Glossaries and almanacs
 Introduction  Legal terminology  Minorities almanac  Suicide almanac

Many contemporary academic publications fail to meet the highest standards of empirical research and objectivity when it comes to issues like nationality, minorities, and suicide. People who write about such topics are naturally concerned about discrimination, human rights, and prevention. Too often, though, their concern is long on advocacy and short on facts.

Fashions of thought dictate the objects of study. Researchers set out to confirm what they already believe. Politically acceptable explanations are pursued with more enthusiasm than truth. Misinformation feeds on itself in the labyrinths of citations that lend publications their authority. Social criticism is confused for analysis. Ideology is mistaken for understanding.

Origins of glossaries and almanacs

The glossaries and almanacs, as modest attempts to question conventional wisdom, were inspired by Tom Burnam's The Dictionary of Misinformation (New York: Ballentine Books, 1975, 1977, 1984). I first thought of doing something like it, related to Japan, in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s I proposed a column along this line to the Mainichi Daily News, but a page editor chose instead to run some of my short stories in a weekly feature called Boundaries (1992).

However, I never lost interest in the idea of a dictionary-like guide that would clarify misunderstandings about Japan by presenting facts that are often distorted in mass media and academia. In 2001, I acquired the domain, and I posted a very skeletal version of what I called "Japan Almanac" there, but it remained mostly unincarnated.

In 2007, I moved the content of "Japan Almanac" to the Nationality section of this site with the intent of developing it as an quick reference to terminology related to nationality, race, and minorities -- and released the domain back into the wild woolly web jungle. My best wishes to the next domain-name hunter who bags it.

By October 2008, "Japan Almanac" was competing with what I had been calling "Nationality almanac" in the Nationality section, so I renamed it "Minorities almanac" and located it in what was then the Resources section. As such it covered minorities, race, nationality, and nationalism

I then expanded the "Nationality almanac" to include several lists of legal terms, which had been parts of various articles, and renamed it "Legal terminology". At this point I also created, in the Suicide section, a "Suicide almanac" along the lines of the "Minority almanac".

In 2009, all three features were grouped in the present "Glossaries and almanacs" section, where they now embrace the following subjects.

Legal terminology

Japanese legal terms are often translated into English expressions that fail to reflect their meaning in Japanese law. The recent development of so-called "standard" dictionaries, now overseen by the Ministry of Justice, has actually lowered the standard of legal translation.

The Legal terminology section begins with an overview of translation problems. It then examines historical changes in the currency of words and phrases related to nationality and other affiliations, not only in Japan but in other parts of the world. Finally it introduces legal terms related to various kinds of legal actions and notifications, and government organizations and offices, past and present.

Minorities almanac

In Japan as in other countries, discussions of so-called "minorities" are often both emotional and ideological. Even when calm and objective, they are inclined to be hampered both by misinformation, and by misleading if not incorrect usage of key expressions.

The Minorities almanac covers a variety of terms related directly or tangentially to minorities in Japan, or to Japan-related minorities in other countries. Since "minorities" include aliens (defined as people who do not possess Japanese nationality) and out-of-wedlock (illegitimate) children, the almanac includes a number of terms that also appear in the Legal terminology glossary.

Suicide almanac

The Suicide almanac includes numerous words and phrases related to self-destruction past and present, including acts that are not necessarily "suicidal" in the sense of attempting to kill oneself out of a personal desire to die. If behavior is defined by motivation, then most acts of seppuku, for example, have been self-administered executions, carried out, in compliance with a foreseen or actual legal judgment, as punishment for committing a capital crime.