Norms of citizenship law

I glanced at Debito’s blog earlier, in which he linked to a piece he wrote a few years back which includes the following line:

For the purposes of this essay, by “foreigners” I do not mean “Zainichis” (ethnic Korean, Chinese, Indian, etc.), born in Japan, often with Japanese as their native tongue, who would be citizens already in other developed countries.

I’m not sure why so many believe this myth. A small minority of countries (about 35 out of about 200) actually follow the doctrine of jus soli, or citizenship due to place of birth, and of those, the only ones generally considered to be “developed countries” are: (caveat: according to Wikipedia’s list)
Canada
United States
Britain (with some restrictions)
France (only upon reaching adulthood)
Australia (upon reaching the age of 10)
Ireland (with restrictions)
New Zealand (with restrictions)

And that’s it. Note that jus soli is common only in countries following the Anglo system of law, specifically former colonies of the UK (India used to have jus soli but abolished it, Pakistan still does.) Of the 26 current member states of the EU, the only ones that have jus soli citizenship are the UK, Ireland, and France. The rest of them follow the tradition of jus sanguinis or citizenship by blood, which comes out of the Germanic legal tradition that Japan based their entire modern legal code on. If one considers “developed countries” to be Australia, Canada, Europe (26 countries),  Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and USA, then we have 34 countries (apologies if I’ve left any off the list, but I’m going for a rough count here), of which only 7 have the jus soli legal policy that Debito described as standard in “other developed countries.”

By pointing this out I am in no way endorsing the legal quasi-limbo in which many people, such as the Zainichi but also including various stateless populations living in far worse conditions around the world, have been left due to the vagaries of jus sanguinus, but I would like to try and correct the odd misperception among Westerners in Japan (who are almost all from either Anglo law countries or France) that Japanese nationality law is in some way an aberration, when it is in fact the international norm.

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63 thoughts on “Norms of citizenship law”

  1. My favorite part of the The Big Lebowski is when the John Goodman character screams at Steve Buscemi for interrupting his conversation:

    “You’re like a small child who walks in the middle of a movie and asks what’s going on.”

    I don’t mean to be insulting, but you are not the first person to take on Debito’s argument here. Check Paul Scalise’s 2005 “Measuring Citizenship: Is Japan an Outlier?”

    http://www.japanreview.net/essays_measuring_citizenship.htm

    Debito was writing in 2001. And since Scalise’s criticism, I don’t recall seeing Debito make the argument about citizenship in quite that manner, or if he did it is no longer a central part of his thinking.

    In fact, writing in the Japan Times just this August, Debito takes a completely different approach, making no mention of Japan’s supposed outlier status and instead arguing for banning the word “gaijin” as a step toward better acceptance of foreigners in Japanese society.

    And in a 2007 column about foreign students in the Japanese school system (incidentally, this column came just after his victory-dance essay chronicling the successful suppression of Gaijin Hanzai File), a subject more directly tied to citizenship rules, he argues that the current state of education for non-Japanese children has led to “a situation where thousands of NJ kids grow up unable to read, write, or speak proficiently in any language”, and that this situation if left unattended will “reap an NJ underclass.” Basically he is arguing for equal treatment for the sake of social order rather than treating the denial of citizenship as the biggest issue. In fact, he goes out of his way to note that this also affects “the Japanese children of international marriages” who may also face similar difficulties going through the school system.

    So he has gone from pat “gaiatsu” style pleas that focus narrowly on citizenship standards to a much more nuanced argument. I think that shows development in his thinking, even if you may still not agree.

    With the Internet, there is always a danger that things you write will be taken out of context. Debito shouldn’t have to constantly answer to past arguments he has clearly moved beyond.

  2. I think that we can still take a lesson from the citizenship argument – Japan is often declared an outlier when it differs from the United States, even if it has a lot in common with other G10, Asian democracies, etc.

    Even if Debito has moved on, the following is still very true –

    “but I would like to try and correct the odd misperception among Westerners in Japan (who are almost all from either Anglo law countries or France) that Japanese nationality law is in some way an aberration, when it is in fact the international norm.”

    A misperception still exists.

    There has also been another over the top American-centric point lately – Gaijin = the N-word that we can’t actually write because it is horrifying. Why not “etranger” or “auslander” of “farang”? In Debito’s defense, he did write a very interesting bit lately about how Bush-era America squandered its ability to speak with authority on human rights.

  3. Like M-Bone said, I don’t mean to attack Debito for one sentence he wrote 6 years ago, but it was reading that sentence that prompted me to write the post. I won’t bother to hunt down references or anything, but I do feel as if this is a common misconception that deserves a correction once in a while.

    The real question is, why should the United States in particular be the reference point for all comparisons with Japan? Yes, we did write their constitution, but the actual body of legal code is far older, and is almost completely based on German Civil Law, not on Anglo/American principles.

    However, just because Debito has been discussing other issues lately does not mean that he shouldn’t have appended a correction, particularly since he is referring new visitors to the mistaken post. Unlike most blogs, his website as much a reference site for these issues, and it would be helpful if he added a factual note where people would see it.

  4. I am reluctant to have the N-word discussion, but I will ask this — How is this proposal not Debito’s search for a club that he can use to bludgeon Japan into submission?

    Agreed that the misperception exists, which is probably why Roy felt compelled to write about it. That applies very widely — for some reason Americans who come to Japan often think there are only two countries in the world. But much as I argued regarding the “why Westerners dont acknowledge each other” issue, I think this is partly influence from the Japanese themselves, who seem to harbor this same dichotomy and bring it up endlessly.

  5. “why should the United States in particular be the reference point for all comparisons with Japan?”

    Perhaps because most of the people talking about it in English are Americans. And of course the singularly significant role of the US in Japanese history since 1853.

    “for some reason Americans who come to Japan often think there are only two countries in the world.”

    Which is an improvement over the Americans who don’t come to Japan and think there is only one country in the world….

  6. On Gaijin=N-word argument.

    I think in major news outlets,I meant here is the major three national dailies/Kyodo,Jiji and NHK,the word “Gaijin” for foreigners had been replaced to “Gaikoku-jin” for the sake of the simular argument raised by someone within the industry and not debito.

    I remember one argument we had over my office a few years back when a Japanese mercenery working as defense contractor for British firm got killed in action in Iraq.
    This man happened to be a veteran of French Foreign Legion,which in Japanese known as “Furansu Gaijin Butai”.The term “Gaijin-Butai” was so well established thanks to endless remakes of Beau Geste,Sternberg’s “Morocco” and Jacques Feyder’s film of the same name.So naturally one of my colleague had used “Gaijin-butai”,over “Gaikokujin-butai” and we had looong talk with the copy editors….

    I’m not sure why debito had used this issue for his new crusade,but the issue is pretty much settled in the major media outlet as far as I concern,Anyway,if we are to seek the similarity of the trope of “Gaijin” in Englsih language,that would be “Black” and not N-word.

