The knives are out and accusations of racism are being bandied around again. Only this time it’s not a silly corporate ad with fake noses that’s to blame.

The culprit this time is Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has sent an 11-page leaflet to Japanese embassies and consulates. The education literature has been published in response to Japan finally ratifying the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, reports the South China Morning Post.

japan racist pamphlet leaflet sent to embassies hague convention child abduction

This has been a matter of contention in Japan, which has been seen as soft on issues of child abduction — mostly notably Japanese partners taking their child to Japan and away from the other parent who is foreign, who until now could not do anything about it. Signing the Convention, going into effect from this past April in Japan, means that children taken by one parent are legally required to be returned to the country of their regular residence. In other words, a Japanese parent cannot suddenly take their child out of a foreign country where they had been living full-time.

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The pamphlet uses manga-esque images (taking its subject seriously, then) and, more offensively to some, depicts a white man apparently assaulting or abusing a Japanese-looking child as she dreams of her mother far away in Japan.

japan racist pamphlet leaflet sent to embassies hague convention child abduction

While it is common for even official documents in Japan to use manga imagery, the one-sided portrayal of the issue has angered people like Debito Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen originally from America. It particularly makes some indignant because the issue of child abduction that got many activists campaigning for Japan to ratify the Convention was most infamously due to cases of Japanese (usually women) taking their half-Japanese child away from foreign partners (usually men).

To be fair, the leaflet is 11 pages long and depicts several scenarios, as Arudou shows on his website with a scan of the actual document (you can view a full translated version as a PDF on the MoFA website). However, the only image to show an “assault” is the one with a white man abusing a Japanese-looking child. (And in fact, one shortcoming of the Convention is that it may not be able to protect children from being returned to abusive parents.)

japan racist pamphlet leaflet sent to embassies hague convention child abduction

And government rubber-stamped “Cool Japan” rears its silly head too, with an anime figure bringing some cute moe to the proceedings and at one point acting as a kind of interlocutor between child and father, who is an otaku. Perhaps ultimately, more than actual discrimination, the truly offensive thing here is that the bureaucrats took a very serious issue and belittled it with a visual style that made it all seem silly.

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  • hontoukudaranai September 18, 2014

    The world is surely going topsy-turvy when white people rich enough to travel the world and have permanent residence in a foreign country, try and pretend to be “poor downtrodden discriminated” minority, in spite of effectively enjoying the highest level of privileges and all sorts of preferential treatments.
    You have to be seriously divorced from reality to think that the mere depiction of a blonde, sharp-nosed foreigner as an hypotetical foreign parent who takes children away with him is comparable to the sort of “ironical” racism that blacks have to withstand in the west for one, and that it puts you in their same position to ask for “apologies” and “legal actions”.
    The simple fact someone tried to kick up a controversy over a drawn cartoon where none of the archetypical features can even be considered “negative” is a sign that some people have really nothing better to do but splitting hairs over non-issues.
    Debito is so full of himself he thinks of himself as a white Martin Luther King, but he doesn’t seems to realize how pathetic and ridiculous he is seen from outside.

  • mark anthony padilla September 19, 2014

    Child abduction or child theft is the unauthorized removal of a minor. This is happening because of poverty they sell the children to other country. Just want to share this Mobile App that might help you a lot during emergency cases. Please view the link for more information!/page_home

  • Tim Johnston September 20, 2014

    This Pamphlet is indeed uncalled for.It’s an insult to the foreign community.After 34 years of the foreign community around the World anxiously waiting for Japan to sign onto the Hague Convention.

    MOFA should be ashamed of themselves. Like the Michael Jackson song goes…..

    All I wanna say is they don’t really care about us!!

    Shame on you MOFA!!

    Tim Johnston Japan

  • John Doe September 25, 2014

    I am a European man, and I think that this is a very good Pamphlet. I believe that Japan should never return a child that has a Japanese mother to another country, even if the child is retained in violation of the laws of another country. I believe that Japan should depict American man as child abusers, because 90 percent of American man would louse custody in the legal system of most European countries, because they are unfit parents.

  • Tim Johnston September 26, 2014

    ignorance is bliss

  • 汇豪 October 10, 2014

    Ah, I was wondering how soon a racism apologist would take to come here, and try to downplay discrimination, because it’s happening to someone of the wrong color.

    To anyone with a shred of objectivity, the pamphlet’s message (White people = evil abusive. Yellow people = kind and civilized) is blatant, and the concept that being a very visible minority in a country where ethnic nationalism is the norm (Japaneseness is a matter of how you look… blood and soil) is obvious. To the apologists, it’s impossible to see because it just doesn’t fit what they want to see.