Book “Embedded Racism”, acclaimed as “important, courageous and challenging” and “a must-read” by prominent academic journals, now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code LEX30AUTH16

Acclaimed book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” has been discounted 30% for a limited time to $34.99 in paperback and Kindle if bought through through my publisher (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield) directly. Use promo code LEX30AUTH16. (Japan residents have reported getting the book for $40 including quick shipping.)

Academic reviews have been positive. Prominent Japanologist Tessa Morris-Suzuki has reviewed it as “important, courageous and challenging”, the Japan Studies Association of Canada has heralded it as “an important contribution to geography, cultural and area studies”, Social Science Journal Japan calls it “must-read text… highly recommended reading to anyone… who is interested in Japan’s future”, and an American Sociological Association journal review notes it as “a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development … as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better”

According to WorldCat, more than 100 of the world’s major research libraries (including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia…) have made “Embedded Racism” part of their collections. Get your discounted copy by going to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513906/Embedded-Racism-Japan’s-Visible-Minorities-and-Racial-Discrimination and use promo code LEX30AUTH16.
More information and reviews on the book at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html.
Download a book flyer and order form at http://www.debito.org/EmbeddedRacismPaperbackflyer.pdf

Japan Times JBC 109: “‘Attach the evidence and wait for your day in court,’ says Turkish plaintiff after Osaka victory”

JBC: On Aug. 25, the Osaka District Court handed down a landmark ruling in a discrimination lawsuit.

Ibrahim Yener, a Turkish national and 14-year resident of Japan, was refused service last October by an Osaka used car dealer, which stated in an email (text at www.debito.org/?p=14743) that they would not serve foreign customers. The car company also stipulated that even if the customer legally holds Japanese citizenship, they would only sell to people who could “hold their own (sonshoku ga nai) against native speakers” in terms of Japanese language ability (as determined solely by the car company).

Yener felt this was discriminatory, filed suit and won. The presiding judge said that it “was based on prejudice that a foreigner would cause trouble and does not justify the discriminatory treatment.” But what made this case particularly noteworthy is that Yener navigated Japan’s legal system all by himself — without a lawyer.

Thus this case offers potential lessons for other non-Japanese or international Japanese who face similar discrimination. JBC contacted Yener last week to find out more about the thinking behind bringing the case…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCT 14, 2017

Table of Contents:
HOPEFUL SIGNS?
1) New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights
2) “Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.
3) Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage
4) “Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance
5) Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)

MORE ON YENER CASE
6) NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer
7) Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company
…and finally…
8 ) My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

New Japanese “Party of Hope” remains unhopeful for Japan’s NJ residents, requiring new party entrants to deny all NJ voting rights

In case you haven’t heard, the center-left (and former governing party) Democratic Party of Japan (once Minshuutou, now Minshintou), has suffered a further blow to its existence, now having to sell its factional soul to a new party (Kibou no Tou, or the “Party of Hope”) headed by a name-brand candidate and Governor of Tokyo (Koike Yuriko). Koike is ostensibly just about as far-right as PM Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. As proof of that:  In the JT article below, KnoT is demanding as a litmus test that new party entrants from the DPJ sign on to a party platform denying NJ residents (including Permanent Residents) the right to vote in any elections.

Given that PR in Japan, a legal status that is reasonably hard to achieve (and specific to Japan when it comes to its “Special Permanent Residents” (tokubetsu eijuusha), i.e., the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese “generational foreigners” and descendants of former citizens of empire), requires significant time and commitment to Japan, this is yet another slap in the face to people who stay (in many cases their entire lives), pay taxes, and contribute to society the same as any other citizen. The alarmism that KnoT in the article below displays is straight out of the LDP handbook — arguing that giving foreigners any power would mean they would turn against Japan, even secede — which is nothing short of distrust of foreigners’ very existence in society. Or xenophobia, for short.

In sum, voters have a choice between two viable parties now, both rightist with essentially the same platform, except that one is PM Abe and one is Rewarmed Abe, for those who don’t like the man and would prefer a shiny new woman. Sigh. Meanwhile, Japan’s tolerant left will remain in disarray for the foreseeable future.

“Japanese Only” rules mutate: Hagoromo-yu, a bathhouse excluding LGBT in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, in reaction to local same-sex-partner ordinance

As Debito.org has argued for decades, if you don’t make discrimination explicitly illegal, it spreads and mutates.

Now we have a bathhouse (the most famous type of “Japanese Only” businesses in Japan) named “Hagoromo-yu”, in cosmopolitan Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, which has a sign up explicitly refusing custom to all LGBT customers “who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation” (setsudo o mamoru).

But here’s the nasty kicker (and brazen nastiness seems to be the hallmark of Japan’s excluders these days; just consider the antics of Osaka car dealer Autoplaza in the recent Yener Case).  The sign even includes this iyami on the bottom, striking back against the unusual progressiveness of the local government:

“Shibuya-ku has established the ‘same-sex partners ordinance’, but we at this establishment will refuse service to any LGBT customers who who don’t follow rules and morals, or don’t practice moderation.”

How nice. Location and contact details of Hagoromo-yu below. Feel free to give them a piece of your mind, as moderately as you like.

Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage

Nikkei: This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face. According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.

The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam. As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. […]

The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo. Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”

Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent. This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”

Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

As mentioned in the previous blog entry, Osaka resident Ibrahim Yener won his court case against a car company that refused him on the grounds (the company claims after the fact in court) of being a foreigner with insufficient Japanese language. However, Mr. Yener has just written in to Debito.org with more detail on his case, making it clear that arbitrary language barriers were merely a ruse to refuse all “foreigners” (even those with Japanese citizenship) their business. Fortunately, the exclusionary Defendant’s reasoning didn’t wash in court.

The Defendant, not mentioned in the Asahi article in the previous blog entry, is Nihon Autoplaza, and they offer services such as buying used cars on Japan’s very vibrant second-hand automobile auction market. (I have bought cars through that auction system before, and lack of access to it will have a significant impact on your ability to get a used car affordably in Japan, something quite necessary for people in Japan’s ruralities or for small businesses.) One more takeaway from this case is that, according to Mr. Yener, the Defendant acted even more idiotically in court, angering the judge. So I’m worried that this case might not have been as slam-dunk as it might seem for future victims of “Japanese Only” businesses who want to sue (because a lawsuit is the only real option Japan’s international residents have to protect themselves against discrimination).

NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer

Another NJ wins in court against a “Japanese Only” establishment, this time a car dealer who wouldn’t send Osakan Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener information about their goods because he’s a foreigner.  Yener joins the ranks of Ana Bortz, the Otaru Onsen Plaintiffs, and Steve McGowan, all of whom won and/or lost in court in varying degrees.  

The positive thing to note here is that Mr. Yener filed suit all by himself, without legal representation, and still won.  He no doubt had the company dead to rights because he had their refusal in writing.  That means that anyone else with a case as watertight as his can also take it to court and win, and I advise people to do so whenever possible. The negative thing to note here is that once again the award amount has been reduced.  In the Bortz Case, the award was 2 million yen, in the Otaru Case it was 1 million yen per plaintiff, and in the McGowan Case, after a ludicrous defeat in lower court, it was eventually only 350,000 yen on appeal, which didn’t even come close to covering his legal fees.  In the Yener Case, it’s now been reduced to a paltry 200,000 yen, which means it’s a good thing he didn’t seek legal representation.  

