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Debito Arudou

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Debito Arudou
Debito Arudou in 2014
David Christopher Schofill

(1965-01-13) January 13, 1965 (age 56)
California, United States
Other namesDavid Christopher Aldwinckle, Sugawara Arudōdebito, Debito Beamer
Alma mater
Known forHuman rights activism

Debito Arudou (有道 出人, Arudō Debito, born David Christopher Schofill on 13 January 1965) is an American-born Japanese writer, blogger, and human rights activist. He was born in the United States and became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2000.


Early life and academic career[edit]

Arudou was born David Christopher Schofill[1] in California in 1965.[2] He was raised in Geneva, New York,[3] and became "David Christopher Aldwinckle" when his stepfather adopted him in the 1970s.[1] He graduated from Cornell University in 1987,[4] dedicating his senior year to studying Japanese after visiting his pen pal and future wife in Japan.[5] 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) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).[6]

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.[7] From 2012 to 2013, Arudou was an Affiliate Scholar at the East–West Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i.[8][9] Meiji Gakuin University awarded him a Doctorate in Philosophy (International Studies) in 2014.[10]

Family and Japanese naturalization[edit]

Aldwinckle married a Japanese citizen[5] in 1987[11] or 1989,[12] and they have two daughters.[5] Aldwinckle became a permanent resident of Japan in 1996. He became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2000, retaining dual nationality via a loophole[13] before relinquishing his US citizenship in 2002.[14] On becoming Japanese, he changed his name to Arudoudebito Sugawara (菅原 有道出人, Sugawara Arudōdebito), taking his wife's surname.[5] They divorced in 2006.[15]


Arudou v. Earth Cure[edit]

The "Japanese only" sign at the Yunohana Onsen, as it 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.[16] Arudou led a multinational group of 17 people of various nationalities (United States, Chinese, German, and Japanese) to enter the Yunohana bathhouse in Otaru[16] and test the firmness of the "No Foreigners" policy posted on its door.[17] The group attempted the walk-ins twice.[16] 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 drive Japanese customers to take their business elsewhere.[5]

In February 2001, Arudou and two co-plaintiffs, Kenneth Lee Sutherland and Olaf Karthaus, 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 in damages.[18] The court stated that "categorically refusing all foreigners constitutes irrational discrimination, exceeds social norms, and amounts to an illegal act".[17] The Sapporo District and High Courts both dismissed Arudou's claim against the city of Otaru for not creating an anti-discrimination ordinance.[19] It stated that "issues such as which measures to take, and how to implement them, are properly left to the discretion of Otaru".[16] The Sapporo High Court upheld these rulings on September 16, 2004,[20] and the Supreme Court of Japan denied review on April 7, 2005.[19]

Other protests[edit]

In 2003, Arudou and several other long-term foreign residents dressed up as seals to protest the granting of an honorary jūminhyō (residency registration) to Tama-chan, a male bearded seal, in Nishi Ward, Yokohama.[21] The protesters asserted that if the government could grant jūminhyō to animals and animation characters, as was the case in Niiza and Kasukabe Cities, Saitama Prefecture,[22] then there was no need to deny foreign residents the same. At the time, non-Japanese residents were registered in a separate alien registration system.[23]

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).[24] The magazine highlighted crimes committed by foreigners. Arudou, calling the magazine "ignorant propaganda" that "focuses exclusively on the bad things that some foreigners do, but has absolutely nothing about crimes committed by Japanese".[25] Arudou posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores protesting discrimination against non-Japanese residents of Japan.[24]

In June 2008, Arudou lodged a complaint with the Hokkaido Prefectural Police that its officers were targeting foreigners as part of a security sweep prior to the 34th G8 summit in Tōyako, Hokkaido.[26] 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.[27]

In August 2009, Arudou—acting as the chair of FRANCA (the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association)—began a letter-writing campaign to protest an 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.[28] Writing in The Japan Times, Arudou argued that the "Mr. James" campaign perpetuates negative stereotypes about 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?'"[29] 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."[30]

