AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Dig yourself, baby

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, February 7, 2010

READER IKE sends in a link in the Comments section to some Australian blogger who claims the Japanese nation is racist and will never be able to handle immigration. His characterization of the Japanese nation is based on a single anecdote. The blogger said he was chased away from what he assumed was a brothel in “downtown Fukuoka” by a man shouting in “broken” English, “No foreigners allowed.”

That blogger writes about financial matters, by the way, and is presumably well educated.

Well, there might be brothels in “downtown Fukuoka”, though I’ve spent quite a bit of time there and haven’t seen one in that part of town. (Whatever part of town that is–Hakata Ward? Tenjin?) But perhaps I’m naive.

And I wonder how many native-born brothel operators in Brisbane, for example, would be able to drive away a customer in any foreign language, broken or not.

My experiences have been different. While walking down certain streets in Saga, guys standing on the curb have yelled out at me–in Japanese–“Hey gaijin-san, how about some chon-chon? (while waving right fist in the air) 10,000 yen!” Was I better-looking (or more desperate-looking) than the guy who wasn’t welcome at the Fukuoka cat house? But that was in the days before the Japanese were fully aware of AIDS.

Putting aside the fact that the plural of anecdote is not data, the tired old jive about the Racist Nation reminds me of another story a high school student of mine told me after she spent a year in the United States. This was about 10 years ago.

The girl, named Yumi, was quite gregarious, attractive, and intelligent, and so made a lot of friends. One of her best friends was a black girl. Let’s call her Alice.

One day, two of her white girlfriends took her aside in the hall and told her it wasn’t a good idea to be hanging out with Alice so much.

Why not, she asked. I like her. She’s my friend.

One of the white girls then turned to the other and said, “Oh, never mind. Yumi can be friends with anyone she wants. She’s not white.”

If you let that sink in, it becomes multi-dimensionally more pathetic.

Don’t ask what part of the United States that was, by the way. When Yumi tells that story in Japan, none of her listeners cares about that distinction. It’s all America to them.

Is anybody seriously willing to argue that no one in Australia has that attitude?

Memo to the Anglosphere: You know what they say about people who live in glass houses.

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22 Responses to “Dig yourself, baby”

  1. Read the whole post. I also accuse a former Australian finance minister of racism. But seriously – do you really believe that Japan of all nations will be willing to solve its demographic problem by mass immigration? I stand to be corrected – but I think I am right on that.
    ————-

    …do you really believe that Japan of all nations will be willing to solve its demographic problem by mass immigration?

    One wonders what sentiments lurk underneath the “of all nations” part of that statement.

    What country anywhere with a demographic problem could solve it by mass immigration? And what does “solve” mean in this context?

    The Europeans may have “solved” the problem of inputs into their social welfare systems by allowing mass immigration, but that solution seems to have created even more serious problems. I’ve never been to France, but now I know what banlieux are, to cite one of many examples. The Cross of St. George is no longer displayed in Heathrow airport serving “Londonistan” because it offends too many sensibilities, for another.

    You’ve never heard the expression, “Wogs begin at Calais”?

    And it wasn’t so long ago that Australia, a nation of immigrants, had a less-than-enlightened policy about immigrants itself.

    Yet, it somehow becomes Japan “of all nations”.

    Looking at the nations of the world in the aggregate or individually, I see no reason whatsoever to single out Japan.

    – A

  2. soma36 said

    I would be surprised if it was Tenjin, but in Hakata somewhere. I have been to the “nightclub” district. Random Japanese couple who spoke the most amazing English drove me there, but then warned me to be careful!!

    I loved Fukuoka but that particular experience was not worth it, mainly for the weird ass conversations I had with some of the military “in for the night” from Sasebo.

    I do remember this kind of vibe to the place. But what do you expect? I don’t know about Brisbane but in Sydney the equivalent is King’s Cross – not exactly a bastion of liberal minded folk. Much rougher than most equivalent places I have seen in Japan too, FWIW. Not sure if they would turn down the business mind.

