'Racist' cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists
Pamphlet issued by Tokyo to Japan's embassies in response to Hague convention is criticised for depicting a foreign man beating his child
Human rights activists in Japan have reacted angrily to a new pamphlet released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they claim is racist and stereotypical for depicting white fathers beating their children.
The 11-page leaflet has been sent to Japanese embassies and consulates around the world in response to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction going into effect in Japan on April 1.
Tokyo dragged its feet on ratifying the treaty, which broadly stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent but without the consent of the other parent.
But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.
"It's the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten," said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist.
"After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around," he said. "It's the same as in the debate over whaling.
"The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them."
Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women.
"It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan," said Arudou.
The rest of the pamphlet takes the form of a conversation between a cartoon character father and son, but with the storyline showing the difficulties of a Japanese woman living abroad with her half-Japanese son.
Arudou says the publication then "degenerates into the childish" with the appearance of an animated doll that is the father figure's pride and joy, but also dispenses advice.
"As well as promoting all these stereotypes, why are they not talking about visitation issues for foreigners whose half-Japanese children have been abducted by their ex-wives?" asked Arudou.
Several foreigners who have been unable to see their children for years have already contacted Arudou to express their anger, with a number of US nationals saying they would pass the document onto lawmakers.
Arudou's post on the issue on his website has also attracted attention, with commentators describing the pamphlet as "racist propaganda".
"This is disgusting," one commentator posted. "Pictures are powerful, more powerful than words. And the only time I've ever seen anything remotely like this is when I did a search for old anti-Japanese propaganda.
"Of course, that was disgusting too, but it was wartime!"
Another added, "What a pathetic advert for an 'advanced' country.
"As for the text - not wasting any more bandwidth on such utter racist, xenophobic, patronising, paranoid nonsense."