Japanologist Alex Kerr has criticized Arudou for his "openly combative attitude", an approach that Kerr says usually "fails" in Japan and may reinforce the conservative belief "that gaijin are difficult to deal with".[31] Eric Weiner described Arudou as an "outspoken man that rejects the notion that there's one Japanese way of doing anything";[32] and himself as a "loudmouth with an Internet connection".[33] Doug Struck described Arudou as emerging "as the Outraged Man, tilting at uncomfortable truths about Japanese racial discrimination".[34] Paul Murphy described Arudou as "the quintessential indefatigable civil rights campaigner".[35]


Arudou had a book published about the 1999 Otaru hot springs incident, originally in Japanese, and then in 2004 in 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).[36] The book is listed in the Japan Policy Research Institute's recommended library on Japan.[37]

Arudou's next book, published in 2008, was coauthored with Akira Higuchi (樋口 彰) and titled Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (ニューカマー定住ハンドブック). 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.[38] Handbook came out in 2012 in an updated 2nd Edition[39] and an ebook version in 2013.[40]

Arudou has written a monthly column for the Community section of The Japan Times titled "Just Be Cause" since 2008, and has contributed occasional opinion columns to the newspaper since 2002.[41][non-primary source needed] He was also a columnist for the Japan Today[42] website and has been featured in The Asahi Evening News.[43][44]

In 2011, Arudou self-published his first novella titled In Appropriate: a novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan. The novella tells the story of a transnational marriage, culture shock, and child abduction.[45][better source needed] In 2015 he published Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination through the Lexington Books imprint of Rowman & Littlefield.[46]