  7. “On Gaijin=N-word argument.”

    Since it seems like we are going to do this, we can apply some tests.

    1 – Ask Mariko who her favorite Gaijin actor is. She replies “Johnny Deep. He is SO COOL. I LOVE him.”
    – Ask Jane who her favorite N—– actor is. Watch the blood drain from her face.

    2. (Saw this in the comments on Debito’s site) – Go up to a random group of African Americans in Japan, point and say “Gajin” – witness the mildly annoyed response. Go up to the same guys and say…. you get the picture.

    3. In Japanese, saying “Shinsuke kinda looks like a Gaijin” could very well mean “really cool”. I don’t think that I need to go on.

    Honestly, if someone pointed to me and said, “look at that NJ”, I would be more annoyed than if I heard the G-word.

    What was Debito thinking when he decided on this idea? I can only conclude that he was trying to make people who think that he has a few good ideas throw up their hands in disgust and walk away. At least Gaijin is a word that I can recognize in cultural context.

    Honestly, don’t we all write “gaijin” in our posts here simply because we are too lazy to write “gaikokujin”?

  8. “Honestly, don’t we all write “gaijin” in our posts here simply because we are too lazy to write “gaikokujin”?”

    You could argue that NJ is even shorter and thus easier….
    Yeah, the comparison is insane, because last I checked, even eikaiwa ‘teachers’ were not actually slaves. Hmmm….. Sorry, I have to do this:

    —————————

    Ol’ man NOVA,
    Dat ol’ man NOVA
    He mus’ pay sumpin’
    But don’t pay nuthin’,
    He jes’ keeps screwin’
    He keeps on screwin’ along.

    He don’ teach physics,
    He don’t teach hist’ry,
    An’ dem dat teaches ’em
    is soon a mys’try,
    But ol’man NOVA,
    He jes keeps screwin’ along.

    You an’ me, we sweat an’ strain,
    Body all achin’ an’ racked wid pain,
    Speak dat word!
    Say dat phrase!
    Fergit yer gaitosho
    An’ yer lands in jails.

    Ah gits weary
    An’ sick of tryin’
    Ah’m tired of Japan
    An’ skeered of returnin’,
    But ol’ man NOVA,
    He jes’ keeps screwin’ along.

    White folks work on de Mississippi,
    White folks work while de boss folks play,
    Sayin’ dose words from de dawn to sunset,
    Gittin’ no rest till de payment day….

    et cetera….

    ————-

  9. “You could argue that NJ is even shorter and thus easier….”

    BUT, do enough people actually know what it means? I think that it means “Non-Japanese”. Okay, so is a Brazilian of Japanese ethnicity an NJ? Does it only refer to nationality? Who knows? I know people born in Japan who have taken citizenship elsewhere – they write down “Japanese” for ethnicity on the census in thier own country, but they count as some kind of “NJ” outgroup? What if they are in Japan? At least we have a pretty good idea of how to use “Gaijin”….

    Most multi-cultural societies fetishize the hyphen. Japanese-American, Chinese-American. This NJ thing completely mixes up citizenship and ethnicity, both of which are important to the way that we define our identities.

  10. ” a subject more directly tied to citizenship rules, he argues that the current state of education for non-Japanese children has led to “a situation where thousands of NJ kids grow up unable to read, write, or speak proficiently in any language”, and that this situation if left unattended will “reap an NJ underclass.” Basically he is arguing for equal treatment for the sake of social order rather than treating the denial of citizenship as the biggest issue. ”

    No.I think debito is either just ignorant or intentionally denying the argument that directly tied to citizenship in this country.

    Right after the war,there were many Korean schools built in Japan which became hotbeds of Korean communists operating in Japan,thus GHQ had ordered to shut down these schools thorugh Monbusho.
    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%9C%9D%E9%AE%AE%E5%AD%A6%E6%A0%A1%E9%96%89%E9%8E%96%E4%BB%A4

    And these Korean schools were directly run by Japanese tax payers money under the control of Monbusho.

    When occupation had ended in 1952,most of these public Korean school had become ownership of Pyongyang friendly Chongryon.During this period Koreans also had lobbied progressive Japanese media and intellectuals to support their cause that GoJ is not obliged to educate kids of foreign citizenry.Chinese schools(which were mostly Taiwanese by origin)had also demanded the same “right”.Thus pushing Japanese education to “NJ”kids had become a taboo topic in Japanese society.This was understandable for Koreans and Taiwanese had lived under Japanese imperialism and were pushed to become Japanese subject so it was necessary for them to regain independent national status.Problem was they were never considered themselves as “immigrant” who are one day become part of the melting pot,that is Japan.And Japanese thinks it si a duty(and legal right) of the parents to choose the future of their kids,and not Japanese government.

    Currently I’m working on assignement exactly on this issue with Brazillian migrant in Nagoya area,so I understand certain people talk about legalizing the foreign parents to send their kids to public education in Japanese schools.But Koreans will definitly have a say on this.

  11. Someone in my zemi just did a presentation on this topic today. One thing I want to add is that immediately after the end of WW2 the Zainichi Koreans were considered to be ordinary foreigners who did not have to go to school, but on January 24 1948, the government issued a memorandum stating that Korean (朝鮮人) children were required to follow the same rules for mandatory schooling as Japanese. The Korean school closing was conducted in October of 1949, based on legal reasoning that the Ministry of Education would not have permission to regulate those schools, and therefore shut (most) of them down unless the students were subject to mandatory schooling regulations.

    I’m not 100% sure, but I think Koreans remained subject to mandatory schooling like Japanese until the negotiations regarding their legal status post-Korean War were resolved.

    Incidentally most of the presentation was about some documents from this period showing the strong influence that the Communist Party had on these schools. One particularly interesting thing about this was that before the Korean war, when it was still unclear if the Koreans in Japan were going to be citizens of Japan, NK, SK, or have some kind of dual citizenship arrangement (another talk I attended a few weeks ago claimed that the US vetoed dual citizenship between Japan and ROK, which was on the table at least briefly), and so there was more cooperation between Chongryon and the Japan Communist Party, who later on had very little to do with one another.

  12. “but I think Koreans remained subject to mandatory schooling like Japanese until the negotiations regarding their legal status post-Korean War were resolved.”

    Which was,ofcourse the end of Japanese occupation for Washington continued the occupation partially because of Korean war and wanted non-limited use of Japanese territory to support UN troops in Korea.

    “Incidentally most of the presentation was about some documents from this period showing the strong influence that the Communist Party had on these schools. ”

    That’s mainly because Cominform wanted all the minority and foreigners living in one country to follow the guidance of host nation’s communist party.In another words,only one party can operate in one nation state.

    Anyway,what basically I wanted say is almost all of the argument on this topic on internet in English are completly lacking historical developement of the issue in this country and heavily biased with the conventional wisdom on multiculturalism practiced in English speaking world.

