|

Claiming the right to be Japanese — and more

by

“A Japanese passport? You don’t look Japanese.”

I get this all the time. Understandably: Most people don’t expect a Caucasian to have Japanese citizenship.

It’s just a shame they so carelessly articulate their surprise. No matter where I go, a natural curiosity about my background soon turns into vocalized judgment.

“What an unusual name. Where are you from?”

Me: “Japan” (or, “Born in the U.S., lived in Japan,” if I’m feeling chatty).

Their most common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.”

Or Customs and Immigration at any border: “What’s with the Japanese passport?”

“I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.”

Again, “You don’t look Japanese.” (That’s the milder reaction. In Jamaica, officials took my passport around the office for a laugh. In the U.S., they rendered me to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition until I missed my next flight. Seriously.)

Trying to dodge these questions by saying “It’s a long story” often doesn’t cut it. (American official: “Oh? We’ve got time.”) Having to school everyone about my background on a daily basis gets tiring, and biting my lip through many an intrusive and sometimes humiliating experience leaves psychological “triggers” after a while.

I realized that last month on vacation in Canada, when a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Afterwards, I asked the teller (an Asian gentleman), “How would you like it if you produced a Canadian passport and I said, ‘That’s funny; you don’t look Canadian’?” He said, not much, and apologized.

There are a few important details to this story I don’t have space for (see www.debito.org/?p=13381), but the conclusion was that the manager sent the teller home for the day (a surprise to me, as I never asked for any sanction) and then invited me to his office for a chat.

“I understand your frustration,” said the manager, “because I am Metis.” He was referring to his official minority status in Canada as a descendent of First Nation aboriginals and colonial settlers.

“I hate it when people I’m doing business with tell me that I don’t ‘look Metis,’ even after I show my status card.” He said that this kind of behavior was unacceptable at his bank, and in Canada.

Refreshed by this experience, I blogged and Facebooked about this no-nonsense zero tolerance. And then the topic blew up in my face.

Some readers wrote in to say I had overreacted. Instead of jumping straight to “racism,” I could have defused things with a quick explanation of my background or a joke.

Others said that I was defying common sense. A white guy with a Japanese passport expecting no surprise? Unreasonable. (Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.)

The critics that really got my goat were those that expressed disgust at my acting so “un-Japanese” (as in, not avoiding conflict) and went on say that, to them, I no longer qualified as a Japanese. (I unfriended them because that’s pretty thoughtless. By their logic, I could murder somebody and still qualify, since some Japanese do murder.)

The most interesting argument accused me of exercising my “white privilege”: “You get to be white and Japanese? You’ve taken this too far!” I had victimized the Asian teller because I had the power in this relationship as a white in Canada’s white-dominated society. (The critic’s thoughtful essay and my answer are archived at www.debito.org/?p=13404.)

For the record, I don’t doubt the existence of white privilege. (You can even find an example on our Community pages: Gregory Clark’s Dec. 4, 2014 “Kick out the touts who rule Roppongi” Foreign Agenda column.) I acknowledge that I have received advantageous treatment worldwide due to my lighter skin color and white background.

But the two of us parted paths at the point where the critic said I could not be “white and Japanese.” I do not believe that they are mutually exclusive. (Neither does Japan: In apartheid South Africa, Japan successfully lobbied to be Japanese and “honorary whites”.)

I’m Japanese and white because I earned it — through decades of study and self-education, acculturation, living and contributing to Japanese society, dedication and sacrifice (including my American citizenship and even my very name), and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes.

I am certifiably Japanese because the Japanese government says I am, and they gave me a tough test to prove it. I am not Japanese but white. I’m claiming the “and.”

So why write a column about this? After all, I got myself onto this sticky wicket by naturalizing into a country with few “non-Asian-looking” citizens.

Because this goes beyond me. What about the people who didn’t have a choice — like our Japanese kids?

It shouldn’t be an issue. They are Japanese children, full stop. And they can be something else yet 100 percent Japanese. It’s not a zero-sum game. (That’s why I am not a fan of the term hāfu.) I say claim the “and.” For them.

Mountains out of molehills? OK, how will you react the 100th time (or the fifth time in a day) that you hear, “Oh, what cute gaijin kids!” Will you stand idly by when people openly doubt your kids’ identity as they grow up and risk being denied equal opportunities in society?

We’re fully formed adults — we can take these sucker punches — but kids need someone in their corner, pushing for their right to be diverse yet belong.

The push must happen until the point where the surprise is switched around — into shock at someone daring to imply that a citizen or resident with a surprising background is not a “real” or “normal” member of society.

Admittedly, careless comments from individuals are not something you can immediately fix, but alienating attitudes about people’s identities should not be expressed in a corporate or official capacity. To anyone. Anywhere. That’s where the push starts.

Don’t get me wrong: People can think what they like. But if they articulate thoughts inaccurate, unkind or alienating about us or the people we care for, we should reserve the right to push back accordingly — and not succumb to the majoritarian identity policing that goes on everywhere.

But let’s come down from ideals and return to the bank counter. The main issue there was not the law of averages determining “normal” or “triggers” or “privilege.” It was one of self-identification.

Pause for a second and take stock of where things are going these days: Somebody can self-identify as Japanese and African-American, and represent Japan at the Miss Universe contest (like Ariana Miyamoto). Or be male and then female or vice versa (like Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox and Lana Wachowsky). Or be LGBT and married. Or, like Rachel Dolezal, be white and “culturally black” enough to head a chapter of America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

A future is emerging where the major social statuses assigned us from birth — e.g., gender, “race,” nationality, even ethnicity — are breaking down. They can be a matter of personal choice.

That’s a good thing. With the unprecedented porosity of international borders nowadays, the notion of a “normal” person is ever eroding. That’s why I believe that anyone should be allowed to shape, control and, yes, claim their own identity.

Now, you might think that Japan, the island society, is unaffected by these trends. I would disagree. As I describe in my forthcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” the pressure of Japan’s aging demographics is unrelenting. If Japan cannot get over the conceit of having to “look Japanese” to be treated as one, then it cannot make “new Japanese,” and the country will continue to sink into an insolvent economic abyss.

Thus, if our Japanese kids cannot self-identify, hundreds of thousands of them (eventually millions, as people continue mixing) will spend their lives having their identities policed back into being “foreign,” not fitting in when they should be welcomed for all their potential as individuals with more worldly insights.

Let’s knock off the identity policing. Stop telling people who they are. Let them tell us. Let them claim the “and.”

Debito’s 20-year-old historical archive of life and human rights in Japan is at www.debito.org. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • def

    Every person on the planet: “Where are you from?”
    White guy speaking native level English: “Japan.”
    Every person on the planet: “Oh, that’s unusual.”
    White guy speaking native level English: “Stop the race policing!”

    What a baby. Some things are unusual, and people react naturally to that. The unusual person in question has to have some comprehension that they are unusual, and educate the person.

    Bringing up the issue of how ‘halfs’ are treated is not in the same ballpark. Ugh.

    • blondein_tokyo

      You aren’t being accurate about what the article is actually saying. A more accurate representation of the conversation would be,

      “Why do you have a Japanese passport?”
      “I am a naturalized Japanese citizen.”
      “What? That’s weird. You don’t look Japanese.”

      An appropriate response would be, “I am NATURALIZED. You do know what that word means, don’t you?”

      A terse reply, to a rude question, since you should not interrogate someone in such a way, particularly when you don’t even know them.

      And, as someone who has had her identity policed many a time, I understand quite well why Debito would feel sensitive to the issue. Rather than criticize him, you ought to be wondering how people can have the temerity of speaking to a stranger so rudely.

      The comparison to “halfu” (I also hate that word) is quite valid, as many children who have parents of different nationalities are constantly being asked this type of intrusive and ignorant question. We need to set the precedence that it is unacceptable in polite society to question other people’s heritage. In fact, I’m quite surprised that anyone in this day and age would think it acceptable in any shape or form- yet these children are asked this all the time. Are people really that unsophisticated and ignorant of the existence of cross cultural relationships? I wonder.

      • etchasketch

        “I am NATURALIZED. You do know what that word means, don’t you?”

        The appropriate response to that would be to just walk away from you. Far far away.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Walk away from me, because I retorted to a rude and invasive comment? If that is the case, I welcome it, because I would want nothing to do with such an insensitive person.

      • Ine Chan

        That’s so right, can you imagine an obese person showing up at the gym with their membership and the person at the front desk being like “are you SURE you’re a member??, because you don’t look like the other people who are training here”
        That would be soooooo rude!

      • def

        The treatment of mixed race kids in Japan is poor. Nothing to do with someone being surprised that Debito had a Japanese passport. Yeah, I’ll criticise him. I don’t think the behaviour is so rude. I have been in Japan a decade, speak Japanese, and twice today, I was asked where I was from by Japanese. I didn’t say Japan, even though it’s my permanent residence. People were expressing an interest in someone outside their group. Attitudes like Debito’s make people afraid to interact with people outside their group for fear of offending. People shouldn’t be rude, but for the people on the receiving end should also have some common sense and understanding of human nature. For the teller, I’m sure he had no clue he was being offending Debito, intention does matter, and Debito turned the situation into hostility. I hesitate to say he was rude since I don’t think he was any more rude than a native Japanese person complimenting my chopstick use, and I say native Japanese, since Debito would never compliment my chopstick use, as he is a Japanese national. If I pulled a tantrum about race policing every time I was complimented on my chopsticks, well, native Japanese would logically stay the hell away from me for being so annoying. And then they would be more uncomfortable the next time they had to be social with a foreigner. So, I sometimes explain that many foreigners eat with chopsticks, or say thank you, but I don’t pull a Debito.

