The following is the first in a series of selections of unpublished letters about Community stories from the year just passed.
The forgotten plight of ALTs
Arudou Debito gives a fair assessment of the good, the bad and impeded progress regarding human rights issues in Japan in his most recent Just Be Cause column (“Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015,” Jan. 3). One issue he could also have included is the continuing plight of the assistant language teacher (ALT).
Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal — is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs.
How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited-term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.
Arudou-san points out that Japan did sign the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination in December 1995, but the fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously — ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made — is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.
We can only hope that such monkey business will not continue too far into the new year. Perhaps improved conditions for foreign educators will be one of the positive stories in Arudou-san’s top 10 for 2016.
Constitution is for Japanese only
Re: “What’s in a surname? A court divorced from reality” by Colin P.A. Jones (Law of the Land, Feb. 7, 2016):
I like to read Professor Colin P.A. Jones articles, but reading the provided Japanese Constitution articles translated, I do see “people,” but in the Japanese text there is only “kokumin,” and it does refer only to Japanese citizens. (This was strengthened with the Nationality Law (Law No. 147 of 1950, as amended by Law No. 268 of 1952, etc.)
“Article 1: The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by the provisions of this Law” (Nihon kokumin taru yōken wa, kono hōritsu no sadameru tokoro ni yoru).
“Kokumin“ itself, even without “Nihon,” does not mean “people” at all. It is funny any time I ask a Japanese citizen, “The Japanese Constitution talks about people. Then I am a kokumin, am I right?” Everyone always avoids answering, and the most funny people are the foreigners thinking they should be kokumin.
When is going to be the time to make it clear that the real original Japanese Constitution is only for Japanese citizens’ rights, and therefore excludes foreign citizens’ rights (with exceptions for those legally staying, diplomats, military officials)? And at that time, will they write the translations clearly as “Japanese citizens” and not “people”?
How to rehabilitate the manji
Re: “Educate the people and keep the ‘manji’ (卍) on Japan’s maps” (Hotline to Nagatacho, Feb. 10, 2016):
Dear Respected Friends in Japan,
You have a splendid opportunity this new year to correct an egregious error created by Hitler and take back the original manji to show its true splendor, visible everywhere throughout your lovely country. The manji has been in many astonishing places throughout the world — including on 7th century royal tombs in Catholic monasteries in Belgium and France. Wikipedia richly informs us of its long and wide use. Usurped by Hitler about 80 years ago as the symbol of his dastardly deeds, the time has surely come to reclaim its true pure meaning for the world.
Who, in our wide, wide world, has more splendid examples of manji than Japan? Please take this opportunity to use not the evil heart of Hitler but the warm, human heart to bring forth, in full blossom, the true meaning of this inspiring design. Your presentation must be better than evil Hitler’s was. Who else can do it as beautifully as Japan?
1) For all of the tourists, hold a major exhibition in Kyoto or Tokyo of some of Japan’s finest manji.
2) Have temples graciously and proudly point out their manji with a short English explanation.
3) Sponsor an art competition with prizes for the finest examples of manji in photography, painting, calligraphy, woodblock printing, acrylic, watercolor, oils, etc.
4) Use your own splendid creativity to celebrate the manji — with scarves, tenugui (hand towels) and clothing as starters.
Eleven years in Soto Zen monasteries has planted many teachings, including that of the true manji, in my heart. It is one of my missions to explain its true meaning, never letting the opportunity to do so slip by, never to let Hitler continue to win.
Here is a bright opportunity to stand up for something important with a full heart.
REV. PATRICIA DAI-EN BENNAGE
Mt. Equity Zendo, Jiho-An
I haven’t half had enough
I am a devoted reader of Prof. Hifumi Okunuki’s Labor Pains column, but in the most recent column (“Bearded train driver, out-of-pocket teacher and CV faker: How would they fare in court?” (March 27, 2016) there was a questionable rendering of a wasei eigo [made-in-Japan English] word that I would like to take exception to.
Regarding Sean Kawakami, the online article says “this good-looking academic wonder boy who was supposedly a so-called hāfu, meaning a ‘half’ made up of mixed Japanese and foreign blood. … Many halfs in the entertainment industry make the most of their mixed background. … Women’s fashion magazines often school readers on how to use cosmetics to make your face look like a half’s.”