  13. Notice Debito apologizing to Jason for bringing “these types of commenters” to his blog on the eikaiwa issue?

    What, as opposed to the type that are trying to make foreigners in Japan think that they are being constantly called N—–s?

    Ace – the biggest problem with the education issue is not the lack of historical context, it is the consistent lack of acknowledgment that foreigners in Japan have to take any responsibility for their choices at all. What kind of people don’t put their kids in school when they have the choice? Scumbags. But, why not go out on a limb and find some creative way to blame it on Japanese discrimination?

  14. Debito has again tried to take Adam to task for being “nasty” online. One has to wonder, however – would Debito call Oh Sadaharu an “Uncle Tom” to his face?

  15. I thought that last comment about the nude fairy was just a pure joke. It wouldn’t have offended me, at any rate. Although I’d have made some quip about that actually being an accurate portrait of my wife….

  16. Roy, more accurately Jus Soli is a western hemisphere concept. Note that Australia, France, and Britain are not on the “real” list of Jus Soli countries, having adopted the concept only recently and with numerous restrictions. Check out the real list:

    * American Samoa[2][3] (birth in American Samoa renders American Samoan and U.S. nationalities, but no birthright to U.S. citizenship)
    * Antigua and Barbuda
    * Argentina
    * Azerbaijan[4]
    * Barbados
    * Belize
    * Bolivia
    * Brazil
    * Canada
    * Chile[5] (children of transient foreigners or of foreign diplomats on assignment in Chile only upon request)
    * Colombia
    * Dominica
    * Dominican Republic
    * Ecuador
    * El Salvador
    * Fiji[6]
    * Grenada
    * Guatemala
    * Guyana
    * Honduras
    * Jamaica
    * Lesotho[7]
    * Mexico
    * Nicaragua
    * Pakistan
    * Panama
    * Paraguay
    * Peru
    * Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic[8]
    * Saint Christopher and Nevis
    * Saint Lucia
    * Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    * Trinidad and Tobago
    * Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
    * United States
    * Uruguay
    * Venezuela

    Only FIVE of those countries our outside the Western Hemisphere and Pacific Isles.

  17. Also keep in mind the origin of jus soli in the US: it was implemented to give citizenship to former slaves after the Civil War (hence its appearance in the 14th Amendment, which also covers “equal protection” and overwrites the old racist provisions for apportioning seats in Congress). The point was never to make things easy for immigrants.

    In fact, if you compare Japanese and American citizenship law, Japan is much more immigrant-friendly (at least by the letter of the law, since the letter of US law also bans dual citizenship). One can go straight from working stiff to citizen after five years, with no intervening permanent residency requirement, and it’s much easier to get a visa in Japan than it is to get a visa in the US.

  18. Yeah, the Big Lie about the US how immigrant-friendly it is, when it seriously is not. If I were to get a job in the US, I’d have to fork over thousands for the visa, wait weeks if not months, but for an equivalent visa for Japan I forked over so little I can’t even remember if I forked over anything, and it was done in a week. In fact the US doesn’t even getthe “friendly” part right – when I was last entering the country, a Chinese kid was trying to get in on a student visa, and being barked at by the immigration official in that delightful way they have of making “sir” sound like “arsehole.”

  19. Curzon: That’s quite a good point. Jus Soli is mainly found in countries that were originally founded as settlement colonies, i.e. North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.

    Actually, after another search I found the following article that explains some of the history of both jus soli and sanguinus much better than we had been.

    http://science.jrank.org/pages/7559/Naturalization.html

    You are wrong about France though- see this page on their gov web site.
    http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/france_159/label-france_2554/label-france-issues_2555/label-france-no.-49_3622/society-environment_3627/french-nationality-convoluted-history_4798.html

    Before 1803 they were jus soli, and they reverted to jus soli in 1889. It is the restrictions that are actually of a more recent vintage.

  20. I agree that Japanese law is actually more immigrant-friendly than American law is, but there is certainly a difference in how the societies treat those immigrants. Despite the virulent racism directed at illegal immigrants from some quarters, it would be hard to make a case that the average immigrant to Japan actually has an easier time making a life there LONG term than in the US.

  21. I think I’ll have to look up this paper when I stop by campus:
    http://cos.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/39/3/278

    The abstract:

    This paper examines the origin of jus sanguinis (citizenship attribution by parentage) in Japan as an illustration of the emergence of membership criteria in the modern state. Three European cases—Britain, France and Germany—provide a comparative perspective. Previous literature has tended to associate jus sanguinis with ethnic nationalism or an ethnocultural understanding of the nation. In fact, the principle of citizenship that emphasizes descent rather than birthplace appears to fit well with the image of the ethnically exclusive nature of contemporary Japanese society. However, I will argue that in Japan, as in the three European countries, the initial adoption of particular membership criteria had little to do with conceptions of nationhood or nationalism. An analysis of the factors leading to the legislation of the 1899 nationality law reveals that Japan had potentials for developing citizenship criteria with an emphasis on birthplace (jus soli) and residence (jus domicili ) just as those in Britain and France. Yet a relatively strict system of jus sanguinis, as in Germany, was instituted. The paper identifies other determinants of the principle of citizenship, including legal practices prior to the emergence of the modern state, the state’s efforts to organize the populations subject to its rule, and domestic and international security concerns.

    To return to the beginning a bit- has Debito ever said anything recognizing his earlier misinformation on this topic?

  22. My apologies to Debito. In fact, he did respond to my suggestion on his blog, but he did so by added a note to the end of my comment instead of adding a new comment and I simply hadn’t noticed.

  23. Wikipedia has an interesting blurb on common-law jus soli. From what I’ve read it doesn’t seem to be a philosophy shared by early Americans, although perhaps I’ve just been reading the wrong sources.

    A summary of early English common law is provided by Sir William Blackstone, who wrote about the law in 1765-69.1. Natural-born subjects were born within the dominion of the crown. When the British Empire came into existence, the dominion of the crown expanded. British subjects included not only persons within the United Kingdom but also those throughout the British Empire (the British Dominion). This included both the colonies and the self-governing Dominions, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Newfoundland. Note that the “dominions” of the Crown include not only Dominions but also colonies.

    Individuals born in the dominion were citizens regardless of the status of their parents: children born to visitors or foreigners acquired citizenship (see Jus soli). This reflects the rationale of natural-born citizenship: that citizenship was acquired because British-born subjects would have a ‘natural allegiance’ to the crown as a ‘debt of gratitude’ to the crown for protecting them through infancy.

  24. Debito will likely never concede that Japan is anything other than “unusual” re. jus soli and dual-nationality (as he said in response to Roy’s latest post on Debito.org). Food for thought below (also submitted to Debito but I somehow doubt it will see the light of day):

    (from Debito) “Again, what I find unusual is how strict Japan’s jus sanguinis (plus lack of dual nationality) laws are, to the point where you can have close to half a million “special permanent residents” born and raised here (meaning they would be citizens eventually over generations, if we were to apply other countries’ standards). ”

    (response to Debito) No, if we were to apply most other countries’ standards they would not be citizens “eventually”, not if they did not take the initiative and naturalize. That is what Jus Sanguinus means: if you are not the child of a citizen, then you are not a citizen. There is no such thing as “well, you were born here as a non-citizen, as was your father, as was his father, as was his father… so we will give you citizenship just because”. Doesn’t work that way.

