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Dated essay on World Cup--"Too Early for Japan to Host"


25 Apr 2002
Hi All. Something I collated about a month ago and submitted to a number of press agencies. No bites, alas. Ah well. I tried. (I also tried to submit this to Japan Forum shortly after writing, but for some reason I cannot access this site very well--hence the delay).

Feedback I've gotten on it from people on my mailing lists is that I'm being a bit harsh on Japan, and in their areas thing aren't quite so bad (things seem to be going quite well, actually).

Hmmm. Maybe I was as overfixating on things as I saw the police and mass-komi were.

Anyway, the essay, FWIW. Bests, Debito in Sapporo

By Arudou Debito
(Written June 10, 2002)

It has been a full week of soccer up here in Sapporo, Japan, as the venue for three games (including the controversial England vs Argentina match). Now that it is all over including the shouting, it is time to ruminate on Japan's ability to host something as international as the World Cup.

The inevitable conclusion is that, even with the excitement from Japan's team doing well, its overall interest in soccer remains too low to justify its current receivership.

Most real soccer countries would be doing cartwheels to hold the event, and would view certain externalities, such as rowdy fans, as they should: an unwelcome--but small--side effect.

Not Japan. Since the public is not yet sold on the art of the "beautiful game", Japan's pundits and personalities have wound up talking too much about the only thing that came to mind: fuurigan (hooligans).

Months of media and police reports fueled the fear of soccer fans trashing a town or two. Regular TV estimates were made on the number of Brits swarming and descending on innocent municipalities. Prefectural police maintained, "There is no such thing as being too careful," and watched budgets swell to match their efforts. Translation companies did a brisk business producing exclusionary signs so that shops could themselves safe from foreign clientele. A politician raised the spectre of unwanted babies from foreigner rapes.

As a result, a sleepy Sapporo this past week found itself crawling with 7300 cops, many imported from the mainland. Subways and streets were reminiscent of Greece in the 1970s, sometimes with more police than pedestrians on the platforms. Three ferries were chartered by Immigration to ship yobboes back to the mainland. Daylight spot checkpoints were made on even local foreigners to root out possible troublemakers (since, as a regional police chief stated to a group of volunteer translators, "Only foreigners smash things when drunk.")

In the end, how many people were arrested in Sapporo during match week? Nineteen, five of them Japanese, and not one charged for riotous behavior.

It is worse than proverbial storm in a teacup. Sapporo's afterglow is revealing a more widespread social damage in Japan--a wholesale imaging-down of the outsider.

Life has become more difficult for foreign-looking long-term residents of Japan, who, no matter how assimilated they become lingustically and culturally, will by mere dint of their appearance have to live with the fearful neighborly glares, the adjacent seats left vacant on public transportation, and the whispers of "fuurigan, fuurigan".

All because Japan's government sought the World Cup without public consensus: it needed an economic elixir for a decade-long recession, and in the end it did not want to lose out to South Korea, its lesser-developed rival with a longer history of the sport.

This was a mistake. At this point in time, Japan as a society neither understands the sport nor the people who support it. Without some immediate soul-searching about international communality and hospitality, Japan will wind up embarassing itself worldwide by further exposing its institutionalized derision towards people of differences.
Background Report 1: The World Cup in Sapporo (June 4, 2002)

JUNE 4, 2002
By Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Sapporo is the venue of three World Cup games, including the very noticable (for its alleged volatility) England-Argentina match on Friday, June 7. World Cup Fever has not, however, moved people the way it should.

Late last week, I heard from the Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA) mailing list that a ramen shop in Susukino, Sapporo's party district, displays a multilingual "MEMBERS ONLY" sign, effectively excluding entry to foreigners.

