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.

Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!

We have a really weird conceit going on in the foreign press (see Washington Post and BBC below) regarding sumo wrestler Kisenosato’s rise to yokozuna, the highest rank. (Congratulations, and well done, by the way.) They are portraying it as “Japan’s first sumo champion of 19 years.”

Well, guess what, guys. Wrong. Japan has had other sumo champions in the 19 years, as you mention. Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu. There as also (oddly disgraced and scapegoated) Asashoryu as well. Yes, they were born in Mongolia. But guess what. Who cares?

If you do care, does that mean you are subscribing to the racist theory (widely held in Japan, anyway, dating from the days of Akebono and Musashimaru) that because they aren’t Japanese, they don’t count as “real” sumo champions? (Both Akebono and Musashimaru are naturalized Japanese, by the way, and were when they were yokozuna less than 19 years ago. How ignorant of you not to mention that.)

Or are you subscribing to the tenet, as the Sumo Association does, that even naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers don’t count as Japanese?

Or are you subscribing to the tenets, as expressed by racist fans below, that sumo has somehow “lost something” because foreign-born wrestlers rose to the top? Is sumo an ethno-sport? The Sumo Association tried to make it into into an Olympic event, by the way. And would that mean if Japanese do not medal, as happens in Japan-originated events such as Judo, that the event has “lost something”?

Foreign reporters, kindly don’t racialize the sport with these types of headlines and reports. Herald the athletes for their physical prowess regardless of origin. Because you know better. Articles like these wouldn’t fly if you were writing about a sport in your home country. Imagine England claiming (and you reporting as such) that soccer has no real champion every time it doesn’t win a World Cup! Don’t succumb to a racist narrative just because it comes from Japan.

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Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”

Following the “foreign driver” stickers put on cars to stigmatize the NJ tourists (and NJ residents renting cars) in Okinawa and Hokkaido, now we have the Fukuoka Prefectural Police taking it upon themselves to associate bad driving with foreigners. Based upon one cited accident (Japanese drivers, after all, never have accidents, right?), the police put up a multilingual sign to caution everyone (and teach NJ how to drive all over again). How presumptuous. Let’s see what submitter XY has to say:

XY: my initial thoughts are:
– There are assumptions galore. The linked article about this issue mentions police making a poster to warn people of the “prohibited” act of dozing off behind the wheel, imploring them to take rests, etc. Incredibly, it implies that these practices are not common sense for people who are not experienced driving in Japan. This argument might hold a sliver of credibility if there was testimony from the driver proving that one of these factors was a cause of his accident. But the article gives no such proof.

– The article offers many statistics to show that the number of foreigners renting cars has indeed increased. Unfortunately, it does not bother to provide statistics proving that this has resulted in an increase in accidents (above and beyond the normal expected increase with more drivers on the road). Even if they did provide evidence showing an increase in accidents, they would still need to go a step further to show how this is directly related to foreign drivers and not something else (the rapid aging of licensed Japanese drivers, perhaps??).

When you take away the need to consider your foreign audience — this article being designed for domestic consumption only — it seems to me that this is another classic case of the Japanese authorities using foreigners as a punching bag for societal angst.

JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets

This is an unintentionally hilarious article written by a Japanese reporter for a Japanese audience. It subconsciously depicts the attitudes of Japanese renters trying to profit from commonplace racist landlords excluding foreign clients: Build a communal household where foreign residents entertain the Japanese and the Japanese residents enjoy themselves. Especially telling is how the reporter contextualizes the issue in terms of more pet-friendly accommodations in Japan — putting foreigners on the same level as pets (with apparently as much power as a pet to be left alone).

Let’s consider this in terms of all the tokenism found in Japanese companies (especially during the Kokusaika Era, which I experienced first-hand) hiring young, genki gaijin to “internationalize” their company, and then putting them to work in temporary, trite, and expendable jobs so that they could give the company smiles but never get promoted to a post with any power. It’s clear that the unequal relationship is so normalized that making NJ into your house pet is unproblematized by the Japanese media. Finally, the reporter completely ignores the fact that racist landlords (not the lack of a guarantor) are the primary reason why “no pets, no foreigners” apartments exist.

Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”

Opening paragraph: Arudou’s book is a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan. It comes on the heels of both the Japanese government’s 2014 official claim that an anti-racial discrimination law is not necessary (third combined report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD]), and recent developments in Japan that have politicized the issues of dual nationality and hate speech, and even the Miss Universe Japan pageant.

Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan

Here’s a nice write-up about a group called the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which is doing a very important thing: Helping NJ help each other. Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan, even though, however well-intentioned Wajin are, many if not most have little idea what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan, or understand practically what it’s like to become a member of society when they always have been one. Now this group is having longer-term NJ help shorter-term NJ learn the ropes. It’s far better than the alternative frequently found in many NJ tribes, particularly the elite ones that enjoy Wajin Privilege, of oldcomers cutting newbies no slack — because apparently nobody ever cut the oldcomers any. Fine, but that’s not helpful at all. Let’s hope groups like the APFS break that vicious circle, and enable NJ to control their own agenda and thus their own lives in Japan.

JT: Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways, but they are by no means powerless nor on their own, says Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS). In a recently launched program series, the organization is nurturing a new group of volunteers it calls “foreign community leaders” who will assist fellow non-Japanese trying to navigate life amid a different and foreign culture.

“Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan,” says Jotaro Kato, the head of APFS. “I want people to know that there are foreigners out there who can speak perfect Japanese” and who can provide guidance if needed. Targeting long-term foreign residents with a high level of proficiency in the Japanese language, the 30-year-old organization is spearheading the project to groom such veterans so they can help newcomers overcome a variety of everyday obstacles, such as dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.

Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10) Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains
2) MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)
3) Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. But unclear how it’ll be enforced.
4) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices

NOT SO GOOD
5) Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!
6) JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws
7) Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org
8 ) CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ
9) Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016
11) Tangent: James Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College

Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains

To start this year (which I am not at all optimistic about), let’s try to talk about two bright sides to 2016. First up, this piece of good news that shows that targeting of foreign passengers (on an airport train, no less) is officially not cool — either from the passengers’ point of view or from the train company’s:

Mainichi: A Nankai Electric Railway Co. conductor was dealt a verbal warning after apologizing to Japanese passengers for crowding on a train heading to Kansai International Airport with a large number of foreigners, it has been learned. […]

“Today there are many foreign passengers aboard and it is very crowded, so we are inconveniencing Japanese passengers,” the conductor was quoted as stating in the announcement. After the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station, a Japanese woman questioned a station attendant about the announcement, asking whether it was within the bounds of company rules. When questioned by the company, the conductor was quoted as replying, “I heard a male Japanese passenger at Namba Station yelling, ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’ so I made the announcement to avert trouble. I had no intention of discriminating.”

Then the Grauniad coupled the above story with another one about “wasabi terrorism”:

Grauniad: The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly. The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.

“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.” It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.

COMMENT: The fact that these incidents made news, and (Japanese) social media thought this was worth criticizing is a good thing. Corporations acknowledged and apologized. There is lots to bellyache about when it comes to how NJ are seen and treated in Japan, but when people (especially Japanese people, who are often not all that quick to leap to the defense of NJ, since what happens to NJ does not affect them) stand up against this, this is progress. Credit where credit is due.

Happy New Year 2017 from Debito.org!

Sorry for the silence. I was just taking some time off cold turkey from social media. Everyone should try it sometime.

With this last day of the year on this side of the Dateline, and a new year already starting on the other, I just wanted to wish all Debito.org Readers a Happy New Year. I’d like to believe that 2017 will be better than 2016, but frankly I’m not all that optimistic at the moment. I hope you are.

If you’re wondering about my annual Japan Times countdown of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues as the affected NJ in Japan, it’s out next week, Jan 9, as this year’s offering falls on a press holiday. Again, happiness and health to all!

BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices

At the end of Debito.org’s 10th Anniversary as a blog (and 20th Anniversary as a website archive), here’s the best Christmas gift ever: a facelift and a cleanup! (Thanks for that!)

You probably noticed how slowly Debito.org loaded in recent months. That was because we had issues of memory and backlog buildup over a decade (to the tune of 55GB of it), as well as a customized Wordpress theme that was so obsolete it alone took fifteen seconds to load!

That’s why the revamp of the site’s appearance. Of course, we kept the “Debito.org” typeface banner (that’s always been there, however crufty), but hopefully the site is easier to load and read now.

We are still having issues with (beware, neophyte Geek Speak follows):

1) Reordering widgets for appearance on mobile devices — on cellphones and tablets the contents of the left sidebar appear, then the blog excerpts, then the right sidebar. I’ve tried to figure out to reorder them so the blog excerpts appear at the top, so if anyone could steer me in the right direction, I’ll get right on it.

2) Creating an Index Page that has post excerpts that lead to entire full-text single posts. Until a short time ago, we had the Index Page with excerpts that led to excerpt-text only single posts. I’ve fixed it so that all the contents are visible, but alas, they’re all visible on the Index Page too. I’ll have to create a “child theme” shortly to straighten that out.

Meanwhile, Happy Holidays to all Debito.org Readers! My next Japan Times column, my annual roundup of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2016, will be out on January 9, 2017. Enjoy!

Tangent: Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College

Michener: “On election day 1968 the United States once again played a reckless game with its destiny. Acting as if it were immune to catastrophe, we conducted one more Presidential election in accordance with rules that were outmoded and inane. This time we were lucky. Next time we might not be. Next time we could wreck our country.

