|Born||David Christopher Schofill
January 13, 1965
|Alma mater||Cornell University (B.A.) 1987, University of California San Diego (M.A.) 1991, Meiji Gakuin University (Ph.D.) 2014|
|Known for||Human Rights Activism|
|Home town||Geneva, New York|
Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito?) (born 13 January 1965) is a newspaper columnist, author, researcher, and activist with Japanese citizenship who was born and raised in the USA. Formerly a tenured associate professor of English as a foreign language at a Japanese university in Hokkaido, Japan, he was also an affiliate scholar at the East-West Center. He received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April 2014.
Arudou was born David Christopher Schofill in California in 1965. He was raised in rural Upstate New York (Geneva) in a 140-year-old 10-room cobblestone house on over 3 acres (1.2 ha) of land. In the 1970s he became 'David Christopher Aldwinckle when adopted by his stepfather. Describing his childhood and teenage years as a “horror story” characterized by “frequent parental physical and mental abuse, horrible breakups with girlfriends and consequent near nervous breakdowns,” Arudou saw himself as a “driven person—with the irrepressible urge to do whatever is necessary [to] get as far away as possible as quickly as possible.” He attended Cornell University, first visiting Japan as a tourist on invitation from Ayako Sugawara (菅原 文子 Sugawara Ayako?), his pen pal and future wife, for several weeks in 1986. Following this experience, he dedicated his senior year as an undergraduate to studying Japanese, graduating in 1987. Aldwinckle moved to Japan and taught English in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, for one year, then decided to return to university in the United States to study. He entered the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), but deferred from the program to return to Japan and spent one year at the Japan Management Academy in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture. Aldwinckle married Ayako Sugawara in 1989. In 1990, he returned to California to complete his Masters of Pacific International Affairs (MPIA), and received the degree in 1991.
Aldwinckle then joined a small Japanese trading company in Sapporo. He contends that in this job, he was the object of workplace harassment. Rather than formally resign, Aldwinckle said he chose to be terminated by the company in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits. In 1993, Aldwinckle joined the faculty of Business Administration and Information Science at the Hokkaido Information University, a private university in Ebetsu, Hokkaidō, teaching courses in business English and debate. He was an associate professor until 2011 when he left the university.
Aldwinckle became a permanent resident of Japan in 1996. He obtained Japanese citizenship in 2000, whereupon he changed his name to Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito?)--a "Japanese-sounding name" that is a "garbleization of his old name". To allow his wife and children to retain their Japanese family name, he adopted the legal name Arudoudebito Sugawara (菅原 有道出人 Sugawara Arudōdebito?) — a combination of his wife’s Japanese name and his new transliterated full name.
Family and divorce
Debito Arudou and Ayako Sugawara have two daughters. Arudou has described them as one being "viewed as Japanese because of her looks" and the other as "relegated to gaijin (foreigner) status, same as I" because of physical appearances. According to Arudou, when he took his family to the Yunohana Onsen, the establishment stated that they would allow one girl to enter the onsen but would have to refuse the other on the basis of their appearances.
Arudou petitioned the Japanese Family Court for a divorce in the spring of 2004, which was granted through court mediation in September 2006.
Arudou v. Earth Cure
Arudou objected to the policies of three bathhouses in Hokkaidō, Japan, in the late 1990s that had posted "No Foreigners" or "Japanese Only" signs on their doors. He was ultimately one of three plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit against the Yunohana Onsen (owned by parent company Earth Cure) in Otaru, Hokkaidō. Yunohana maintained a policy to exclude non-Japanese patrons; the business stated that it implemented the policy after inebriated and unruly Russian sailors scared away patrons from one of its other facilities. After reading an e-mail posted to a mailing list digest complaining of Yunohana's policy in 1999, Arudou led a multinational group of 17 people of various nationalities (United States, Chinese, German, and Japanese) to enter the bathhouse and test the firmness of the "No Foreigners" policy posted on its door.
These walk-ins were attempted twice. Between 1999 and 2001, Arudou stated that several participants attempted to negotiate with the bathhouses resulting in the removal of two exclusionary signs from Osupa and Panorama hotpsrings. Arudou returned to Yunohana in October 2000 for a third time as a naturalized Japanese citizen, but again was refused entry. The manager accepted that Arudou was a Japanese national, but refused him entry on the grounds that his foreign appearance could cause misunderstandings for their Japanese customers, who would assume that Yunohana was now admitting foreigners and take their business elsewhere.
Arudou and two co-plaintiffs, Kenneth Lee Sutherland and Olaf Karthaus, in February 2001 then sued Earth Cure in district court pleading racial discrimination, and the City of Otaru for violation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a treaty which Japan ratified in 1996. On November 11, 2002, the Sapporo District Court ordered Earth Cure to pay the plaintiffs ¥1 million each (about US$25,000 in total) in damages. The court stated that "categorically refusing all foreigners constitutes irrational discrimination, exceeds social norms, and amounts to an illegal act." The Sapporo District and High Courts both dismissed Arudou's claim against the city of Otaru for not creating an anti-discrimination ordinance. It stated that "issues such as which measures to take, and how to implement them, are properly left to the discretion of Otaru." The Sapporo High Court upheld these rulings on September 16, 2004, and the Supreme Court of Japan denied review on April 7, 2005.
