the Tale of the Boy Who Cried “Gaijin!”

By Sergio Lombardi

About a month ago, Dominique wrote an article on the Japan Times, the “ugly” of which was none other Debito Arudou. I was partially envious, as Debito annoys me just about as much as people who insist that Domino’s pizza is authentic Italian. However, I realized that there was one facet of Debito that we hadn’t reviewed, and that was the hornet’s nest itself, I won’t waste any time on the poorly coded layout or poking fun at the t-shirts for sale. . Summarized for your reading pleasure, here are Debito’s three strikes:

Strike one:
Debito’s spreading of blame to all Japanese. Debito has often accused the whole of the Japanese population of being guilty of the isolated badmouthing committed by a comparatively few citizens who were lacking discretion. When the word “flyjin” surfaced, Debito blew the whole ordeal surrounding the idiom (based on the “epithet,” gaijin) out of proportion¸ suggesting to his readers that the word had become a household word in the vocabularies of Japanese everywhere. In reality, this word originated on the Twitter account of an expatriate, who hadn’t intended it to be used as a derogatory term – much less fuel for Debito’s incessant complaining. Debito’s analysis of the situation is facile and superficial at best, and his sweeping generalizations effectively attempt to define a people based on a handful of Japanese who picked up the term and used it tactlessly. It’s understandable that when a few Japanese hotheads call the whole lot of foreigners terms intended to be offensive, Debito’s feathers are ruffled. But when he turns around and classifies this as one more example as to how the whole of the Japanese nation is discriminatory towards foreigners, he is only spreading their bigotry and becoming one of them in the process. His incessant magnification of isolated slurs indicates an ulterior mission to smear the Japanese population and avenge himself – at whatever cost to his honesty or the dignity of himself or his fellow foreigners.

Debito sure would make a lousy travel writer for the Japan Times – he would visit a city, find its most notorious gang and proceed to say that all the locals were just as churlish. The fallacy is the same when he misrepresents the whole of Japan over phrases that seem to upset no one but him and his followers – yet Debito does this on a regular basis. I’d place good money on the fact that if a Japanese teenager were to laugh at a foreigner with a funny haircut, you can be sure, hot off the presses the next morning, will be a missive decrying the “extreme” disrespect Japan’s youth have for us. Debito extrapolates the most minute of incidents ad nauseam, and it disgusts me and half of the foreign community.

Strike two:
Debito finds it necessary to use his newspaper column as an extension of his blog. Because Just Be Cause would have been unlikely to have come about without the blog being in existence, I am placing the blame for this waste of newspaper space squarely on its shoulders. One Japan Times reader summarized my sentiment exactly: “If I really want to read Mr. Arudou’s fringe opinions and attacks on his Internet critics, I can skip paying ¥180 and go directly to his blog and read that for free.” It seems that because of this blog, Debito finds it acceptable to preach from his other pulpit in the Japan Times, as though his column in a professional newspaper entitles him to campaign for his online cause through a medium that gives him the high ground. Almost every Just Be Cause is essentially a plug for the ideas in Debito’s blog, and I often wonder if Debito writes for the Japan Times “just because” his blog isn’t getting enough hits.

Strike three:
Debito impedes actual progress. Dominique and I have always been clear on our contention that discrimination does exist in Japan, just to a much lesser degree than Debito and his disciples would contend. This minute amount of discrimination, however small, is still a problem that needs resolved, and doing so very much lies in our hands. You won’t hear such common sense, though, when you peruse the rubbish on Debito’s blog. He effectively feeds negative sentiment against foreigners by turning its recipients (or, in many cases, those who imagine that they are recipients) into surly individuals who would be “discriminated” against anywhere from Japan to Vatican City. He inflates the smallest of incidents or the most isolated discriminations and blows them far out of proportion, insulting the Japanese, inciting foreigners living here and tarnishing the image of the rest of us.

And yet Debito continues in his romanticized crusade against imagined injustices. Like the boy who cried wolf, it seems to me that Debito really loves harping on these incidents in order to attract attention to himself. When and if there actually is a widespread discrimination of foreigners in Japan, Debito will be nothing more than the boy who cried “gaijin!”

To be honest, Debito and his blog have many more faults, and it doesn’t take a magnifying glass to find them. These three, however are the embodiment of most of them, and as we all know, it would only take three strikes in baseball to send Debito back to the dugout. If only someone – the Japan Times, perhaps? – would tell him that he’s out. As a member of the stadium crowd, I’ll have to settle for giving him a good thumbs down.


~ by Japan Blog Review on June 27, 2011.

5 Responses to “ the Tale of the Boy Who Cried “Gaijin!””

  1. Why is this guy somewhat famous exactly?

    I’ve heard his name being mentioned a couple of times, took a look at his blog, and never went back.

    • More ‘infamous’ that ‘famous.’ As far as I’m concerned, he’s so well-known because he’s so absurd. Similar, perhaps, to how Charlie Sheen got as much publicity in the last few months as he did in the first two decades of his film career. Of course, Charlie Sheen made some good movies before becoming a public nuisance – it seems all Debito did was get his toes stepped on and has refused to stop complaining since. -Sergio

  2. I agree with the review, the guy really annoys me. I think the only reason he is still published by the Japan Times is 1) He’s probably fairly cheap and 2) his views provide plenty of free letters for them to print.
    So it’s a cheap and easy way to fill their pages.

  3. There are people who are content to put up with racism (you) and people who are not (debito). I know whose camp I support.

    • TJJ,

      We’re sorry you got the impression that we are content to tolerate racism – that’s certainly not the case. In reality, we’re simply not willing to side with someone who only tends to exacerbate the racism problems that are real, often instead fighting imaginary issues that don’t exist on the grand scale that he wants them to. When there’s actually an issue in question, he seems only to fight fire with fire, leaving us in a worse spot as foreigners than we were. His sort of nonsense only makes foreigners look more like the drunken Russian sailors that started the whole “Japanese Only” deal in the first place. To be honest, if either of us owned an onsen, we’d want to keep Debito out too – once inside, he’d surely fine something else to complain about. And Lord knows he’d scare the children.

      A critical reading of the writings on our blog would reveal that we are all in favor of intelligently and rationally combatting racism – against both Japanese and non-Japanese. But since you’ve already settled down in camp Debito, it would seem you’re not much for reading critically.

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