“The dangerous game we play is this. We preserve a system of electing a President which contains so many built-in pitfalls that sooner or later it is bound to destroy us. The system has three major weaknesses. It places the legal responsibility for choosing a President in the hands of an Electoral College, whose members no one knows and who are not bound to vote the way their state votes. If the Electoral College does not produce a majority vote for some candidate, the election is thrown into the House of Representatives, where anything can happen. And it is quite possible that the man who wins the largest popular vote across the nation will not be chosen President, with all the turmoil that this might cause.

“In 1823 Thomas Jefferson, who as we shall see had long and painful experience with this incredible system, described it as, ‘The most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit.’ Today the danger is more grave than when Jefferson put his finger on it.” That was in 1969. Looks like, as of today, the catastrophe has finally happened.

Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. Unclear how it’ll be enforced.

Here’s a little something that may or may not matter in future. As the Abe Administration seeks to expand the NJ “Trainee” sweatshop and slave-labor program out of the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and fishery industries and into nursing (not to mention the “special economic zones” so that foreigners with college degrees and Japanese language ability will have the privilege of tilling land and weeding crops on Japanese farms; seriously), we finally have a law to prevent the widespread abuses of NJ not covered by labor laws. Abuses so widespread, as the article says below, that “about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws,” according to the GOJ. That’s quite a stat.

Now will this law be enforced? Remains to be seen. I’m not sure how this governmental “body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers” will work in practice. We’ve already seen how ineffectual other human-rights organs for “counseling” (such as the Ministry of Justice’s Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights) are in Japan. And there are all manner of institutionalized incentives (and decades of established practice) for people to turn blind eyes. After all, the only ones being hurt by this slavery program are foreigners, and they can just go back home if they don’t like it. (Except that they can’t.) Debito.org will keep you posted on developments.

CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ

Debito: Here’s a submission from Debito.org Reader CR, about the application of the “five year rule” of Japanese Labor Contract Law in Japan’s blue-chip companies. Although the 2003 revision in the law was meant to say, “five years of contract renewals means you must rehire the person as a regular employee (sei sha-in) without a contract” (which would end the exploitative system of unstable employment through perpetual contracting), it’s had the opposite effect: encouraging employers to cap the contracts at five years. Meaning that starting from April 1, 2018, five years since the revised Labor Contract Law took effect, we’re expecting to see a mass firing of Japan’s contract laborers.

This is precisely what has been happening to Japan’s non-tenured foreign academics for generations in Japan’s Academic Apartheid System, with the occasional “massacre” of older Japanese contracted academics just to save money, but now it’s being expanded systemwide to the non-academic private sector. We’ve seen rumblings of its application at Tohoku University for everyone. But of course we have to make it even worse for foreign workers: At Canon, one of Japan’s flagship companies, NJ are being given special “temp” employment categories with contracts explicitly capped at five years from the outset. One more reason to read your employment contracts carefully, if not avoid entirely the increasingly unstable and segregated jobs in Japanese companies.

As CR concludes, “It’s difficult to work in an environment where there are clear discriminations such as this. Note that while I believe the discriminations are racially-based, the only thing that is visible is based off nationality. I don’t know how the company handles NJ who have naturalized, or even if any naturalized Japanese citizens are among the employee ranks. It rankles even more because there are always various “Compliance”-related initiatives, announcements, and activities, to show employees how important it is to play fair, not discriminate, follow the rules and the law, etc. So, big, established, famous, international Japanese companies are already putting discriminatory clauses that violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law into the contracts of NJ. Also, this effectively puts the kibosh on any potential promotions of NJ; you cannot be promoted as a contract employee. The glass ceiling is alive and well.”

Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

JT: I thought you might be interested in this issue that I encountered when using an automatic ticket machine in Hakata Station, Fukuoka. Because I don’t read Japanese so well, I changed the machine to English language. As I went through the menu I could not select the “nimai-kippu” (two tickets of the same type) option, which offers a discount. The only options I had were two individual tickets — if I recall correctly the price difference was ¥2,000. I canceled the sale and went to the counter and had a conversation with the clerk, who confirmed that once English is selected, the cheaper two-ticket option wouldn’t be offered. I was thinking how many hundreds of thousands of yen have been taken from people simply because they select English and don’t happen to know about the cheaper ticket options.

COMMENT: This is proof positive in a national newspaper of separate pricing schemes based upon language. And this at one of Japan’s flagship companies (Japan Railways), no less. Consider the parallels: A restaurant with menus with cheaper prices for customers if they can read Chinese (something frowned upon as discrimination elsewhere). Or travel agencies that reserve cheaper plane tickets for Japanese citizens only (see here). Japan’s train network in Kyushu is filtering customers by language ability and charging Japanese-illiterates a premium. This must stop, obviously, because it’s discriminatory.

