AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Everything you know about Japan is wrong

Posted by ampontan on Monday, May 18, 2009

If all your knowledge about Japan comes from the overseas mass media, then everything you know about Japan is wrong.
– The motto of this website

FREQUENT POSTER MAC has just sent in a note to the Comments section that is too very extremely good to be overlooked. Here it is, brightened up a bit for the wider public.
*****
We had a festival up at our local castle which I attended. Bear in mind, I don’t live on the mainland, and where I am there is only a single railtrack on the way in and out.

I only managed to befriend a few folks, but the first I did had studied Swahili and toured Africa with her judo master teaching out there. Now she is going to Korea to live. The second spoke of her affinity with the gypsies of India where she had traveled widely and studied yoga. We shared memories of Spain and Morocco. She is not alone in the Indian connection–the guy that does the curries at our local farmer’s market spent over 10 years as a saddhu (naked India holyman) before returning to Japan. The guys next to us are currently living in a native American teepee whilst they build their eco-house in the hills somewhere.

Yup…just your average, quiet, rainy weekend in a racist, inward and conservative country like Japan.
*****
Mac’s experience is yet another example of what I see every day in the part of the sticks where I live, and have seen every day for the past 25 years. I first came to Japan to teach at an English school that is affiliated with an NGO and a sort of day care center for pre-schoolers called Yume Gakko (Dream School).

The man who started and ran the English school was fluent in French and English (with interpretation certification in both languages) and lived in both France and Canada. He was also conversationally passable in both Korean and Chinese. I never counted, but he must have visited at least 20 countries as part of his activities.

The man running the English school now spent a year in Alaska as a high school student and liked it so much he chose to attend and graduate from the University of Alaska. He got a master’s degree in theater arts from Towson University near Baltimore and taught for several years at a college in Massachusetts. Before leaving the U.S. to take up his current position, he decided to take a two-week vacation in Costa Rica before coming back home.

Another teacher at the school did postgraduate work in England and then received a master’s degree at UC Santa Barbara in pre-school education. She’s now an interpreter (who’s appeared at the side of Yo Yo Ma on national television) and translator, and is also involved with the Yume School and volunteer activities for UNESCO.

The school’s primary native-speaking English teacher was born and grew up in the Bahamas, and they have also employed teachers from Sri Lanka (several), The Philippines, Pakistan, India, Jamaica, Zaire, and Egypt.

The man now in charge of the NGO lived–with his wife and pre-school aged daughter–in Myanmar for two years. One of the women working there has spent some time in Europe, and her English is good enough to handle a telephone conversation (foreign languages are hard to do over the phone). Another woman working there lived for several years in South Korea. They all regularly visit Myanmar, where they helped build a school, and Thailand, where they run a scholarship program at an orphanage out in the boondocks.

The man running Yume Gakko graduated from the University of Montana.

Do you think these people are exceptions? Also in this city of 180,000, 45 minutes by train from the nearest metropolitan area, is a bar that plays nothing but American country and western music. It is operated by one man and his female assistant, a graduate student at the local university from Uganda. One night I walked in there in the midst of a loud argument about soccer with people banging on in both English and Japanese, involving two Japanese, two New Zealanders, an Australian, an Irishman, a Welshman, and a Moroccan. It was an interesting experience to listen to them go at it, sip a beer, and chat with the Ugandan waitress while Johnny Cash played on the sound system.

Then there’s my barber, a woman of about 45 who has lived in Indonesia and Hawaii, competed in international surfing championships, and went to Jamaica for her honeymoon because she was nuts about reggae. The entire staff of the shop takes a three-or-four day tour together every year overseas. Her father used to be an OISCA volunteer and traveled every summer to several countries in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific as part of his activities. During one haircut, her father stood next to the chair and told me about the two weeks he had just spent in Fiji. (I encouraged him to talk; I always wanted to go there myself.) Her sister lived for a decade in Los Angeles. Her daughter in junior high school has already visited more countries than I have, and am ever likely to.

I grew up in the United States (and had grandparents whose first language wasn’t English), a country that was built by immigrants and used to claim that it was a melting pot.

While I’ll be the first to admit that it was indeed a melting pot, I never met even a handful of Americans with those sort of international experiences–and I grew up in a city of a million people (at that time) and graduated from a world-class university. And don’t even try to tell me about international mixing and mingling. When I go to the U.S. with my wife and we stand in line at a shop or the bank talking Japanese, people look at us (particularly me) as if we came from another planet.

At one shop we visited in New York, the Latino clerk complimented me on my ability to speak another language and expressed the wish that more Americans were as willing to do the same.

Some people would like to have you believe that Japan is “racist, inward, and conservative”, as Mac put it. Other people seem to enjoy believing it. But most people prefer reading fiction to non-fiction, too.

Japan is racist, inward, and conservative?

Compared to whom?

115 Responses to “Everything you know about Japan is wrong”

  1. tanuki said

    A very interesting article mirroring my experience living in Japan too, but there’s one thing that might be the reason (or more likely one of the reasons) many people feel Japan is a racist, inward and conservative country.

    That thing is that even though almost every individual I meet here is a wonderful, open person, very often extremely well traveled and outgoing, many institutions exude the aura of coldness and sometimes even thinly veiled hostility. Let me reiterate: almost everyone I meet here privately is warm, helpful and caring – I’ve had long, meaningful conversations with strangers, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people that I now consider close friends and in general I enjoy living here immensely. And yet, so many times when I go to some kind of an office – be it a post office, driving license center, immigration office or bank, to name a few – I’m met with rudeness, suspicion or an atmosphere that could be described as “let’s make it as difficult and complicated for him as possible and maybe, if we’re lucky, he goes away and never comes back”.

    I have no idea why that happens – it’s not because of the language barrier, since I speak fluent Japanese (and it’s not just bragging – on a good day I can get mistaken for a Japanese person over the phone. I work as a translator/interpreter too.), I always try to be polite and cooperative, but it just seems I have little luck with Japanese bureaucracy for some reason.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents yen on this issue – I might sound bitter, but don’t get me wrong – since experience taught me to keep my interactions with people wearing uniforms to an absolute minimum, I love living here and my current plan is to stay in Japan forever, whether my local immigration office likes it or not 😉

  2. melmo said

    Great post!

    “Japan is racist, inward, and conservative?”
    “Compared to whom?”

    Perhaps, the great, benevolent, eminently tolerant people of New York??? 🙂

  3. Koiyuki said

    Personally I attribute it to the factor of loudness a negative experience can carry. For every kind, well traveled person in any country there’s another kook ready to make you feel like you don’t belong in the country and should get back to wherever you came from. Since those are the ones most talked about when discussing contemporary Japan, that’s what a lot of people attribute the race to, or at the very least those who refuse to wander outside their circle of English teachers to try and talk to a Japanese person as if they were, I don’t know, a human being. This was definitely an eye opening piece and I’ll take this to heart when I travel around Japan and communicate with others. Glad to know there are blogs like this willing to report on the good and decent people of Japan.

  4. Joe Jones said

    Tanuki has it spot-on. I think the issue is that Japanese institutions don’t consider the needs of foreigners when they define their internal rules and procedures. When Japanese individuals are working in the confines of a Japanese institution, the rules force them to be cold and unhelpful. Informally, though, most everyone tries to be friendly and helpful.

  5. Aceface said

    One of the explanation can be most city office is not ready with foreigners.I found Toyota city is very foreign friendly(or should I say Brazilian friendly)since they hire staff specialized for the task.But my experience tells me that many French institutions(Post office,immigration,banks,railway station and even tourist office) are very cold and unhelpful,I think I can add Brits on this too.However I don’t find neither countries xenophobic especially knowing the very people who give you the cold shoulder at the counter are presumably immigrant themselves.

  6. MaryWıtzl said

    I lived in Japan for 17 years and during that time I met as many wonderful, cosmopolitan, thoroughly interesting Japanese people as Amptotan. I try to remember them and not the handful of racist xenophobes I also encountered during my time there. I always hope anyone visiting the U.S will do the same.

    The problem is that there seem to be two prevalent philosophies about the Japanese. One is that they are the finest, kindest, most benevolent human beings in the world and that their country is a virtual utopia America would do well to emulate in every way. The other is that they are racist, cruel war-mongers. Both of these pat assumptions drive me wild. Why do we expect people to behave in only one way — to be either exalted saints or abject sinners? Why can’t we accept that the Japanese are just as prone to human foibles as Greeks or Costa Ricans or Americans?

  7. ampontan said

    Then there’s the experience of my wife at Customs for foreign nationals at Dulles Airport, where we arrived on our first trip. Dulles is Washington DC’s (!) international airport. My wife is not comfortable with English, and she was literally grilled by the woman at the counter, speaking English too fast for any but fluent foreigners to comprehend. Her attitude was rather hostile too.

    I was standing on the other side of the counter, having already passed through, trying to help out with interpretation. That got me a dagger glare and loud warning to mind my own business.

    Then we had our luggage checked, and the two guys wanted to know what the small bottles of shochu were (we had brought as gifts) and how much they cost. Reasonable questions, but since my wife bought the shochu and they were talking to me, I had to ask her how much she paid for them. They got pissed off because I was speaking in a foreign language!

    So, Japanese institutions compared to what institutions where?

  8. tanuki said

    Ampontan – you do have a point. Rude, inconsiderate officials happen (breed?) everywhere. Still, I wasn’t really comparing Japan to any other place – what I was trying to say is that I think some people have a negative image of the country is because their bad “office experiences” (let’s just call them that for simplicity) are not offset by good private ones (much more likely if you don’t speak Japanese, I think).

    Since I’m not American I can’t really relate to your customs story, but condolences to your wife – then again, sometimes I truly wish Narita customs personnel would grill me in Japanese instead of stuttering for what seems like hours in horribly broken English (fortunately pointing at my passport and saying “Sorry, I’m not American, so I don’t speak English too well, could you speak Japanese please?” in Japanese solves the problem more often than not).

    What I’m trying to say (in so many words) is that you (or rather I) don’t need to compare Japan to any other country or think in categories of “better than/worse than” to express my dislike of one thing or another. Some things, like rudeness, suck regardless of the country you’re in. Now, if only someone with a magic wand changed the “foreigner=nuisance, disease ridden pest and potential criminal” mentality I seem to encounter in various institutions here, it would really make my day the rest of my life…

  9. japanisdoomed said

    Interesting. You captured the feeling I had when I started living in Japan of ‘This is nothing like the media said’. I don’t think I found it as deep-rooted as you did, but it was an interesting read.

  10. mac said

    Hey, Ampontan, flattered as I am, don’t make it sound too good … we don’t want any more foreigners coming in here and screwing things up for us.

    In my language class I am the only white with Lao, Nepalese, Bengali, Chinese and Sri Lankans. The local JETs seem to encourage both Africans and Caribbeans to come over and teach, sending them out way out into the sticks which I find really interesting given the cultural differences.

    The only complaints I have heard from them is about the kids fascination with their breasts and hair. Well, its probably not just the kids I should imagine …

    Tanaki, just out of interest, how does your average native Nihon-jin feel when they go into such institutions? What are your own feelings towards them? I ask the second because I am wondering how how the negative PR is based on a project of the individual and a reasonable response, i.e. ‘a pain the ass being treated like a pain in the ass’.

    The only time I have been barked at was by a local yakuza and that was because I was clearly in the wrong. It took me a while to get it because I could not speak *his* language on *his* turf … what I lacked was the sense to rinse off after coming of the sauna and before using the plunge pool. He was right and I was wrong and now I think anyone else that doesn’t is being indecent towards others. Ha! I wish I could bark at that.

    A business tip for whoever is reading this rant … ‘Yakuza Japanese for Gaijin’ classes, complete with a day trip as ‘young brother’ to the local ryokan onsen. You’re the one laying out the toothpaste and brushes and putting away the seats and buckets after.

  11. mac said

    I just wanted to mention about the Chinese kids at our language school as there are a load of them. The strange thing is, they are obviously loving being in Japan and having a great time. None of them appear frightened of Japanese or bothered whether they are going to invade Manchuria. No one brings up the Comfort Women issue.

    As for the Filipina wives over here (separating them from incredibly good looking ones working the sex maket), *all* the ones I have met have at least one sister over to stay looking for husbands.

    Likewise, I forgot about the treatment the recently imported Indonesian nurses got that even made the local papers … there is only one but they gave her a special Mosque room, all of her own, in the hospital.

    THAT one even I was going to write into complaint about … “bloody foreigners coming over here, taking our jobs, and then expect us to pay for their prayer mat on our taxes!!!“. Oops, sorry, old habits die hard. Japan is obviously such a terrible place to other Asian eyes.

    The newspaper had reported it not with disgust but with pride.

  12. Hiero/fudgepudge said

    although i generally enjoy your articles, i think the relationship between being well-travelled and a racist, inward jerk is not necessarily an oxymoron one.
    there’ll be be people who despite living in many countries and still interacting with far more diverse people think his own race or country is the best/most sophisticated/cultured/nicest/most tolerant.

    there’ll be people who despite being an official ambassador or expats in a country for some number of years, interacting with many different people at work in social situations cant wait deep down to leave this shithole and not ever have to see any asian faces anymore.

    no use having to tell others, that you live in a foreign dominated area in ginza, interacted with mostly foreign educated locals, eating food of your own country most of the time (although occasionally relishing japanese porn) that you’re outward, anti-racist, and well travelled – if your behavior and thoughts in your head (although this is easy to fake if you know how) suggest otherwise.

    my point is that there is no reason why even an anthropologist who studies different cultures and a sociologist who does research on race relations cannot a racist, inward bigot at the same time. honne and tatemae remember?

    so that japanese person who you’ve described and witnessed as friendly, “internationally experienced”, could regard you as inferior/boorish/uncultured as anyone not being in a race of his own that they’ve come across in their path.

    so much for being a devil’s advocate..

  13. Aceface said

    Being Japanese with a major on ethno-archaology(studying Polynesian archaeology)and educated partially in the west,I totally agree with the dude above.I can be very unfriendly to “English teacher from hell” type.

    However,I have to take his word with a grain of salt after reading the part “a foreign dominated area in ginza”,must be mistaken with Roppongi,or never been to Tokyo,No?

  14. Bender said

    Japan is no cosmopolitan paradise. The pressure to be the same with everyone else is so great, I had to hide my American accent for a long time like a kakure kirishitan and use the katanaka accent when speaking English with my Japanese peers. Many kids (kikoku-shijo) who were brought up abroad share the same experience, and it is especially harsh for boys.

