quote of the day

While the Japanese government relentlessly promotes the image of 'Cool Japan' and mega-tourism, the current reality is a country run by sociopathic Hitler-loving plutocrats, with plummeting press freedom, endemic poverty, rising censorship, deliberate destruction of public records, continual death by overwork, a corrupt bureaucracy, and a medieval justice system. Despite the triple meltdown of Fukushima, the government is rushing to start nuclear power plants again with reckless abandon.


Jake Adelstein, suggesting that the new Reiwa era may be the era in which the land of the rising sun becomes the land of the setting sun, and Japan could sink into a darkness that will last longer than the Reiwa era itself.

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Sums it up nicely

13 ( +37 / -24 )

Your typical bitter expat.

Loosen up a wee bit Jake.

-26 ( +30 / -56 )

Adelstein spot on with this. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks this.

He's definitely of my favorite authors in this galaxy. I highly recommend reading his book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

16 ( +39 / -23 )

Well said. I agree with everything except the nuclear issue. Japan has hundreds of alternative power generation plants but still requires nuclear power as other countries do.

The system is completely out of touch with the citizens of Japan in all the issues mentioned. The labour laws are useless, the pension collection system, lowest minimum wage of all developed countries. People are getting poorer and poorer and the powers to be don't understand the real cause of why the population is not increasing. - It's poverty.

9 ( +30 / -21 )

Spot on.

More people need to speak about Japan for what it is rather than what it wants people to see it as.

The facade of hyperpositivity is tatemae turned up to 11.

25 ( +46 / -21 )

Sensational journalism at its very very worst.

-23 ( +27 / -50 )

A quick update on the death toll directly from radiation at the Fukushima nuclear disaster...

Its ONE...

-11 ( +24 / -35 )

So all the people down voting these comments see a rosy, bright future for Japan? Do pray tell explain to all of us bitter foreign expats how things are going to get better. Maybe a few of you are doing ok, and then will scurry back to wherever you came from, but many of us are here for the long haul, and it does look bleak.

22 ( +40 / -18 )

@Elmer Fudd

An alternative update on the Fukushima nuclear disaster:

• Abe when pitching for the Olympics - 'It's under control'.

Actually - The cores were melting down and the ocean and food chain was being contaminated.

• Currently, 8 years after the disaster, 52,000 people are still living in shelters

• The government is exploiting cheap migrant workers to clean up the toxic mess.

“We are deeply concerned about possible exploitation by deception regarding the risks of exposure to radiation, possible coercion into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardships, and the adequacy of training and protective measures” (UN report 2018).

People need to talk about the negatives too however inconvenient and embarrassing they may be.

36 ( +48 / -12 )

Damn, foreigners love to complain about Japan.

-26 ( +24 / -50 )

Since this is in English, it will have no impact in Japan among Japanese. How about translating this into Japanese and seeing what the reaction is. No, that would take courage.

16 ( +33 / -17 )


I don't think anyone is saying Japan is free of problems, but on most objective quality of life measures, like absolute poverty, or health, or unemployment, income equality, social mobility, educational attainment, air quality, environmental standards, carbon footprint, crime victimisation, government corruption, household debt, and so on, Japan ranks very highly in the world often scoring well above the US, Canada or Western Europe. If the sun is indeed setting on Japan, it's probably setting far faster in the countries that many of us came from. To lose perspective on this is a bit sensationalist.

11 ( +32 / -21 )

Hate Japan much!?

-16 ( +23 / -39 )

I say the same to myself everyday, well maybe not the sociopathic Hitler-loving part, that’s a bit over the top.

Name some names Adelstein or shut up.

-8 ( +14 / -22 )

Jeeze - Yes; Japan has problems but this is way over the top.

M3M3M3 your response seems quite balanced to me and yes the countries many of us came from are experiencing tremendous problems. In my case, my quality of life is much better in Japan than it would be in the U.S. and I like it here. Japan has tremendous potential still however the leadership should change as the world is not what it was in the Showa era and it seems most of the leadership here is still stuck in Showa times.

16 ( +26 / -10 )

This quote is from a much larger recent article with many supporting links. Check it out.

And Jake Adelstein's journalism credentials far surpass most Japanese journalists and I'm sure the same for posters on here.

The first foreigner to work as a criminal investigative journalist full time in Japan in Japanese for none other than the Yommiuri Shimbun.

His knowledge of the underbelly of Japan puts him in the 0.01% of the populace.

One may not always agree with his sentiments (as should be the case with all writers) but blankety blank put downs, just shows ignorance.

27 ( +41 / -14 )

Well said, and completely true

10 ( +24 / -14 )

M3M3M3, I cannot but wholeheartedly disagree with you. Look around, where is the optimism and hope for the future in this country. There is none. I think there is so much information that we don’t get unless you are can read Japanese newspapers etc. (which many foreigners can’t) about poverty and so

many problems that Japan is facing.

Mental health care, sexism, blatant racism, just to name a few.

People don’t vote because they see no hope for change or things to get better.

That to me is the state that Japan is in now.

But that is just how I see it. If many of you are optimistic and hopeful I am happy for you.

16 ( +29 / -13 )

People see what they want to see.

That's right.

Dr. Katsuya Takasu, Nazi sympathizer:


DHC cosmetics company president Yoshiaki Yoshida sponsors ethno-racist TV:


Taro Aso praises Hitler.


APA Hotel president (and Shinzo Abe best buddy) Toshio Motoya spaffs anti-semitism:


It just goes on and on and on. You'd have to be naive beyond belief to deny that there aren't sociopathic Hitler-loving plutocrats in power in this country.

19 ( +34 / -15 )

one of the best quotes of the day ever, hit the nail right on the head there...

6 ( +20 / -14 )

oldman_13: "Your typical bitter expat."

