Debito Arudou

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Debito Arudou
Debito Arudou in 2014
Born David Christopher Schofill
(1965-01-13) January 13, 1965 (age 50)
California, USA
Nationality Japanese
Alma mater Cornell University (B.A.) 1987, University of California, San Diego (M.A.) 1991, Meiji Gakuin University (Ph.D.) 2014[1]
Known for Human Rights Activism
Home town Geneva, New York[2]
Spouse(s) Ayako Sugawara (divorced)

Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito?, born David Christopher Schofill on 13 January 1965) is an American-born Japanese author, columnist, and activist for foreign-born rights in Japan, having become naturalized as a Japanese citizen as an adult. He has been an instructor of English language at Hokkaido Information University.


Early life[edit]

Arudou was born David Christopher Schofill[3] in California in 1965.[4] He was raised in Geneva, New York,[5] and became "David Christopher Aldwinckle" when his stepfather adopted him in the 1970s.[3] He graduated Cornell University in 1987,[6] dedicating his senior year to studying Japanese after visiting his pen pal and future wife in Japan.[7][8][9] Aldwinckle moved to Japan for one year where he taught English in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and later spent one year at the Japan Management Academy in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, before returning to complete a Masters of Pacific International Affairs (MPIA) from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).[10]

Arudou joined a small Japanese trading company in Sapporo. He contends that he was the object of racial harassment in this job.[4] Rather than formally resign, Aldwinckle said he chose to be terminated by the company to receive unemployment insurance benefits.[4] In 1993, Arudou joined the faculty of Business Administration and Information Science at the Hokkaido Information University, a private university in Ebetsu, Hokkaido, where he taught courses in business English and debate. He was an associate professor until 2011 when he left the university.[11]

Family and Japanese naturalization[edit]

Aldwinckle married Ayako Sugawara in 1987 and they have two daughters. Aldwinckle has described one as "viewed as Japanese because of her looks" and the other as "relegated to gaijin (foreigner) status, same as I" over their physical appearances.[12]

Aldwinckle became a permanent resident of Japan in 1996 and a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2000, whereupon he changed his name to Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito?).[13] 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?)[9] — a combination of his wife's Japanese surname and his new transliterated full name.[14]

Arudou petitioned the Japanese Family Court for a divorce in the spring of 2004, which was granted through court mediation in September 2006.[15]

As of 2012 Arudou was an Affiliate Scholar at the East–West Center.[16][dated info]


Arudou v. Earth Cure[edit]

The "Japanese only" sign at the Yunohana Onsen, as it originally appeared in 1999

Arudou objected to the policies of three bathhouses in Hokkaido, Japan, in the late 1990s that had posted "No Foreigners" or "Japanese Only" signs on their doors.[17] He was ultimately one of three plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit against the Yunohana Onsen (owned by parent company Earth Cure) in Otaru, Hokkaido. 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,[18] Arudou led a multinational group of 17 people of various nationalities (United States, Chinese, German, and Japanese) to enter the bathhouse[17] and test the firmness of the "No Foreigners" policy posted on its door.[13]

These walk-ins were attempted twice.[17] 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 hot springs.[19]

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.[20]

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[21] and take their business elsewhere.[9]

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.[22] The court stated that "categorically refusing all foreigners constitutes irrational discrimination, exceeds social norms, and amounts to an illegal act."[13] The Sapporo District and High Courts both dismissed Arudou's claim against the city of Otaru for not creating an anti-discrimination ordinance.[23] It stated that "issues such as which measures to take, and how to implement them, are properly left to the discretion of Otaru."[17] The Sapporo High Court upheld these rulings on September 16, 2004,[24] and the Supreme Court of Japan denied review on April 7, 2005.[23]

Secret Files of Foreigners' Crimes[edit]

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).[25] The magazine highlighted alleged crimes committed by foreigners. Arudou, calling the magazine "ignorant propaganda",[26] 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".[27] Arudou posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores protesting the sale of the magazine.

