American teacher’s spin on Japan’s racism riles Net nationalists


The Washington Post

Miki Dezaki, who first arrived in Japan on a teacher exchange program in 2007, wanted to learn about the nation that his parents had once called home.

He taught English, explored the country and affectionately chronicled his cross-cultural adventures on social media, most recently on YouTube, where he gained a small following for videos like “Hitchhiking Okinawa” and the truly cringe-worthy “What Americans think of Japan.” One of them, on the experience of being gay in Japan, attracted 75,000 views and dozens of thoughtful comments.

Dezaki didn’t think the reaction to his latest video was going to be any different, but he was wrong. “If I should have anticipated something, I should have anticipated the Net ‘uyoku’ (rightwingers),” he said, referring to the informal army of young, hyper-nationalist Japanese Web users who tend to descend on any article — or person — they perceive as critical of Japan.

But before the Net uyoku put Dezaki in their cross hairs, sending him death threats and hounding his employers, previous employers and even the local politicians who oversee his employers, there was just a teacher and his students.

Dezaki began his final lesson with a 1970 TV documentary, “Eye of the Storm,” often taught in American schools for its bracingly honest exploration of how good-hearted people — in this case, young children participating in an experiment — can turn to racism. After the video ended, he asked his students to raise their hands if they thought racism existed in Japan. Almost none did. They all thought of it as a uniquely American problem.

Gently, Dezaki showed his students that, yes, there is also racism in Japan. He carefully avoided the most extreme and controversial cases — for example, Japan’s wartime enslavement of Korean and other females in Asia for sex, which the country today doesn’t fully acknowledge — pointing instead to such slang terms as “bakachon camera.” The phrase, which translates as “idiot Korean camera,” is meant to refer to disposable cameras so easy to use that even an idiot or a Korean could do it.

He really got his students’ attention when he talked about discrimination between Japanese groups. People from Okinawa, where Dezaki happened to be teaching, are sometimes looked down upon by other Japanese, he pointed out, and in the past have been treated as second-class citizens. Isn’t that discrimination?

“The reaction was so positive,” he recalled. For many of them, the class was a sort of an aha moment. “These kids have heard the stories of their parents being discriminated against by the mainland Japanese. They know this stuff. But the funny thing is that they weren’t making the connection that that was discrimination.” From there, it was easier for the students to accept that other popular Japanese attitudes about race or class might be discriminatory.

The vice principal of the school said he wished more Japanese students could hear the lesson. Dezaki didn’t get a single complaint. No one accused him of being an enemy of Japan.

That changed two weeks ago. Dezaki had recorded his July classes and, on Feb. 14, posted a six-minute video in which he narrated an abbreviated version of the lesson. It opens with a disclaimer that would prove both prescient and, for his critics, vastly insufficient. “I know there’s a lot of racism in America, and I’m not saying that America is better than Japan or anything like that,” he says. Also that day, Dezaki posted the video, titled “Racism in Japan,” to the popular link-sharing site Reddit under its Japan-focused subsection, where he often comments. By Feb. 16, the Net uyoku had found the video.

“I recently made a video about Racism in Japan, and am currently getting bombarded with some pretty harsh, irrational comments from Japanese people who think I am purposefully attacking Japan,” Dezaki wrote in a new post on Reddit’s Japan section, also known as r/Japan. The critics, he wrote, were “flood(ing) the comments section with confusion and spin.” But angry Web comments would turn out to be the least of his problems.

The Net uyoku make their home at a website called ni channeru, otherwise known as ni chan, 2chan or 2ch (2channel). Americans familiar with the bottommost depths of the Internet might know 2chan’s English-language spinoff, 4chan, which, like the original, is a message board famous for its crude discussions, graphic images (don’t open either on your work computer) and penchant for mischief that can sometimes cross into illegality.

Some 2chan users, perhaps curious about how their country is perceived abroad, will occasionally translate Reddit’s r/Japan posts into Japanese. When the “Racism in Japan” video made it onto 2chan, outraged users flocked to the comments section on YouTube to attempt to discredit the video. They attacked Dezaki as “anti-Japanese” and fumed at him for warping Japanese schoolchildren with “misinformation.”

