Now go and take your uneducated views somewhere else won’t you? If you want to be a child and get the last word be my guest. I won’t be disappointed.

  • Barry Rosenfeld

    BTW, I never said that I ever considered my family, especially my kids pure Japanese so go back to school and learn how read my black racist friend. You all seem to have chips on your shoulder when someone of colour doesn’t or won’t agree with you.

    Typical.

    • R0ninX3ph

      Barry, I never claimed you said you consider your children “pure”, or they consider themselves “pure”, because I oppose the idea that “ethnic purity” is a thing.

      What I said was, that your children and their Japanese family consider them to be Japanese, regardless of their “purity” of their DNA. Thus, your initial statement regarding whether Ariana Miyamoto is worthy of being the Miss Universe candidate for Japan because she isn’t “pure” means nothing. She identifies as Japanese, likely her family identifies her as Japanese, just as your wife and her family think and treat your children as Japanese.

      Also, you’re the one being racist, assuming I am arguing with you just because you’re black? Thats absolutely absurd, I am arguing with what you are saying and that has absolutely nothing to do with your ethnicity. I have made no such claims, and actually, you’re the only one making claims towards my supposed ethnicity and attempting to deflect from my arguments based on your assumptions of my ethnicity.

      So who is the racist one?

      (Also, I thought you were going to let me have the last word but I dropped it, then you came back to have another go at me. My comments been eating you up that much mate? I’ll let you have the last word now.)

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        Whatever. You are so irrelevant.

  • MiltsSon

    Thanks again for the thought provoking articles. Great work!