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Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015

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2015 was another year of a few steps forward but many steps back in terms of human rights in Japan. The progressive grass roots consolidated their base and found more of a voice in public, while conservatives at the top pressed on with their agenda of turning the clock back to a past they continue to misrepresent. Here are the top 10 human rights issues of the year as they affected non-Japanese residents:

Emmanuelle Bodin speaks after winning her case against NHK in November.
Emmanuelle Bodin speaks after winning her case against NHK in November. | KYODO

10) NHK ruling swats ‘flyjin’ myth

In November, the Tokyo District Court ordered NHK to pay ¥5.14 million to staffer Emmanuelle Bodin, voiding the public broadcaster’s decision to terminate her contract for fleeing Japan in March 2011. The court stated: “Given the circumstances under which the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima No. 1 plant’s nuclear accident took place, it is absolutely impossible to criticize as irresponsible her decision to evacuate abroad to protect her life,” and that NHK “cannot contractually obligate people to show such excessive allegiance” to the company.

This ruling legally reaffirmed the right of employees to flee if they feel the need to protect themselves. So much for the “flyjin” myth and all the opprobrium heaped upon non-Japanese specifically for allegedly deserting their posts.

Karne Hesketh scores Japan
Karne Hesketh scores Japan’s winning try against South Africa at the Rugby World Cup in Brighton, England, on Sept. 19. | KYODO

9) Multiethnic rugby team excels

Japan’s Brave Blossoms did better than ever before in the Rugby World Cup, narrowly missing the quarterfinals after beating not only Samoa and the United States but also former world champions South Africa in a nail-biting finish. Impressive, since they had won only one World Cup match before (in 1991), but this issue makes the top 10 because their squad included naturalized and multiethnic Japanese players who did not “look Japanese.”

A resounding testament to the power of diversity, this happy event came about, it must be noted, after scathing criticism in 2011 of the team’s performance in the previous World Cup. Then, Japan Rugby Union board members reportedly blamed the team’s woes on the presence of “too many foreigners” (including naturalized former non-Japanese), causing a subsequent ethnic cleansing of the team. Clearly that didn’t last, and it probably won’t happen again.

Ayako Sono peruses a copy of National Geographic. The former government adviser praised South Africa’s apartheid system in a column in the Sankei Shimbun in February.
Ayako Sono peruses a copy of National Geographic. The former government adviser praised South Africa’s apartheid system in a column in the Sankei Shimbun in February. | KYODO

8) Ayako Sono advocates “Japartheid”

Sono, an octogenarian novelist and former member of a government panel on education reform, summoned her reserves of knowledge about South Africa under apartheid and wrote a Sankei Shimbun column in February suggesting that “blacks,” “whites” and “Asians” cannot live together. Stating that foreign workers in Japan should similarly live in special segregated zones by race, Sono never made it clear how, say, Chinese and Japanese, who are both “Asians,” would square with her theories of racial compatibility.

Although her column elicited protests from citizens’ groups and even the South African ambassador (as it was, ironically, published on the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison), it was never withdrawn, and Sono unapologetically went back to her rigorous studies of world governmental systems. Yet another example of how old Japanese bigots — like former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara with his rants about Chinese “criminal DNA” — can publish hate speech in Japan’s mainstream media with impunity.

Zaitokukai members demonstrate in Osaka  against the granting of special rights for Korean residents in 2014.
Zaitokukai members demonstrate in Osaka against the granting of special rights for Korean residents in 2014. | KYODO

7) Striking back against hate speech

Meanwhile, the debate on hate speech itself heated up this year. Anti-racism demonstrators held their third regular annual rally. Osaka seriously deliberated ordinances and panels to punish hate speech. Last month, the Justice Ministry issued its first-ever official warning for hate speech against the president of anti-Korean group Zaitokukai, and suspended the decade-old Immigration Bureau online “snitch sites” for anonymously ratting on non-Japanese. Even the Shinzo Abe Cabinet paid lip service to the issue in “mind your manners” campaigns.

While many of these efforts stalled before becoming codified in law, the grass roots continued to advocate for tolerance, showing up wherever xenophobes carried out public displays of hate. Thus, it seems, Japanese society no longer ignores or tolerates overt street-corner bigotry like it once did — or at least not while the Tokyo 2020 Olympics loom.

SEALDs founder Aki Okuda leads a protest in September in front of the Diet against new security legislation.
SEALDs founder Aki Okuda leads a protest in September in front of the Diet against new security legislation. | REUTERS

6) SEALDs burns its bridges

On the other hand, the most high-profile youth group against the Abe Cabinet’s right-wing push (and darling of the international media), the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), decided to flame out with flair. At an news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, SEALDs leaders announced that with their impending graduation from college, they wouldn’t just be stepping down in 2016 as organizers — they would disband the group without a transition to a younger generation.

Coming off as more concerned with their own short-term individual interests than the larger movements within Japanese society, SEALDs seemed to show that even Japan’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and appealing young activists (which matters, as this year the voting age will drop from 20 to 18) are nonetheless intimidated by power, and treat human rights advocacy as a temporary hobby.

Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto
Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto | BLOOMBERG

5) Ariana Miyamoto represents Japan

One person not giving up the fight despite all the flak and pressure has been Miyamoto, the multiethnic Japanese-American beauty queen who signaled that looks transcend nationality — at least as far as the pageant judges were concerned. As for the Japanese public (which generally loves to jealously denigrate beautiful people for whatever flaws they can find), her racial background was an easy target, and people openly questioned her “Japaneseness” and ability to represent the nation.

Gracious and undeterred, Miyamoto spoke out to whomever would listen (and the Japanese media generally didn’t) to stress that she was in fact 100 percent Japanese, and that she would push back against discrimination in Japan. Sadly, Miyamoto did not win Miss Universe in December (which might have caused a media explosion in favor of diversity on the scale of that sparked by the rugby victories), but she still made the contest’s top 10. Another event underscoring the benefits of Japan’s latent diversity.

A statue of a girl representing sexual victims of the Japanese military stands in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
A statue of a girl representing sexual victims of the Japanese military stands in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. | REUTERS

4) Battle over history spills overseas

2015 was also the year that Japan’s overseas missions attacked American publisher McGraw-Hill for alleged “factual errors” in its college history textbooks. As covered in this column (“U.S. author recounts ‘lecture’ he got about ‘comfort women’ from uninvited Japanese guests,” March 5), the Japanese Consulate in Hawaii demanded historian Herbert Ziegler delete a section on Japan’s officially sponsored wartime sexual slavery in his book on world history. Ziegler refused and prominent historians joined him in putting their names to a statement of solidarity, published in the American Historical Association’s March newsletter, against government pressure on academic freedom.

Then Japanese rightists, who were also coordinating protests towards comfort-women statues set up in locations outside Japan, began leafleting and turning the screws on signers. At the end of the year, 50 Japanese scholars signed a counter-solidarity letter renewing the accusations of fictionalized history. Thus, the fight to control the historical narrative on Japan’s wartime atrocities expanded beyond its borders, further souring Japan’s relations with its neighbors.

A four-page newspaper ad in the Sankei Shimbun placed by pop group SMAP urges voters to stick with the Liberal Democratic Party in the 2009 elections. The LDP subsequently lost the election.
A four-page newspaper ad in the Sankei Shimbun placed by pop group SMAP urges voters to stick with the Liberal Democratic Party in the 2009 elections. The LDP subsequently lost the election. | BLOOMBERG

3) Controlling the media message

Speaking of narratives, Japan’s media conglomerates made significant moves to expand their message outside Japan in 2015. As covered in this column (“Media redraw battle lines in bid for reach,” July 6), the Fuji group (publisher of the aforementioned Sankei Shimbun) acquired the hitherto non-Japanese-owned Japan Today, with editorial judgments on the site subsequently becoming noticeably more sympathetic towards Japan-conservative viewpoints.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, whose parent company took a stake in U.K. group Monocle in 2014 to “further boost its global reach,” likewise had positive things to say about Japan, headlining Tokyo as “the world’s most livable city” (indeed news to some of its residents). Last month, the Nikkei group also finalized its $1.3 billion purchase of the Financial Times, giving the media group a venerable brand with a truly global reach.

Thus 2015 was the year that all of Japan’s major dailies established media mouthpieces in English, taking a cue from the decades of Japanese governmental programs to control the narrative in Japanese Studies in overseas universities (in which, incidentally, new investments in endowed professorships were also announced this year).

A former soldier salutes at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Aug. 15, the 70th anniversary of Japan
A former soldier salutes at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Aug. 15, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat. | BLOOMBERG

2) Shinzo Abe tinkers with history

This year also marked the septuagennial (look it up) year of the end of the bloodiest war in human history. World War II’s legacy remains an obsession among Japan’s elites, as they seek to shift wartime responsibility away from their relatives (making everyone, including the perpetrators, into victims of the war).

As Abe himself is a grandson of an alleged war criminal, his commemoration speech was closely watched, and heralded by some as a progressive statement. However, historians and others claimed it “fails history 101,” ignoring essential reasons behind Japan’s aggressive colonial campaigns and misportraying the millions sacrificed on all sides as a step toward Japan’s modernization. Incorrect: Postwar Japan became rich and successful despite the designs of Japan’s militarists, not because of them. But Abe was pretty much destined to get away with this egregious revisionism from as far back as last April, emboldened by the most significant event on the list this year:

Prime minister Shinzo Abe addresses a joint meeting of Congress with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joseph Biden in Washington on April 29.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe addresses a joint meeting of Congress with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joseph Biden in Washington on April 29. | BLOOMBERG

1) U.S. greenlights remilitarization

Finally, 2015 was the year the U.S. “re-balance toward Asia” met Japan’s newfound “collective self-defense,” where the antidemocratic designs of Japan’s elites were ignored in the rush to contain China. Essentially, Abe remains in power because the hegemon refuses to undermine his administration (in marked contrast to the fate of his left-leaning predecessors, who sought rapprochement with Beijing).

