There’s always an I in ARUDO


This month’s JUST BE CAUSE (which I always think should be renamed "JUST ME, ‘COZ") has the story of what apparently transpired at Mr Arudou’s passport renewal. As it’s a retelling of a blog post from a couple of weeks ago I’ll skip over the details, although the ever-useful :roll: sums up my impression. There’s a line that can be drawn between standing up for one’s rights and being arrogant, and I feel he crosses it here, especially as his target is a lowly clerk (or the lowly clerk’s supervisor, according to the earlier report) with little or no power to change the system.

However, when he comes to wrap up the article he makes some rather interesting claims regarding "when our government decides that things within the domain of the individual are instead privileges granted at the whim of The State":

middle names and different last names after marriage (forbidden by the family registry system)

Hmm, OK. It feels like there must be a flaw in the above statement, but I can’t quite spot it.

minority names with alternate spellings (e.g., Ainu and Ryukyuan names)

I’m not really sure what he’s getting at here. Have Ainu and Ryukyu people adopted kanji with irregular readings? Haven’t these names been grandfathered into the system? Or is he talking about Romaji representations, an alphabet that is foreign to these people? Cannot they do as Mr Arudou and file their own alternative spellings?

parental rights to child access during marital breakdowns

No, there are many situations when this should, indeed must, be "at the whim of The State".

even to the contents of a mother’s uterus

What he seems to be implying from this is stated in a much earlier article:

The Japanese government (and the popular public) has long had the unofficial attitude that the uterus is the Property of the State, not the property of the mother

Of course, we are offered no evidence for this apart from a reference to a book that is not available online, but alternative references suggest this is an ancient expression from when wives were viewed as merely birth-giving machines for the next heir. Furthermore, he has promoted the "unofficial attitude" towards foetuses to now being a "whim of The State".

PS: I’m more than a little sad not to see a cheap shot at either Mike Guest or I in the article. :cry:

Leave a comment


  1. Ken, I think I can explain the point about Ainu and Ryukyuan names. (I suppose I’d better, since it was probably my post on Debito’s site that got him thinking about it.

    The Ainu language, and the various Ryukyuan languages, have combinations of sounds that are perfectly expressible in Hepburn romanization but come out wrong when filtered through Japanese hiragana.

    The romanizations proposed by the government for certain syllables that occur only in gairaigo differ quite a bit from Hepburn and look laughably wrong until you realize that they’re not actually transcribing the sounds, but rather converting the sounds into the kana table, ignoring 20th-century innovations using small kana (so てぃ and ふぁ are turned into てい and ふあ), and then converting those distorted kana into Hepburn romanization:

    So a name like “Fija” would, using that chart, become フィジャ and then (see the フィ → FUI in the middle row) “FUIJA”.

    That’s ridiculous, and it only gets worse if you’ve got a name with a cluster of consonants (the language of Miyako island has this), a vowel beyond the basic five (Ishigaki has an ï, Taketomi has a schwa, etc., etc.), an aspirated consonant, and so on, where kana fail utterly and even Hepburn needs innovations.

    In Ainu, a consonant can end a word, unlike in Japanese. Hepburn is fully equipped to handle that, and a set of small katakana, indicating that only the consonant part should be pronounced, can also do the job. (Unicode is ready for this; why isn’t the government?)

    So if you wanted to name your child “Kiror”, meaning “strength”, Hepburn romanization could express that, and the extended set of katakana could too (let’s see if this displays: キロㇿ ).

    But the government won’t allow these non-Yamato sound groupings, so poor Kiror will be stuck with KIRORO on his passport.

    The whole problem stems from the requirement that sounds first pass through an intervening stage where they’re expressed in Japanese kana (and is then exacerbated if these kana aren’t romanized correctly). Ideally people would be able to directly from the actual sounds in their name to a Hepburn-based spelling of those sounds. That’s what the government needs to allow.