    The Special Permanent Residents could solve their “plight” anytime they chose – all they have to do is naturalize. It is easier now than it ever has been before. The one possible remaining “catch” is that there are some kanji that cannot be used for names in Japan. However since most real Koreans (the ones actually living in Korea) use Hangul all the time, even for personal names, and since you can naturalize and use either of the Kana systems for your name and skip Kanji altogether, grasping at that as an excuse not to naturalize is pretty lame. Basically, it is saying “I refuse to naturalize and take my proper place in society, but I am going to make it look like it is your fault!” It is most emphatically not. I have even met “half” Zainichi, who had a Japanese mother, which meant they were Japanese citizens at birth, who were proud of the fact they renounced it to stay “Korean”.

    And please, don’t give us the old “they were brought here against their will” song and dance. Less than 1/3 of the Koreans in Japan at the end of the war were forcibly brought here (about 700,000 out of 2.2 million). Those Koreans were identified by Japanese and Occupation authorities and given priority repatriation. The remaining million-and-a-half were often people who had ties to Japan, had built up businesses and homes even well before the war, had no resources on the Korean peninsula and were thus loathe to leave. Almost all current Zainichi are descended from those people, or from repatriated Koreans who chose, chose mind you, to return to Japan. And indeed, they continue to choose to live in Japan, and choose to live as perpetual outsiders – at least, those who have not already naturalized.

    You seem woefully (deliberately?) uninformed about how predominant jus sanguinus and non-recognition of dual-nationality are in the world. Japan is not “unusual”, not by a long shot. I have researched the citizenship laws of the OECD countries, and the result is that when it comes to “recognizing dual citizenship” the OECD countries are split about 50-50. However, we only get those results if we include any form of recognition at all, such as the US State Department’s position that US law does not touch on the issue (even as the USCIS requires all who would naturalize to take an oath renouncing all previous allegiances. Seems incompatible to me…). Or Holland, where someone born a Dutch national remains so pretty much no matter what, while someone who naturalizes in Holland is legally prohibited from continuing to hold their prior citizenship (there are exceptions, such as those naturalizing who had been living in Holland for 5 years or more prior to the age of majority, but nationals of several other European countries are absolutely required to renounce prior citizenship by treaty obligation, regardless). If we cut the “conditional” recognizers of dual-citizenship, and focus only on those that recognize it without reservation, we are down to about 20% of OECD countries. Notably, several of these countries have been moving away from recognizing dual-nationality, while none have been moving towards increasing recognition.

    Jus soli is even rarer among OECD nations than the above. Only 8 out of the 30 recognize it, and of those only 3 recognize it unconditionally (US, Canada and Mexico) – the other 5 (UK, Australia, New Zealand, France and Ireland) attach conditions such as at least one parent having permanent residence status at the time the child is born.

    While I admit I have not researched the citizenship laws of every country on the planet, minimal digging around tells me that dual-nationality or jus soli recognition in non-OECD countries is even rarer than within the OECD. Indeed, as with the OECD, I found several countries that formerly recognized one or the other and have moved away from it. The global trend is clearly against jus soli as the sole basis of citizenship, and against dual- or multiple-nationality.

    Oh, and by the way, the Republic of Korea is an OECD nation, follows strict Jus Sanguinus (even stricter than Japan’s, they have been known to draft into their military visiting natural-born US citizens of Korean descent, even if they can’t even speak the language) and refuses to recognize dual-citizenship, period. Unusual? Not really. (response to Debito ends)

  25. “To return to the beginning a bit- has Debito ever said anything recognizing his earlier misinformation on this topic?”

    That’s a good point – while Debito may have changed his tune, where was that “Oh, sorry readers, the entire foundation of the criticisms of the Japanese government that I was making from 2000-2003 was wrong. I have demonstrated my ignorance of comparative law and apologize for misleading everyone.”

    I’ve read a few other net sources on Debito over the past 2 or 3 days and people are accusing him of some real whoppers, some of which could open him up to criminal (or civil) liability, but he has never responded to any of the accusations (that I don’t need to repeat here) and apparently banned comments relating to them on his site.

    He claims that he won’t debate off his site but he apparently selectively approves posts and only does what Roy noted above – adds his opinion in bold to what people write. I’ve never seen this done elsewhere – even on the blogs of famous people that generate 1000s of comments – they jump into the discussion.

    He has also stated that he categorically disagrees with academic approaches to Japanese human rights. So he won’t talk to that crew either…

    What Debito is saying about Zainichi actually goes WAY against the points that leading Zainichi activists make in their publications. I am forced to conclude that he either does not know much about them at all or is just making up an “English Teacher Version” of the Zainichi story… the demand that he makes of Roy in his recent comment makes very little sense either.

    Debito has published Murphy’s posts, it seems, and Murphy presented a summary of Zainichi issues that fits with –

    A – the views of leading Zainichi scholars like Kan Sanjun (of course, we know that Debito does not read Japanese scholarship or the writings of Zainichi, as he wrote about reading a 7th grade textbook as good practice not a year ago).
    B – the dominant scholarship on the subject in English

    So now that Roy and Murphy have effectively taken apart Debito’s superficial arguments, what’s next? Debito acknowledges that Murphy “gave arguments” on his site, but does nothing at all to either refute or even to seriously acknowledge them. In a few weeks, can we expect to see Debito return to his original superficial take on the Zainichi with no thought or reflection at all?

  26. M-bone: I’m curious, what were some of the things others were accusing him of? I’ve seen some pretty vicious and defamatory stuff about Debito on Japanese language sites, but are you talking about something with at least the vague possibility of being true?

    “I’ve never seen this done elsewhere – even on the blogs of famous people that generate 1000s of comments – they jump into the discussion.”
    I’m fairly sure I’ve seen it before, but it’s kind of old fashioned in net terms. Granted, Debito did only convert his page from a static and impossible to navigate site to a blog relatively recently.

    Re: your comments on Zainich, they complain about a LOT of aspects of Japanese policy, both formal and informal. But the one thing they never complain about is not having Japanese citizenship. They can get it if they want it, and they know that, and they still don’t take it. The only thing that might change that game is the introduction of recognized dual citizenship.

  27. Roy: Yeah, it is not like Zainichi don’t have a range of complaints, it is just that Zainichi leaders don’t seem to be on the same page as Debito when he talks about Zainichi.

    South Korea (let’s leave NK aside) does not allow dual citizenship after 21, much like Japan. Zainichi obviously don’t want the South Korean draft either. Zainichi are not “South Koreans” who the bad Japanese government won’t give citizenship to – they are a stateless legal group to whom the Japanese government will give citizenship with full rights to those who want to take it. This status is rooted in a long (and painful) history that should inform discussions, but should not be used, as Debito does, to make inaccurate, ill informed statements about Japan at present.