Inevitably, at least one death threat appeared. Though it was presumably idle, like most threats made anonymously over the Web, it rattled him. Still, it’s no surprise that the Net uyoku’s initial campaign, like just about every effort to change a real-life debate by flooding some Web comments sections, went nowhere. So they escalated.

A few of the outraged Japanese found some personal information about Dezaki, starting with his until-then-secret real name and building up to contact information for his Japanese employers. Given Dezaki’s social media trail, it probably wasn’t hard. They proliferated the information using a file-sharing service called SkyDrive, urging fellow Net uyoku to take their fight off the message boards and into Dezaki’s personal life.

By Feb. 18, superiors at the school were emailing him, saying they were bombarded with complaints. Though the video was based almost entirely on a lecture that they had once praised, they asked him to pull it down.

“Some Japanese guys found out which school I used to work at and now, I am being pressured to take down the ‘Racism in Japan’ video,” Dezaki posted on Reddit. “I’m not really sure what to do at this point. I don’t want to take down the video because I don’t believe I did anything wrong, and I don’t believe in giving into bullies who try to censor every taboo topic in Japan. What do you guys think?”

He decided to keep the video online, but placed a message over the first few sentences that, in English and Japanese, announce his refusal to take it down.

But the outrage continued to mount, both online and in the real world. At one point, Dezaki says he was contacted by an official in Okinawa’s board of education who warned that a lawmaker might raise it on the floor of the Lower House. Apparently, the Net uyoku may have succeeded in elevating the issue from a YouTube comments field to regional and perhaps even national politics.

“I knew there were going to be some Japanese upset with me, but I didn’t expect this magnitude of a problem,” Dezaki said. “I didn’t expect them to call my board of education. That said, I wasn’t surprised, though. You know what I mean? They’re insane people.”

Nationalism is not unique to Japan, but it is strong and tinged with the insecurity of a once-powerful nation on the decline and with the humiliation of defeat and Allied Occupation and U.S.-imposed Constitution.

That history is still raw in Japan, where nationalism and resentment of perceived American control often go hand-in-hand. Dezaki is an American, and his video seems to have hit on the belief among many nationalists that the Americans still condescend to, and ultimately seek to control, their country.

“I fell in love with Japan; I love Japan,” Dezaki says, explaining why he made the video in the first place. “And I want to see Japan become a better place. Because I do see these potential problems with racism and discrimination.”

  • ifstone

    Be strong! This discussion is very important. Good article but let’s hope it is also in the Japanese language press.

  • Roan23

    While the attacks on a well-meaning Japanese-American are most regrettable, this article is seriously flawed in at least two respects. Firstly, the term “racism” is tossed about in typical American fashion as an ill-defined and all-purpose label of disapproval. Racism properly understood is an ideology, the belief in “superior” vs. “inferior” peoples, as defined by genetics. If it is used simply to refer to a general preference for one’s own in-group or to regional or class snobbism, then practically everyone is a “racist.” Secondlly, the origin of bakachon has nothing to do with Korea or Koreans. It was only because, long after the term was coined, it was feared that false associations might be made that there was, so to speak, a verbal recall…This article comes from the same Washington Post that falsely reported that Japan purchased the Senkakus from China. The attitude seems to be: Who cares about accuracy, when there’s a chance to dump on Japan?

  • Andrew Engwirda

    Oh wow, yet another exposé! Another gaijin thinking he has stumbled onto the “hidden” truth about Japan. How about he fix his own country first? I don’t blame Japanese people for getting sick and tired of these people (from a foreigner who has somehow learned to live here without being a drama queen)

  • Eloy Gonzales

    In an educated society, at least we should expect tolerance. Anyone can express ideas and opinions. Any threat to anyone is not acceptable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.leonard.72 Richard Leonard

    You keep it up, Miki. Japan is one of the most racist countries on Earth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.david.5623 Greg David

    Looking at a lot of the Japanese comments his video got, you can see mostly emotional, defensive reactions.

