Arudo Debito and Japundit’s JP – kindred spirits?

OK, got my first chance to see/hear American-born activist in Japan Arudo Debito by watching an amateur interview at the video blog Yamato Damacy. Here it is.

Now, listen to the latest edition of the Japundit Podcast, by Japanese-English translator JP.

Is it me, or are their voices eerily similar? Does living in Japan for more than 10 years make your English sound a certain way? Not necessarily a bad thing, I’m just curious.

Eikaiwa Teacher Nabbed for Marijuana Possession, Yukan Fuji Makes fun of His Japanese


“I had marijuana”… Middle School Asst English Teacher Arrested

The Gunma Prefectural Police, Shibukawa Precinct, arrested a male American citizen (34) working as an assistant English teacher at a middle school in Shinto Village [a real town, not some Japanese-style Santaland, unfortunately – Adamu], Gunma, for possession of marijuana.

According to police investigations, the man had several grams of marijuana in his home. The man was the only asst. English teacher in the village and has been employed on a contract basis since August. He has admitted the crime and the precinct intends to pursue questioning on the route by which he obtained the drugs.

ZAKZAK 2006/04/06

Now, take a look at this headline:


(The words before the ellipse mean “I had marijuana” written in letters to mockingly indicate a foreign accent)

For you gaijin in Japan who get hot under the collar when Japanese people praise your Japanese, maybe you should try getting arrested! I can guarantee no one will tell you how smart you are for learning such a hard language, certainly not the press.

(Picture plucked from Google Images and probably does not depict the actual suspect)

You know you’ve been in Aum Shinrikyo too long when…

Pure evilYou think Dave Spector is the Antichrist:

“Issue 6 [of Aum official magazine Vajrayana Sacca] ran a feature [in late 1994] entitled “Manual of Terror: The Jewish Ambition,” which cites the Jewish people and the freemasons [as forces working to destroy Japan and conquer the world]. Of great interest is the article, “WANTED! The Black Elites Who Sold Their Souls to the Devil,” which introduces and comments on 12 Japanese people and two foreigners:

“The Dark Emperor (暗黒帝王), Ichiro Ozawa [senior DPJ leader] (trying to build a Japan that is subordinated to the world unified government).

“The 6th Demon (第六天魔), Daisaku Ikeda [founder charismatic leader of Soka Gakkai] (General of the vanguard army to destroy Japan)

“The Puppet Emperor (傀儡皇帝 かいらいこうてい), Emperor Naruhito (Had the ideas of masonry beaten into him from childhood via teachers poisoned with Jewish thought. The imperial family is already hijacked by them)

“Queen of the Ruined Country (亡国后妃 ぼうこくこうひ), Masako Owada [now known as Crown Princess Masako] (She is a person who worked to help American multinational corporations and pushed Japanese companies to destruction!)

“The rest are Lord of Ruin (没落大名), Morihiro Hosokawa [former Prime Minister]; The Three-day Ruler (三日天下), Tsutomu Hata [former Prime Minister]; Ambassor of Hell (地獄大使), Hisashi Owada [noted diplomat and father of Princess Masako]; Death’s Apprentice (死の丁稚 しのでっち), Yasushi Akashi [former UN Under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations]; Killer of Refugees (難民殺し), Sadako Ogata [former UN High Commissioner of Refugees]; Father of Beasts (家畜の父), Rev. Sun Myung Moon [founder of the Unification Church]; Heart of Extreme Evil (極悪用心), Ryoichi Sasakawa [prewar gangster and accused war criminal turned boat racing magnate and Nobel Peace Prize candidate]; Electric Geisha (電波芸者), Dave Spector [White American TV personality in Japan]; Wholesaler to America (米国問屋), Yasuhiro Nakasone [notoriously powerful former Prime Minister]; and the Human Bomb (人間爆弾), Ken’ichi Ohmae [powerful businessman and political mover].”

[Translated from The Aum Shinrikyo Incidents by Shoichi Fujita, p. 64; notes in brackets by me]

Intro to Image Characters, Part 1: Japan and America’s Image (Character) Problems

Japan’s infamous penchant for cutesy corporate and government mascots not necessarily aimed at children are well known and have been covered on this blog in various capacities before. These mascots are often called “image characters” in Japan (though the term can also apply to live human and animal mascots). Some examples (translations liberal and loose, just the way I like it):

  • Masumasu-kun – “Mr. Grow-and-grow” the mascot for Japan Post’s mutual fund products:
  • Gambaru Bear – “Do-your-best Bear,” representing the Japan Self-Defense Force Sapporo Regional Liaison:
  • And who can forget the national mascots for the Self Defense Forces, Prince Pickles and Parsley-chan!