    “but are you talking about something with at least the vague possibility of being true?”

    I’m not talking about defamation. Some awful things have been said about Debito and his family. That sucks. What I am talking about, however, are things that people have documented pretty clearly. Since Debito has not responded to allegations and has selectively deleted things from his site, I can’t help but think that he has no comeback.

    I’ll give just three examples of the things that I have seen (found, incidentally, just by Googling “Debito”), pieced together from a number of sources –

    1. Debito was advocating for a foreigner jailed for rape. He made or published comments accusing the victim of lying and accusing the police of fabricating evidence. He also published legal documents containing the real name of the rape victim – a colossal no-no that is, in my understanding, against the law. The documents that Debito published, however, actually contained testimony by the perpetrator to the effect that he had molested the girl when she was unconscious, just not “raped” her. His sentence, 3 years, I belive, very likely reflects this. Despite the availability of this information, Debito is said to have continued to publish material challenging the victim’s statements and blocked the attempts to Japanese posters to publish an English translation of what the perp had testified to. He also published false statements about the laws applying to the case to make it appear as a false prosecution (this remains online). He is said to have edited past posts to appear innocent and not once apologized to the victim or admitted wrong doing, either for being party to her defamation or for revealing her name publically.

    2. Debito published a piece detailing how a foreigner was brutalized by the Japanese police. Claims were made that complaints were filed with Japanese authorities and Amnesty. Calls were made to check those complaints and nodbody had ever heard of them. Debito says nothing.

    3. Debito has used the case of an individual being stopped for “biking while gaijin” over 100 times on a number of occasions. Other bloggers revealed that the individual was actually repeatedly going through a police checkpoint that was set up to crack down on some totally unrelated student activists. The individual in question was asked repeatedly in various forms to provide contact information and details about which cops to get in touch with to confirm the story, but apparently did not provide either. Debito continues to use the story without any qualification.

    People are saying a lot of this kind of stuff. Debito is mum. I can’t help but take these stories at face value.

  28. “I’m not talking about defamation. Some awful things have been said about Debito and his family. That sucks.”

    When I met Debito a few years ago he told me about his family situation, but I am certainly not going to discuss anything about that in public. I have absolutely nothing against Debito personally, I just think that because he has such a well-known soapbox for publicizing these issues he should be more careful about issuing corrections to old material that had factual errors.

    I understand that his activism is basically focused on discrimination against foreigners of Western origin in Japan, but if he’s going to bring Zainichi into the discussion I think he should try actually talking to some.

  29. Roy, at the risk of turning this into a Debito bash-a-thon:
    Printing the name of the rape victim during his campaign to “free” the Nigerian Ibudor. He got a copy of the court transcript from Ibudor’s lawyer and posted it on his site without (apparently) actually reading it. The lawyer blacked out the victim’s name throughout the document – except for once on the last page. Several people posted to warn Debito, however they were people he hates (like Ponta) so he didn’t post their comments. Then he posted other comments, and replies which boiled down to “yeah I know about it, but I’m waiting for an amended copy” or “can someone tell me how to back out the name myself from the file?”

    All while leaving the original file up. He did finally take it down, but the damage was done. Probably legally actionable.

    Accusing a ballet school in Minami-Azabu of being “exclusionary”, when they weren’t. He jumped the gun, taunted the school on his site, finally realized he was wrong and issued a “mea culpa”, although he did not formally apologize or remove the blog entry, things he said throughout the discussion he would do if proven wrong. Then a few weeks after things were settled, he sent out a newsletter with the headline “Staring Down an Exclusionary Ballet School in Minami-Azabu” and a synopsis which contradicted everything that was actually said. Then a couple of months ago he’s back again putting them in his “Rogue’s Gallery”. They could (and probably should) sue him for defamation and interfering with business. As could a couple of other places on that list.

    If he doesn’t like what a poster says, he doesn’t just not publish it, he has been known to out people if he can tell who they are from their e-mail address or ISP. I’ve seen him do it to two people so far. One of them went back under a different handle, got caught and Debito threatened to release details such as their full name and place of work if he caught them again. Possibly legally actionable if he went and did it.

    It was claimed by the other of the two that Debito was blocking postings by him that would counter the “Debito message” and answer challenges by other posters, but then let through one in order to set the poor guy up for a fall. Details here: http://pontasmemorandum.blogspot.com/2008/05/voices-surpressed-on-debito-org.html

    What I find amusing is that while Debito won’t back up like M-Bone said and rewrite things, he has gone back months after posting something and added in disclaimers like on the ridiculous Aly Rustom piece about how the Japanese government condones the murder of foreigners: http://www.debito.org/?p=1369
    That first line with the ‘thoughts are his alone” was not originally there. And Debito complains about Tony Laszlo “altering the historical record”….

    I suppose if Debito ever got his “hate speech” law that he dreams about, he could be charged under it for Rustom’s piece and his own “Little Yellow Jap” piece. Wouldn’t that be interesting. 😉

    Or his complaining about Wiki putting up his daughter’s names, while he has their names and pictures up on his own site, plus his parents’ names, address, phone number, accusations of abuse at the hands of his (named, with place of work given) stepfather…. I suppose his stepdad could sue him as well.

  30. “but if he’s going to bring Zainichi into the discussion I think he should try actually talking to some.”

    It seems as though he has read your arguments over on his blog and thanked you for the information. Now, I hope that we have seen the last of Debito’s misrepresentation of the Zainichi issue.

    The really shocking thing here, however, is not simply that Debito was wrong, it is that an individual who is seeking to position himself as the leading advocate for foreign rights in Japan and who has been writing on Zainich – a group of foreigners in Japan that outnumbers whites by many times – for the better part of a decade, apparently does not know as much about their status and fundamental issues as Roy or I was able to gather (confirm) from a few minutes of Googling.

  31. For what it’s worth, I’m not basing my information on Zainichi on just a quick bit of Googling but on interactions I’ve had, lectures I’ve heard, etc. A month ago I attended a 2 day academic conference on Zainichi issues held by Ritsumeikan, and this past weekend I attended a study tour/合宿/symposium for Zainichi and interested Japanese student activist/researchers. There’s also some people in my department doing Zainich related research and I’ve heard/seen a fair amount of that, as well as speaking to various people over the years.

    I may not have written about it much, but it’s an issue I’ve been interested in ever since I first heard about it when I came to Japan to study back in 2002. In addition to just being interesting, I think it my interest is partly due to seeing a level of parallel with the Jewish Diasporic existence, which is my own family background. This isn’t an idea I’ve tried to develop though, so much as a feeling I have. And of course, as is the case for Debito, just being a foreigner in Japan does make me more interested in the situations of other types of foreigners. (Yes I know Debito is a citizen, but he was a proper foreigner for an awful long time before that.)