    Anyway, leaving aside my thoughts on Australia specifically, I don’t know if too many in NZ “know” of the “inherent racism” of Japan but a lot of people do have the tendency to hear the odd story on Japan and buy into the “inherent weirdness (so why should we be surprised if they kill whales or discriminate against foreigners) narrative. Not helped by the capital city’s newspaper (The Dominion Post) publishing only these kind of stories. The editor of that paper has a thing for Japan and not in the good way. The day after the election earlier this year, which, say what you will, was significant, only appeared on page 3 of the world section in a small paragraph saying “Japan changes PM”. Low and behold the next day the article was not some interesting discussion of the political implications, but a piece on the how weird the PMs wife was. Yeah, she is a bit weird, but why was that the most important piece? (Rant over)

    Unfortunately the other decent papers in NZ are merely disinterested, which means that a little knowledge is most certainly a bad thing in this case with no balancing factors.
    —————

    …the election earlier this year, which, say what you will, was significant…

    Oh, I agree 100% and have said so. I also thought they were unable to handle the responsibilities of government and that their current problems were predictable in a general way.

    I added that this toilet will have to be flushed several more times.

    BTW, I thought about using Sydney because the author of that piece is from NSW, but I don’t think Fukuoka and Sydney are good equivalents.

    – A.

  3. no happy ending for John Hempton said

    John Hempton actually went for too stereotypes, “Japan and racism” and “Japan and aggressive” … on the basis of being turned away as a voyeur or client of a “Turkish Bath” style Soaplands. And, on the basis of this, decides a whole nation is “Racist”.

    What on earth was he doing anyway!?! May be he is just old/fat/ugly/being an uncool, clutzy voyeuristic idiot foreigner with googling eyes or whatever … and that is why they turned him away.

    Should we expect John Hempton to join forces with Debito and campaign for equal opportunity access to the nation’s Soaplands hookers? Will that be the next victory for democracy and political correctitude for this errant nation?

    Personally, I take the side of the small business people … why should they screw their business (pardon the pun) by bowing to the demands of yet another arrogant foreigner? And why cannot those arrogant foreigners realize that the reason they get treated like the unwanted shit they are … is because their was a chain of other unwanted shit arrogant foreigners that goes right back to the 1860s … or even 16th Century if you want to count that far back.

    May be if it was not for those other unwanted shit arrogant foreigners, we reasonable and accepted foreigners would not have to go about apologizing for them and wearing, “No, I am not an American serviceman, Russian fisherman or Australia” t-shirts.

    (I understand that the word is non-Japanese hookers in Japan will take non-Japanese customers but if you ask nicely and have a good introduction the world is your oyster. Like anything, it is all about having the right connections, knowing how to play the game … and who needs or want to pay anyway!?!).

    Immigration … where the hell is Japan going to fit anyone else! I cannot wait for the place to thin itself out a bit. Why should Japan?

  4. MFTao said

    John Hempton should have just stayed home.

  5. Dave said

    I’m a fan of this blog but think you’ve gotten a bit defensive and missed the point John Hempton was making.

    Japan has a very serious demographic problem > One possible solution (at least partially) would be opening the doors to immigrants > politically, this is a nonstarter in japan > japan’s fiscal problems will be very hard to solve

    I don’t see anything controversial about what he is saying here. I lived in Japan for almost a decade and speak Japanese. i love the place but nobody in their right mind could argue that the country is as open to immigrants as Australia, the US, Canada, etc etc.
    ————–
    Dave: Thanks for reading.

    One possible solution (at least partially) would be opening the doors to immigrants >

    As I pointed out in my reply to him, how’s that “solution” working out for Europe?

    nobody in their right mind could argue that the country is as open to immigrants as Australia, the US, Canada, etc etc

    Speaking as the grandson of immigrants to the US, most of the people who went to that country during the days of mass immigration made a commitment to a) learn the language (written and spoken both) b) learn the customs c) live and work so as to become a member in good standing of the new society they chose after leaving the Old Country behind–not on their terms, but in the terms of the New Country.

    I don’t think anyone in his right mind would argue that the average foreigner in Japan–particularly those from the West–has anything even approaching that attitude.

    Meanwhile, I know, personally, of a Western man in this country whose local Japanese newspaper has appointed him as one of 12 special monitors to give them advice and feedback.

    He’s been in Japan 20 years and is still incapable of reading a newspaper. (I know because he runs a company that sends me translations, and he’s incapable of checking my work.)

    I don’t think you’ll find a situation like that anywhere in the US, Canada, or Australia.

    However, what we did find in Australia (for one) was what was unofficially known as the White Australia Policy, which didn’t officially or completely end until 1975.