    I think the type of responses he’s getting exposes the a lack of “critical thinking” proficiency in general. This has been a common observation by foreign educators working in Japan, that most people don’t make an effort to think too deeply, thoroughly or objectively about issues, particularly world issues.

    Verifying the meaning of “critical thinking”, through Wikipedia (gulp), I found a fair description of its principles & dispositions:

    6.1 Willingness to criticize oneself
    6.2 Reflective thought
    6.3 Competence

    I’d also add that:

    6.4 Thoroughness and focus in examining micro-issues
    6.5 Objectivity
    6.6 An awareness of fallacies or poor critical thinking patterns.

    Thus, I propose to any Japanese who is having a negative reaction to Dezaki’s video to exercise strong critical thinking skills before responding with an emotional defense.

    It’s frightening to think that some people are trying to destroy his reputation, and worse, making death threats all due to the lesson surely meant to stimulate positive discussion.

    I’d like to know if there is a campaign in Japan to promote better “critical thinking” skills. Any ideas?

  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.pidgeon.12 Phil Pidgeon

    I lived in the USA, NJ with my Japanese husband and my ‘double son’. On the official elementary school website for the area in which we lived it stated that there were no Japanese students in the Elementary School System. Racism and discrimination against Japanese people was so overt I felt threatened and feared for my life. As a European this was most unexpected and unpleasant. Racism exists in USA, Japan and everywhere ignorant and stupid people live. One cannot escape from it, the best way to deal with it is to ‘treat othere the way you would want to be treated yourself’. Stay safe and say no to racism.

  • Diane E Johnson

    There is truth in Dezaki’s words. Why does it have to be threatening? If you don’t agree, then try to prove him wrong instead.

  • Far East

    That’s a terrible experience indeed. One note to the author of this article though: discrimination does not mean racism. Xenophobia maybe, but racism certainly does not apply strictly speaking. I think there is xenophobia in Japan just like in any other country, because it is a human trait to distrust foreigners, even among people of the same country.

  • ww

    People who feel guilty inside tend to attack others vehemently to feel justified.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.d.archer.98 James Douglas Archer

    That is very sad. The ultra-nationalists are showing that Dezaki is correct.

  • Jaycasey

    I applaud Dezaki-san’s principled actions. Foreigners like myself who like Japan and generally love Japanese people are nonetheless frustrated by the lack of self-examination on the part of the Japanese. Their view on racism is an example. They don’t even see their own racism and I’ve never heard a Japanese criticize another Japanese for demonstrating outright racism against foreigners. My Japanese friends need the sort of mirror that Dezaki-san has provided. They should be thanking him.

  • 151E

    Typical of ideological fanatics everywhere, instead of engaging in reasoned civil debate in the open marketplace of ideas, they resort to intimidation and harassment. Sadly, the authorities here often seem unable or unwilling to confront such extremists. It would be nice if the BOE and lawmakers would stand on principle in support of free speech and Mr. Dezaki, but I won’t hold my breath.

  • Devin

    If the discriminatory comments are seen as truth, then no one will see the problem…until the comments are targeted towards their race. It’s the same everywhere, including America.

  • risabear

    WOW! Good for you Dezaki! EVERY culture has areas of needed growth. If a culture never changes it grows stagnant.
    When I was living in Japan, an American friend of mine was on the train. A mother with her elementary-aged school child also got on the train. The child pointed to my friend and said (in Japanese, of course), “Look, Mom! A foreigner!” The mom gently slapped her child on the back of the head and replied, “What do you think you would be if you went to a different country? You’d be a foreigner too!” They didn’t realize that my friend could understand what they were saying.
    I thought that was a great reaction by a mother! Being a “foreigner” in Japanese is often considered an offense of gross magnitude. But, in reality, if you travel abroad you too will be a foreigner.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jay.corrao.7 Jay Corrao

    People/Nations always seem to turn a blind eye to truths that they don’t want to admit. I am an American who finds much of what Japanese culture has to offer very enjoyable and beautiful. However to say that racism was not and is not prevalent in Japan is like saying that slavery in the US never occurred or the Holocaust never happened. Unless a nation and its people can look at it’s past with honest, open eyes, substantial change cannot occur. Just like there are many Americans who would like to sweep the uncomfortable parts of our past under the rug. It is obvious the same type of thing occurs in every nation including Japan. To turn a blind eye to the truths of the past only brings shame. The only honorable course is to accept the past and move forward. It saddens me that so many deem misinformation the only recourse to truth and there are those who will go to such extreme lengths to silence the opinions of others.