Why can’t customers just be treated as customers, and their money for access be valued the same way, regardless of their language ability? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because to JR, it’s not a matter of fairness or equality. It’s a combination of setsuyaku and mendokusai. Making discounts multilingual would be costly, and then there’s the factor of profiteering from the extra fares. The incentive system is clear: Why pay more for a system that brings in less revenue? And besides, the foreigners won’t realize it (because foreigners obviously don’t read Japanese), won’t complain (because they’re so powerless, with no voice in Japan except, ahem, the Japan Times), or they aren’t organized in numbers big enough for a meaningful boycott (plus, as seen above, anyone calling for organized action will be called racist even by their own side — see reader comments under the JT article).

JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws

JT: Once, the hot jobs [in Japan] were high-income positions with finance firms or trading houses, but today’s youth are more sober, preferring a steady, grounded career path. A 2015 poll by Adecco Group asked children between 6 and 15 years old in seven Asian countries and regions what they wanted to be when they grow up. Children in Japan answered in the following order of popularity: 1) company worker; 2) soccer player; 3) civil servant; 4) baseball player. Note the perhaps unexpected answers ranking 1) and 3). “Government employee” made the top 10 only in Japan. […]

Amazingly, each type of civil servant has different labor rights in Japan. I ordinarily teach labor law that protects private-sector employees, so when I tell my students that the labor laws for civil servants differ by type of job, they express shock, particularly when they find out that civil servants have fewer rights than other workers…

COMMENT: Once again, the JT comes out with an insightful article about the difference between appearance and reality, especially in Japan’s labor market. Okunuki Hifumi tells us about how Japan’s most-coveted job — civil servant (!) — actually comes with at a price of fewer rights under Japan’s labor laws. Depending on your status, bureaucrats lack the right to strike, collectively bargain, or unionize (not to mention, as it wasn’t in this article, engage in “political activities”). And that can severely weaken their ability to fight back when labor abuses occur, or, as schoolteachers, to educate students about politics.

Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org

Debito.org has talked at length about the “Great Gaijin Massacre of 1992-4,” where National and Public Universities decided to terminate en masse (at the urging of the Ministry of Education) their foreign faculty who were over 35 years old 1) as a cost-cutting measure, and 2) because they could — since most NJ were on contract employment (meaning one could be “fired” through a simple contract non-renewal), while full-time J faculty were almost always employed on permanent non-contracted tenure from day one. “Academic Apartheid” is what respected scholars such as Ivan Hall called it. And conditions have gotten no better, as (again through government design) more full-time Japanese faculty are being put on contract employment themselves, while far fewer NJ are being granted permanent tenure.

Now we have a new looming massacre. The labor laws changed in 2013 to require employers to stop keeping people on perpetual renewable contract status. After five years of employment, employers must switch them to permanent noncontracted status. Well, the five-year mark is April 1, 2018, meaning there is an incentive for employers to fire people before they hit a half-decade of employment. Debito.org said before that that would happen, and there were some doubters. But here’s the first published evidence of that happening, at Tohoku University, courtesy of our labor law expert at the Japan Times. After all these years of service, even less job security awaits.

JT: [Under] the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013, […] any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. […] The fact is, employers are using the amendment as an excuse to fire their workers or change their working conditions before April 2018. When the law was enacted, it was not grandfathered to entitle those who had already worked more than five years. That meant the clock started on April Fools’ Day, 2013, and that the first time it will be possible to use this purported job-security measure will be April 1, 2018. [..]

This month’s installment delves into the “Tohoku University massacre.” This prestigious, famous and respected college with a long history and tradition has revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees when they next come up for renewal. This kind of move — effectively a mass firing — is rare in Japan, and the plan has already had a huge impact in education and labor-law circles.

MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)

Submitter XY: I have recently read on debito.org about that human rights survey the ministry of justice is conducting right now, and today I got the survey documents in Japanese and English. In your blog you ask for scans of these documents to check the nature of this survey. Here they are (downloadable PDFs):

Debito: Debito.org has focused on the GOJ’s biased surveys regarding human rights and NJ in the past, and found the science to be very bad. This poor science has even been found in surveys of NJ residents at the national (here, here, and here) and local levels (Tokyo and Urayasu, for example). It’s amazing how quickly common human decency and equal treatment evaporates from Japan’s social science just as soon as “foreigners” are brought into the equation.

So that’s why I approached these new surveys for “Foreigners Living in Japan” (as opposed to “Non-Citizen Residents of Japan”) from the Ministry of Justice Human of Human Rights (BOHR), Center for Human Rights Education and Training, with some trepidation. Especially given the BOHR’s longstanding record of unhelpfulness and abdication of responsibility (see also book “Embedded Racism”, pp. 224-231). But let’s take a look at it and assess. Here is a sampling of pages from the English version in jpg format (the full text in Japanese and English is at the above pdf links).

Conclusion: In terms of a survey, this is an earnest attempt to get an official handle on the shape and scope of discriminatory activities in Japan, and even mentions the establishment of anti-discrimination laws as an option. Good. It also includes the first real national-level question about discrimination in housing in Japan, which hitherto has never been surveyed beyond the local level. I will be very interested to see the results.

That said, the survey still has the shortcoming of the GOJ not accepting any culpability for discrimination as created and promoted by officials, including Japan’s police forces, laws, law enforcement, or legislative or judicial processes. It still seems to want to portray discrimination as something that misinformed or malicious individuals do toward “foreigners”, without getting to the root of the problem: That the real issue is racial discrimination embedded within Japan’s very identity as a nation-state (as I uncover and outline in book “Embedded Racism”). Here’s hoping that research helps inform their next survey (as my research informed the Cabinet’s previously biased survey questions back in 2012).

Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!

Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka. The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins. Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse: Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!

This is odious. Given the recent Debito.org report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests”, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6,2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic. Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)

Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016

The Japan Times tapped me for an opinion on the US Elections and Trump’s ascendancy to the Presidency. So here’s my latest JBC a couple of weeks early. Excerpt:

The morning after the election, I woke up to Trump’s America. I’d watched the results from Hawaii, one of America’s bluest states, where our friend had organized a house party to ring in the predicted victory of Hillary Clinton and the continuation of local hero Barack Obama’s legacy. The first polls on America’s East Coast would be closing in our early afternoon. We’d see a clear outcome by dusk and go home happy. […]

And then, stunningly, Trump’s victory in the “rigged” (Trump’s word) Electoral College became a mathematical certainty. By the time the cameras turned to Clinton’s victory bash and showed delegates slinking out, I had too. Back home, I watched as Clinton conceded even before all the networks had called it for Trump. I felt betrayed. And insomniac.

JBC has commented on previous U.S. elections (“Hailing the tail end of Bush”, Dec. 2, 2008), so let me tell you: I searched for a silver lining to all this. I found none…

Mainichi Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors. Good luck with that without an anti racial discrimination law

Mainichi: In just 10 months, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has already smashed through the 20 million mark for the year, surpassing the previous annual record of about 19.74 million arrivals set in 2015. [..]. Now the government is shooting for 40 million in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The wave of people coming to see Japan is a welcome development on many fronts, especially as our country’s population ages and begins to decline, particularly in the countryside. There are, of course, direct and obvious economic benefits from so many visitors shopping, eating and filling Japan’s hotel rooms. However, the tourism boom has also made companies and regional communities more outward-looking in their thinking, and that’s deeply significant. […] What’s important is to avoid viewing visitors to our shores as mere consumers. The government has declared it wants to see foreign visitors drop 8 trillion yen in Japan in 2020. There’s nothing wrong with setting a numerical target in and of itself, but focusing solely on visitor spending could lead to a nasty trip-up.

Submitter JK: Hi Debito: The GOJ wants foreign visitors spend a couple trillion yen the year the Olympics comes to town, so why not strike while the iron is hot and use this as leverage against xenophobic establishments by calling them out on their behavior (i.e. “there’s this shop down the way that excludes anyone foreign-looking — surely that reflects poorly on Japan and hurts the government’s numbers.”)?

Debito: Agreed. And that’s the big blind spot in this editorial. It talks about the shortcomings of tourism policy focusing only on infrastructure and profit, but neglects to mention the issues of how a police force dedicated to racial profiling (especially at hotels), or how being refused service somewhere just because the proprietor has a “thing” about foreigners (and can get away with it because Japan has no law against racial discrimination), can really ruin a visit. “Cultivating Japan fans” is one way of putting it, “stopping xenophobes” is another. And that should be part of formal GOJ policy as well.

Shiki on unlawful and racist check-in practices at “foreigner-friendly” Sakura Hotel Jimbocho, Tokyo

Shiki: My name is Shiki, and I’m a long term resident in Japan, having been living for almost 9 years now, and I’m actually in the process of naturalization. I wanted to report about the most horrible experience I’ve had in Japan, which happened on October 25, 2016, at a Hotel called “Sakura Hotel Jimbocho”. […]

In the registration they asked for my nationality, which is something I’ve never been asked before. And it said that “Foreigners were required to show their passports”, so I looked at this, and saw your posts about the subject, and then I just thought “Thet are just doing this for the tourists”, so I just left the default that was “Japanese” in nationality. […] I just said “I’m not a tourist”, then this guy asked me if I was Japanese, and I told him that no but that I was not a tourist and didn’t even had my passport with me.

