Archive for the 'Problematic Foreign Treatment' Category
Clear cases of people treating NJ different than Japanese for questionable reasons, or for no reason at all.
Posted by arudou debito on 19th April 2014
Kyodo: The government plans to restart from August a test on a facial recognition system to speed up immigration checks at airports and prepare for an expected surge in visitors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, officials said Saturday.
COMMENT: Let’s survey the narratives of justification in this article. We have the argument that it’s allegedly for a looming event (NJ swarm from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though it’s more than six years away!), the convenience factor (faster processing of people, this time without even registering!), and the bandwagon argument that others are implementing it (Britain and Australia, whose civil societies have had more robust debates on the issues of privacy and civil liberties). All of these arguments were made during the reinstitution of NJ fingerprinting in 2007, and that time it wasn’t for a specific event, but rather for anti-terrorism [sic] in general. And as Debito.org has argued many times before, once you get the public softened up on the idea of taking away civil liberties by testing it on one sector of the population (in this case, the Gaijin Guinea Pigs, since foreigners in every society have fewer civil and political rights), it gets expanded on the rest of the population. Let’s enter the No-Brainer Zone: I anticipate the facial recognition software will be implemented nationwide more seamlessly than any other intrusive technology yet, since it is so convenient and doesn’t require individual registry or even much hardware installation. There’s even a profit motive. Consider this:
JT Editorial: Over 100 supermarkets and convenience stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area have been recording images of shoppers’ faces as part of antishoplifting measures. Though the stores have posted signs stating cameras are in place, the stores have been sharing the biometric data of customers without their knowledge. [...] The problem is the lack of checks on the system. Seemingly whoever has access to the network could classify customers according to an arbitrary criterion. But what constitutes an “unreasonable” complaint is open to question. And whether an act of shoplifting is reported to the police and whether the suspect is convicted of the crime is a matter of the law. It should not be a matter of how an employee feels about it. Unfortunately with this technology, stores are now able to put people on a blacklist for any reason whatsoever.
COMMENT FROM SJ AND PHU: What if this employee is inherently suspicious of all foreigners in general, or harbors racist feelings towards anyone who does not appear Japanese? Such an employee can end up blacklisting and tagging a foreign shopper not for anything specific that the customer has done, but rather out of the employee’s own paranoia against non-Japanese shoppers… Japan’s pronounced discrimination problem does make it hard to ignore the likelihood of abuse skewing towards minorities.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 8 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 20th February 2014
Aaand, the inevitable has happened: Japan’s apparently underperforming athletes (particularly its ice skaters) have invited criticism from Japan’s elite. Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori Yoshiro, one of Japan’s biggest gaffemeisters when he served an abysmal stint as Prime Minister, decided to shoot his mouth off about champion skater Asada Mao’s propensity to choke under pressure. But more importantly, as far as Debito.org is concerned, about how the American-Japanese skating siblings Cathy and Chris Reed’s racial background has negatively affected their performance:
“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”
Oh. But wait. They’re not naturalized. They always had Japanese citizenship, since their mother is Japanese. And how about Japan’s other athletes that also train if not live overseas (such as Gold Medalist Skater Hanyu Yuzuru, who now hails from Toronto)? Oh, but he won, so that’s okay. He’s a real pureblooded Japanese with the requisite yamato damashi.
In fact, the existence of people like Mori are exactly the reason why Japan’s athletes choke. As I’ve written before, they put so much pressure and expectation on them to perform perfectly as national representatives, not as individuals trying to achieve their personal best, so if they don’t medal (or worse yet, don’t Gold), they are a national shame. It’s a very high-stakes game for Japan’s international athletes, and this much pressure is counterproductive for Japan: It in fact shortens their lives not only as competitors, but as human beings (see article by Mark Schreiber after the Japanese articles).
Fortunately, this has not escaped the world media’s glance. As CBS News put it: “Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!” But expect more of this, for this is how “sporting spirit” is hard-wired in Japan. Because these types of people (especially their invisible counterparts in the media and internet) are not only unaccountable, they’re devoid of any self-awareness or empathy. If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don’t they try doing it themselves? Then she was taken off the team, never to return.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 29 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 24th January 2014
Only a few days into the case of racialized advertisement from ANA, I got tapped by the Japan Times to cover it. Debito.org Readers and Facebook Friends certainly gave me plenty of food for thought, so thank you all very much. Here’s my more polished opinion on it, which stayed the number one article on the JT Online for two full days! What follows is the “Director’s Cut” with excised paragraphs and links to sources. Conclusion:
Look, Japan, if you want to host international events (such as an Olympics), or to have increased contact with the outside world, you’ll face increased international scrutiny of your attitudes under global standards. For one of Japan’s most international companies to reaffirm a narrative that Japanese must change their race to become more “global” is a horrible misstep. ANA showed a distinct disregard for their Non-Japanese customers—those who are “Western,” yes, but especially those who are “Asian.”
Only when Japan’s business leaders (and feudalistic advertisers) see NJ as a credible customer base they could lose due to inconsiderate behavior, there will be no change in marketing strategies. NJ should vote with their feet and not encourage this with passive silence, or by double-guessing the true intentions behind racially-grounded messages. This is a prime opportunity. Don’t let ANA off the hook on this. Otherwise the narrative of foreigner = “big-nosed blonde that can be made fun of” without turnabout, will ensure that Japan’s racialized commodification will be a perpetual game of “whack-a-mole.”