        So, to sum up, I disagree: Debito makes things more tense when he could try to actually illuminate or empathise, and this has nothing to do with the problem of how mixed-race kids are treated. You’re free to support his opinion though.

      • blondein_tokyo

        It’s related because, as I said, both involve the perception of “foreignness” and policing someone’s identity. It’s in poor manners to ask a parent if their child is half just as it’s poor manners to ask a person about their ethnicity, and for the same reasons.

        Your comparing yourself with Debito is not accurate, since you are a permanent resident while Debito is a citizen with Japanese nationality. It’s not the same thing to ask a foreign resident where they are from (although this too is rather forward) as it is to question someone in disbelief when they’ve informed you that they are a naturalized citizen, and it’s even further from a service professional (eg. in a bank) doing the same.

        People can be incredibly insensitive when it comes to those that are different. Other examples include asking people in wheelchairs why they are in a wheelchair; asking a disabled person why they are disabled, and yes, asking a Caucasian in Japan why they are in Japan. it’s fine to be curious, but it’s another thing to expect the person of your curiosity to give private information to a perfect stranger. Note I said “perfect stranger”; it’s one thing to get talking to someone and establish a modicum of rapport where you feel you can ask personal questions and quite another to just blurt it out to someone you’ve just said, “Nice to meet you” to.

        In my opinion, then, people should absolutely be at least a little bit cautious about what they say to people they have just met. There is a social standard at work here, one that we all should follow, but all too often gets ignored. And having your hand swatted lightly by hearing a tart retort might remind people of that.

        I don’t think you can stand in judgment of people who have less tolerance of such things because, as I said, this can vary wildly. You mentioned that you don’t mind it when people ask you where you are from, and that’s fine. I won’t say that you should….but I also think you shouldn’t try to dictate to someone else how they should feel, either.

        As for Debito hiself, he admitted he overdid it in this case (check the links). i think that is understandable, and forgivable, because yes…consider we are fallible humans who sometimes overreact to a hit to our sensitive spots? :)

      • Sam Gilman

        I don’t think one should so directly compare curiosity about where an incomer has come from with prurience about someone’s disability.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Prurience? No idea how you went from where I said “It’s rude” to saying “prurience.” This is more than just a little bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?

      • Sam Gilman

        Good Heavens! My apologies. All these years I thought “prurient” simply meant indecently curious, gawking. I just checked and confess I had no idea it had a specifically sexual meaning. Sorry (> <). Let me rephrase: I think you can't compare morbid curiosity about someone's disability with interest in where an incomer comes from. The former is clearly invasive, whereas the latter is a common icebreaking question. The questioner can say "Oh, I've been there" or "I hear it's beautiful there" or whatever and you can easily end up sharing.

      • blondein_tokyo

        LOL. :) I wondered what you meant. At any rate, asking where someone is from, when it is obvious they are not from this country, is an ice breaking question. But asking about someone’s ancestry is not acceptable, as in, asking a bi-racial person “What are you?” or “Why are you so (tall-dark-skinned-fill in the blank) if you are Japanese?”

        We are discussing the second situation and not the first.

        I agree that if a person asked Debito “Where are you from” and he said “Japan” it would be unreasonable of him to get annoyed at their confusion. He is not from Japan; he has Japanese nationality. A proper answer from him would then be “I’m from the US, but have Japanese nationality because I have lived there my whole life.”

        That’s how I answer that question, and yes, I admit to it sometimes becoming tedious to explain, but it’s not annoying.

        However, upon showing a person your passport so that they can check your ID in some official capacity, this type of personal curiosity is unprofessional and intrusive. I always get irritated at Immigration when I am questioned about why I live in Japan, because frankly, it’s none of their business and I not feel I should have to satisfy their personal curiosity in order to re-enter my own country.

        Once I was asked by an immigration officer to “Speak some Japanese”. That was just weird.

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

        I think I am in a position to compare myself to Debito Arudou, as I also was born and raised in America and moved to Japan post-university and acquired Japanese nationality and relinquished U.S. citizenship — exactly his situation. And I agree with @disqus_MxN56plNgo:disqus ‘s comparison and explanation, as well as many other’s I know with a “naturalized born in American now Japanese national” background.

        I think most hāfu (and naturalized Japanese) are bothered more by Debito Arudou attempting to hold a flag on our behalf — “think of the children?” Uh, work on raising your own kids properly before you attempt to speak on behalf of others (based on your writings on the blog advertised in the footer — you need to work on this).

        My children certainly do not want you speaking or acting on their behalf. And I know they are not alone. In fact, I suspect that Arudou’s own children don’t want him fighting their battles — real or imagined inside his head.

      • blondein_tokyo

        You don’t actually say what it is you agree or disagree with, or why, so I am not sure how to respond to this.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Couldn’t like this more than once. Silly Disqus!

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, I think there are key differences between Debito and yourself, so I cringe at you comparing yourself with Debito.

        Your approach reeks of servitude and pandering, whereas, Debito is actually trying to bring about positive change. Your approach is lazy and selfish because its the easiest way out, whereas, Debito is taking a stand for what he believes in and is not afraid to tackle difficult issues. His approach is one of courage and strength, but yours is based on cowardice and weakness. Debito has naturalized as a Japanese citizen but holds on to his moral compass, whereas, you seem to have lost yours in the process of naturalization.

        Debito has been fighting for his cause by getting a PhD and making his case by writing for world renowned publications and global media, but you are content to just bash him in the comments sections and personal blogs. So, you see, Eido, you and Debito are two very different people. I, and many others I know, have much greater respect for Debito and his approach than you can ever hope for.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “I don’t think you can stand in judgment of people who have less tolerance of such things because, as I said, this can vary wildly. You mentioned that you don’t mind it when people ask you where you are from, and that’s fine. I won’t say that you should….but I also think you shouldn’t try to dictate to someone else how they should feel, either.”

        But following that route, you can never establish a protocol for interaction which is anything deeper than ‘nice to meet you….would you like a cup of tea?.’ Defining ‘offensive’ in terms of ‘taking offense’ (something with high individual variability, as you note) simply leads to an ultra-safe lowest-common-denominator approach of doing only that which no-one whatsoever, however sensitive, could possibly take offense at. On top of that, you expect people to grossly transcend the norms of their own culture, even though you and they are communicating in the language of their native culture and geographically in their country of origin.

        How about this instead? If you are living in Japan, communicating in Japanese, adhere to the current norms of social discourse of the language and culture in which you are operating. Takes some mental and emotional dexterity, to be sure, but it is highly educational, mind-broadening and, not the least important, you will never speak the language like a native without doing so.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Or how about we just don’t take simple concepts to the extreme? I vote for that.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Unlike this, you mean?

        “Other examples include asking people in wheelchairs why they are in a wheelchair; asking a disabled person why they are disabled, and yes, asking a Caucasian in Japan why they are in Japan.”

        Or this?

        “… when a total stranger with whom you have had no prior engagement asks [a personal question.] A person on the receiving end of such a comment or question is perfectly justified in getting angry.”

        There is no simple concept of acceptable social interaction, that’s the whole point. Ever heard of cultural chauvinism? It sounds very much to me like this is what you are exhibiting, though I would prefer to give you the benefit of the doubt….

      • blondein_tokyo

        You are oversimplifying the argument. Really, I don’t see the point in discussing this with you if you behave this way.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Attitudes like Debito’s make people afraid to interact with people outside their group for fear of offending.” I think you’re completely wrong. What this actually does is teach people to not relate to other people as part of some broad group based on their looks, but to instead interact with them as individuals. And, that is a good thing.

      • Toolonggone

        >People shouldn’t be rude, but for the people on the receiving end should also have some common sense and understanding of human nature.

        Wonder if your perspective can also be applicable to a tense situation like a female employee speaking out from her experience of sexual harassment by her former male boss or a school kid getting fumed at mean classmates and a mean teacher.

      • Toolonggone

        >this has nothing to do with the problem of how mixed-race kids are
        treated.

        Oh really? How could you know that? People including Debito come to Japan in later life. They are adults, and are capable of handling the race-related issues in their own way. But the kids born to the parents of different race/nationality have very limited choices since their life is in the hands of parents. Unlike their parents, many of those–like Ariana Miyamoto, Megumi Nishikura, will have to deal with the issues at a very young age–and that is going to be the most of their life in Japan. Do they deserve blame for becoming critical of(or even hostile to) Japan on race issues just because they hold particular attitude like Debito or anyone trying to speak out like him?

      • jcbinok

        Are people that unsophisticated? Perhaps not so much in Tokyo, but out here in the inaka…yes.

        A small example: the other day while changing into my swimsuit at a public pool, some kids came in at the most inopportune moment. Talk about getting stared at! Absolutely no subtlety whatsoever.