    What we also find is the remnants of the One Nation Party, which received 9% of the vote in a 1998 national election.

    You won’t find that in Japan. What you will find, however, is a legitimate national debate on whether non-Japanese with permanent resident permits should have the right to participate in local elections.

  6. Geddy said

    Hempton is totally correct. I go to japan on business maybe 12 times a year and have done so for years. I agree with his claims of racism as far as they go. Just ask a Japanese person if they would let their daughter marry a westerner. I often ask this question to other businesmen some time after they tell me how much they like selling their products to my country (for amusment). The reaction is very entertaining. Or perhaps mention Nanking, Singapore or Tol Plantation 60 or so years ago.

    You should read Hempton’s blog entry before commenting. You are making yourself look ignorant.

  7. ampontan said

    Just ask a Japanese person if they would let their daughter marry a westerner.

    I did and he said yes. He turned ninety years old last month. He’s a veteran of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and survived after his ship was sunk by American military forces. He was, and is, a hard line kind of a guy. But he likes me because I still treat his daughter nice after 22 years of marriage.

    You go to Japan on business? I’ve lived here for 26 years next month, in a town of 180,000 a ninety-minute flight from Tokyo. I studied Japanese for three years at university before I set foot in the country.

    I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to get into a discussion of ignorance about this particular topic.

  8. soma36 said

    Hey, that happened to me too! Funny how accommodating those staunch Japanese traditionalists in rural places are with letting their daughters marry funny looking people and all. Actually my Father in Law liked was so cool with it much he let *another* daughter marry a foreigner also.

    Sarcasm aside, be careful to not lump in everyone with Australia. They have a a “special history” of their own which they are sorting through. And also a lot of countries (possibly including Australia) let PR vote in national elections so not the comparison to make the Japanese look liberal.

    Same for immigration policies – yes they do not work out well in Europe, but that is bad policy not bad strategy. Immigration works very well in some countries. I see that Japan might be employing a points system which is something I have thought would be a very appropriate policy for Japan – would help clear up our mutual concerns about people not learning the language and raise the “quality” based on need for new immigrants.

    So, yes actually Japan and Japanese would be against opening the doors – and probably not completely for reasons of some imagined racial purity (although I would not rule it out against a sizeable minority of the population) but for reasons to do with social cohesion – so they should.

    I guess the difference with Japan is that the social cohesion aspect is a more strongly emphasised – to throw a concept back at yourself – the “Wa” and hence probably why they would resist more than say in the West. The outright racist element in a lot of countries is probably of a similar percentage to Japan. Human nature almost logically demands it. But a sense of social decorum is not as strongly embedded or even needed in many countries, for various reasons, historical and socio-economic. I would argue that Japan is therefore less open to immigration, but to the degree that it is less open to immigration than say some of the ex-British colonies is probably proportionally related to the amount of people who are legitimately concerned with the social structure of society immigration poses more than the racial component of those coming in.

    But a sensible immigration policy need necessarily not undermine this in the Japanese case. There just needs to be a sensible decision made something along the lines of (a huge eg here) that 1 well meaning capable immigrant is equal to 2 randomly selected ones in terms of what they contribute to social order, and economic growth.

    It seems to me that a lot of outsiders conflate the ethnic/racial thinking and social thinking in Japan a bit too much. Then again, certain parts of the Japanese population do not help the ignorant amongst us out too much on that point.
    ——————

    be careful to not lump in everyone with Australia. They have a a “special history” of their own which they are sorting through.

    I was just taking that as one example off the top of my head. Lord knows as an American I could find plenty more from there. I’ve been to Australia on business, by the way, liked it and them, and probably would prefer to live there than the US if I moved back to an English-spaking country.

    But isn’t what you say universal? We’ve all got our special histories that we’re working through.
    ————-
    – A.

  9. soma36 said

    Fair enough. The two specific instances you used for juxtaposition next to Japan’s current and reasonable debate on PR, the One Nation phenomenon- (mostly centered around one state of in Australia – Queensland to be fair) and the much longer than it should have lived White Australia policy are two particularly extreme examples even by our own collective universal “special” histories led to me to react as such.