  2. Debito wrote: Second, the latent arrogance. On other official forms, I’ve even been admonished by bureaucrats how to write an Arabic number 5 ‘properly.’ ” (Straight line first, then cedilla as second stroke — as opposed to my education of writing it all as one stroke.)
    Maybe I am not recalling my US elementary school education, but I could have sworn that I was taught to draw the “flag” of the five first, followed by the squiggly part. Or maybe it was the squiggly part first. No, I think the flag was supposed to be first, which is how I write a 5 today. Either way, I am certain I was not taught to write it all in one stroke.

    Found this:
    In Japan, students are taught to write the down stroke and curve of their five first. Then lift their pen and draw the horizontal bar, starting from the vertical bit, and going out. I draw my fives in one stroke, like an “s”.

  3. The irony of pretty much blatant leftist Arudo getting angry about
    “when our government decides that things within the domain of the individual are instead privileges granted at the whim of The State”

    It’s like a Libertarian bitching about the burden of free will.

    Argh, the JT article and his earlier website version.
    So. Many. Fish.
    Barrel. So. Small. :mrgreen:

  4. “Bureaucrats converted my former surname, Aldwinckle, from Roman letters to katakana at their whim.”

    So as if liberal American government would accept kanji or Arabian letters in their naming system.

    “they had me write out and sign a moshitatesho (a kind of affidavit) stating that if anything were to go wrong due to the spelling of my name, the responsibility would be mine alone.”

    If that is the case, all he had to do was just tell him at first, “could you check moushitatatesho I submitted years before?”

  5. And note a subtle but very key difference between the JT article and his original rant on his website. This time he lets us know that he can have the spelling on the passport itself in the way he prefers. Apparently, many people do this, to keep Western spellings of first names instead of the Japanese versions that nobody outside of Japan can make sense of. (“Charles” instead of “Chaaruzu” or whatever.)
    What he’s fighting over is how his name will be spelled on an internal document nobody will see, which will include the note as to how his name is to be spelled on the passport anyway.

    So, really, there is absolutely no point to his 2 hour crusade, except as fodder for a website rant, and (as I expected) an article in the JT (which he gets paid for, right? So, in the end, this WAS profitable for him.) 2 hours playing bureaucrat ping pong and listening to your iPod while they scratch their heads in a back room is easier than 2 hours doing research.

    Anyway, if he’s going to fight over the tortured spelling of a bastardized version of his original name, then why didn’t he fight to keep his original name in the first place? Fight to force the bureaucrats to accept David with a “v” instead of a “b”.

    Other differences are the quotes of what he claims to have said to the bureaucrats. But hey, everyone remembers things differently (and better) over time. We’re only human. That’s why real reporters take notes and record things.

    In his website rant, he said he spent most of his Quest For The “O” listening to his iPod or something. I assume it could have been used to record the conversation? You’d think maybe he could have recorded his triumph for accuracy in later articles. After all, recording people for the purposes of character assassination seems to be something he is happy to do.

  6. I always do the squiggle first, but I have zero recollection of what I was taught at school! Doing the 5 in one stroke (never seen that myself) sounds like a shortcut people pick up themselves, although I see that one stroke gets taught in some schools.

    Oh, and two reasons a Japanese person might tell you how to write a number the Japanese way (my wife does it all the time!) is that there might be OCR involved and that people reading the form might not be familiar with your style, such as ones versus sevens.

  7. 空, but that wouldn’t have been so much fun! It seems obvious to me that he likes making a scene.

  8. And yet he avoided doing so during his last trip through Narita. I guess he is only an activist when it suits him.

  9. I just realized (as I was hurriedly filling out some paperwork) that I too do the squiggle first.

    I suspect that you are correct with regarding OCR and CRJ (character recognition by a Japanese). The difference in style that we bring from overseas in rendering Roman characters can indeed be confusing.

    Debito’s assumption of arrogance is in fact arrogant.

    I always cross my sevens, by the way. I’ve gotten a few sideways glances about it but I’ve never (that I know) had a seven mistaken for a one by a clerk.