Investigating on June 3, 2002, with two other friends (Shawn Clankie and Gavin Anderson), we discovered that:

1) The sign is a three-color photocopy saying: "MEMBERS ONLY, Please present your members card" in five languages (English, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian. But not Japanese). It is professionally made, linguistically perfect down to the last umlaut. (see the sign at Susukino Sapporo "Members Only" Signs June 3, 2002)

2) Some organization (kumiai) issued this to shops in Susukino as, the ramen owners were told, a measure to "thwart hooligan crime" (fuurigan bouhan)

3) As the proprietors could not read it, they were relatively unaware what the sign meant when they put it up. Moreover, they put it up only because they felt pressured (nakama kyousei) to do so by the issuing organization. This is probably why there was no hesitation by the matron who, seeing us three standing outside, actually came out and invited us inside for a good meal.

Over beers and bowls of ramen, we explained what the sign represented to people like us (residents and visitors, native speakers of other languages, looking at a sign clearly not directed towards Japanese, which indicated that we could not enter without some fictional members' card): a clear exclusionism of foreigners. The proprietors were very sorry indeed. They immediately took down the signs, giving me one as future substantiation.

(This is why the ramen shop's name is not disclosed for this report--the proprietors were to some degree duped into discriminating, and they took it down immediately after they realized what they were doing. No need for friendly shopkeeps to get in trouble with their neighbors.)

I then phoned the all the Restaurateur Associations that the Susukino Police Box told me might be involved in a movement like this:

1) Hokkaido Shakou Inshoku Kankyou Eisei Dougyou Kumiai
(Minami 4 Nishi 6, Harebare Biru), ph 011-221-3993 (Mr Oyama)
2) Hokkaido Ryouri Inshokugyou Kankyou Eisei Dougyou Kumiai
(Minami 9 Nishi 3, Majison Haitsu), ph 011-511-8013 (Mr Kawabata)
3) Susukino Shakou Ryou'in Kumiai
(Minami 4 Nishi 6, Harebare Biru), ph 011-210-9702 (Mr Sakou)

All denied having any connection with the sign. Who produced it still remains a mystery.


Two more niggling details about Japan's way of holding the World Cup that bear additional reporting:


Pachinko Donkey Ekimaeten Hall
Sapporo Ekimae Doori, Kita 4 Nishi 4 PH (011) 219-4141
June 3, 2002, 8:30 PM

This pachinko parlor has a two-color laminated sign saying:
Entering in the foreigner will hold back while holding the WORLD CUP for the following reasons.
*In the hall because there is no staff who understands English.
*The card, the traveler's check, and the foreign currency: because it CANNOT USE it at all.

outside the building are prohibited.
(emphases in original)
(see the sign and storefront at Susukino Sapporo "Members Only" Signs June 3, 2002)

Shawn and I talked to the manager on duty, a Mr Yoshioka. He said that because the sign was only in English that he had not understood what it meant. After I translated it, he said that it must be an anti-hooligan measure, and that his boss had ordered him to put it up. I told him that this sign makes Sapporo look like a very bad host, not to mention makes us residents feel bad, and asked him to take it down. He said he would take it under advisement.


June 3, 2002, 4PM

On our way to the ramen shop that day, we three (male, middle-aged caucasian) were stopped by three policemen in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken 4-Ban Gai Shiten (Minami 4 Nishi 3 9-Ban, by the main Susukino intersection). Asked in English, then Japanese (once the cops found out we could speak it) where we were going and if we were down here on business, I asked them back if we were "suspicious people" (fushinsha). When they said we were not, I told them that under the Police Execution of Duties Law (Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou Hou, letter of the law at www.debito.org: What to do if the Japanese Police arbitrarily stop you for a Gaijin Card Check PT 2) they could not legally ask us questions without "a suitable reason for doubt" (utagau ni tariru soutou na riyuu). I asked if we may continue on our way. They said yes and stepped back. As a parting word, I asked them not to abuse (ranyou) their power from now on by stopping people just because they looked foreign. They nodded and went back to work.