      • Peter

        Curiosity from kids is a completely different issue that should be encouraged.
        I was getting thoroughly quizzed by a 6yo boy the other day. Long story short, I explained to him that I flew here from Australia a few years ago and live here. He summed it up with “Flew here and live here? Never heard of that before.”

        You can’t expect subtlety from kids.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I’m not speaking of children talking to each other, no. Of course we don’t expect kids to have that much subtlety. Parents must teach them this as they grow older.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Kids? Come ON. Kids can’t help it – they live in a country where 98.5% of the population is the same.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “We need to set the precedence that it is unacceptable in polite society to question other people’s heritage. In fact, I’m quite surprised that anyone in this day and age would think it acceptable in any shape or form- yet these children are asked this all the time. Are people really that unsophisticated and ignorant of the existence of cross cultural relationships? I wonder”
        But the problem with this attitude is the following: in Japan it is not unacceptable in polite society to ask about someone’s ethnicity/ nationality/ country of origin. Indeed, lots of personal information is considered fair game even when meeting people for the first time. You seem to act as if there is some ‘natural’ human standard as regards this matter, when there simply is not. It has been long recorded by cultural anthropolgists that in Japan one is either extremely formal, but only in very limited situations (and, no, meeting people for the first time or otherwise is not an important distinction) and overt closeness, where just about anything is game. Indeed, the latter is what would actually be considered the closer equivalent of ‘being friendly’ in Western cultures. The fact that you or anyone is ‘offended’ or ‘seneitive’ about a particular topic, as a result of your particular cultural upbringing, is neither here nor there, especially when you are acting in the home country of a diffeernt culture. If you define something as ‘offensive’ simply because a particular recipient ‘genuinely’ takes offense, then you also have to grant that anyone who takes offense at something you find perfectly acceptable is also in the right. Ultimately, what is important is simply the intention of the speaker, i.e. whather they set out to deliberately cause offense or not. (The senstivity about people’s ethnical/cultural/racial backgrounds is a partcular hang up of the North American and Eurpoean cultures, for reasons which don’t take much looking back in history to find.)

      • blondein_tokyo

        Actually, yes, it is impolite in Japanese society. Japanese do not ask each other such questions. They ask foreigners those questions because foreigners are foreign, and therefore outside of Japanese society and as such the rules don’t apply.

        It is extremely rude to ask a Japanese person, for example, “Are you Ainu?” or “You must be from burakumin.” Or, “You might have Chinese ancestry.”

        This kind of question is the equivalent of what we have been discussing, and it is utterly unacceptable.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Whoa, now who’s taking simple principles to the extreme? Burakumin is not an ethnic group (if you weren’t aware) and yes, it would be considered rude to ask because it’s along the lines of (but not the same as) asking an African American whether they were descended from slaves. They are essentially equivalent or close because they both refer to parts of social history which are considered shameful by contemporary standards.

        Actually, the Ainu and Chinese ancestry questions would not be considered social faux pars.

        But you’re getting away from the point, which is this: right now the percentage of those with ‘non-traditional’ Japanese looks (for want of a better term) who were actually born here or whom have naturalized is a miniscule percentage of the whole. It is perfectly logical for people to assume, based on looks, that you likely come from elsewhere. The fact that their making small talk with you based on this causes you some personal anguish is, if one looks at the above facts objectively and realizes that people mean no ill-intent by it, nothing but your own taking of a simple, and simply incorrect, principle (that there are common worldwide standards of what is and isn’t acceptable in social intercourse) to an extreme.

        I notice from your other posts that you are a permanent resident. Assuming that you are not a Special Permanent Resident, then I’m going to make the statistically likely assumption that you weren’t born in Japan (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) This means you from another country. Also, given your resident status, then you have not naturalized either, meaning that you are not Japanese. In which case, this means you are actually getting offended by people making rational assumptions which are accurate.The comparison that you make with being asked about ethnicity or nationality on the basis of looks in places such as Europe and the US is an inapplicable one. Either your concern for offense caused is simply a culturally bigoted transfer of rules from your country of origin (my second choice) or simply the result of frustration at being treated differently when you would like to be effectively invisible. As a permanent resident of 25 years myself, I can certainly sympathize with the latter, but all the abrupt answers in the world to questions you’d prefer not to field isn’t going to change reality. Far better to spend your time in mastering the language to a truly impressive level, with all the intellectual and emotional flexibilty that entails.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Gotta love when she pops in apples with those oranges, and does it fairly often, too.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I think you have misunderstood. Fist, I personally don’t feel “anguish” (LOL) when someone asked me, “Where are you from”? I simply say, “I’m from the US, but I live in Japan.” and leave it at that. Easy.

        That is a common ice breaker question, as someone else called it, and while it IS a little bit tedious to be asked that so often, it’s by no means rude or annoying.

        But that is not the situation we are discussing. What we are discussing is someone asking about your *ancestry*, which is an entirely different concept, much like my example of asking a person if they are Ainu or telling them “You don’t look Japanese” even when they have just told you that they are. If it’s not polite to say that to an Asian-American, for example, then it is also impolite to say it to a Caucasian-Japanese, as was the case here.

        In particular, this was a service professional checking an ID (not a situation that warrants an ice breaker question) and wanting to satisfy his personal curiosity (not for any official or practical reason) on an issue that is none of his business.

        As for abrupt answers changing the world, I would disagree. Personally, if I am asked rude and intrusive questions, I think it is not only justifiable but important to give a terse answer, because that will either be one less person who will ask such questions in general (make them re-think) or one less person that will ask ME such questions. That certainly makes a change in the world, at least for me. :)

        And keep in mind – we *are* discussing the point of asking a person about their *ancestry* and not simply where they grew up. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would get upset at someone asking, “Where are you from?” as an icebreaker question. :)

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

        blondein_tokyo wrote:

        A more accurate representation of the conversation would be,

        “Why do you have a Japanese passport?”
        “I am a naturalized Japanese citizen.”
        “What? That’s weird. You don’t look Japanese.”

        Actually, not really. Those who saw Arudou’s original dust-up on Facebook know that was neither in version 1.0 or version 2.0 with the “eyewitness” that came in to help out Arudou’s story after even his “friends” couldn’t approve of his original handling of the incident.

        I noticed you were very charitable and slipped in the “I am a naturalized Japanese citizen”. That statement, by Arudou’s own FB account, did not occur prior to the Asian-Canadian making the comment that “triggered” the white native English speaking male in North America.

        The key point is that when Arudou plays these race-baiting games, he intentionally uses ambiguous language or omits details in order to trap people into making a verbal gaffe or misunderstanding. Not the first time he’s done this. In the Chitose Airport incident that he recorded, he keeps babbling “Watashi wa Nihonjin desu” over and over when someone of his Japanese ability should be able to express himself with language that causes less confusion.

        If he had these identity conversations (either in English or Japanese) about his identity with “I’m naturalized” or “I acquired Japanese citizenship” or other unambiguous language, there would be no confusion or doubt. Instead, he delights in saying “I’m Japanese” (or a similar Japanese phrase such as “Watashi wa nihonjin desu.”), knowing that the term is a loaded that can refer to anything from race/phenotype, ethnicity/cultural-background-upbringing, and/or including , but not necessarily, legal nationality — especially in North America.

      • Steve Jackman

        Haha, really Eido? Saying “Watashi wa Nihonjin desu” is considered using ambiguous language? Wow, you never cease to amaze me!

      • def

        It’s the same in English, to say you are Japanese is equally ambiguous. Are you referring to ethnicity, or nationality? For the most part, those are the same things. Japan is not a melting pot country, but Debitos want to throw tantrums over the details.

        “I am Japanese,” means ethnicity or nationality, how would you know, without racial profiling. Tell us, what is the non-racist way of knowing?

        Japan is not America, and it’s stupid to pretend it is.

      • 田辺先生

        Eido, Def, spot ON. Our son lives in Japan as a Japanese citizen. Born in Tokyo, he was raised mostly on the West Coast of the USA. His Japanese is quite good but not at the level it would have been had we raised him the Japan. So yes, he is questioned a bit at customs. Never does he feel offended. I believe we have all felt uncomfortable with questions at customs or immigration. The point of “Love and Logic”, a method of parenting and teaching, tells us there is no need to take everything personally. Debit needs to learn it.

  • Oliver Mackie

    To the Editor: whilst the title of this article is accurate enough (if somewhat cleverly chosen to suggest the article might be about Japan) the blurb is misleading. It states:

    If Japan cannot get over the conceit of having to “look Japanese” to be treated as one, then it cannot make “new Japanese,” and the country will continue to sink into an insolvent economic abyss.

    Yet the vast majority of the article is about other countries. Indeed, to get more information than is contained in the blurb regarding the writer’s analysis of Japan, we are told that we will have to wait for his forthcoming book.

    This strikes me as as bait-and-sell of the most crude commercial type and not worthy of a serious newspaper.

    • Steve Jackman

      Here we go again…

      • Oliver Mackie

        I share your sentiment. This writer never ceases in his attempts to monetarize his ‘activism.’ I’m as tired of it as youself.

      • Steve Jackman

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but my comment was directed at you, not Debito. I quite enjoy his articles here in the JT, but do not care for the many snarky comments like yours.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Yeah, says the guy who assumes anyone who is not as anti-Japan as he is must be Japanese. You NEVER have snarky comments.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      It’s all about the clicks, baby. Did you click? Good.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Did but then told a big bunch of other people not to bother. This column gets plenty of deserved criticism on Facebook, which deprives the author of click credit.