  10. Ken, early in the morning (about 6 AM JT), I tried to make a long and detailed post about Ainu and Ryukyuan romanization, but it isn’t showing up. Did it get caught in a spam filter? (Possible, since I used some Unicode characters that some computers might not even be able to display.)

  11. Yes, it is possible to have completely different renderings on your passport. My wife officially uses my family name, though it’s rendered solely in katakana on her koseki. When we married, she went to the passport office to have hers changed from her maiden name to my family name. She had to take my passport along as well to show the correct spelling. When it came up for proper renewal, she didn’t need anything except her old passport. Her new one has our family name rendered in the proper spelling!

    How about that! She didn’t need to intimidate a clerk or make a scene or anything like that. She just took the papers in, explained that she was married to a filthy foreigner :grin: and off she went.

  12. Hold a moment.

    Are you saying that Dave’s Japanese isn’t fluent? That’s … interesting, and a bit at odds with his portrayal on his web log.

    Fluency in Japanese is not a requirement for naturalization, or indeed even a major factor in the qualification determination. I crammed for six months to cover every possible interview question that I could think of, and my “interview” lasted about five minutes and consisted of about eight questions (mostly concerning my previous marriage) …

    … but I thought for certain that he’d be able to tangle with the cops better than how you describe.

    It does make sense, though. That explains why he hasn’t redacted the nasty bits from his Japanese Wikipedia entry, and why he’s still an English teacher after nearly a decade of Japanese citizenship.

  13. “Are you saying that Dave’s Japanese isn’t fluent? ”!

    ” I recorded the entire exchange as an mp3 sound file (edited down to seven minutes, with no cuts once the police questioning begins). Download it from here:”

  14. LB, he does say (and I accept that it’s not just an excuse!) that JT screwed up and failed to print the O-macron in front of Oka. However, what we didn’t find out was what he thought how an Oooka might want their name Romajified.

  15. LB, thanks for digging this out of the spam filter!

    Mark, thanks for the info – I’ve often seen your posts on Ryukyu language issues and been impressed by your knowledge. That makes sense to me. My:

    Cannot they do as Mr Arudou and file their own alternative spellings?

    was a real question, not a rhetorical one, so you say the answer is “No, they cannot.” I agree with you and Debito, that needs to change.

  16. “That explains why he hasn’t redacted the nasty bits from his Japanese Wikipedia entry”

    Just for your information;

    ○ 合理的(ごうりまと)
    – Pretty much. 屁理屈をよして。


    As for his latest Japanese writing,

  17. 空, ouch, that hurt! My Japanese is pretty naff, but my excuse is that I didn’t have a year of university Japanese nor have I worked in an exclusively-Japanese environment like he did.

    I was surprised at his nervous giggles – I was expecting something a lot more assertive.

    LB: Are you allowed macrons and other characters on passport names? A quick web search suggests not.

  18. My oldest does his in 2 strokes – straight line and squiggle first then crosses it.

    I, also, was taught to cross my 7′s and Z’s – my son and wife both don’t understand why I do it. I don’t even remember being taught to do them that way but I have to assume that at some point I was.

    BUT – I can totally understand Dave getting pissy about someone trying to correct him on how to write numbers – I’d get pissy too. :evil:

  19. What I used to love was that when we got married my wife went and got her named changed in her passport (admittedly, we were in San Fran at the time not Japan). How did they do it? Well they stamped it and then wrote in ink what her new name was! Only problem we had with that was with US Immigration (who didn’t like it for some reason). Other than our marriage certificate I don’t think we’ve ever had to produce anything to get her name or the kid’s names correctly in their passports.

  20. Jerry, I too understand the feeling when told you’re writing your own language wrong, but it isn’t worth getting pissy about IMHO.

    Before I trained the staff at my bank how to handle international wires, it was nothing but trouble for me. The first time I turned in an application, I got 3 separate phone calls confirming different parts of the form. After the third one, I left work and went back to the bank.

    The problem was that my handwriting, while not really messy, was just different as Ken mentions.

    Also, my US bank account didn’t have my middle name, so that threw them for a loop, so they had to call and verify that my name was correct.