  • Quiz time! Why are they called Pickles and Parsley? No cheating!

    Apparently, the SDF holds overnight tours for groups of children hosted by the mascots. Imagine spending a weekend doing semaphore and knife training with that!

    (other fun pictures of SDF largesse can be found here)

  • Ayumi and Mamoru, cartoon human rights activists brought to you by Japan’s Ministry of Justice:

  • They’re so cute they I’m sure they could even get Kim Jong Il to dance to the human rights anthem (too bad Mamoru can’t sing!).

    I could, of course, go on but I will hold off until later posts). If you love lame mascots in Japan as much as I do, be sure check out the wonderful “YuruKyara” (Dumb Characters), a mini coffeetable book with full-color photos of dozens of the things. Don’t spend too long reading it though, or their hollow eyes may eat your soul (try having a staring contest with Mamoru to see what I mean).

    Now, before you start chortling about how wacky those Japanese are, America has pretty much the same problem. This excellent report from a now-defunct blog catalogs some of America’s own lame mascots to be found on the kids sections of various government websites. Some of these things are amazingly lame, so do follow the links and check it out (article reproduced in full for your convenience and entertainment, click the headline for a cached Google link):

    Feb 13, 2006
    Why the Feds shouldn’t advertise to our kids, either.

    By Constantine von Hoffman

    There is only one thing creepier than corporations marketing to kids: The government marketing to kids. Now, I hear you say, what’s wrong with NASA teaming up with Pokemon to get our kids interested in science? Or the Centers for Disease Control creating something called The Immune Platoon of superheroes to show how your body defends itself? Or FEMA’s Herman the Spokescrab teaching children to care for themselves in the event of an emergency because you sure as heck shouldn’t rely on the government to do it? Why, nothing of course.

    Where it gets eerie is when the cops and the spy agencies start to do it. Yeah, yeah, McGruff the Crime Dog was cute … but this goes way beyond that. Were talking the National Security Agency doing anthropomorphic animals with names like Crypto Cat, Decipher Dog and Rosetta Stone (who appears to be a fox). With them the NSA hopes to entice “America’s future codemakers and codebreakers!” … but remember: Only with a warrant kids. Unless Mr. Prez says otherwise.

    Truly troubling – from a marketing standpoint – is the National Reconnaissance Office’s kids page. The NRO, in case you didn’t know, is an agency considered so important that you and I and everyone else aren’t even allowed to know the size of its budget. Suffice to say that budget must be big and it looks like they spent about $2.50 on their website. Littered (and I do mean littered) with characters named Corey Corona, Earth Watch, Whirly Lizard and Dana Drop (who? what?), it has all the aesthetic value of a not-very-talented 2nd graders rejected heroes. It is quite clear the site, like the agency, is designed not to attract attention.
    Continue reading Intro to Image Characters, Part 1: Japan and America’s Image (Character) Problems

    News to Me: Brooklyn native elected to Inuyama, Aichi Pref. City Council in 2003

    It seems I am a bit late to the ball, but as a follow up to my bit on the expanding role of foreigners in Japan in my “Japan apologists” post, I’d like to introduce you to the first American elected official in Japan, Anthony Bianchi, who was voted into the city council of Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture in April 2003. The best way for you to learn about him is to listen to this 2003 NPR interview (Requires Windows Media Player). The native Brooklynite came to Japan as an English teacher in 1989, married a Japanese woman and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2002 after 3 years of paperwork. It’s great to hear him explain in his thick Brooklyn accent how he managed to get more votes (3,000) than any native-born Japanese candidate in the election.

    He explains that the keys to his huge success were: a) His years of teaching produced a large contingent of people of voting age who knew him from being his student; and b) Dissenting voters appreciated his promises to bring a more open style of politics to the city. In Inuyama, a suburb of Nagoya with a population of 73,000, he was able to ride his close relations with the citizens and a populist platform (given all the more relevance by his status as an experienced outsider) to victory in a low-turnout election.

