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Tsurunen Marutei


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Have you ever heard of Japan's first "blue eyed" politician? Tsurunen Marutei (born Martti Turunen), a naturalized Japanese citizen from Finland, became the first "non-Japanese/Western" member of diet.

Here's an excellent bio written by Mark McBennett

=> Modern Japan - Famous Japanese - Tsurunen Marutei

Tsurunen Marutei's views on local and international politics (in Japanese and English)

=> http://homepage2.nifty.com/yugatsuru/

Tsurunen debuts at Diet

=> http://www.japantoday.com/gidx/news192638.html


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Interview: J Dietman Tsurunen Marutei

Here's a recent interview Debito conducted with Mr. Tsurunen (posted on behalf of Debito):

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By Arudou Debito ([email protected])

Tsurunen Marutei, 63, a naturalized Japanese citizen, is the first
non-Asian, non-native-born member of the Japanese Diet. Originally a city
councillor in Yugawara, near Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tsurunen ran in a
number of national elections, continuously losing to safe-seat Liberal
Democratic Party power broker Kouno Youhei. Running on the Proportional
Representation (Hirei-ku) ticket (where anyone in Japan can vote for him or
his party) for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, or Minshutou), he bubbled
under in two elections, missing election in 2002 by a mere 7000 votes.
However, when fellow DPJ member Ohashi Kyosen resigned in disgust over party
factionalism shortly after his election, Tsurunen was next in line to
receive the post, assuming it on February 8, 2002.

A former Lutheran missionary who received Japanese citizenship in 1979,
Tsurunen has in his 36 years in Japan worked as educator, tranalator, public
speaker, and writer, authoring nine books in Japanese as well as various
essays in the mass media. He became an elected politician in 1992. He
currently serves witin the DPJ as Director-General of the International
Department, and Secretary-General of the Project Team on Foreigners in
Japan. He is also a member of the Committee on Environment, the Committee
on Oversight of Adminstration, and the Research Commission on the
Constitution. More information at http://www.tsurunen.net

Tsurunen consented to this interview by Arudou Debito, a fellow naturalized
Japanese, in a rare example of two non-natives talking about Japan's future
from a "outsiders'" point of view. The interview was originally done in
Japanese, and has been archived at
http://www.debito.org/tsurnuneninterview.html. The text in full follows.
English translation is by Arudou Debito, who takes sole responsibility for
the contents and any factual or translation/transliteration errors.

Apologies for the lateness of the release of this interview, but the
questions asked are timeless in themselves, and question greater issues of
multiculturality and tolerance, pluralism and party discipline, and
legislating against domestic discrimination.--Arudou Debito, October 16,


Monday, March 4, 2002. 3PM

Arudou Debito: When (former Upper House Dietmember Ohashi Kyosen) resigned
his post (opening up the seat for Candidate Tsurunen to take), I saw him say
something on TV concerning yours and his differing opinions on deploying
NATO troops as an anti-terrorist move. When asked about your standpoint,
Ohashi said, "Well, he's a Finn, so he's different from us." As far as I'm
concerned, of course you are a Japanese, and nothing but.

Tsurunen Marutei: Well, I prefer "World Citizen", but anyway (laughs).

Arudou: Still, you do have Japanese citizenship. So I think you should be
stressing in public that you are a Japanese at times like these. What do
you think when somebody phrases their statement which makes you appear like
you are "not one of us"?

Tsurunen: Well, I didn't hear that directly from Ohashi, and the first time
I heard it was from you. I don't know exactly what he was premising that
statement on, but he's never had that air about him when we talked directly.
He did say to me when he quit that he was relieved that I was taking over
his seat, as I would be a Dietmember who would represent the general public
the same as he would.

Arudou: Okay, let's extend this issue beyond Ohashi. In general, if you
were to express an opposing view, how would you react if somebody were to
go, "Hey, you weren't born here. You're not a real 'Japanese', so shut

Tsurunen: Well, first of all I wouldn't get angry. No matter what, there
are feelings of exclusion in Japan towards non-Japanese, or feelings that
Japanese want you to be exactly the same as a Japanese. Both exist, and it
depends on the person and his or her background. Right now I am a Japanese
Dietmember. I have been acknowledged as a "Japanese" this far. Even if one
or two people disagree, I can still do my work, so long as nobody kills me
(laughs). But I can still send out a message. In committees or in the
Upper House, I can follow procedure and speak my mind in public. And if
there are hecklers, well, there are hecklers for the other "Japanese" out
there too. Anyway, that's the heckler's problem, really. So I take no

Arudou: Gotcha. Moving on, before this interview formally began, we talked
a little about an anti- racial discrimination law. What is your standpoint
on establishing one in Japan?

