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Debito leading foreigners down the garden path

July 21st, 2008 . by Matt

Debito has a lot of misinformation on his site, especially regarding the extent of racism and manifestations of racism in Japan. The girl in the youtube below is an American living in Japan, and is an English teacher studying Japanese in her spare time. She been posting video blogs on youtube for sometime, and thanks to the fact that she is a white girl that is trying to speak Japanese, she gathered a Japanese following.

At some point she came across Debito’s site and decided to give a speech on youtube about human rights and Japanese racism towards foreigners in Japan. In her summary of the video, she included a link from Debito.org. The selection of topics are all from Debito’s site so it is obvious that she got her “opinions” from there. The original video is no longer visible as she has taken it offline, but someone made a rebuttal video, so we can see most of what she said there. The Japanese writing in the video is the rebuttal, not her words.

My translation (please remember that she is a beginner in Japanese and I am doing my best to translate it and not put words in her mouth) –

“… But to me the is one aspect of Japan that is still old fashioned. That is that Japan does not have a law to eliminate racial discrimination. So if I try to rent a place, go to a hotel, or a restaurant, it is accepted to rejected foreigners. When I was looking for an apartment, I saw this for myself. I cannot accept judging people just on their faces, their faces or their nationality.

Even then, there are foreigners in Japan who obtained Japanese citizenship, and they are often being judged based only on their faces. From now on Japan really needs foreigners, that it clear. It is not just me, the UN, economics newspapers and magazines, all are saying this. Japan is aging, and the number of people that can work is decreasing every year. So foreigners don’t come to Japan to replace them, who knows what will happen to the entire country. That is scary… I don’t want to see that.

Also, I don’t want Japan’s image to become worse. However, if tourists at Japan’s travel locations, for example, if there are signs excluding foreigners, saying “Japanese only”, Japan’s image will become worse. After the foreign tourists go home, they will talk about what happened in Japan. I don’t want that to happen.

Also, there is some talk of having the olympics in Tokyo in 2016. But in the current sitution if the olympics take place, I don’t think that would be good. First, think about foreigners rights and make laws, and live together in peace”

Again, her original video included a link from Debito’s site, which is obviously where she got the idea that foreigners were being discriminated against left and right. The fact is that instances of discrimination are quite rare, and when it occurs they are radical exceptions. Debito would have people belive that Japan is an exceptionally racist country, which it is not.

The result was that many of her Japanese fans took exception to what she was saying, and posted counter arguments on the comments section of her video blog. They corrected the misinformation she repeated from Debito’s site, and because of that she posted another video apologising. See below.

I am not going to translate it all, but basically she apologises for the Debito sourced and factually incorrect rant.

This is what happens when people take what Debito is saying at face value. I am a foreigner. I lived in Japan. I rode a bicycle. But I did not get stopped by police while riding a bicycle an average of 17 times a year (in fact never), which is one story about discrimination that Debito is spreading about. I have never seen a sign rejecting foreigners, except when that sign was in front of a brothel or other similar establishment. I have never been turned away at the door of a shop or denied service or ignored by wait staff. All of the foreigners that I know do not have the kind of experiences that happen to Debito, and the reason is simple – he goes looking for it. I am sure there are all kinds of racism in Japan, but it is by no means extraordinary, very widespread, or systematic. Furthermore, in terms of personal safety, I have never felt safer anywhere than I felt in Japan, and I know a great many foreigners feel the same way. They would not feel this way if they really experienced racial prejudice.

Debito is spreading misinformation that is actually harming the foreigners living in Japan. There are foreigners that will not go to an onsen (hot springs) anticipating discrimination, mainly because of Debito’s activism, and his refusal to point out in his writings that discrimination at onsen are exceedingly rare.

At some point excessive complaints that are not based on the facts about a particular people turns into race hustling and even outright racism. I have noticed how increasingly extreme Debito’s site has become, with posts proclaiming that the Japanese government condones the outright murder of foreigners appearing on his site. People that follow Debito down the garden path are going to find their lives in Japan to be that of miserable paranoia.