Knew that would be one of the first responses to his bang on criticism.

20 ( +36 / -16 )

Don't see too many arguments countering any of the points made. I love Japan don't say anything truthful or I'll down vote you. Seems to be the irrational.

14 ( +23 / -9 )

If Japan is as described by Jake Adelstein, how is it that he is free to roam about in Japan, write his screeds, and even appear on television?

That he can write #### like this shows that either what he says is complete BS or Abe and the Nippon Kaigi are the most incompetent collections of "fascists" the world has ever seen.

For reference, here is what a veteran journalist and former Washington Post correspondent in Japan has to say about Jake Adelstein.


-9 ( +14 / -23 )

Adelstein claims he criticises Japan because "he loves" Japan.


But, despite being fluent enough in Japanese to have worked for the Japanese language Yomiuri as a crime reporter, Adelstein writes almost nothing in Japanese for the Japanese domestic audience. If his criticism is valid, the people who need to read it are Japanese voters, not the people who read the Daily Beast.

I have suggested to him personally several times that if he really wants to improve Japan he should (1) write in Japanese; (2) naturalise and vote; (3) run for public office. Naturalised people of foreign origin do get elected to public office in Japan. Even if he did not get elected, giving speeches in Japanese would get his message to far more Japanese than anything he publishes in The Daily Beast.

His answer to me was "I've taken permanent residency. Isn't that enough?"

No, it's not, if you are really serious about improving Japan.

Here is a very recent story about a naturalised person of foreign origin getting elected to public office in Japan.


-9 ( +13 / -22 )

bullfighterToday 03:42 pm JST

For reference, here is what a veteran journalist and former Washington Post correspondent in Japan has to say about Jake Adelstein.


This was absolute gold.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

not a member of the government.

not a member of the government.

Not politicians no, they would be the sociopathic Hitler-loving plutocrats mentioned in the quote. Neither Sheldon Adelson nor Jeff Bezos are members of the US govt but they have immense influence on US policy in a wide variety of areas. And not just the US either. Old Jake may be rather tabloid but that doesn't mean Toshio Motoya isn't a racist bigot and anti-semite, does it. As ever, lots of "kill the messenger" foam that doesn't address the key issues.

7 ( +17 / -10 )

"People are getting poorer and poorer and the powers to be don't understand the real cause of why the population is not increasing. - It's poverty."

Well said. Those who are thumbing down, at least say what you think will happen positively and how (the Olympics don't count...low multiplier effect for the taxpayer investment.)

8 ( +15 / -7 )

To be reading all this during such a long golden week of beautiful weather and festivities is just sad. In regards to something positive; all of the recent scandals from the Ghosn fiasco, to the inherent and oversized self serving bureaucracies are indeed real. Press collusion, yes. Massive challenges ahead. But look at last years public reaction to the Japan amateur boxing presidents misdeeds, the American football coach that ordered his young player to take the other team member out, the falsified data from a string of big manufacturers, even the Moritomo Gakuen and recent allegations of corruption within the Ministry of Education . Doesn’t anyone else get the feeling the days are numbered for these types?

I see a nation that is waking up and wants change. The old guard is holding on in pure desperation and are too incompetent to survive in the long run ( too old anyways! ) , and I also see a public that has lost its patience. It’ll just take time that’s all. Remember where we are? It’s Japan! Is there really an epidemic of poverty or have people just been listless and unambitious under the old guard? Have seen a number of very positive signs that Reiwa will be used to at least start to face the deep seated cultural factors that have held the country back during the Heisei period. I still have hope that this old and time weathered country will steer itself well and face the challenges of the next twenty or so years. Basically don’t see the utility in the “ all is lost” style narrative, especially from those that claim to love living here. It’s awesome. As many of us are teachers too, we should be spouting the possibilities and potential to the coming generations instead of defeatist doom and gloom.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

A bit over the top. I think gaijin can get a bit hysterical about Japanese not being very good with foreigners. It’s not the best place to be a foreigner but there is no need to slam the culture as a whole.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

@ Jimizo you too

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@reckless spot on observation, i have noticed this over the years.. the biggest nationalists are the japanese who have lived overseas and come back with a chip on their shoulder..

2 ( +9 / -7 )

@ Jimizo you too

What coffee? I just made the observation that Japan generally isn’t good with foreigners. Japan is notorious for it. It is one of their flaws if you are a foreigner. For the the vast majority of the people in this country, it isn’t a pressing issue. The vast majority of Japanese have more pressing issues to think about and this is understandable.

What I’m pointing out is that foreigners can tend to lash out at Japan as a whole when a flaw which affects them annoys them.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

I've often been surprised when in a mainstream Japanese book store, I spot a Japanese book about Hitler or the Nazis...and the books do not appear to be negative. In fact, quite a few seem the opposite.

8 ( +15 / -7 )

Sums it up nicely

I quite agree. Quote of the day is right in many ways.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

Adelstein is a troll who ought to be ignored. He became famous about a decade ago with the publication of his book Tokyo Vice, but in the years since it appears he decided to parlay his fame into trolling with ridiculous quotes like the one above.

-8 ( +13 / -21 )

Since I've read his book Tokyo Vice, I have great admiration on his honesty in writing things as they are. But with this quote, I'm at a loss. Whatever happened to him? Whatever, I still believe Japan is still best. I just think me and the rest of the foreign community who are still here for many decades believe so. Otherwise why still live here? He who believes otherwise might as well go back to his ole hometown!

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

"I've never heard of him, so let me google to find some articles which criticise him."

This - ignorance followed by looking online for negative opinions about Mr Adelstein - hardly makes commenters here look informed. For people living in Japan long-term not to have heard of him ( whether you agree with his opinions or not) reeks or deliberate ignorance.