    Also, it’s probably different if you’re considered to be uchi or soto. Hope things have changed since my childhood days.

  15. Bender said

    Oh, but I’m not saying America was a color-blind paradise either. The countless racist slurs thrown at me was annoying at best. Maybe kids are just unreserved and barbaric, but then I noticed some came from their parents. That’s life, I guess.

  16. Bryce said

    “I was standing on the other side of the counter, having already passed through, trying to help out with interpretation. That got me a dagger glare and loud warning to mind my own business.”

    Wow, I had an almost identical experience. While waiting to go through customs, I saw a customs officer at the desk barking at the woman in front of me, whose turn it was to be processed. She was Japanese and evidently couldn’t speak English. There was no progression for about a minute, so I raised my hand and asked the officer if he would like me to translate. The officer immediately turned to me and yelled “STEP BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE, SIR!” (I was behind the yellow line), and then continued to berate the poor girl. About two minutes later he turned to me and yelled “YOU SAID YOU COULD TRANSLATE?” (note the absence of the word “PLEASE” in that sentence) and so I did. Once I got the message across I was then told to step behind the yellow line again and wait for her passport to be stamped. I was then checked through without a smile or a “Thank you”, as if it was my duty to serve customs officials.

    And, by the way, this is the type of service I have come to expect from most civil servants here in the United States. Half of them can’t even understand my native-English speaker accent. In Japan civil servants may be cold, but they are not unprofessional. Nor are they rude to the point of insolence.

  17. Aceface said

    “The pressure to be the same with everyone else is so great, I had to hide my American accent for a long time like a kakure kirishitan and use the katanaka accent when speaking English with my Japanese peers. Many kids (kikoku-shijo) who were brought up abroad share the same experience, and it is especially harsh for boys.”

    Being also an Kikoku-shijo(’81-’85 in New York)I can’t say I find so much pressure after coming back.Anyway switching American accent and using katakana accent when speaking some English term is necessary for smooth communication.

    Besides accent thing happens between Osaka guy moving to Tokyo or vice-versa.We don’t have the working-class VS the upper class regarding accent like in UK,or language politics surrounding Ebonics.

    “Also, it’s probably different if you’re considered to be uchi or soto. Hope things have changed since my childhood days.”

    No,It still haven’t changed along with “honne to tatemae” thing.And it shouldn’t be for two reasons.

    One.There are way of things in Japan and some are here to stay.

    Two.”Honne to Tatemae” and “Uchi to Soto” are basically the antidote phrase on certain tendency in Japanese life regarding hypocrisy.These exists because being polite along in the line of vertical hierarchy is center of virtue of the society.Lacking them make life in Japan,pretty intolerable.

    Oh, but I’m not saying Japan is a color-blind paradise nor cosmopolitan one.We are only trying to live our lives and trying to make it for the better the way we can.Some agree with this and some don’t.And anyone who expect Japan to be perfect in everything and for everyone,you are destined to feel betrayed either within a day or within twenty years.
    And for those of you,there’s always departure gates at Narita airport……

  18. ampontan said

    The pressure to be the same with everyone else is so great, I had to hide my American accent for a long time like a kakure kirishitan and use the katanaka accent when speaking English with my Japanese peers. Many kids (kikoku-shijo) who were brought up abroad share the same experience, and it is especially harsh for boys….
    Oh, but I’m not saying America was a color-blind paradise either. The countless racist slurs thrown at me was annoying at best. Maybe kids are just unreserved and barbaric…

    Obviously knowing nothing about your experiences…

    1. I’ve taught English classes with a lot of students who lived abroad and then came back. Of course a specialized English school is different, but those kids had no trouble at all associating with the other students who had never set foot outside the country.

    2. Have you ever read The Lord of the Flies? As you say, kids are barbaric, particularly boys (girls can be as bad, but in a different way). They were nasty and vicious little bastards in my lilly white, lower middle class suburb growing up. That’s how most children are. And I was both on the receiving and the giving end myself. I’ll bet that’s how most children are too.

    They start with the most obvious differences and then work their way down. Your accent was an obvious difference, so they jumped on it. I think it’s the human condition.

    3. Just last November, Saga was the host prefecture for this year’s Kyushu English debate championships–real debate rules, all in English–and I was one of the judges through the college connection. A lot of the participants had lived abroad, or were “half” (including a half-Nepalese girl from the Kagoshima sticks!)

    One of the most interesting girls (Nagasaki) had spent about five years in the States. Father a doctor. Obviously a natural leader to whom the other girls gravitated. When she spoke in English she acted like an American, and was even a bit of a smartass with an edge. When she spoke in Japanese, she was as sweet as could be. I’d guess she didn’t have many problems at all, and I watched her interact with the other students. The half-Nepali girl seemed well-adjusted too.

    4. True story
    One of my English students spent a year at an American high school during her junior year in high school (you know how that deal works). Here’s what she told me when she came back.

    She was a very gregarious type, so it was no surprise that she made a lot of friends with different types of people. One of her best friends was a black girl.

    One day, two of her white girlfriends took her aside. Girl #1 said, you shouldn’t be hanging out with her.

    Yumi said, why not? I like her. We’re friends.

    Girl #2 turned to Girl #1 and said, “Oh, forget about it. Yumi’s not white. She can hang out with anyone she wants.”

    Take a few seconds to let the various dimensions of that one sink in.

    I tell that story to other Americans, and they always ask, “Where in America did Yumi go?”

    I always say, “What difference does it make? It doesn’t make any difference what part of the country it was to the other Japanese who hear it.”

  19. mac said

    I am “inferior, boorish and uncultured” by nature … it still pains me that I get bowed to like a Buddha by more than 20 utterly superior and immaculately presented human beings (who happen to also bow every time they leave the shopfloor) if I forget to get out the department store at least 10 minutes before closing.

    That is everyone from the forth floor down I pass, including the lift staff, through the cosmetic counter and out via parking. I try to get them to stop, and even go around their pitches behind them, but it does not work.

    I need a t-shirt saying, “I am not worthy”.

  20. Bender said

    I always say, “What difference does it make? It doesn’t make any difference what part of the country it was to the other Japanese who hear it.”

    Same as for Japan, don’t you think?

    I think that encounters foreigners have in Japan do count, and I think it’s worthwhile listening to them and figuring out “why?” rather than trying to reason that they have serious misconceptions. I can try to reason that your student’s American experience should be marginalized, but I don’t think that helps much, plus I think it’ll be dishonest to do so, too :).

    Anyhoo, stories like yours and Mac’s are great to hear, and I agree that there are tons of good aspects of Japanese society. But that’s the yang part, and there’s the ying.

  21. Bender said

    I need a t-shirt saying, “I am not worthy”.

    No you don’t, you’re supposed to be humbled!

    Some people (the ones I know are Japanese ojisans and obasans) just don’t understand that those department staff people are just being polite, and act as though they’re kings or queens. Ever seen abusive customers? They’re all over the world, but I think Japanese sekkyaku politeness/hospitality enhances barbaric attitudes.

  22. NB said

    I think we risk assuming that “well traveled” and “international” automatically equals “NOT racist”.

    But as we all know, this is not true.

    Just look at the Age of Discovery or the Colonial Era. People at those times were both well traveled and racist.

  23. mac said

    Just look at the Age of Discovery or the Colonial Era.

    … um, there is a difference between “traveling” and “conquering” but I guess see what you mean!?!

    In truth though, I am not so sure. Firstly, the ancient world was a lot more well traveled than we realise (Romans in South India around the time of Christ, Germans craftsmen in the city of Gengis Khan, Jomon or Ainu making it over to South America and so on). It amazes me because it was all done on foot or in open boats.

    Generally racism, and especially nationalism, are seen as a very recent constructions, by no means universal, which have ‘hardened’ and become fixed in the Western mind because of recent education and the media. E.g. meet an African, or even Japanese, who has never traveled outside of their village and they really cannot be racist, per se, because they have never met anyone else except the 400 people they know (I know TV is now making that different but I am old enough to remember when by no means everyone had one).

    I kind of think this is broadly true of Japanese despite all the media hype. They are by no means racist or xenophobic as, say, Englanders are, merely because they have never met any other races. My suspicious is the reaction critics are talking about is not about “racism” but merely a natural reaction to some “other” that does not march to the same highly tuned, refined and efficient beat.

    Neither am I sure “racism” was a motivation factor for the ancients’ actions. Rather it is a modern re-interpretation of their values. One could accurately perceive it from a class or caste bias instead, e.g. Spanish or Arabic slave traders in cahoots with African or Japanese slave traders. People were their village and every one else was a outsider.

    As a metropolitan dweller, and many London, Manhattan and Tokyo-ites will understand and agree with me here, I hated all “foreigners” with a loathing – by which I mean anyone from outside the metropolis; black, white or other – simply because they came and gummed or screwed up ‘my village’, ‘my high-tuned machine’ making my life more difficult because they were not up to speed and expect ‘me’ to pay from ‘my’ life for their stupidity. I exaggerate here to illustrate.

    I would cautiously suggest that much of which is now reviewed of as being “racist”, from anti-semitism in East Europe to White Power in WASP societies, is still not really “racism”; it is just more of the same as above. An entirely fair, reasonable and logical, “what are these people, their values, their MO, their luggage, doing in my life screwing up the perfect good balance when I did not ask them to come here?”. A community, or a people, work together for X thousand years grinding off the rough edges and them some “foreign virus” comes along and overturns the applecart. To condemn that as “racism” is to inject the commerce of a new meme into it.

    But, sure, anyone can hop on a plane these days, taking their cultural deficiencies or mental illness with them, and hate or look down on whoever one meets. Much of this site is devoted to a critique of just that. I suspect in the old days, due to the efforts, risks and degree of collaboration involved, there was actually a lot less racism than there is now.

  24. melmo said

    Being “xenophobic” is simple human nature, and is not necessarily bad, but the problem is that it is sometimes embellished with “hostility” from social and religious concepts.

    I didn’t think Ampontan was giving a big lecture about racism and its background, but was trying to debunk the image of the Japanese which has been forged by Western media for a long time.

    Very interesting though.

  25. ampontan said

    Same as for Japan, don’t you think?

    No, I don’t.

    But then again, I’ve only lived in the inaka, where people tend to have a “what you see is what you get” approach and deal with others the same way.

    I haven’t lived in Tokyo and gotten the runaround from landlords not wanting to rent to foreigners because the last time they did they got stiffed. Or gotten refused service by a drinking establishment because the last foreigner they served got pissed off when he got a comprehensive bill at the end and angrily demanded an itemized bill in a language they didn’t understand.

    Another true story. A different high school girl I taught for several years spent a year in Minnesota and came back very disillusioned because of the racism of her homestay family. Not something one would expect from a place that has a strong politically “progressive” tradition, seems to vote more often for Democrats than the GOP, has few black people, and produced Bob Dylan and Hubert Humphrey.

  26. Trapped in Brazil said

    just to mention, here in Brazil, a weekly magazine (called “Veja”), did a report on how japanese immigrants live in Brazil and how their relatives who stayed in Japan are now. For the ones who come here, they took pictures of them drinking cocos with a brazilian flag behind them, walking by the beaches, etc. In Japan, they took pictures of an elderly couple working on their fields, without saying if it was tradition, a hobby, an habit, or a fight for making a living (but the last one was implied).

    Also, for a person to be open-minded, it tooks some QI, but of course, travelling, internet and befriending other people will greatly help.

  27. Bender said

    I would cautiously suggest that much of which is now reviewed of as being “racist”, from anti-semitism in East Europe to White Power in WASP societies, is still not really “racism”

    Reminds me of the Heart Sutra- form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

  28. Jon said

    @ampontan I think we can all go tit-for-tat with examples of racism in every country. Find me the exception, the country where racism doesn’t exist. Please. I’ll move there tomorrow and pay for your ticket too. I don’t understand why you want to keep illustrating the same point.

    I think this was best said early on. Trying to paint Japan as racist or not-racists is a sloppy method. People are people everywhere you go. Individuals have the same sets of good and bad qualities. The difference is the social-ethos, which are mostly some sort of weird caricature of the average of each societies parts.

    I can tell you from first hand experience that this country has both racists and open-minded people. It isn’t noteworthy. I can also tell you that every other country I’ve been to or heard a lot about is the same. I’m also pretty sure you could all tell me the exact same thing.

    I find this country’s attitude towards race slightly more objectionable than the US, but then again that’s probably because I’m not Japanese so I notice it more. But try to tell me that the US is even close to being significantly better in terms of race relations and I’ll laugh until I’m dead twice.

    And these stories about offices / bureaucracies… Meh. I’m a quiet, polite, white guy from the US and I still got grilled / chewed out when I visited London in 2002 and couldn’t remember the address of my friend who lived in London (I had to look it up in my papers). Some people hate their jobs and anyone who makes it even 0.05% more difficult is immediately their arch enemy. They don’t care about the details of who you are or where you are from, they hate you because you’ve made trouble for them.

  29. ampontan said

    “Please” what?

    No one around here said Japan didn’t have racists. It’s a rebuttal to those people whose expressed opinions about Japan, both written and verbal, on the web and elsewhere, begin and end with racism and xenophobia.

  30. fudgepudge said

    comparing the experiences felt and accounts told from your site and this:
    http://goinglocoinyokohama.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/things-i-love-hate-about-japan-alone-again-naturally/

    i’m wondering whether it’ll make a significant difference between a caucasian v an african looking person who lives in inaka v urban cities in jpn like tokyo.

    well could it be all in the mind?

    oh silly me, of course it’s all in the mind!

  31. Aceface said

    You can keep wondering all your days on hypothesis regarding the difference between caucasian v african looking person who lives in inaka v urban cities in Japan like Tokyo,but that probably won’t make you life in Japan any better,Fudgepudge,if you actually have your boots on the country.

    But my opinion is certain foreigners simply exploiting any anectodal evidences of racial friction as the weapon of choice to bash Japan and make them look like politically correct at the same time.
    Have any of them ever thought about randomly wrapping up entire nation based on vague circumstantial “evidence” and subjective episode itself can be “discrimination”and “racial prejudice” of a sort that they so despise in their words?

    Well could it be all in the mind?

    Oh silly me, of course it’s all in the mind!

  32. mac said

    Jon wrote: I find this country’s attitude towards race slightly more objectionable than the US …

    Sincere question … how? In my experience, the US is the most racial divided and ghetto-ize nation I have lived (I never lived in South Africa or Israel). What shocks me is, despite all the bad press, how many foreigners, from such exotic sources, there actually are here.