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Good News, Humor, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Racist Images in Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tourism | 33 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 16th January 2014
In what I consider to be good and very significant news, the Tokyo District Court ruled that NJ who had their privacy violated, due to National Police Agency leaks of personal information, were entitled to compensation.
This is good news because the government rarely loses in court. Considering past lawsuits covered by Debito.org, the police/GOJ can get away with negligence (Otaru Onsens Case), grievous bodily harm (Valentine Case), and even murder (Suraj Case).
But not privacy violations. Interesting set of priorities. But at least sometimes they can protect NJ too.
Note also what is not being ruled problematic. As mentioned below, it’s not an issue of the NPA sending out moles to spy on NJ and collecting private information on them just because they happen to be Muslim (therefore possible terrorists). It’s an issue of the NPA losing CONTROL of that information. In other words, the privacy breach was not what’s being done by The State, but rather what’s being done by letting it go public. That’s also an interesting set of priorities.
But anyway, somebody was forced to take responsibility for it. Good news for the Muslim community in Japan. More background from the Debito.org Archives on what the NPA was doing to Japan’s Muslim residents (inadequately covered by the article below), and the scandal it caused in 2000, here, here, and here.
UPDATE JAN 17: UPDATE JAN 17: I was convinced by a comment to the Japan Times yesterday to remove this entry from the “Good News” category. I now believe that the court approval of official racial profiling of Muslims has made the bad news outweigh the good.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Lawsuits, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 2 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th November 2013
As Tokyo is having some elections (or by this time of blogging, had; sorry), I thought it within the role of Debito.org to archive yet another example of xenophobia used as a campaign strategy.
Xenophobic party Ishin Seitou Shinpuu (Restoration Party New Wind) is up to its old anti-foreigner tricks again. This time, front and center, is a candidate for Tokyo Katsushika-ku by the name of Kaneko Yoshiharu, a former employee of Ishikawa Prefecture and former town councilor for O-i Chou in Kanagawa Prefecture, clearly skipping to the other side of Tokyo to rent an apartment and rally up a few fellow fearmongerers.
His slogan, front and center: “More than foreigners, Japanese are first!” (Gakokujin yori nihonjin ga daiichi!). He’s also calling for limits to foreign products being “dumped” (i.e., being sold overseas for lower than production cost or domestic pricing in order to capture market share — which is kinda rich to say given Japan’s trade record) and for a hardening of policy against Japan’s low birthrate (sorry, potential pun acknowledged). He also wants (see below within his public statement) an end to “superfluous (kajou na) support for foreigners”, whatever that means.
In case you’re wondering whether anyone would have the courage to put this up on campaign poster walls (or wonder whether Japan’s election laws would allow for such divisive language), he does and they do. If you want to know more about what Kaneko wants done, have a look at this.
Keep an eye on this party, folks (http://www.shimpu.jpn.org). It’s the most brazen, but by no means the only xenophobic party of grumpy old Japanese men out there who want to jerk Japan’s political chain hard right. It helps to have somebody extremely hard-line so that other hardliners (such as Ishihara/Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party — without the New Wind) look milder by comparison. Helps to normalize the invective.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 37 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 23rd October 2013
Donald Keene, currently aged 91, had his Donald Keene Center opened up on September 21, in order to transmit “the excellence of Japanese literature” (watashi wa ninon bungaku no subarashisa o tsutaetai). This is an important event, as it counts as an established NJ legacy on the scale of Edwin Dun and of course Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo.
Now, where Debito.org has taken issue with Keene is with not with his scholarship or contributions to the field of Japanese studies (indeed admirable), but with his naturalization while publicly denigrating NJ. As chronicled here and in the Japan Times, he himself made a big fuss about how he was becoming a Japanese citizen for selfless reasons, e.g., to “become one of them”, to show “solidarity with the Japanese people” in their time of great need, so that he might help victims of the Tohoku Disasters in some way.
Fine. But he also threw in all sorts of irrelevancies and nastiness, such as making himself out to be morally superior to other NJ residents (contrasting himself with those allegedly fleeing Japan like the mythical “Flyjin”, mentioning how he wasn’t committing crimes like they were — despite actual NJ crime trends). It was a poor show of social science by a trained researcher.
If he’s going to be mean, then he’s going to have his record scrutinized like everyone else. So, despite his promises to “contribute to areas affected by the [Tohoku] disaster”, by now what has he done? Put his Donald Keene Center in Tohoku to attract tourists? Sorry, Kashiwazaki is quite far away from the disaster areas, and the Donald Keene Center website doesn’t even mention the events in Tohoku as any form of motivation. Visited Tohoku like other NJ to help out with relief efforts? Well, according to Wikipedia, he gave a speech in Sendai; thanks, but… Or opening up his library for free to the public? No, sorry, that’s not how business is done:
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 4 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 19th October 2013
In an apparent policy U-turn, the GOJ decided last week to lift the ban on certain South Americans of Japanese descent (Nikkei) from re-entering Japan. This after bribing them to leave in 2009 so that they would not become an inconvenient unemployment statistic (not to mention that it was cheaper to pay their airfare than to pay them their social welfare that they had invested in over the decades, or pay them their pensions in future when reaching retirement age).