  32. M-Bone: agreed about the “shocking” part. He is woefully uninformed, as when a few months ago he posted about the passing of Mildred Loving, who fought against miscegenation laws during the 60s. He seemed completely unaware of the events of those times, even writing “(I)t’s hard to believe a lot of this happened within my lifetime! ” I have met activists who tried to rewrite events to fit their agenda, but he is the first I have seen to be so blatantly ignorant of the history of his chosen area of “activism”.

    I’m especially surprised he doesn’t know more about the Zainichi considering his connections with them, the “Peace Boat” and his political leanings. And this was the guy showing Doudou Diene around?

  33. “For what it’s worth, I’m not basing my information on Zainichi on just a quick bit of Googling but on interactions I’ve had, lectures I’ve heard, etc.”

    Yeah, I figured. I knew about these issues from a bunch of sources as well. I stuck “(confirmed)” there for that reason – and you did Google for a refresher, right? I sure did (don’t think about South Korean dual citizenship that often). That main point is that ALL of the info is easily available and it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to get the basics, even if you started from zero. Diaspora comparison sounds fascinating, BTW.

    “And this was the guy showing Doudou Diene around?”

    Yeah, that’s a good point. No wonder Diene ended up thinking that the Burakumin are a race or something…

  34. I certainly did some web searching to double check the actual laws and statistics.

    “Diaspora comparison sounds fascinating, BTW.”
    I’ll add it to my list of back-burner topics. Maybe I could get a good essay out of it someday.

    “And this was the guy showing Doudou Diene around?”
    How much did Debito actually show Diene around? I know that Diene spent a lot of his his survey looking at Zainichi issues, but I have to assume that Debito wasn’t involved in that part of it.

    BTW, here’s the Diene report:
    http://www.universalhumanrightsindex.org/documents/832/774/document/es/text.html

    Having just visited the Utoro Zainichi ghetto in Uji City, Kyoto this weekend I can attest that his description of it is quite accurate (I was told Diene spent about 3 hours there), although it has thankfully improved somewhat since then due to a hefty donation from the ROK government, and some generous private donors in both Korea and Japan.

  35. OK, now Debito’s really crossed the line. His post from yesterday actually bashes the movie Karate Kid. You’ve just lost everyone who grew up in the 80s, buddy.

    To be fair, the main point of that particular post is good but that doesn’t mean you can insult Mr. Miyagi.

  36. Nobody insults Mr Miyagi. Nobody. Ralph Machio is fair game of course….

    I recall seeing Pat Morita (who once did standup under the nickname “The Hip Nip” so he’s fine with having fun with racial stereotypes) in a rerun of Happy Days. Some cute girl had been taking Japanese at university, and tries it out on Arnold (Morita). Very pleased with herself, she is, until her date turns to Arnold and asks what she said. “No idea,” is the reply, in (of course) Pat Morita’s native-level English.

    That said, I love to bash really cheesy travel docs on Japan, and this sounds like a doozy. I hope Debito doesn’t think Yonaguni is some sort of lost Atlantis though. That’s the sort of nonsense the Discovery Channel likes.

  37. Thanks Murphy. I’ll look over it later, after I read Diene’s report itself. I only glanced at the section on Utoro to compare it with what I saw and heard over the weekend, and that section itself looks accurate to me. I can’t comment on anything else he wrote at the moment.

  38. Didn’t like Karete kid that much,especially seeing the part 2 in Shibuya with my ex back in the day.I agree with Debito here.

    But one thing.Masi Oka can speak native level Japanese(He was born in Japan).I saw him in various variety shows including”Eigo De Shaberanaito”on NHK….

    I also remember seeing National Geographic Channel featuring lost gold of general Yamashita with Sterling Seagrave.So I’m not that surprised with the standard of these channels.

    On Utoro:

    Part of the reason why Utoro never had the infrastructure like other part of the city is because of the property dispute.Koreans were squatting the area illegally and.Japanese company with the ownership had to give up development plan because of that.So the area were handed over to Zainichi businessman and this guy took the case into court.So the civic group brought this to UN and lobbied Korean media and present it as Japan vs Zainichi angle.If all the Korean residential area in Japan are shanty town,there is a room for sympathy,but like many zainichi related dispute,this too become untouchable.

  39. My first impression of Wetherall’s piece is that while he addresses some oversight and factual errors in the Diene report, he has a significant bias towards what I consider to be an incorrect interpretation of several things. The core of his argument is basically that race and ethnicity should not be used as legal categories because they are discriminatory, and therefore the law should not consider discrimination based on race or ethnicity, as these are categories which the law does not recognize. I hope the problem inherent in this argument is clear.

    One of the most problematic section was this one:

    Not only was Korea never a “province” of Japan, but arguably it was not exactly a “colony” either. Historically, the sovereign Empire of Korea became an internationally recognized part of the sovereign Empire of Japan.

    As a result of Japan’s nationalization of Korea, people with family registers affiliated with the Korean subnation became Japanese. Under both Japanese and international law, “Japanese” included all subjects of the Empire of Japan. Hence it is not accurate to contrast “Koreans” with “the Japanese” when speaking of Korea at the time it was part of the Empire of Japan.

    Some Korean Japanese accepted their legal status as Japanese and willingly contributed to the efforts to develop Korea into a subnation worthy of becoming a prefecture.

    Utter nonsense. He correctly uses the term “gaichi” to describe the legal status of Japanese-occupied Taiwan and Korea, without admitting the fact that the term gaichi is so nearly a synonym for “colony” (shokuminchi in Japanese) that both terms were used both popularly and by government officials in referring to the same areas. And colonies were ALWAYS recognized under international law. I simply fail to see how one could possibly construct a definition of “colony” that includes fraction of colonies held by European states at the time took over Taiwan/Korea which does not also apply to Japan’s possessions.

  40. Yeah, Masi Oka’s Japanese is fine. I’ve even heard he translates the Japanese dialog on Heroes from the English script himself. Sometimes the phrasing could be a little better, but he’s certainly fluent. I imagine that he was just trying to pronounce the words in a “typical American way”, which makes some sense for when you get someone who’s an actor and not a journalist type to do your voiceover.

    Aceface: Sure, technically they were squatting Utoro, but only because they had been told to live there in WW2. By the time eviction came up they’d already been there for about 40 years, which is easily enough to get squatters rights in many places. I’ll admit I have no idea what squatting law is like in Japan, but I think they at least had a moral right to that land. Still, the land was privately owned so it’s more the fault of Nissan than of the Japanese, Kyoto or Uji government for not ever installing facilities. Anyway, luckily they’ve managed to buy it “back” so there’s no more eviction worries, and hopefully they can get plugged into the Uji sewer system one of these days.

    It’s also true that the Utoro issue is not entirely about Japanese vs. Zainichi. The Utoro ghetto has always had 10-20% ethnic Japanese residents despite being majority Korean, and as Wetherall says it was also an ethnic Korean from Utoro who abused his position on the community council to secretly buy the land from Nissan, sell it to a developer, and run away with the profits. Naturally, they curse his name to this day.