As for the "If you don't like it here shut up and go home!" brigade... don't be so childish. That is the reaction of someone who is unable to handle criticism or have an informed discussion.

11 ( +19 / -8 )

Jake Adelstein is going a bit far with the "Hitler-loving" tone.

I think he's a hack who wanted the world to go in a certain direction and now he's writhing in extremism to further protest his failed ideology.

-6 ( +9 / -15 )

As for the "If you don't like it here shut up and go home!" brigade... don't be so childish. 

I would make just the opposite argument. Don't go home. Don't shut up. Write in Japanese. Get your message out to the Japanese people. AFIK The Daily Beast does not get translated into Japanese the way many other English language publications are.

There are several high profile Japanese publications that are extremely critical of the Abe government. The tabloid 日刊ゲンダイ (Nikkan Gendai) is notorious for this. With a claimed circulation of 1.7 million, writing for it would get his message out to far more Japanese than the few like me who read The Daily Beast.

Jake can write in Japanese. He sometimes responds to comments on his Twitter feed in Japanese. I have asked him why he does not write for the Japanese in Japanese. His reponse was evasive.

Generally, Japanese magazines and newspapers pay decent fees. I have received four times as much for equivalent articles written in Japanese as I have for English language articles.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Placed together in one quote seems contextually messy and presents a pessimist’s view.

Words such as ‘reckless and ‘sociopathic’ seem designed to provoke a strong reaction and need to be backed up by evidence.

For the above reason, I’ll reserve the right to comment.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Read his article, thanks for the link Zichi.

Adelstien sure is a griper . He’s angry about something. His diatribe reminds me of two different instances, one was a written piece roughly 14 years ago from a Militia from a State in the US going on about a UN invasion and socialism, the other instance is a dear friend who has went all in on the SJW and anti-Trump bandwagon.

Im guessing many foreigners here could/do say the same thing of their home governments, from both sides of the isle.

It seems Adelstein wrote the above quote first, then filled in the rest to release some stress he has about Japan.

Also checked out The Dialy Beast web page for the first time and see no difference in style or lies from the Militia propaganda of 14 years ago.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

actually dude is not too far off with his assessment. He has gone deep with his reporting in the past, I think he is a credible source.

Just look at all the shuttering properties and business in your towns, things dont look good for Japan IMO.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

poverty in Japan has always existed, its part of their feudal past.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Wow. If Japan is the fascist regime that this guy says it is, I fully expect him to be arrested any day now.

I'm getting tired of people constantly making Hitler or Nazi references whenever they criticize a politician or a country they don't like.

Such an attitude only demeans and trivializes the suffering of the real victims of the real Nazis.

-5 ( +9 / -14 )

There is a large fanboy/fangirl base here for all things Nazi and Facism

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

@ Zichi

Dr. Debito Arudou and Jake Adelstein.

I personally know both these guys, especially Debito Arudou whom we belonged to the same organization of which he was an official in Hokkaido. Even then, he fought the good fight against discrimination. One of which was foreigners( especially Russians) being denied entry to onsens and sentos, they won. It's necessary for men of goodwill and conscience to call out evil wherever it occurs. Adelstein has lived in Japan for years and having worked as an investigative journalist, it goes without saying that he knows more about the Mr. Hyde side of Japan than, say , one who held a different job, he lived for it, if it's a Nazi-Stan and Nazistry he saw, that's what he should write about.

10 ( +16 / -6 )

If there's rising censorship why is the author allowed to publish his extreme comments?

Because the Daily Beast is US-based? Just a thought.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Jake Adelstein has to be taken with a lot of salt.

Theres truth in what he says, but this comment alone severely lacks context.

Its easy to bash Japan as a whole (or any nation) and to those who speak little Japanese and don’t know how things work here, yeah his insights are interesting.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Does not take much effort to "go native" work in construction, factories etc and remove yourself from some English teacher comfort zone, and you will see and experience exactly what Jake is talking about.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

Japan has many problems, and I think pointing them out is a sign of caring. People who don't care wouldn't bother. The easiest thing to do with the nuclear refugees is to forget about them. Likewise, the best thing to assume with Ghosn is to stick your head in the sand and assume that it could never happen to foreign-resident-in-Japan you. That you could never be couped up for six months without a charge.

As for the quote, the basic thrust of it, that Japan likes to flag-wave and is more eager to create a good impression than actually make improvements to people's lives, is definitely true. My favourite current example would be the Olympics, where we were given lots of bravado about Japan's world-leading hospitality but have since heard that the GB Paralympics team were asked to pay the cost of renovating their hotel to make it barrier-free. Some hotels are being converted to disability access for the games only and will be converted back afterwards, presumably at the taxpayer's expense. That's what o-mo-te-na-shi actually means.

fwiw, the examples Adelstein chooses to represent the hidden underbelly of Japan are not the ones I would have selected myself. The Hitler stuff is just some idle admiration of a perceived strongman based on a total ignorance of history. I see no moves to replicate the Nazi playbook. The country is opening up to foreigners, not imprisoning political opponents and poisoning people against the disabled, Jews, Romany or anyone else.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

@ wipeout

Is he less insufferable than he sounds?

Like most of us, some more than others, He's averse to injustice, but meet him and he's one of the coolest guys you ever met, highly intelligent and with lots of conviction. I guess him being a foreigner married to a Japanese he must have been wanting to put things straight NOT for himself, but for all those who are voiceless, even for future generations.

As human beings , we all have some rough edges, and when one points out your mistakes, it's just that they're trying to make you smoother, help you become a better you. I have read Arudo's glowing ode to Japan too, surprised ? Everytime you put yourself ahead of others, as Japan tends to, It's those behind you who OBSERVE you keenlier, they know when you stumble, hit a bump e.t.c. Japan shouldn't complain.

