Here were Debito Arudou's Top Ten human rights stories from 2009 in Japan. A good summing up of the year gone by.
Some commentary on each by me.
10. I think this is one of the hardest to explain to people who don't get it. It is the easiest to say "Lighten up" about. It is also one of the most personally vexing and tiresome. It effects my life directly more than any of the others on this list. In fact, I just got done having a conversation with a teacher which began, "Foreigners eat a lot of meat huh? Like in a big pile on a fire. Right?" My response was, as usual, "I don't. I think that is just an image someone has. Somebody might eat like that. I don't know."
The Mr. James debacle singles out so many undercurrents in Japanese society. One of the main, and most obvious, is the inability, or unwillingness to separate people who weren't born in Japan but live in Japan and tourists. There is no difference between the two in most people's minds. I live in a special sub-world of this as I reside in Kyoto, destination for both domestic and international travelers. Showing Mr.James as a buffoon who stumbles his way through Japan, frequenting McDonald's just held up to the Japanese public that we are all jokes and any way we function in Japan is just a representation of our personal strangeness. It makes it difficult to be a teacher. This is the image of us day after day on TV when in school I had to explain to a class what Setsubun was and why Japan has such an abundance of last names. I should also add for the record, that McDonald's is a completely Japanese experience for me. I never got to McDonald's in America and seldom did growing up.
9. Wakayama and anyone that supports what they do can go fuck themselves. When you have to make up a cultural identity to match your indefensible actions it is time to give up. No, not all of Japan ate whale forever. No, it is not because you are Buddhist that Christians can't understand it. Stop. If you really believe in what you are doing, don't hide it.
8. Hasn't affected me yet, but it could. Seems like a Tokyo thing.
7. Crazy stuff. Fortunately didn't affect my as a person but made me angry. Surprised that the Japanese police f'd something up? I'm not. As for NOVA, they f'd up the economy for all of us. Thanks.
6. Really? That's interesting.
5. We'll see. I strongly feel that is where Japan's future lies but...
3. This got under my skin. Especially since I followed it in the Japanese press at first and was completely against the father. They did a really terrible job on the coverage. Mainly asking old people in the neighborhood how it had freaked them out. Natsuki's comment on the whole affair -and I only say this because I fell it echoes a lot of Japanese sentiment- was "Man, foreign people get divorced a lot." Sure, that is really the point.
2. Waiting. We'll see. At least it's something.
1. That was some B.S. right there. I believe that the government didn't understand what was wrong with their proposal. That was what was wrong with their proposal.