Arudou has published twice in Fodor's Japan Travel Guide, in 2012[47] (Hokkaido Chapter) and 2014 (Hokkaido and Tohoku Chapters).[48] He has also published academic papers in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus[49] 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)[50] and Springer.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Arudou, Debito. "Holiday Tangent: My Schofill family roots include Cherokee and lots of American South skeletons". Retrieved 2011-09-07.
  2. ^ Arudou, Debito. "A Bit More Personal Background on Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle". Archived from the original on 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2011-09-07.
  3. ^ Brooke, James (2004-05-12). "LETTER FROM ASIA; Foreigners Try to Melt an Inhospitable Japanese City". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-07.
  4. ^ "Authors". Cornell Alumni Magazine Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Alumni Association. 107 (5). Mar–Apr 2005. Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2006-12-13. ()
  5. ^ a b c d e "French, Howard W. (2000-11-29). "Turning Japanese: It Takes More Than a Passport". The New York Times. Nanporo. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  6. ^ A brief biographical sketch of Aldwinckle and other 1991 UCSD IR/PS alumni is available at the official university website. See: < Class of 1991>. Retrieved on 2006-12-13. Archived February 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ ""Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2011-10-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)" Hokkaido Information University. October 25, 2011. Retrieved on October 25, 2011.
  8. ^ "[1]". Editorial statement by The Japan Times, 07 February 2012
  9. ^ "[2]" East–West Center. Retrieved on March 6, 2015.
  10. ^ "[3]" Meiji Gakuin University Retrieved on 6 March 2015
  11. ^ Aldwinckle, David (1999-01-28). "Daughters". Archived from the original on September 14, 2001. Retrieved 2011-09-07.
  12. ^ Arudou, Debito. "Wife". Archived from the original on 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2011-09-07. ()
  13. ^ Arudou, Debito (1998-09-14). "NATURALIZATION PART ONE: FIRST STEPS TO BECOMING A JAPANESE CITIZEN". Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  14. ^ "Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G". Federal Register. 2002-10-31. Retrieved 2015-04-07. (listed as "Aldwinckle David Christopher")
  15. ^ Arudou, Debito (2006-12-02). "How to Get a Divorce in Japan". Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  16. ^ 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). SSRN 1664639.
  17. ^ a b Webster, Timothy (Summer 2008). "Arudou v. Earth Cure: Judgment of November 11, 2002 Sapporo District Court" (PDF). Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal. University of Hawaii. 9 (297): 297–321.
  18. ^ "THE WORLD; Japanese Court Ruling Favors Foreigners; Bathhouse must pay three men who were denied entry". Los Angeles Times. November 12, 2002.
  19. ^ 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."
  20. ^ Kyodo (2004-09-16). "Court says city not remiss for letting bathhouse bar foreigners". Japan Economic Newswire. Sapporo.
  21. ^ Matsubara, Hiroshi (2003-02-23). "Foreigners seek same rights as seal". The Japan Times. Tokyo. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  22. ^ Chapman, David (2007). Zainichi Korean Identity and Ethnicity. 17. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-42637-4.
  23. ^ Asahi Shinbun, 22 February 2003
  24. ^ a b Biggs, Stuart; Kanoko Matsuyama (2007-02-07). "Japan Store Withdraws 'Foreigner Crime File' Magazine". Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  25. ^ Ryall, Julian (2007-02-07). "JAPAN: Magazine's focus on crimes by foreigners sparks outrage". South China Morning Post. Tokyo. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
  26. ^ Kyodo (2008-06-26). "G8 Summit 2008: Police questioning 'discriminatory'". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2015-03-17.
  27. ^ STV News. June 25, 2008.
  28. ^ Houpt, Simon (2009-08-21). "Dispatches from the World of Media and Advertising". The Globe and Mail (Canada). pp. B4.
  29. ^ Yang, Jeff (2009-09-02). "McRacism in Japan?". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  30. ^ Masters, Coco (2009-08-25). "Not Everyone Is Lovin' Japan's New McDonald's Mascot". Time. Archived from the original on August 28, 2009. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  31. ^ 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 2009-05-17. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  32. ^ Anchor: Robert Siegel, Reporter: Eric Weiner (2003-07-03). "Naturalized Japanese citizen David Aldwinckle". All Things Considered. Tokyo. National Public Radio. All Things Considered.
  33. ^ Lev, Michael A. (2003-05-08). "Crusader-Citizen Takes on Japan". Chicago Tribune. Sapporo. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  34. ^ Struck, Doug (2003-07-04). "In Japan, U.S. Expat Fights the Yankee Way". The Washington Post. Sapporo. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ Honjo, Yuki Allyson (2004). "The Dave Show: Original Text". Japan Review. Archived from the original on 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2015-09-22.
  37. ^ "JPRI'S RECOMMENDED LIBRARY ON JAPAN". Japan Policy Research Institute. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  38. ^ Richie, Donald (2008-04-20). "Helping newcomers settle in Japan". The Japan Times. Tokyo. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  39. ^ "Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan, Second Edition". Akashi Shoten Inc. 2013. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  40. ^ Arudou, Debito (2013). "Arudou Debito's Guide Book for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan". Akashi Shoten Inc. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  41. ^ "Writer: Debito Arudou". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  42. ^ [4]". Japan Today columns archive, accessed 21 August 2014
  43. ^ Aldwinckle, David (July 7, 1996). "Intransigence bad for your health". Asahi Evening News. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  44. ^ Aldwinckle, David (April 27, 1997). "Dodger catch Nomo pitches no morals". Asahi Evening News. p. 6. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  45. ^ Kosaka, Kris (2011-07-31). "Literary sludge insults child abduction issue". The Japan Times. Tokyo. Archived from the original on 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
  46. ^ Kingston, Jeff (2015-12-19). "Recommended reading for the holidays and beyond". Japan Times. Retrieved 2015-12-19.
  47. ^ Arudou, Debito (2012). Fodor's Japan Travel Guide. Random House Inc. pp. 5, 764, 876. ISBN 978-0307480491..
  48. ^ Arudou, Debito (2014). Fodor's Japan Travel Guide. Random House Inc. pp. 5, 712, 758. ISBN 978-0804141857..
  49. ^ Arudou, Debito. "JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hotspring Case and Discrimination Against "Foreigners" in Japan". The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  50. ^ 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 (ed.). 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.
  51. ^ Arudou, Debito (2012). "An introduction to Japanese society's attitudes towards race and skin color". In Hall, Ronald E. (ed.). The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as the 21st Century International Discourse. Springer. pp. 49–70. ISBN 978-9400746077.

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