    With the likes of the UK or France, it is understandable; their Empires etc. And I find ‘hard racism’ far more prevalent in the Southern Mediterranean, the closer you get to Africa, e.g. Italy and Spain, because of the problems with illegal immigration.

    As you might imagine, I am no apologist for the consequences of imperial power, but I am an apologist and sympathizer for working classes who all too often have the social and economic problems of immigration policies (from slavery upwards) foisted upon their communities by other classes (political or economic) whose motivations are purely financial.

    I caution anyone from using terms like “this country” because “countries” don’t exist, nor have opinions. People do. And the people of any geographic regions are a disparate bunch that rarely agree with each other unless forced or cajoled into being.

    Just as an aside, I was surprise to learn that Canada also engaged in anti-Japanese pogrom during WWII just as America did. Nearly 21,000 people of Japanese descent, who had come in the late 1800s, were placed in these camps, in the majority women and children.

    In January 1942, the government, issued an order-in-council to require all Japanese Canadians, naturalized citizens and those born in Canada, to be given the choice of being sent to Japan or being placed in internment camps. After the war, the order that authorized the deportation was challenged on the basis that the forced deportation of the Japanese was a crime against humanity and that a citizen could not be deported from their own country. The Prime Minister referred the matter to the Supreme Court in what was to be the first case heard in the newly constructed building housing the Court.

    In a five to two decision, the Court held that the law was valid. Three of the five found that the order was entirely valid, including the women and children. The other two finding that the provision including the women and children as threats to national security was invalid. The deportation order was repealed was in 1947, after 4,000 had already left the country.

    Japanese Canadians suffered intense persecution. I defy anyone to challenge my use of the ‘pogrom’.

    One eye witness said, “We have been tempered for the anti-Japanese feeling these long years. It has only intensified into overt acts of unthinking hoodlumism like throwing flaming torches into rooming houses and bricks through plate glass. B.C. is falling all over itself in the scramble to be the first to kick us out from jobs and homes … it has just boiled down to race persecution, and signs have been posted on all highways … JAPS … KEEP OUT … We are tightening our belts for the starvation to come. The diseases … the crippling … the twisting of our souls … death would be the easiest to bear.”

    In 1942, all male Japanese Canadians between the ages of 18 and 45 were to be removed and taken to road camps in the interior, a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed on the rest and enforced by police. The families were told to pack a single suitcase each and taken to holding areas where they waited, sometimes for months, to be relocated.

    Hundreds of women and children were squeezed into the livestock buildings, each family separated from the next by a flimsy piece of cloth hung from double-decked steel bunks. The walls between the rows of steel bunks only five feet high, normally used to tether animals to.

    They were shipped on sealed trains to the interior, husbands and wives, parents and children were separated — the men to work on road gangs: women and children to shacks in shantytowns in the B.C. wilderness described as one layer of thin wooden board covered with two-ply paper sandwiching a flimsy layer of tar with no ceiling below the roof. In the winter, moisture condensed on the inside of the cold walls and turned to ice.

    In January 1943, the government authorized the sale of all the properties seized; homes, cars, businesses and personal property left behind were sold for a pittance. The lives Japanese Canadians had built in Canada were erased. After the war, it decided to remove all Japanese Canadians from British Columbia, forcing them to choose between deportation to war-ravaged Japan or dispersal. It took 43 years for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to apologize for the wartime wrongs.

    Excuse me, but that sounds no different to me than Warsaw Ghetto, or where ever and … note … it carried on AFTER WWII.

    Looking south to California, I never realized – and no one ever told me – that the vast movement of Okies and Arkies into California came about at least partly because of the removal of the Japanese from the California vegetable industry, losing approximately 100 million dollars in investments” because of confiscation or forced sale by the U.S. Government.

    Japanese farmers produced crops valued then at 40 million dollars a year, responsible for 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the state, including nearly 100 percent of all tomatoes, celery, strawberries and peppers. 200,000 acres were confiscated.

    Of course, talking about class and racism, googling ‘Japan and Race’ brought up more hits for Race Queens than anything else, taking me round a bizarre circuit to this picture of Taiwanese-Japanese model-wrestler Yinling Joytoy in current day China …

    Anyone care to fully translate for others benefit the Chinese characters in the image!?!

    Am I the only one finds the bundling in of Japanese women – by the primarily white ‘masturbation classes’ – as “Asian Chicks” to be inherently racist, sexist and condescending? I fear that all that self abuse has deteriorated their brains to the degree that they cannot, and care not to, differentiate between various different cultures of riceburning LBFMs.

  33. Jon said

    @Mac, I’m sorry I don’t see what your point is. I think we can all agree those things were bad, but they are over and done with. There are no more Japanese interment camps. There hasn’t been any for a more than half a century. For that matter WII wasn’t a time that Japan was saintly itself. I don’t see how it enters into a discussion about contemporary Japan in any way.

    I’m not saying, and I think I made it clear, that the US doesn’t have racial problems. However let’s look at it this way. In the US if you are born there (no matter where your family comes from) you are an American with all the rights and freedoms that every citizen gets. In Japan, you could be the fifth generation of a Korean family and you could still not have Japanese citizenship. You could also be half Japanese, born in Japan, but not accepted as “real” Japanese. And in terms of ghettos. Well, since Japan has been paying for it’s low class (now unemployed) immigrants to leave and _never_ come back, there aren’t so many non-Japanese ghettos, however there are still all sorts of class issues [2]. In the absence of racial diversity the lines break in other ways, but there is still a polarizing line.

    If you think for one minute that in the US class = race then you are insane. There are super poor white people too, and they have mostly the same problems as super poor minorities. In Japan, it is not the people, but the government that leans towards sexism, racism, and classism[3][4][5]. The US isn’t above it either, but the idea of political correctness has tempered it slightly. Political correctness is still in its infancy here. Not that I am a huge fan of being PC, but a moderate amount goes a long way.

    [1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/business/global/23immigrant.html?_r=2&em
    [2] http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090505a1.html
    [3] http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090129f2.html
    [4] http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090519zg.html
    [5] http://legal.3yen.com/2005-02-22/if-i-divorce-my-japanese-spouse-on-japan-can-i-expect-to-get-custody-or-access-to-the-children/

    I don’t think it is fair or sensible to characterize individual people by their country. But it is fair the characterize a country by its laws and practices.

    @Aceface, I don’t think you understand how to use quotation marks. And your idea seems far more crazy than the people who I’ve heard express aggravation about Japan. You are essentially saying you have an unsupported hypothesis that people are using circumstantial evidence to justify committing acts of discrimination.

    By the way, the definitions of discrimination often leave out one key component: power. Without power it is really just preferential treatment of one group over the other. Still wrong, but not damaging in the way that discrimination is.

  34. Locohama said

    “Oh silly me..0f course it’s all in the mind”
    Yeah, the mind is a piece of work.

    Just trying not to lose my mind is all I’m doing, and calling it like I see it.

    Loco

  35. Locohama said

    MaryWitzl said “Why can’t we accept that the Japanese are just as prone to human foibles as Greeks or Costa Ricans or Americans?”
    I agree…well said

  36. ampontan said

    In Japan, you could be the fifth generation of a Korean family and you could still not have Japanese citizenship.

    That’s what they’ve chosen. They could just as easily have chosen to become citizens.

  37. mac said

    Hi, I will get back to later, Jon. I have not read over your piece, and the sources which I am interested in, but I must point out that if “fifth generation Korean family still do not have Japanese citizenship”, it is only because of their nationalistic choice.

    Isn’t it a question of them accepting to give up the nationality of a country their forebearers left (you are saying, what, a 100 years ago?) and accept that they are, indeed, Japanese citizens? They would appear to me to be the ones caught up in racist (or nationalist) sentiments.

    The issue of class, which you got quite wrong, I will clarify too.

    Thanks.

  38. melmo said

    If you define racism as xenophobia with hostility, I do not think the Japanese are racist, but rather xenophobic. I too get very frustrated that the Japanese are often depicted as the most racist country of the world. (Thanks to the “sophisticated” paper NYT for this misapprehension.)

    Monotheism often leads to voluntary hostility towards others. Sure, Japanese culture has the idea of Uchi vs Soto, but the Soto people are still human, unlike Christianity where pagans are sub-human. Japan is one of the less racist countries in the world, if not the least. The brutality of white racism was also represented by the huge gap in the numbers of those executed for war crimes between the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese army. Those who complained about the coldness of Japanese “institutions” certainly did not know about Middle-Eastern immigrants to the U.S. lining up in the bone-chilling winter coldness outside an immigration office, just to receive a momentary rude awakening inside.

    Then again, white racism softened rapidly after WWII. Up to about 50 years ago, persons of color were considered to be second-class citizens in the U.S.

    Then again, did the U.S. really progress? “It ain’t Aruba, bitch,” (from the Wire, produced by David Simon), or is it?

    I too glanced over the NYT article about Brazilian immigrants in Japan. The Japanese government provided a choice, not necessarily to be discriminatory. That article is totally misleading.

    In the U.S., many Mexican workers with empty pockets hitchhiked back to their own country to get a job.

    And as Ampontan replied regarding the Koreans in Japan, it is a choice they are privileged to have.

  39. Aceface said

    @Jon
    “@Aceface, I don’t think you understand how to use quotation marks. ”

    So what’s quotation mark?I’m still in the process of learning English language from the state my English teacher had abandoned me.But somehow the point is not in the grammer,me thinks.

    “And your idea seems far more crazy than the people who I’ve heard express aggravation about Japan.”

    That’s probably you never give a damn about what the natives think on the subject.

    “You are essentially saying you have an unsupported hypothesis that people are using circumstantial evidence to justify committing acts of discrimination.”

    It’s a hypothesis supported by so far by me and myself only.I’m willing to change my own opinion if I see the counterproof.
    However,when I read the comment section of likes of Debito.Org,My impression is it’s more of a hate site and somehow that strengthened my own hypothesis(prejudice).

    “By the way, the definitions of discrimination often leave out one key component: power. Without power it is really just preferential treatment of one group over the other. Still wrong, but not damaging in the way that discrimination is.”

    And do Japanese possess power to shape their own selfimage in global arena? Never!
    Only those who writes and express themselves in English and circulate these ideas can have such power,those who don’t will simply dismissed by minor faults like misusing(or non-using)of quotation marks.

    And the key component of discrimination is perception.and discommunication due to the language barrier has more to do with in case between Japanese and English speaking expats,
    Let’s face it.Do expats ever been thrown into sweat house factories and forced to work 14 hours a day? Has their basic human rights being denied by the law? There could be some isolated individual cases but I don’t see them ubiquiotous nor passed without notice.

  40. Trapped in Brazil said

    Some people are missing the point here. Japan is not perfect, but it is much better then what western (and chinese) media says. I wouldn´t be surprised if one day someone decides to blame two consecutive Bush administrations on a biiiiig japanese conspiracy or that we tried to exterminate the native americans, the jews, and the armenians, sucessfuly passing the blame to UK, Germany and Turkey. Also, we killed the dinosaurs (the rape of Pangea ^_^).

    Also, what Fudgepudge said about different points of view is correct. If you are part of the minorities, then You Willll Suffeeerrrr!!!!! With the difference that, besides not having a Starbuck where I live, I´ve never had two cuties suddenly sitting with me. It´s set here so that some youngsters are ashamed of being “japs” and (the girls) want to marry with white men.

  41. NB said

    In response to Melmo:

    While many misguided Christians in the past (say in the Crusades or Middle Ages for example) may have treated unbelievers (I don’t think anyone even says the word “pagan” anymore) as sub-human. You would be hard pressed to find anything in genuine Christianity that calls unbelievers sub-human.

    I realize there are some shallow Christians out there who ignore unbelievers and treat them like they have the plague, or even worse scream at people that they have the plague without even taking the chance to get to know them.

    If you’ve ever met anyone like that, I’d like to take this time to say that I’m very sorry for that.

    Consider Matt 5:39 where Jesus says:

    “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

    or later on in verse 43 and 44 where Jesus says:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

    Please know that Christians (should) consider unbelievers to be people with rights and feelings just like anyone else.

    If anything Christians should treat outsiders better than themselves.

    In uchi and soto too, if you form a group that necessitates outsiders, but just because they are not in your group doesn’t mean you don’t treat them like people. Far from it, you treat them with MORE respect.

  42. NB said

    In response to Mac:

    “I was surprise to learn that Canada also engaged in anti-Japanese program during WWII just as America did.”

    I’m not saying it was the right choice to make, but you have to remember the situation just before WWII.

    Japan was going out and colonizing Asia in the name of “one big family under the Emperor”.

    Japanese immigrants were coming into other countries and flatly refusing to integrate at all. They formed their own neighborhoods, bought their own land and set up shrine systems and worshiped the Emperor and his divine wisdom, vowing to follow it whatever the cost.

    At a time when that Emperor was colonizing Asia, would want these people coming into your country pledging blind allegiance to their Emperor?

    In Brazil, even years after the news of the Imperial defeat had reached Brazil, many Japanese-Brazilians rejected any authority but the Emperor. And they expected him to come and save them! They were ready to join his war effort when he came to Brazil!

    See here: http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/jjrs/pdf/784.pdf

    It might have been racist, but looking at the extremist Japanese of the time, what would you have done?

  43. melmo said

    NB,

    I often use “pagans” just to ridicule Dante’s Inferno.
    Religion teaches the moral order of society. I won’t deny that.
    Well, I love to read the bible, not to study it though.

    So I know the ten commandments, but sometimes, if not often, religious people take them to the opposite extreme out of blind devotion to their only God.

    “Japanese immigrants were coming into other countries and flatly refusing to integrate at all.”

    The 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

    “the extremist Japanese of the time”

    – tomo yo ashita no nai hoshi to shitte mo
    – yahari mamotte tatakau no da
    – inochi wa sutete ore wa ikiru
    from Captain Harlock

    That was an extreme time. Should Japan not have fought, and just let them commit genocide as they did to the native Americans, or become slaves like Africans or Chinese?

    Then again, Americans were not that bad, compared to the prior imperialists.

  44. Aceface said

    “Japanese immigrants were coming into other countries and flatly refusing to integrate at all. They formed their own neighborhoods, bought their own land and set up shrine systems and worshiped the Emperor and his divine wisdom, vowing to follow it whatever the cost.”

    In North America? No way.Many did try to integrate into the society which is why there were so Jap scare in California in the 20’s.Worshiping Emperor and his divine wisdom is even more laughable.Why do you think there were so many Japanese Americans volunteering military leaving their family behind the fence?