Anyway, glad that Mr. Yener won.  It’s just a pity that after all this time and effort, there isn’t any deterrent of punitive damages against racial discriminators.  That’s why we need a criminal law against racial discrimination in Japan — because the excuse the Japanese government officially keeps making (that laws are unnecessary because there is a court system for redress) becomes less compelling with every lawsuit filed.

Positive book review of “Embedded Racism” in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” journal (American Sociological Association)

Review excerpt: [Embedded Racism] is a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development. The book will, no doubt, add to a lively discussion already afoot in Japanese studies, critical race studies, and critical mixed race studies of racism in Japan.

[…] The strongest part of the book, in my view, is chapter 5, which illustrates how “Japaneseness” is enforced through legal and extralegal means. The examples of visa regimes and even exclusion from sports and other contests through educational institutions show how everyday racism leaks into larger organizational practices, often without challenge.

[…] The book is clearly written and seems to be aimed primarily at undergraduate students, as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better, and it compiles interesting documentary legal data about the history of cases of discrimination in Japan. The book would easily suit courses that address global conceptions of race and ethnicity and how these are changing in Japan at both the micro and macro levels because of globalization.

“Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.

A couple of weeks ago, friends Olaf and James wrote in to say that they went down Hamanasu Doori in Monbetsu, a seaport town in Eastern Outback Hokkaido. Here’s what book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 3 has to say about this case (expanded from the original entry on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments on Debito.org):

============================
Monbetsu, Hokkaidō
Place: Miscellaneous places around Monbetsu City (Hokkaidō) (two public/private sector bathhouses, a ramen shop, a restaurant, a karaoke parlor, and more than 100 bars).
Background: According to newspaper articles, plus several visits and interviews between 2000 and 2009 by the author and other activists, since 1995 Monbetsu’s local restaurateurs’ association (inshokuten kumiai) created and sold standardized signs in Cyrillic saying “Japanese Only Store” (Nihonjin sen’yō ten) that went up on over 100 bars and restaurants in the Hamanasu Dōri nightlife district. Interviews with bars displaying the signs revealed fears of Russian sailors’ custom, including the language barrier, drunken unruliness, nonpayment of bills, rumors of rape, surrounding Japanese customer dissatisfaction, and ties to Russian organized crime (although many interviewees said they had no actual experience with any of these issues – the sign was a preventive measure); some refused the author’s business even though he is not Russian and was accompanied by other Japanese. Three restaurants and a karaoke parlor expressed similar sentiments, and said they would have refused the author had he not been a fluent Japanese speaker. Two bathhouses (one private-sector, one public/private (dai-san sekutā)) claimed drunk and unruly Russian bathers were driving away Japanese customers).

Action taken by observers/activists: In July 2000, the Japanese Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu) Asahikawa Branch wrote a letter (see ER Chapter Eight) to the restaurateurs’ association calling their activities “clear racial discrimination against foreigners,” demanding they remove their exclusionary signs. In an interview with the author in April 2001, the kumiai head claimed that these signs were now the property of their respective purchasers, and what they did with them was not their concern. After extensive media exposure of the situation in local newspapers and national TV between 2000 and 2005, signs began coming down, and further interviews and media exposure of the restaurants, karaoke parlor, and the bathhouses resulted in exclusionary rules being rescinded in the karaoke parlor, one restaurant and the public/private-sector bathhouse. In 2006, an interview with another restaurant enabled the author to personally take down one of the Cyrillic signs with permission. In 2004, the author and one other activist submitted a petition (chinjō) to pass a local anti-discrimination ordinance (jōrei), which subsequently died in committee.
============================

So the update is:  The exclusionary signs are down in Hamanasu Doori.  Pity it only took 22 years for it to happen, apparently by attrition.  No thanks to the Monbetsu City Government, natch.

My Japan Times JBC 108: “In wake of Charlottesville, U.S. should follow Japan and outlaw hate speech”, Aug 24, 2017

JBC: Let’s talk about Charlottesville.

As you probably heard, two weeks ago there was a protest in a small Virginia town against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general who defended slavery in the American South. Various hate groups, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, assembled there with shields, weapons, fascist flags and anti-Semitic slogans. They were met with counterprotest, and things got violent. A supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Charlottesville has shaken hope for a post-racial America to the core. But before readers in Japan breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It couldn’t happen here, not in peaceful Japan,” remember this:

Japan has also had plenty of hate rallies — there was about one per day on average in 2013 and 2014, according to the Justice Ministry. Rightist xenophobes and government-designated hate groups have assembled and held demos nationwide. Bearing signs calling foreign residents “cockroaches,” calling for a Nanking-style massacre of Koreans in an Osaka Koreatown, even advocating the extermination of “all Koreans, good or bad,” Japan’s haters have also used violence (some lethal) against the country’s minorities.

As JBC has argued before (“Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step,” Jan. 31, 2016), freedom of speech is not an absolute. And hate speech is special: It ultimately and necessarily leads to violence, due to the volatile mix of dehumanization with flared tempers.

That’s why Japan decided to do something about it. In 2016 the Diet passed a law against hate speech (albeit limiting it to specifically protect foreign residents). And it has had an effect: Japanese media reports fewer rallies and softer invective.

America, however, hasn’t gotten serious about this. It has no explicit law against hate speech, due to fears about government censorship of freedom of speech. Opponents argue that the only cure is freer speech — that somehow hate will be balanced out by reasonable and rational counter-hate. That persuasion will win out.

But in 2016, it didn’t. Hate speech is precisely how Donald J. Trump got elected president…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 23, 2017

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Japan’s National Pension scheme lowers minimum qualification time from 25 years to 10!
2) Book Review in SSJJ journal calls “Embedded Racism” a “must-read text”, “highly recommended reading to anyone interested in Japan’s future”
FAUX NEWS
3) Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.
4) Asahi: Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’, and shouldn’t. Another recycled hopeful article.
5) Mainichi Editorial on 1-yr anniv. of Hate Speech Law: “To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking”, offers moral support but few concrete proposals
6) Amy Chavez JT obit on “Japan writing giant” Boye De Mente: Let’s not whitewash his devaluation of Japan Studies
7) Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”
…and finally…
8 ) One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist of non-chart album cuts

Asahi: Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’, and shouldn’t. Another recycled hopeful article.

In the wake of my previous blog entry about a new exploitative visa system for the next generation of Nikkei workers, here’s a hand-wringing article from the Asahi about how people don’t (but really should) accept NJ as part of Japanese society.  It seems like these articles are cyclical — I remember them from a good ten years ago (for example here and here and here and here).  Fortunately, the Asahi draws the same conclusions I would. Alas, next serious economic downturn, all this will be out of the window and foreigners will be unaccepted again.  

Asahi: Foreign workers in Japan are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource amid Japan’s declining birthrate and growing elderly population. However, recent headlines in the media express concern about the influx of immigrants. “Should we accept immigrants?” one publication asked. Another worried that, “What will happen if foreigners become our bosses?” The reality is that the number of foreign workers now totals more than 1 million. Japanese are increasingly coming in contact with foreigners in their daily lives, so they are no longer an “invisible presence.” Acceptance is unavoidable

Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.