The reasons for this U-turn are being discussed in a recent Japan Times article, excerpted below. The article speculates that a couple of embarrassing lawsuits and visa-denials might have tipped the GOJ’s hand (I for one doubt it; Japan’s visa regimes, as can be seen for example in its perennial stance towards refugees, are generally impervious to public exposure and international pressure). I believe it was more an issue of the GOJ facing reality (as happened more than one year ago at the highest policymaking levels, where even the GOJ still maintained the stance that if immigration was an inevitability, they had better bring back people with Japanese blood; after all, the only ones in attendance were all Wajin and one token Nikkei).
Debito.org has spoken out quite hot-tonguedly about how ludicrous the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe was, not the least because of its inherently racialized paradigms (because they only applied to Nikkei — people who were also in even more dire financial straits due to the economic downturn, such as the Chinese and Muslim factory workers laboring in conditions of indentured servitude, were left to fend for themselves because they lacked the requisite Japanese blood).
So as a matter of course Debito.org cheers for the lifting of the ban. But the Bribe and the Ban should never have happened in the first place. So the GOJ can also take its lumps even if they are ultimately making the right decision.
Does this mean that the numbers of registered NJ residents of Japan will start to increase again? I will say it could happen. I stress: could, not will happen. But if it did, that statistic, not any asset bubbles and transient stock-market numbers that people keep championing as the putative fruits of “Abenomics”, will be the real indicator of Japan’s recovery. That is to say, if Japan ever regains its sheen as an attractive place to work for international labor, then an increase in Japan’s NJ population will cause and signal a true leavening of Japan’s economic clout and prowess. But I remain skeptical at this juncture — as I’ve said before, the jig is up, and outsiders generally know that Japan has no intention or enforceable laws to treat immigrants as equals, no matter how much of their lives and taxes they invest.
At this time, I believe international migrant labor will continue to vote with their feet and work elsewhere. So good luck with significant numbers coming to Japan even with this ban lifted.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Pension System, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th September 2013
Kyodo: A public bath facility in Eniwa, Hokkaido, refused entry to a Maori woman from New Zealand due to her face tattoos, a facility official said Thursday. The Maori language lecturer, 60, has the tattoos, called ta moko, worn traditionally by some indigenous New Zealanders, on her lips and chin. She was in Hokkaido for a conference on indigenous languages in the town of Biratori in the northernmost prefecture. On Sunday afternoon a group of 10 people involved in the conference visited the thermal baths but were refused entry by a facility staff member.
Oh the ironies of the above happening: a) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the famous Otaru Onsens Case (where people were refused entry just for being foreign; well, okay, just looking foreign), b) it’s in Hokkaido, site of the indigenous Ainu (whose conference in Biratori this indigenous Maori lecturer was attending), and c) it’s a traditional face tattoo, which the Ainu themselves used to have before the GOJ outlawed them.
But wait, there’s more irony. Check this out: Mainichi: Gov’t aims to complete national Ainu museum for 2020 Olympics: “The project aims to end discrimination against Ainu people in Japan and create a society where people of different ethnicities can live together in harmony.”…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 32 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th August 2013
I’m about to vacation the blog for a few weeks for the summer, but before I do, here’s some food for thought about the debate on discrimination in this part of the world. Contrast the Korea Times article below about racial discrimination in South Korea with any article about racial discrimination in Japan. I see striking parallels, especially given my experience as a naturalized Caucasian Japanese myself. The debate in South Korea seems to be falling into similar mental traps and policy-level blind spots.
KT: In a report submitted to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2003, the Korean government explained that the “homogeneity of the Korean people and the relative lack of multiethnic experiences have been conducive to prejudice against foreign cultures and people.”
But Hyung-il Pai, a professor of Korean history at the University of California, argues in her book, “Constructing ‘Korean’ Origins,” that the idea of a pure Korean race is a myth constructed by Japanese colonial scholars and Korean nationalists. The archaeological record actually shows that Korea’s historical development reflected diverse influences from throughout Northeast Asia.
Nonetheless, “Race as the basic unit of analysis in Korean history was the pedestal on which the nation was built. Race or blood was considered the most critical factor in Korean identity formation,” she explained about modern Korean attitudes on history.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 10 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 2nd August 2013
The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, an information site constructed by Debito.org and its supporters to catalog the spread of “Japanese Only” establishments nationwide, has added yet another karaoke parlor to its collection. As per the entry:
Okinawa City Moromizato (Okinawa Pref)
Karaoke Hall Maimu
（沖縄市諸見里１−１−２ Ph (098) 931-9114、カラオケの店舗）
Website: http://www.top-music.co.jp/sub_30.html (which does not mention their exclusionary rules)
SIGN: “THIS PLACE IS ONLY FOR JAPANESE SPEAKER!”
Submitter Justin rightly notes: “Shop is located near Kadena US Air Force base. While these signs are a step up from completely discriminating against all NJ, it is ridiculous that they can get a sign saying people who can’t speak Japanese are not admitted, but can’t have someone translate a paper listing the ‘rules and regulations of the shop’ in English.”
Quite. Plenty of hotels (especially the pre-disaster Fukushima ones) use the same excuse. And Maimu’s English translation is quite good, so this “language barrier” feels more like an excuse just to exclude like the ones proffered by Onsen Yunohana back in 2001.