So he then started to ask for my Residence Card, and I told him that my Residence Card contained private information, so I was not comfortable showing it, and then the guy, late at night told me that then they could not take me as a guest unless I showed them my residence card.

[…] proceeded to say that it was “hotel policy”, and that if I didn’t wanted to comply with “hotel policy” I was free to search for another hotel. […] He proceeded to make excuses that he dodn’t knew about the [Hotel Management] law, that he has to report foreigners to the police, and almost telling me that he was gping to “get scolded” by the police if they saw my name without any ID.

I told him it wasn’t my problem, and that he just needed to show the police that I have an address in Japan. He told me that police was going to scold him for not giving the ID of a foreigner, and when I asked him how would they even know if I’m a foreigner and not of Japanese nationality, he proceeded to make a racist statement about how “He can tell by their face, or their accent”. I told him that was racist and he proceeded to once again threaten me about “returning me my money” even after was I told him…

Another positive review of book “Embedded Racism” by Japan Studies Association of Canada (JSAC): “important contribution to geography, cultural, and area studies”

JSAC: “From the immigration crisis in Europe to the growing tensions around racism and law enforcement in the United States, discussion of institutionalized racism, exclusionary rhetoric in the media, and legal barriers to equality seems essential now more than ever. In his most recent book […] cultural critic, activist, and scholar Debito Arudou attempts to spark just such a discussion. A critical analysis of Japan’s treatment of visible minorities (people living in japan who do not display phenotypical Japanese traits) and the legal, political, and social mechanisms that perpetuate the exclusion of such minorities from various aspects of Japanese society, Embedded Racism is extremely well timed. Arguing that racism operating through various institutions in Japan is akin to experiences of racism in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, Arudou’s carefully constructed work attempts to debunk the dominant narrative of Japanese exceptionalism, which he claims provides an escape from accountability to the rest of the world. Describing how structural racism behind institutional, legal, social, and media narratives influences the degree to which “outsiders” are constructed and consequently excluded from essential social and legal protections, Embedded Racism is an important contribution to the fields of geography, cultural, and area studies […]”

AFP: Justice Ministry to conduct first major survey on racism in Japan. Bravo.

AFP: The Justice Ministry will conduct its first large-scale survey on racism in Japan as discrimination becomes a growing social concern, a report said Sunday. The survey will cover 18,500 foreign residents 18 or older, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said, adding that the results will be released by the end of March and reflected in new policies. […] The questions will ask whether respondents have experienced or seen racial discrimination in daily life or in the workplace, and what action they want the government to take to eliminate it, the report said. […] No comment on the report was available from the ministry Sunday.

COMMENT: Interesting development here. Given that most surveys on foreigners and government policy on foreigners don’t ask foreign residents for their input (this is a society that even excludes foreign residents from official population tallies; see here and here), this is a positive development. If any Debito.org Readers get this survey, please scan it before you fill it out and send it to debito@debito.org, and let’s see how the survey has been written up. Too many questions posed by the GOJ re foreigners slant them to produce negative outcomes — including even questioning that racism exists. It’d be nice (not to mention more scientific) if that didn’t happen this time.

My Japan Times JBC column 102, Oct 31, 2016: “U.S. and Japan elections: Scary in their own ways “

U.S. and Japan elections: scary in their own ways
Subtitle: American political campaigns can be frighteningly tribal while fear of the foreign permeates polls here
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, October 31, 2016
Column 102 for the Japan Times Community Page

Happy Halloween. Let’s talk about something really scary: elections in the United States and Japan. I say scary because these countries are the No. 1 and No. 3 largest economies in the world, not to mention representative democracies considered too big to fail. Yet the way things are going is truly frightening.

Let start with election campaigns in the U.S., since they are probably very familiar and fresh to readers:

The U.S.: two tribes go to war […]
Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/30/issues/u-s-japan-elections-scary-ways/

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 30, 2016

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Japan Scholar Tessa Morris-Suzuki reviews book “Embedded Racism” in journal Japanese Studies, calls it “important, courageous and challenging”

SPECIAL ON EFFECTS OF NEW HATE SPEECH LAW
2) Mainichi: After Osaka hate speech ordinance adopted, daily xenophobic marches decrease, hateful language softened
3) Mainichi: Effect of new anti-hate speech law spreads to executive, judicial branches
4) Mainichi: Court orders anti-Korean group to compensate woman over hate speech
5) Kyodo: Japan’s laws against hate speech piecemeal, lack teeth
6) Mainichi Editorial: Japan needs effective hate speech law to stamp out racist marches
… and finally…
7) My Japan Times JBC column 101: “US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (Oct 3, 2016)

Mainichi Editorial: Japan needs effective hate speech law to stamp out racist marches

To cap off this month of discussion on Debito.org about Japan’s new hate speech laws, check out what the Mainichi (clearly a supporter, given their generous coverage of the issue, particularly enforcement problems) said about a bill at the national level back in April. It passed in June. This article offers a good accounting of just how much work went into getting the local governments to take a stand on the issue, and how grassroots movements do indeed influence national policy in Japan.

