Tag Archives: Japan

Open Thread: Fundraisers For Japan

By Arturo R. García

As of early Monday morning, there’s still no telling how bad the situation could get in Japan following Friday morning’s 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami: Kyodo News reported another 2,000 bodies had been found in the coastal areas of the Miyagi Prefecture, nearly doubling the current casualty totals. For now, I wanted to create a space where we could trade information about relief efforts or fundraisers in our respective areas.

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A Trailblazer Twice Over: Remembering Wally Yonamine

By Arturo R. García

Ever hear the theory that life depends on a few breaks here and there? In Wally Yonamine’s case, this is literally true. As in, physiologically so.

It’s not hard to imagine that Yonamine was at a personal crossroads around 1948. Yonamine, coming off his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, injured his wrist, to the point that it forced him out of the game.  This in itself threatened to be a tragic loss: Yonamine was not only a prodigy, drafted out of high school by the Niners, he was the first Japanese-American to play in the National Football League.

So what’s a guy to do after his history-making accomplishments are cut short? Why, do it another way, of course. Yonamine, who became a pioneer in a way perhaps no one could have imagined, passed away this week at the age of his 85.

Within three years after the wrist injury, Yonamine had transitioned to playing baseball, completing a season apiece with minor league teams in Salt Lake City and his native Hawaii, when Lefty O’Doul, manager of the San Francisco Seals (his SLC team’s parent club), made a fateful suggestion.

“O’Doul told me to play my style,” Yonamine once said. “He told me ‘ you’re going to change Japanese baseball because of your aggressiveness. The Japanese will love the way you play’”

And so Yonamine set out on a journey that was the mirror-image of the one he started with the Niners: instead of being the first Japanese-American NFL star, he became the first American to play professional baseball in Japan.

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A Boy Band In Nazi Gear and A Hitler-’loving’ Fashionista

By Arturo R. García

It’s nothing new, unfortunately, to see “celebrities” doing Nazi cosplay or making anti-Semitic remarks. But Wednesday saw an instance of each making the news, on different sides of the world

The day started with the firing of Christian Dior creative director John Galliano after video surfaced (NSFW) of his drunkenly telling a fellow restaurant patron,  “I love Hitler” and “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed.” This came less than a week after being suspended for verbally harassing a couple in the same anti-Semitic fashion at the same restaurant, La Perle.

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In McDonald’s New Japanese Ad Campaign, The Wacky Foreigner Joke’s on Americans

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

Put on your glasses or pop in your contacts and get a good look at the picture below, because this is what karma looks like:


Meet “Mr. James,” new face of a McDonald’s ad campaign in Japan. Mr. James is a Wacky Foreigner in Japan who speaks broken Japanese, wears the archetypal nerd uniform of glasses, a short-sleeved shirt with a tie, and ill-fitting khaki pants, has bad teeth, and–we’re only guessing here–is probably someone who’s never gotten laid. Sound familiar? Continue reading

Quoted: Holly on Interpretation of Culture


OK, I have a bunch of stuff I want to say about the infamous Japanese proverb “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down” that gives this post its title. And it is infamous ― it’s one of those sayings that has spread throughout the English-speaking world as a way of characterizing Japanese culture. I’m curious about your partner’s interpretation, and what I understood him to mean was that if any of those Asian-American kids were to try to survive socially alone, they would be like a lone nail standing out, a target for the hammer of white privilege without support of other “nails.” In a group, they’re safer ― maybe not from the hammer, but at least maybe it’s harder to get bashed down when you are amidst support and those like you.

That’s actually a nice and positive spin on that saying ― valuable, even, in that you were help to connect it with the need for community support from people of shared experience, and share your thoughts in this post. At the same time… it’s very radically different from my own experience of that saying, which (in English) has been used for decades to other (and denigrate, subtly) Japan as a culture of conformity and group-think where being different or special is punished. If you google “the nail that sticks up” you will see plenty of examples of English-speaking “discussion about Japan” that basically amount to that. Most of the people that talk about this saying are not Japanese ― most of them are probably white. What I’m trying to say is, there’s a whole discourse about this “emblematic, characteristic of Japan” proverb that’s been foisted on Japan, in addition to and separate from what it actually originally meant. I understand that your partner had a different spin (and I actually kind of like it) but for personal as well as political reasons ― since this “saying” and associated ideas had a big impact on me culturally, racially, individaully ― I feel like it’s important to acknowledge those bigger contexts and history.

So, it’s a complicated subject and I decided to call an expert ― my mother, who has written on the topic in both languages and never gets tired of railing against American scholars and journalists who can’t stop essentializing Japan and using it as a bizzare opposite mirror to rationalize the Way That America Is. I talked to her for about an hour just now, as a sanity check because I know too many different, conflicting things about this saying. But she basically summed it up: “Japan ‘experts’ here use it to say that Japan is a conformist society, unlike America which is all about individualism and merit.”

What too many American ‘experts’ think this means
: Don’t be different. Conform to the ways of the group, don’t stick out. Otherwise you will be crushed, and rightfully so. This is the way of Japanese society.

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Japan’s Transgender Community

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally posted at TransGriot

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Japan is a giant in terms of its economic, technological, industrial, and medical prowess, but when it comes to treating transgender people lagged behind the rest of the world. The first sex reassignment surgery in Japan (for an F to M) didn’t take place until 1998 and was followed up by the first M to F surgery a year later.

If you’re an anime fan there are numerous titles that have transgender characters such as my fave series You’re Under Arrest which features transgender Tokyo police officer Aoi Futaba. But unfortunately real life transgender people in Japan have been reluctantly hiding in the shadows in a culture that prizes conformity.

Things are changing in Japan as it make moves to grant more personal freedom to its citizens, and the Japanese transgender community is a beneficiary of this openness.

It’s estimated that there are 7,000 to 10,000 transgender people in Japan, and while it seems that the ascension of Japanese transpeople has been meteoric, much of what has happened was the result of years of behind the scenes work.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first (and so far only) transgender person elected to public office in Japan when she won a place on the local assembly for Setagaya, one of Tokyo’s biggest local government areas. She has played a key role in lobbying for changes at both the national and local levels, including the 2004 gender change law. Kamikawa has also successfully lobbied to eliminate unnecessary mentions of gender in public documents and was reelected in 2008 to serve a second four year term.

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Following on the heels of Kamikawa’s historic political victory were groundbreaking legal reforms in 2004 that allowed some transsexuals to change their officially registered sex. Unfortunately the law only allows unmarried, childless applicants to change their official gender. In addition, applicants also must have had SRS and been diagnosed by two doctors as having gender identity disorder.

That has resulted in only 151 people officially changing their gender codes between July 2004, when the law took effect, and the end of March 2005, according to Japan’s Justice Ministry.

Despite the victories, there’s still some stigma attached to being transgender in Japan, although that is slowly being overcome. “As long as we keep silent, nothing is going to change,” said Kamikawa. “We need the courage to make a society which respects diversity.”