The Rogues’ Gallery Moderator also wonders how Maimu will be testing customers’ language ability, what the sufficient linguistic thresholds are to “pass”, and if it will be only be enforced on people who “look foreign”. Also, since their website also says children are welcome (and has no rules to bar deaf or blind people), I wonder if Maimu is as worried about potential communication problems during emergencies with them? No, I bet it’s just “foreigners” that cause “inconvenience to our customers”.
Another one duly recorded. Any more places like this out there, Debito.org Readers? Submissions welcome as per the parameters up at the Rogues’ Gallery
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 13 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 17th June 2013
A few days ago KAJ, the editor of MRbloggen, a Norwegian human rights blog, sent me a very insightful article on racial profiling and foreign crime reportage in Japan. Let me excerpt from KAJ and from some writing I’m doing:
KAJ: On 26 May 2013, a large mass demonstration demanding the eradication of foreign crimes and the expulsion of illegal immigrants was commenced in Tokyo. The demonstration ran for approximately two hours (between 11:00 – 13:00) starting from Shinjuku Park. In a statement calling for participation of the Japanese public, it was noted that “this demonstration is not a demonstration against foreign crime specific. It is a demonstration for the expulsion of all bad foreigners” [translated]. The procession of the demonstration can be viewed here. This is not the first time such mass distress against foreign crimes occured. So the question that should be asked is, is foreign crimes really a problem in Japan? What may have caused Japanese to fear foreign criminals?
COMMENT: The NPA’s annual White Papers on crime illustrate how crime reportage in Japan is differentiated into “kokumin versus gaikokujin”, with no comparison between them in scope or scale: Note the difference. Comparing a base year of 2009 (H.21), there were a total of 30,569 total cleared cases of crime committed by all foreign nationals (blue plus red bars). For kokumin, corresponding thefts and regular penal offenses not including traffic violations (purple bar, on a scale of 万件) total to over 1.5 million cases, or a difference of about a factor of 49. If put on the same chart with the same scale, foreign crime numbers would thus be practically invisible compared to kokumin crime numbers. However, the NPA has chosen to avoid this comparison, focusing instead on the rise and fall – mostly the purported rise – of foreign crime…
UPDATE June 24 2013: A Reader sends in “Gaijin Crime” [sic] stats from the Shizuoka Pref. Police website that similarly try to visually accentuate any rises they can. This is the group that put out the racist “Characteristics of Foreign Crime” pamphlet back in 2000. Still up to their old tricks.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 23 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th May 2013
This post comes to you as a query. Are any Debito.org Readers noticing that the Japanese police are keeping closer tabs on people by going door-to-door to survey occupants (junkai renraku), asking them to fill out Junkai Renraku Cards? (To see what information is required for the Junkai Renraku, especially for NJ residents, here’s one translated into English by the NPA).
According to the Aichi Prefectural Police website, this will be in order to:
Give advice on how not to become victims of crime,
Take measures for people who have been victims of crime,
Contact neighborhoods that have recently been victims of crime (such as sneak thievery and car break-ins) and advise them how to take measures against crime in the future,
Prevent youth crime (shounen no hankou boushi),
Have lists of occupants (renraku hyou) on hand and phone numbers in case of disasters, and more.
A couple of funny things going on here. First, information about neighborhood occupancy should be available through the juuminhyou system in the first place. Much of this information is also surveyed by the National Census (kokusei chousa), where, I might add, providing any information is optional (note how the optionality of providing personal information is not mentioned in the Aichi Police website). Why do the police feel the need to compile their own data set?
Now, you might think I’m making too much of this. But naturally I would argue not. Especially since we have had cases of police agencies doing one thing (like putting out racist anti-NJ flyers) while offering sweetness and light on their official English website. There’s a lot of tatemae here, and you only have to be a minority in Japan before you understand just how much intent and enforcement differ from the sloganeering.
My advice: If you get an unexpected knock one day and see (through the peep sight) a cop at your front door, don’t answer. Because if they visually identify you in any way as NJ, you are automatically suspicious and you’ll get the Third Degree.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 79 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th April 2013
JDG: “Saw this story on Japan Today (link): It’s a story about a poster campaign to advertise a TV show where NJ straight off the plane are asked why they came to Japan. In the poster, ‘talent(less)’ J-celebs, and a variety of caricatured NJ are proffering answers (‘maid’ cafes, lolitas, etc). I think that there are two ways of looking at this: The first is that they are proceeding from the false assumption that all NJ in Japan are visitors who must be here for some uniquely crazy ‘Japanese’ experience that they can’t get at home, and plays into the myth that there are no NJ long term residents who are here because of their jobs, or family connections. Whilst ignorant and not very helpful for understanding the wide variety of NJ identities, it is a common enough mistake for the Japanese to make.
“However, my second thought is that this poster is an inadvertent and unintended insight into a darker aspect of Japanese psychology on the NJ issue. What if we suppose that this poster is not the product of some ignoramus who genuinely knows nothing of NJ realities in Japan, and believes the myth totally? What if this poster simply reflects a more widespread and deep rooted opinion that NJ shouldn’t be living in Japan because they have families or business here? What if the poster is deliberately not offering reasons such as ‘I’m here because I’m on the board or directors of (insert J-company here)’, or ‘I’m here to get my children back’, or ‘I’m here with the IAEA to inspect your reactors’? These are exaggerations, of course, but the point that I am making is that this poster in itself is a tool of devision, disenfranchisement, exclusion, subjugation, and othering. All that, and created with a lack of self-awareness in the process? A frightening indicator of the extent to which discrimination is normalized in japanese society.”