Ten years after bribing and booting out its Nikkei “Returnee” workers from South America (who had been given sweetheart visas of de facto Permanent Residency, higher-paying jobs than the “Trainee” slaves from places like China (but still lower than real Japanese, natch)), and four years after lifting a ban on their return, the government has officially decided to introduce a new residency status to exploit the next (4th) generation of Nikkei. As long as they a) speak Japanese, b) are young enough to devote their best working years here, c) come alone, and d) only stay three years. Those are some tweaks that makes things less advantageous for the foreigner, so I guess the previous racist policy favoring Wajin foreigners has been improved (as far as the government is concerned) to keep them disposable, and less likely to need a bribe to go home when the next economic downturn happens. That’s how the Japanese government learns from its mistakes — by making the visa status more exclusionary and exploitative.

Good news: Japan’s National Pension scheme lowers minimum qualification time from 25 years to 10!

Good news. Until now, if you wanted to qualify for any retirement payout under the Japanese National Pension System (Nenkin), you had to contribute 300 months, or 25 years, of your salary in Japan. This was an enormously high hurdle for many NJ residents, who would pay in but not always elect to stay the bulk of their working life in Japan. That meant that aside from getting back a maximum of three years’ worth of contributions upon request, you’d effectively lose your retirement investment as an enormous exit tax.

It made it so that the longer you stayed in Japan, the more of a pension prisoner you became, since if you left the country to work elsewhere, you’d lose, because you hadn’t paid into pension schemes in other countries and wouldn’t qualify. But now the threshold for qualifying at all in Japan has fortunately been reduced.  From 25 to 10 years, as of August 2017. Hurrah.

Book Review in SSJJ journal calls “Embedded Racism” a “must-read text”, “highly recommended reading to anyone interested in Japan’s future”

Excerpt of the first and last paragraphs:

SSJJ: Why are there so few academic books or articles on Japan with the word ‘Racism’ in the title? It would be odd, to say the least, if Japan were the only inhabited place on earth where racism did not exist. Could it be that racial minorities in Japan are made up of groups that are too small, too transitory or too lacking in visibility to be worth the effort of close study? A more plausible explanation is offered by those who, like anthropologist John Russell, argue that powerful groups have disseminated the ‘national myth of Japan as a racism-free society that always manages to retain uncorrupted its essentialistic character, despite cultural borrowings’ (Russell 2010: 110). Given this highly successful effort to hush up discussions of racism in Japan, Debito Arudou’s new book on ‘Embedded Racism’ is very welcome. […]

In an anti-globalist era of Trump and ‘Brexit’ there will be many who argue that Japan is right to severely restrict immigration and preserve as much as possible that is unique about its national character. If those who do not ‘look Japanese’ have to suffer some discrimination, then that is just the price that has to be paid. There are also many who believe that the best antidote to racism is to have a nation state where as few people as possible look out of place. Arudou’s reply to this point of view, which acts simultaneously as a challenge to Japan’s leaders, is that if this national narrative is allowed to prevail, it will not only condemn Japan’s aging population to an ever-worsening demographic crisis, it will also have a ‘suffocating and self-strangulating’ effect on society (p. 303).

There are important academic contributions to the study of racism in Japan in this book, but it is as a must-read text on the crisis facing the shrinking Japanese population and its leaders that it really leaves its mark. Embedded Racism is highly recommended reading to anyone—whether they self-identify as Japanese or foreign or both—who is interested in Japan’s future.

Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”

Trevor Noah and company on the Daily Show make an interesting case about how Trump’s language, both in terms of content and syntax, is challenging for translators in other languages to render.  They make the point that the impact and nuance is often softened by translator self-censorship (or filling in the gaps with personal interpretations) But at minute 4:00 of the segment, the Japanese interpreter claims that there is no accurate way to translate Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pu**y” remark.  She even claims that there is no word “in the exact sense” for “pu**y” in Japanese.

Rubbish.  I can think of quite a few words that would do the trick, in content and especially in nuance.  The two easiest, of course, are om*nko or om*nta, as in “om*nta o tsukandari shite”,  and in Trump’s case I would even remove their honorific prefixes. Of course, that would require bleeping out the syllable after “man”, but it’s been done on Japanese TV before.  I’ve seen it.   But I dislike it when people, especially in this case a professional interpreter, play dumb and deny.  Repeating that old lie that we heard as beginning Japanese students that “there are no bad words in Japanese”. Like it or not, “om*nta” what 45 said.  Portray it accurately.  Or, as the segment argued well, the awfulness of 45’s speech is bleached out simply because the interpreter is being too diplomatic, cultured, or prudish.

One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist

Coming out of Debito.org’s Summer Vacation briefly with some good news: Long-time readers of Debito.org know what a deep appreciation I have for ’80s band Duran Duran — which is still putting out good albums chock full of good music (see below), and touring to full arenas. I was at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu tonight to catch them (for the second time, the first back in Canandaigua NY on June 26, 1987). Good seats, great setlist. This was their first time playing in Honolulu (they cancelled a previous date in 1994 due to lead singer Simon Le Bon losing his voice), and as the last stop on their current tour (they spent a few days recuperating on-island), they put on an excellent show to a rapt crowd.

And, I’m proud to say, thanks to mutual friend GB, I got a backstage pass. And met and briefly chatted with Simon Le Bon. Yes, a photo of us is enclosed. I’m going to treasure this memory for a lifetime, as I have been following DD assiduously since 1982. Thanks GB. And thanks Simon.

As for people who still think Duran Duran peaked in the mid-1980s, I challenge you to listen to my iPod’s “Damn Good Duran Duran” playlist. (And in terms of musicality, I also challenge you to listen to John Taylor’s bass line on the song “Rio” as an isolated track, and tell me it doesn’t rank up there with Geddy Lee or Tina Weymouth.) Here are 40 remarkable DD songs in the order I play them. You can find them on YouTube if not on iTunes:

Amy Chavez JT obit on “Japan writing giant” Boye De Mente: Let’s not whitewash his devaluation of Japan Studies

Chavez: “Any Japanophile will have at least one of the 30 or so books authored by Boye Lafayette De Mente during his long and prolific writing career in Japan. His works are read by travelers, businesspeople and scholars alike, with offerings ranging from “The Pocket Tokyo Subway Guide” to the “Tuttle Japanese Business Dictionary,” and my personal favorite, “Kata: The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese.” Several of his books have become classics…”

COMMENT: One the last of the truly old-school postwar “Japan analysts”, who helped set the tone of Japanology as a pseudoscience fueled by stereotype. Check out his list of titles on Wikipedia and you’ll see the undermining of Tuttle as a reliable-source publisher. “Women of the Orient: Intimate Profiles of the World’s Most Feminine Women”, dated 1992, where he boasts of his sexual escapades, and draws broad conclusions about how Asian women please White men like him, anyone? Or if you want something approaching a different kind of lingus, try “The Japanese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Japanese Thought and Culture.” (“Complete”?). Plenty more that anybody actually trained in modern Humanities or Social Sciences would find highly problematic. Eulogies are one thing. But let’s not whitewash this person’s publishing record. “Classic” does mean “influential”, but it should not in this case necessarily imply “good”.

Mainichi Editorial on 1-yr anniv. of Hate Speech Law: “To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking”, offers moral support but few concrete proposals

Mainichi: It has been a year since Japan’s anti-hate speech law took effect. And over that year, the number of demonstrations targeting specific races or ethnicities has apparently declined… It is perfectly natural to make sure that countermeasures against hate speech demonstrations do not lead to curbs on freedom of expression, but hate speech clearly violates human rights. We would like to see local governments across the country consider hate speech regulations in line with local conditions… Meanwhile, it should be remembered that even primary school children use computers and smartphones. Educating school children about online hate ought to be a national project.