Abe’s overt plans to remilitarize Japan can only happen with the blessing of the United States. (Similarly, the seemingly intractable comfort women issue is only now approaching a form of resolution due to prodding from the Americans.) The U.S. keeps military bases on Japanese soil not only to maintain its hegemony in the region, but also, in the words of American military strategists, “to keep the cork in the bottle.” Now, with the cork being loosened, Abe is more able than ever to destabilize the region through saber-rattling and historically ignorant rhetoric, and that, in turn, will foster the recrudescence of Japan’s theories of racial/military superiority from dark days of yore.

Based on these trends, it can be assumed that Japan will continue to ignore the civil and human rights of its perpetually subordinated noncitizen residents. Back in December 1995, Japan signed the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination and promised “without delay” to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to eliminate racial discrimination. Now, exactly 20 years later, Japan still has no civil or criminal law against racial discrimination, and with all this “re-balance” toward militarism, there is even less pressure on Japan from abroad to pass one. That’s one reason why some of these issues make the top 10, often every year.

Left to right: Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet review in October off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture.
Left to right: Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet review in October off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. | KYODO

Other issues bubbling under:

• Physics Nobel laureate Shuji “slave” Nakamura advises ambitious Japanese to leave Japan.

• Ministry of Justice rules that Ryugoku University exchange student’s denial of apartment is “not a violation of human rights.”

• Overseas work and study officially seen as a black mark in hiring process for bureaucrats who might handle “state secrets.”

• Education ministry suggests universities abolish their liberal arts departments.

• U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland takes his child abduction case to Japanese court to test the country’s commitment to the Hague Convention.

• Fuji TV decides not to broadcast musical acts Rats & Star and Momoiro Clover Z performing in minstrel-style blackface.

Debito Arudou’s latest book, “Embedded Racism,” is available from Amazon, or directly from the publisher with 30 percent off. See www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • AlfredvonTirpitz

    Interesting and original write-up, highlighting important issues, but also shows incoherency and the obvious personal issues Debito has with Japan.

    – “Thus, it seems, Japanese society no longer ignores or tolerates overt street-corner bigotry like it once did — or at least not while the Tokyo 2020 Olympics loom.”

    The vast majority of Japanese citizens do not condone the hate-speech of the anti-Korean demonstrations. But Debito, without giving any evidence cynically insinuates that these Japanese people only reject hate-speech to make Japan look good for the Olympics. He also does not mention that it was Hashimoto Toru who stood up against hate speech in Osaka, since this does not fit into his black & white narrative of right-wing Japanese politicians.

    – Ariyana Miyamoto’s case; yes, it is not a surprise that some folk thought she does not look Japanese, because, well, she does not. She is Japanese of course, and lots of people online and in social media came out in support of her. The Japanese media largely ignored her, because they always ignore Miss World/Universe contests, believing that they represent Western concepts of beauty.

    – That the SEALD’s are young does not make them right. Nowadays everybody treats young folk with a cellphone and a Twitter account as “vibrant, cosmopolitan and appealing young activists.” Where were they when the LDP was elected with a clear agenda to change Japan’s security posture? We can have a debate about this, but lots of people don’t agree with the SEALD’s. Other voters also matter, since this is a democracy.

    – Yes, the US wants Japan to take a larger role in defence. But let’s not mention that China’s military spending has tripled in past years, and that its Navy has added more ships in one year than the whole Japanese Maritime Defence Forces have. No, it is all about American imperialism.

    – Physics Nobel laureate Shuji “slave” Nakamura advises ambitious Japanese to leave Japan. – Isn’t that great?

    Let me guess, now “Steve Jackman” will come to the defence of Debito, as always.

    • tisho

      He’s 100% right that the Japanese only reject hate-speech because it tarnishes their perceived image. There is plenty of evidence for this too. I don’t know how much you know about Japanese culture, but image is at the core center of everything. The perceived image of you, how others view you is more important than how things actually are. Just go ahead and ask your Japanese friends, ask some people on the street, they will tell you that anti-korean demos are justified but a little bit too much, because it makes Japan look bad. I have been told this exact thing before from a SEALDs supporter. You can also see this from one of the right-wing historical revisionist channels on YouTube, a guy that would have no problem nuking Korea said one time – ”lets stop calling Koreans cockroaches, it effects our image”. They’re not even hiding it anymore, they’re open about it. By the way, SEALDs lost all credibility in my eyes when they posted a supposed anti-war video, but the entire videos only shows the atomic bombings and Japanese victims, again portraying themselves as the little victim, not a word mentioned about the millions of people they slaughtered across Asia.