  • Joe Zoo

    If you ask an average Japanese citizen “Is there any racism in Japan?” A very typical response is “No because there is only one race in Japan – Japanese.” Yeah, try it out, it’s true. This is the way that many Japanese people think. So I fully support Dezaki-sensei and I hope that he does not take his awesome video down. If they force him to an ultimatum like “You take down the video or quit your job now!” I hope that he will sue his employers for wrongful termination. But I doubt that would happen now, as such an incident would go straight up to the front page again.

  • I am from Middle East

    Miki Dezaki should take care of his own business in USA because the situation there is a nightmare for people from Middle East, no matter if you are arab or persian. I still remember those poor Sikhs who got shot few months ago by a white supremacist, and the indian guy who was pushed in New York subway by a woman who said she did not like arabs and people from Middle East.

    I am of arab origin and I can say Japan is a heaven if you compare it to USA. When I was there for 3 years, I felt what real racism is, white supremacists where real threat if you compare them to those japanese black trucks.

    Dezaki does not know what racism means. In USA, people spit on you, cops frisking you all the time…I hated that place and I hated them. Dezaki is just a poor Rosa parks wannabe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nazeer.nora Nazeer Nora

    Yes there is a racism in Japan I personally faced ,my son too since Iam foreigner and my 4 years old son is different body and face so he faced allot of racism in kindergarten and hospital they always telling him you are big your eyes are big your foot is big until he get upset and refuse going kindergarten , it’s really hard for me live in Japan ,even Iam thinking to leave it for any other country where my child can live peacely

  • http://www.facebook.com/diego.delavega.129 Diego De La Vega

    Dezaki when he says “America” is discriminating against us too, the people who are not from the US but were born in the American CONTINENT. US people are not the only “americans”, and by you perpetuating this lie, you are discriminating on us

  • Eugene

    I think this video does more harm than good dude. There’s racism everywhere, it’s part of human nature. Saying there’s discrimination in Japan is like telling someone who never really thought about the sky much that it’s blue and they’re like “oh yeah, I didn’t realise.” Humans always need an enemy. Somebody who’s different. Once aliens start bombing the shit out of Earth, only then we will all be the same. Just human.

    So in a way, you’re living up to be exactly that stereotypical American who loves to go to other countries and preach what you think is right. Japan’s the safest country I’ve ever been to, in the 8 years that I’ve been here the biggest discrimination was a landlord not willing to rent to me cos “foreigners party too much and don’t separate rubbish”, but dude, foreigners do party too much cos home partying is normal in the west and they don’t usually properly separate their rubbish cos most can’t read Japanese. I hear a lot of people complain in Japan how “Chinese people are rude cos they don’t queue”, but in the same sentence they’d comment how great Chinese food is and how beautiful Shanghai is and how Chinese Wall is amazing. Is that racist? IMO people commenting on my eye colour saying that it’s pretty is not really in the same “racist” league as getting your fucking face kicked in cos of your skin colour. So yes, there’s discrimination here, but you need to rub it in people’s faces and make it worse, nah, not really.

  • http://twitter.com/_Gentaro Gen

    This is a great piece, Max. Thanks for spreading the word about Dezaki’s message. One thing, though: I’m not sure the “Comfort Women” issue is appropriately labeled an example of “racism.” Race is surely an important component of the dehumanization that makes enslavement possible, but sex slavery 70 years ago in an age of militarism and imperialism seem like poor teaching tools in an effort to educate children about “racial discrimination.” Neither would we, in the American context, use black slavery as an example of present-day discrimination, though some of the roots of that discrimination lie there and beyond. I write this because it seems to me that few Western journalists can get through a critique of contemporary Japan without making a WW2 reference, and this tendency bothers me greatly. @_gentaro

  • http://twitter.com/_Gentaro Gen

    What needs to happen now is pushback by Japanese moderates in support of Dezaki and encouragement of his BOE to withdraw its request for him to take the video down. It’s tragic (if unsurprising) that the BOE would so quickly ask him to remove the video in some attempt to make this go away. @_gentaro

  • Pat

    This phenomenon is more ethnocentric than racist; it exists everywhere, even in Europe and America especially.

