Saturday, January 08, 2011

After a Christmas and New Year break, it's not pleasant to have to return to reality. Assuming there is such a thing as reality in this Japan as opposed to the one of myth.

Debito Arudou wrote Arudou's Alien Almanac in the Japan Times which, to me, indicates how the atmosphere for non-Japanese has improved since the early-mid 2000s. Ishihara (I understand from other sources that people should focus more on what the possibly misunderstood fellow says than just his more outrageous statements), the LDP under Koizumi and others, and the media seems to have reduced their campaign to villainize all non-Japanese. Not to worry though, the media hasn't changed and there are other politicians ready to up the fight when the opportunity arises.

The Japan Times published a piece in which 3 long-term residents of Japan: a former sumo star, a foreign talent (commentator/musicologist) whom I often see on TV, and a foreign born member of the Diet give advice on how to deal with being a forever outsider in Japan. Despite the title which included the likely-to-get-you-an-ass-whuppin' phrase, Get over it*, I found the advice reasonable. Not much to argue about. Besides, there are problems for immigrants in foreign countries too. Experiencing discrimination may actually be a good thing as it can make one reflect on how minorities are treated in ones own country, should one be so shallow as to never have done so before. Moreover, even Japanese have problems in Japan.**

Speaking of Japanese having problems in Japan, an acquaintance who is living Japan to take care of her mother while her American husband works in the US, is having problems with her daughter's school. It seems the young girl is being bullied by one boy to the extent that she no longer wants to go to school. At least one incident occurred right in front of the home room teacher who did nothing. The principal has done nothing. The school has done nothing to stop it, except to try to hide it from the school board. Right now her time is almost entirely consumed trying to solve this problem and it appears (the last I heard) she is fighting alone. I don't know if there are any organizations in Japan that can effectively help and the idea of hiring an attorney just ain't gonna fly. She did refer to this December 16 Japan Times opinion piece as an example:

After some thought, I may be able to suggest a solution to the problem of bullied schoolkids and the school authorities and education boards who refuse to do anything to investigate or prevent such incidents....Japan Times

I don't want to put words in her mouth, but it seems she has little hope that the elite class so beloved by Masahiko Fujiwara will ever be able to do much other than preserve their own image.

*I realize that the title, like many newspaper headlines can be read at least two ways.

**Sarcasm alert on those three sentences---related to the article.

3:12pm: Edited to correct spelling and add **.


  1. I think 'gaiatsu' is the right thing to do here, or I should say it is the only thing, as nothing is being done domestically. This pisses me off because we saw it as JET teachers sixteen years ago: it was all over the media then, and things are not a whit better. Individuals have as much or as little integrity here as anywhere else, but the society even more punished those with more integrity than it does back home. If only embarrassment can circumvent the ostrich pose, then that is what you have to use. She should begin with local media and move outwards from there.

  2. I don't know if she would want to get the media involved in her case---at least she has not indicated so. She mentioned the article as an example of how the system works against the interests of parents and students. No matter what, I expect she will have a long, hard fight with the school.

  3. Whatever she does, never fight on the terms of your enemy.

  4. It's not just bullying. Our Woman is dealing with a doctor on behalf of a relative. The doctor will not speak candidly to the patient about his inoperable life-threatening condition, allegedly to save the patient's feelings - the legendary "saving face" of the Japanese. But that's just BS - the doc is saving his own feelings by palming off an unpleasant task to the family, rather than doing what he should, speaking directly to the patient.

    Is Our Man turning into Debito? Is he applying unfair, foreign-gained value judgments? Dunno. Do think a lot of this "let's not deal with it" is not Japanese per se, just a cop out. What's Japanese about it is it's an instiututionalised cop out. Something like that.

    Keep up the good work D.

  5. Yea, a lot of the things attributed to"Japanese culture" originate from the pre-war 30s or even from the Occupation and conveniently favor government and business interests.

    Some think Japanese passive, but as we know they aren't at all. I think people just realize the effort and time required to challenge anything/anyone, often in a losing cause, is not worth it.

    My wife's family took the Kanagawa government all the way to the Supreme Court for taking family land w/o compensation near Mizonokuchi station. It took nearly 20 years to go through the system. In the end, the Supreme Court said, Yes, your land was wrongly taken, but so was a lot of other people's land. If the government compensated you, they'd have to compensate everyone. Gomen ne.

  6. I see a lot of bullying going on in the classrooms and a lot hand-wringing or as one commenter aptly put it "ostrich posing" going on in the office. It's sad. Good post sugarfree!

  7. Things may be looking up in her case as she has really gone all out to get something done.