      China military spending has tripled, and it is still miles and miles and miles away behind the US and Japan. China is rising to be the dominant superpower, is it not only natural and logical that they would want to have a strong army? Their military is still behind Japan in many ways, even thought their economy is already 3 times larger than Japan’s. Japan for its small size has a very big military, China is 3 times the size of the US, and their economy will soon be larger than Europe and US combined together, is it not logical that they would want to have an army that reflects their economic power?

      • 69station

        “I don’t know how much you know about Japanese culture, but image is at the core center of everything. The perceived image of you, how others view you is more important than how things actually are.”

        Whilst, of course, others (be they American, European, or whatever) are totally unconcerned with their (self, group) image, immune to personal psychological imperfections, and spend every moment of their existence devoted to ‘ the truth’ of how things ‘actually are.’

        I don’t know which I’m more amused at, your uninteresting points about how one particular cultural group are…….just like every other cultural group, or your boringly predictable belief that yours is somehow the chosen one. (Actually, I think I’ll go for the latter.)

      • Steelhound

        No one said western countries weren’t concerned with image but the Japanese are positively obsessed with it. Most of their programs on NHK are aimed at showing how beautiful and attractive Japan is. Cool Japan is basically one big vanity project created to get foreigners to agree on how cool Japan is.

      • 69station

        Whilst ‘Cool Britannia’ was what, exactly?

      • Steelhound

        Don’t know what that is and don’t care.

      • 69station

        Exactly, don’t care about evidence that points to the contrary of your opinions. Keep it that way, eh. It’s a nice way to never have to face reality.

      • Steelhound

        The point is no one goes out of their way to promote their countries the way Japan does. Not even “Cool Britain”. The whole Cool Japan initiative is part of that so kindly stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

      • 69station

        Wow, brilliant. Faced with clear evidence to the contrary, you restated your opinion with no extra evidence. You must teach debate, right?

      • Steve Jackman

        Steelhound is correct. “Cool Britain” was a marketing campaign. On the other hand, Cool Japan is based on dogma and ideology. Cool Japan is just repackaged Nihonjinron, which is the belief in Japanese racial uniqueness and superiority.

      • 69station

        And your evidence for that, other than impressionistic impact based on your poor commend of the native language, is what, exactly?

      • Steve Jackman

        69station wrote, “And your evidence for that, other than impressionistic impact based on your poor command of the native language, is what, exactly?” Well, I am an American who has been living and working professionally in Japan for over a decade, so that has given me first hand knowledge and experience about Japan.

        Actually, I have never disclosed my level of Japanese language ability, either here or anywhere else, yet you and several other posters using different screen names here regularly accuse me of having a “poor command of the native language”. If you guys make false accusations about me without having any basis for it whatsoever, it makes me question the validity, credibility and accuracy of the other points you make in your comments.

        Second, Japanese language ability takes a back seat to one’s observations about Japan, since actions speak louder than words. Mostly, in order to understand Japan one needs to be a keen observer of how people act in Japan and having native-Japanese language ability is not required for this. Japanese people often bring this up to see if a foreigner has been “turned” or “converted” to see things from an uncritical and unexamined Japanese perspective, since the likelihood is quite high that a foreigner who has spent a lifetime to become a native-level Japanese speaker has been “turned” to accept all things Japanese.

      • GJM

        Ok Jim, what is your level of Japanese like?

        Japanese language ability takes a back seat to one’s observerations about Japan? Are you for real?

      • Steve Jackman

        That’s because most other languages are designed to facilitate communication, whereas Japanese is often used to suppress any meaningful communication and prevent exchange of ideas.

      • GJM

        You’re either trolling (and seriously, hats off to you if you are), or you have very minimal understanding of the Japanese language. Any language is used to communicate, after all.

        My suggestion is that if you are trolling – keep on trolling. You’re pretty good. However, if you aren’t trolling, I strongly suggest putting in more effort to learn the Japanese language.

      • Steve Jackman

        You keep calling me Jim and accuse me of not being good at Japanese – then accuse me of trolling??? As I said, I’m not Jim and my Japanese is perfect, but perhaps you’re a slow learner.

      • GJM

        Keep it up, Jim :)

      • GJM

        Mr. Di Griz, you say; “That’s because most other languages are designed to facilitate communication and get to the truth, whereas Japanese is often used to suppress any meaningful communication, conceal the truth and prevent exchange of ideas.”

        – how can any rational person interpret that as either severe ignorance, or trolling?

        Either way, I’m not judging. If you’re trolling, keep going – you’re pretty good. If there was a Nobel Prize for trolling, I’m sure you’d be sporting a shiny medal and dancing with Swedish royalty.

        However, if you’re not trolling, then it’s time to hit the books a bit, mate.

      • GJM

        So Jim, what is your Japanese like anyway?

      • Steve Jackman

        Not sure who Jim is, but my Japanese is perfect. Thanks for asking. Now, how’s your intellect, since you keep calling me Jim?

      • GJM

        Yeah, it’s kind of rude of me – we are clearly not on first name terms. I’ll call you “Mr. Di Griz” from now on. My apologies.

