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Debito Arudou
Debito Arudou in 2014
David Christopher Schofill

(1965-01-13) January 13, 1965 (age 58)
California, United States
Nationality Japanese
Other names David Christopher Aldwinckle, Sugawara Arudōdebito, Debito Beamer
Alma mater
Known for Human 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, renouncing his U.S. citizenship.


Early life and academic career

Arudou was born David Christopher Schofill in California in 1965. He was raised in Geneva, New York, and became "David Christopher Aldwinckle" when his stepfather adopted him in the 1970s. He graduated from Cornell University in 1987, dedicating his senior year to studying Japanese after visiting his pen pal and future wife in Japan. 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 Master's of Pacific International Affairs (MPIA) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

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

Family and Japanese naturalization

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


Arudou v. Earth Cure

Japanese only sign
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.

Arudou led a multinational group of 17 people of various nationalities (United States, Chinese, German, and Japanese) to enter the Yunohana bathhouse in Otaru and test the firmness of the "No Foreigners" policy posted on its door. The group attempted the walk-ins twice.

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.

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

Other protests

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. 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, 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.

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). 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". Arudou posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores protesting discrimination against non-Japanese residents of Japan.

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. 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.

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. 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?'" 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."

See also

Women's History Month on Kiddle
Women Scientists of Antiquity
Mary the Jewess
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