    While I was annoyed, I understood what the problem was. If things like this bothered me, I’d have left Japan already or gone nuts.

    (If there is a particular form that you know you will have to recurring resubmit, copies of previously submitted forms are worth their weight in gold.)

  21. ○地方公共団体(ちほうこうともだんたい)
    ○ 合理的(ごうりまと)

    空、That’s… wow… When I first saw it, I thought it had to be just typos. Then after my brain finally finished processing all the katakana, I realized that it can’t be typos because in every case, he’s tossed in random kun-yomis.

    His spoken Japanese is very unnatural. It is not just the bad accent, but also the usage. It sounds awkward because he should have used more polite language than he did. He could have just as easily said everything he did in a more appropriate way.

    I mean, isn’t it obvious that the way you say something is just as, if not more, important that what you say? If most of his confrontations in Japanese go down like at the Chitose airport, then… :???:

  22. Oh, good Lord. I hadn’t read his wallet cards.

    Screwing up the kun-yomi renders these cards worse than useless — I’d argue that they’re actually dangerous.

    If a non-kanji-aware user tries to read from them, they’ll be saying the wrong thing. That will not help them make their point; at best, they’ll be laughed at.

    If a non-kanji-aware user shows the cards to a policeman, not only will the cop be unimpressed but he may well decide to teach this sea lawyer a lesson.

  23. Something else I thought of late last night. Did debito talk to anyone named Kondo or Saito or Kato and ask them how they feel about their names not including the most holy romanisation of the final う in their names?

    I mean, heck, think of the millions of people that are suffering identity disorder by not having that sacred “u” on the end of the name that’s used for internal filing purposes at some inconsequential government department!

    Actually, that reminds me of an anecdote I heard a while back from my friend’s cousin’s brother’s girlfriend. Apparently this distinguished Japanese scientist, Mr Usodayo Kondo, had been notified by the Nobel Prize committee that he was going to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics that year. He was ecstatic, as you would imagine. But when he went arrived in Stockholm for the award ceremony, they turned him away at the door, because his passport said “KONDOU”, which was different from the “KONDO” that they were expecting after confirming his identity with the Sub-Terranean Records Department 2-sub-B in Shimo-Shimo-Kasumigaseki.

    So maybe he has a point after all? :evil:

    My favourite part of his imaginary filibustering though was when he went all hurf-durf about THIS IS HOW I SPELL IT IN MY NATIVE LANGUAGE. News flash, debito! You spell your name A-L-D-W-I-N-C-K-L-E in your native language, doofus! You wanted to choose a Japanese-sounding name — now you render it as Caesar the Japanese government standards direct you to!

  24. I’m sure someone pointed out the errors in the Gaijin Card Law Cards in a comment a couple of years ago. Google can’t find it, however.

    I didn’t listen to his grammer or politeness level, but his use of 僕 when arguing with the policeman about recording him sounded very out of place.

  25.  腹は借り物(はらはかりもの)



  26. Sanyo Electronics should sue their tits off. To think for all these years their company name has been spelled wrong!

  27. Looking at those furigana, I suspect that Debito used some kind of software to generate them automatically. <Gōri-mato just doesn’t make any sense at all, and I’m sure I’ve seen Debito write gouri-teki on his site. He definitely knows the word keitai; only a computer could have come up with tazusae-obi!

  28. Mark, he should know these words, I agree, but if he used automated software (a) it’s crap as there’s inconsistencies such as for 若しく once putting a も over the 若, another time もしく over the whole word, and (b) he should at least have proofread it before uploading.

    We’re getting a bit picky here, but I really do hope this thread spurs him into correcting these mistakes.

  29. Mark in Yayoi

    >Looking at those furigana, I suspect that Debito used some kind of software to generate them automatically. <Gōri-mato just doesn’t make any sense at all,

    And yet he didn't notice the error?

    >and I’m sure I’ve seen Debito write gouri-teki on his site.
    →Did he write in hiragana on his site? Search result;not found.may in the comment section?