    “At a time when that Emperor was colonizing Asia, would want these people coming into your country pledging blind allegiance to their Emperor?”

    In fact,that’s exactly what happened.Most of the immigrants came from Korea and Taiwan and doing just that.

    “In Brazil, even years after the news of the Imperial defeat had reached Brazil, many Japanese-Brazilians rejected any authority but the Emperor. And they expected him to come and save them! They were ready to join his war effort when he came to Brazil!”

    Brazil abolished all Japanese school in 1938 and banned Japanese newspaper in ’41.Also stopped accepting immigrants from Japan in that year.In June ’45,Brazil decleared war with Japan and confiscated Japanese Brazilian property and arrested huge portion of the leaders of the community.It’s no surprise that Japanese Brazilian community went maximum confusion and divided into two camps.The war of the words between the two camps went escalated even caused death in the conflict which added more fuel in the fire.If we pick some phrases from the pamphlets in this heated debate,no wonder you’ll get shocked by the extremism.However,Italian Brazilians and German Brazilians had also supported extreme ideas but didn’t get such treatment as the Japanese Brazilians had faced that’s why Brazil became sanctuary for the Nazi war criminals and non of Japanese equivalent.

  45. Trapped in Brazil said

    NB, Asia was already colonized, by Europe. Japan started to take Germany´s colony there to abide to a treaty signed with England. If you search for info, you will see that most germans colonies were lost during the start of WWI. And if you ask India, they were very gratefull that Japan helped to reduce european influence in the area with WWI and II, since those chinese, who always boasted about how big and powerfull they were, never did anything to help against the invasion of “those white barbarians”.

    For the immigrants, you have to understand that most people have a misconception of the Emperor, actually, “Emperor” is a wrong translate of such a Grace. I would say the western term would be “Christ”. The Emperor is a holy descendent of Amaterasu, would you throw away your faith in Christ because you live in Japan?

    Also, it´s not that the immigrants refused to integrate at all. You have to understand that we have different (very different) costumes, our languages, our writing, our counting system, our religion, eating habits, social habits and so on. You can´t expect full integration in less then 5 generations. For an example, we always lived apart the rest of the colony, we are in the middle of a whitish neighbourhood. My parents just don´t complain about our neighbours wrongdoings (Loud music 7d-4w-12m from 7pm to 4am, garbage and pee at our sidewalk and garden, damaged property, threats, etc). They would just use a japanese reproaching look (also we took ten years to convince the police that we had the right to sleep at night and to live with dignity, during that period we almost were arrested twice for disturbing our “good”, white neighbours).

    Besides the religion mark and the (lack of) human rights notes, in Brazil you can´t trust your senator, neither your president. And the media, ahhh, the media… If there were a crime and the accused asked to use the bathroom at a japanese owned shop, the media would say something like: “…And he stopped here, in this ship owned BY JAPANESE before commiting the crime…” than they would interview the owner: “…And how could you not know that he was planning to commit a crime??????”

  46. fudgepudge said

    from the photo:

    usual anti-jpn stuff you’d see from china, that goes

    “The people/citizens of our country (China) strongly censured the visit to the war shrine by Koizumi”

  47. NB said

    I never said any of this was good, I just said it was understandable.

    Let me repeat more clearly:

    However wrong it may have been, the anti-Japanese programs before WWII are UNDERSTANDABLE if you see how frightfully powerful the Japanese Colonies had become at the time.

    Not that Japanese colonialism was any better or worse than our Western colonies throughout Asia. And indeed if we ever point fingers at Japanese Colonialism, we must first face the skeleton of colonization in our own closet.

    As for immigrants, I see now that my generalizations were too sweeping and I apologize for that.

    Perhaps that PDF I linked to was misleading as well.

    I’m not saying any of the treatment they received was fair or right either. In fact, at best it was horribly biased. I’m just saying it was UNDERSTANDABLE that people would be so scared of them at the time.

    “Worshiping Emperor and his divine wisdom is even more laughable.Why do you think there were so many Japanese Americans volunteering military leaving their family behind the fence?”

    About the Emperor, to the best of my knowledge (and I’ll admit my knowledge is limited) most Japanese people didn’t so much believe in the divine wisdom of the Emperor as they were afraid to go against the majority.

    Japanese immigrants volunteered for the American military because it was the only way out. (What percentage is “so many”?) It’s the same reason military recruits work so heavily in poor neighborhoods now, they have a corner on the market for opportunity.

  48. Aceface said

    ”About the Emperor, to the best of my knowledge (and I’ll admit my knowledge is limited) most Japanese people didn’t so much believe in the divine wisdom of the Emperor as they were afraid to go against the majority.”

    But you are talking about people of Japanese ancestry in North America,not Japan proper,No?

    “Japanese immigrants volunteered for the American military because it was the only way out. (What percentage is “so many”?)”

    Jesus.Look into your own country’s history,man.So many means more than you can count in both of your hands.

    “It’s the same reason military recruits work so heavily in poor neighborhoods now, they have a corner on the market for opportunity.”

    Wow.That’s one statement.

  49. ampontan said

    You can´t expect full integration in less then 5 generations.

    In the US it generally happens by the generation of the grandchildren of the immigrants, and often by the children’s generation. There are exceptions, but that was my experience.

  50. mac said

    I have to say, I much prefered the original topic of this thread which was a positive reflection – based in the actual REALITY – of life in Japan.

    A nation that from my immediate experience, even way out in the sticks, invites in Ghanians, Caribbeans, South Africans, Sri Lankans, Bengalis and Nepalese to teach its kids here. That is not xenophobia.

    My personal life is as cosmopolitan here as it was in the center of the big metropolitan cities in the world. Whereas my memory of even the other side of the Hudson was the Jews did not mix with the WASPS, the WASP did not mix with the Guineas, the Guineas had lost their place to the Russians, the Colombians were shooting the place up; and NO ONE had anything to do with the niggers.

    Jon, I am sorry. I was going to give you a chance but I see that your point of reference is the Japan Times and if you are recycle that ridiculous gutter of shite in your mind and allow it come out of your mouth, I am afraid I have got the time time and energy to help you complete your education.

    NB … just in case you were not aware, and I suspect you are not, Japan’s first taste of the reality of Christianity was with Francis Xavier and his lot attempting to dupe them that his god was their god and then introducing industrial-scale slavery, primarily of young Japanese women, in a trade for second grade gunpowder as they ran their usual ‘divide and rule’ modus operandi across the daimyo. Kirishitan converts took part in destroying traditional temples and shrines.

    The estimates Hideyoshi was working on, before doing the right thing and kicking them out, were around 500,000 of a much smaller population than today. (I have neither read rebuttals nor alternative estimates to that figure). The women as slaves were scattered across the Christian’s empire. The Christians were happy to dump the gunpowder as they had found better quality gunpowder in South America where they kept vast slave and mining plantations.

    I imagine all this, along with the Japanese’s later full knowledge of the opium fueled Age of European Empires, rather colored foreign relations and, by comparison, what they offered was actually better. And they did break the European’s back across Asia.

    Overall historical context is useful. I think the root of the problem goes back to the Whites expectation that all they had to do was arrogantly wave their big sticks and the Japanese would scatter and run as other orientals had. They did not. They cut them down to size and, finally, overtook them.

  51. Georgie Pye said

    “You would be hard pressed to find anything in genuine Christianity that calls unbelievers sub-human.”

    Unless, of course, you are talking about gay people.

    Lev 20:13 “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”

    Oh, I forgot. That’s not “genuine Christianity”. “Genuine Christianity” is, of course, those particular quotes of the Bible that corresponds to the argument that the Christian currently speaking is attempting to support.

    One of the things I liked about Japan most was that almost everyone thought religion was just a bit of a joke.

    And I never really noticed any uchi or soto thing going on to a greater or lesser extent than it occurred anywhere else. I guess I wasn’t sensitive enough. Either that or I didn’t read enough Doi and Benedict.

  52. Bender said

    Did you hear the news yesterday? Japan’s GDP for the 1st quarter fell more than 15%/ annum. There’s something about Japanese society/collective-thinking that causes mass panic, where people act the same at the same time. Thus, the paradox of thrift becomes enhanced compared to other countries. See the flu scare in Osaka/Kobe, too. Those cities are becoming ghost towns at night, but isn’t that uncalled for? Rather than trying to deny these tendencies, I’d look into them more.

  53. Aceface said

    But it’s not the collective-thinking causes mass panic,the swine flu happens to be real and so are economic downtrum.Perhaps,you could find more about why Japanese people act same from tendencies like….they all speak the same language or so many of them are right handed.

  54. NB said

    While I am grateful for the discussion, I am sorry for the tangent this part has gone off on.

    One last thing.

    In response to Georgie Pye’s quote:

    “Unless, of course, you are talking about gay people.

    Lev 20:13 “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”

    Oh, I forgot. That’s not “genuine Christianity”. “Genuine Christianity” is, of course, those particular quotes of the Bible that corresponds to the argument that the Christian currently speaking is attempting to support.”

    And Melmo’s quote:

    “Religion teaches the moral order of society. I won’t deny that.”

    In the list of things people must be killed for in Leviticus 20, there is also “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death.”

    However, nearly EVERYONE has cursed their parents at one time or another. The point of the laws is not that gay people deserve to die.

    The point of the law is that ALL PEOPLE DESERVE TO DIE. Please feel free to remind any preachy anti-gay Christians of that.

    I would also say that there is a difference between telling people that they are doing something wrong and treating them in a sub-human way.

    I can not express how deeply sorry I am for the lectures and misguided acts of some Christians who have chosen to make homosexuality or abortion their pet-peeve.

    As we have seen both in history and in “not cursing your parents”: humans CANNOT uphold their own MORAL ORDER – or God’s moral order.

    The point of the law of Christianity is NOT to create moral order. THE POINT OF “Christian laws” is to SHOW that ALL PEOPLE that they DESERVE TO DIE and they need to be forgiven by God.

    In response to Mac:

    “just in case you were not aware, and I suspect you are not, Japan’s first taste of the reality of Christianity was with Francis Xavier and his lot attempting to dupe them that his god was their god and then introducing industrial-scale slavery, primarily of young Japanese women, in a trade for second grade gunpowder as they ran their usual ‘divide and rule’ modus operandi across the daimyo. Kirishitan converts took part in destroying traditional temples and shrines.

    The estimates Hideyoshi was working on, before doing the right thing and kicking them out, were around 500,000 of a much smaller population than today.”

    I am aware of Francis Xavier, and I will not even try to justify his methods. However, correct me on any of this if I am wrong:

    Before the arrival of Xaviers Daimiyos had already been fighting under the banners of Shinto or Buddhism, and burning each others temples and shrines. Regrettably under the questionable conversion methods of Xavier, some Christian Daimiyos (whose lifestyles had evidently not changed as a result of their conversion) continued their conquests and temple burning under the flag of Christianity. And Xavier was probably at best indifferent about this.

    When Hideyoshi finally managed to get the whole waring states thing under control, he was told by a Spanish (or Portuguese) trader that missionaries were simply a way for Western empires to get their foot in the door. So of course he wanted to kick all the Westerners out.

    So it certainly was NOT Xavier HIMSELF who led the slave trade, etc. But it was the greed of the Western “Christian” empires.

    So as we see again, humans NEVER live up to their own moral order.

    Moreover, I don’t believe the topic here was ever about Christianity coming to Japan.

    And we now return to “is Japan racist, inward ( <-does this mean selfish?) and conservative?" And the answer is again: no more than we are.

  55. mac said

    I love you Georgie Pye … yes, its true and, yes NB, your history is wrong … or at least partial and skewed. Its great the way most Japanese wear their religion well on the outside of their humanness and, again, tantamount to their superiority that they did not fall to the mental slavery, and physical slavery, of the aggressive Christian cult.

    To be honest, as the original quotee, I thought this topic was about celebrating the extraordinarily aware and cosmopolitan nature of Japanese society and challenged the ridiculous stereotype that it is “inward looking”. I have no idea who the ‘we’ you refer to is but the answer is “a hell of a lot less than the White societies I have encountered”.

    And let’s not be naive about the business plan of the Holy Roman Empire. Xavier and his followers did exactly to Japan what they did to Goa and that included the wrecking of shrines, idols carried out under his lack of any respect for local religions and culture. Who do you think was financing Xavier and why? The Bible in one hand, the sword and slave shackles in the other. Get real.

    Quoting a letter between Portuguese King João III and the Pope, “Japan would exchange a barrel of gunpowder for fifty slaves. In this case it would be specified as light skinned good–looking (pleasing to the eyes) young Japanese women/maidens. In the name of God, if Japan can be occupied/possessed I am sure the price can be increased.”

    Really the points I wanted to make are three, a) Japan never encroached on the West, it was always the West and Christians encroach on Japan, b) these are the people from Xavier to Perry (and even to McArthur), who formed the opinions of the Japanese as to what the West was like and this is the ultimate context for Japanese’s foreign relations, c) the basic principles or dynamics continued at least late into the last century.

  56. mac said

    just as an aside, I’d be very interested to know more about the story of the Japanese that were enslaved by the Christian whites. When the 5 young samurai were taken back to Rome, they reported that across the Christian Empire, they saw enslaved Japanese women and being sold. Often as sex slaves. In many cases, they were bound and naked, which was a great taboo and insult to the Japanese at that time.

    The financiers of the Church exchange them for limestone (a necessary ingredient for gun-powder) and they were sold in places as far as away India or Africa.

    I cant help thinking there is one hell of a movie to be made about this time in Japanese history and its first encounter with the West and Christian “values” that would start to put it all into context.

  57. ampontan said

    Here’s a somewhat related post of mine from last November with some of the same information Mac presents:

    https://ampontan.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/gaspars-grave-and-christian-cuisine/

  58. melmo said

    NB,

    “ALL PEOPLE that they DESERVE TO DIE”

    This is a belief shared by many Christians. I would say all people are destined to die. Very sorry, but this is also a major reason why I despise Monotheism. It’s an eminently pessimistic outlook, with a belief in the fate of Armageddon. Apparently, this morbid curse has been used to control the common populace. I won’t force you to join me in the pagan world. Again very sorry but I care little about the laws of the Bible.

    “And the answer is again: no more than we are.”

    True. All people are equally vulnerable to racism, but cultures shape people, as we learned in Psychology 101. I would happily acquiesce that the Japanese people are as racist as other people, but not that it is the most racist county in the world, as frequently suggested by western media.

    But a little bit of trivia is that Japan is the FIRST ever country to introduce an anti-discrimination (racial equity) clause, way before WWII.