      • wind

        With all of 70 comments now, we have a winner. For the rest of the usual gang, see ‘ya next time!

  • blondein_tokyo

    I think Debito covered this very well. He said if you are working in an official capacity, then it is unprofessional to the extreme to say such things out loud. And if gov. officials, such as police or immigration, are
    allowed to say such things in their capacity as reps of the gov., they
    are setting an official precedence that it is okay for the gov. to police people’s identity. That is quite scary for anyone who doesn’t quite fit into the norm.

    As for the personal realm, if, during a conversation, a person whom has already established some rapport with you asks a personal question, it’s natural and acceptable. But it’s a startling lack of both tact and manners when a total stranger with whom you have had no prior engagement asks one. A person on the receiving end of such a comment or question is perfectly justified in getting angry.

    We consider it the height of rudeness and extremely gauche to ask an Asian living in the US about their ancestry. Likewise, saying to a light skinned black person, “You don’t look black” would merit a terse response. Therefore asking a white person why they have a Japanese passport is both intrusive and shows real ignorance of the fact of globalization and cross culture relationships.

    And keep in mind – an individual’s tolerance for such comments varies wildly from person to person. Someone who has had their identity policed often is going to be far more sensitive to such things than someone who has never faced such an issue. Anyone who tries to reason that it is Debito who needs to be more tolerant (instead of the people doing the policing) has utterly missed the point.

    • jcbinok

      We consider it the height of rudeness to ask an Asian in the US about their ancestry?

      Since when? I know all of my Asian-American friends’ ancestral countries, as well as my white friends’. With African-Americans it’s a bit more tricky because they likely are the descendant of slaves and they may not know (their nation of origin) themselves.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Yeah, I have always known the ancestry of every friend of mine. It’s not rude in the least.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Actually, yes — it is rude to randomly ask a perfect stranger about their ancestry.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        If it has to do with security purposes, like interactions at a bank, no it isn’t.

      • blondein_tokyo

        That is not what we are discussing. You are moving the goalposts, i.e., changing the subject in order to try and justify something that has no justification. My point all along has been that it is rude and intrusive to ask a random stranger whom you have just met about their ancestry. It’s intrusive no matter what context you put it in.

        In the situation you are now referencing, a case might be made if there is reason to believe the passport might be fake, but that was not the case here. There was no suspicion, and no reason other than personal curiosity to ask such a question. In the incident in Jamaica, particularly, they only wanted to laugh at him.

        You really just cannot justify such rudeness. The fact that you are trying to honestly makes me think you are not being completely honest, and are just grasping at straws because you don’t want to back down. I’d suggest that butting heads for the sake of it isn’t productive and we just end this discussion.

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

        >There was no suspicion, and no reason other than personal curiosity to ask such a question.

        How do you know this? Were you there?

      • blondein_tokyo

        I did specify that we are speaking in the case of people that we do not know, in contrast to friends, who tend to slowly reveal personal information over time.

        A huge gulf lies between a perfect stranger blurting out “Are you like, um, Chinese or like um Japanese?” and a close friend learning of your heritage through casual conversation over a period of time.

        Familiarly, tact, wording, etc. all play a part in how such a question is perceived. Your objection really isn’t taking circumstances into consideration in the same way my original reply did

  • Steve Jackman

    I think there is much to be learned here about the way developed and advanced countries like Canada deal with racist attitudes, be they real or perceived. One can argue about whether or not Debito’s response to the bank teller’s comment was appropriate, but the more important point is that the bank manager immediately reprimanded the teller once his inappropriate comment was brought to the manager’s attention. This is what taking responsibility and accountability is all about, and the bank manager demonstarted strong leadership by sending a clear message to his staff that there is no place for such unprofessionalism at his bank. Unfortunately, this type of thing would never happen in Japan and therein lies the problem.

    Canada has a large number of recent immigrants, many of them from Asia and Eastern Europe. Sometimes, these immigrants bring their own biases and prejudices with them to Canada. What happened in this instance is an excellent example of how countries like Canada and the U.S. integrate these immigrants by teaching them about liberal Western values and about the types of behaviors that are unacceptable in their new countries. This is what makes Canada and the U.S. great countries. Unfortunately, Japan is nowhere close to their league, due to its own culture, which makes a virtue of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination.

    All one has to do to understand the differences between Japan and Canada or the U.S. is to compare the courageous and morally correct actions of the Canadian bank manager to what Rupert Wingfield Hayes wrote in his BBC column on June 4, 2015, “At first sight even I am a little confused by Ariana Miyamoto. She is tall and strikingly beautiful. But the first thing that pops in to my head when I meet the newly crowned Miss Universe Japan is that she doesn’t look very Japanese. In just two years here I have clearly absorbed a lot of the local prejudices about what it means to be “Japanese”.”

    • Richard Solomon

      Countries like Canada and the US don’t always ‘successfully integrate’ immigrants, or long time residents who are people of color, into their societies. Racism is still endemic, at least here in the US where I live, in many day to day interactions which take place. All one has to do is look at the TV news about the latest shooting of an unarmed African American male by a white police officer who later justifies it by saying that he felt ‘threatened.’ This has been perpetuated by a justice system that up until very recently has not indicted these police officers for their actions. Baltimore and now Cincinnati are, thankfully, two most recent exceptions to this pattern.

      • Ine Chan

        You are right but what I like to say everytime people compare Japan and western countries is that at least in the west we condemn this kind of behavior. We have learnt from our mistakes in the past, and it’s not okay to shoot people because of their race it’s a hate crime. In most European countries you have the right to sue somebody just because of a racist slur. Try to do it in Japan and you will Not be taken seriously. Why? because some Japanese people would rather ignore it and hide the problems and say “noooo there is no such thing in Japan, racism is only in America and Europe” or “maybe you just misunderstood”
        Japan agreed to the universal declaration of human rights, but still I think that they just don’t get it yet.
        From Wikipedia :”Japan does not have civil rights legislation which enforces or penalizes discriminatory activities committed by citizens, businesses, or non-governmental organizations.”
        It’s all about right, we all live on the same earth Japan is no special, they have waaaay less immigrants than the EU and the U.S. so they should take care of them and stop bothering them about their look (especially when you have a Japanese passport)
        I don’t like when people say that immigration in the west is not a success. My father immigrated and I am a mixed-race person. My family and I are educated and loving people, I refuse to be called a failure. I think the diversity in our countries is one of the best thing that ever happened to the human kind. We just need time and learn how to live in peace. ;)

      • Oliver Mackie

        Richard Soloman wrote:

        “Racism is still endemic, at least here in the US where I live, in many day to day interactions which take place. All one has to do is look at the TV news about the latest shooting of an unarmed African American male by a white police officer who later justifies it by saying that he felt ‘threatened.'”

        You wrote:

        “You are right but what I like to say everytime (sic) people compare Japan and western countries is that at least in the west we condemn this kind of behavior.”

        First, you will understand why some of us care about the actual reality on the ground, instead of what the ‘law’ or the ‘rules’ may say should be the case. Japan might not publicly adopt the legal trappings of some other countries, but the police don’t go around shooting minorities. That is simply a fact. As Justice Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court has pointed out, any country can adopt things such as a ‘Bill of Rights’ publicly, but unless the actual system of society and government actually functions to have such rights in practice, it is meaningless.

        Next, I laughed out loud when I read this sentence of yours:

        “We have learnt from our mistakes in the past, and it’s not okay to shoot people because of their race it’s a hate crime.”

        Oh, well done! You’ve manage to come to the conclusion after trial-and-error of realizing that it’s not o.k. to shoot others because of their race BECAUSE it’s a hate crime (hint: it’s not o.k. for other reasons than that.) When exactly did this revelation occur? Yes, at least you are trying. Your heart is in the right place, that’s good.

      • Ine Chan

        hi Oliver,
        I never said it was okay to shoot people , and I am aware of what’s happening in the U.S. And I think it’s terrible. Richard Solomon said that The U.S. And Canada are not always successful with immigration and with their minorities : for example with the shootings and all others issues. Which I agree with. But I just wanted to point out that there are some parts where immigration has been successful.
        I am European and I like the diverse population that we have, I was talking about “learning the mistakes of the past” because Europe has a very very dark past. And here since we are little we are all taught to respect each other, no matter what your skin color is or your beliefs in order to not repeat the error of the past. And also to not judge a book by its cover.
        I bet it’s the same in the U.S.
        Maybe my comment wasn’t clear.
        To me having civil right legislations for foreign people and minorities in Japan would be a good thing in 2015? Sometimes in Japan I fear that if something happens to me I might not be able to protect my rights.
        that’s all I am saying, if they will never do anything to protect their immigrants, well that’s it. I have the feeling that in Japan they try to hide racism and race is super-taboo while in the west we try to fight against it more.
        Maybe it’s just me and my western point of view but I have encountered people in Japan who think that racism is only between white people and black people, and that “I was making everything up” or “thinking too much”because “Japanese are not racist”
        I don’t have that much experience so I am sure that these people I talked to are a tiny minority. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “And here since we are little we are all taught to respect each other, no matter what your skin color is or your beliefs in order to not repeat the error of the past. And also to not judge a book by its cover.”