    Bianchi speaks in an earnest, convincing manner and uses American-style aggressive political tactics to push populist causes. His first initiative was easy: he demanded that the mayor carry out a plan to broadcast city council proceedings on the Internet, something that many other cities had done already but that Inuyama had been dragging its feet on. But it made for great press when he demanded the change in his first question after being elected. Thankfully, he did it, so now the world can watch him spout off about fascinating topics like government procurement and public comment systems here (requires Internet Explorer).

    Bianchi’s story is a fascinating example of how a Western foreigner can successfully assimilate in Japan. He campaigned on a platform of “Protect traditions together and make the future bright for the sake of Inuyama,” and his homepage exclaims, “Progress over precedent, common sense over ordinances!” He also looks to be very involved in the Japanese vision of “internationalization” meaning lots of cultural exchanges and eikaiwa classes.

    Bianchi’s political style stands in stark juxtaposition with that of a better-known Western-born activist in Japan, Debito Arudo (Pictured below). Debito, also a naturalized Japanese citizen who was born and raised in the US (California), is much more confrontational, divisive, and preoccupied with identity politics. Continue reading News to Me: Brooklyn native elected to Inuyama, Aichi Pref. City Council in 2003

    Am I a Japan Apologist? If so, sorry!

    Found on the Marmot, this look at Japan apologists in Korea before and during the colonial period is fascinating.

    It’s amazing to me how after Japan’s defeat in WW2 and subsequent economic growth and close relationship with the US, Westerners’ experiences in Japan have exploded from a few extremely coddled, monitored, and restricted professions (missionaries, academics, o-yatoi gaikokujin) to 10s of thousands of individual experiences in a free society and from a plethora of backgrounds (eikaiwa teacher, human rights activist, programmer, truck driver, Diet member, gangster). Meanwhile, both legal and illegal immigrants from China and Korea as well as those from “periphery” countries like Brazil, the Philippines, and Iran have made semi-permanent homes in Japan, adding to a growing multiculturalism that was spearheaded by the zainichi Korean population.

    Despite the surge in openness and the increased diversity and exposure both to and from the outside world that came with it, Japan’s obsessive image management remains along with the “foreign apologists” who are strikingly similar to those employed in the 1920s. There are plenty of them, including Gregory Clark and Ezra Vogel (DISCLAIMER: Haven’t read Vogel yet). But thankfully we live in a time when a) Japan apologists don’t have to overlook unarmed Koreans sliced in half on the street by Japanese soldiers; and b) Those involved with Japan professionally and otherwise have the breathing room to maintain a more sophisticated view of Japan than the Visit Japan Campaign marketing copy. People can even spend all their free time griping about how much Japan sucks even as they live there! Or, more constructively, they can unionize and try and improve their lot in life.

    This article and the discussion on “Japanophiles” at several blogs got me thinking – what is it that keeps me interested in Japan after not living in the country for almost 3 years?

    My own experiences in and related to Japan (obsessive language study, tumultuous relationship that ended in death threats, meeting and getting engaged to Mrs. Adamu here in Washington) have been, as life tends to be, bittersweet and full of as much pain as joy, but I still feel some pressure to speak well of Japan whenever someone (Japanese or non) asks me about it. Usually, I stick with the food. Nothing controversial about food, and really, Japanese food is the best. I used to have much more heartfelt and uncritical praise for Japan, back when the scenery, the people (“handler” types included), the language, and the fact that it wasn’t America kept me excited.

    But right now, I don’t feel one way or the other about “Japan” as a whole. For one thing, 2 years is not enough to truly understand what a whole nation is all about. As I’ve said before: I love Japan, but it’s screwed up. The society’s got major problems that have translated into things that have affected me personally. But at the same time, I’ve been fortunate enough to befriend enough real, intelligent, and genuinely friendly people to keep me from dismissing the whole country as the kind of place that wraps foreigners in lacquer. It makes me sad to see someone who was unable in 12 years to get past all the superficial stuff of first meetings (his “GAIJIN MEETS A FOREIGNER kabuki”). Of course, not speaking the language where English is not widely understood and perhaps just being a reporter might make things difficult. It’s hard not to worry about how you’ll come across in an article when talking to someone from the press.

    Anyway, as to the question in the title of whether I am a Japan apologist, I say not yet, but then no one’s paying me. Where I work (an American law firm) is about as far away as you can get from apologism. But if I were to get a swank job at JETRO or RIETI that might be a different story… Just let me apologize in advance for if and when I do get brainwashed and sucked into a world of untold luxury and all-you-can-eat sushi in exchange for my soul.