5 ( +13 / -8 )

Don't be shy, tell me what you really think.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Poverty is Japan. About 1-1.5 million people living below the poverty level

In October 2009, Japan's Labor Ministry released a report which stated that almost one in six Japanese, which would be 22 million people, lived in poverty, in 2007.

In 2013, the Japanese government recorded relative poverty rates of 16%.

According to the Nippon Foundation, the child poverty rate in Japan stood at 13.9% in 2015.

According to a Unicef report released in April 2016, Japan has some of the worst wealth inequality and highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. The report ranked Japan 34th out of 41 industrialised countries.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Just another attention-seeking Japan-hater. Sure your country is free of problems, it's land of endemic wealth and zero plutocracy in power.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

He doesn't mention father's rights to see their children. That is the worst thing I have witnessed first hand in Japan.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Jake who? Exactly. We already know these things, and as with other places, we know of faults, issues, problems and things that need resolving. Japan, like other nations, countries and kingdoms is not perfect.

As for the “poverty” angle that some people are woefully under playing: The OECD places Japan just below the U.S.A., which has a 17.3% poverty measure, statistics indicate that U.S.A. has been cutting down on poverty, by a 0.7% decrease since 1985. There are lots of poor people in Japan, way over 1 to 1.5 million people. Way over. Japan has some of the worst wealth inequality and highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, according to a Unicef report released in April 2016 that ranked Japan 34th out of 41 industrialised countries.

Take those rose tinted glasses off.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Oh boy, here we go again. I thought the point of Japan Today was to print news stories, not give a voice to one guy who has had a few bad experiences and decided to condemn an entire country upon those experiences. That seems a little racist, don't you think? A couple of bad eggs are not indicative of the nature of the entire nation. that's like saying that all Americans are gun-loving, press-hating maniacs, or that all North Koreans are despot lunatics aiming to plunge the world into nuclear war.

Jake: take a chill pill. Please. The Reiwa era has barely just begun, give it a chance to actually get rolling before talking as if you can see future. You can't. No-one can. Japan changed a heck of a lot during the Heisei era, and I'm sure that people were just as critical at the start of that too. They were proven wrong, in time you will be too. Getting your knickers in a twist and being sensationalist isn't helpful in any way, shape or form.

So much for Beautiful Harmony.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

"Poverty" as used for Japan and other advanced countries is "relative poverty" (household disposable income less than half the national median income adjusted for family size), not "absolute poverty" (a condition where household income is below a necessary level to maintain basic living standards (food, shelter, housing).

Japan has a relatively high national median income. Even half that national income is still relatively high by overall world standards.

There was a flap over a NHK program on that took up a single-mother "family in poverty" in Japan. Many viewers found it odd that the daughter had a new iPhone.

Because poverty in Japan is measured in terms of households, there are two factors pushing up the poverty rate that make it appear worse than it really is.

As the percentage of pensioners in the population increases, the percentage of low income households increases. Such households can be asset rich but income poor. (Some are, of couse, asset poor and income poor.)

Another factor is fewer three generation families. Suppose you have a three generation family with an income of 130 with 100 for the parental generation and 30 for the live in grandparents. Then, the grandparents decide they want to live by themselves. You now have one household with an income of 100 and one household with an income of 30.

This phenomenon is known to have a substantial impact on Japanese income distribution statistics. It does not explain all of the growth in inequality but together with ageing explains a lot.

Cross national comparisons of relative poverty do not take into account transfer payments (aka welfare), subsidies, and cost of living.

Japan has relatively low cost medical services. The US has extremely high cost medical services.

University fees are relatively low in Japan but extremely high in the US.

Daycare in Japan is relatively inexpensive in Japan and what you pay is based on your income. The US has no national daycare system.

Subsidized public housing is available through Japan and unlike the US, such housing projects are not crime ridden ghettos.

All of this is not to say that Japan has no poverty problem and no income distribution problem but the issues in Japan are far less serious than in the US and far less serious than Jake Adelstein claims.

Finally, I would note that all of these issues predate Abe and the LDP. They are long run secular trends. At most he can be blamed for not coming up with effective counter measures.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

zichiMay 5 11:47 am JST

Poverty is Japan. About 1-1.5 million people living below the poverty level

Above posters have addressed this.

Regardless of the "relativity of poverty" and making comparisons (eg. poor people have smartphones in Cambodia), tens of millions are doing it tough here. No doubt about it. Supported by facts.

Close friend who is a family court counsellor has told me of just a few of the many distressing stories (anon of course) she deals with - stories that defy the rosy image of "Alls Well".

7 ( +12 / -5 )

I thought the point of Japan Today was to print news stories

Well, the name alone would imply it's more than that. It's about Japan... Today. Like him or not (I don't particularly), this guy is a name in Japan.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Jake Adelstein

Never believe anything this guy says. Just read his books, over sensationalised and half truths. I don't know why people him his a platform.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Close friend who is a family court counsellor has told me of just a few of the many distressing stories (anon of course) she deals with

Indeed, and if you speak to someone with a similar job in the US or the UK, you will get similar stories.

Never believe anything this guy says. Just read his books, over sensationalised and half truths.

I tried reading his Tokyo Vice. I couldn't get through it. Just when he seemed to be going good, he'd say something that I knew to be patently false.

He just put out a version of his Daily Beast article in Japanese.


A good first start but two problems. (1) It just repeats criticisms of Abe and the LDP that Japanese who do not like Abe and the LDP make all the time. (2) He offers no strategy for getting quit of the LDP and Abe.

Criticism without a workable strategy that would lead to a better, more progressive government does absolutely nothing to advance his stated goal of "improving" Japan.