      • 69station

        You have in fact revealed your poor Japanese language skills right here by romanizing Japanese words in a way that shows a basic ignorance of the Japanese phonetic alphabet. When challanged on this you responded that actually you werewriting it ‘as iwas actually spoken’ revealing further still your ignorance. That fact that you are still at sych an elementary stage after ten years in the country speaks more than any criticism others may vocalize.

        Your point about not needing the language and just observing how peopke act is so naive as to defy belief (though it is often trumpeted by cultural bigots.) Suffice to say thst there isn’t a single credible anthropologist of any school of thought who would agree with that.

      • Steve Jackman

        “You have in fact revealed your poor Japanese language skills right here in the past by romanizing Japanese words in a way that shows a basic ignorance of the Japanese phonetic alphabet.” Romanizing Japanese words is NOT Japanese. Get a grip!

      • 69station

        That’s your response?! Of course, Japanese can be written in the roman alphabet, quite easily if one has a correct knowledge of Japanese phonetics and the standard system(s.) Your previous attempts to do so revealed a basic ignorance of phonetics, the first thing one learns when formally studying the language. Duh!

      • 69station

        That’s your response?! Of course, Japanese can be written in the roman alphabet, quite easily if one has a correct knowledge of Japanese phonetics and the standard system(s.) Your previous attempts to do so revealed a basic ignorance of phonetics, the first thing one learns when formally studying the language. Duh!

      • Steelhound

        “Cool Britannia” was a fad that came and went in the 90’s whilst Cool Japan seems more of a continuos effort with constant Japan expos in Asia and parts of Europe.

      • KenjiAd

        No one said western countries weren’t concerned with image but the Japanese are positively obsessed with it.

        I bet you aren’t Greek (or French for that matter).

        But seriously, as a group pf people, I don’t find Japanese people particularly obsessed with Japan’s image seen by foreigners.

        Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Japanese people tend to over-emphasize the perceived uniqueness of anything Japanese, including culture, language, even the brain structure. Like their masterful use of chopsticks, as if only Japanese people can use it. lol

      • Steve Jackman

        “But seriously, as a group pf people, I don’t find Japanese people particularly obsessed with Japan’s image seen by foreigners.” That’s your view as a Japanese person. As an American living in Japan, I beg to differ.

      • Alex V

        I agree. I mean, come on. Simply turn on the TV. There are a number of shows focused only on how foreigners relate to Japan, in a creepy way that you’d virtually never see in any other country. Naturally, you never see anyone express an even remotely negative view of the country, but why Japanese even care in the first place is bewildering, if not bizarre.

      • Tangerine 18

        It’s more than just a vanity project.

        Firstly, it’s a way to take vast sums of tax money, filter them through Dentsu and Hakuhodo and deposit them in the bank accounts of large corporations. The creative people, the ones actually producing this supposedly cool stuff, receive precious little support.

        It’s certainly interesting that the Chairman of the Cool Japan Fund Inc is Mr. Kazunobu Ijima, current president of Sankei Building Co and former president of Fuji Media Holdings. Yes, the same group that owns Sankei Shimbun and Japan Today. We all know about them. Sono Ayako, black-face and sex slaves.

        Second, it serves to channel even more money from the Japanese government, institutions and companies to think-tanks and universities around the world ( but mainly in the US ). That money buys a whole lot of support for whatever Tokyo wants. We’ve seen the results this year.

        It’s a money-grubbing, cynical and thoroughly unpleasant. Abe and his cronies go to the US, dole out cash and make all the right noises. Then come home and do the exact opposite.

      • AlfredvonTirpitz

        @thisho

        China’s military spending is way beyond Japan’s, get your facts right. And Japan’s military is small for a country its size and importance, and its spending is low, well below Britain’s for example. U.S. military spending is high for many reasons, but one is that it has commitments and allies all over the world; China does not.

      • tisho

        It’s not way beyond Japan’s, Japan ranks 6th in the world in terms of military spending, Britain ranks 5th in comparison, but if you look at spending on a per capita basis, Japan spends 3 times more than China. Anyway, i was not talking about military spending, i was talking about military power. I can’t remember where i saw it now, i think it was BBC that reported on it, but Japan’s military power is way over China’s. China has one broken ass aircraft carrier which they bought from Ukraine, they didn’t even had the technology to build one until now. Japan on the other hand has 20 decommissioned aircraft carrier, they also just build a big one last year but in their typical cunning style decided to call it a helicopter carrier because it was meant to carry helicopters, even though experts said this is an aircraft carrier no matter how you look at it. In terms of technology japan is still ahead of China which is just now catching up. Look at Japan’s AIZ, it is literally crossing in between one South Korean island and intrusively stretching next to China’s shores. For it’s small little size Japan’s military is way off the chart, just like their attitude.

      • KenjiAd

        Japan on the other hand has 20 decommissioned aircraft carrier…

        By “decommissioned,” you mean sitting on the ocean floor?

        I think Japan built something like two dozens of aircraft carriers before/during WWII, several of which were really big. But only several survived, all small ones.