This usage of the word “half” is not English and should therefore either be printed in quotation marks or italics. This Japanese term is problematic among some native English speakers in Japan, even in Japanese. To use it then in an English-language article as if it were a normal English term is particularly annoying. I might also point out the outdated usage of “blood” to describe parentage. I might have expected better editing by The Japan Times.
Thank you otherwise for your excellent coverage of Japan.
Pedophiles prey on weak links
Re: “Evidence mounts of missed red flags in case of former Tokyo teacher facing U.S. child rape charges” by Simon Scott (The Foreign Element, March 30, 2016):
“Pedophile” is a single word encompassing a vast variety of behaviors, from almost imperceptible inclinations and actions to gross violations as in the St. Mary’s International School case. “Selecting” their prey, keeping a tab on it, waiting for opportunities to offend, is one aspect. But there is another.
Offenders may be more likely than not to check out parents and careers of their intended victims. Ideal environments helping to enable perpetrators include broken homes and stressed homes, where parents cannot provide supervision of their kids at critical times or where parents simply have their hands full with siblings and elderly to look after and are wishing for a break in any form.
Kids being “taken care of” by teachers seems like a good way to get some relief. Parental vigilance may be compromised and a lack of it readily exploited by pedophiles who correctly assess the situation, concluding they have freedom to act in any way they want with reasonable chances to get away with it. Beware!
Shark Moyer swam among friends
Does it never end? And when will someone from Hollywood produce a film with the spotlight on Tokyo? Suspected child rapist Frank Selas faces life in prison and hard labor without parole. He’ll have to be kept in solitary confinement or he won’t last a month in a U.S. prison. The other inmates will cut out his heart and/or other body parts and feed them to the prison rats.
Why do international schools in Japan turn a blind eye to such child sexual abuse? The Jack Moyer case at the American School in Japan seems to have been the tip of the old iceberg. There be white sharks in these waters, beware.
Like this other monster from St. Mary’s International School, Frank Selas, Moyer understood that water sports offered a great opportunity to molest a child (though he is known to have raped one victim in the privacy of his own home just a few blocks from the school).
How could an internationally acclaimed marine biologist ever be suspected of stalking young children? Didn’t he want to teach them about the joys of snorkeling and the wonders of Japanese culture? Moyer had ties to Japan’s imperial family including the future emperor, Prince Akihito — how’s that for cover-up power?
Tokyo is a city of 20 million inhabitants, but the foreign community population is like that of a small town, with gossip and rumor abounding. Small wonder Moyer took refuge on the remote island of Miyakejima, just another part of his elaborate pedophile cover-up. How the hell did ASIJ allow any child to attend Moyer’s week-long marine biology camp after 1968? This was when ASIJ heard the first reports of Moyer’s pedophile predations.
Then again, in the news recently there was the story of a Japanese pedophile who was also the headmaster at a junior high school in Yokohama for many years. He freely admitted to having sex with nearly 1,200 underage Filipino girls while on holiday in the Philippines over a period of some 40 years. The Japanese police heard reports that he kept thousands of photographs of his victims and decided to investigate. The convicted child rapist was only given a three-year prison sentence for possession of child porn. And this light sentence was then suspended if he promised to behave himself from now on. No prison time. Oh, and he’s not to visit the Philippines ever again.
How much did Japan’s “pedophile culture” influence predatory child rapists like Moyer and Selas? The Japan Times has failed to mention this aspect of the Selas case, though the prosecutors in the U.S. might explore this aspect of the criminal case against Selas. Why did St. Mary’s school allow Selas to drop in from time to time? Geography quiz? Really?
Very likely a great many expatriate parents are going to give serious thought to home-schooling their kids while living in Japan after reading the latest pedophile scandal in the pages of The Japan Times. Question is, how many other teachers at places like ASIJ and St. Mary’s are guilty of being complicit in the big cover-up? Pity that the whistleblower is often the one who gets the ax or is forced to walk the plank.
Small wonder Jack never feared swimming with the sharks: He was diving among friends.
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IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5