COMMENT: I would concur in particular with the aspect of maintaining the dominant discourse in Japan of NJ as “guests”, i.e., “temporary visitors, not residents”, mixed in with the shades of “Cool Japan” that helps Japanese society revalidate and even fetishize itself through foreigners. But when you look back a bit historically, there’s more editorial subterfuge here…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tourism | 41 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 21st March 2013
Making national news whenever statistics come out is how Japan deals with (i.e., mostly rejects) refugees. I was always curious about why refugee numbers have always been considered newsworthy (when there are many other significant NJ-related statistics that merit more fanfare but don’t, such as the number of “Newcomers” with Permanent Residency overtaking the “Oldcomer” Zainichis with Special Permanent Residency in 2007, representing a sea change in the composition of permanent immigrant NJs in Japan). But then I found something in an academic writing that put things in perspective: Acceptance of refugees are one bellwether of Japan’s acceptance of international norms, as part of its “greater role in international cooperation” and an attempt “to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy”. First the most recent news article, then the academic article to put it in perspective:
Kyodo: In 2011, there were 21 foreigners recognized as refugees, but for 2012, the number fell to 18. Since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees.
Kashiwazaki: Since the mid-1970s, Japan has come into prominence in the international arena as a major player in the world economy. Internationalization became a slogan for the new direction of the country, with demands from both within and abroad to open, to take a leadership role, and to assume international responsibility. For the Japanese government, successful economic development provided the opportunity to assume a greater role in international cooperation and to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy. To do so would require accepting an emerging set of international legal norms, including those in the area of citizenship…
The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 generated refugees from Indochina. In the same year, the G7 Summit meeting was established. As the only Asian country admitted to membership in the G7 Summit, Japan was obliged to take some steps to accommodate refugees… With the acceptance of refugees, the Japanese government was compelled to join relevant international conventions. Japan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural, Rights in 1979, and then ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981.
COMMENT: Japan basically only acceded to these international norms and agreements as a vanity project — a matter of “not looking like an outlier” in the international community. Not because policymakers had any good-faith interest in helping NJ or outsiders in need come to Japan and settle. That’s why we see honne hiccoughs from time to time (like the one in 2010 when a 78-year-old Zainichi granny was denied social welfare by Oita Prefectural Government — where a court ruled that “Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity”. So much for those international treaties guaranteeing equal treatment being respected by Japan’s judiciary!). We’ve also seen how Japan simply will not pass a law against racial discrimination (despite signing another international agreement, the UN CERD, in 1995) — and will in fact counteract anyone who does. So in this context, Kyodo’s reporting that “since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees,” should come as no surprise. The GOJ has no intention of keeping its international treaty promises. They are merely national self-esteem boosters, not real guidelines or goals.
Posted in Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, United Nations | 8 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th March 2013
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
By Arudou Debito
Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.
This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS | 4 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 8th March 2013
JT JBC: Last November, a reader in Hokkaido named Stephanie sent me an article read in Japan’s elementary schools. Featured in a sixth-grader magazine called Chagurin (from “child agricultural green”) dated December 2012, it was titled “Children of America, the Poverty Superpower” (Hinkon Taikoku Amerika no Kodomotachi), offering a sprawling review of America’s social problems.
Its seven pages in tabloid format (see debito.org/?p=10806) led with headlines such as: “Is it true that there are more and more people without homes?” “Is it true that if you get sick you can’t go to hospital?” and “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the fatter the children are?”
Answers described how 1 out of 7 Americans live below the poverty line, how evicted homeless people live in tent cities found “in any town park,” how poverty correlates with child obesity due to cheap junk food, how bankruptcies are widespread due to the world’s highest medical costs (e.g., one tooth filling costs ¥150,000), how education is undermined by “the evils (heigai) of evaluating teachers only by test scores,” and so on.
For greater impact, included were photos of a tent city, a fat lady — even a kid with rotten-looking picket-fence teeth. These images served to buttress spiraling daisy chains of logic: “As your teeth get worse, your bite becomes bad, your body condition gets worse and your school studies suffer. After that, you can’t pass a job interview and you become stuck in poverty.”
The article’s concluding question: “What can we do so we don’t become like America?”…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Politics, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 5 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 5th March 2013
The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games. In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly. Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.
Academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki might agree with the assessment of rising discrimination, as she documents on academic website Japan Focus the protection of xenophobic Rightists and the police harassment of their liberal opponents. Her conclusion: “But there is no rule of law if the instigators of violence are left to peddle hatred with impunity, while those who pursue historical justice and responsibility are subject to police harassment. There is no respect for human rights where those in power use cyber bullying in an attempt to silence their opponents. And democracy is left impoverished when freedom of hate speech is protected more zealously than freedom of reasoned political debate.” Have a look.
SITYS. This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe. And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination. Wake up, IOC.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS, Sport | 18 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 2nd March 2013
Kyodo: More than 80 percent of respondents in a new poll said they are open to foreign nationals of Japanese descent living in the nation, the Cabinet Office reported. The office’s first survey of its kind, released Thursday, found 80.9 percent of respondents expressed openness to living alongside those with Japanese ancestry, including Brazilian and Peruvian descendents of Japanese immigrants. Only 12.9 percent opposed the idea.