-7 ( +8 / -15 )

Adelstein's intemperate rhetoric can be taken with as much salt as you like, but something IS rotten in the state of Japan, which would be visible to all but the self-deluded were Japan's Fourth Estate to put a bulb in their spotlight and turn it on the LDP-led ruling elite whose well concealed corruption and conspiracies the majority of Japanese could never imagine or conceive.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The long, tired parade of deny, deflect and "shoot the messenger" staggers on....

I thought the point of Japan Today was to print news stories

Some of them, yes. Ones like this, not so much:


5 ( +11 / -6 )

You can't disagree with each of the individual items on Adelstein's list above. You must realize, however, that in presenting the items as he's done, in a long list of grievances, it creates an emotional reaction in the reader.

I've read Tokyo Vice and a number of Adelstein's articles, and I've always thought what he writes, while enjoyable reading, needs to be taken with a grain of salt exactly because of how he writes.

Yes, Japan has all of these problems. All regular news readers should be aware of these exact things in the Adelstein quote. As individual news items. Lumping them all together for a quick soundbite though, isn't sound journalism. Rather it's sensationalism.

And if you don't believe me, google this: The Religious Cult Secretly Running Japan by Jake Adelstein

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Adelstein's intemperate rhetoric can be taken with as much salt as you like, but something IS rotten in the state of Japan, which would be visible to all but the self-deluded were Japan's Fourth Estate to put a bulb in their spotlight and turn it on the LDP-led ruling elite whose well concealed corruption and conspiracies the majority of Japanese could never imagine or conceive.

Jake and the English language pundits get virtually all their material from Japanese sources. Jake in particular draws heavily on one of the Japanese weekly magazines for his yakuza stories. On his Twitter feed he often cites the Sankei as a source. Also the Asahi. The tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai and the Tokyo Shinbun regularly have stories that make claims similar to those of Jake although the rhetoric is not so flamboyant.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

bullfighterToday 08:34 am JST

Close friend who is a family court counsellor has told me of just a few of the many distressing stories (anon of course) she deals with

Indeed, and if you speak to someone with a similar job in the US or the UK, you will get similar stories.

Thanks for your reply.

So true - BUT we're talking about Japan here, hence I made the cryptic remark that poor Cambodians have smartphones = not relevant.

The initial comment made by zichi was erroneous, stating Japan's "relative" poverty as perhaps only 10% of what it really is. Yongyang's reference to OECD, UNICEF etc reports confirm this.

The millions in 1 parent households doing it tough would easily eclipse the first mentioned national figures.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Well QUICK, you should LEAVE Japan, right away!

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Try NOT hanging out with the dregs of society for once, Jake. It sounds like you could use a break.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

All of those during Abe administration, it sounds familiar...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The millions in 1 parent households doing it tough would easily eclipse the first mentioned national figures.

The latest figures I could find for one parent households is 1.2 million in 2015. Let's add 100,000 for upward creep since then and say 1.3 million. Assume that each household has two kids although this is probably on the high side. That's 2.6 million kids. Assume half of the households are in relative poverty. That 1.3 million kids. Figures published say there are now 15.33 million kids in Japan under 15 (the usual age cutoff for talking about "children" in this context).

This would suggest that 8.4% of all children are in single parent households below the relative poverty line. There is, of course, the issue of children in two parent households below the relative poverty line.

This not something to be proud off but all social indicators need to be benchmarked. When it is said that Japan has a "low birth rate" this is inherently a matter of comparison with other countries. When people complain about criminal justice in Japan, they complain in terms of what they imagine the situation to be elsewhere.

I see no justification for making comparisons that show Japan only in a bad light or only in a good light.

The claims made by Jake Adelstein and others of his ilk are implicitly comparative. I want hard data from a range of other wealthy countries whether such data makes Japan look good or bad.

And, I want to those comparisons to be based on reality vs reality comparisons, not reality vs ideal comparisons.

If you have a better estimate or census of the number of children single family households below the relative poverty line in Japan, please post them. My calculation may well be off.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Bullfighter - thankyou.

I'm at lunch so no time to search, but I believe you can find the data on the Govts (ministry) own site, which I'm sure indicates the number.

And by households - that includes adults as well as children. I didn't mention only children.

And I agree as I stated before - comparisons with other countries poverty levels are rife with faults, so we should just concentrate on what is the situation in Japan. If that realizes a not-so-positive picture, so be it.

Veiling reality never solved anything.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Actually, I feel for Jake. Married to a Japanese wife, permanent resident in Japan.

Wife lives in Missouri, Jake still lives in Japan.

And, I actually feel for many of the foreigners/ex-pats in Japan. I am extremely fortunate in that my wife moved here (the States) rather than vice versa. I have no doubt that being a Japanese in America is FAR better than being a Gaijin in Japan.

For men, who are probably 95% of the commenters on this thread: no matter what you do in Japan, you'll never (a) make a ton of money and (b) get a huge promotion within a Japanese-based company because of your gaijin status. Throw in the fact that there are some mind-numbingly stupid business practices in Japan and you're stuck: cannot divorce your wife since you'll never see your kids again, but since you're a gaijin, you cannot make enough money to make your wife (and her family) happy.

And, perhaps the worst thing about all of it is this: no matter how bad things get in Japan, the need for 'wa' overrules everything and the frustration can only grow since you're a gaijin, you cannot possibly understand the intricacies of Japan's society - or at least you're told.

Jake's penchant for hyperbole is his undoing here.

Probably a better way would be to say this:

Japan is the largest country in the world to experience a shrinking population. The number of sexless Japanese (a necessary antecedent to population increases) is astonishingly high and yet...nothing. Seriously, nothing. Why? Because the need for honest, potentially controversial dialogue is so distasteful for Japanese people that they would probably rather see their country die a slow death than to disrupt the current 'wa'.

6 ( +15 / -9 )



Oh, were you serious?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@ Muratafan

You nailed it !!