    (Image is random)

    The most Japaneezy states in the Union

    The U.S. states/wannabe states where you’re most likely to find Japanese people:

    # Hawaii: 1.70% (20,590 / 1,211,537)
    # California: 0.33% (112,212 / 33,871,648)
    # Washington: 0.29% (16,396 / 5,894,121)
    # Nevada: 0.20% (3,935 / 1,998,257)
    # Oregon: 0.19% (6,351 / 3,421,399)
    # New York: 0.17% (32,034 / 18,976,457)
    # Massachusetts: 0.14% (8,682 / 6,349,097)
    # New Jersey: 0.13% (11,245 / 8,414,350)
    # District of Columbia: 0.13% (749 / 572,059)
    # Maryland: 0.12% (5,354 / 4,296,486)

    And the lowest? Puerto Rico, with only 183 Japanese people—0.004%. Pitiful.

    Source: 2000 U.S. census data, translated by this dude, and brought to my attention by someone on the Philadelphia mixi board who was complaining about Pennsylvania being ranked 39. (Cross the river to Jersey and enjoy your shrimp chips, dang it.)

    2008 Summit to be Held in Kansai?

    Nikkei on the Ambassador’s visit to Osaka (some far less serious coverage of his visit can be found at the Osaka Consular Office’s website):

    US Ambassador Meets with 3 Kansai Governors, Voices Support for Attracting G8 Summit
    Feb. 9, 2006

    US Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer met with the governors of Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures in Osaka City on Feb. 8. The three governors asked for the ambassador’s understanding of their bid to lure the 2008 G8 Summit meeting, and the diplomat voiced his support for the effort, saying, “I understand that Kansai is working to bring the summit, and I want them to do their best.”

    Governors Fusae Ota of Osaka, Keiji Yamada of Kyoto, and Toshizo Ido of Hyogo attended the meeting. Schieffer pointed out that 80% of American federal direct investment in Japan is concentrated in Tokyo. He went on to call for the creation of an arrangement for exchange [between Kansai and the US], saying, “I’d like you to create centers in Kansai where information from JETRO (Japan EXternal Trade Organization) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan can be easily obtained.”

    Talk about structural barriers. 80%! Greater Kansai is a huge metropolitan area rivaling Tokyo (and Osaka, for its part, is an overwhelming destination for inward FDI in Japan), but in my own completely unfounded opinion, the Kansai region outside of Osaka City gets so little FDI love from the US for a few reasons: a) Americans see Japan outside of Tokyo as a kind of netherworld; b) Domestic investment is also heavily skewed toward Tokyo, meaning that foreign companies’ business partners/clients are also there; c) The government is all in Tokyo; d) Relative lack of support infrastructure (international schools etc)/smaller expat communities in Kansai; and e) Prolongued economic malaise.

    Situation No Win?

    A few quick thoughts I had while reading the following in the Japan Times:

    In a document submitted to the Diet on Nov. 18 upon formal Cabinet approval, the government had pledged to send officials to check U.S. meet processors prior to resuming beef imports in December.

    Without notifying the Diet, however, the government postponed the dispatch of officials to the United States, claiming it was found that inspections before imports were resumed would be impractical.

    Nakagawa has been under fire from opposition parties for changing the dispatch plan without informing the Diet.

    Now, I don’t often side with the GOJ on the beef issue. And I don’t know the details of what actually happened leading up to the government’s decision to postpone the dispatch of inspectors. However, it seems that Nakagawa might have been in an even worse pinch had inspectors been sent prior to the discovery of spinal matter in imported beef last month.

    Sending inspectors to U.S. meat-processing facilities would have amounted to nothing more than a symbolic gesture at best. It would have been a signal to the Japanese public that the government is taking this problem seriously. But let’s face it – a few Japanese inspectors would not have prevented the gross negligence on the part of the United States that resulted in the re-imposition of the beef ban.

    Their presence would, however, have distributed some of that negligence towards the Japanese government. Opposition parties, always eager to sink their teeth into LDP hide, would have then dismissed the government’s inspection measures as ineffective.

    In hindsight, one has to ask which is worse for the government: having hidden the decision to delay sending the inspectors and having some spinal material show up in an imported veal shipment, or having sent the inspectors only to have the effort proven completely unsuccessful?