COMMENT: We’ve talked before about unsophisticated columns in Japanese media regarding human rights. This one joins them. It wags a few fingers and applauds some local moves to eliminate hate speech, but it still has trouble going beyond vague urgings to actually advocate for the root solution: passing a law with criminal penalties against racial discrimination. Until this law in specific is part of the media’s steady drumbeat of finger-wagging, advocating a mere patchwork of local-level patches is again, a half-measure.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 17, 2017

Table of Contents:
MORE OF THE SAME, WITH NEW SPINS
1) Abe Admin backlashes against UN Rapporteur criticism against Conspiracy Bill, overseas Gaijin Handlers kick into gear
2) Kyodo: “A year after enactment of hate speech law, xenophobic rallies down by nearly half”, but hateful language continues, mutates
3) Nikkei: ‘No foreigners allowed’: Survey shows heavy discrimination in Japan (which editorializing Nikkei Asian Review tries to excuse and dismiss)

WHAT COULD BE DONE
4) Denver Post columnist Terri Frei fired after racist tweet re Japanese driver’s Indy 500 win (contrast with how J media treated Nigerian-Japanese HS baseball player Okoe Rui)
5) Tangent: NPR: journalist Tom Ricks and how Western society operates best when it assumes an objective reality, and values facts over opinions

LACK OF CONSIDERATION FOR DIVERSITY
6) Reader StrepThroat: Medical prescriptions for foreign patients gauged to ineffectual children’s doses, regardless of patient size considerations
7) Asahi: Joe Kurosu MD on ineffectually low doses of medicine for NJ patients and bureaucratic intransigence

A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE
8 ) Japan Times cites Debito on “Tackling [anti-foreigner] signs in Japan that you’re not welcome”, including Tokyo Harajuku Takeshita Doori
9) Japan’s High School Hair Police: Asahi on “Survey: 57% of Tokyo HSs demand hair-color proof”. Still.

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JBC column 107: “Time to act on insights from landmark survey of Japan’s foreign residents” Apr 26, 2017

Denver Post columnist Terri Frei fired after racist tweet re Japanese driver’s Indy 500 win (contrast with how J media treated Nigerian-Japanese HS baseball player Okoye Rui)

I thought it prudent to archive here on Debito.org another case of how other societies deal with racial discrimination.  We keep on hearing that, “Well, people discriminate all over the world, and it’s just as bad in [insert country, usually the US] as it is in Japan.  So do something about racism in your own country before you lecture Japan.”  Okay, but here’s yet another example of what American society, for example, often does when somebody says something racist. There are social repercussions that deter both the current and future racists.  In the case mentioned below, the racist got fired.  Not ignored, defended (including being defended by foreign media in Japan), given a venue (or his own political party) to spout and normalize even more racism, or even further elected to office, as can happen in Japan. For your consideration, and for the record:

Wash Post: Terry Frei, a columnist who has been named Colorado’s sportswriter of the year four times, is out of a job after tweeting that he was “very uncomfortable” with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indianapolis 500 on the day before Memorial Day.

Denver Post publisher Mac Tully and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo apologized Monday for a “disrespectful and unacceptable tweet” as they announced that Frei is no longer an employee of the newspaper because of the social media comment that sparked intense backlash. “We apologize for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters,” the statement reads. “Terry Frei is no longer an employee of The Denver Post. It’s our policy not to comment further on personnel issues. The tweet doesn’t represent what we believe nor what we stand for. We hope you will accept our profound apologies.”

Frei apologized for the tweet he put up shortly after Sato’s historic win. He later deleted it. “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend,” Frei tweeted after Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the prestigious race.

Japan Times cites Debito on “Tackling [anti-foreigner] signs in Japan that you’re not welcome”, including Tokyo Harajuku Takeshita Doori

JT: “MOTHER F——- KISS MY ANUS. F—- OFF Mother F——-… foreigner. Sneaking PHOTO.” A hand-written sign bearing these words is among several decorated with similar insults that greet shoppers outside a fashion store that sells rock-style clothing in Tokyo. The sign sits among shirts emblazoned with designs featuring overseas rock bands such as Iron Maiden, Children Of Bodom and Marilyn Manson in the fashion and kawaii culture mecca of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street in Shibuya Ward.”

In addition to comments about what to do about this situation, I made a comment that didn’t make the cut of the article: The authorities are right. This isn’t a “Japanese Only” sign. It’s just a rude anti-foreigner sign, painstakingly rendered by shop staff too angry to say “No photos, please.” Kinda ironic, given the penchant for Japanese tourists here in Hawaii to take snapshots of anything they find exotic. At least merchants here word their notices more politely.

You could make the case that this is hate speech, but it might not convince enough people who can’t be bothered with signs that don’t affect them. It’s better to contact tourist associations, and do some name-and-shame as the 2020 Olympics loom. Or better yet, create unintended consequences. Tell people where the sign is, and go take pictures of it. Add to the irony with photos of “no photos”.

Abe Admin backlashes against UN Rapporteur criticism against Conspiracy Bill, overseas Gaijin Handlers kick into gear

The Government of Japan (GOJ) is at it again — curtailing fundamental civil and human rights for its people and getting nasty if you object to it. Once upon a time (see below), the GOJ merely denied that Japan is in violation of any of its human rights treaties by giving sophistic counterarguments. Now, under the ultrarightist Abe Administration, those denials are on steroids, with leading politicians injecting indignant anger into their denialism, even activating the Gaijin Handlers abroad to whitewash optics on Japan’s policies in places like the New York Times. First, the Japan Times offers a primer on the emerging Conspiracy Bill that received sharp criticism on May 18 by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy and University of Malta Law Professor Joseph Cannataci, on the heels of criticism from UN Special Rapporteur and UC Irvine Law Professor David Kaye leveled at Japan’s already diminishing press freedoms in a report last year. After the Japan Times article, let’s look at how the New York Times reports on the Conspiracy Bill, and how the GOJ quickly responds with its Gaijin Handlers.

They doth protest too much, methinks. Even an academic source cited in the Japan Times below says he’s “not aware of any other developed nation that had protested against special rapporteurs so vociferously and consistently as Japan.” And, as far as Debito.org goes, you just know that these “terrorism” and “organized crime” tropes, once further embedded in law, will be used to further racially profile and crack down in particular on (foreign) “terrorists” and (foreign) “organized crime”. But this new law will normalize it for everyone.

Tangent: NPR: journalist Tom Ricks and how Western society operates best when it assumes an objective reality, and values facts over opinions

NPR’s TERRY GROSS: I want to quote something that you write in your book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom.” And again, this is a book – it’s a kind of dual biography and looking at how their political views evolved and how it was reflected in their writing and their hatred of both fascism and Stalinism.

So you write (reading aloud) “the fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.” So I’d like you to talk to how that reflects on Churchill and Orwell and how that reflects today.

JOURNALIST TOM RICKS: That’s the last line in the book. And if – I’m glad you read it because if there’s anything I have to say I learned from this experience of reading and re-reading thousands upon thousands of words by Churchill and Orwell over the last three and half years, it’s that. That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society and, at its best, how Western society operates.

And it’s – you can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality to observe facts and not just have opinions and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.