Other protests[edit]

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).[28] 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,[29] 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.[30] Arudou's demonstration was featured in major media, including the Asahi Shimbun[31] and Newsweek Japan.[32]

In June 2008, Arudou lodged a complaint with the Hokkaido Prefectural Police, claiming that its officers were targeting foreigners as part of a security sweep prior to the 34th G8 summit in Tōyako, Hokkaido.[33] 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.[34]

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.[35] 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?'"[36] 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."[37]

Arudou was described by The Washington Post as emerging "as the Outraged Man, tilting at uncomfortable truths about Japanese racial discrimination",[38] as the “quintessential indefatigable civil rights campaigner” by the The International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun,[39] as an "outspoken man that rejects the notion that there's one Japanese way of doing anything" by National Public Radio,[40] and (self-deprecatingly) as a “loudmouth with an Internet connection” by himself.[41]

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 are difficult to deal with".[42]


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.[43] 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."[44]

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.[45]Handbook came out in 2012 in an updated 2nd Edition[46] and an ebook version in 2013.[43]

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.[47] He was also a columnist for the Japan Today[48] website and has been featured in The Asahi Evening News.[49][50]

In 2011, Arudou self-published via 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."[51]

Arudou has published twice in Fodor's Japan Travel Guide, in 2012[52] (Hokkaido Chapter) and 2014 (Hokkaido and Tohoku Chapters).[53] He has also published academic papers in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus[54] and other peer-reviewed journals in the interdisciplinary field of Asia-Pacific Studies, and has contributed chapters to academic books published by Akashi Shoten (Tokyo)[55] and Springer.[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]. Editorial statement by The Japan Times, 04 June 2014
  2. ^ Brooke, James (2004-05-12). "LETTER FROM ASIA; Foreigners Try to Melt an Inhospitable Japanese City". The New York Times (Sapporo). Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  3. ^ a b Arudou, Debito. "Holiday Tangent: My Schofill family roots include Cherokee and lots of American South skeletons". Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  4. ^ a b c Arudou, Debito. "A Bit More Personal Background on Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle". Archived from the original on 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  5. ^ Arudou, Debito. "Building a House in Japan: Credit and Chicanery". Retrieved 2011-09-07.  (Archive)
  6. ^ "Authors". Cornell Alumni Magazine Online (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Alumni Association) 107 (5). Mar–Apr 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-13.  (Archive)
  7. ^ Arudou, Debito (1997-09-27). "The Juuminhyou Mondai: What It Means to Be 'Legally Nonresident' in Our Country of Residence". Retrieved 2011-09-07.  (Archive)
  8. ^ Arudou, Debito. "Wife". Retrieved 2011-09-07.  (Archive)
  9. ^ a b c "French, Howard W. (2000-11-29). "Turning Japanese: It Takes More Than a Passport". The New York Times (Nanporo). Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  10. ^ A brief biographical sketch of Aldwinckle and other 1991 UCSD IR/PS alumni is available at the official university website. See: < Class of 1991>[dead link]. Retrieved on 2006-12-13.
  11. ^ "[2]" Hokkaido Information University. October 25, 2011. Retrieved on October 25, 2011.
  12. ^ Aldwinckle, David (1999-01-28). "Daughters". Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  13. ^ a b c Webster, Timothy (Summer 2008). "Arudou v. Earth Cure: Judgment of November 11, 2002 Sapporo District Court". Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal (University of Hawaii) 9 (297): 297–321. 
  14. ^ Arudou, Debito (1999-08-24). "What's in my Name? Japanese Naturalization Update". Retrieved 2011-09-07. 
  15. ^ Arudou, Debito (2006-12-02). "How to Get a Divorce in Japan". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  16. ^ "[3]". Editorial statement by The Japan Times, 07 February 2012
  17. ^ a b c d Webster, Timothy (Fall 2008). "Reconstituting Japanese Law: International Norms and Domestic Litigation". Michigan Journal of International Law (University of Michigan Law School) 30 (1). Retrieved 2011-08-29. 
  18. ^ Arudou 2004, pp. 14-29.
  19. ^ Arudou, Debito (2006). Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan. Tokyo: Akashi Shoten Inc. pp. 9–276. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  20. ^ Arudou, Debito (2004). Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan (1st edition ed.). Tokyo: Akashi Shoten, Inc. p. 23. ISBN 4-7503-2005-6. 
  21. ^ Arudou, Debito (2006). Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan. Tokyo: Akashi Shoten, Inc. pp. 272–276. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  22. ^ "THE WORLD; Japanese Court Ruling Favors Foreigners; Bathhouse must pay three men who were denied entry." Los Angeles Times. November 12, 2002.
