|Born||David Christopher Aldwinckle
January 13, 1965
|Home town||Geneva, New York|
|Known for||Human Rights Activism|
Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito ) (born 13 January 1965) is an American-born Japanese English teacher, author and activist.
Arudou was born David Christopher Schofill in California in 1965. He grew up in rural upstate New York in a 140-year-old 10-room cobblestone house on over three acres of land. In the 1970s he became David Christopher Aldwinckle when adopted. Aldwinckle 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 in order 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. It was this experience, he recounts, that started him down the path of the controversial activist that he would later become. "This was a watershed in my life," Arudou writes. "… and it polarized my views about how I should live it. Although working [in Japan] made my Japanese really good — answering phones and talking to nasty, racist, and bloody-minded construction workers from nine to six — there was hell to pay every single day." Arudou contends that he was the object of racial harassment. Aldwinckle quit the company and in 1993 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. As of 2007, he is an associate professor.
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 ), whose kanji he says have the figurative meaning of "a person who has a road and is going out on it." 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. As reasons for naturalization, he cited the right to vote, other rights, and increased ability to stand on his rights; he renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2002. Japanese law does not allow holding two citizenships simultaneously.
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.
Arudo petitioned the Japanese Family Court for a divorce in the spring of 2004, which was granted through court mediation in September 2006.
Arudou was one of three plaintiffs in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Yunohana Onsen in Otaru, Hokkaidō. Yunohana maintained a policy to exclude non-Japanese patrons; the business stated that it implemented the policy after 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 visited the hot spring (onsen), along with a small group of Japanese, White, and East Asian friends, in order to confirm that only visibly non-Japanese people were excluded.
Arudou assumed that when he returned in 2000 as a naturalized Japanese citizen, he would not be refused. The manager accepted that Arudou was a Japanese national but refused entry on the grounds that his foreign appearance could cause existing Japanese customers to assume the onsen was admitting foreigners, e.g. inebriated Russian sailors said to be causing problems in that locality, and take their business elsewhere.
Arudou and two co-plaintiffs, Kenneth Lee Sutherland and Olaf Karthaus, in February 2001 then sued Yunohana on the grounds of 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 Yunohana to pay the plaintiffs ¥1 million each (about US$25,000 in total) in damages. The court stated that "refusing all foreigners without exception is 'unrational discrimination' [that] can be said to go beyond permissible societal limits." The Sapporo High Court dismissed Arudou's claim against the city of Otaru for failing to create an anti-discrimination ordinance; the court ruled that the claim did not have merit. The Sapporo High Court upheld these rulings on September 16, 2004 and the Supreme Court of Japan denied review on April 7, 2005.
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. Currently, non-Japanese residents must be registered in a separate alien registration system.
In February 2007, Arudou protested against the book Kyōgaku no Gaijin Hanzai Ura File - Gaijin Hanzai Hakusho 2007 (Secret Foreigner Crime Files). Arudou posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores protesting against "discriminatory statements and images about non-Japanese residents of 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.
Arudou maintains an active online presence, including a blog.
Alex Kerr, author of the book Dogs and Demons, has criticised 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". Nevertheless, he comments that "perhaps we who live here are slow to stick our necks out...and quick to self-censor...to get along....". He also sees Arudou's decision to naturalise as bringing "the dialogue inside Japan. His activities reveal the fact that gaijin and their gaijin ways are now a part of the fabric of Japan's new society."
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 and revised in 2006. 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 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). 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.
Arudou has also written pieces for the on-line academic website Japan Focus and had his work published by the Japan Policy Research Institute, which later placed his article online when it moved to a web format.
Arudou writes a guest column, "Just Be Cause", for The Japan Times. In August 2008, Arudou drew an analogy between the words "gaijin" and "nigger", arguing that the status of "gaijin" as politically incorrect was well deserved. This prompted a large reader response, with most of the published responses finding the analogy inappropriate. This process was repeated roughly one month later, when Arudou wrote another article standing by his original statement. Again, most published responses were critical of the analogy.
Debito Arudou (有道 出人 Arudō Debito, born 1965), born David Christopher Aldwinckle, is a naturalized Japanese citizen who is a teacher, author and activist.
Debito Arudou who was originally called David Christopher Aldwinckle was born in New York. He moved to Japan where he still lives. He is a social activist who tries to change the situation of non-Japanese people in Japan. He likes to complain. Opinions about him are mixed.