  • Ricardo

    I personally think that Dezaki’s video had very little meaning without a comparative perspective of other countries/societies and as such does very little to really explore racism but he should of course be allowed to express and display his opinions freely without these ugly threats. I lived as a foreigner in both Japan and Germany and believe me, Japan is a heaven for foreigners. There are places foreigners simply do not go to in Germany. There is also a difference between institutional or formal racism and informal/social racism which is much more difficult to root out. In the former kind, Japan is doing much better than most countries in the world. In short, some perspective

  • http://www.facebook.com/ywan.hamon Ywan Hamon

    Intermarriages between Japanese and Ainu were actively promoted by the Ainu to lessen the chances of discrimination against their offspring. As a result, many Ainu are indistinguishable from their Japanese neighbors, but some Ainu-Japanese are interested in traditional Ainu culture. For example, Oki, born as a child of an Ainu father and a Japanese mother, became a musician who plays the traditional Ainu instrument tonkori. There are many small towns in the southeastern or Hidaka region where full-blooded Ainu may still be seen such as in Nibutani (Ainu: Niputay). Many such children live in Sambutsu especially, on the eastern coast. In 1966 the number of “pure” Ainu was about 300 (Honna, Tajima, and Minamoto, 2000).

  • http://www.facebook.com/tamarah.cohen.9 Tamarah Cohen

    “He carefully avoided the most extreme and controversial cases — for example, Japan’s wartime enslavement of Korean and other females in Asia for sex”…. “Females”??

  • Jordan Thompson

    For the most part I have found people in Japan to be incredibly friendly and even if they did not like me it is in their culture not to say anything.

    Most definitely there is racism/discrimination in Japan. I am a white American Male currently living in Japan as a teacher and have experienced it. I have to be careful when I go to certain bars because they do not allow people that are not Japanese (Usually there will be a sign on the door), I have been turned away at the door of real estate offices while looking for a new house because I was not Japanese (I went with a Japanese friend and that was fine but as soon I came in they gave me the big X and ‘No Gaigen’, I was going out to a club and was randomly insulted on an elevator by some people even though I had not said anything ‘Baka Gaijin’, I was also told I was not aloud to date a girl because her family did not feel comfortable with me not being Japanese…it exists and proves that it happens here.

    However, with that said by no means does this represent the population as a whole. It would be the same to generalize all people in America and say they are slobs, materialistic, self-centered, loud, and lazy. Of course those people exists, and a lot more than I am proud to admit, but that does not represent everyone. I think that the lesson that was made is so important to share because it creates a sense of awareness with students and will help them grow. In essence this is a perfect lesson and a really great observation. A truly teachable moment. Some people in Japan are very proud and I can see why they do not like the negative attention brought by this video. But, it should not be taken down…if anything it should be commended for raising notice to an important issue.

    Also to clarify, the beginning of my response was quite negative, I have found in my time here that Japanese people are incredibly, sometimes overly, friendly. I can deal with the discrimination of a few people that might pick on me or talk down to me because I am not Japanese (those type of attitudes will exist anywhere you go). Japan is a wonderful place. People are usually extremely respectful and willing to help me out. Most people are shocked when they meet me because I have blonde hair and blue eyes (typical response…’aayyyy segoi’). I love the culture, meaning of family, level of respect, and the idea in Japan that the whole is more important than the individual. It is a great place. As a foreigner here I also have to realize that ‘Yes I am a foreigner and people are going to think about me in a different way’.

    To say that discrimination because of race doesn’t exist. That is just not true.

    Great lesson!

  • http://twitter.com/shahg64 sha_g

    ahhh come to any red state in the US and you would really find out what racism is….