        After the war, the (in)famous Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has been interpreted to mean that offensive capabilities like aircraft carriers and long-ranged bombers were off limit. But Abe may change this interpretation or scrap the Article 9 altogether.

    • Toolonggone

      Regarding the hate speech, Hashimoto is not the one standing up for Zainichi in the first place. He confronted an ex-leader of Zaitokukai for his grand-stand play. His policy offered little or no support for the Zainichi’s interests at all.

    • Steve Jackman

      “Let me guess, now “Steve Jackman” will come to the defence of Debito, as always.” I’m flattered that you’re thinking of me! Glad to see that I really got under the skin of the Japan apologists here. Not sure why Japan is spending half a billion dollars a year on its PR and propaganda budget if the results are so amateurish.

      p.s. Debito is right.

      • GJM

        “Sane people” like you and Jim DiGriz? Debito’s supporters seem more like a support group for people who couldn’t make it in Japan and therefore have axe to grind to me.

      • Toolonggone

        Why do they have to have an ax to grind you?

      • Gerhard Meier

        Yes, I am thinking of *any* reason for a Western person to want to live in Japan nowadays – the only thing that comes t mind is a love for Manga and Anime.

      • Steve Jackman

        Cost of living is a function of a country’s economy. As Japan’s economy continues to languish, it is actually becoming cheaper to live here as compared to countries whose economies are growing and are stronger, such as the U.S. The problem is that wages in Japan have not kept up with the rest of the world, resulting in a low standard of living for the Japanese.

      • GJM

        Jim, you obviously know zilch about economics…

      • Steve Jackman

        You obviously don’t know what Purchasing Power Parity is.

      • GJM

        Actually, I do – I suggest you spend a bit of time reading up on basic economics, Jim.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Uh… decades of deflation, a weak currency, and low consumer spending lead to a higher cost of living in your mind? WTF econ books were you reading? lol

      • GJM

        You seem to be making an assumption of what I’ve said – all I’ve said is that “Steve” doesn’t really understand very much about economics – here’s his original comment…

        “Cost of living is a function of a country’s economy. As Japan’s economy continues to languish, it is actually becoming cheaper to live here as compared to countries whose economies are growing and are stronger, such as the U.S. The problem is that wages in Japan have not kept up with the rest of the world, resulting in a low standard of living for the Japanese.”

        Do you really think that makes sense?

      • Toolonggone

        I’m not sure if I can agree on this. While it’s true that Japanese economy has been staggering for two decades, Tokyo is getting much more expensive to live. It’s one of the richest cities in the world, surpassing NYC, DC, and other major cities in the US and Europe. Many people–including both young Japanese and non-Japanese–live in the outskirts of 23 wards or the areas close to neighboring prefectures because that’s where they can find affordable housing and apartments. They cannot live in the metropolitan area(i.e., Minatoku, Shibuya-ku, Shinagawa-ku, Chiyoda-ku) because the rents are ridiculously expensive out there. I have long-term NJ friends in Japan. They’ve been living in the neighboring prefectures like Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama. One of them lived in Setagaya area, but he just left Japan last month for good.

      • Gerhard Meier

        Tokyo is one of the richest cities in the world? It sure doesn’t look like it. It’s more like a drab 80s nightmare.

      • Toolonggone

        I’m not sure if I can agree on this. While it’s true that Japanese economy has been staggering for two decades, Tokyo is getting much more expensive to live. It’s one of the richest cities in the world, surpassing NYC, DC, and other major cities in the US and Europe. Many people–including both young Japanese and non-Japanese–live in the outskirts of 23 wards or the areas close to neighboring prefectures because that’s where they can find affordable housing and apartments. They cannot live in the metropolitan area(i.e., Minatoku, Shibuya-ku, Shinagawa-ku, Chiyoda-ku) because the rents are ridiculously expensive out there. I have long-term NJ friends in Japan. They’ve been living in the neighboring prefectures like Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama. One of them lived in Setagaya area, but he just left Japan last month for good.

    • Steve Jackman

      “Let me guess, now “Steve Jackman” will come to the defence of Debito, as always.” I’m flattered that you’re thinking of me! Glad to see that I really got under the skin of the Japan apologists here. Not sure why Japan is spending half a billion dollars a year on its PR and propaganda budget if the results are so amateurish.

      p.s. Debito is right.

    • Gerhard Meier

      Ignoring them and acting is if they don’t happen is tantamount to condoning them, if you want Japan to live up to its image as a democracy.
      You can’t have a democracy if you don’t take your part in it and get your opinion out there. If you live by the idea that voting in elections is the only thing you can do in a democracy, then it doesn’t look good for the Japanese either – the track record of electing very shady people into office (Tanaka Kakuei, Ishihara Shintarou, Aso, Abe, etc.) is a fact that no relativizing can make go away.

      Unfortunately, the majority of Japanese are culturally inhibited to speak against hate-speech groups, and choose to ignore them. That’s unfortunate, because they are taking away their own power as citizens of a democratic (on paper at least) country.