  10. Geddy said

    Really? Perhaps having married a Jap and having lived there you have chosen to ignore the Shame of the Japanese. I can tell you, as someone who has lived a decade on China
    that they desest the Japanese for their inability to do as the Germans did and face up to their shame and guilt. As Helmut Kohl told them, Japan has no friends because of this. Clearly your personal standards don’t extend to accuracy and realism.
    —————

    Perhaps having married a Jap

    Whereas your personal standards, in contrast, extend so much farther.

    – A

  11. James A said

    Well Geddy, if Ampontan is ignoring the shame of the Japanese for marrying one of them, I wonder who you’ve married in order to toot your own horn. I’d sure hate to attend that dinner party.

  12. Dave said

    Ampontan — To some extent I agree with almost everything you say above. I lived in Japan for some time and regularly met foreigners (westerners) who had lived there for 20 years and could still barely order a drink in a bar in Japanese. Obviously that is no recipe for social cohesion. However, I also had several Korean and Chinese friends who were extremely hard working and managed to master the language in a short space of time.

    There is no point getting into debates here about which country is more racist and dredging up the White Australia policy, etc. Japan has a long history of relative isolation and a relatively homogeneous population, which makes it a different case and means that large scale immigration is a difficult proposition from a social viewpoint.

    Regardless, despite his unfortunate anecdotal example of the brothel in Fukuoka, Hempton’s point was an economic one about fiscal solvency. And on that point he is absolutely right. To solve its fiscal problems, Japan will have to adopt some mix of a) severely cut benefits, b)sharply increase taxes, or c) import more people through immigration.

    If (c) is a difficult proposition and you have a totally dysfunctional political system that also makes a) and b) difficult, then you are in very big trouble indeed…

    ————

    I also had several Korean and Chinese friends who were extremely hard working and managed to master the language in a short space of time.

    I’ve known several myself. I thought it was particularly interesting that all of them, as far as I could tell, enjoyed living in Japan and associating with the Japanese, and everyone got/gets along famously.

    The point I wanted to make about the guy unable to read a newspaper what that the local newspaper still made him a newspaper monitor, and made a big deal out of the whole process on their front page. Amazing! Where else could that happen?

    – A

  13. ampontan said

    One of the hundreds of problems with immigration ignored by those who offer it as a facile solution.

    Then again, what was the solution and what was the problem?

    And still more

  14. Aceface said

    “As Helmut Kohl told them, Japan has no friends because of this.”

    It was actually the other Helmut,Helmut Schmidt.

    “Just ask a Japanese person if they would let their daughter marry a westerner. I often ask this question to other businesmen some time after they tell me how much they like selling their products to my country (for amusment). The reaction is very entertaining. Or perhaps mention Nanking, Singapore or Tol Plantation 60 or so years ago.”

    There are righteous reasons why some Japanese people hesitate to let their daughters marry to a certain type of westerners.Me think.

    “Perhaps having married a Jap and having lived there you have chosen to ignore the Shame of the Japanese. I can tell you, as someone who has lived a decade on China”

    If the Chinese actually think Dalai Lama is a terrorist,I wouldn’t surprise to hear what you say.They are missing a lots of information on the reality of Sino-Japanese relationship….

  15. ike said

    wow, i definitely didnt expect this.. i thought two diverse views could somehow converge at least a little and live happily after

    for sure, i didnt know this post would “get the goat” of Mr. H. in here:
    http://brontecapital.blogspot.com/2010/02/final-failure-of-meiji-right-wing.html

    chill.

  16. no happy ending for John Hempton said

    Here is the Brolgaboy himself … http://tinyurl.com/john-hempton-cant-get-laid

    “John Hempton … the man who not even the hookers in Japan want to sleep with.”

    As to the rest …. zzz.

    I would be interested though to see an analysis of the political interests within Japan seeking to “lure migrants”, “pursuing a policy of encouraging mass immigration” and offering votation to foreigners on a similar basis to the analysis of the UK being offered by that Telegraph paper. On the same front page, we read of a city called Reading, UK, which speaks 150 languages.

    On balance, speaking as a foreign resident, I far prefer the understated and conservative position Japan has towards immigration than the “let’s all be happy people!” type naivety that exists in some sectors. Underneath them, there seems to be an unbelly factor of leftist inspired interest groups who genuinely seem to want to destroy what ever it is they think is “Japan”, a movement that I don’t quite understand yet but one that seems busy sawing off the very branch it is sitting on.