        And what do you think they learn in schools here, that’s it’s o.k. to hate foreign people!?

      • Sam Gilman

        Perhaps the Japanese police should start shooting ethnic minorities as a sign of social progress.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Yes, fine, it would seem. Just as long as they have a law stating that everyone has equal rights…..

      • Steve Jackman

        If Japan were a gun culture like the U.S., I’m sure the Japanese police would be shooting more than their fair share of ethnic minorities.

      • Oliver Mackie

        If Japan were not what it was, it would be something else. A nice tautology there. I thought people were discussing how Japan actually is. And what it indisputably is is much safer for visible ethnic minorities of whatever economic status than the US or Europe.

      • Toolonggone

        Yeah, why not make a new traffic sign titled “Shoot At Your Own Risk” for the NPA?

      • Steve Jackman

        African Americans are not immigrants. Sure, there is racism in the U.S. towards them, but I would argue that a lot of it is based on class and socio-economic factors. Most of the recent high profile shootings of blacks by white officers have taken place in high-crime economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

        One does not hear about white police officers shooting members of other ethnic minorities in the same way, since many of them (especially immigrants from Asia) are economically very successful as ethnic groups. I think focusing too much on sensational TV news of white cops shooting blacks does not necessarily paint an accurate picture of the true state of race relations in the U.S.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “I think focusing too much on sensational TV news of white cops shooting blacks does not necessarily paint an accurate picture of the true state of race relations in the U.S.”

        I agree. The key data is the fact that after several hundred years of a ‘melting pot,’ 90% of the population lives in neighbo(u)rhoods overwhelmingly comprised of members of the same ethnic group. On other words, from a residential perspective, voluntary apartheid. Not my data, these are the official figures.

      • Toolonggone

        Sorry, I have to disagree with you on the last sentence. The images of white cops stopping for an ID, strangling, beating, shooting blacks and hispanics are appeared in numerous printing and online medias on a daily basis. Plus, national move for privatization, voter ID law, massive cuts on social security Medicare and Medicaid, educational segregation(vouchers/charters) are re-creating and/or perpetuating institutional structure of racism in the US. The emergence of “Black Lives Matter” is the consequence of ongoing mess in race-related incidents that fundamentally question the public attitude.

    • tisho

      Eastern Europe is Europe. Western values are European values. Canada cannot teach western values to people from eastern europe because they are from a western country. The term west was invented in the 15th century to separate Asia from Europe. It is characterized by Christianity for the most part.

      • Steve Jackman

        Cultures and their values are not frozen in time. It would be narrow-minded and ignorant to think that today’s modern Western values are the same as they were in the 15th century, since they are much more liberal and inclusive now. In regards to Eastern Europe, all one has to do is look at the different path it took from most of Western Europe in the 20th century.

      • tisho

        ok, explain to me what is a ”western value” then? I would love to hear that, Also, what different path? Eastern Europe become a thing only during the cold war, prior to that it was just another region of Europe. The term ”west” was created in the 15h century in Europe to separate Europe – Christianity and Asia – Buddhism and Confusionism. During the 19th century when the US was growing to become the most powerful country, in the US they invented a new term called ”Western world” which referred to the Western hemisphere (north and south America), it was even written in the Monroe Doctrine. The Americans back then hated Europe and their political and economic system, the term was created to separate the new western world from the old Europe. During the cold war, a new term was created western bloc and eastern bloc dividing Europe into two. Western bloc were the American allies and democratic countries, Eastern bloc were the Soviet allies and satellites or the communist countries. Turkey was part of the Western bloc, Germany was part of the Eastern bloc. A more proper and clear term would’ve been ”democratic bloc” and ”communist bloc” but anyway. Today, most people have no clue what they mean when they say ”west”. Most people think it’s something that describes the wealthy countries only, which is not the case. So again, feel free to tell me what are the ”western values” you speak of. As a European myself i can tell you that European countries are very different from one another, the only thing they have in common would be the christian religion and the shared history of war conflicts. In general southern europe is more family oriented, more open, more emotional but also less wealthy. Northern europe is more cold, strict, wealthy, emotionless, ordered, precise, and their food is terrible. You can divide Europe to as many groups as you like but the original term ”west” refers to ”europe” and christian culture. From Portugal to Moscow.

  • Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson

    It seems rather odd that Mr Arudo is demanding to be “Japanese and white”, yet the bank teller that triggered this article is merely “an Asian gentleman”; how come he does not merit a hyphenated heritage?

    • Steve Jackman

      Hmm, that is profound!

      • 6810

        No, it’s not. It’s ironic. It’s hypocritical. It’s poor writing, poor thinking and poor judgement.

        I refer of course to the text “Asian gentleman” of course.

    • Toolonggone

      Well, Canada is one of the top list for many Asian people to choose for migration.

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

        The point is, Debito profiled the teller (in his original telling of the incident, on his blog) as a Korean immigrant, based solely on the teller’s name.

        In other words, when presented with someone of a Northeast Asian ethnicity, and an apparently Korean-sounding surname, debit profiled the teller as “Korean immigrant”. Not “Canadian”, not “Asian-Canadian”, Korean immigrant. And he thinks that is OK.

        But a bank teller, part of whose job is to be on the lookout for bank fraud, asks a caucasian who speaks English with an American accent for ID, is presented with a Japanese passport (which he really has no way of ascertaining the authenticity of), thinks “well this is unusual” and BAM! He’s a racist.

      • def

        I think it’s possible to show Debito as a baby without trying to legitimise the tellers reaction as a search for bank fraud. Debito’s situation is unusual, and people shouldn’t be penalised for being surprised, much less expressing it in polite terms. Debito’s need to find microagressions in everything makes me wonder what really made him want to be a Japanese citizen. How the f*** did he find a venue to pay him to write this stuff as anything other than click bait?

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

        I think it’s possible to show Debito as a baby without trying to legitimise the tellers reaction as a search for bank fraud.

        Perhaps, but…

        Part of Debito’s grievance is that in this case, asking about Debito’s unusual situation is unacceptable, as this was a professional setting.

        I think it is *more* acceptable, in this setting or at immigration, and not merely “acceptable” but *mandatory*, that bankers and immigration officials, among others, be on the lookout for potential fraud and abuse, dot their i’s and cross their t’s, regardless if that “triggers” someone with a massive ship on their shoulder.

      • Toolonggone

        Yeah, yeah, I think I heard you made a similar tirade thrown at me months ago.

    • At Times Mistaken

      I read this whole article and I kind of get it but at the risk of sounding racist ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT is that Canadian and Asian guy and if he’s going to be okay after losing a day’s pay and what’s going to happen to him when he goes back to work and if there will be a cloud of ethno-supremacy hanging over his head and did that punishment really fit his “crime?”

    • Joe Kurosu, M.D.

      I did wonder how it was determined that the teller was “Asian”, and a “gentleman”. Based on the person’s looks, I imagine…but we are not to judge by that…correct?

  • tisho

    Debito, you will make your life a whole lot easier if you try to understand what is the source of your frustration. it is not their behavior that angers you, it is your own false expectations that you have. You expect one thing based on what you think ‘should’ happen, and when it doesn’t, you get angry. Here are some quotes from what you said:

    ”Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting
    and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.” It may be problematic to you, but it is not for them. You are raised in a multicultural diverse country, you know what cultural sensitivity is, and you are used to seeing various diverse people all around you. The people you have spoke with, do not and have not.

    ”It shouldn’t be an issue. They are Japanese children, full stop.” Again, ”should” means, ”according to my view and understanding”, but the reality shows that it is an issue, and you are angry at your own false expectations of what the reality should be. Accept the reality for what it is. If you want to change it, you have to first accept it for what it is.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      Debito goes out of his way to make his life difficult. Granted, he’s become somewhat famous doing it, so by all means, but still… I remember reading the first articles of his on his blog about how if a policeman asks you for your ID, you should ask in Japanese why you are being asked to show your ID, are you under arrest, etc, etc… instead of just showing your ID and getting on with your bloody life.

      • tisho

        I support his efforts to bring change to Japan but his way is incorrect. The only way to change people is through education. There are many things that can be done in Japan to bring about change, but getting angry at people for not acting the way you think they should is not going to help or change anybody.

      • Steve Jackman

        But, Debito IS educating people through his writing. From everything I’ve seen and read, I have NEVER seen him react with anger in any of the situations he’s been in. So, what are you talking about?

      • tisho

        Well he said it himself, he said ” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.” ”, i take the ”i snapped back” as in he got angry and overreacted to that guy. You can tell he is very frustrated reading this article. Also, there was one video i watched from his website i can’t remember the name but he was participating in a documentary about Japan for a foreign media and there was one scene he intentionally went to a restaurant that had the ”japanese only” sign and he intentionally started arguing with the person from the restaurant, even though the guy from the restaurant told him that he doesn’t make the decision, his bosses are responsible, he kept pushing that guy telling him how he is a japanese and all that in a very angry matter. Like i said, i understand his frustration and i would probably be even more frustrated if i were in his place but he’s not going to change anything this way. He needs to realize he is a black person who just moved to the US in the 60s. He is there to fight for change, not to expect things to be ”fixed”. If you are going to take on that battle then you have to be prepared for what is coming to you. You’re not going to have it easy.

      • tisho

        One more thing about his website.. i can’t classify his website as an educational campaign because his website is all in English and is clearly aimed at english speaking people. You should know that very very few Japanese speak English, and among them, probably less than 1 percent know of debito’s website. If he is serious about the educational campaign, his effort should be concentrated where it matters, which is creating and advertising only in Japanese for Japanese people. Take for example the anti-abe groups. The three main groups are very active, they quickly established themselves through their own websites – kyujokowasuna dot com, sealds dot com and sogakari dot com. It’s all in Japanese for Japanese, they are all very active in Twitter, Facebook and they regularly organize events, protests to inform other people and gather support. This is what i call a serious campaign. Debito should do the same. He needs a clear campaign goals, he needs to establish a very good website only FOR Japanese in Japanese and he needs to be very pro-active. I am sure he will gather a lot of support from a lot of people if he does that the way it should be done. Eventually if he could gather enough support to change the educational system if that’s what he wants to do. Right now i don’t know what he wants to do other than see Japan accepting foreigners like Japanese.

    • Toolonggone

      >”Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.” It may be problematic to you, but it is not for them.

      No. It’s extremely problematic for anyone working in professional setting to poke fun at the personal profile. It has nothing to do with bank transaction. This kind of conduct could even raise a red flag in Japanese domestic bank. Why asking for trouble?

      • tisho

        It is not problematic to the people who are doing it, otherwise they would not be doing it.

      • Toolonggone

        What they believe it’s ok does not mean it’s ok to poke at client’s personal profile in professional setting. You don’t do that especially in a situation you face Japanese clients for the first time. I’m sure they will get very upset if a teller starts talking about their personal information.

    • Steve Jackman

      That’s funny, because Debito does not come across as angry or frustrated to me. He’s never angry and does not throw temper tantrums in the situations he describes. Quite to the contrary, he always seems very professional, calm and collected to me. I think it is many of the posters here attacking him who seem much angrier and much more frustrated than he is.

  • Al_Martinez

    “Don’t get me wrong: People can think what they like. But if they
    articulate thoughts inaccurate, unkind or alienating about us or the
    people we care for, we should reserve the right to push back accordingly…”

    I’m not sure how the bank teller did any of this. David must surely be aware that white folk make up a tiny, tiny percent of the people in the world holding Japanese passports. To express surprise or curiosity when confronted with said individual is completely natural.

    Had I been in the same situation, here’s how It might have gone (an exchange where my shoulders were unburdened with chips):

    Teller: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

    Me: “I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.”

    Teller: “Hmm, that’s interesting. What made you decide to get Japanese citizenship?”

    Me: “I was tired of dealing with the U.S. and its BS tax filing requirements, and I had decided to make Japan my permanent home.”

    Teller: “What it hard to get?”

    Me: “Yeah, there were a few hoops to jump through.”

    Teller: “Well, best of luck to you. Safe travels.”

    • wind

      Excellent approach. If I’m ever in a similar situation, I’ll just substitute “US and its BS tax filing requirements” for “Canada and its BS sympathy for child molesters” and keep the rest word for word (unless you wish to copywrite this fine dialogue).

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

      I actually have been in the exact same situation Debito Arudou has been. I am a white born and raised in America former U.S. citizen now Japanese national. An Asian-American SFO immigration officer said “You don’t look Japanese” upon inspecting my passport. You know how I handled it? I said,

      “Yeah, I get that a lot.”

      That’s it. End of story. He smiled, I smiled. He learned that not all people with Japanese passports look Asian and probably made a mental note to not assume from now on. I didn’t need to chastise or punish or embarrass him to educate him. My mere existence is education enough. Was I offended? Of course not. I’m a native American English speaking white male in the United States. Life is pretty easy for people like me in the U.S.A.

      • Toolonggone

        >Life is pretty easy for people like me in the U.S.A. (and Canada).

        Well, I’m not so sure if you are confident in saying this now as it used to be.

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

        Can I say that white English speaking men (“people like me”) have it easier than women or people of other races or ethnicities in North America? Unfortunately, yes I still can. I can “[confidently say] this”.

      • Toolonggone

        Unless you get hired by some kind of data-mining industry that makes you feel so guilty of selling sensitive information? Or until you get replaced by a bunch of outsourced H1b workers from India and China? Oh never mind. You have nothing to do with any of them, don’t you? Good for you!

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

        If you’re trying to counter argue that white English speaking men have it rough compared to non-whites and/or women, then perhaps you really do belong as part of the Debito org club!

      • Toolonggone

        I have never brought up that white v. non-white comparison. That’s what you are doing here. Nice try, though.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, I find your holier-than-though and self righteous attitude quite distasteful and narrow-minded. Your comments portray you as someone who is not very tolerant of different views, because of your, “my way or the highway” attitude. You and Debito are different people and he is entitled to dealing with issues of race which affect him in a different way than you would. Frankly, I will take him anytime over you.

      • 田辺先生

        Steve ou seem very eager to apologize for and stand up for Debito. Edie’s comments are not intolerant, not in the least. Rather, he is saying “white men have it easy in most of North America”. He does not condone this truth, but recognizes that for the time being, it is reality. He has common sense. Debit does seem eager for an argument.

      • Toolonggone

        You don’t have to expect two individuals of same biological country, same cultural/ethnic background, and same path to be on the same page. It’s kind of like comparing apple to orange. I am a native speaker of Japanese, but I don’t share opinions with people–such as those preaching for anti-Chinese, anti-Korean sentiment just because they are Japanese.

  • skillet

    Well dude, I sympathize. But we cannot have everything we want. You got free of the IRS. You do not know how envious I am. Looks like you got a good deal. Even acheived a deal of fame.

    You have some legitimate complaints. But it is too bad that all you can publish is criticism of Japan (even if it is all correct !).

    I have often entertained the same idea. But no, I have a family farm here and I love North Carolina too much.

    Let me suggest an article. Many ex-patriots and aspiring ex-patriots would love to read about “The USA, IRS etc.

    You could pull it off. The advantages of renouncing USA citizenship. Hearing silly gaijin comments by Japanese may well be worth the trade-off of dealing with IRS, FACTA etc.

    Escaping the IRS might well be harder than going over the Berlin Wall was.

  • S o p h i e

    I enjoyed this article because I relate so much.
    I have had very similar experiences with rude comments like this and when it happens to you on a daily basis it gets extremely annoying.
    I am of mixed race, (Japanese and French), and I have had a bank teller refuse to make a bank account because I didn’t “look Japanese”. I had shown him my passport, resident card and a resident cert. and he still wasn’t satisfied. I went to complain and try again another day and was met with another teller who opened one for me straight away.
    I think people need to be more open minded about minorities.
    Asking me where I’m from is alright but not believing me when I am taking time to explain my story is just rude.

    • AlfredvonTirpitz

      That must have been a terribly insulting experience.

      “Asking me where I’m from is alright but not believing me when I am taking time to explain my story is just rude.”

      – For sure. But Debito thinks it would be rude for others to even ask how it comes he has a Japanese passport.

      • Toolonggone

        I’m afraid you have some comprehension issue.

    • def

      The story you described is inexcusable, but nothing like Debito’s ‘problems.’ My daughter is half-Canadian, half-Japanese, so I hope she never has such a problem, but a guy like Debito should consider such surprise a cost of admission to Japanese citizenship.

      • Steve Jackman

        Nice of you to decide for Debito as to what cost of admission he should have to pay for his Japanese citizenship. I’m sure he thanks you for the favor.

      • def

        I didn’t decide it, the sitting state of the country did. Would you walk into another person’s home and then tell them how to behave? That’s pretty obnoxious.

      • Steve Jackman

        Debito is Japanese, so he’s not walking into anyone’s home. Japan is his home country.

      • def

        No, it’s not. Why would you think that? It’s his adopted home. Any English native would not think ‘home country’ means what you think it does. Good look in the future, dude. You obviously are ‘adopting’ language to suit your world view. Life will continue to frustrate.

      • Nathan C. Flood

        Oh? Maybe you should think again, brah.

        You think home country means the place you were born? Or perhaps the place you’ve lived a majority of your life?

        As a native English speaker, I refute your narrow interpretation of what home country means.

        Language evolves with the times. You need to evolve too because those primitive grunts of yours aren’t going help you much in the future.

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

        This month’s column is not about Japan, it is a long whinge about how he is treated outside Japan, when he is “walking into another person’s home”.

    • Ronald W. Nixon

      It seems as though you handled a difficult situation in a professional manner. The problem with the story in this article is that the teller was seemingly shouted at, berated, humiliated, and is now being subjected to ongoing online bullying. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • Clickonthewhatnow

    “Lose the racism”, indeed. The author should move back to North America, he seems to have the horrible mindset of PCism that exists there.

    • Oliver Mackie

      ”The author should move back to North America”
      FYI, he already has.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Good. As much fun as it was reading him saying he prefers Japan but all the cops are out to get you and people ask questions when you say you are Japanese but don’t look asian… etc, etc…

      • Oliver Mackie

        Oh, you still going to be able to read him. He needs to pay that alimony somehow….