165 Responses to “Debito leading foreigners down the garden path”

  1. comment number 1 by: Jerry Billows

    “‘Does not play well with others’ – that should be the warning sign on his door.”


  2. comment number 2 by: Jerry Billows

    I often wondered if Debito could even last a few rounds in a serious televised debate in Japanese, then it occurred to me that just being on the show would probably elevate his standing in the foreign community. No one would really notice how he did.

    There are a lot of foreign journalists, respected business people and academics who speak excellent Japanese that I often watch on TV here. Really impressive people that give “non-Japanese” a good name. Strange how Debito is never invited to these TV talk shows…or maybe he does get invited, but declines. Does anyone happen to know?
    Funny how

  3. comment number 3 by: LB

    Jerry – I understand he once appeared on an episode of “Koko ga hen da yo Nihonjin”, but since I stopped watching that train wreck of a program after a couple of episodes once it became clear that Beat Takeshi was up to his usual “who needs serious debate when we can throw whoopee pies at each other” style of running a show I didn’t see it.

    I don’t think he would do well on TV. He is bumbling and inarticulate in English a lot of the time, I doubt his Japanese would enable him to carry on a debate even if he could somehow avoid getting ruffled at the first challenge to an argument of his. I think it would devolve into a yelling match really, really quickly. There’s a reason why Laszlo is much, much more successful than Debito, you know.

  4. comment number 4 by: Matt

    LB, that is right. Also, there are foreigners out there that think that Debito’s Japanese is “good” or “fluent”. I have had a chance to review what little I could find of him speaking Japanese, and my impression is that for someone that has been in Japan for nearly 20 years, his Japanese is extremely poor. Some people are calling him the Reverend Wright of Japan, but at least Reverend Wright can speak the common language of his country properly, unlike Debito.

    BTW, it is funny listening to the cops tell him “nihongo jouzu desune”. For somebody supposedly fluent in Japanese that comment is a slap in the face. Japanese people basically stop saying “jouzu desune” once your Japanese is truly fluent.

  5. comment number 5 by: ponta.

    Mark in Yayoi

    Hi Mark in Yayoi.
    Ohisashiburi desu. I am glad you had a good time in Okinawa.

    Yes, I want to know the location of Koban and the location and the (rough) time you are stopped.Other wise I can’t complain to the office:for,I cannot convince them without the data. And when I have time, I want to visit the Koban. That’s not a big deal. I live in Tokyo, if you want, we can meet somewhere.(You speak Japanese, right? I don’t speak English well.)

    If you have any concern(sinpaigoto), just let us know.
    Let’s work together, the more people,the more ideas the wiser solution. And we are trying to be fair, and we are examining what the problem is and what the best solution is.


    there are foreigners out there that think that Debito’s Japanese is “good” or “fluent”….my impression is that for someone that has been in Japan for nearly 20 years, his Japanese is extremely poor.

    Agreed.Not that just because his Japanese is poor means something as a Japanese, but if he wants to send message to the Japanese to change the society , he should at least write in Japanese.
    Benjamin Fulford writes and speaks perfect Japanese, there are Japanese fans of him, and there are Japanese who look upon him as a just conspiracy theorist, but he is fair in that he writes in Japanese and he is criticized in Japanese.
    In case of Debit org, they cannot.
    If it is translated into Japanese, it will cause huge negative reactions from Japanese just like the video above because Debito org is filled with hatred, prejudice, unfairness.

    What I want to say to the people on Debito org, is “come out of the exclusionary space called Debito org protected by a dictator, and let’s discuss the issue in an open forum.” if they really want to make living in Japan more comfortable. I don’t see why they can’t. If they just want to let steam out, that is another story, though.

  6. […] counteropinion for the latter, here and lot […]

  7. comment number 7 by: ponta.

    I haven’t received e mail detailing the location of Koaban and the (rough) time and the location of the stoppage.
    Did I delete it by accident?

  8. comment number 8 by: The Overthinker

    I would be interested in knowing how this koban cop thing goes actually. The location intrigues me – I was talking with an African guy last week, and when he said he used to get pulled over all the time in Tokyo, I actually asked if it was in Chiyoda, and he said it was. So perhaps the Chiyoda cops have a special need to make a quota or something: number of shokumu shitsumon per day, etc.