    I strongly agree with Soma36 the reaction certain foreigners receive it is not about “racism” at all. It is more to do with social cohesion and social decorum on one hand … and very often just plain and simple cool on the Japanese side, and idiocy on the foreigners’.

    The sort of ethics the like of ‘Sith Lord’ Hempton is pushing are all about short-term capitalism … which has really no value for society and social values.

    If anyone in Japan is listening … you really, really, really do not want go down the route of immigration, mass or otherwise.

    All this talk of demographics is a con … a facade … for something entirely different; the breaking up and final capitalisation of Japan by foreign interests with no interests in its people or its sustainability.

    It is obviously a meme that is being pushed by interest groups. It is bogus.

  17. no happy ending for John Hempton said

    And just to follow that up … John Hempton goes on to make predictions of the Polish and Latvian economies based on the price of “Hookers” so it seems to be an area of great person interest to him.

  18. Aceface said

    ”If anyone in Japan is listening … you really, really, really do not want go down the route of immigration, mass or otherwise.”

    Which is just too bad,because we are already on it’s way for quite sometime,mass or otherwise.

    Hampton writes
    “virulent Japanese nationalism that initially gained power with the Meiji Restoration, waged and lost the second world war and – unlike the German equivalent respectably survives to this day”

    OK,how many wars of agression had we fought since 1945?
    And where did he catch up his wachky Japanese history? I was a bit worried when I read Ian Buruma’s “Inventing Japan1853-1964″that the like of Hampton would most certainly get this sort of idea.

    “Denazification is a word that appears in many modern history books (see for example Tony Judt’s excellent history of Post War Europe). I do not know the equivalent Japanese word…”

    It’s 公職追放.FYI.

    And I hardly believed Hampton ever read the Tony Judt’s excellent “Post War~History on Europe since 1945” which spend pages after pages that denazification was a myth.But Europe chose the reconciliation with Germany and let the bygones be bygones.

    “But Japan is a country where they won’t let their hookers sleep with foreigners because – well they are foreigners. ”

    Put this on “What readers write”,Bill.So far this ranks as the all time best.

  19. Aceface said

    Dude,this Hampton knows next to nothing on Japan.

    “Central to this was a pattern of “educating” (the cynical might say brainwashing) young girls into believing that their life would be happy if they had considerable savings in the form of cash balances at the bank (or post office). ”

    When my mother was my age,the interest rate in the bank was 8%.Division of the pension in case of divorce only introduced three years ago.

    “When the Americans occupied Japan their first agenda was to dismantle the Zaibatsu. They were (in the words of Douglas McArthur) “the moneybags of militarism””

    Which was the mistake in the first place.Zaibatsu members had objected the military’s controlled economy and while they were not pacifist,they worried the rampant expansionism would threaten their business especially with the U.S the biggest importer of Japanese goods.And they were more of “the moneybags of parlimentarian”which is why they became the target of the right wing terror in the 30’s.

    “They system is very good at funding heavy industry – but it is less entrepreneurial than you would want in a modern economy. The best Japanese tech companies tend to come from Kyoto (which is outside the Tokyo establishment).”

    I can only think of the two.Nintendo and Kyocera and anyone knows Kyoto would always agree with me that they are waaaaay more conservative to the newcomers than Tokyoites.

    “Toyota – what I think is Japan’s finest company – is in Aichi prefecture – well away from Tokyo.”

    That’s because the prewar military complex,John Hampton has been arguing about had it’s center in Aichi.

  20. bender said

    Let’s compare the number of hate crimes in Germany, Australia and Japan in the recent years.

  21. M-Bone said

    “Polish and Latvian economies based on the price of “Hookers””

    I must say, I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff online, but I never thought that I would see someone stand up with indignation about the comfort women in one post and talk about his (?) adventures in countries that have appalling human trafficking problems in another.

  22. M-Bone said

    “He is – as far as I know – the only English language exponent of the virulent Japanese nationalism that initially gained power with the Meiji Restoration”

    Obviously this guy has never read “The Soul of Japan”.

    (Kidding aside, Meiji nationalism resulted in such things as the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, Japan’s participation in WWI on the side of France and Britain, universal male suffrage, and 20s cosmopolitanism – to make it into a teleology leading straight to Nanking and Pearl Harbor is silly)

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