This is already a bit much, and it's probably only the tip of the iceberg. With all the police and mass-media generated hysteria associated with foreigners coming here (with one local politician, a Mr Konno Takayoshi, stating for the record, "Given the exceptional atmosphere of the event, we must face the possibility of unwanted babies fathered by foreigners who rape our women." TIME Magazine Asia, http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501020513-235495,00.html), I think it was far too early for Japan, let alone Sapporo, to be holding something as international as the World Cup.

For shame.

Arudou Debito
debito.org | Dr. Debito Arudou's Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
Background Report 2: World Cup in Sapporo Update (June 6, 2002)

Hello Friends and some mailing lists. An update is already overdue on how things are going up here in Sapporo (with the famous England-Argentina game tomorrow, Friday night). Three topics:



Two days ago, I mentioned two + places that displayed exclusionary signs (as of June 3, and I did not mention the multitude of other storefront signs around Sapporo which explain shop rules in English but do not exclude, nor mention the shops closing their doors to everybody during World Cup week): the ramen shop and the pachinko parlor. The ramen shop took their sign down immediately, as I reported.

NEWS: As of the evening of June 4, 2002, The "Donkey" Pachinko center has taken their sign down too. I dropped by inside to say thanks to the manager.

As I said, It was a mystery who produced the very professional multilingual "MEMBERS ONLY" sign (Susukino Sapporo "Members Only" Signs June 3, 2002) for mass consumption around Susukino. Especially since the five non-Japanese languages were flawless in their interpretation.

I found out. The producer was Xene (Xene website), a professional translation company in Sapporo which produces a free eponymous bilingual magazine on events going on around town.

The good news is that Xene admitted their responsibility without being asked. Mr Hiiro Mujin (a very nice guy with a big heart) emailed me so yesterday, June 5. Confidentiality requirements (shuhi gimu) understandibly requires him to keep his client anonymous.

The bad news is the reasoning Mr Hiiro gave behind Xene's decision to produce the sign. Although he told his client that any exclusionary language (the customer apparently wanted "gaikokujin okotowari") would not be a good idea, Xene still went ahead with "Members Only" because:

a) somebody else would have produced the sign if Xene didn't.
b) this type of business (fuuzoku--Soaplands and other prurient outlets, and I have seen signs up, ahem, around the naughties district) has been excluding foreigners from long ago.
c) he considers this to involve more problems than just a simple matter of "foreigner discrimination".

Now, as much as I don't like to bad-mouth friends or companies I consider earnest and working towards similar goals of multiculturalization, I am wondering when Xene is going to learn its lesson. This is not the first time they have misrepresented multicultural issues in Hokkaido.

In its April-May 2000 issue, Xene ran what looked like a survey (it was actually an advertisement paid for by the Otaru City government) which lied about foreigners' ability to access Otaru exclusionary bathhouses (http://www.debito.org/xeneonotaru4500.jpg). To Xene's credit again, they later printed without edits two protest letters I wrote in English in Japanese (Letter to Xene Magazine on Otaru Onsens, published Aug-Sept 2000 Issue). But when will Xene understand that they must have consistency in their policies when taking on international issues?



After hearing that Customs and Immigration (Nyuukoku Kanrikyoku) had chartered Hokkaido ferries (confirmed by the police) to cart captured hooligans 100 people a time back down to Honshu, I stopped by the Central Hokkaido Police Agency (Hokkaido Keisatsu Honbu) with a reporter from the New York Times, and talked to Messrs Obara and his boss Mr Sumiyoshi Tatsumi (phone 011-251-0110 x 2173) about their exact catch. Results:

(the official World Cup time period thus far)
(all 7000 of them, some I saw imported from Hiroshima and Kyushu)

1) June 1: One German man and one Japanese woman, accomplices (kyouzai)
Arrested in violation of the "Hokkaido Ordinance to Prevent Public Nuisances" (Dou Meiwaku Boshi Jourei) for scalping World Cup tickets.

2) Date unrecorded: One Japanese man arrested for punching a Japanese woman in the local underground shopping district (police admit this crime is not related to the World Cup per se).