And, I , for one, and am sure it echoes in many people, do accept that there will always be differences among individuals and societies. Heck, families too have them ! but more than anything, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. , T.O.L.E.R.A.N.C.E and E.Q.U.A.L.I.T.Y in law are necessary ingredients in making a cohesive society. Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Finland e.t.c are countries which could receive lots of flack too, but they don't. We have Japanese in many foreign countries, some of whose descendants have become presidents ( Peru) and big honchos in the US and elsewhere, and they are doing well. Why Japan ? What does it mean to be human here ? Is " Live and let live " such a lofty subject for the Japanese ?

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

An extended comment about the article, but through the back door of comments-about-comments.  The mandelbrot set of human psychology is spiraling, and I am beginning to see a few patterns along the rough edges of those comments.  But first, to blunt the predictable, pre-emptive ad-hominen attacks, I will briefly describe the eye of this beholder.  

Born in Germany, raised in the U.S., I have lived in Japan for 36 consecutive years — more than half my life — and though I am not kanji literate, not a citizen, nor have I married and made my own family … I do consider Japan my home. 

As an applied linguist with an undergrad in biology (particularly, the philosophy of science), all of my professional career has been spent in Japan. And though not Japanese literate beyond a menu or street sign, I do have a high level of conversational fluency … maybe hanging out too much with Japanese fishermen and guitarists for so long … which might go a long way towards explaining the hypocrisy of a kanji-illiterate applied linguist.  Actually, I was more of a communication-facilitator / researcher, with liberal arts values.

After jumping through enough academic hoops, I finally achieved tenure (Jissen Women’s College), but resigned at the height of my skills some ten years later  … in protest of institutionally sanctioned racist policies.  That was 4 years ago, and now at 63, in between volunteer activities (supporting the homeless through a local NPO, 3 time volunteer - preliminary judge at Tokyo University’s All Japan English Speech Contest, etc.), I have been reduced to only occasionally snagging an odd-job here and there … though not enough to keep up my rent.  

But even if the Japanese legal system or institutions do not empower me to sustain myself much less flourish, at least I survive (for now) thanks to a small community of Japanese friends.  With a couple of notable exceptions, my best friends are all Japanese.

Looking at my past, growing up in the states, those friends are temperamentally similar to the kind of people I hung out with in college … empathy-driven, family-community minded, on the somewhat altruistic end of the spectrum — as opposed to those who tend to gravitate towards competition to distinguish and distance themselves from the masses or the marginalized.  And for those on the dark side of the fence, what a true meritocracy (if such a beast exits) can not achieve, such ‘dark-triad’ types have few qualms about exploiting legal loopholes or selectively creating or using traditions as post-hoc justifications for an ‘all’s fair in love and war’ mentality.  Truly, man is less a rational beast, than a rationalizing one.

But such extreme ends of the spectrum of human behavior can be found in all nation-states.  I have triangulated this insight through several volunteer activity trips to rural Cambodia, finding the urban centers more driven my exploitive morality, and rural areas more by collaborative impulses.  I think a lot of research on social primate behavior by the likes of Frans de Waal, or even studies of the stress on mice when placed under high population stress, can be extrapolated to similar observations about human nature, as well as myself — just another social primate on the last legs of his blood-line.  Which brings me back to commenting on the article through reactions to the article.  

Among the patterns I see in the rough edges of emergent behavior in comments — include something about human psychology, in particular, a split between those more driven by the Dunning-Kruger effect — waxing eloquent or simply trolling on what they don’t know, or not even knowing that they don’t know … and The Imposter Syndrome — understatement, if not silence, regarding trust in their own observations about the dark side of human nature in large-scale populations — in Japan, or anywhere.

I have met Arudo Debito, read his book, and occasionally read his posts and share comments with him, and post some of his links on Quora (my homepage under the name ‘Steven Martin’).  And though I am aware of Adelstein, I am not familiar with his work.  But aware enough to know they both have a kind of education and first hand experience which compels me to judiciously sift through and learn what I can from their life narratives, if nothing else, to understand how my own imminent end has come to pass.  They have their flaws, as do I.  But that does not excuse them, or anyone, from the obligations of an educated and morally autonomous (mature) social primate to empower the marginalized and hold authority accountable.  To those ends, I applaud both men at having given a far better go of it than myself. 

To those ends, Japan, like all countries has its fair share of those driven to empower the marginalized and protect the weak.  In fact, at the community and individual level, I’d say ‘Japan’ does at least as well as most of the world.  Where they tend to have a problem is in holding authority accountable. Institutionalized authority’s increasingly brazen manipulation of the populace, for the sake of institutionalized authority, is as gut-wrenching as what has been unfolding in America, and arguably more sustained, pernicious, and effective.  Enough to make me question whether the entire notion of the historically recent nation-state can be both humane and sustainable.

For example, the illusion of ‘wa’, (harmony), like ‘The American Dream’, is demonstrably an historically recently manufactured lie … uh … ‘tradition’, not so different from ‘capitalist in all but name’ China’s resurrection of Confucianism as a justification for maintaining the hierarchical status quo.  For those with more than a twitter length attention span and interest, I highly recommend “Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan (Twentieth Century Japan: The Emergence of a World Power)”

And circling back to commenting on the article and the comments, by observing myself … I am Japanese illiterate and likely to remain so.  My life’s narrative has verified that communicative competency alone is not enough to insure an accumulation of social capital for ethnic minorities in Japan.  I would rather spend my final days practicing jazz arpeggios on the guitar, or spending Golden Week camping in the mountains with a community of friends supporting the severely handicapped.  Better that than tilting at the vested-interest windmills of Japan Inc.

I know I will not change any hearts or minds with this post.  Dunning-Kruger and Imposter Syndrome are far more salient than my modest rhetorical skills or the purpose of this stage.  It is more of a therapeutic response on my part … but one which consciously tries to not distinguish ’self’ from ‘other’ in just another zero-sum game.