JDG: “It’s a brilliantly pointless piece of reporting, for the sake of massaging the egos of the Japanese readers, and assuring them that Japan is a ‘modern’ country… J-public are finally willing to accept foreigners… as long as they are ‘Japanese’ foreigners… I feel like I have gone back in time 5 years. The same politicians are back, the same old economic policies are back, and now Japan wants all those Nikkeijin they paid to go home, to come back too?”
RM: Hopefully government officials will use this survey to promote further initiatives to empower the Nikkei (and hopefully other non-Japanese) in Japan. Publicly conducting the survey, posting it on the Cabinet Office website, and releasing it to the press, may indicate that the government is testing public support for such initiatives.
DEBITO: Bingo! As has been noted before on Debito.org, the Cabinet, in its sessions last summer on how to “accept” NJ into Japanese society for future economic vitality, only showed interest in the treatment of Nikkei. Nikkei, you see, are somehow part of “us” (due to Wajin blood conceits), and it looks like Japan’s policymakers are going to give the old failed Nikkei worker importation strategy another try, and cite this “shooting fish in a barrel” survey to support it.
Anyway, if the Cabinet is so keen on taking surveys, how about its perpetually embarrassing (and, as I’ve reported in the Japan Times, very flawed) Cabinet Survey on Human Rights that it conducts every four years? I just found the 2012 version, a year late, made public with significantly less fanfare. Perhaps because the results in the past were far more revealing about Japan’s cognitive dissonance regarding human rights, meaning a large proportion don’t support granting equal human rights to foreign humans! You see, human rights for NJ, by the very nature of having to ask this kind of question, are optional in Japan. Less so, it would seem based upon this new Cabinet survey, for the “foreigners” with the right bloodline. Which is the conceit that this new Cabinet survey is pandering to.
Ultimately, I believe the GOJ will once again fall into the same old shortsightedness (like so many other societies) of wanting “workers” only to discover later they brought in “people”. And then, as before, society will seek to denigrate if not get rid of them as soon as they actually have needs (such as health care to provide, children to educate, lifestyles that reflect their backgrounds, retirement pensions to pay, political power to cede) that run counter to the original national plans…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 11th February 2013
Sometimes I wish the Star Trek Universal Translators were already here. But we’re getting closer. Here’s a Google Translate version of an article that came out in Die Zeit newspaper a couple of months ago that cites me and others about Japan’s political problems with creating an immigration policy. Not a lot here that frequent readers of Debito.org don’t already know, but here’s a German media take on the issue:
DIE ZEIT: For decades, Japan has been in a shaky position. The once-booming industrial nation barely registered economic growth. The national debt – in terms of economic power – is higher than that of Greece.
Even today, every fourth Japanese is over 65 years old . The birth rate is so low that the population will decline by 2050 from 127 million today to below 90 million. Several governments have tried to counter by more kindergartens, child care allowance and the like, but little has borne fruit. In 100 years, there might be only 40 million Japanese.
Now there is a lack of skilled labor, falling tax revenues, and no one knows who is going to pay in the future the growing pension claims. According to calculations by the United Nations, by 2050 only 17 million workers will be found to fund the pensions.
But there is a solution: Immigrants like Ezekiel Ramat. Japan’s foreign population is currently 1.3 percent, extremely low for a highly developed country: Germany has at about 8.5 percent foreigners. In Japan, the number of immigrants in recent years even went down. But strange: no one in politics seems to care about immigration policy. Neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor the main opposition parties mention the subject at all in their campaigns. When asked, all assert that they want to promote more immigration. But they make no specific proposals…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 26 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 1st February 2013
We have an interesting case of a Japanese sports player quitting an overseas soccer team claiming “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu). Nakamura Yuuki, formerly of Slovak football club MSK Rimaska Sobota, has been reported in the Japanese press as returning to Japan last September, blogging about his treatment. But look closely. I have included three English-language articles and translated two Japanese articles for comparison
AFP: [...] In an online blog entry dated Wednesday, Nakamura [Yuuki], 25, said he returned to Japan because of racism that had even involved some of his own teammates. “Unfortunately, I have come home because I was subjected to racism at the club I belonged to, Rimavska Sobota, and could not live there any more,” the footballer wrote.
Calling out his name before and after matches, some club supporters raised their middle finger to Nakamura “with a look of furious anger”. “No teammates helped me. There were even some players who joined in (the harassment),” he added. “It wasn’t normal anymore, and the team even received some sort of threats. They cannot be responsible (for my safety), so I came home,” he said.
Submitter AS: Reading through the article and the blog quoted in the article, I can’t find anything that clearly shows racial discrimination. People giving him the finger? With no context, that could mean anything from racial discrimination to thinking he’s a useless player.
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I just find it interesting the difference in treatment in the media and public argument. Nakamura essentially has a nervous breakdown due to the taunts, and then both the Japanese and overseas media report it as racial discrimination, put it in a larger context, and don’t question Nakamura’s claims. Yet when we get the same kind of jeering in Japan of NJ (Shimizu S-Pulse’s Coach Ghotbi being accused in 2011 by supporters in a banner of being connected to Iranian nuclear weapons; or official-level jeers: Japan’s Ekiden running leagues justifying extra hurdles for NJ athletes by claiming that sports are only interesting for Japanese fans if Japanese win them; or claims by Japan’s rugby union not winning because they have “too many foreign players” (including naturalized Japanese); and how about Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s 2012 remarks about NJ judo Olympians being “beasts” spoiling “Japan’s sport”?), nobody calls it “racial discrimination” in the Japanese press (if the foreign press pay any attention to it at all). Racial discrimination only seems to happen overseas.