Kyodo: “A year after enactment of hate speech law, xenophobic rallies down by nearly half”, but hateful language continues, mutates

Good news, according to Kyodo below, is that the number of hate-speech rallies in Japan has gone down significantly. Some mixed news, however, is that haters have found ways to temper their hate speech so that it avoids extreme invective (such as advocating death and destruction), but continues nonetheless with the public denigration of minorities and outsiders. Hence the new law is working, but it’s causing sophistication and subtlety in message. Sort of like replacing “Japanese Only” signs with “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”, and in practice only applying the rule to foreign-looking people.

Hence the need for something more comprehensive. Stage Two of anti-racism legislation, as Ryang Yong Song of the Anti Racism Information Center says in the article, would be this: “For the last year, discussions only focused on what is hate speech and the scope of freedom of expression, but that is not enough. A law is needed to ban all kinds of discrimination including ethnicity, birth and disability.”

As Debito.org has been advocating for decades, let’s have that law against racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu teppai hou). A law against hate speech is good, but it’s a half-measure.

Japan’s High School Hair Police: Asahi on “Survey: 57% of Tokyo HSs demand hair-color proof”. Still.

Ten years ago I wrote a JT column on Japan’s “Hair Police”, i.e., how Japanese schools force their kids of diverse backgrounds to conform to a Wajin ideal of “black straight hair” imposed by inflexible school rules, and dye their hair black. It’s recently been revisited by the Asahi and Business Insider.com.

As I wrote back then, the damage to children is both physiological (Google “hair coloring” and “organ damage” and see what reputable sources, such as the American Journal of Epidemiology and the National Institutes of Health, have to say about side effects: lymphatic cancer, cataracts, toxins, burns from ammonium persulfate), and psychological. And yet it persists.

And not as a fringe-element trend — the majority of Tokyo high schools (the most possibly cosmopolitan of the lot) police hair color. In any case, woe betide Japan’s Visible Minorities for daring to not “look Japanese” enough. Here are the two articles, the second of which actually references my old JT column.

Asahi: Joe Kurosu MD on ineffectually low doses of medicine for NJ patients and bureaucratic intransigence

Dr. Kurosu MD: “For reasons that are unclear, however, the indicated maximum dose is often significantly lower than that which is standard in other parts of the world. Difference in physical frame and incidents of side effects are some of the purported reasons, but a scientifically convincing basis is lacking. A significant number of resident foreign nationals currently receive health care through the Japanese national health insurance system, but are ill-served because of these dosage standards. The maximum daily doses indicated on package inserts of standard medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, for example, are one-quarter to one-half of the standard doses in other countries for the identical drug. […]

“In any case, if the government requires foreign nationals to join the [National Health Insurance] system, it must be willing to provide services appropriate to that population. If this is not possible, then buying in the system should be voluntary […] I urge the government and relevant authorities to return autonomy to the physicians so the medications can be prescribed appropriately for the patient, whether or foreign or Japanese, based on science and clinical judgment, rather than [mechanically applying the dosage levels indicated on the package inserts].”

Reader StrepThroat: Medical prescriptions for foreign patients gauged to ineffectual children’s doses, regardless of patient size considerations

StrepThroat: “I was hit with some evil form of strep throat just as Golden Week started. After hours of hunting down an open hospital, and then another hour or so to hunt down an open pharmacist, I had my prescription antibiotic cut down to 2/3rds the prescription at the pharmacy. Apparently the doctor had taken my size into consideration when writing the prescription…but the pharmacists called him out on it exceeding the maximum daily dosage. I protested but was ultimately left with what the rest of the world considers a children’s dosage. After speaking with the pharmacist, doctor, and other pharmacists, what I found was the maximum dosage of certain medications is regulated by law and the maximum dosages for sales within Japan are determined by trials done exclusively on ethnic Japanese. […]

“Basically, strict regulation of dosage size, based on the average ethnic Japanese rather than a more reasonable system based on body weight or age like in other countries. The end result is ineffective, children’s dosing or less for those of us who don’t fit the garigari average Japanese body size standard. Probably not intentional racism but the narrow-minded mindset to use only locals for domestic Japanese consumptions means at the end of the day, it is likely to affect most NJ patients as well as any Japanese that are larger than the average Japanese. Every doc and pharmacist agreed the dosages were too small but gave the usual shogainai/gamanshikadekinai answers.”

Nikkei: ‘No foreigners allowed’: Survey shows heavy discrimination in Japan (which editorializing Nikkei Asian Review tries to excuse and dismiss)

Following my most recent JBC column on the MOJ Foreign Residents Survey (which showed significant and substantial rates of “foreigner discrimination” in Japan, particularly in housing), we have the right-of-center Nihon Keizai Shinbun (roughly equivalent to the Wall Street Journal in stature and tone) offering their interpretation of Survey results. Note the article’s editorializing (which I will point out within the article below [in square brackets]) to try to be discounting or dismissive of the report — trying to pass it off as somehow “worries” about mere cultural misunderstandings, or issues not serious enough to seek help for.

NIKKEI: Nearly 27% of the 2,044 foreign respondents who had sought new housing within the past five years reported giving up on a potential residence after discovering a notice saying “no foreigners allowed.” […] These rejections, however, are not necessarily motivated by racism.

[But that’s not what the survey says. This is the Nikkei offering their interpretation. And look at their reasoning:]

Many landlords fear they may not be able to communicate easily with foreign tenants. Other reasons for refusal to rent include worries that foreign tenants will not follow Japanese customs, such as taking off their shoes inside the house.

[And that’s not racism? Presuming that foreign tenants cannot communicate? And justifying the denial of housing due to unfounded “worries” that people allegedly WON’T TAKE OFF THEIR SHOES!? On what planet would this not be interpreted as a normalization of prejudice expressed performatively as racism? I guess Planet Nikkei.]

Japan Times JBC column 107: “Time to act on insights from landmark survey of Japan’s foreign residents” Apr 26, 2017

TIME TO ACT ON INSIGHTS FROM LANDMARK SURVEY OF JAPAN’S FOREIGN RESIDENTS
The Japan Times, JUST BE CAUSE Column 107, Thursday April 27, 2017, by Debito Arudou

As promised, in March the Justice Ministry released the results of a survey on Japan’s foreign residents (gaikokujin juumin chousa), conducted last year (see “Government, Survey Thyself,” JBC Mar. 5). Compiled by the “Center for Human Rights Education and Training” public-interest foundation (www.jinken.or.jp), it surveyed the types and degrees of discrimination that foreigners face here. (The report in Japanese is at http://www.moj.go.jp/content/001221782.pdf.)

And as promised, here’s JBC’s synopsis of those results:

The report opens with a statement of purpose, talking about the pressures to “live together” (kyousei) with foreigners due to internationalization and globalization, not to mention the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Record numbers of foreigners are crossing Japan’s borders, bringing with them different languages and customs, and “so-called” hate speech demos are also causing “numerous human rights problems.” So to lay the groundwork for human rights protections for foreigners, this survey would grasp the issues directly facing foreigners “staying” (zairyuu) in Japan…
===================================

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/04/26/issues/time-act-insights-landmark-survey-japans-foreign-residents/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 26, 2017

Table of Contents:
IT’S A HARD KNOCK LIFE FOR NJ
1) Fukushima Pref Police HQ online poster asking for public vigilantism against “illegal foreign workers, overstayers”
2) Mainichi: 80% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after 3/11 quake: poll
3) Cautionary tale: Bern on how no protections against harassment in Japan’s universities targets NJ regardless of Japan savviness and skill level
4) Reuters: Japan’s foreign asylum seekers tricked into Fukushima radiation clean-up