If nothing else, for the sake of marginalized Japanese, more voices such as those of Adelstein and Debito should be given a forum in Japan … and in several languages.  With Japan Inc.’s growing dependence on a migrant labor force to shore up the tax-funded national health care and pension system, I hope Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipino languages are given more of a platform than Line or Google Translate.

If nothing else, than because the dysfunctions of the nation-state of Japan might be the canary in the coal mine for nation states everywhere.  One example is how both China and Japan are rushing head-long for a cashless society under the guise of convenience, but without the debate as to what authoritarians are gaining at the expense of individual human autonomy.  Even the smallest would-be blooming entrepreneur, or taking English classes at a ma and pa school, will be completely exposed to the authorities managing those cashless exchanges … the same authorities who are further empowered though corporate tax-breaks and loopholes, further distancing the haves from the have-nots … until it all comes tumbling down.

If nothing else, then for even short-term sustainability of our species. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZbW7lvGkuA&feature=youtu.be

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I have no doubt that being a Japanese in America is FAR better than being a Gaijin in Japan.

Dont quite know how to reply to that...depends on the Japanese person I guess. Some of them never assimilate, others embrace the individualism and freedom...initially, only to become homesick latter. Some return to Japan bitter, and become even more nationalistic or discover Shintoism (I met a Japanese woman who became a fanatic about Shintoism after having lived abroad)

And I have met a few Japanese who completely changed after having lived in the U.S. They couldnt re adapt to Japan, and were constantly looking for somebody to reconnect with. Interesting experiences.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Well, there's a version of the article in Japanese with lots of links to Japanese materials embedded. And in the original article, not the quote, you can find links to other articles backing up what is written. It's not sensational journalism if it's true.

Watch the video of Abe and his former Minister of Justice from 2012--it's mentioned in the Daily Beast article and then ask yourself if the author seems crazy or the LDP seems crazy. Of course if you don't believe Japanese people should have basic human rights, pacifism, or popular sovereignty , which seems to be the position of Abe and his cabinet--then there's nothing wrong at all.


7 ( +10 / -3 )

does anyone who has been in Japan for the last decade really believe it has gotten better?

it seems awfully clear to me that the moment abe came around the nation became more hateful, the government started actively suppressing the media, destroyed relations with Korea within about a year and with China about the same.

New laws designed to track and trace foreigners were enacted. new laws to enable slave labor by foreign workers were enacted and then utilized to conduct the nuclear waste cleanup.

term limits for a sitting party member were removed. people who don't use. computers were appointed as cyber security ministers. Olympic ministers bashed victims of the earthquake.

taxes will double. the proceeds were. promised to Fukushima but they have not and never will see any of it. the peaceful constitution will be abolished - despite the current one not limiting the size of the defence force, nor the capability. solely for the purpose of being able to conduct military operations outside of Japan.

the number of children is at an all time low. the politicians told women that they should do their job of producing babies more diligently.

the government pushes desperately to increase inflation at any cost yet wages have not increased in a decade.

excuse me, are things really getting better? if so I do not see it. things were better when I first arrived than they are now. abe is at the root of it. he is the worst thing to happen to japan since ww2. the damage he has done and is doing will affect us for decades. things have not gotten better and as long as he is around I don't think they will.

12 ( +18 / -6 )

He went straight for the jugular on this quote. If I hadn't read his book I would think he was just one of the normal posters here. LOL!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"I have no doubt that being a Japanese in America is FAR better than being a Gaijin in Japan."

OK, this quote raises some interesting points for me. First of all, it compares apples and oranges. Just like every other nonsensical comparison between the United States and Japan, two countries that have precious little in common. But it is well-known that the United States is home to a small but influential community of high-earning, overachieving Asia-born migrants and their descendants (specifically, people with roots in China, India, Korea, Japan, and increasingly Vietnam). For these people in the U.S., attending an Ivy League university and then moving on to lucrative careers in business, medicine, law, or finance is just taken for granted.

Japan does not have a comparable minority of overachieving non-Japanese, foreign-born Asians and their descendants. What does this mean, that Japan is less tolerant and welcoming? Not really. What most people don't understand about the Asian community in the United States is that it is elite by design. During the Cold War, the U.S. liberalized its previously discriminatory immigration laws for reasons that were strategic. The whole point was to counter the influence in the "Third World" of the Soviet Union by permitting small numbers of highly educated Asians to enter the U.S. and make the country look less racist overall. Among U.S. allies, the only ones pressured to follow suit were fellow white-majority settler countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand). Other U.S. allies like Britain actually adopted more restrictive immigration policies at the height of the Cold War (e.g. ending the free entry of Indians, as Commonwealth country citizens, into the UK by the early 1960s).

Japan was a subordinate ally of the U.S. during the Cold War. American officials never cared about the fact that Japan was an apparently homogeneous society that didn't welcome outsiders. That was never an issue. Japan (and also South Korea) had only one job during the Cold War: Achieve rapid economic growth to discredit the communist-based economies of China and North Korea. Both countries did that job well.

To this day, there is no real strategic rationale for Japan to become home to a small community of world-beating non-Japanese Asian professionals as the U.S. did from the 1960s and 1970s.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@Bullfighter. Agree with you on many points. I worked in Japan for over a decade and could not have achieved the same level of worldly success as I did there. Upon return to the US, kept sending out resumes for 1.5 years until I finally found something. Though I am thankful each day for my life here in the US, I am forever thankful for my time in Japan and will always hope for the best for Japan.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Well, that is the cold hard truth, isn't it?

3 ( +8 / -5 )

abe is at the root of it. he is the worst thing to happen to japan since ww2. the damage he has done and is doing will affect us for decades. things have not gotten better and as long as he is around I don't think they will.