      Sometimes it seems Japanese people would prefer to live in a country like North Korea where stuff gets decided for them.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Sometimes it seems Japanese people would prefer to live in a country like North Korea where stuff gets decided for them.” Well, they kinda do, if you scratch the surface.

  • GJM

    Debito has risen from his throne in Hawaii to tell us mere peasant gaijin what the “top ten” issues facing us are. Bravo!

    • AlfredvonTirpitz

      You are probably blinded by pro-Japanese propaganda and you don’t realise you actually live in a fascist racist dystopia. All the Japanese people you know are conspiring behind your back to drown you in a well once they have the chance.

      • GJM

        Luckily for me they don’t exactly have many wells around the country any more, otherwise I’d be doomed. Thank god for people like Debito for showing us blind folk the way.

      • 69station

        Sarcasm, right?

    • J.P. Bunny

      Agreed. Can’t say anything else as any comment critical of the person in question gets pulled.

      • GJM

        makes you wonder what they are afraid of…

  • GJM

    Debito has finally risen from his throne in Hawaii to tell us mere peasant gaijin what the “top ten” issues facing us are.

    (Seems my previous post got zapped for some reason.)

  • Ronald W. Nixon

    Let’s be honest about what SEALDs really was: A vehicle for getting Beniko Hashimoto a modelling contract, and the only chance a lot of guys had of meeting a woman like her.

    • AlfredvonTirpitz

      Care to elaborate? Sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about.

  • C.J. Bunny

    Why do we need to look up septuagennial?

    • Tangerine 18

      I didn’t get where I am today by looking up septuagennial.

      • C.J. Bunny

        Great!
        Super!

    • J.P. Bunny

      Maybe he was impressed by his new word of the day and wanted to share it with others.

    • At Times Mistaken

      I figured it meant the 70th anniversary but I looked it up anyway. I searched in Webster’s, the OED as well as Collins (both the British and American editions). Yet my hunt continues because the funny thing is, the word didn’t turn up in any of those, not exactly obscure, dictionaries.

      • At Times Mistaken

        Then I thought maybe “look it up” was a copy editor’s note that got published by mistake because I can figure out why any writer would want to insult their readers.

  • 69station

    You must be joking: tourism is heading for its third consecutive 50%+ yearly growth, and there is such a boom that hotels are facing unprecedented occupancy rates. International hotel chains are standing in line to build new facilities in Kyoto and Hakone. Sales to tourists account for approximately 2% of domestic consumption and most of the recent reported growth in that area. The reason for those strong sales is the huge demand for Japanese goods which are seen by many tourists (mainly Asian) as being of superior quality, to such an extent that they even pay a premium for those same goods that are manufactured by Japanese companies in their home countries, as they are convinced that the quality control for the Japanese market is better (they are correct.) Japanese culture such as anime, manga, and so on, is hugely popular around the world, just go down to Akihabara and look at the tourists. The Japanese economy, whilst not exploding, has been on a long-term growth trend DESPITE a shrinking population (which means that the growth has come from increases in efficiency and results in increases in GDP per capita – in contrast to the U.S., for example, where total GDP growth is mostly accounted for by population growth.) 90% of domestic businesses expected further growth this year – but no, it can’t be said that the economy is booming. But it ain’t bad either. The stock market is now up for the fourth consecutive year.

    That there was ‘confidence’ in culture in the U.K. in 1996 says nothing other than it was probably misplaced.

    • Tangerine 18

      Pardon? I was just pointing out that what came to be known as Cool Britannia ( cringe ) was actually a real thing before it got that hideous name, a sudden burst of creativity in the arts, technology and business. Cool Japan is about selling rice cookers to Chinese tourists. Anime and manga are not popular around the world, no matter what Aso Taro says. You seem confused.

      • Steve Jackman

        But, wait, Japan has JK and teenage schoolgirl culture. Surely, that’s gotta count as Cool Japan?

        As CNN Tokyo correspondent Will Ripley reported on CNN news just a few days ago, teenage schoolgirls are very popular with middle aged Japanese men in their forties and fifties. Here’s a sample of his tweets about his report from Tokyo:

        – Girls as young as 16 work in #Japanese #schoolgirl cafes and #JK massage parlors.

        – #JK “Joshi-kosei” or #schoolgirl culture is huge in #Japan.

        – Disturbing culture of “schoolgirl cafes” in Japan, where the working girls are as young as 16.

        – The dark side of #Japan #schoolgirl cafes, where men pay for time w/ teen girls.

        – #JK culture in #Japan ranges from cafes to massages & #schoolgirl “walking dates”.

        I bet “Cool Britain” can’t top this!

      • GJM

        Yeah, just like “Cool Britannia” should also mention chavs, and heavily push areas such as Moss Side and Brixton as tourist areas, according to your logic.