PROVABLY SO
5) Unprecedented Ministry of Justice survey of NJ discrimination results out, officially quantifies significantly high rates of unequal treatment
6) Japan Times JBC 106: “Government, survey thyself”, on unprecedented nationwide poll of NJ on discrimination, with one big blind spot (March 5, 2017)

AND OFFICIALLY SO
7) Kyodo: “Russian’s conviction for handgun possession dismissed”, due to bent J-cops’ “arrest quotas” that illegally entrap NJ
8 ) Yomiuri on “Sharp decline in tourist spending”, with GOJ measures to certify NJ in “Cool Japan” for preferential visas
9) NHK repeatedly racially profiles prototypical criminal (the only NJ person in a crowd) on TV program Close-Up Gendai, Apr 5, 2017
10) Irish Times: Abe Admin in trouble due to ultranationalistic kindergarten Moritomo Gakuen, its perks, and its anti-Korean/Chinese racism
… and finally…
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 105: “Media, stop normalizing sumo as an ethno-sport”, Monday, Feb 20, 2017

Fukushima Pref Police HQ online poster asking for public vigilantism against “illegal foreign workers, overstayers”

Fukushima Prefectural Police HQ poster:
“PLEASE COOPERATE IN INVESTIGATIONS OF CRIME BY FOREIGNERS COMING TO JAPAN.
Nationwide, there are many cases of things like theft and heinous crimes by foreign muggers coming to Japan. In Fukushima Prefecture as well, the following have occurred:
0) Widespread cases of burglaries targeting [including grammatical error of wo tou wo] precious metal shops.
0) Burglaries at pachinko parlors using body-sensitive machines (taikanki) [whatever those are].
0) Cases of auto break-ins.”

Submitter XY: “Not only are they perpetuating the stereotype of NJ being criminals, they’re basically asking the public to act as vigilante immigration officers.”

COMMENTS: Well, let’s put this into context with all the other police posters we’ve been cataloging here at Debito.org for many years. We’ve had the local police claiming that many crimes have been committed by foreigners in their area (while we’ve found that at in at least one case, despite police claims of “many cases”, crimes committed by foreigners were actually ZERO), and once again demonstrating how enlisting the public in racial profiling is their modus operandi.

In Fukushima Prefecture itself, according to the prefectural government, crime has been going steadily down without fail since 2002 (with no mention of foreign crime in the stats; you can bet that it would have been mentioned if it was significant). Foreign crime in Fukushima doesn’t even make the top 80% of all foreign crime committed by prefecture in 2011, the year everything went pear-shaped, according to the Ministry of Justice (see page 58). In the general NPA foreign crime report dated April 2015, Fukushima is only mentioned twice (talking about two individual crimes as case studies illustrative of “what foreign criminals do”), without overall crime breakdown by prefecture. And after a fairly exhaustive search, I can’t find ANY recent official stats on foreign crime in Fukushima, either in terms of numbers or rate of change. So I think this is probably just another example of the Japanese police manufacturing a fictitious foreign crime wave.

Yomiuri on “Sharp decline in tourist spending”, with GOJ measures to certify NJ in “Cool Japan” for preferential visas

Debito.org Reader JK sends articles that indicate that the Japanese Government wants tourists to come in and spend more money (without doing the legal groundwork necessary to stop them being discriminated against), and is willing to bribe the NJ already here with preferential visas if they get certified in “Cool Japan”, i.e., become shills. Kinda smart in terms of incentive systems, but very cynical — and those critical of Japan, of course, need not apply. The pressure to unquestionably “like” Japan is already omnipresent, and now reinforced as public policy.

Yomiuri: While a record 24 million-plus foreign tourists came to Japan last year, spending per person dropped sharply in 2016, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. Fewer foreign visitors are engaging in extravagant shopping sprees, so figuring out how to use Japan’s charms to increase tourism outside major metropolitan areas and encourage longer stays is becoming an issue. […] The increase in the number of tourists pushed overall spending to a record ¥3.75 trillion, but per-person spending was down 11.5 percent from the previous year to ¥155,896, the largest drop ever recorded. Behind the decline was the yen’s appreciation from the previous year, as well as a change in the purpose of travel from “consumption” through shopping and other means, to trips aimed at “experiencing things” such as nature and culture. The government hopes to raise per-person spending to ¥200,000 by 2020.

Yomiuri: The government is considering establishing a certification test for assessing the competency and know-how of foreigners engaged in activities related to the “Cool Japan” initiative, such as anime and fashion. The aim is to accept more of these foreigners into National Strategic Special Zones, according to sources. The government intends to relax the requirements for obtaining resident status for candidates who meet certain competency criteria and conditions. The plan is aimed at foreign students graduating from Japanese vocational schools, the sources said. By creating a friendly working environment for foreigners with strong interests in Japanese culture, the government aims to increase the number of foreigners with an intimate familiarity with Japan. They could then serve as informal bridges for future exchanges between Japan and their home countries. […] The working group is considering allowing foreigners to obtain certification to stay in Japan for several years, the sources said.

Cautionary tale: Bern on how no protections against harassment in Japan’s universities targets NJ regardless of Japan savviness and skill level

Here’s a crie du coeur from an academic I respect mightily named Bern. He has spent umpteen years in Japan’s higher education, both at the faculty and the Dean level (there have been very few NJ Deans ever in Japan’s universities), and has complete fluency in reading, writing, and spoken Japanese. Yet even after all his work acculturating and developing the same (if not greater) job skills as native speakers, he could not avoid institutional harassment. As he says below, “until harassment and discrimination laws are clarified and given real teeth” in Japan, all NJ faculty and staff are at risk.

And I speak from personal experience that this can happen to anyone. For NJ educators’ mental and vocational integrity, due consideration should be taken before ever considering a career in Japanese academia. Someday I’ll give an opinion piece about why Japan’s positions for NJ academics are, quite simply, a hoax, and why Japanese educational institutions should be avoided, full stop. But not yet. Meanwhile, here’s Bern:

NHK repeatedly racially profiles prototypical criminal (the only NJ person in a crowd) on TV program Close-Up Gendai, Apr 5, 2017

JF: Just watched today’s Close Up Gendai on NHK, [“Can smartphones steal fingerprints? The over-transceiving society has arrived”]. Topic was how biometric data from pictures and security cameras can be used and abused. While the experts were taking, during the entire program, they kept on showing relevant clips in the background. One of the clips shows how a face recognition system picks a criminal from a group of faces in a public place. Sure enough, among the group of Asian faces, there is one Western-looking foreigner, who happens to be “blacklisted”.

Please see attached picture taken from my TV. As reinforcement of the image linking foreigners to crime, I counted our “blacklisted” gaikokujin friend reappearing on continuous loop 6x, but I may have missed some as I just skimmed it. One in the beginning, two more in-between and the rest in the last 5 minutes when they had the discussion in the studio, including one at the very end. What does this, on a subconscious level, suggest to the Japanese audience?? Not sure if you know somebody at NHK, they should be more sensitive about these things!

COMMENT: It’s an interesting program in terms of content and execution, but how far the mighty have fallen. Close-Up Gendai was one of those programs you could count on for at least trying to strike a reasonable balance. Clearly not anymore. Especially after the purges of the show to reflect NHK’s hostile takeover by political leaders who explicitly (as a matter of officially-stated policy) can only act as the government’s mouthpiece. Okay then, if that’s the way you want it. Here again we have more evidence of latent racial profiling as probable representations of government policy — NJ are more likely to be criminals (if not terrorists — watch from minute 18:30), all over again. Beware of them in a crowd!