Where is FIFA or any other international sports league to decry racism when this sort of thing happens in Japan? Buried in cultural relativism. You can see that even more strongly in the comments to the Japan Today article cited above, which are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Nakamura. I don’t doubt that Nakamura had readjustment problems and decided not to stay because he wasn’t comfortable overseas. But imagine the reaction if a NJ player in the J-League were to quit, justifying it by saying “fans gave me an angry look” or “people gave me the finger”. He’d be told by commenters to grow a pair, and would have bloggers both in English and Japanese questioning not only the veracity of his claims but also his mental stability. That’s not happening in Nakamura’s case. Now why? Are we that programmed to holding Japan to a different standard?
Posted in Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Sport, 日本語 | 49 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 23rd January 2013
Last November, Debito.org reported that a magazine named Chagurin (sponsored by the PTA and the JA Japan Agricultural lobby, and placed in Elementary Schools nationwide) featured a scare-mongering article entitled “Children within the Poverty Country of America”. This was reported by a NJ resident named Stephanie whose daughter read the article in public school, questioned its contents because she had overseas experience, and was allegedly rebuffed by her teacher with an unquestioning, “It is written so it must be true.”
The contents, which were scanned and featured on Debito.org in full, depicted America as an example of what Japan should not become, and focused on several social problems (such as homelessness, poverty, obesity, non-universal health care, flawed education, and poor diet) which do exist but were largely exaggerated — even in some cases falsified — in the article; moreover with no grounding with comparative social problems in Japan. The author, Tsutsumi Mika (her website here), a bilingual journalist educated in the US who preaches critical thinking in her article’s conclusions, turns out to be someone who cranks out bestselling books in Japanese that don’t apply the same critical thinking to Japan (only to America, as a cautionary tale). I called the Chagurin article “propaganda”, not only because it was sponsored by a Japan Agricultural lobby famous for its dirty media tricks (see here, here and here), but also because it was disseminated to a young audience of sixth graders not yet trained in the critical thinking Tsutsumi so prizes. It followed Robert W. McChesney’s definition of propaganda exactly: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” And it caught them while they’re young.
Even more interesting information about Tsutsumi then came out in Debito.org Reader comments: She is married to a young Dietmember named Kawada Ryuuhei of the Minna No Tou Party; he is an HIV activist who preaches anti-discrimination within Japanese society, yet supports xenophobic arguments regarding revisions to Japan’s Nationality Law (ergo his anti-discrimination sentiments only apply to “Japanese”). They make for an interesting pair, espousing an interestingly self-serving (and un-self-reflective) ideology that defies critical thinking even for fully-grown, mature, and educated adults — especially unbecoming given their life experiences both in overseas societies and in matters of discrimination. (In contrast to what many say about international experience opening up the minds of younger Japanese, these two indicate the opposite effect as they pander to their xenophobic markets.)
That’s the background. The news for today’s blog entry is that Chagurin magazine responded to Stephanie this month, who in November had sent in a complaint letter about the article. Their reply acknowledged some errors within, even incorporated answers from Tsutsumi herself (who didn’t budge in her claims). I will translate it below with comments from Stephanie and myself, and enclose the original text. As Tsutsumi advocates, put on your critical thinking caps as you read it!
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Discussions, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 30 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 17th January 2013
Here’s a couple of interesting lawsuits in the pipeline: A French woman being fired from NHK (despite 20 years working there) apparently for leaving Japan during the Fukushima crisis, and eight US Navy sailors suing TEPCO (from overseas) for lying about nuclear fallout dangers and exposing them to radiation.
No matter what you think about the act of litigation (and there are always those, such as House Gaijin Gregory Clark or tarento Daniel Kahl (see Komisarof, “At Home Abroad”, p. 100) who decry anything a NJ does in court, saying “they’re suing at the drop of a hat like the litigious Westerners they are” — even though millions of Japanese in Japan sue every year), these cases have the potential to reveal something interesting: 1) Blowing the lid off the Flyjin Myth of “fickle NJ leaving their work stations” once again, this time in the Japanese judiciary; and 2) showing whether international effects of GOJ negligence (and irradiating the food chain both domestically and internationally counts as such) is something that can be legally actionable from afar.
Kyodo: A French woman on Tuesday sued public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, for dismissing her after she left Japan in response to a French government warning issued during the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Emmanuelle Bodin, 55, who had engaged in translation and radio work, said in a complaint filed with the Tokyo District Court that she had told her boss that she would return to work on March 30, 2011, but received a termination letter on March 22. Two days after the earthquake-tsunami disaster triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11 that year, the French government advised its citizens to leave the Tokyo area.
Bloomberg: Tokyo Electric Power Co. is being sued for tens of millions of dollars by eight U.S. Navy sailors who claim that they were unwittingly exposed to radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns and that Tepco lied about the dangers. The sailors aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan were involved in the Operation Tomodachi disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region and led to the nuclear catastrophe, according to their complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Gaiatsu, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 22 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 14th January 2013
Debito.org has reported in the past on how media fearmongering against foreigners (by the Yomiuri, natch) has caused people in the boonies to get paranoid about NJ purchasing land for apparently nefarious purposes (for who knows what they’ll do to the water table beneath them!). Well, the Asahi below has surveyed this paranoia and exposed it for the bunkum it is.