    Then again, I became nauseous in Unzen Onsen, after knowing how Japanese Christian converts were tortured…

  59. tomojiro said

    “Then again, I became nauseous in Unzen Onsen, after knowing how Japanese Christian converts were tortured…”

    Well if you interested in this story, I heard that Martin Scorsese is trying to film “Silence”, the novel of Shusaku Endo which is about Kirishitan in the 17th century.

  60. Jon said

    @Mac, I certainly understand your point of view about the Japan Times. Most of it is utter crap and the 99% of the comments are vapid and hateful.

    However, by writing off the links wholesale, without reading them you are being ridiculous. There are five links, three to the Japan Times. The first Japan Times link is actually an AP article that happens to be in the Japan Times. If you read it you’d probably learn something interesting. The second has only one important point “According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a Geneva-based organization… Japan was ranked 106th among 189 countries as of November in terms of the percentage of female lawmakers in the House of Representatives.” The point is, Japan has work to do still with gender issues. You can leave the other commentary aside. The last is the most questionable of the three. It makes some decent points, but it is alarmist. Throw it out of the bunch if you like.

    I read from an RSS feed so I get stories from multiple sources / perspectives. I rarely read anything from the Japan Times, but I’m not worried about reading something that talks trash because I can think for myself. If you just ignore the people you disagree with you’ll feel like the smartest person in the room almost all the time, but the reality might be quite different.

    Finally, I’ll just say that it is unwise to talk down to people who you haven’t taken the time to understand or listen to.

    @Aceface, I feel like you are having a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to what people are saying. And I also think you are jumping to lots of unsupported conclusions.

    I give a huge damn about what anyone thinks. Overall my experiences in Japan have been positive. Almost all of my interactions have been great. I study Japanese almost everyday to try and make more interaction possible. Don’t be so quick to judge me, or others.

    I am simply saying that you can’t support your ideas, but you were claiming that others are wrong for saying things they can’t support. That overwhelming contradiction is a problem.

    I am sure you can find lots of sites where people hate Japanese people. I agree it is terrible. I am also sure you can find a similar site for every other country and person. There are people who live to hate. But you can’t group everyone together. Some people have genuine problems and sticking them with racists is bad business, I think.

    In terms of discrimination, we are talking about only in Japan. You have, to some extent, a point about portrayal in the papers. However, I can’t agree with you about sweat shops. Just because people aren’t being enslaved doesn’t mean they aren’t being discriminated against.

    @Melmo, I beg you to read the NY Times article more carefully before criticizing it. They do say that it is a choice, and they point out that Japan has created programs to help unemployed foreigners. However, it also says that they are never allowed to come back, and neither are their children. Here is a blurb from the article that to my ears is every bit as horrifying as anything I hear from US Republicans on immigrant issues:

    “But Mr. Kawasaki said the economic slump was a good opportunity to overhaul Japan’s immigration policy as a whole.

    ‘We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,’ he said. ‘I do not think that Japan should ever become a multiethnic society.'”

    @everyone, Japan is a great place. I’m sorry to have tainted the upbeat tone of this post. I just think that moderation is important. Walking around with blinders on saying that Japan is a perfect utopia where every other person is a worldly open minded friend waiting to be found falls sort of the truth. Japan has problems like every other country.

    Can we all just agree that racism exists in Japan, but that it isn’t the huge issue that some people like to pretend it is?

  61. Jon said

    ps.

    @Melmo which media suggests that Japan is the most racist country in the world? I’d never even considered the issue until I came here. While my world history needs some sharpening I definitely read and listened to lots of news in my day.

    I’m not saying you are lying or wrong, but I’d like to see some supporting evidence for such a damning claim. A claim, which sounds to me, every bit as over the top as calling Japan the most racist country.

  62. Bender said

    But it’s not the collective-thinking causes mass panic,the swine flu happens to be real and so are economic downtrum.Perhaps,you could find more about why Japanese people act same from tendencies like….they all speak the same language or so many of them are right handed.

    A white horse is not a horse.

  63. melmo said

    Tomojiro-san, thank you for the info. I did not know.

    But I rarely read fiction based on a previous event in history, since the intent is often propaganda. Though I read about his life and emotional struggles, which are interesting.

    Guess a lot of anti-Japanese movies are on the way, though I suppose at least this one will not trigger condemnation, apologizes or compensation. I rather look forward to Hachiko.

    An eye-opening thing here is that I learned a lot about Japanese persecution of Christian converts, but none at all about the slave trade conducted by missionaries, from the so-called “pro-Japanese” junior-high school history textbooks in Japan. As I recall, it does not even explain what provoked the Japanese persecutions other than to attribute them to protests from Buddhist monks and Shinto priests.

    I hope someday a book similar to “A People’s History of the United States” for Japan is published.

    “School is teachers who don’t know, teaching facts that aren’t true to kids who don’t care.”
    – Matt Groening – Life in Hell –

  64. mac said

    Yes, most of the available information about the persecution of the Kirishtans has been very, very one sided. Likewise the whitewashing Saint Xavier received. Xavier was the one that wrote to Rome requesting the rights to an Inquisition to kidnap, torture and murder Indians in their native India after the Catholic had set up camp in Goa. Bible in one hand, sword in the other, financed by slavery and dealing in weaponry …

    Laughably, the treatment of the Kirishtans is even portrayed as the latest “Holocaust” for, which no doubt, Japan will be accused of not apologizing for. Without any doubt there were personal tragedy and, as ever, the wrong people got it in the face (naive converts with no idea of the Christian heritage), but take sides with “divide and rule” slave traders and what do you expect?

    Aso apart (he is a Kyushu born Catholic) … its worth also remembering that the Christian shit stirring did not end in the 16th Century. In the early 20th C, Western missionaries loathed the native “churchless” Christianity of Uchimura Zanzo in Japan, as it interfered with their empire building (both Uchimura and disciple Yanaihara Tadao were open supporters of the creation of Israel) and right into the 1980s, Christian fundamentalists like Uno Masami were attempting to whip up anti-semitism on the basis of stuff taken out of the Protocols of Zion. “Japan” is accused of anti-semitism … in fact, it was a Christian who was at with their best sellers.

    And as a reminder of Japan’s history of openness and worldly awareness … The Merchant of Venice was performed in Japan as early as 1695.

  65. Georgie Pye said

    Actually, come to think of it, that makes Japan more tolerant – at least in a religious sense – than the United States and many many other Western nations which have never had someone from a minority religion as their head of state. I guess that’s what happens when the country is full of atheists. Sanity ensues and religion doesn’t really matter. I know of at least two other Japanese PMs who were Christians off the top of my head (Katayama and Ohira). Anyone know any more?

    That’s quite phenomenal for such a small religious group in Japan. Just shows that Japan is quite cosmopolitan.

    Anyway, I don’t buy your argument NB. If everyone deserves to die, why do homos get special mention? Why not racists, furries or bank tellers who tell you you are likely approved for a credit card when really they know you are not? It is generally only religious people who would single out an act of love as an object of hate.

    Indeed, if you are God, why not just write a book saying “You’re all going to die. But here are some rules. I understand that there will be some misinterpretation, but I will try and make them as clear as possible, and I’ll even put them in bullet point format at the end. Try and stick to them, believe in me, and I’ll instruct my bouncers to let your soul into my afterlife club. As for the rest of you. You are fucked. Good day.” Why instead rely on a book with a tenuous plot and only patches of literary brilliance to communicate your message? Was God like Shinzo Abe in that he couldn’t afford a decent shadow writer?

    In fact, why indulge in the – it doesn’t look like I am here, but really I am everywhere – charade at all? Unless, of course, you don’t exist.

  66. Aceface said

    @Jon
    “I feel like you are having a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to what people are saying.”

    That’s usually happens to a person when someone call your idea “far more crazy”.

    “Don’t be so quick to judge me, or others.”

    It probably isn’t too late to poke a Japanese guy for his poor English writing ability or talking about law and practice after you learn how to debate in Japanese,No?

    “I am simply saying that you can’t support your ideas, but you were claiming that others are wrong for saying things they can’t support. That overwhelming contradiction is a problem.”

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here,Jon.

    “I am sure you can find lots of sites where people hate Japanese people. I agree it is terrible.”

    And this “terrible” thing what I calll the “certain tendency among foreigners exploiting any anectodal evidences of racial friction as the weapon of choice to bash Japan and make them look like politically correct at the same time”.
    There,you now agree with me.Now my hypothesis is at least gained one supporter apart from me.

    “I can’t agree with you about sweat shops. Just because people aren’t being enslaved doesn’t mean they aren’t being discriminated against.”

    The word “power” comes from you Jon,That’s why the analogy of “sweat shop” came from me.And I,the one who come up with “perception”.Yes.just because people aren’t being enslaved that doesn’t mean they aren’t being descriminated against.But just because someone is being an Englsih teacher that wouldn’t make you automatically become the target of discrimination either.

  67. melmo said

    Jon,

    “since Japan has been paying for it’s low class (now unemployed) immigrants to leave and _never_ come back, there aren’t so many non-Japanese ghettos,”

    I believe you inserted the citations wrong, but the above is your conclusion based on the NYT article, isn’t it?

    First, a ghetto is a place, not people. People are just fillers of a ghetto. Do you see a fallacy in your logic here? Second, those so-called Brazilian towns hardly qualify as ghettos.

    As a native English speaker, I suppose it’s easy for you to ascertain the writer’s opinion from the diction and connotation of the words used in the NYT article, which is:

    Japan, the “immigration-averse country,” is “paying for its low class (now unemployed) immigrants” in order to “ease pressure on domestic labor markets and the unemployment rolls” under a “shortsighted, inhumane” backward program.

    Isn’t it?

    And, that article is very one-sided, and does not even include the official objective of the program which, as you see in the link below, is to provide financial help for those foreign workers who have been placed outside of the job market for a long time, with bleak prospects in light of competition with Japanese workers due to a disadvantage of Japanese language comprehension and work experience.

    http://www.mhlw.go.jp/houdou/2009/03/h0331-10.html

    As to your concern here that “it also says that they are never allowed to come back, and neither are their children,” the correct term is that they are not allowed to come back with the same “Nikkei” visa, which they previously used to enter Japan for a reasonable time. If they intend to come back when Japan’s economy rebounds, they should not take the benefit. How difficult is that?

    Obviously this restriction was added to prevent “repetitious use of the financial benefit.” As an educated and international person, I suppose you can find this kind of restriction included in monetary benefits all over the world. Rather, can you name any country which provides financial help to ailing immigrants with “considerate and benevolent” financial help on top of premium unemployment benefits???

    If you use subjective words and conclusive language, the matter is always one of comparison. Using them without any logic or comparison just discloses the writer’s biased views. I see many of those biased views in Western media and even Japanese media. Ampontan has some great entries on this subject. Due to their use of innuendo, subjective words with specific connotations, and a lack of balanced view and comparison, I can easily name those journalists who think that Japan is one of the most racist countries in the world.

  68. ampontan said

    Ampontan has some great entries on this subject.

    Thank you Melmo, and I had already planned on having a post on this very article. You just did half my work for me!

  69. ampontan said

    The second has only one important point “According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a Geneva-based organization… Japan was ranked 106th among 189 countries as of November in terms of the percentage of female lawmakers in the House of Representatives.” The point is, Japan has work to do still with gender issues.

    I moseyed on over to the website for the Inter-Parlimentary Union to have a look. They have a list ranking countries by percentage of females in the legislature.

    Coming in at the top of the table was Rwanda, which I suspect might have been due to a severe shortage of males for other reasons. Ranking third was Cuba. Significantly higher than Japan on this list were the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Libya.

    None of these countries has anything to teach Japan about democracy, much less “gender issues”.

    The IPU has some “issues” of their own. They are very big on human rights, but seem to think that quotas for female legislators is a good idea.

    The problem here is that quotas designed to produce specific results violate the human rights of the people falling outside the quotas.

    Another problem, just as serious, is that the focus on equality (or percentage) of results is undemocratic and can only be achieved by means that are undemocratic and violate human rights.

    That’s why the focus should always be on equality of opportunity rather than results. Want to be in the legislature? OK, that’s cool–now get yourself elected like everyone else who wound up there.

    Japan obviously has equality of opportunity under the law. Ergo, it has no “gender issues” at all in terms of female representation in the legislature.

    “Gender”, by the way, is only a grammatical term, used particularly when studying foreign languages. Any other use is technically incorrect.

    The switch to “gender” from “sex” was originally encouraged by some people with the objective of promoting the idea that while there were only two sexes, there were five genders. These five seem to be male, female, gay male, lesbian, and “transgendered”.

    That’s yet another example of the incorrectness of what people refer to as political correctness.

  70. Aceface said

    Japan definltly has problem in gender equality.But at least in the election,women can vote just like men and possess fifty percent share and female candidates are supposed to be exploiting this.Yet the outcome isn’t.Simply because majority of female voters chose party politics ahead of gender politics.

  71. Georgie Pye said

    ““Gender”, by the way, is only a grammatical term, used particularly when studying foreign languages. Any other use is technically incorrect.

    The switch to “gender” from “sex” was originally encouraged by some people with the objective of promoting the idea that while there were only two sexes, there were five genders. These five seem to be male, female, gay male, lesbian, and “transgendered”.”

    Gosh, that’s stretching things a bit; this from Wikipedia (yes, yes, I know, but it quotes primary sources).

    “Gender:

    As masculinity or femininity

    The use of gender to refer to masculinity and femininity as types is attested throughout the history of Modern English (from about the 14th century).

    * 1387-8: No mo genders been there but masculine, and femynyne, all the remnaunte been no genders but of grace, in facultie of grammar — Thomas Usk, The Testament of Love II iii (Walter William Skeat) 13.
    * c. 1460: Has thou oght written there of the femynyn gendere? — Towneley Mystery Plays xxx 161 Act One.
    * 1632: Here’s a woman! The soul of Hercules has got into her. She has a spirit, is more masculine Than the first gender — Shackerley Marmion, Holland’s Leaguer III iv.
    * 1658: The Psyche, or soul, of Tiresias is of the masculine gender — Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia.
    * 1709: Of the fair sex … my only consolation for being of that gender has been the assurance it gave me of never being married to any one among them — Mary Wortley Montagu, Letters to Mrs Wortley lxvi 108.
    * 1768: I may add the gender too of the person I am to govern — Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.
    * 1859: Black divinities of the feminine gender — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
    * 1874: It is exactly as if there were a sex in mountains, and their contours and curves and complexions were here all of the feminine gender — Henry James, ‘A Chain of Italian Cities’, The Atlantic Monthly 33 (February, p. 162.)
    * 1892: She was uncertain as to his gender — Robert Grant, ‘Reflections of a Married Man’, Scribner’s Magazine 11 (March, p. 376.)
    * 1896: As to one’s success in the work one does, surely that is not a question of gender either — Daily News 17 July.
    * c. 1900: Our most lively impression is that the sun is there assumed to be of the feminine gender — Henry James, Essays on Literature.”