    Regarding Debito’s blog, I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on: the decline and his divorce and estrangement from his family happened about the same time. He’s bitter.

  9. comment number 9 by: Jahn


  10. comment number 10 by: Jahn

    Is there an outrage in Japan over the issue? I’m asking for real, or is there more to it than the info I was able to get online? Ya’ll seem to be pretty knowledged so…

  11. comment number 11 by: Mark in Yayoi

    Ponta, sorry; I haven’t sent anything to you yet. I’m still adjusting to working at night again and have been sleeping all day long instead of just from 6 AM to 2 PM like I usually do. Very unpleasant; like jetlag.

    Anyway, please tell me what it is you want. A breakdown of how often I’ve been stopped at each koban? (There are also roughly 8 stoppages by passing patrol cars. These cops don’t say where they came from.)

    The ones stopping me in front of my own house are from Motofuji in Hongo 7-chome.

  12. comment number 12 by: ponta.


    please tell me what it is you want.

    It depends on what you want me to do.
    Imagine someone who has rarely stopped by the police trying to help the one who complain of the frequent stoppage.
    For instance, if you want to settle the problem of the stoppage near your house, I think I need to know the location of the parking and which police is checking the bicycle.
    Is that 本郷本富士警察署?
    Can you spot the place on the google map?

    I’ll ask
    1)why they are checking the bicycles so often and
    2)if they are checking foreigners in particular
    3)if there is ways you will not be bothered by the check.

    To ask (1) I need the place of stoppage and how often you are stopped(roughly) and I also need to know if the place is really the owners property, which I have a doubt from your photos. But even if that is not owner’s property, it makes sense to ask (1).

    To complain of (2), I need (rough) statistics that foreigners are more often stopped. But according to your report, it seems to be the check point where Japanese as well as non-Japanese are stopped.

    And I can ask general question why someone is so often stopped. If possible, can you send me the photo of your bicycle? I was stopped often when I was riding with a broken lock, or without light.
    I’ll ask how to avoid the stoppage.

    If you want me to settle the stoppage at chiyodaku,that is another story.
    I think I need the rough location and the time of the stoppage. First I’ll ask chiyoda-ku to which police to complain based on that.

    Anyway please imagine you are in my shoe trying to make the strongest case against the administration to settle the issue. I’ll do the best I can.

  13. comment number 13 by: nigelboy

    Typical Debitards.

    “Tony Kehoe Says:
    August 30th, 2008 at 1:01 pm
    The government has long held that Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, makes any antidiscrimination legislation superfluous…
    The point here being that in the Japanese version of the constitution, which always takes precedence over the English version, the word used for “people” is “minzoku”, which is defined as people of Japanese ethnicity (sic). IOW, it explicitly rules OUT NJ residents of Japan.
    The real reason the GOJ won’t pass an antidiscrimination law is because they are racists who see nothing wrong with discriminating against those of us from “lesser” races. This is also why Taro Aso won’t apologise for his family’s use of slave labour, and why Ishihara can say that the purpose of fingerprinting is to “keep stupid black people out of Tokyo”. To them, we really are inferior by virtue of our skin colour–and it is this point that the UN needs to understand in depth if it is ever to pressure the GOJ into making improvements.”

    Where do I start. Ahh. Nevermind.

    Garbage in, Garbage out. There will always be Debitards in Japan…

  14. comment number 14 by: ponta.

    # Tavos Says:
    August 31st, 2008 at 2:45 am

    That is a pretty outrageous claim the GOJ is making to be sure. An anti-discrimination law should be passed because the constitution mandates it.


    I think you should take a look at the Japanese version of the constitution again. The word “minzoku” does not appear anywhere. The word used to refer to “people” is “kokumin”, which is little different, albeit up for debate.

    And the supposed correction is not even right.
    I recommend them to read just one book in Japanese on Japanese constitution for university freshman.

  15. comment number 15 by: KenYN

    Did Kimpatsu just invent that quote from Ishihara? Google’s never heard of it. I tried a quick search on “ishihara fingerprints” and the best I found was the same guy inventing more quotes: