Sunday, March 02, 2008

Newcomer Handbook: Speaking with Debito

From a phone interview, which took place on Thursday, February 21st over Skype.

I'm speaking tonight with Arudou Debito, formerly Dave Aldwinckle, naturalized Japanese citizen since 2000, human rights activist, and author of Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan and most recently the Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan. Welcome, Arudou-san.

First of all, please tell us about your new book.

New book, answer

Would you recommend this book even to those who are just going to stay a year with the eikaiwa and then return home?

Eikaiwa, answer

Is there anything in the book we can't find on the "what to do if..." section of your website?

What to do if, answer

How would you respond to people who say you don't do things "the Japanese way"? More to the point, do you think there is such a thing?

Japanese way, answer

(Debito's first experience in "thinking outside the box")

Recently, there was a case involving a Pakistani girl being refused admission to a ballet school in Tokyo on what appeared to be racial discrimination. However, and correct me if I'm wrong, it turned out to be just a simple misunderstanding...

Ballet school, answer

Do you think you jumped the gun a little when you posted the story on your blog, without first contacting the school?

Jumping the gun, answer

Has there ever been a time in your activism work that you thought you acted overzealously? Were there any consequences to such actions?

Zealous, answer

There seems to a pattern among Japanese to be proud of being a monoethnic culture - do you think Japan is gradually starting to get a sense of pride from the growing diversity, or is there still this old school "closed-off island nation" mentality?

Monoethnic, answer

Ok, let me rephrase that - as far as the government is concerned, do you think there is an unspoken policy of trying to discourage immigration?

Government, answer

The basis of that question was really along the lines of your theory surrounding the police and the Gaijin Ura Hanzai File.

Police, answer

What's your opinion about the new language requirement under consideration by the government - they haven't really gone into specifics, but do you think a language requirement in general is a good idea for Japan?

Language requirement, answer

(Followup: Debito's definition of a "gaijin")

Do you think this policy is designed to - and I hate to put it this way - increase the "quality" of foreigners coming to Japan, the intelligence? In general, do you believe it's intended to discourage or encourage immigration?

Quality of foreigners, answer

Anything else you'd like to get the word out about?

Debito's book tour

All right, talking to Arudou Debito. Thank you very much.



The book, "Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan" is now available for order by fax through Debito's website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the Debito interview. I tend to agree with him about the "Japanese way." On a tactical level, i.e., dealing with individual cases of discrimination, he and others are using the same instruments and methods--courts, dialogue, publicity, etc.--available to and employed by native-born Japanese. However, on a strategic level, one can ask "What is the Japanese way of integrating non-Japanese into Japanese society as a whole?"
The answer, of course, is that there is no Japanese way, because it's never really been done before. It's only fairly recently that, owing to the economy, the declining birthrate, immigration, the popularity of English, and other factors, that Japan is having to deal in a serious and concerted way with integrating large numbers of people who don't fit the mold. The task, I suspect, will be no less challenging than the Meiji Restoration or rebuilding after WWII, because, essentially, the Japanese have to redefine for themselves what it means to be Japanese. With luck, though, in the future their new identity will be much broader more and inclusive.