    I think Henry James and co. predate the time when we would expect gay and transgender movement to redefine the word gender. If not, the “new” meaning for that particular word has been around for some six or seven hundred years, so we can safely call it an established definition.

    By the way, I’m pretty sure there are only two genders – as I understand the word, it refers to the “social” (as opposed to biological) role that an individual plays. So a biological man dressing an acting as a woman is feminine (depending on how good s/he is at acting).

    In terms of the stats that organizations like the one mentioned above like to keep, I wonder what this means for transgendered politicians.

    Like this one:

    http://ah-yeah.com/profile_e.html.

    Okay, okay, she is not a Dietmember. But she is more proof that Japan is quite cosmopolitan.

  72. ampontan said

    Yeah, it’s stretching things a bit, but Webster’s English Usage has some more information. Including the following:

    “By the turn of the (20th) century dictionaries had begun to give it restrictive labels. The OED described it as “now only jocular” in 1898, and Merriam-Webster dictionaries at the same time were calling it “obsolete or colloquial”.”

    The mighty Fowler in 1926 wrote: “Gender…is a grammatical term only. (To use it do describe people of the male or female sex) is either a jocularity or a blunder”.

    This reference suggests that it was revived because of the attention to male-female issues and the increased use of sex to mean intercourse. They cite a Boston Globe column in 1983 saying it might be a “reverse euphemism”.

    The reference tends to be very liberal in what it accepts, but they also say that some, such as Harper, and Shaw, discourage its use.

    They also note the use of the creation genderless, and cite a few examples. Their bias is suggested by their citation of James J. Kilpatrick’s use of the word; he was probably being facetious, but they don’t bring that up.

  73. melmo said

    Yay, very glad, Ampontan.

    Just in case, that reporter’s name reminds me of one of the notorious articles on the comfort women. Yep those journalists use Wiki as a fact checker, and in return their articles become sources. What crap—an encyclopedia which sources from “contemporary” media articles.

    “the treatment of the Kirishtans is even portrayed as the latest ‘Holocaust’ for, which no doubt, Japan will be accused of not apologizing for”

    Speechless…
    Well, I hope people are not so blind as to forget the horrifyingly imaginative torture techniques of the Spanish Inquisition, which makes Dante’s torture chamber seem like child’s play.

  74. mac said

    Yet more pieces of the usual garbage reporting are being bounced around the media on the basis of the latest typical “American” insensitivity and cultural invasion. This time in the form of crashing boors ‘Google’ and its mapping project.

    “Google Earth maps out discrimination against burakumin caste in Japan”

    You will find numerous re-runs of this story everywhere confirming all that we have discussed on this issue;

    • poor translation
    • one-sided reporting
    • re-inforcement of negative racial stereotype
    • lack of historical and contextual knowledge
    • condemnatory adoption of moral high ground

    Followed by the usual tide of acceptable anti-Japanese shit surfers comments.

    Personally, I would have translated “Eta” as ‘absolute filth’ rather than “filthy mass” as most of the articles do, but I am not sure. I tell you, there are some really great looking burakumin girls.

    Having been in many so called “untouchable” areas, I can confirm that the level of facilities and quality of life is much, much higher than equivalent “projects” or housing estates in the West (thanks mostly to the individuals themselves and their ability to respect their living environment). One could not tell them apart from neighbouring areas unless one had it pointed out. Even government properties look like private blocks in the West.

    There is no mention in the articles of the politic meat … and money … that the Burakumin protection rackets make out of such issues, nor how they politicize them to their benefits, both legal and financial. Of course not. That would be far to subtle for the comic book readership and it is not what the readership want to buy.

    I also find it is strange how little criticism Google is receiving for its indiscretion. It is, of course, the sneaky … aggressive … racist … fucked up Japanese’s fault. Isn’t it? Well, isn’t it? The story makes the Huffinton Post yet again too.

    Despite pwning the whole of the world information, Google were just too dumb, or careless, to see this coming. They thought nothing of stir up neatly settle shit and leaving Japan to deal with it. They just could not keep their noses out of other people’s businesses.

    Google are also making people very unhappy with their video cars which, because of the narrowness of Japanese streets and low walls are kindly filming inside otherwise private people’s houses and gardens without their permission.

    Again, notice how it is a certain type of Americans that came and did it to Japan, not Japan who went and did it to America.

    Can you imagine the stink there would have been if they had? They would been shot and the shooters lauded as heroes.

    I am sorry but the Japanese have now had 157 years of this.

    Can you particular people please fuck off and stop spoiling the pitch for the rest of us who are entirely happy to blend in with the backround, shut up and pull our weight?

    Or else I will be manning the guns on Shimonoseki myself.

  75. Jon said

    Mac,
    Are you saying that the Times.co.UK article (that is UK as in United Kingdom) shows “the basis of the latest typical ‘American’ insensitivity and cultural invasion.” Also, why the quotes around American?

    Also, if you read the AP article you’d see that Google is getting some fair criticism for the move in the press.

    Re: “gender” regardless of how much you like or dislike that the term gender can mean more than just masculine, feminine, or neuter (and regardless of historically backing for my usage) it is proper usage by today’s standards. Lucky for me I am writing this today.

    You said, “That’s why the focus should always be on equality of opportunity rather than results. Want to be in the legislature? OK, that’s cool–now get yourself elected like everyone else who wound up there.”

    I agree with you to a point. You are grossly simplifying the issue. In the US women had the right to vote and to be elected to public office, but it took much more than that for it to start really happening. What you are talking about is only the first step down a long road towards greater equality.

    Melmo,
    I can see your point, but it is interesting you that seem to ignore the strongest condemnation in the article: “‘It’s a disgrace. It’s cold-hearted,’ said Hidenori Sakanaka, director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, an independent research organization.”

    re:ghettos. I know what a ghetto is. It is a slum where minorities live. If minorities don’t live there they aren’t ghettos any more, they are just slums.

    On the issue of subjective words. I find that interesting. I can’t argue that this person isn’t writing with a bias, though I’m not sure I’d grant that you can read into their soul and discover how they feel about the people of Japan.

    Can you point me towards an article which has no subjective words? Maybe I’m taking it too far, but other than articles I think every word has connotations if you look at it long enough from the right angle. I’m not trying to be a smart aleck, I’d really like to see such an article so that I can compare it alongside this one.

    Aceface,
    You make a good point. I came on too strongly. My apologies. However, I didn’t poke fun of your English because you aren’t a native speaker. I hadn’t even realized it when I pointed out your misuse of quotation marks. Your English is quite good actually. I’ll be happy if my Japanese can reach your level.

    About the part you didn’t understand. You are claiming that there are “certain foreigners simply exploiting any anectodal evidences of racial friction as the weapon of choice to bash Japan and make them look like politically correct at the same time.” You seem to be saying that the foreigners who complain do so based on anecdotes, not fact. But you don’t offer any proof to support your idea that this situation is a fact, making it equally anecdotal (at best).

    I just don’t like that you seem to be trying to marginalize every person who’s ever claimed to be hurt by racism in Japan.

    I am totally wrong in thinking that many of the comments on this post are making the same mistakes as the people/organizations it is decrying? There seems to be an unwillingness to accept that the issue of race in Japan is much more difficult than it is A or B. Or even as simple as it is mostly A but a little B.

    I guess I’ll just say once more, that I don’t agree part and parcel with any of you or any of the articles I’ve read, and that includes the ones I shared. I agree there are biases, and I think they swing both ways. I think it is natural to create an opinion, and like something, and feel strongly about something. I’m happy you all seem to have found a passion and your own biases. I only ask that we all accept we are all biased and no one has been to the top of the mountain (and that includes me in a huge way).

    Thank you for letting me be a part of this discussion. I feel like I’ve been learning a lot from it.

  76. Anymouse said

    All Google did was publish historical maps from the Rumsey Collection. They did nothing wrong, but Burakumin Activists got upset.

  77. melmo said


    The red parts on the map are TEMPLES and SHRINES, Kofukji, Chomeiji,…

    Jeez, I do not have the advanced skill required to sort out the ghettos…

    Below from the article:
    “In 2003 Taro Aso, the Japanese Prime Minister, dismissed the chances of Hiromu Nonaka — a burakumin who became Secretary-General of the ruling party — becoming Prime Minister. “There is no way we can make that kind of person prime minister,” Mr Aso was quoted as saying.”

    Why did the Times reporter include this rumor as a confirmed fact? Nonaka himself admits that he heard it from an anonymous third person who attended a private meeting. There is no evidence nor any witnesses whatsoever.

    I seriously hate those journalists who cannot comprehend the Japanese language, yet pretend to be specialists on Japan.

  78. Bender said

    I believe the word “Jendaa” used in Japanese only relates to feminine relations. Anyways, it’s pretty bold to declare that sexist social systems in Japan are the women’s own making. Like many social phenomena, it’s not been studied extensive enough for anyone to produce any credible theory why Japanese Jendaa relations are as it is. We don’t even know whether there really is “equal opportunity” or not. Just because the written system is equal, it doesn’t actually mean that the real world is. For example, a career system that screws people who take maternal leaves isn’t equal.

  79. mac said

    All Google did was publish historical maps from the Rumsey Collection according to their agenda of world domination (I use the term lightly) … without stopping to think about any possible ramifcations and dealing with them in advance. Sometimes it is best to leave alone or speak to someone that knows first.

    “They did nothing wrong, but Burakumin Activists got upset.”

    This is true but, of course, there is no discussion about how the Burakumin Activists are good at getting upset or use it politically to their benefit.

    Of course, the media – skimming the surface and looking for the usual stereotypical J-Angle to grind – got it wrong again.

    The other side of the story … how can you tell ex-Burakumin areas? They are the ones with the biggest cars outside, the newest government sponsored offices and the ones where government like planning don’t apply.

    The activist groups – who, of course do, not represent the position of all Burakamin but more than often just themselves – work the system much like some of the Korea activist do.

    In truth, all civilizations have this same history, e.g. the “Tanners Lane” in England. Countries like India still do, untouchables … human shit carriers etc. Why do certain elements of the Western media get all excited when they discover this? It is as if they enjoy trying to pull down and belittle Japan portraying a false reality.

  80. Jon said

    Mac,

    What do you propose the media do? Ignore news? You make it sound like people and new organizations think Japan is the only country that has issues. I read articles all the time about race and class issues in other countries.

    Do a google news search for “racist” or “racism.” How many stories do you see about Japan in the past month? I don’t see any on the first three pages. I do see America, Australia, England, Wales, Ireland, Israel, India, and Liberia.

    Should Japan get special treatment?

    And should the media ignore a group who claims to be marginalized? Putting the question aside of which group is right and which is wrong, do you think this is at least a little news worthy? It isn’t getting lots of attention— it’s been treated as what it is, a small news story.

    I guess I have to do some reading about Burakumin. You seem to be providing the same sort of one-sided story that you claim Japan gets.

    You said, “The activist groups – who, of course do, not represent the position of all Burakamin but more than often just themselves – work the system much like some of the Korea activist do.” You said something to the same effect before (though now you’ve added some distain for Korean activists, too). But I haven’t seen anything to back up your claims. Could you point me towards some information?

  81. melmo said

    “speak to someone that knows first”

    Knows what? History, discrimination, the interest group, or the lobbyist?? To me, EVERYTHING here is nonsensical…

    Why does the Brakumin activist group have to hide it? If they are seriously fighting against discrimination, why hide?

    “Companies sometimes hire private detectives to ensure that they are not employing someone of burakumin ancestry.”

    We all know that the story above is from at least 30 years ago..

    Like the Koreans living in Japan using a Japanese pseudonym, if they are really serious about fighting discrimination, why HIDE? It seems to me they are the ones discriminating against themselves… way too preemptive, and totally nonsense.

  82. melmo said

    Jon,

    “you that seem to ignore the strongest condemnation in the article”

    A condemnation is just condemnation, not appealing to intelligence – even when from a notable figure – without any reason, logic, or comparison. You don’t believe everything your President says without any reasoning or evidence, do you? Anyway, I did include the equally compatible condemnation of the paraphrase, “shortsighted, inhumane” in my summary of the article, didn’t I?

    So it is logical that Japan has comparatively fewer ghettos, but more slums, since the former have transformed into the latter?? Was this your point?

    “I’m not sure I’d grant that you can read into their soul and discover how they feel about the people of Japan.”

    I didn’t say this above. I suggest that I could read into the connotations of the word choices and decisive language. I’m not a weirdo who claims to see the soul.

    “I think every word has connotations”

    The key distinction is denotation vs connotation. Every word is NOT equally connotational. The issue here is again comparison.

  83. […] Is Japan racist, inward, and conservative? […]

  84. mac said

    Jon, I doubt I could find any English language resources serious discussing the issues. On one hand, you have the overwhelming media stereotypes of japan. Its neither “news” nor discussion, it is the uninformed reinforcement of stereotypes, as Melmo says, learned rote from decades of repetition. On the other hand, you might find vocal bleeding heart and ambitious western ‘liberal’ types looking for some issue to bandwagon on and applying Western/American projections.

    On the Burakumin issue, just try talking to some Japanese folks and take it from there. You might find it difficult because they are afraid to. Basically, whilst the vast majority of Burakumin are just getting on with life and it is a non-issue for them, their neighbors and co-workers; there are a minority that have turned their ancestor’s status, and lack of reserve, into a political weapon on the basis of “its the squeaky wheel that gets oiled”.

    Whilst most Japanese don’t squeak, they just get down and graft; there are a few ex-Burakumin that will scream, kick and shout – metaphorically and literally even – in the same kind of show of hysterics that one see some Koreans in Korea put on. To get something. To get more (n.b.; not ‘all Koreans’ or even ‘representative Koreans’, I just said some). They go too far and their asses are not too squeaky clean either. I can show some of the most ostentatiously wealth people whose family were eta and I can show you ex-samurai families who lost everything post-war living in single rooms.

    What would [I] propose the media do, Jon?