Tsurunen: Of course, I'm all for it. As I said before this interview, we
have to think how we can do it. We [Minshutou, the Democratic Party of
Japan] are the opposition party, so in order to succeed in getting this
passed, we have to consider what is the best path to take, and also who
should we be working with? So I am of course basically in favor of
establishing it. The problem is, how can we get this successfully done in
Japan? That's a huge obstacle.

Arudou: Thank you. Next question: You are of course a Dietmember, but you
are also a political party member. Do you see yourself joining a "faction"

Tsurunen: "Faction" has many meanings. The [ruling party] LDP has many
factions, and we have "kaiha" within our own party. "Kaiha" meaning we have
several of our own groups within the Upper House carrying out various
activities. Of course I will be entering a "kaiha", like everyone else, for
study purposes. After all, like-minded people form groups, considering
policies and sharing visions. If people got together to share opinions and
form groups, would you become a "faction"? It could be just a meeting. For
another example, we will be electing a new party representative in the
autumn, which will no doubt involve many candidates. There's already
movement on this within the party. If there were, say, three candidates for
the job, there are going to be meetings and groups forming. One of those
members will be the best one for Japan's future, so there will be support
groups. Is that considered a "faction"? I would consider that a support

Arudou: Okay, let me phrase the question differently. For example, what
people may be expecting from you, as a person born in in the West, is a
little more individuality as a politician. What will you be putting the
priority upon when deciding pro or con? The party, or else your own
conscience? Politicans are famous for not holding their own opinions and
merely following party lines. As you are a newcomer, you may wind up
following a factional leader. So what is your plan?

Tsurunen: When I became a Dietmember on February 8, 2002, I was asked
pretty much the same question. I believe my position was pretty landmark.
I said that I would state clearly whether my standpoint was my own or my
party's. Then if our party's policy was at odds with my own, I would
unfortunately have to dissent. Still, even our party leader, Hatoyama, said
my doing that in most cases would still be acceptible. So I said it then
and I'll say it now. However, there will be cases, such as international
problems, where we in the Upper House will have to put things to a vote. I
will have to decide there and there pro or con. At that time, I think I
will have to vote along party lines, even if it is at odds with my personal
convictions. If asked by the media before or after why I did that, I will
have to say that that's how party politics work. After all, if I don't
follow party discipline, I will be expelled from the party. Then I won't be
able to do my job. I will maintain my ability to say my own opinion, but at
important times I will be a party man. That's how I stand.

Arudou: Thank you. My last question for you. As we are both naturalized
Japanese, what do you think about the act of naturalization? I often
recommend it as an option to people. What sort of advice would you give to
those thinking of taking out Japanese citizenship?

Tsurunen: Well, I personally wouldn't recommend it as wholeheartedly. That
is another one of those decisive choices in life. I could have been able to
live my life in Japan the same as I would have in Finland, the same as any
other Japanese, as a Finn here in Japan, without giving up my Finnish
citizenship. However, I would not have the right to participate in Japan's
electoral system. That's why I decided to naturalize. That's the way it is
all over the world. On the other hand, if a Japanese was to go to Finland
and live there twenty years, he'd be there the same as any other Finn.
That's the element of a multicultural society, and I myaelf think what can I
do to promote one here. I decided that multiculturalization should be one
of my priorities. But that's a personal decision entirely, so
naturalization is entirely up to individual priorities.

Arudou: Understood. Thank you very much for today's interview.

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the shows have been so funny lately showing this beef between the pretty boy dude and the brother with the dot
i saw one clip where they were showing dot dot blowing his nose... in SLOW-MOTION (Diet-Hard 4?)...

edit: okay, at lunch (of all places) i remembered that it's supposed(?) to be bad manners to blow one's nose (what about other people's noses?) in public
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