  • Ryo Furue

    I too applaud Dezaki-san’s actions. I hate, abhor, and detest those low-intelligence people who do not express their views in rational and fair ways. Not only on the subject of nationalism and racism, but on everything. All they can do is to resort to cowardly verbal violence behind the anonymity of the Internet. And I hope you won’t generalize. They are fortunately minority.

    I’m Japanese, born and raised up in Japan until the age of 36, now living in the US. I intended to say I’m ashamed, but I’m not, because I don’t feel I have anything to do with them.

    Regarding the main subject, of course, there are, and have been, racial and other discriminations in Japan. It’s noble of Dezaki-san to tell it to children; it’s extremely important for everybody to think about it.

    By the way, I’d like to make a minor correction. The “chon” part of the phrase “baka chon” does NOT mean Korean. It’s an onomatopoeia representing (roughly) light touch, and so “baka-chon camera” actually means a camera with which even a baka (stupid person) can take pictures by a light touch (meaning “easily”). The mistake Dezaki-san made is a common one and is an “over-correction” similar to “correcting” “human” to “huperson” to avoid (the non-existent) sexism. (See bakachon in the Japanese Wikipedia.)

  • hilldomain

    The key is that when kids look negatively at other people or discriminate against them because of race its wrong and we need to teach people that. I dont care why racism is a problem in Japan- ie history or ethnocentrism or because they live on an island and were isolated geographically or by language- its wrong and if Japanese people aren’t taught to think critically about their own cultural someone needs to teach them how to do it. Americans are extremely critical about their own culture. Its part of their culture. He was hired not simply as an English teacher but to share culture. Its very obvious that Japan has racism- Who cares why or that other countries also have racism.

    The real issues that are different with Japan is one they don’t take criticism from outsiders well, and two there are oblivious or ignorant (largely) about the problem with racism because there are so few foreigners in Japan. In other words it’s not a problem for Japanese people because they are not affected. In America minorities have a huge voice and that is why there has been drastic change (and there needed to be).

    If the attitudes and beliefs change the behavior will as well. Racism is fear and ignorance personified. In America most will say its wrong and you have a legal course of action and will most likely win(sometimes even if yo were not discriminated against). In Japan you have zero legal recourse.

    For example imagine if mayor Juliani makes a public announcement ” we are now taking precautions for natural disasters. We believe that all Hispanics and blacks will loot stores so please be careful in an emergency” . The mayor of Tokyo has said things like this and he is very popular. In America he would be dead..

    Japan has been reprimanded for their human rights violations.Just read wikipedia.

    We all have the view of Japan as such a nice place and the people being s nice and it is and they are unless you do something they disagree with. The discrimination is very calm and civil to a point except once you are detained but it doesn’t make the policies or actions any less racist or discriminatory.

  • hilldomain

    “A controversial Immigration Bureau website launched in February allows informants to report the name, address, or workplace of any suspicious foreigners for such reasons as “causing a nuisance in the neighborhood” and “causing anxiety.” In the face of protests from human rights groups, the site was amended in March to remove the preset reasons, but remained operational at year’s end.” from wikipedia

  • Kend

    Sigh. A common stereotype of the American abroad: a GUEST surviving under the hospitality of the host nation (by his/her own choice), complains about perceived problems with the people/culture…despite the fact that the traveler comes from a place that is awash with the societal ills in question. I suppose the only thing that makes this newsworthy is that the American is using his place of employment (in addition to the obligatory self-important YouTube upload) to give his sermon.

    However, I do not want Mr Dezaki to lose his job, nor do I
    wish him any hardship. He seems like a bright and energetic fellow with a heart for what he is doing, and a person with far more to offer than a litany of complaints and political views. It also seems quite evident that the irony of an American preaching about xenophobia, nationalism and discrimination, especially in a place like Japan (which I’d opine is generally more open-minded and accepting than most places, including the U.S.), is not lost on Mr. Dezaki. He clearly gets it. I think his actions were, at
    worst, more of a product of built-in American paternalism than a conscious

    While I don’t think it was his place to moralize (intentionally or otherwise) in the classroom of his hosts, I do support his right—and the rights of his protestors—to engage in free and legal expression.