    He definitely knows the word keitai; only a computer could have come up with tazusae-obi!

    I am not sure how the software works.
    If you type たずさえる、my words processor come up with 携える
    it seems to me that if the computer put furigana to 携帯 in onyomi, wouldn't furigana be something like たずさお ?

    But I'm not really sure. Why don't you ask him what really happened and ask him to correct them.

    As for his speaking

    I don't want to go into detail.(Keep in mind my English is just as bad as his Japanese)
    Judge for yourself.

    I guess he is was ポーズ、一時休止 Pause
    But kawabe didn't get it.(Otherwise he could ask Debito push pause all the time.)

    So either the communication with Kawabe broke down or Debito was deceiving Kawabe , whether it is justified or not.

    obviously, Kawabe didn't get what he was saying.)
    (I guess Debito meant 私服警官)

    In any case, in my opinion, what franka definitely needs is to ask the Japanese people their opinions and ask the helps from the Japanese.It seems to me that they are refusing it.

    They somehow think that finding Japanese only shop/agent is some kind of achievement.
    "Oh Debito,you are doing a great job. ""Japan is that bad"
    But as Occidentalism showed, it is easier to pull down the post with the help of the Japanese people.
    As my calling up the agents, as long as my cases are concerned, it is easy to change the ads.
    (Because it is not the hatred against some race but it is usually a phobia about the foreign languages that motivate them to post such ads.)
    As the hello gaijin san (gaijin nose) case shows they have no interest to change the situation.
    As the latest discussion on Haafu ( shows they have no interest what the Japanese people have in mind when they are using the word.(Remeber, the use in a context determine the meaning.)

    One cannot help but wonder who they are, what they are doing for?
    The outsiders? The colonialists? or The negative campaigners? or what?
    The fact that they refuse to correct errors in comment section etc. by blocking comments as Debito wishes does not work in favor of interpreting them doing for helping the forefingers in Japan but reinforces the interpretations above. What do you think?

  30. FYI – I can’t find it at the moment, but Dave does have a .doc file of his wallet card on his website. Maybe someone who’s Japanese is better than Dave’s (mine is most definitely not better than his) could correct it for him and post it here so he could just copy it to his site?

  31. FYI – I can’t find it at the moment, but Dave does have a .doc file of his wallet card on his website. Maybe someone who’s Japanese is better than Dave’s (mine is most definitely not better than his) could correct it for him and post it here so he could just copy it to his site?

    →My Japanese is better than debito.
    My bad, I didn’t know the wallet card.
    Whatever it is, it sounds fun.

  32. :shock: the more you know :shock:

  33. In a separate but related topic, I’ve always wondered why Debito publishes the vast majority of his material and website in English.

    One would think that if he was truly trying fight for “human rights” in Japan, he would direct his message to a Japanese audience rather than preaching to the proverbial choir of other ex-pats in Japan.

    With this is mind, how can anyone take Debito’s activism as anything more than sensationalism? How is he any different than pundits like Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore who rather bemoan a problem for their own aggrandizement than actually do anything about said problem?

  34. *gasp* you mean Dave might be trying to turn himself into the Japanese Al Sharpton instead of actually working with the people who have the power to change something?

    Perish the thought, I am sure Dave would never do anything to try to get the accolades of the young and uninitiated eikaiwa crowd would he? I mean, trying to cash in on the situation and make it his own cottage industry, would never have occurred to him when he had his book published by a 自費出版 and then had to deal with his wife’s nagging because this obvious best seller wasn’t flying off the shelves but instead took money from the family coffers right?

    Perish the thought. By writing 99% of his work in english he is bringing valuable international attention to the problem. Because, you know, the Japanese government obviously cares more about international pressure than about the opinions of her own (voting) people right?

  35. Please include the Japanese along with it.

    Not so much as to show it to any native that “dares ask to see the ARC” but more along the lines of being able to show that we are all talking about the same details.

  36. Okay, that was the wallet card you were talking about. Now I see what it is.
    LB has done a great job.

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