Mainichi: In 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination advised the Japanese government to take resolute action against hate speech, and to enact anti-hate speech legislation. There are also strong domestic calls for a government response to hate speech. In January of this year, the city of Osaka enacted the country’s first anti-hate speech ordinance. In addition, more than 300 local government assemblies across Japan have adopted a written statement calling on the central government to take appropriate legal action against hate speech, while staying within the Constitutional right to freedom of expression. In these acts, we can see a definite fear that Japan will lose the trust of the international community if hate groups continue to peddle their poisonous polemics unhindered. […]

The LDP-Komeito bill defines hate speech as unjust discrimination. The bill differs greatly from the opposition’s version, which seeks to regulate a wider range of discriminatory acts and calls for the outright ban on hate speech. Neither bill, however, lists a punishment for hate speech violations. To the contrary, we believe that Japan needs a law that clearly defines hate speech, preventing broad interpretations that could be warped into threats to the freedom of expression. The law should also include provisions that will have some practical effect, such as giving authorities the power to deny hate groups the use of public facilities and roads for demonstrations.

Kyodo: Japan’s laws against hate speech piecemeal, lack teeth

One more blog entry about hate speech in Japan (because these developments are important and deserve archiving, as they set the tone for how the new law will be enforced and possibly lead to laws against other forms of racial discrimination). The Mainichi articles thus far archived on Debito.org (here, here, and here) have talked about the positive developments of people being called to account for their hateful speech, and the chilling effect (for a change) over anti-foreign public rallies. Yet Kyodo below makes a case that the law does not go far enough:

Kyodo: Japan’s first hate speech law, which took effect in June, was created in line with Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, and Article 13, which guarantees basic human rights. Experts, though, say the law is flawed because it lacks both a stated prohibition of hate speech and carries no punishment for perpetrators.

In July, an ordinance to curb hate speech took effect in the city of Osaka. It helped minimize threatening expressions, including “Die!” and “Kill them,” but did little to curb slurs like “the crime rate among Korean people is high.” Yet the environment surrounding offensive displays appears to be changing. Kawasaki announced on May 31 it would not allow the organizer of a hate speech demonstration to use a park following past remarks and activities. In Osaka, police called for “a society free of discrimination.” But perpetrators of discriminatory behavior have turned their attention to the political arena…

Mainichi: Court orders anti-Korean group to compensate woman over hate speech

This is the third article of three talking about the progress being made under the recent adoption of local laws against hate speech in Japan, in this case a court case against official hate group Zaitokukai:

Mainichi: The Osaka District Court on Sept. 27 ordered a citizens’ group that holds hate speech rallies targeting Korean residents in Japan to pay 770,000 yen in compensation to a Korean woman over defamation carried out by the group and its former chairman. Freelance writer Lee Sin Hae, 45, filed the lawsuit against “Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai” (literally, “citizens’ group that does not forgive special rights for Korean residents of Japan,” or “Zaitokukai”) and its former chairman Makoto Sakurai, 44, demanding 5.5 million yen in compensation for defamation by fueling discrimination against Korean residents through hate speech campaigns.

According to the ruling, after Lee contributed an article criticizing hate speech to an online news site, Sakurai called her “an old Korean hag” at rallies his group organized in Kobe’s Sannomiya district and targeted her on Twitter using a discriminatory word for a Korean person sometime between 2013 and 2014 when he was the head of the group. Presiding Judge Tamami Masumori acknowledged that some of the things Sakurai had said and tweeted invaded her personal rights and concluded such actions constituted insults banned under the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination…

Mainichi: Effect of new anti-hate speech law spreads to executive, judicial branches

This is the second article of three talking about the progress being made under the recent adoption of local laws against hate speech in Japan.

Mainichi: A new law aimed at eliminating hate speech campaigns, which instigate rejection of specific racial or ethnic groups from local communities, came into force on June 3. While the legislation has proven effective in some parts of the country, such as in Kawasaki where the court handed down a provisional injunction banning a hate speech rally in an area home to many Korean residents, there remain challenges that need to be addressed.