3) Date unrecorded: Two Japanese men from outside Hokkaido arrested for driving a "Suspicious Vehicle" (fushin sharyou) and for "Interference in a Public Official's Duties" (koumu shikkou bougai). Perps had blocked traffic near the Dome, tried to escape by car and then on foot, and then resisted arrest.

Total: Three cases (kenkyo), five people, one foreigner.

I might add that the IHT/Asahi reported on May 31, 2002, pg 27 (The Asahi Shimbun) that a senior Hokkaido security police official, Mr Oi Masatsugu, was quoted as saying, "There is no such thing as being too careful."

When asked for confirmation by the NY Times reporter, the statement was adjusted by Mr Sumiyoshi to "We are setting up a security system which can address all situations." (arayuru jitai ni taiou dekiru keibi taisei o totteiru)



I heard from a friend that Time Magazine Asia's quote of Miyagi Prefectural Assemblyman Konno Takayoshi, as:

"Given the exceptional atmosphere of the event, we must face the possibility of unwanted babies fathered by foreigners who rape our women."

was a mistranslation.

(The link to the Time Mag URL is long, so on some computers it continued onto the next line, got broken, and became a dead link. Plug this entire URL into your browser: (START URL: http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501020513-235495,00.html FINISH URL))

However, the exact quote in the original Japanese is, in Romaji:

"Ijou na fun'iki ni tsutsumarete naigaijin reipu ni yoru fuhon'i na akachan shussan made ga
mondai ni natte orimasu"


Or, my literal translation:

"Wrapped up in this abnormal atmosphere, there will be problems up to babies born against one's will (fuhon'i) due to foreign-Japanese (naigaijin) rapes."

(See the quote in context in original Japanese transcript at

Anyway, if nothing like this happens, I will contact Mr Konno's office and ask for a public retraction.

Looking forward to Friday night in Sapporo

Arudou Debito
debito.org | Dr. Debito Arudou's Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan
Report 3: Final Opinion on Xene Sign Translation Issue (Jun 18, 2002)

Just for a sense of closure, an update on the Xene (Xene website) "MEMBERS ONLY" sign translation) issue.
(Sent June 18, 2002)

The Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA) will be meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19, to discuss HIBA's stance on general business ethics, including what to do about one of its board members running a translation company which translated exclusionary signs into five languages.

Lots of opinions have appeared on the HIBA Members mailing list, mostly critical of my stance (and even of me as a person, and my ability to call Japan "home", alas). For what it's worth, here is my final opinion on the issue of translator ethics. Since I can't attend the meeting due to a business trip, hopefully somebody with a similar opinion will make a similar case.

Bests, Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hello HIBA. Thanks for holding a meeting this Wednesday to discuss the Xene
translation issue (Susukino Sapporo "Members Only" Signs June 3, 2002). Since I will
be going down to Tokyo on business that day and won't be able to attend, let
me interject a few points I think ought to be considered in the discussion:


said some to the HIBA List. Sorry, folks, but Xene is not simply the
messenger here. Xene not only advised the client to water down the "No
Foreigners" content that the client demanded in the sign, but even chose the
"Members Only" wording that ended up in the final product. It thus
demonstrated some editorial control. So Xene was not merely acting as a
conduit for the client to communicate with society at large.

Moreover, the fact that Xene chose to compound a lie (a non-existent
membership system) with another method of exclusionism (in languages other
than Japanese, no less, so that Japanese could remain oblivious and
unaffected) does not exonerate Xene, in my opinion, from having any
responsibility in this case. It does have responsibility because:


This is not a simple matter of an on-the-spot vocal interpretation, where
the interpreter merely says what the person next to him tells him to and the
original speaker still remains culpable. These are a bunch of written signs
here, and the written word is far more potent than the spoken because it is
transferrable. Don't forget that the damage seeped out from the original
business sector (Japanese-style red-lights) into more innocuous businesses
that even families could go to (a ramen shop, remember). The point is that
because the action involves the written word (and thus editorial conflicts
of interest come into play), and did not take place in a self-contained
environment (such as, say, an interrogation room) that would have reduced
the social impact, Xene has helped create Frankenstein's monster. I.e. Xene
has added to a body of knowledge (of a xenophobic sector, found in any
society) which can now get out of hand whenever excluders want to exclude.