This should have a thousand likes

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Speed May 4 07:29 am JST

Adelstein spot on with this. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks this.

You're nowhere near the only one. I agree with this statement 100%

4 ( +9 / -5 )


0 ( +3 / -3 )

I've never heard of Jake Adelstein, but he sounds like a self-promoting numpty who has a seriously big axe to grind. Yes, Japan has problems, but so does his own country. Most countries have problems. I think someone has pee'd him off about something and he's just gone off on one.

Some journos are all about writing sensational stuff like this just to keep their name out there, and not be swallowed by the rest of the hacks writing in their daily rags. Opinion pieces are just that, an opinion. They don't rely on facts, but on the writer's own views and prejudices. If someone has a bad day, they vent their spleen. This bloke seems to have had a really bad day.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

@ Bullfighter

There are very few “Japanese” (as in immigrants from Japan) who have achieved prominence outside of Japan. Most who have achieved prominence are 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation.

Wouldn't "Descendants" mean 2nd,3rd, or 4th generations too ?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

JimiMay 4  11:46 pm JST

@reckless spot on observation, i have noticed this over the years.. the biggest nationalists are the japanese who have lived overseas and come back with a chip on their shoulder..

They don't have a chip on their shoulder, they see now what is wrong with Japan compared to other places. There are also a lot of young Japanese who have gone overseas and will not come back. (according to their parents )

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@MASS, about ten comments up, re: your theory about Japan not pacing the U.S. in Asian immigrant overachievers. Just going with a few famous examples, the counter-argument for Momofuku Ando (Nisshin food company founder), Masayoshi Son (Softbank founder), Renho (DPJ lawmaker) or Sadaharu Oh (baseball) achieving more in Japan than if their families had moved to the U.S. is pretty good. Have their counterparts in the U.S. really been more influential? Maybe Nikki Haley is like an American GOP-maverick version of Renho, but signing on to work for Trump at the UN and then quitting after a year or two was not amazingly impressive.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So, an American living in Japan complaining about the country being run by Hitler-loving plutocrats? That's a bit rich given the orange mess currently inhabiting the White House, isn't it? Phycisian, heal thyself...


1 ( +7 / -6 )

Finally someone sharing the same thought with me, no different with the communist regime except with a voting system that are also hapless.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I'm not saying what Jake said is true or untrue, but I will say this ...

The wests subjective view of how society should work isn't as ethically pure and egalitarian as one would believe. There are reasons why many people, including myself, who use to identify as centre-left are now gradually shifting to the centre-right: there are many problems and flaws because progressive idealism is built on subjective rather than objective views.

Japan isn't the United States, and quite frankly I don't want it to be anything like United States.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

no different with the communist regime except with a voting system that are also hapless.

You obviously don’t know what a communist regime is.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Adelstein is a troll who ought to be ignored. He became famous about a decade ago with the publication of his book Tokyo Vice, but in the years since it appears he decided to parlay his fame into trolling with ridiculous quotes like the one above.

Saying things you do not like does not make you a troll. Adelstein has been through enough to see how Japan works, from the appalling handling of the Lucy Blackman case.

Japan's corruption and inability to change can be seen everywhere. With remarkable self-reflection, the Fukushima disaster was labelled as a self-made disaster:

"What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program'; our groupism; and our insularity." [Kiyoshi Kurokawa]

But if a non-Japanese points out traits common to Japan, they are denounced as a troll. Yet following the identification of the issues that led to the world's 2nd largest nuclear disaster, what has changed or what initiatives are there to drive change? None that I can see. People still die from over-work, despite Japan being the least productive developed nation. Attempts to cut down on working hours are laughable. Teachers still get away with abuse. The Justice system is clearly backward and the Japanese state/establishment has way too much power.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Yeah right, this guy has been permanently discredited for poor journalism, sensationalism, and even pure fake facts, as shown by that link in the comments showing he is unprofessional. He has as much credibility as an English teacher in Japan, and is spurned even by American journalists. This can be dismissed out of hand as rubbish.

How dare Japan not become more like Trump's America or Brexit Britain! They are the epitome of progressive development and "morality" right?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This can be dismissed out of hand as rubbish.

Actually, there is plenty of evidence to back up his comments. For example:

continual death by overwork

Cgheck - an ongoing national scandal, associated internationally with Japan and only Japan. Even readers of foreign newspapers will have come across the work 'karoshi'.

a corrupt bureaucracy

Check (e.g. the Aso school land-sale affair and countless other examples of bribery and corruption)

a medieval justice system.

Check - detention without charge, de facto presumption of guilty until proven innocence, reliance upon guilty pleas (the latter is particularly medieval - traditionally no one could be punished without a confession).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Got rid of your venom?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Usually you will find in life, when you tell or discover the truth, about how things really are, you will get lots of hate. Where there is hate, I find truth. Sunshine and praises always indicate something else. Japan has taught me this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Since this is in English, it will have no impact in Japan among Japanese. How about translating this into Japanese and seeing what the reaction is. No, that would take courage.

He put a much toned down version in Japan on his website.


I searched on his name in Japanese. Despite claiming he criticises Japan because he "loves Japan", he has written almost nothing in Japanese that carries his name. It is not obvious to me how bad-mouthing Japan in The Daily Beast in English will lead to improvement in Japan.

I have suggested to him several times that if he wants to improve Japan he (1) should write in Japanese; (2) naturalise and vote; (3) run for election.

With more than a decade of experience writing for the Yomiuri in Japanese, he should have no difficulty doing (1) at the very least.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Poor old Jake. Looks like he's next on the Sankei Shimbun Japan Heil hitlist after Professor Jeff Kingston. Yet another internet hate campaign coming right up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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