      • GJM

        Jim, it’s like I live in a parallel universe… I’ve been living in Japan for over 15 years and I’m yet to spot these cafes you and CNN seem to think are plaguing the country. I’m sure if I was that way inclined, I could probably look harder and find them. I’m sure if I was that way inclined I could probably find some severely messed up stuff in every single country on the planet. Luckily for me, in my reality, there is a lot more to the world than these messed up things that I never see, and would have to go out of my way and look for extremely hard to find.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are either being disingenuous or clearly don’t get out very often. Just recently, Jake Adelstein did a similar expose for Vice magazine, the video for which is available on the Vice News website. Several posters here of the Japan apologist variety quickly jumped all over Jake and Vice as not credible source for news. Now that CNN has done an almost identical expose on Japan’s sexualized schoolgirl culture, I guess the same posters will attack CNN’s credibility also,

      • GJM

        Jim, I’m aware of what “Jake the fake” did for Vice. I’m not denying that such places exist – just I never see them, and I’d have to go out of my way to find them. I go almost every other night, but I don’t find places like the back blocks of Akihabara or Kabukicho very appealing.

        You seem to be cherry picking a few issues with Japan, and focusing on these. You could cherry pick issues from any country, and argue that these individual problems are “undeniable proof” that the country has massive problems. This is effectively what you, and the rest of Debito & friends are doing.

      • Steve Jackman

        You’re wrong, it’s part of the culture. AKB48 and others like it in Japan are part of the mainstream.

      • GJM

        No – you’re wrong, you’re cherry picking here. You’re cherry picking a few isolated problems and using that to justify your obvious issues with Japan, just like the rest of Debito’s “couldn’t make it in Japan” club.

      • Blair

        16 year old girls aren’t working in message parlors. That’s just a barefaced lie and you know it. Innocuous cafes where they serve omrice with a ketchup heart, yes. Get a grip on reality, man! #disingenuousbs

      • 69station

        Pardon you, but the confusion is on your side. I am referring to the British government campaign ‘Cool Britain’ ‘GREAT Britain’ ‘Britain is GREAT’ (emphasis in originals) which was aimed at……..promoting British pridycts, tourism to Britain, coming to study in Britain, and so on. In other words, exactly what the Cool Japan campaign is doing. Hence my original point that the latter is nothing particular to Japan.

    • Steve Jackman

      “tourism is heading for its third consecutive 50%+ yearly growth”. Maybe, that has something to do with the fact that the Yen has been devalued by 50% vs. other currencies during the same period. That’s also another way of saying that the Japanese people are 50% poorer now.

      It is a sad commentary on the decline of Japan that once Japanese tourists used to be seen everywhere going on expensive shopping sprees. Now, they are too poor to do that and instead have to rely on Chinese and other Asian tourists to prop up the Japanese economy. These Chinese and other Asian toursist are what Japanese tourists used to be thirty years ago. It is just further proof of the rise of China and other Asian countries, while Japan is in secular decline.

      • 69station

        Actually the start of the rapid increase in tourism predated the devaluation of the yen. (And mathematically you are way off, to be worth half as much a currency’s exchange rate has to double. But hey, don’t let truth get in the way of what you want to say, eh?) And your general point about currency devaluation is way off the mark anyway, as the decline you note is from historical highs. But sure, I don’t doubt that the rise of wealth in China has resulted in a large increase in tourism from that country. But the point remains, what is the most popular tourist destination for Chinese, now that they can afford to travel?

        Your point about Japanese tourists no longer going round the world in mega shopping trips is also off the mark. First, the same applies to Yanks, Germans, Brits, and Arabs, all of whom took their turn at being flush with new money and easy marks for hawkers and legitimate businesses. Yet I don’t see you trumpeting the decline of the US (just the opposite, in fact.) The facts are that the number of Japanese travelling abroad is at record highs (yes, check it out) but they are much wiser with their money than they used to be, just like the other groups mentioned above.

        Funny that you refer to the tourism trade as “propping up” an economy. If you follow that line, then you have to day the same for the US and Europe. And what about all the foreign students studying in the US and Europe ‘propping up’ those economies, a fact that you and others like you cite (when it suits you) as evidence othe superiority of those education systems?

        You can’t have it both ways and trying to do so merely makes you looks predisposed to criticize Japan(ese culture) solely on the basis that it is Japanese. There is a word for that.

  • AJ

    The defense of Ariana Miyamoto by referring to her as “Japanese-American” seems to undermine the premise of her own identity as Japanese. If anything, she would be “American Japanese”, American being an adjective for Japanese.

  • Mateusz82

    It’s telling how Sono,and people like her, consider “Asian” to be a racial category, like “black” and “white”, revealing how she can’t imagine blacks or whites ever being Asian.

    Thankfully, the idea that Europe is a white person’s continent, and only white people are European, is largely gone, only help by white supremacists who exist on the fringe.

    The idea that Asia is a yellow person’s continent, and only yellow people are really Asian needs to follow suit, and the racists who hold that any land only belongs to one color are all driven to the fringes.