Secret Files of Foreigners' Crimes
In February 2007, Arudou participated in a protest against an over-the-counter Japanese-language publication titled Kyōgaku no gaijin hanzai ura file - gaijin hanzai hakusho 2007 (Secret Files of Foreigners' Crimes). The magazine highlighted alleged crimes committed by foreigners. Arudou, calling the magazine "ignorant propaganda", argued that "[the magazine] fails the freedom of speech test because it a) willfully spreads hate, fear, and innuendo against a segment of the population, b) fortifies that by lacking any sort of balance in data or presentation, and c) offers sensationalized propaganda in the name of "constructive debate". Arudou posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores protesting the sale of the magazine.
In 2003, Arudou, along with several other long-term, non-Japanese residents dressed up as seals and formed a protest after Nishi Ward, Yokohama granted Tama-chan (a male Bearded Seal) an honorary jūminhyō (residency registration). The protesters said that if the government can grant jūminhyō to animals and fictional animation characters, as was the case in Niiza and Kasukabe Cities, Saitama Prefecture, then there was no need to deny foreign residents from having jūminhyō. At the time, non-Japanese residents were required to be registered in a separate alien registration system. Arudou's demonstration was featured in major media, including the Asahi Shimbun and Newsweek Japan.
In June 2008, Arudou lodged a complaint with the Hokkaidō Prefectural Police, claiming that its officers were targeting foreigners as part of a security sweep prior to the 34th G8 summit in Tōyako, Hokkaidō. This followed an incident where Arudou asserted his right under the Police Execution of Duties Law to not need to show identification when requested by a police officer at New Chitose Airport. After meeting with police representatives at their headquarters, Arudou held a press conference covered by a local television station.
In August 2009, Arudou—acting as the chair of FRANCA (the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association)—began a letter-writing campaign in protest of a promotional advertisement by McDonald’s Japan featuring a bespectacled, mildly geeky, 43-year-old American Japanophile known as “Mr. James”—a burger mascot who proclaims his love for the fast-food outlet in broken katakana Japanese. Writing in The Japan Times, Arudou argued that the “Mr. James” campaign perpetuates negative stereotypes about sensitive non-Japanese Caucasian minorities living in Japan, and demanded that McDonald’s Japan withdraw the advertisement: "Imagine McDonald’s, a multinational that has long promoted cultural diversity, launching a McAsia Menu in America featuring a deep-bowing, grimacing Asian in a bathrobe and platform sandals saying 'Me likee McFlied Lice!' or 'So solly, prease skosh honorable teriyaki sandrich?'" Time Magazine’s Coco Masters concluded: ”To protest Mr. James as a stereotype of a minority population in Japan because the Ohio native fails to speak or write Japanese fluently, dresses like a nerd and blogs about burgers only ends up underscoring the fact that there really aren't a lot of foreigners who fit the bill running around Japan.”
Arudou was described by the Washington Post as emerging "as the Outraged Man, tilting at uncomfortable truths about Japanese racial discrimination", as the “quintessential indefatigable civil rights campaigner” by the The International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun, as an "outspoken man [that]] rejects the notion that there's one Japanese way of doing anything" by National Public Radio, and (self-deprecatingly) as a “loudmouth with an Internet connection” by himself.
Alex Kerr has criticized Arudou for his "openly combative attitude", an approach that Kerr thinks usually "fails" in Japan and may reinforce the conservative belief "that gaijin (foreigners) are difficult to deal with".
Following two EFL textbooks — Can We Do Business: Introduction to Business English (1996, 2000); Speak Your Mind: Introduction to Debate (1996) — Arudou wrote a book about the 1999 Otaru hot springs incident. This was originally published in Japanese; an expanded English version, Japanese Only — The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (ジャパニーズ・オンリー―小樽温泉入浴拒否問題と人種差別 Japanīzu Onrī - Otaru Onsen Nyūyoku Kyohi Mondai to Jinshu Sabetsu?) (ISBN 4-7503-2005-6), was published in 2004, revised in 2006, with a 10th anniversary ebook in 2013. The book is listed in the Japan Policy Research Institute's recommended library on Japan. Jeff Kingston (Temple University Japan), in a review for The Japan Times, described the book as an "excellent account of his struggle against prejudice and racial discrimination."
Arudou's next book, published in 2008, was coauthored with Akira Higuchi (樋口 彰 Higuchi Akira?) and titled Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (ニューカマー定住ハンドブック?) (ISBN 4-7503-2741-7). This bilingual book provides information on visas, starting businesses, securing jobs, resolving legal problems, and planning for the future from entry into Japan to death. Donald Richie of The Japan Times said that out of the guides for new residents in Japan, Handbook was the fullest and consequently the best.Handbook came out in 2012 in an updated 2nd Edition and an ebook version in 2013.
Arudou has written a monthly column for the Community section of The Japan Times entitled Just Be Cause since 2008, and has contributed occasional opinion columns to the newspaper since 2002. He was also a columnist for the Japan Today news website and has been featured in The Asahi Evening News. 
In 2011, Arudou self-published via Lulu.com his first novella entitled In Appropriate: a novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan. The novella tells the story of an international marriage, culture shock, and child abduction. Book reviewer Kris Kosaka of The Japan Times panned the novella, stating that “Arudou's underwhelming style insults the seriousness of international child abduction, the literary form itself, and any reader expecting something more than sludge.”
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Debito Arudou|
- "Debito.org Publications Page"
- Patrick Rial, "Arudou: Angelic Activist or Devilish Demonstrator?," JapanZine (December 2005)
- Bathroom blues The Economist (February 8, 2001)
- Debito.org- Debito Arudou's website and blog