  41. “Only because they had been told to live there in ww2”.

    I don’t want make this into 2ch style argument.But that’s half truth.

    Most of the residents have nothing to do with wartime mobilization of labor forces.
    Anyway,situation of Utoro isn’t norm in many ways and lionizing it as symbol of Zainichi suffering is a mistake.
    I mean,you let foreigners occupying your property and allow them to live there for free for four decades and what you get is “racist”label from UN sounds…. Kafkesque?

  42. “Most of the residents have nothing to do with wartime mobilization of labor forces.”
    Are you sure about that? The stats I saw said that during the wartime there were over 1000 workers living there, many of whom were Japanese. After the war less than half of them stayed in that area, but most of the ones who stayed were Korean. I’m sure a few moved in later on, but it really does sound like most of them are descended from wartime laborers or at least relatives of them.

    I agree that making it an over-broad symbol is a mistake, but so is trying to downplay the specific case to avoid making it a symbol. Luckily for most Zainichi Utoro is very atypical, and is one of the worst, if not THE worst, ghetto in Japan. But this is due to a number of reasons, of which ethnicity is only one. But it still can’t be overlooked completely.

    Not to sound Marxist or anything, but I think it’s more a matter of class/power relations and is closer to situations like the mass evictions of homeless shanty towns from parks or the farmers at Narita having their land taken for airport development than anything that typical the Zainichi goes through. But of course, this is one reason why the Utoro cause was taken up by ethnic Japanese Marxist-influenced social activists such as Mr. Saito from the Committee to Protect Utoro, who guided us around.

  43. That is the consensus in my office.Anyway,I’ve read that on Chosun-Ilbo online too.Check their archives.

    I’d agree as long as the issue and people surround that accepts criticism and not addicted to symbol manipulation.Also,I don’t like Narita/Utoro comparison.Being a guy staffed at Chiba bureau for four years,I know what kind of people they are.

    Mulboyne was mentioning in the previous post about now-gone annual top tax payer’s list and there were many foreign names on that.What he failed to say was there were many zainichi with Japanese names on that list like Nakajima Kenkichi of Heiwa Pachinko or Sigemitsu Takeo of Lotte co or many CEOs from consumer cashing services.And then you have enterpreneurs like Son Masayoshi of SOFT BANK and Hang Chang-woo of Maruhan Corporation with Korean names.

    Not that I’m denying the discrimination toward Koreans exist in Japan,mind you.But discrimination was never a barrier for zainichi to “make it” in Japan,at least in the form of financial success.
    Taking Utoro out of context and placing it as ethinic ghetto and showing it to a guy from UN who only stayed there for three hours,sounds to me as nothing but an over-broad symbolization.

  44. Economic success is no guarantee of protection against discrimination. Look at Jewish history. We’ve usually done pretty well in business but for most of history it only meant that the larger population knew where to loot when times got rough. Jews are safe in America today more because American identity has become less Anglo-centric and more multicultural, not because we’re rich. Before WW2 there were a lot of people in the US who didn’t give a shit about the rumors of what Hitler was doing to Jews in Germany and Poland.

  45. You know,I’m pretty accustom to comparing zainichi with other ethnic minority in other world.Zainichi intellectuals had chosed Blacks in America,Irish in Northern Ireland,Turks in Germany.Algerian in France.
    I remember Kang Sang Joon chosed Palestinean analogy(probably because of Edward Said craze among Japanese intelligentsia.)which I thought was bizarre to extreme.
    1)Zainichis can go back to their homeland when ever they want if so they wish.
    2)Nobody bomb your residential area constantly.And that can be expected if you are Palestinean.
    3)Majority of Palestineans are living in poverty and lacking basic lifeline.Zainichis are living in the second richest nation in the world and over all,they are not in bad shape financially.

    For the similar reason,I don’t buy your Zainichi=Jewish argument.
    First and foremost,there were no pogrom to Korean in this country.Only exception was during Great Kanto earth quake of 1923,but this was under extreme circumstance.Not that decrease the criminal nature of the incident,but it is difficult to
    imagine it would happen repeatedly.

    There are lots of pachinko parlors throughout this country and everyone knows most of these establishment are belonging to zainichi ownership.In another words,larger population always knew where to loot when times got rough.So far,I never heard any equivalent of Kristallnacht against pachinko parlors regardless of tireless racial slur in 2ch threads.

    Japanese identity has not become less Japano-centric nor more multicultural,this I agree.But it is undeniable fact that safety of zainichi were best kept at Japan than their homeland,that’s why there were so many dissident coming in to the country.

    BTW,lots of zainichi didn’t give a shit about the rumours of what Kim dynasty was doing to his subject in NK before abduction issue broke out after Koizumi visit.
    At least I can give you some back up evidence that Kang Sang Joon didn’t give a damn to this subject compare to……say Hinomaru in the classrooms.

  46. Roy – actually I didn’t get that (about race, ethnicity, legal categories) so much from the Dr. Wetherall’s writing. What I read was him stating, quite correctly, that the buraku could not be covered by any law banning discrimination on race or ethnic grounds, as they are ethnically and racially Japanese. So are the Okinawans. That leaves the Ainu and Zainichi, and the Ainu are already Japanese citizens, and protected under Article 14 of the Constitution.

    And Wetherall concludes by saying that Japan does indeed need an anti-discrimination law:
    “The consequences of such an anti-racial discrimination law would be as follows.

    1. All people in Japan would be regarded as human beings without racial or ethnic differentiation.

    2. The only differentiation between people would be nationality, a purely civil status devoid of racial or ethnic implications.

    3. Consequently, the word “Japanese” could be legally used only to refer to people who possess Japanese nationality as provided by the Nationality Law.

    4. Consequently, the word “foreigner” could be legally used only to refer to people who do not possess Japanese nationality.

    5. People who say or write things like “looks Japanese” or “looks foreign” — or “looks Ainu” or “looks “Korean” or “looks African” — would be warned and penalized if they persisted saying such things.

    6. Since racial discrimination is absolutely prohibited, no Japanese or non-Japanese would be allowed to differentiate themselves racially or ethnically for the purpose of obtaining preferential treatment in law or policy, or in any public or commercial service.”

    I believe the last point is one he brings up several times. One Ainu activist group wants special permanent representation in the Diet over and above what they are already entitled to as Japanese citizens. This is obviously patently unfair to all other Japanese citizens. Reverse discrimination is not a cure for discrimination. Multiculturalism is not a cure for the world’s ills – indeed, it only exacerbates them.