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        I know, right? It’s not like he had to stretch – I mean, he had already worn out “people don’t see me as Japanese in Japan”, so it was only a matter of time before we saw “people don’t see me as Japanese outside of Japan”.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Worldwide branding, perhaps?

  • AlfredvonTirpitz

    Debito is right that in an ideal world no-one connects race to nationality, and we are all without prejudices. However, this ideal world is not going to exist for at least several centuries, if ever.

    Meanwhile, back on earth, 99,99999999% of Japanese “look” Japanese, and you can’t expect these people to not be surprised when encountering a white Japanese and not ask questions. In fact, it is disingenuous, because Debito was in fact not born in Japan, and his parents are not Japanese.

    • Toolonggone

      It may be ok for people who make a choice to become citizen of an adopted country’ in later life. It’s their decision, and many of those are mature enough to deal with racial/cultural baggage and stereotypes in Japan. But what about the kids who were born to the parents of different nationalities? Is it fair to them to ask exactly the same type of tolerance to racial/ethnic profiling and cultural baggage at schools and their social life since they were born??? That’s exactly the issue that needs to be in conversations.

  • nerdydesi

    What Debito needs to get through his head is that Japan is NOT Canada. It is very much still a homogeneous society and country no matter how much he wants it not to be. He’s getting into a fit for nothing. Please excuse people for expressing surprise that he has Japanese citizenship when yes, he does not look like a typical Japanese person.

    Why is he throwing such a temper tantrum?

    At least now finally perhaps he and other white people can realize the racism and ostracization that so many non-whites like us face everyday living in Western countries, despite many who are born as native-born citizens, may only speak English, only know American culture and customs, etc or for those who spent thousands of dollars and years to become naturalized American citizens. It took me 11.5 year to become an American citizen, despite coming here as a Canadian citizen.

    Several times, I’m told as someone of South Asian origin that I don’t look like a typical American but I don’t throw a hissy fit over it like Debito does, even when America is such a diverse country. I am only seen as a “full American” if I look Caucasian.

    Typical white privilege coming from him, expecting him to fit in wherever he goes, and that he should never face a single ounce of racism, exclusion, etc. As someone who may never fit entirely in the U.S, let me play the world’s smallest violin for him.

    • Oliver Mackie

      “Why is he throwing such a temper tantrum?”

      It’s how he makes his living. Did you not note the three links to his blog and the promotion for the new book?

      • blondein_tokyo

        Links were pertinent to the discussion, so that people could read the discussion that ensued on his blog, especially the part where he concedes that he overreacted to the clerk. He mentions his book to give credence to his claim of expertise, and yes- as a promotion. It’s called publicity, which is what every person who writes books, starts in movies, has a band, or is any other kind of public figure, does.

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

        Debito’s “concession” doesn’t seem to have been worth the bytes it took to post it on his blog. I didn’t think it would be – Debito has a long history of being wrong, admitting (eventually) he was wrong, and then later going right back to the beginning and starting all over again as if his admission (and sometimes apology) never happened.

        So I was fully expecting this column, the only surprise was that it came so soon. Then again, just a few months ago he did say he was getting older, and there was “so much left to do”, so perhaps he has decided he no longer has the time to spare for even the pretense of self-reflection.

      • Steve Jackman

        Not sure what you’re talking about, since nowhere do I see Debito getting angry, losing his temper or throwing a temper tantrum. In fact, his interactions with the bank teller and bank manager all seem extremely professional, where he is very calm and collected.

      • AlfredvonTirpitz

        Debito, is that you?

    • Steve Jackman

      You say you are of South Asian heritage, so it surprises me that you do not seem to know that two out of fifty states in the U.S. now have Indian-Americans as Governors (South Carolina and Louisana). Voters in these states obviously considered them to be full Americans and American enough to become their state’s Governors. Indian-Americans are also the CEOs of many of the largest American corporations in the U.S.

      It also surprises me that you would characterize Debito’s legimitate points about race as him throwing a temper tantrum. Did it never occur to you that Mahatama Gandhi was similarly accused of throwing a temper tantrum by Apartheid-era authorities in South Africa when he insisted on riding a whites-only train and was subsequently thrown off of it? The British rulers of India also accused him of throwing temper tantrums.

      Fighting against racism and racist attitudes should never be condidered as throwing a temper tantrum. Shame on you for not knowing your own history.

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

        racism and racist attitudes

        I do not think those words mean what you think they do.

      • Steve Jackman

        Ah, another one of your cryptic messages.

    • Moogiechan

      Throwing tantrums doesn’t look very Japanese, either.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Heh. You probably haven’t spent much time around older, entitled Japanese men, then. That type constantly throws tantrums, every time they don’t get their way or if they think someone is questioning them. Not to mention a certain type of Japanese woman, likewise entitled, who will throw a fit if she thinks it will get her what she wants. I see this all the time, in my office, on the train, in restaurants..and so on.

    • blondein_tokyo

      “expecting him to fit in wherever he goes, he should never face a single ounce of racism, exclusion, etc.”

      This reads as thought you think racism should be tolerated. Is that what you actually mean, or did you just word this a little too loosely?

      Maybe you can explain why you think it is white privilege to have the expectation not be racially stereotyped or face prejudice for one’s appearance. Do only people of color face racism, do you think? Is it wrong for Caucasians to get upset when they face racism?

    • tisho

      America =/= Western countries

      English speaking countries =/= Western countries
      Europe+Americas = Western countries
      You speak of United States of America, not Europe, Canada or South America. Please refer only to America as America. European countries are very different from America.

      • 田辺先生

        There is in fact diversity in other Western nations; Ireland, Germany, Canada, England, France…. Tic, I know not from where you hail but most of Europe is becoming quite diverse. Therefore, using the term “Western countries” to discuss diversity is quite logical.

    • Steve Jackman

      On the contrary, I think Japan can learn a lot from the way developed and advanced countries like Canada deal with racist attitudes, be they real or perceived. One can argue about whether or not Debito’s response to the bank teller’s comment was appropriate, but the more important point is that the bank manager in Canada immediately reprimanded the teller once his inappropriate comment was brought to the manager’s attention. This is what taking responsibility and accountability is all about, and the bank manager demonstarted strong leadership by sending a clear message to his staff that there is no place for such unprofessional behavior at his bank. Unfortunately, this type of thing would never happen in Japan and therein lies the problem.

      Canada has a large number of recent immigrants, many of them from Asia. Sometimes, these immigrants bring their own biases and prejudices with them to Canada. What happened in this instance is an excellent example of how countries like Canada and the U.S. successfully integrate these immigrants by teaching them about liberal Western values and about the types of behaviors that are unacceptable in their new countries. This is exactly what makes Canada and the U.S. great countries. Unfortunately, Japan is nowhere close to being in the same league, due to a culture that makes a virtue of racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination.

      All one has to do to understand the difference between Japan and Canada or the U.S. is to compare the response of the Canadian bank manager to how living in Japan changes people for the worse, as Rupert Wingfield Hayes wrote in his BBC column on June 4, 2015, “At first sight even I am a little confused by Ariana Miyamoto. She is tall and strikingly beautiful. But the first thing that pops in to my head when I meet the newly crowned Miss Universe Japan is that she doesn’t look very Japanese. In just two years here I have clearly absorbed a lot of the local prejudices about what it means to be “Japanese”.”

    • Xuca da Silva

      He is getting tired of being challenged by strangers for something that’s obviously none of their business. Put yourself in his shoes.

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

        It is not an immigration official’s business to question someone about their passport and nationality? It is not a bank teller’s business to properly ascertain ID before allowing someone to access an account?

        Really?

  • Ben

    this guy has a problem with every person he meets. maybe he should just stay inside his house and never interact with anyone. then he wouldn’t be able to find racism in every single interaction he comes across. a friendly “hello” could be misconstrued as derogatory because they should have said “ohayougozaimasu.” how dare someone not greet you in japanese!

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      His blog is hilarious. I remember the first post I read of his is how when asked for ID by the police, instead of just showing your ID and, you know, going on with your day, you should question why he needs to do it, are you under arrest, blah blah blah. Just… whenever I see his name, I prepare to stop taking things seriously and laugh.

      • Steve Jackman

        Debito’s blog is anything but hilarious. It is an extremely content-rich and valuable resource of serious materials about many issues affecting Japan. He has been working selflessly and untiredly for years to maintain his excellent blog. It is a great resource on Japan, for which many of us are thankful to him. I find your comment highly offensive.

      • 6810

        FTFY (cos truth)

        Debito’s blog is hilarious. It is a myopic, extremist leaning content-rich resource of seriously flawed materials about many issues affecting a white guy from America who took citizenship in but then fled
        Japan. He has been working selfishly and untiredly for years to
        maintain his excellent, self-aggrandizing blog. It was a marginally useful resource on Japan at a point in time, for which
        many of us acknowledged and moved on once the internet became a thing. I find your comment highly inoffensive.

  • Pedro

    A very senior Japanese executive once told me that the Japanese people are the “most Asian of Asians” – he was certainly no halfsie but a pure-bred Japanese (otherwise he would never have had his job).

    David is a gaijin. His kids will have difficulty even if they are half white. He knew this going in, and David will certainly not change Japan very soon. Half white and other combinations with pure Japanese blood have produced some very beautiful models, athletes, and scholars. I would attribute this to the genetic improvement that occurs when combining with such an inbred gene pool as Japan’s. Hell, just look at Apolo Ohno!