  23. ^ a b Newswire (2005-04-07). "City Off the Hook for Bathhouse Barring of Foreigners". The Japan Times (Tokyo). Retrieved 2011-08-21.  According to the Sapporo High Court ruling, "The convention has only general, abstract provisions recommending appropriate measures to eliminate racial discrimination, and the Otaru government does not have any obligation to institute ordinances to ban such discrimination."
  24. ^ Kyodo (2004-09-16). "Court says city not remiss for letting bathhouse bar foreigners". Japan Economic Newswire (Sapporo). 
  25. ^ Biggs, Stuart; Kanoko Matsuyama (2007-02-07). "Japan Store Withdraws `Foreigner Crime File' Magazine". Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  26. ^ Ryall, Julian (2007-02-07). "JAPAN: Magazine's focus on crimes by foreigners sparks outrage". South China Morning Post (Tokyo). Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  27. ^ Arudou, Debito (March 20, 2007). "Gaijin Hanzai Magazine and hate speech in Japan.". The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  28. ^ Matsubara, Hiroshi (2003-02-23). "Foreigners seek same rights as seal". The Japan Times (Tokyo). Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  29. ^ Chapman, David (2007). Zainichi Korean Identity and Ethnicity 17. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-42637-5. [dead link]
  30. ^ Asahi Shinbun, 22 February 2003
  31. ^ ""Watashitachi nimo juminhyo o"". The Asahi Shimbun. 2003-02-22. Retrieved 2014-09-04. 
  32. ^ ""Zainichi Gaikokujin wa Tamachan ika?"". Newsweek Japan. 2003-03-05. p. 13. Retrieved 2014-09-04. 
  33. ^ Kyodo (2008-06-26). "G8 Summit 2008: Police questioning 'discriminatory'". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  34. ^ STV News. June 25, 2008.
  35. ^ Houpt, Simon (2009-08-21). "Dispatches from the World of Media and Advertising". The Globe and Mail (Canada). pp. B4. 
  36. ^ Yang, Jeff (2009-09-02). "McRacism in Japan?". San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco). Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  37. ^ Masters, Coco (2009-08-25). "Not Everyone Is Lovin' Japan's New McDonald's Mascot". Time Magazine (Tokyo). Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  38. ^ Struck, Doug (2003-07-04). "In Japan, U.S. Expat Fights the Yankee Way". Washington Post (Sapporo). Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  39. ^ Murphy, Paul (2002-11-23). "Profile: Crusader of Sapporo shrugs off threats in defiant push for change". The International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun. p. 33. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  40. ^ Anchor: Robert Siegel, Reporter: Eric Weiner (2003-07-03). "Naturalized Japanese citizen David Aldwinckle". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. All Things Considered.
  41. ^ Lev, Michael A. (2003-05-08). "Crusader-Citizen Takes on Japan". Chicago Tribune (Sapporo). Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  42. ^ McNicol, Tony (2005-10-25). "Japan sees beginning of change: Tony McNicol talks to 'Dogs & Demons' author Alex Kerr". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  43. ^ a b Arudou, Debito (2013). "Japanese Only 10th Anniversary Edition". Akashi Shoten Inc. Retrieved 2014-08-07. .
  44. ^ Kingston, Jeff (2005-01-30). "Bathhouse pushes a foreigner into the doghouse". The Japan Times (Tokyo). Retrieved 2011-08-19. [dead link]
  45. ^ Richie, Donald (2008-04-20). "Helping newcomers settle in Japan". The Japan Times (Tokyo). Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  46. ^ "Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan, Second Edition". Akashi Shoten Inc. 2013. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  47. ^ "Writer: Debito Arudou". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  48. ^ [4]". Japan Today columns archive, accessed 21 August 2014
  49. ^ Aldwinckle, David (July 7, 1996). "Intransigence bad for your health". Asahi Evening News. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  50. ^ Aldwinckle, David (April 27, 1997). "Dodger catch Nomo pitches no morals". Asahi Evening News. p. 6. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  51. ^ Kosaka, Kris (2011-07-31). "Literary sludge insults child abduction issue". The Japan Times (Tokyo). Retrieved 2011-08-15.  (Archive)
  52. ^ Arudou, Debito (2012). "Fodor's Japan Travel Guide". Random House Inc. pp. 5, 764, 876. Retrieved 2014-08-20. .
  53. ^ Arudou, Debito (2014). "Fodor's Japan Travel Guide". Random House Inc. pp. 5, 712, 758. Retrieved 2014-08-20. .
  54. ^ Arudou, Debito. "JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hotspring Case and Discrimination Against "Foreigners" in Japan". The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  55. ^ Arudou, Debito (2005). "『外国人』入店禁止という人種差別" [Banning "Foreigners" Entry is Racial Discrimination]. In Okamoto, Masaktaka. 日本の民 族差別 人種差別撤廃条約からみた課題 [Racial Discrimination in Japan: Issues Seen From the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination] (in Japanese). Tokyo: Akashi Shoten. pp. 218–229. ISBN 978-4750321394. 
  56. ^ Arudou, Debito (2012). "An introduction to Japanese society’s attitudes towards race and skin color". In Hall, Ronald E. The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as the 21st Century International Discourse. Springer. pp. 49–70. ISBN 978-9400746077. 

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