    As for Utoro, I used to live in Kyoto and Dr. Wetherall’s and Aceface’s assessments are a whole lot closer to the truth than what the Utoro residents would tell you. Yes, some of their ancestors were forced into the area over 60 years ago. Yes, they were then basically abandoned there. No one forced them or their descendants to stay. Sure they live in horrible conditions, but they chose to. Yes, Uji never put in decent sewers or anything else. Of course they didn’t, it’s private land! It was always someone else’s land. The original owner may not have forced the issue of making them leave, but so what? Look, if I see you down and out and as a friend say “Look, Roy, I’ve got an extra room, why don’t you use it until you get yourself sorted out” I don’t give up ownership of that room just because you keep staying there after you’ve worn out your welcome. It doesn’t become your room, or your kids’ room, or your grandkids’ room, it’s my room. And if 40 or 50 years later I say “get out”, then you get out. Or buy the house from me, which seems to be what the Utoro residents finally did. Funny, that – they cry about how they’re oppressed and need help, and when that doesn’t work they suddenly discover money and buy what they should have bought in the firstplace.

    Yeah, Koreans face discrimination, but sometimes it is because they are complete and total prats.

  47. “For the similar reason,I don’t buy your Zainichi=Jewish argument.”
    Like I said above, it’s not a real argument, just an impression I had back when I first learned about Zainichi.

    I don’t think I said anything that implies I EXPECT Japanese to go looting wealthy Zainichi during the recession – only the simple point that economic success is not proof against discrimination. You’re taking my comparison WAY too far. I only meant for the last two sentences in my previous comment to be about the Jewish situation, not any comparison with Japan. And BTW, the “lots of people” I meant in the last sentence were non-Jews.

    Still, since you mentioned it, I would say that the 1923 riots were a kind of mini-pogrom, but luckily it didn’t become a pattern. I also don’t think it’ll be a pattern in the future, but if I’m going to start predicting things for 50 years from now I might as well picture myself watching the hologram news in my house on Mars.

  48. Maybe I’m being a bit cynical here.But while money may not drive out discrimination,it always wins admiration in this country….

    Anyway,what I want to say is Utoro is more of a place where you can learn about what it is to be living as a squatter in Japan,but not as a Korean…..

  49. The Buraku are racially Japanese, but I think it might be possible to make a case that if they are being discriminated against in the same exact way that an ethnic group would be, you could offer them the same protections that you would offer to an oppressed ethnic group. This gets into a deeper issue of how new ethnicity arises. The buraku absolutely started as a caste within Japanese society, but how much time, and how much cultural separation, would it take for them to be considered a distinct ethnic group. This is a serious question, and I have no idea what the answer is.

    The assertion that the Okinawans are ethnically and racially Japanese is quite shaky. The Okinawans are certainly Japanese citizens with all the legal protection that entails, but an awful lot of people consider them to be historically a distinct ethnic group, culture, and political entity. It is widely accepted that the Ryukyu languages collectively form a major branch of the Japanese language tree, with all dialects found throughout the rest of Japan forming a separate branch. There’s a reason that Okinawan historians use the term “Yamato” when referring to “all of Japan except Okinawa”, even today.

    Wetherall’s statements about wanting everyone to be equal and all that sound admirable, but he also seems to be coming from a political motivation that denies certain aspects of history. I’ll grant that the stuff about ethnicity is all up for debate, but he acts as if there is NO debate.

    And then there’s the section where he denies Japan even had colonies, which IS something there is no serious debate about, even among the crazy right-wingers.

    I’d love to attack his arguments line by line (and point out which parts I agree with) but I’m spending WAY too much on this when I should be writing my presentation for Friday’s zemi…

  50. I have to go to bed not.So this will be the last post for tonight.

    On “debate”.

    1)I don’t recall a single Buraku liberation activist demanding different “ethnicity” status.

    2)People of Okinawa chosed the status of Japanese prefecture in democratic election.Unlike,say Hong Kong.There has been pro-independece group running for power in local election but getting very little votes,unlike,say Taiwan.And most of these talks on Okinawan ethnicity talk are made in the campus in either Naha or Yamato.But never in the outlier like say,Ishigaki or Yonaguni.

  51. Actually I’ve never heard of anyone claiming that burakumin is an ethnicity either. I just think that it would be an interesting argument or someone to make seriously, but that’s too theoretical for my taste. I don’t even know what field that would be. Historical cultural anthropology? Does that even exist?

    Okinawan is another story though. I’ve heard Okinawans suggest that following the official recognition of Ainu as an ethnic minority, they might try for it next. But I don’t think that necessarily means support of any kind of independence movement. Actually I don’t know what it would mean. It’s not like in the US (or for that matter, Taiwan), where recognized native tribes get special privileges. There’s very practical reasons for the movement in Hawaii to gain official native status, but I don’t know what Okinawa would actually gain, aside from pride. Maybe more autonomous control over things like education policy? I certainly don’t see special Diet seats happening (or think it’s a very good idea.)

  52. “The Buraku are racially Japanese, but I think it might be possible to make a case that if they are being discriminated against in the same exact way that an ethnic group would be, you could offer them the same protections that you would offer to an oppressed ethnic group.”

    Oh NO. While Burakumin do have various protections (the Dowa laws) they should not, not, not be treated as an ehtnic group. Not only do they not want it (this is something forced on them by the UN report and Debito, etc.) but what needs to be done with the Burakumin is for people to forget that they were even an issue in the first place. When the occupations of their ancestors are relegated to history books and not made a subject of present discrimination, they win. I’ve talked with some younger Japanese about Burakumin and some don’t know about them at all – this is very good in a way as they have LOST their ability, desire to discriminate against the group – they just become “mainstream” or poor people who should be helped through regular welfare channels.

    If, for example, Burakumin go around trumpeting Burakumin status, people will “remember” to discriminate against them. Burakumin are not ethnically distinct, they have no distinct culture, the best thing for everyone is if the status becomes an issue of history, perhaps an anti-discrimination parable, etc.

  53. Good point. I still think it could be an interesting case study for someone looking at ethnic group formation, perhaps as a “near-miss”? Definitely not a real ethnic group though. Whatever that means. Obviously the real distinction is that Burakumin don’t WANT to be Burakumin. It’s a category that exists purely for purposes of discrimination, unlike an ethnic group, which also defines the presence of some kind of unique culture that its members view in a positive light.

    And I promised not to comment today. Damn.

  54. “I’ve heard Okinawans suggest that following the official recognition of Ainu as an ethnic minority, they might try for it next.”

    I doubt that will be the opinion of majority of Okinawans.Lots of Okinawans are much more concerned with “equality” with mainland.Such as employment rate,income level or presence of U.S military in the community.Some even raised the issue of discrimination for not identifying Okinawans as “Japanese”.

    Ethnic groups are defined only when the whole community possess shared and persistent identity that duplicates others.
    In Okinawa,Amamis(which is part of Ryukyu cultural sphere despite it had been under direct governance by the Satsuma clan)are said to face discrimination while the mainlanders do not.Same can be said about islanders from outliers.This contradicts the idea that Okinawans possess independent ethnic identity.Not that I deny “us vs them” mentality among the Okinawans in certain issues like WW2 and US bases.But this is basically restricted in the Okinawa main Island.

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