    As one gets older, and more aware, one laments the deterioration in the quality of the media … but this it really is deteriorating, largely because of the fees they (don’t) pay now and the soundbite mentality, and partly because of effect of the Web 2 effect. Why pay stringers in foreign countries to write crap when you can copy and paste crap off the Wikipedia and blogosphere? Why waste space publish the crap for no advertising revenue when if folks really want to know what things are like, they will look on the internet for the other side of the Web 2 … the people that really know what they are talking about.

    It is simple and its been said before; use experienced and educated people, who actually speak the language, live here (rather than stopping off for a few months on a career trajectory), and become informed. There is not a hope in hell of it happening, largely because the media provides the entertainment that their equally uninformed audience wants and largely because it take a long time. So what’s left? Ignorance, bigotry and politics about a mythic comic book “The Japanese”. I am sorry but a Google search hardly equates to a meta-study of media output.

    If you want some leads, ask your Japanese friends about the two standards that apply when it comes to ordinary Japanese people and the type of ‘professional’ ex-Burakumin that I am talking about when it comes to zoning, planning control etc. I will see if I can dig up something more substantial for you.

    I do not share Bill’s view on every aspect of politics and society but when I read that the Burakumin were 7 times more likely to be welfare income, I am forced to agree with him that is not caused by “discrimination”.

    in ‘Japan in the 21st Century: Environment, Economy, and Society (2005)’, burakumin report in two-thirds of surveys that “they have never experienced discrimination because of their heritage” … but that’s a non-news story, isn’t it?

  85. ampontan said

    Jon: If you can read Japanese, you might try a series of books called 同和権利の真相, easily available in bookstores, that try to depict burakumin activists as the Japanese equivalent of American race hustlers. There’s also a website run by an interest group that attempts to debunk the books’ claims. I haven’t read much of either until now, but that’s about to change.

    The Diet member that created the stink about the Google maps is a burakumin activist.

    It is interesting that the person who wrote those books is (or was) associated with the Communist Party of Japan.

    Mac: I haven’t had anything to say about this issue–yet–on this site (or anywhere, for that matter). Did you confuse me with someone else?

    The use of certain words in regard to this issue is taboo in the Japanese media. Still, the PC is not as bad as in the US, where someone got attacked a few years ago for the proper use of the word “niggardly”. Unfortunately, the man felt compelled to apologize.

    One thing that struck me is that Google asked the owner of the maps to remove the old references. Who the f*ck is Google to ask the owner of historical documents to alter them for their own convenience?

  86. Ecoutez said

    That “niggardly” thing was hilarious. Or sad, depending on how you look at it. The word has nothing to do with the n-word, and yet people who were offended because they didn’t know any better had to be accomodated.

    Ampontan, Google is our new Information Overlord, surely you know that by now! Google and Wikipedia. Googlepedia, comrade.

    Seriously, I think you might enjoy this essay called “DIGITAL MAOISM:
    The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism” by Jaron Lanier. It’s a little lengthy, but very thought provoking. If you have a free afternoon: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/lanier06/lanier06_index.html

  87. R said

    @Mac “I just wanted to mention about the Chinese kids at our language school as there are a load of them. The strange thing is, they are obviously loving being in Japan and having a great time. None of them appear frightened of Japanese or bothered whether they are going to invade Manchuria. No one brings up the Comfort Women issue.”

    And what would have happened if they or any other foreigner had brought up the “comfort women” issue or any other WW2-era torture? I’m not trying to be confrontational; I am genuinely interested to know what you think the average response would be since you appear to have daily direct first-hand interaction at your disposal, and I have only been there once.

    While I don’t believe Japan is bristling with anti-foreign racists or hate-mongers, I will admit, the handling of wartime issues by Japan hasn’t exactly helped sway things towards a positive perception of a non-inward, non-racist Japan either. I get the impression (from various direct and indirect experiences) that on average, maybe 50% or more would outright deny or downplay actions conducted by Imperial Japan if one were to enter a hypothetical civilized discussion regarding the matter. That is obviously a non-scientific value, but since we are talking about perception… What is your personal experience, or, if the opportunity has never come up, what is your predicted perception? 15%? 10%? 0%? Note, I am not talking about rabid ultra-nationalists; every country has that…just run of the mill commonfolk.

    I have heard, and personally experienced, quite the opposite in Germany, for example, which has given me a very positive perception of Germany compared to, I will admit, a very mixed perception of Japan. I am definitely hoping to be quite off and that the percentage is quite low.

    Very interesting discussion so far. I admit I saw that article on Brazilian Japanese labor, and was a bit puzzled, but the information here has shed a new light on it.

  88. ampontan said

    And what would have happened if they or any other foreigner had brought up the “comfort women” issue or any other WW2-era torture?

    It’s been a few hours since I read this, but I’m still having trouble visualizing language school-age young people (or anyone, really) bringing up 70-year-old wartime issues in a daily life situation. I can’t think of any time I’ve ever seen anyone do something like that, anywhere I’ve lived. Why would they?

    Japan is a particularly non-confrontational place, so I would expect in the unlikely event that it happened, that most people would find some way to be non-confrontational. They might even agree with the person, even if their opinions were different, to maintain social harmony.

    And of course there are the Japanese who would agree because they agree.

  89. mac said

    I suspect if you were a Turkish immigrant in a Leipzig housing estate with skinhead neo-Nazis as neighbours today, you would probably think differently.

    Ditto, neither do I suspect your image of “Germany” includes the German neo-Nazis that went into battle as volunteers during the 1990s Balkan War wearing Waffen SS regalia (those stylish black shirts have never quite gone out of fashion) complete with heavy artillery. The last known battalions fighting under a Nazi flag.

    None of which any Japanese have come remotely near doing in over 60 years … and imagine the stink if they had. I think you’d find it a hard job to pull the snaky hipped boys away from their hairdressers or doing dance routines to their reflections in shopping mall windows. Do you understand the point I am making?

    Over the last few days, I have been thinking of the English and the French, the English and the Indians, or even the English and the Irish etc, all of whom have knocked heads and had heads knock for far long times, e.g. 100 Years War, the British Empire etc.

    What do we think of the kind of people that stay at home and hark on about “the War”, the Empire or “bloody foreigners”? Would I really walk up to a German kid and blame them for Belsen … or stop some Jewish kids and tell them, “you know, you really should be hating the Germans for what their Grandparents did to yours”? What would any young kid think of some creepy uncle coming up to them and expecting them to have any opinion about WWII?

    I sense a surreptitious agenda even in your suggestion. I think it is our generation’s responsibility to put a firewall between the mentally ill propaganda of the past, and the hope in the future and the minds of young people everywhere. Japan, in particular, has had far too much corrupt “re-education” and politically inspired demonizing from nationalists with skeletons of their own and not fit to teach anyone “history” starting with “America” (no offense to enlightened Americans intended).

    Just going back to the title, “Everything you know about Japan is wrong”, to that, I’d also add “vastly incompletely and biased”. We can discuss the double standards that exist in Westerners mind if you wish.

    I don’t know what anyone can be puzzled about the Brazilians being offer generous expenses, and what is essentially a start up grant, if they were to go back to Brazil. Its strikes me as generosity unmatched by most governments to any immigrant workforce.

    Most just aggressively deport them and dump them on the near soil they can find, or stick them in holding pens like animals. What are you trying to say?

  90. melmo said

    Bravo, Mac!!

    Anyway, Jeez, we all should follow Google’s initiative, and promote a worldwide campaign to purge historical documents from discriminating slurs, including the Declaration of Independence of the Unites States.

    An interesting essay on news paper journalism, by TV producer David Simon, who previously worked for Baltimore Sun.

    Does the News Matter To Anyone Anymore?
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/18/AR2008011802874.html

    Intellectual vanity vs. high-end journalism. Certainly, this blog rates as high-end journalism.

  91. ampontan said

    Thanks Melmo, and for the link.

    That guy really doesn’t get it.

    I grew up in Baltimore and read the Sun practically cover to cover, morning AND evening, every day. And it was worth it. In the 60s, Time Magazine rated it as one of the 10 best newspapers in America, along with the NYT and WaPo.

    The problem is the boring, uninformative content produced by people obviously stuck on themselves and too unaware to realize that other people have picked up on it.

    And you can read it in black and white in the first few paragraphs of his story.

    The Sun just had another big round of layoffs a few weeks ago, and the remaining columnists were talking about the wonderful journalists that were leaving. Baloney. The journalists that left were mostly filler that people didn’t read as much as the ones who stayed. You can calculate hit counts column by column now. There’s a reason people didn’t read them. They weren’t wonderful journalists.

    By the end, I was thinking, Gee, there’s a lot heartbreak in the world, pal, but spare us the sob story about how unappreciated you wonderful people are. You’re the only one who believes it.

  92. melmo said

    I see your points. Guess we are different readers then.

    All I look for in a newspaper are facts collected first-hand. Defining the principle of newspaper journalism as objective fact-telling as opposed to story-telling, it excels when it minimizes subjectivity as much as possible. Thus I think even editorials and columns should not be included in newspapers. For a collection of essays, I grab specialty magazines.

    Sensationalism, tabloidism, controversy, propaganda, and fiction are all alluring, but it is far too tiresome to skim through so many subjective words and so much crafty writing in order to reach the information I expect in a newspaper. I’m not interested in the reporter’s opinions, just the facts.

    Maybe I’m vain or way too sensitive. But, for instance: rockets vs missiles. Rockets for North Korea, but missiles for Iran. These days, I often stop reading newspapers out of disgust.

    I’d rather have my fish in sashimi, pasting on wasabi and dipping it in soy sauce as I like.

  93. mac said

    I met a Japanese guy, the other weekend called “Murphy” … マーフィーです.

    There was me thinking the guy had a taste for a good Irish stout, but no … he was named after Eddie Murphy!

    Yup, just some more “racist, inward and conservative” Japanese folk …

    Speaking to my local Nepalese restaurateur, I heard that there are now 3,200 Indian and Nepalese restaurants within walking distance of Japanese railway stations. It seems they get to the next station and then find the nearest empty shop to start one up in! One of the professor of geodynamics and land disasters technology at the prefecture university is also Nepalese, making for some good ad hoc curry nights amongst the Nepalese students and their families who come over here to learn.

  94. Ken said

    Here are also some Caucasian supremacist who assert about Japan with limited experience.

    http://www.japantoday.com/category/commentary/view/one-zoo-to-avoid#show_all_comments

  95. ampontan said

    Ken: Thanks for the link. I don’t think his deal is the West vs. Japan as much as it is, “Look at how wonderful I am.”

    The first word of the piece is “I”. Notice how often he uses it. Five times in the three sentences of the third paragraph.

    One of the commenters said this:

    “Your attempts at anthropomorphisation miss the mark entirely, like some amped up ex-English teacher drunk off the smell of his own birkenstocks.”

    He’s right. The guy’s just a waste of time.

  96. mac said

    Can anyone defend zoos like those though, regardless of where they are?

    The Guantanamo analogy seems fair enough to me and the polar bear scenario reads as valid enough. I have seen many big cats in a similar state. Its appalling.

    In a sense, the Japanese are way behind the times on this one, about 100 years. I will step out of line here and say, generally, their attitude towards animals is fairly poor in comparison to the rest of Japan’s development.

    Who has not wanted to set free some poor dog chained 24 hours a day to the front of a tiny plastic house in the middle of an alleyway? No living deserves to live such a life.

    Perhaps once 25% of the human population dies off they will have room to build safari parks instead of concrete jails for animals.

  97. ampontan said

    No, not 100 years.

    I visited several zoos in the US in the 1970s, and they were exactly as he described Japanese zoos. Dispirited apes living in their own filth, monkeys in small cages…It was around that time that people began talking about the San Diego Zoo for its better treatment of animals, but it was one of a kind in those days.

    And of course zoos did not improve overnight in the US after that.

    So we have some guy, probably younger than 30, who is unaware of conditions in the recent past–before he was born–getting all snotty and pseudo artistic because Japanese awareness of a certain situation is at the same level of that in the United States when he was born.

    A sense of cultural superiority and the ignorance of youth makes for a poor combination.

  98. mac said

    Tobe Zoo on Shikoku is in the middle of negotiating two more elephants for their animal prison. it already has a family of African ones, including one new born. These are to be from Sri Lanka.

    Again, what is likely behind it is the retiring governor wanting to leave a “monument” behind him and a deal with a big construction company to build the “special requirements” being asked of the prefecture. Its not clear which end the special requirement are coming from.

    No one knows anything about, there is no public discussion about the spending and some poor animals are going to locked up for 60 years with an old car tire to play with.

    That is not the “problem”, the problem appears to me to be there are no channels to discuss such advance expenditure, no public consultation and … even if there was … would the public discussion or the leadership list? It all seems to happen behind closed doors.

    I don’t know this. It is just how it looks from my point of view.

  99. ampontan said

    That is not the “problem”, the problem appears to me to be there are no channels to discuss such advance expenditure, no public consultation and … even if there was … would the public discuss or the leadership listen? It all seems to happen behind closed doors.

    I think many Japanese would agree with you. There are historical factors for this, including a very long tradition of the population willingly leaving such decisions to the bureaucrat class. “Onegaishimasu” they say in effect, you take care of that, and we’ll handle our own lives.

    This seems to be changing, however, which is why there is all the ferment over bureaucracies in this country. That’s why I think the subject is so interesting.

    Here in Saga a few years ago they spent a crapload of money to rebuild the castle that got torn down in the popular revolutions of the 19th century and they turned it into a museum. It’s one of those high-class educational/entertainment projects using tax money that is being discussed in another thread.

    But some people here were extremely pissed off about it. Not because they don’t like the museum, but because they wanted to talk about the expense and scale of the project first, and the prefectural government just blew them off and built it anyway.

    Which, for me, is yet another reason to take this stuff out of the hands of government and put it in the hands of the private sector.

    This isn’t going to improve until the Japanese voters start punishing some politicians. The next step in that process is going to happen in the next couple of months in the lower house election. Some people are going to be severely punished.

    The issue is whether the people will keep it up. The DPJ shows very few signs that they get it (at the upper levels, anyway), and for the system to get better, the DPJ will have to be punished immediately for their screwups too. (Which are inevitable and which will happen soon.)

  100. Ken said

    Bill, thanks for your commenting but the point is rather ther posting commenters.

    The more clearly blog uses the name which associate Japan like Japan-something, the further the content is form the truth about Japan as I mentioned before.
    Such blogger puts out a sensational directionality on a issue about Japan without historical knowledge and some commenters post more radical opinion to attract attention, like;

    “She said it was normal and it is OK because they are animals.”
    I do not think there is such girl that says so from heart or she could explain all the matters in English.