  • Ryo Furue

    Dezaki-san’s examples may not be the most relevant ones and do contain factual errors and issues whose factuality is debated. BUT, there are racial and other discriminations in Japan, of course, and it’s critically important to make people more aware of that. That is totally different from bashing or hating Japan. Those people attacking Dezaki-san don’t understand the distinction. They aren’t offering valid criticisms but are attacking him irrationally. Probably the best thing to do is just to ignore them. They are (on average) people who do not want to be educated, it appears to me.

  • XeonForge

    It’s a sad reality in Japan now and is only going to get worse as time goes on. With Japan’s shrinking aging population they are only going to get more bitter as time goes on. Japan US relations have always been somewhat difficult to gauge. It doesn’t take much to turn things south which is not a good sign when we have so many other more pressing problems in the region. With Japan’s already negative view of any and all things foreign. Added to it’s extreme xenophobia and tendency towards dangerous nationalism. This is all the more reason not to bring up issues which fans the flames. It creates huge problems for not only foreigners in Japan but also foreign businesses as well as our ability to conduct diplomatic exchanges. It has created major headaches for both countries and has brought into question our alliance many many many times.

    Japanese have even criticized Abe for visiting Washington as they see it conspiring with the enemy. Is that how Japanese really think on us? Are we really that disliked there? Just because we have a government which has certain unpopular military policies. Doesn’t mean every American is a bad person or agrees with those policies. As far as racism goes I generally think it is best to not bring up the topic. I am not sure how we can debate this in a country which never had a civil rights movement though. So how can we really expect them to understand the differences when it presents itself. It’s important we attempt go get past these differences if our alliance is to remain intact. With that said maybe we should look to ways of strengthening our relationship by not calling out sensitive issues which are going to get a negative response, just saying.

  • XeonForge

    Regardless though I think it is important we try to see things from a Japanese point of view. It is no small task granted but I would like to believe that Japan has some objective people. Otherwise we will never have good relations which is not in either of our best interests.

  • Roan23

    I remember the days when Japanese-Americans came to Japan in a romantic quest for their “roots” and basking in ethnic soldarity. (After spending many a decade here, one of them confided in me: “I’ve learned that I’m at heart an American.”) Dezaki-san is to be commended for looking beyond such personal concerns to larger social issues. I just hope he keeps in mind that attitudes toward members of various minorities in this country, while hardly perfect, have vastly improved and continue to improve. Forty years ago, E.O. Reischauer, the Japan-born Harvard Japanologist, one-time U.S. ambassador, and a good friend to this country, wrote in a best-selling book that the Japanese were in some sense more “racist” than Americans and that it was time for them to overcome their sense of being utterly unique and to “join the human race.” But that was then…If anything, the Japanese today tend to be so concerned about politically incorrect words that they overreact. The term chon, meaning dull or silly, long predates Japanese rule of Korea, and the term bakachon-kamera was coined with no reference to Korea or Koreans. But through folk etymology and hypersensitivity, the notion spread that it had discriminatory intent, a misperception perpetuated in this article…A popular dish from Miyazaki Prefecture is chikin-nanban, lit. “chicken-southern-barbarian,” nanban being a premodern term for Europeans. Is that “racist”? I hardly think so…

  • hermes

    Just watching the video, I am appalled at the way Mr. Dezaki is presenting racisim and discrimnation in Japan. I feel as if he’s trying to create more of a shock factor (even the way he’s presenting himself within the video) and takes attention away from the real problem that exists within the society. My belief is that racial discrimination occurs in Japan but in a smaller prevalence compared to the U.S. for a very good reason… because ethnically, 98.5% of the population is Japanese and even the few Zainichi’s are often visually hard to distinguish. Most of the students probably couldn’t identify with it simply because they were never exposed to it.
    However, I believe there is discrimination at a more fundamental level and at a degree far more severe than in the United States. Many cultural anthropologists sees Japan as a prime example of a shame-based society. Discriminations happen daily based on socio-economic levels, education, lifestyle, and looks. Just simply showing “Eye of the Storm”(brown eyes/blue eyes which is almost irrelevant in Japan) or speaking of Burakumin (a problem which is nearly disappearing) makes the topic more dramatic, however, were the students really able to relate it to themselves? Or was it more a feel good curriculum blinding the students away from true nature of discrimination which probably differs a lot from Western cultures.
    My question is if Mr. Dezaki really spent the time and effort to create an effective curriculum catered towards the high school students specifically in Japan. Does he really understand discrimination from a Japanese perspective? I believe he’s intention is noble. However, the video is disappointing. It seems political and personal, a youtube novelty.