Debito.org has been experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by. Back soon.

Hello Debito.org Readers, and thanks very much to everyone for all the letters of concern regarding the lack of updates on Debito.org over recent weeks. We’ve had one technical problem after another, and I have techies looking into things. (I’d give more details, but I fear that might just provide more weak spots for the anti-techies to attack.) Meanwhile, keep submitting news stuff related to Debito.org topics, and we’ll put them up in due course. Thanks for your patience.

Unprecedented Ministry of Justice survey of NJ discrimination results out, officially quantifies significantly high rates of unequal treatment

Japan Times: “Rent application denials, Japanese-only recruitment and racist taunts are among the most rampant forms of discrimination faced by foreign residents in Japan, according to the results of the country’s first nationwide survey on the issue, released Friday. The unprecedented survey of 18,500 expats of varying nationalities at the end of last year paints a comprehensive picture of deeply rooted discrimination in Japan as the nation struggles to acclimate to a recent surge in foreign residents and braces for an even greater surge in tourists in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It also represents the latest in a series of fledgling steps taken by Japan to curb racism, following last year’s first-ever video analysis by the Justice Ministry of anti-Korea demonstrations and the enactment of a law to eradicate hate speech.[…]

The study found that 39.3 percent of 2,044 respondents who applied to rent apartments over the past five years got dismissed because they are not Japanese. In addition, 41.2 percent said they were turned down because they couldn’t secure a Japanese guarantor, while 26.8 percent said they quit their pursuit of a new domicile after being discouraged by a “Japanese-only” prerequisite. Workplace discrimination appears rife, too. Of the 4,252 respondents, 2,788 said they had either worked or sought employment in Japan over the past five years. Of them, 25.0 percent said they had experienced being brushed off by potential employers because they are non-Japanese, while 19.6 percent said they were paid lower than their Japanese co-workers…

Mainichi: 80% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after quake: poll

One thing we do here at Debito.org is track and quantify social damage done when media portrays people negatively. We’ve already talked at length about the fabricated foreign crime wave by the NPA since 2000 as a means of justifying police anti-crime budgets (see also book “Embedded Racism”, Ch. 7), and how flawed and loaded government surveys indicate that the Japanese public believes (moreover are encouraged to believe) that foreigners don’t deserve the same human rights as Japanese humans. Well, here’s another survey, done by a university professor in Sendai, that indicates how unchecked rumors about foreign crime in times of panic (particularly in the wake of the Fukushima Disasters) result in widespread (and unfounded) denigration of foreigners. To the tune of around 80% of survey respondents believing the worst about their NJ neighbors, regardless of the truth. SITYS. It’s the “blame game” all over again, except that only in rare cases does the government actually step in to right things before, during, or afterwards.

As Submitter JK notes: “Of interest is Professor Kwak’s statement that “False rumors commonly surface in the event of a major earthquake, and it is no easy task to erase them. Rather, each person needs to acquire the ability to judge them”. Given the result of his survey in Shinjuku-ku, it’s obvious that people lack the critical reasoning skills needed to separate fact from fiction (especially when disaster strikes), so this leads to me believe that trying to erase false rumors post-ex-facto is a fool’s errand — the ‘rumor’ that *needs* to be spread is that foreigners, specifically Chinese, Koreans and people from Southeast Asia are *NOT* looters, thieves, damagers of corpses (whatever that is), or rapists. In other words, what needs to happen to get the headline to read “Only 20% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after quake”?”

Quite. Once the damage is done, it’s done. Social media needs to be carefully monitored in times of public panic, especially in Japanese society, with a long history of blaming foreigners for whatever, whenever disaster strikes, sometimes with lethal results.

Reuters: Japan’s foreign asylum seekers tricked into Fukushima radiation clean-up

Here’s a scoop involving several layers of odious. It’s not just a matter of Japan’s poor or homeless (or other foreigners) being exploited for dangerous and life-threatening jobs cleaning up the radioactive mess in Fukushima. Now Japan’s government is quite possibly complicit in tricking foreign ASYLUM SEEKERS into doing the dirty work, for the sake of being granted extensions to their visa (which turned out to be “a false promise”). All this under conditions where, according to the Reuters article below, “more than half of the 1,020 companies involved in decontamination violated labor and safety laws”. Further, as submitter JDG notes, “Asylum seekers in Japan tricked into doing nuclear decontamination work in Fukushima because when they get over-dosed on radiation and contaminated, the J-gov can always reject their asylum applications and deport them after all, right?”

As Debito.org has noted before, there is a metaphorical radioactivity to Fukushima that overwhelms law and order and corrodes all sense, bringing out the corrupt criminal underbelly of Japan’s bureaucratic and political worlds. Fukushima’s running-sore of an issue has undermined all integrity at the eventual expense of lives, particularly those of the most powerless in society. Six years after the event, the whitewashing of the issue continues.

Kyodo: “Russian’s conviction for handgun possession dismissed”, due to bent J-cops’ “arrest quotas” that illegally entrap NJ

Kyodo: “Following new testimony from a former police inspector about a Russian man who was caught in an illegal police sting operation, a court Tuesday overturned his 1998 conviction for handgun possession… [Plaintiff] Novosyolov was arrested in November 1997 at the port of Otaru in western Hokkaido for possessing a handgun and was found guilty of violating the firearms control law by the district court in August 1998. He had been seeking a retrial, claiming he was the victim of an illegal operation by the Hokkaido police. […]

“At the time of Novosyolov’s arrest, police officers had been assigned a quota to confiscate illegal guns following a series of sniper shootings targeting key figures in Japan. Police officers instructed an informant to encourage foreigners to bring firearms to Japan as part of efforts to meet the quota. Novosyolov was arrested in the process of exchanging the handgun.”

COMMENTS: As the article alludes, entrapment is illegal in Japan. Japanese police are not allowed to catch criminals by engaging in criminal activity themselves. Which is why Japanese doing illegal things overseas act rather indignant (as opposed to penitent) when being caught by, for example, American sting operations. That’s why this case should have been thrown out of court, at least in Japanese jurisprudence — the ill-gotten evidence was inadmissible. And doubly so when the cops are pressuring themselves to nail NJ just to fulfill a “quota”. Triply so when the cop who trapped him and later came clean, Inaba Yoshiaki, was himself a druggie. (Hokkaido cops are actually pretty famous for being bent, see here and here; and as I discovered for myself here and here.)

And something closer to my heart: This took place in Otaru, my old stomping ground, and the site of the “Japanese Only” racist bathhouses that resulted in the landmark Otaru Onsens Case. Otaru cops are also rather famous for their arrogance, conducting spot Gaijin Card checks just to alleviate their own boredom (my first one happened there in 1987, shortly after I first arrived), so to me this is all within character. Congrats to Novosyolov for getting sprung. But I doubt this will result in any reforms to the system that illegally entraps NJ for sport.

Japan Times JBC 106: “Government, survey thyself”, on unprecedented nationwide poll of NJ on discrimination, with one big blind spot (March 5, 2017)

JBC 106: Something landmark happened late last year. Japan’s government undertook a nationwide survey of discrimination toward Japan’s long-term non-Japanese (NJ) residents.

The Foreign Residents Survey (FRS), drawn up in 13 languages, was randomly mailed last November to 18,500 NJ residents. It was widely dispersed — to about 500 names per local government.

