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Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012
HAVE YOUR SAY
Divergent views on Debito; the fate of mixed-nationality kids
Arudou's writing still needed
Most of the readers who indignantly criticize the writings of Debito Arudou seem to share the same outlook. Arudou, they say, should shut up and accept the good with the bad.
This reminds me of myself 20 years ago, after first arriving in Japan. My first trainer, a Scotsman who spoke six languages and already had eight years in Japan under his belt, offered some unvarnished criticism of facets of Japanese culture that didn't agree with him. A nearby coworker, also a Japan newcomer, muttered that if this guy didn't like Japan, "Why don't he leave?" and I heartily agreed. Having gotten a job in less than a week, one that paid 50 percent more than the one I'd left in New York, who couldn't like this place?
The changes in my attitude since then reflect experiencing the reality of Japanese life. I've been denied apartments more than 20 times because of my race and been treated like a criminal by police and shopkeepers on a number of occasions. My company employs almost no foreign females, who seem to exit Japan quickly after their own discriminatory and unsavory experiences with the local culture.
It is easy for me to imagine Arudou's feelings. Can his critics really understand how he felt when he explained to his daughters that the one who looks like Mommy can go into the hot spring but the one who looks like Daddy has to wait outside? Like it or not, Arudou's writing has the ring of truth.
Perhaps Arudou's irate critics can come down off their hind legs and identify just how long they've been in Japan, so we can therefore quantify their experiences and better evaluate their opinions.
Arudou's writing is needed. Asking Japanese to treat others the way they themselves prefer to be treated is nothing less than fair.
When obsession overtakes reason
Arudou-san has been writing for your publication for a long time. I remember reading about his plight in the early 2000s when I lived in Saitama Prefecture.
I was impressed at that time by his impassioned resistance to institutional racism in the Yunohana Onsen case. He and his family were clearly the victims of racist attitudes, largely influenced by the misbehavior of other foreigners, namely Russian sailors.
However, this recent post ("Toot your own horn — don't let the modesty scam keep you down," Just Be Cause, Sept. 4) is sadly more ridiculous than informative. To oversimplify the message is almost impossible as it is already reduced ad absurdum by the author himself: Humility is for suckers; humility is a scam.
This should be considered far below your standards of journalism. How is it that one man has suddenly figured out human nature to such a degree that he can get away with the gross oversimplification of a very complex human behavior? How is it that he seems to have unilaterally cracked the code of the societal constructions built around it? How is it that he has completely ignored numerous fields of study that examine this and other human behaviors?
Arudou-san, sometimes humility is a good thing. You realize, like Socrates did, that you don't know everything. Therein lies the key to wisdom and one of the many keys to happiness.
The ancient Greeks also understood the dangers of the lack of humility; they called this hubris. The inability to see clearly due to hubris was the fatal flaw of many. It comes in many forms, too, including the inability to listen to others and to understand when obsession and single-mindedness have overtaken reason.
Take a step back, gain perspective, and don't oversimplify things "just be cause" you have a particular axe to grind.
Mixed-nationality parents must act
In reference to the article concerning the citizenship of children with a non-Japanese parent ("Our mixed-race children deserve better than this, so why bother with Japan?" by Colin P.A. Jones, Zeit Gist, Sept. 4) (which, by the way, does not apply to only mixed-race children as the title implies; the same problem would occur if the kids were the same race; the issue has to do with mixed-nationality):
It is appalling that a young person holding dual citizenship is forced to turn his or her back on the country of one parent, and at what is still a rather young age. This is even more difficult for those half-Japanese who at the age of 22 live in the non-Japanese parent's country (or even a third nation).
My son will soon be 22. In order to keep his Japanese passport, we face the expense of taking him to Japan and getting him on the family register there and renewing the passport in Japan because, as we have heard, if we go to a Japanese consulate in the country where we now live, they will look at his current Japanese passport and see that there is no visa in it, and know that he is keeping his other passport.
And, from what I have been told, even if we were successful in getting a passport for him, there would still be a problem when he returned to Japan: Immigration officials could easily realize that he held another passport by the lack of a recent visa in his Japanese passport because he had been living in his other country as a citizen of that one.
Now, my son does not speak Japanese and has only been able to visit his dad's country a few times — perhaps the kind of person those who drafted the law wish to keep from contaminating Japanese culture — but he has very positive feelings about Japan, and considers himself to be Japanese as well as of my nationality.
Who is to say that he would not perhaps have the opportunity to go to Japan after the age of 22, say to teach English or do graduate work, and to get to know the country better? And if he should then feel a great connection and wish to stay, the Japanese government would always consider him a foreigner! And this from a country facing a huge imbalance in the age of its population? You would think they would want to encourage any young Japanese to stay and contribute to the society.
The Japanese parents of dual-nationality children, both abroad and in Japan, need to take action and contact their government representatives to change the current regulations.
Bring back the Black Ships?
Reading Prof. Jones' rather confusing remarks about his "problems" with Japanese laws reminds one of the nerve we Westerners show in continuing to demand from host countries the privileges of extraterritoriality. Some of us dare to demand to be protected by both the country of residence, and the laws of our native land. After all, we are so special.
I would assume that the professor's stay in Japan is purely voluntary, and not the result of a sentence imposing him to stay. The same goes for his marriage — it wasn't a wedding under the gun, right? Such adult choices are ours to bear with the consequent results.
The answer is so simple: Become a national of the country whose benefits one is enjoying.
Recently, one of our most extraordinary U.S. national treasures, Dr. Donald Keene, chose to do exactly that. He adopted Japanese citizenship, pretty much giving us the example of how to say thanks to a nation from which one has taken so much. It ain't so difficult to say thanks that way, particularly when the host country is the apex of graciousness.
As for the "constitutional right" to enter the country as one pleases, shall we go back to the days of Commodore Perry and recivilize Japan?
Holding back from move to Japan
Colin P. A. Jones has eloquently stated what has been boiling in the back of my mind since our daughters were born in Japan about six years ago.
Our family goes back and forth between Japan and the U.S. because of work but my Japanese wife and I dream that we may be able to permanently settle in Japan someday. That my children may be arbitrarily stripped of their Japanese citizenship is a concern that gives us pause in pursuing a future in Japan.
Besides the obvious human rights issues Mr. Jones' arguments reveal, with a dwindling population and mounting debt, Japan can hardly afford to continue discriminating against one of the very few Japanese demographic groups still having large families and adding births to the benefit of its future.
RICHARD AND YOSHIKO MENZIA
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