On June 5, a hate speech demonstration in Kawasaki was called off after participants were surrounded by hundreds of citizens protesting against the rally and police urged them to discontinue the event. The organizers terminated the rally after demonstrators paraded only about 10 meters down the road, in what was going to be the country’s first such demonstration since the anti-hate speech law came into effect. […] The June 2 provisional injunction issued by the Yokohama District Court’s Kawasaki branch also quoted the same international treaty, as well as the anti-hate speech law that had just been enacted in May. The ruling called hate speech rallies “illegal actions that infringe upon the personal rights for leading a peaceful life” and pointed out that grossly illegal hate speech campaigns, such as repeating loud chants with bullhorns, lie “outside the bounds of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution.” […]

Signs of change are also emerging in police responses over the issue. In step with the anti-hate speech law coming into effect, the National Police Agency issued a notice to prefectural police departments across the country asking them to strictly respond to hate speech demonstrations by making full use of existing legislation such as that against defamation and contempt. […] Yasuko Morooka, a lawyer who authored a book titled “Hate Speech towa nanika” (What is hate speech?), hails the anti-hate speech legislation, saying, “The law provides support for courts, local bodies and police in making a decision on their strict responses to hate speech.”

The new law, however, has its own limits. In order to provide relief to victims who suffered damage from hate speech, they still need to prove in detail violations of their personal rights and defamation, just as they needed to before the law came into effect. The June 2 provisional injunction banning a hate speech rally became viable as there existed crystal-clear damage in Kawasaki, where the organizers of the planned rally had repeatedly staged similar demonstrations on about a dozen occasions.

Scholar Tessa Morris-Suzuki reviews book “Embedded Racism” in journal Japanese Studies, calls it “important, courageous and challenging”

Scholar Morris-Suzuki’s concluding paragraph: In the final sections of Embedded Racism, the author looks to the future, without great optimism, but with some clear and cogent suggestions for steps that the Japanese government should take if it truly wishes to make Japan a more open society. These include passing strong and effective laws against discrimination, strengthening the powers of the Bureau of Human Rights, reforming the citizenship and family registration systems, and legalising dual nationality. Arudou also argues for the involvement of non-citizens in the processes of creating new policies affecting foreign residents. He expresses little confidence that the Japanese authorities will respond to such ideas, but his critique of Japan’s embedded racism and his proposals for change certainly deserve to be read by policy makers, as well as by scholars of Japan. This is an important, courageous and challenging book, and it casts a sharp light on problems which are often ignored or veiled, but which have profound consequences for the present and future of Japanese society.

Mainichi: After Osaka hate speech ordinance adopted, daily xenophobic marches decrease, hateful language softened

Debito: When Japan’s first actual law against hate speech was passed in January this year, critics (naturally) decried it as a means to stifle freedom of speech. I took exception to that, saying that it was a step in the right direction, at least. Recent articles in the Mainichi Shinbun seem to bear that out. Here is one of three, talking about the positive effects of the law, where once-daily hate rallies are down, xenophobic language is softened and made less normalized, administrative organs now have means of enforcement, and even court cases are ruling in favor of targeted victims. Good. Read on:

Mainichi: Mun Gong Hwi, an ethnic Korean, […] says, “In a street demonstration by a hate group in April, there was a moment when one participant started to use blatantly offensive language to attack Koreans, and the organizers hurried to stop them. The number of hate demonstrations has also fallen greatly since around the time of the ordinance taking effect.” […]

The response of police and the government administrations to hate marches has also changed. On June 5, just after the execution of the new law, the Kawasaki Municipal Government refused to give permission for a park to be used for a protest targeting the social welfare corporation “Seikyu-sha,” which gives support to the many ethnic Koreans living in the city’s Sakuramoto district. Additionally, the Kawasaki branch of the Yokohama District Court called the hate speech demonstrations “an illegal violation of human rights” and prohibited them from being held near the Seikyu-sha building. Kanagawa Prefectural Police gave permission for the demonstration to be held in a different street location, but protesters staged a sit-in. The police urged the organizers to call off the demonstration for safety reasons, and it was canceled. […]

The thinking of those putting out hate speech and the (essential) content of what they say may not change, but at least on the surface we can see the effects of the countermeasures. It seems (for example) that the organizers are not allowing demonstrators who often say extremist things to have bullhorns. Preventing hate marches through the law thus depends not on cracking down on such actions, but on government policies that put a stop to discrimination.

My Japan Times JBC column 101: “US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (Oct 3, 2016)

JBC: I love elections. Anywhere. It’s fascinating to see how politicians craft public appeals. No matter how flawed the process, it’s how nation-states recharge their legitimacy and publicly reaffirm their mandate to govern.

During this season of the world’s most-watched presidential campaign, JBC will assess “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of how the United States and Japan run their elections. […] I want to talk about the expression of political culture and momentum that has grown from generations of campaigning, and how it brings out the “good” (things that are healthy for a representative democracy), the “bad” (things that aren’t), and the “ugly” (the just plain ludicrous)…

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/02/issues/comparing-elections-u-s-japan-good-bad-ugly/