Am I exaggerating? No: Two exclusionary bars down in Misawa
("JAPANESE ONLY" Signs in Misawa, Aomori-ken Bars) had exact replicas (down to
the font) of the "Japanese Only" signs found in Otaru
(Otaru Lawsuit Background--Photo Substantiation). And now Xene has
essentially added four more languages to their toolbox.

There could be some mitigation if Xene was small-scale kitchen sink
enterprise, not an international communcative focal point of Sapporo (as it
not only vocally purports itself to be, but also has a well-received
publication to back it up). However:


I mentioned before about the Xene advertisement (paid for by the Otaru City
government) in its April-May 2000 issue which lied about the accessibility
of exclusionary onsens (http://www.debito.org/xeneonotaru4500.jpg). Xene
could have claimed ignorance of this situation (although the onsen cases
were splashed all over the print and broadcast media for the better part of
a year). They did not in fact do so when I contacted them. Truth be told,
the interviewer of the five foreigners interviewed (one of whom lied about
the situation) was Hiiro Mujin himself. Again, as Hiiro chose to publish
that, there is editorial responsibility here (and nobody would argue that
the editor of a newspaper is not responsible for the contents of the
newspaper, now, would they?). His claim when I called him on it? "I wanted
Xene to become a forum for discussing this issue." Sounds awfully familiar
a response by now.

When is Xene going to learn its lesson and stop trying to translate, even
obfuscate, what is clearly discrimination? Is it that unable to say no to a
lie, or to a paycheck?

Other claims one could make, like that Xene is merely a business and as a
translator they have a duty to do as their client wants, break down when
even Mr Hiiro will readily admit that Xene is more than a mouthpiece--it is
an organ for international communication. Well then, on that tack:


We even discussed this topic some weeks ago on the HIBA list, remember--when
Simon J brought up the issue that a client wanted a sign to keep out
undesirables. After a few jokes, we came up with things such as, "Under
24-hour camera surveillance", or "Patrolled by police", what have you. Even
if not, the bluff is still there--the option to enter is still preserved and
miscreants will be held accountable. Not a perfect solution, but one in
which Xene helps cause far less social damage than recommitting the same old
false pretenses as before.

I'm sure Xene's Sonoyo reads the HIBA list, as she is a HIBA Board Member.
I guess our advice about better signs wasn't to Xene's liking. Pity. It
should have been Xene's job to know, or at least to consult with people like
us, if they are truly internationally sensitive. I believe the truly
sensitive company would not only have been cognizant of the potential impact
of their work, but also, if the client would not play ball, would have
refused to become a party to it. Because becoming a party to it is
indubitably what Xene ended up doing.


This is my opinion only, of course, and I thought it worth throwing onto the
debate bonfire. Keep in mind that by now a lot of people have a lot of
visceral reactions ("Oh, it's that Aldwinckle chap gong on again, on his
soapbox. Why doesn't he just go home since Japan isn't really his home,
after all." sort of thing.), maybe it is just as well I cannot attend
Wednesday's meeting. My presence seems to blur the focus. Spade a spade:
That is in fact more shooting the messinger, since the ideas are discounted
merely due to the source.

Take the ideas above into consideration during Wednesday's meeting, that's
all I ask. If HIBA once again remains in character and decides to sit on
the same old fences (as it did during the blatant racial discrimination of
the Otaru Onsens Case, where HIBA would issue no clear statement of support
for the lawsuit or any of the months of activities leading up to it), I will
understand (we are, after all, a fractious bunch of people, compounded by
the common tendency amongst businesspeople anywhere to reduce ethics down to
the profit motive; pity that it leaves us all weaker socially).