Good. We need hard data about the breadth and depth of discrimination to deal with it. However, previous government surveys analyzed in this column (e.g., “Human rights survey stinks,” Zeit Gist, Oct. 23, 2007) had serious methodological problems. And afterwards, thanks to attention in The Japan Times, they were amended (Source: Embedded Racism p 243 fn 140). Many thanks.

So how is the survey this time? Much better. But it still needs work due to an enormous blind spot…

Read the rest at The Japan times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/03/05/issues/government-japan-survey-thyself/

Irish Times: Abe Admin in trouble due to ultranationalistic kindergarten Moritomo Gakuen, its perks, and its anti-Korean/Chinese racism

Here’s a story that people have been talking about for quite some time in the Comments section of Debito.org (but sandbagged by other projects, I haven’t quite gotten to until now, thanks to this good round-up article by Dr. David McNeill): Schools fostering ultra-rightist narratives even from a kindergarten age (in this case, the Moritomo Gakuen Case in Osaka, with its former honorary principal being PM Abe’s wife).

One thing I’ve always wondered about these nationalistic schools designed to instill “love of country” and enforce patriotism from an early age (which are, actually, not a new phenomenon, see also here): How are they supposed to deal with students who are of mixed heritage, or of foreign descent? As Japan’s multiethnic Japanese citizen population continues to grow thanks to international marriage, are these students also to be taught that love of country means only one country? Or that if they are of mixed roots, that they can only “love” one side?

This sort of jingoism should be on its way out of any developed society in this increasingly globalizing world. But, alas, as PM Abe toadies up to Trump, I’m sure the former will find plenty of things to point at going on in the USA to justify Japan’s renewed exclusionism, and “putting Japan first” through a purity narrative. Still, as seen below, the glimmer of hope is the charge that this school’s funny financial dealings (and their anointment of Abe’s wife as “honorary principal”) might in fact be the thing that brings down the Abe Administration (if it does, I’ll begin to think that Japan’s parliamentary system is actually healthier than the US’s Executive Branch). And that Japan’s hate speech law has in fact bitten down on their racist activities. An interesting case study in progress.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 105: “Media, stop normalizing sumo as an ethno-sport”, Monday, Feb 20, 2017

JT JBC: Congratulations to Kisenosato last month for ascending to yokozuna, sumo wrestling’s highest rank. After all your efforts, well done. So what does JBC have to say about it? Nothing to diminish that achievement, of course. But how the event echoed overseas was significant. Let’s consider these misleading and exclusionary headlines from prominent news outlets (BBC, Guardian, Washington Post, NYT, and even the JT), which are having the effect of exporting domestically-normalized attitudes of racism from an overtly exclusionary ethno-sport. And when you read the text of the articles themselves, their embedded racism becomes even clearer. Why are foreign correspondents exporting racism just because it emanates from Japan?

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/02/19/issues/media-outside-japan-must-stop-normalizing-sumo-ethno-sport/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 19, 2017

Table of Contents:
MEDIA NORMALIZING DISCRIMINATION
1) JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets
2) Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”
3) Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.
4) Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!
5) Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.
MISC
6) Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
7) Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”
8 ) Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.

TG: “Chizuko Ueno, Japan’s most famous academic feminist, says [in a Chunichi Shinbun column on Feb. 11, National Foundation Day] there is no chance of reversing the decline in the birthdate; that at the same time Japanese society is inherently incapable of inter-cultural understanding; that therefore she opposes any move to liberalize immigration policy; and that the Japanese people should accept that they are going to gradually decline into poverty over the years to come.

“Hmm. I wonder what Hidenori Sakanaka, Arudou Debito and other FB friends think about this. She is a gadfly who likes to provoke, and you could read this as an attempt at satirical pessimism possibly. Or has she just lost the plot?”

Here’s what I say: I have often noticed that feminism in Japan is not “equality between the sexes” but “separate but equal” status between the sexes, inherently accepting that inequality is inevitable due to purported physical and emotional differences between men and women. Some things are “women’s work”, for example, and some things are men’s, and you’d better respect that order or else woe betide you for intruding.

Once you accept this kind of natural status quo, it becomes just as easy to accept that there should be “separate for foreigners in Japan” too, however “a foreigner” is defined. The problem is that most people accept without much question the “necessarily separate but unequal” mantra as well, since foreigners are not Japanese, by definition, and Japanese are told on a daily basis (no exaggeration) about the inherent differences between them. And therein lies the slow-drip mindset that over the years will eventually affect even the most intellectually-rigorous, as they get older and fossilized in their beliefs. You even find it in many very long-term foreigners in Japan, who will even argue that they deserve their own unequal status. Rigor becomes rigid. So to me, Ueno’s pontificating on the natural order of separation is a natural outcome of living in a society as hierarchical and segregated as Japan’s. I think with this article, she’d have a more comfortable cup of tea with the likes of Sankei columnist Sono Ayako, who on National Foundation Day exactly two years ago expressly praised South African Apartheid and advocated a similar system for Japan’s foreigners.

Debito is finishing up a few projects. Will be back shortly.

Sorry for the silence recently. I’ve got a few projects coming to fruition recently, and have been too busy to write or comment much. More later. Meanwhile, my next JBC will be out in about a week due to a press holiday falling on Monday this week. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading!

(As always, feel free to post articles and events you think are worth commenting on in the Comments Section below. The DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER will also be out next week.)

Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.

Kyodo: Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya. It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers. Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future. “I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said. […]

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam. “I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

COMMENT: I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same. And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted in the article) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out.

Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”

The resurgence of Japan’s import labor regime has resumed in earnest, reaching a record at least in the Postwar Era. (Remember that during WWII, Japan’s internal colonial population, as in workers imported from its colonies, was very high; people from the Korean peninsula alone in 1945 were more than two million.) Now as of 2016, the NJ worker total has hit 1 million, according to Reuters below.

There is some fine print this article should have noted. This “record one million” is of workers, not registered residents alone (which is in fact more than twice the number, at 2.23 million as of 2015), since they have dependents (i.e., spouses with non-work visas and children). But within this one million are people who are not technically “workers” (roudousha), but “Trainees” (kenkyuusei or jisshuusei), who aren’t officially protected by Japan labor laws and are exposed to all manner of abuses, including slavery.

So calling them all “workers” is misleading both in terms of terminology and legal status. Especially since, as the article does rightly note, they are making up 20% of the total, or around 200,000 unprotected NJ laborers. Now that their numbers have shot up by 25% over one year alone, we can expect that 70% of all their employers will likely expose them to labor abuses.

These are not happy statistics, and for the article to lack this degree of nuance (especially since Reuters itself has done marvelous exposes in the past, even calling “Trainee” employers “sweatshops in disguise”) is at this point an institutional memory problem.

Another problem is the article implying that there is any actual attempt to, quote, “open gates to immigrants”. Immigration (imin) has never been part of Japan’s policy calculations (and I challenge the journalists researching this article to find that exact word in any of the cited policy directives; their citing a construction company manager, in the unlikely event that he actually used the word imin, is still indicative of nothing) — only temporary stopgap laborers who will give their best working lives and then be sent home at the first economic downturn. As has happened before, most cruelly.

As much as the article might be trying to attract eyeballs by putting a superlative “record number of” in the headline (and once again sneaking in an angle of hope of actual “immigration” happening), the only change that has happened here is that more NJ are being processed by an exploitative system — one that has by design remained relatively unchanged for nearly three decades, and moreover has been expanded to exploit even more. So many misdirected angles here.