Letter to the editor published in Japan Times

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In response to an article from Debito Arudou on discriminatory foreign persecution in the Japanese legal system, I just had to write to the editor to tell them what I thought about the article:

Debito Arudou does paint a bleak picture of the travails of many foreigners at the hands of the Japanese legal system. I do have issues with a couple of his points, though. First, he asserts that “bail [is] impossible for non-Japanese to get.” Yet, simply typing “foreigner bail” into The Japan Times’ online search engine reveals a story about a foreigner getting bail.

Second, Arudou concludes the article by painting the Japanese with a broad brush that I suspect he would be quick to condemn if others made such a claim. He states that the Japanese are “actually scared stiff of the police and the public prosecutor.” He provides no evidence to back this up.

However, in December 2006, a survey by Japan’s Cabinet Office found that 56.7 percent would always report crimes they witnessed and 41.1 percent would sometimes do so, depending on the circumstances. Fear of reprisals from criminals was the main reason people would not come forward. Additionally, 96.6 percent of those surveyed would cooperate to a greater or lesser degree with investigations. These attitudes hardly demonstrate that the Japanese are scared stiff of the authorities.

The statistics I refer to can be found in Q10 and Q11 here, in a survey that highlighted the average Japanese person’s perception that the breakdown in law and order is caused by foreigners.

I could bore you silly by addressing each point in his original article, but instead I’ll point you at Jun Okamura’s reply on GlobalTalk21 and the lively discussions at Japan Probe.

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Debito.org for sale

Dodgy advertisements on debito.org

Yes, debito.org is taking money from ambulance chasers and other dubious sources, despite a statement on http://www.debito.org/donations.html that:

I also do not wish to clutter the site with sponsored advertisements.

Such links would certainly not be acceptable on What Japan Thinks (I’ve refused a couple of lucrative but unethical offers), and Google takes a dim view of participating in link buying and selling for PageRank schemes, so he is risking his second ejection from the Google index.

Of course, I recognise his right to make money to fund his activities or to pay his server bills (the domain name is owned by HobbyLink Japan, which is surprising and curious, as is the hosting location), but there has to be a more ethical way to raise money, and what impression does such an advertisement leave the average reader with?

Talking of ethical behaviour, I see his blog theme is WP-Andreas09, about which the designer says:

The original template was released as open source and free to use for any purpose as long as the proper credits are given to the original author. This theme is released under the same conditions so please respect this and leave the credits in place to Andreas and myself as we have both put a lot of time and effort into the design and the theme. Other than that you may change the included files as you want.

I don’t see the credits left in place on Debito.org, although he (or his site maintainer) may have done the right thing by making a payment to the designers to allow him to take such a course of action.

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Debito disappears!

I noticed during the last month or so that a few times Debito’s blog went a bit funny, spewing out random characters instead of the usual blog, behaviour that some might argue was an improvement, I suspect.

However, today (21st May) I got a hit from someone searching for “Debito”, so I did the same search to see what was going on and:

Eh, no debito.org! The site is still running, but even trying the site-specific site:debito.org turns up not a sausage.

I also noticed that Occidentalism.org dropped off Google recently, but I susupect the reason for that was due to a lot of keyword stuffing in hidden text, something that doesn’t seem to be happening at Debito’s site.

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Debito on the recent Cabinet Office human rights survey

Just a short note to say that Debito has published a detailed look at the recent survey on human rights, including bits from my translation and other more traditional news sources.

He gives an interesting summary, and adds a few of his own opinions, so head over there and check them out.

Thanks for the link back Debito – I hoped I could tempt/taunt you into replying and perhaps spark some debate on the topic.

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Whinging gaijin wanted, apply within!

A slight departure from my usual themes, but I found news of a class action lawsuit against the Japanese government regarding the lack of a specific law outlawing racial discrimination in Japan. Naturally, I support the idea of a bill being passed into law that will make such behaviour punishable, but it’s the approach (and the person doing the approach too, I suppose) that grates on me. Arudodebito Sugiwara, seems to represent the constituency of disgruntled English teachers. That’s a gross over-simplification of his position, of course, but it is a criticism that is easy to make.

Reading the statement outlining the proposed lawsuit, the text, on the whole, is commendable, and looking at the description of the planned second wave of more complex cases there is a lot to be said for this portion of the strategy, I think. However, I have issues with the proposed first wave. Putting on my statistical hat, it says:

Although our efforts have not gone ignored, the fact is that overt racial discrimination in Japan, evident in the increase in the number of businesses overtly displaying “No Foreigners Allowed” signs, is getting worse.

I wonder how he has determined that there is an increase in the number of businesses with discriminatory signs? Can we see the survey evidence that show the change in the number of signs over the years? I’m sure his collection of signs has increased over the years, but that may be just as much to do with more people photographing them, of course. (It is also interesting to note that many of the signs pictured on his web site are from places that look like dodgy hostess bars or snacks.) There may have been a spike for the World Cup in 2002, but is there any evidence of this?

Next, the claim that overt discrimination is getting worse. How has that been determined? Is it really increasing, or is it just more people reporting it to Debito (the mailing list he runs with others, for instance, constantly grows in membership), or just more people being over-sensitive and mistaking (or attributing) dislike for someone’s personality for dislike of someone’s origin? I personally have seen friends being bulls in china shops and getting offended when this behaviour has rubbed the locals up the wrong way. In addition, even if it could be demonstrated numerically that overt discrimination is increasing, the absolute number of discriminators could actually be decreasing; for instance, as the population of foreigners increases and more people have encounters with foreigners, they have opportunities to display their racist tendencies, but if at the same time some of these people change their minds, both the number of overt racists and the number of overt non-racists can increase.

Finally, the “Japanese Only” signs have been, in at least one case I know of (what percentage are so, I don’t know), trying to express that the staff only speak Japanese rather than trying to specifically exclude other nationalities.

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