I have no vested interest in hurting Xene, as I think it is a worthy
organization. Just when will it learn that it cannot have it both
ways--pandering to nasty clientele and then assuming a victim's stance even
though its editorial policies help create social damage?

Arudou Debito
Last edited:
Report 4: Follow-up on politician's "foreigner rapes" fearmongering


As Time Magazine Asia reported some weeks back, Miyagi Prefectural Assemblyman Mr Konno Takayoshi was quoted during a June, 2001 assembly as saying:

"Given the exceptional atmosphere of the event, we must face the possibility
of unwanted babies fathered by foreigners who rape our women."

("Ijou na fun'iki ni tsutsumarete naigaijin reipu ni yoru fuhon'i na akachan shussan made ga mondai ni natte orimasu" My literal translation: "Wrapped up in this abnormal atmosphere, there will be problems up to babies born against one's will due to foreign-Japanese (naigaijin) rapes." The quote in context in original Japanese transcript at

I said on June 6 in a report that if nothing like this happens, I will contact Mr Konno's office and ask for a public retraction.

Well, nothing like this happened. According to news on Yahoo brought up on The Community Mailing list, the final tally for arrests during the World Cup went like this:

93 World Cup-related crimes in Japan for the duration.
60 of these by Japanese nationals.

30 arrests for scalping
17 for obstuction
10 for obscenity
Other crimes include theft, trespassing, selling counterfeit goods, etc.

But not rape. So around 3 pm on June 5, 2002, I called up the Jimin Kurabu at the Miyagi Kengikai (022-211-3528) and asked to talk to Mr Konno. He was in a meeting, but soon afterwards he called me back on my keitai and we had a nice chat. Discussion went something like this:


ARUDOU: Your statement worked on the presupposition that foreigners would cause trouble, and it caused social damage because people often assumed foreign-looking people were hooligans.

KONNO: That was not my intention. It was not a statement. It was a question. Rapes did happen during the Mexico World Cup eight years ago. I was asking the Miyagi Governor what sort of provisions would be made if something like this happened here.

ARUDOU: Still, the question fearmongers. Japanese society still has a hard time admitting that foreigners do any good here or serve any purpose. Instead, people like Tokyo Governor Ishihara or the police make clear public statements that foreigners cause crime. The facts during the World Cup do not bear this out. Quite the opposite--more Japanese caused trouble. Don't you think that you should admit that your question was ill-advised?

KONNO: Well, I personally have nothing against foreigners. I have foreign friends, my family has homestays. I meant no harm to foreigners who live here. And it was because of all the provisions we made to guard against hooligans that we had a safe and successful World Cup.

ARUDOU: Yes, but at great social damage. I for the first time in sixteen years found Japan a very uncomfortable place to live. I watched people and police's attitudes towards foreigners in Sapporo and Hamamatsu during two very important games, and it was hardly pleasant. The presumptions promoted by how you phrased your question are but the tip of the iceberg of the overall mindsets. Now that it's all over, nobody is coming out and publicly saying, "we overdid it", "we worried too much", or apologizing for "causing inconvenience to the foreign-looking members of our society". Instead, it was the bad things you said about foreigners which got all the publicity.

KONNO: Yes, I got lots of calls from the overseas press. New York Times. Le Figaro. There was a lot of misunderstanding.

ARUDOU: And as a public official I think you should clarify your standpoint. Won't you please consider making a public statement clarifying what your question was aiming at? And that you were not intending to speak ill of the well-meaning and constructive foreign members of Japanese society? It might undo a lot of the damage done. It would at least give a sense of balance.

KONNO: I'll consider it. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts and for cautioning me. Let me know next time you're in Miyagi-ken.


All-in-all, we had a very nice conversation with him in no hurry to cut the line. Maybe he'll act on my suggestion, we'll see. Not holding my breath, but I believe just a brief call like this is better than having done nothing.

Arudou Debito
debito.org | Dr. Debito Arudou's Home Page: Issues of Life and Human Rights in Japan

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