    It will take more decades before Japan is enough of a melting pot to dispel the perception around the world of what a Japanese person looks like. A long time ago (in the above company), I told a young, very Japanese nationalistic fellow employee that Japan could one day just become part of the US. He sharply told me that will NEVER happen!

  • Paul Martin

    There are two million gaijin in Japan and there are MANY foreigners married to Japanese including members of my family.

    It is blatant racism to infer that ONLY japanese belong in Japan anymore than if the rest of the World where many Japanese live applied the same rules !

    Japan is NOT wiser, smarter or better than foreign countries or foreign people and nationalism in any form is counterproductive so HOW we appear Japanese, Western or whatever is inconsequential to our intellectuality or life’s potentials !

    • Oliver Mackie

      intellectuality? life’s potentials? how we appear Japanese?

  • Ahojanen

    I don’t believe that a large majority of Japanese are prejudiced, their labeling and stereotyping tendency seems to die hard. All in all things do happen in almost any country to a varying degree, especially at an entry point. Except are migrant and resettlement ones like US, Canada or Australia.

    Prejudice/racism and stereotyping are different in nature. The latter is an unconscious shortcut to save cognitive efforts.

  • DisqusReader

    Well if I was in your position, I’d be happy to answer their questions and satisfy their curiosity as it’ll make for a good conversation. You don’t need to be obnoxious and rude. If you were denied of services and rights that’s when you should complain. Otherwise, stop being a baby and a clickbaiter.

  • iago

    Wonder how “Lose the racism and complete the transaction” goes down with the US Immigration officers. Assume the author treats all such incidents equally and without prejudice.

    • Mark Garrett

      I would assume that will get you “…rendered to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition…”

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

        Bloody racists!

    • Toolonggone

      Go ahead, give it a try AYOR(At Your Own Risk).

  • Meri

    “Pattern recognition” is a mental tool people use to identify patterns. When we apply it to people can create strange reactions. This happens everywhere to all nationalities. I don’t look like the nationality in my passport. When I enter a country the official always ask me something in my national language just to check if I understand it, then they tell me it was a test. At the national day lunch I have to explain that, I don’t look like a typical national but I am, and my family has always been from that country. This happens everywhere, and we should all be more global, open minded and use less “pattern recognition” to label others. And if we are being labeled, we should point it out, and help others be more open.

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

    a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

    Surprise I do expect. Vocalizing that surprise in a professional setting and calling a customer’s identity “funny” is problematic.

    I find it funny (as in: odd, unusual, unexpected, surprising) that a native speaker of English who is also a newspaper columnist has such a poor grasp of the language that he can interpret “It’s surprising you have a Japanese passport” as “It’s humorous that you have a Japanese passport.” It is almost as though he lacked a decent grasp of the English language.

  • camnai

    A white guy in Canada, where white guys (I’m one) are not discriminated against, jumps down the throat of an Asian guy (who does face discrimination in Canada) who has a responsibility to make sure that the passport he has been given is a valid one. The Asian guy apologizes, and then the Manager, who the white guy doesn’t realize until later is Metis, apologizes again, and sanctions the Asian guy. I suspect that manager doesn’t like the Asian guy very much, maybe for racist reasons, maybe otherwise. I see a Metis manager throwing an Asian guy under the bus to curry favour with a white guy.

    • At Times Mistaken

      I wouldn’t go so far as to hazard a guess that the manager’s actions were racially motivated but it does sound like something fishy is going on there. It also sounds like the teller would have some pretty solid grounds for filing a grievance at the very least. I’d really like to hear his side of the story.

  • Chris Bartlett

    I really agree with the last statement in particular. No one has the right to tell other people what their identity is.

    I also think it’s time we stopped referring to people by racial labels, however you look at it, it’s racism, it perpetuates a damaging myth even if you think you have good intentions by using such labels.

  • Toaster

    He may be Japanese, but the American custom of shameless self-promotion seems pretty strong in his blood :p

  • Shady Shita

    One of the best article i’ve read :)

  • Ben

    It’s always amusing to see debito’s alter egos, Jackman and blondeinTokyo, attacking every negative comment. This comment section wouldn’t be the same without them/him.

  • blackpassenger

    this is a complete non-issue, japan is not a multicultural, multiracial society. a very small percentage of of Caucasians or Negroes in japan have Japanese passports. ok, yes, if a negro or caucasian long term resident gets a japanese passport, then s/he is TECHNICALLY japanese. Technically, but by no means socially. and its not going to happen, as long as japan is predominantly a homogenous society. No matter how hard you force it.

    Every country has a right to determine who can be classed as citizen and who cannot. unlike in the US, for eg, in japan, one is not automatically eligible for citizenship because one was born in japan. the child born in japan has to have a japanese parent in order to be eligible. In Japan there are 3rd and 4th generation koreans who are not even Japanese citizens. I think debito and everyone else for that matter, should leave japan be. There are other countries, some european ones especially who are even more restrictive with their citizenship. Denmark, another homogenous country is among them. you cant even get residency in that country through marriage. if you marry a dane, the non-danish spouse cant live in denmark. i dont hear anyone railing about that.

    The bottom line is, as long as Japan is a nation of yellow people, such will be the experiences of black, white, brown and red people who are naturalized japanese citizens.

  • Xuca da Silva

    Debito, I totally understand your point! My father was Portuguese from some tiny village and my mother of Dutch descent, then genetics played a silly game and I was born totally different from them, I look “exotic”; racially speaking people simply can’t tell where I am from and that’s the tricky bit: I grew up and lived all my life having to explain myself, trying to justify my looks whilst enduring suspicious eyes. I’m tired! I have never asked where people came from or why do they look the way they do in my life but people think they can interrogate me for my appearance. It’s rude to tell people “but you dont look like what I expected”. Debito, people who think you’re throwing tantrums are certainly very comfortable with their identity and have no idea how annoying it is to “look different from your citizenship”.

  • 田辺先生

    Reading all the comments (it is a quiet day), I get the distinct feeling Steve Jackman must BE Debito Arudou… or perhaps just a very good friend of his….

    • AlfredvonTirpitz

      Yep. I think you might have unmasked him; good work!

    • def

      I thought the same thing. Too much of a cheerleader.

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

      Steve Jackman must BE Debito Arudou… or perhaps just a very good friend of his….

      More likely a very good enemy of Debito, posing as a “friend”. Almost certainly the latest character created by a deliberately gray character, who likes to fight back via character assassination by proxy. Poe’s law.

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

    I’m Japanese and white because I earned it — through decades of study and self-education, acculturation,

    Acculturation? Really, Debito?

    living and contributing to Japanese society,

    Name one “contribution” you have made to Japanese society, please. And your blog and columns, all of which are in English, addressed to your fellow white, male English speakers, do not count.

    dedication and sacrifice (including my American citizenship and even my very name),

    You threw away your American citizenship in a pique of rage at an American consular official (as documented on your own blog) when he questioned, rightly, what you were going to do after you legally obligated yourself to divest yourself of that citizenship by taking voluntarily taking Japanese citizenship.

    There was absolutely no obligation to change your name, you chose to do that, for reasons you also made clear on your blog. So drop the “sacrifice” but, you are no martyr.

    and close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes.

    How many other countries have you naturalized in? I am only personally familiar with the naturalization process here in Japan, but I have friends and family who have naturalized in North American and European countries, and after comparing notes they were all, to a one, quite envious of the fact that there were no onerous fees, no years of waiting, no tests of language or knowledge of the culture and/or history of their new country that had to be passed before their application could proceed.

    You are entitled to your own opinions, Debito, but not your own facts.

    • skillet

      I do not agree with his approach. BUt Debito has left his mark on the world. I know how hard it is to learn Japanese. After stalling at 2-kyuu and never passing 1-kyuu on the Japanese language test. No matter how hard I tried. He should be proud of what he has acheived in Japan. Wish I could say the same. I understand his feeling of having earned the right to be Japanese/

      Debito a a great critic. But just be careful about getting all your info from critics. Even if it is all true does not mean it is balanced.

      Japan treats gaijin pretty well/

  • Toolonggone

    Nice illustration by Adam Pasion. The man’s face really looks like the author, although he is not that skinny.

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

    The author writes of earning the right to be Japanese through “sacrifice”:

    sacrifice (including my American citizenship and even my very name)

    One chooses one’s name when naturalizing, the author could have kept David Aldwinckle with no problems, so there is no “sacrifice” here. Nor did he “sacrifice” his American citizenship. He made a choice to naturalize, with full knowledge than doing so would require him to renounce his US citizenship. Again, no “sacrifice”.

    The author also claims he earned the right to be Japanese through

    close scrutiny by the Japanese government of my “Japaneseness” in ways not seen in other countries’ naturalization processes.

    I am only personally familiar with the naturalization process here in Japan, but I have friends and family who have naturalized in North American and European countries, and after comparing notes they were all, to a one, quite envious of the fact that there were no onerous fees, no years of waiting, no tests of language or knowledge of the culture and/or history of their new country that had to be passed before their application could proceed.

    These are all facts, and should be properly represented (even in an opinion column).