  • hermes

    Just watching the video, I am appalled at the way Mr. Dezaki is presenting racisim and discrimnation in Japan. I feel as if he’s trying to create more of a shock factor (even the way he’s presenting himself within the video) and takes attention away from the real problem that exists within the society. My belief is that racial discrimination occurs in Japan but in a smaller prevalence compared to the U.S. for a very good reason… because ethnically, 98.5% of the population is Japanese and even the few Zainichi’s are often visually hard to distinguish. Most of the students probably couldn’t identify with it simply because they were never exposed to it.
    However, I believe there is discrimination at a more fundamental level and at a degree far more severe than in the United States. Many cultural anthropologists sees Japan as a prime example of a shame-based society. Discriminations happen daily based on socio-economic levels, education, lifestyle, and looks. Just simply showing “Eye of the Storm”(brown eyes/blue eyes which is almost irrelevant in Japan) or speaking of Burakumin (a problem which is nearly disappearing) makes the topic more dramatic, however, were the students really able to relate it to themselves? Or was it more a feel good curriculum blinding the students away from true nature of discrimination which probably differs a lot from Western cultures.
    My question is if Mr. Dezaki really spent the time and effort to create an effective curriculum catered towards the high school students specifically in Japan. Does he really understand discrimination from a Japanese perspective? I believe he’s intention is noble. However, the video is disappointing. It seems political and personal, a youtube novelty.

  • EQ

    I used to think that there is no racism in Japan because discriminating against foreigners is such a normal part of life in this country that the Japanese did not even realize that there was racism…But attitudes are changing. The Japanese travel more, have more contact with foreigners than ever before and have access to the internet. It’s a slow process but things are definitely changing for the better. Just like anyone who have no solid argument (and know it), the ultra-nationalists have no choice but to resort to terrorist tactics to get their rhetorics heard.

  • Mike2

    I respect this guy, being of Japanese heritage and speaking up about what really goes on here. The apologist cant say he is a white loser who back in the states couldnt hack it. Racism affects us all in Japan because if your different and not a Japanese, your fair game. Japanese American, Chinese, Caucasin, anything not Japanese, your different and not part of Unique Japan. It gets to be real annoying.

  • Mike2

    yes, there is discrimination throughout the South, I grew up there. But guess what? You can move to Seatle, California, Guam, Hawaii, and other places where there are many Japanese. Thats whats great about a multiracial society. Racism is nationwide in Japan, with the eception of some gehttos like Roppongi or Isezakicho or some Brazilian town where they are treated like outcast to be quarantined. Remember, Japan attacked America, but we forgave and forgot, now Hawaii is practically owned by the Japanese- the same state that was attacked. Uhm..I dont think that if Tojo would of been victorious that he would of allowed us Americans to reclaim Guam or the Phillipines. Your comparing racial or regional racism with nationalism, apples and oranges. I dont want to hear the foriegner occupying Japan excuse either. It goes both ways; there are thousands of Japanese companies in the US with Japanese expat management and locally hired staff. How many here? maybe I can count on 1 hand those companies managed and administratively staffed with US personnel in Japan. Actually I dont know of any, only joint ventures, managed by Japanese.Ive heard japanese say they would never work for a foriegner because of “pride: Whats that say about foriegners working for Japanese? We have no pride? Perhaps thats what they think of us? The POWs in WW2 were beheaded because their lack of “pride” There are so many issues in this place that need to be recongnized for what they are so the playing field is level.