    “The problem with poor treatment of animals is a huge problem in the far east & asia 99% just cant comprehend why anyone shud even think about it.”
    Those who have been generating deformity or handicapped dogs by intentional mating and now are eating animals every day are not eligible to condemn other races on this matter.

    “I was amazed when a friend of mine saw some hopping bunnies is Izu and squeaked “Kawaiiii!” – she was wearing a rabbit skin jacket and carrying a rabbit skin bag.”
    I have not heard there is rabbit skin craftman in Japan and so the goods must be fake and such girl as squeak “Kawaiiii!” cannot buy rabbit skin goods.
    Same guy’s lie is revealed like suicide by asserting about Japan in knowing manner as follows.
    “I think that humane zoos are needed in Japan, since it seems few Japanese city dwellers have ever seen a squirrel, hedgehog, fox etc. These are all common sites even in London. Come to think of it, even in my excursions into the Japanese countryside I don’t think I’ve ever spotted a wild mammal.”
    Squirrel, hedgehog? So what?
    There are foxes in suburbs of Japanese cities, racoons are living in the woods of imperial palace, monkeys come to the centre of Tokyo, marten can be seen in the suburb of Tokyo and the damage by bears, deers, wild boars is serious problem in countryside.
    I wonder which it is there are so many caucasian supremacists or whites-pretenders to run down Japan.

  101. ampontan said

    Ken: I agree that many of them sound very stupid (and very young), but believe it or not, that’s typical of the commenters at most newspaper and media sites throughout the world for any issue. It’s not just about Japan.

  102. mac said

    Ha! Yes, and tell your Japanese woman friend that those “rabbit” skin garments from China are actually “Chinese Rabbit” … which means cat. I am never quite sure to make of fake sleeping cat toys that are made out … well, real dead ex-ones.

    Round our way, which is city suburbs, we have tanuki, snakes small and large, turtles, huge frogs that sounds like cows, sea eagles and of course, the huge muddy carps in all the rivers, but, in truth, I am surprise how few foxes and so on. I was discussing this just today (feral cats etc) and put it down to the massive lack of garbage bags lining the street as in the West.

    All that coastal concretization HAS killed of many species of seals and otters, and the manic damning of the rivers has not helped many fish species. I think there has been a bit of a mammalian holocaust. The old folks say there are not so many monkeys around.

    Just be careful if you Google for “Japanese bears” its not the wild life that you are probably looking for … but … it is another stereotype dispelled!

  103. bender said

    huge frogs that sounds like cows

    Ah, bullfrogs. They come from America, introduced as a delicacy but never caught on. Surprisingly, crayfish was introduced from the American South, too, to serve as food for the bullfrogs. Amazing stupidity that still goes on today- heard of the news that Chinese honey bees were being illegally introduced? Or stag beetles imported from the tropics running amok in the wild? The mongoose in Okinawa?

    I think there has been a bit of a mammalian holocaust.

    Japanese sea lion (last seen on Takeshima, so the Koreans are the ones who killed them off, but used to be found all over Japan including places like Izu), Japanese river otter, Japanese and Hokkaido wolfs are the major ones gone extinct. Other mammals that became extinct in Japan but still come from nearby areas from time to time include the sea otter, Steller’s Sea Lion, various seals, etc. And there are the birds- it’s unbelievable now, but Tancho cranes used to habit the Tokyo area! The belief that the Japanese are “harmonious with nature” is pure myth.

  104. mac said

    > The belief that the Japanese are “harmonious with nature” is pure myth.

    “Harmonious” as long as it is safely contained within, or propped up by, steep and extensive walls of concrete, or cut, clipped and miniaturized. All around the world, Manitoba Fukuoka was lionized as a hero of natural and organic farming, awarded the Deshikottan Award, Ramon Magsaysay and Earth Council Awards … (the equivalents of an Asian Nobel prize).

    In Iyo, they loathed him because his fields were not “kirei”, blamed him for pestilence, tried to break him into conformity with the JA chemical overplan; there is not a signal official memorial to his work of farm there. You could not get one.

    There really is a psychological PhD thesis to be done about some elements within Japan’s relationship with nature which goes beyond the financial intrigue between the government and the construction industry. I think it was Kerr who described the island as “Battleship Nihon”, literally encase in concrete, at war with nature.

    But, equally, it probably applies to their relationship with the past and “historic” sites or elements which are also sterilized and encased in cheap modernity.

    I was amazed by the claim that there was only one river left in Japan (Shimanto) that was not concreted up and often stood looking at some wall or barrier asking, what is it actually for … but to stop the river life moving back to its source.

    Perhaps it is a little like the Germans after the war and their relationship to their own Teutonic past … the Japanese being afraid the old Yamato Spirit would break the river banks and spill once again over the flood plans of society.

  105. ampontan said

    Ah, bullfrogs. They come from America, introduced as a delicacy but never caught on.

    Introduced after the war to provide an alternative source of meat, is the story I was told.

  106. The Overthinker said

    Just a comment on the zoos, since I was at Ueno Zoo the other month. On the whole it is quite a decent zoo – the newer areas are excellent, and the gorillas have the best area of the type I have seen. Some of the older areas need work, but the direction is sound. My prefectural zoo, freshly built from scratch, is also on the whole very good, though the system of alternating the tigers and keeping one in the small and very stark indoor area is not ideal. My hometown zoo, back where I grew up, while it has made huge strides in recent years, also used to have green – and mangy – polar bears. At least the ones at Ueno were white….

    Japanese rivers often have to be concreted, in theory at least, to control flooding. Being short and steep (as opposed to continental ones) they flood fast, and with the number of cities built on or around rivers in Japan, flood damage used to be a very serious and regular issue. One side effect however does mean that rivers, bereft of the natural ireegularities that slowed them, are now faster than ever, so when they do flood, it just gets worse.

  107. Ken said

    Bill; (and very young), Yah! You are right.
    I tend to regard the commenters who put on know in blog as same generation.
    It seems me that was trolled to radical opinion competition.

    PS Once deleted and too much rush made me mis-spelled: ther -> there, form -> from

  108. mac said

    > Japanese rivers often have to be concreted, in theory at least, to control flooding.

    a) I don’t know.
    b) They went WAY too far and it must have been a national obsession at some point.

    What I have read is that they over engineered many and that it was all part of the cosy financial relationship between politicians and the construction industry, part of which was used to benefit local economies creating work. They were built to withstand that “once in 100 years” super flood which may or may not happen, just like every shore line was built up to protect against “the next big one” tsunami.

    But it is practically EVERY river … brook … stream .. rivulet … and irrigation ditch which has been turned into stagnant or lifeless concrete chutes. The amount of concrete and labor that must have gone into it is staggering.

    Sadly, this is the flipside to “Everything you know about Japan is wrong”. All that stuff about pretty and exotic, or how nature loving the Japanese are … hmmn, not so true. When one does go up the hills enough to find an old farmhouse with earth walls and nature covered dykes around the terraces, it is a joy. The rest though … fugly, brutalist utilitarian, hard on the eye and, of course, from now and for the next 50 – 100 years increasingly bereft of even human beings.

    In the bigger picture, what was the point of it all? The state sponsored vandalism of the countryside, the creation only had relevance for 25 – 40 years until de-population killed the purpose.

  109. Aki said

    b) They went WAY too far and it must have been a national obsession at some point.

    It was an obsession of bureaucrats in the 1970s when Kakuei Tanaka was a prime minister. There were beautiful streams and creeks around my birthplace in the rural town of Kanto until early 1970s, but all of them were turned into lifeless concrete chutes during the era of PM Tanaka in 1972-74.

  110. The Overthinker said

    Mac – I agree, hence my use of “in theory”. As you say, they went too far, but back in the day the damage floods did was not insignificant. Leaving aside the corruption and collusion, there is indeed a tendency to “over-engineer” against a perceived danger. I do not dispute this. However it was a reaction to a real danger, which I think gets downplayed or even ignored when people complain about how ugly it can be (from memory, Kerr falls into that trap in Dogs and Demons).

    Although aside from the concrete in town and a couple of dams, there isn’t a whole lotta nasty concrete on the two rivers that run through my city once you get outside the built-up area and into the hills. Parts are very pleasant. Other parts have a massive wide new road going from nowhere to nowhere over a bridge and through a tunnel….

    Actually there is probably some way to get hold of or collate the data and create a map of just which rivers are concrete-banked and where. That would be very interesting.

  111. Mac said

    Back on topic to ‘Everything you know about Japan is wrong’ out here in ‘No Shinkansen Sticksville’ where the lack of any street lighting makes the tanktrap-like concrete ditches around the rice fields a major cause of untimely death of drunken ojiisan making their way home on rattling old rides.

    I went to a slideshow talk of a very pretty, waif-like 21 year old who had just returned from a 5,000 km bicycle ride around 8 East African countries … alone. By herself.

    Mio Yamasaki had also clocked up 6,000 km around Japan before marrying the handsome Kohei Yamada, a Japan Overseas Cooperation (JICA) development worker in Malawi, who had become famous for recording a Number One hit in the Chichewa language, Ndimakukonda. A love song about HIV (AIDS) he hoped would reduce the stigma of HIV there. All profits going back to support charity work there. The pair act as official goodwill ambassadors for Eritrean tourism.

    http://www.kohei-yamada.com/
    http://www.cog-way.com/

    Our local biker’s NPO has sent out thousands of bikes, recycled from outside of railway stations etc, to Mozambique reducing gun crime by swopping them out for old Russian and American weapons left by the last civil war.

    That’s not the story though.

    Hanging around outside, I was spoke to another slim young woman I had seen before playing tabla (a popular Indian percussion instrument), at a Hindu chanting session called a “Sankirtan” down the local guesthouse. She too had spent a couple of year abroad working with women in Pakisthan where she had learnt to play them.

    Looking at her mamchari (single speed shopping bike), we had a good laugh at her expense because she had stuck a ‘Harley-Davidson’ chopper-style sticker on the back mudguard. We thought it was very funny.

    No, she politely explained, she did actually own a Harley-Davidson Sportster as well … but was thinking of selling it now because it was not good for the environment.

    Yup … just your average, quiet, sunny weekend in a racist, inward and conservative country like Japan filled with whacky geeks waiting to restore the Emperor and invade China again.

  112. Mac said

    A short postscript to the above.

    The woman with the Harley-Davidson – who like most women Harley-Davidson owners in Japan (yes, there are many) was waif-like and, aesthetically, would not have looked out of place at a department store cosmetic counter – had also spent time in Syria and Iraq as an aid worker.

    The women cyclist and AIDs worker was planning to ride the Silk Route from China to Turkey next, and then the ridge ride from North down to South America. And, on the basis of her record to date and sincerity, why should I doubt her?

    Not only am I secretly impressed by the women who work and ride on Harleys in Japan (they have special day courses in how to pick the behemoths up which – part of the driving test here – and ‘chop’ them low so they can reach the ground), you can imagine my thrill when the female pilot of a chrome framed, hard-tailed, Shovel-head bobber, resplendent in a 60s bubble-visored Fonda helmet and style to match, actually waved at me as she rode past one day.

    Of course, not all Japanese women like the fat, lowboy Yankee aesthetics. Other prefer the more lean, restraint British “rocker” style. And do they actually ride oily, old vintage Triumphs, Norton and Enfields? They not only ride them but they apply themselves to fix and restore them, see:

    http://the59club.com/pages/trin/trin.html

    Yup … On Any Sunday … in a racist, inward-looking and conservative country like Japan.

  113. Mac said

    Why is it every time I switch on LaLaTV, I get to watch Korean TV instead? I worked it out … “La La” must be Ladies TV. Someone correct me if I am wrong.

    Either we get to watch some fraught costume-piece historical drama, or either some melodramic modern urban romantic tragedy full of repressed, and not so repressed, emotions. Is Korean TV to Japanese what Italian or Spanish is to Anglophones? It reminded of the last New Years Eve I spent with Japanese women friends in Europe where, instead of going out and seeing the celebrations, they all wanted to stay in and watch the latest dire Korean soap opera someone had sent them from home as a present.

    Now, frankly, I find most of them awful and it is not just the language. For me Koreans are really just more of the same NE Asian ‘Uniqlo’ ‘Unipeople’ who happen to speak Klingon and act like Klingons amongst the otherwise impassive crew of Starship Nihon. Even their art movies, for me, include far too much male on female, or human on animal, violence for the international market. The bottomline is, however, my Japanese women friends just love them. Along with a regular influx of Hangul boy and girl band heart throbs who I cant tell apart.

    Likewise, I cannot say the professional Korean woman in my language class appears particularly threatened by her surroundings. She is her by choice and has a hunger and regard for Japaneseness in the same way that, say, a Brit might have for French culture. Nor do the pretty young things who come over brand bag shopping. They look as tightly Japanese as the Japanese girls and enjoy not being hassled here. Even the conservative old bigoted gits I know here (throw away the ridiculous “Japan = Right Wing” equation, they are just grumpy old men who worked too much) like to eat at their local Korean hotpot restaurants. What is the press talking about … it seems half the Uyoku are Koreans anyway.

    Nationalism sucks and the media is off the planet. The former seems to be the recourse of old men who never fought wars and whose time has otherwise passed and cheap, the latter unimaginative lower middle classes seeking to sell newspapers.

    The young are moving forward into a far more integrated future and away from WWII-era boys’ comic book version of history and culture. Perhaps if the rest of us just shut up and let them get on with it, to discover and create their own world, humanity will be better for it.

    If I lament about anything over here, it would be the overarching American colonial influences in both societies. The Showa Japanese should have held out to surrender to the French instead and then, perhaps, we would have had more than one good baker in town. The fashion would have been even more stylish.

  114. Mac said

    I had to come to Japan to make my first Kenyan friend … and Nepalese friend … and Laotian … be eyed up by a Filipina for marriage visa … meet my first Mozambiquan … have a Bangladeshi offer me their home cooking … do acting with a Ghanian … go to school with some Chinese girls … speak to a Jamaican about doing voluntary work with orphans here.

    Sometimes it is a shame I do not have enough time to meet more Japanese but that is the problem with Japan these days … there just too many foreigners here. They don’t speak English properly but, thankfully, they carry none of the attitude and baggage many Westerns do when it comes to their ideas about Japan, and they are having a great time.

    So who let those idiotic drunken Australians and Russians (and Debito) in … something should be done about it! Is it possible to be ‘discriminately discriminating’ from a positive point of view, they are turning me into a racist.

    No More Whites Please … Japan for the Rest of the World.

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