It’s especially ironic when the New York Times does a story two days later (in their “Great Homes and Destinations” column, a promo piece on the buyer’s market for real estate in Japan) and buys hook line and sinker the assertion by vested interests that “Foreign buyers face no restrictions in Japan.” Not anymore, and not for a little while now (Debito.org’s earliest story on this is from 2010!). More under-researched bunkum posing as news. Especially in this time of politically-motivated NJ Witch Hunts in Japan’s property market.
Asahi: A flap over “foreigners” buying Japan’s upland forests and potentially controlling the nation’s water resources has caused some local authorities to push the panic button and introduce heightened oversight of some land sales. Four prefectural governments have written new rules and nine others are considering similar measures, which they say are intended to help protect the national nature of Japan’s water resources. But The Asahi Shimbun has found limited evidence of foreigners buying Japan’s forests—and not a single confirmed case of them doing so with the aim of securing control of water.
Fears that foreign nations—notably, China—might buy up forest and deplete subterranean water caused a storm in political circles and the news media three years ago. At that time, China’s economic power was increasingly being viewed as a threat, amid acquisitions of Japanese enterprises and real estate by Chinese capital. News reports fueled the scare…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 33 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th December 2012
JBC Intro: Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.
This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.
In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.
Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.
“Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 44 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th November 2012
Contributor Stephanie: My daughter is a 6th grader at a small country public school here in Hokkaido. Every month they get a magazine called “Chagurin” (I think it may be JA sponsored). Anyways, she looks forward to reading these as they have interesting articles and ideas. But this month in the December issue there is an article called “Hikon Taikoku America no Kodomotachi” [Children of the Poverty Great-Power Country of America]. After reading it she told her teacher she did not think parts of it were true, the teacher said it was written so it is true.
She brought this article home to us and translated it. I am so … what is the word…disappointed, mad…it is just not right that this lady writes an article with so many false statements and big generalizations. There are parts of truth but presented in a negative way.
Basically saying America is not a good place and no matter where you go you will see people living in tents in the parks. Other points — the poorer you are the fatter you are (which implies people are fat because they are poor). The health care is poor and it costs 150.000 yen to get one filling! Because people can not afford this they do not go to the dentist they in turn can not bite right, have interviews or get jobs.
One more thing. If you take a look at the photo with the boy with the “bad teeth” — as soon as I saw this photo I doubted those teeth are real. They remind me way too much of the fake halloween wax costume teeth I always had growing up. I sent the photo to a dental hygienist who has been working in America 20+ years and she said “In my 20+ years I have never seen teeth like these. They look like the fake halloween teeth.” When I write the author of the article I will be asking her for the photographer’s info to clarify the facts behind this photo. I think you can glean more by reading this yourself so I will attach the article, front cover, and back page…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Food, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 51 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 23rd November 2012
As Readers of Debito.org know, Japan instituted its new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado, or ZRK) from July 15, 2012, promising to promote the “convenience” of NJ residents by streamlining bureaucratic procedures. But as I have argued, the Ministry of Justice’s main interest is not the convenience of NJ (or else it would have not left NJ in legal limbo when Japan’s Postal Authorities arbitrarily decided not to honor the old Gaijin Cards as a valid form of ID any longer — even though the MOJ acknowledged the old Gaijin Cards issued by them were still legal for at most three more years). No, the MOJ’s interest is in policing NJ (well, “administering” (kanri) is how they benignly put it, as they explicitly noted in their Cabinet-level presentation last May about how to “co-exist” with NJ in future — essentially by cracking down on visa overstayers further).
To that end, the ZRK has an embedded IC Chip with RFID technology, which, as I have argued for years now, is a means to remotely track NJ in a crowd and beef up racial profiling. After all, if the NPA scans a crowd and sees somebody walking while visibly “foreign”, they now have probable cause to stop them for one of their patented ID checkpoints formerly permitted under the Foreign Registry Law. Hey you, gaijin, why aren’t you showing up on our scanners? Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…
However, here’s where the SITYS (See I Told You So) comes in: People who should know better have constantly argued that I’m donning a tinfoil hat for saying that embedded IC Chips are remotely trackable, and will be used not only for identity theft (for NJ only, since only they are legally required by law to carry ZRK at all times or face criminal penalty), but also for enhanced policing. No amount of evidence presented (even “the scan-proof travel pouches” long on sale) has convinced them. So let’s try again:
Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”. If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?…
Posted in Discussions, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS | 66 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 20th November 2012
I didn’t know the New York Times was in the habit of writing eulogies before their subject dies. But that’s essentially what happened earlier this month with their write-up on Donald Keene.
Frequent readers of Debito.org will remember why I take such a dim view of Keene’s ignominious actions at the twilight of an illustrious career. I’ve devoted a Japan Times column to how a scholar of his standing used poor social science in his public statements alluding to the “Flyjin Myth” and the fiction of foreigners as criminals. Despite this, Keene has still refused to acknowledge any of the good things that NJ residents have done (not only in terms of disaster relief “in solidarity” with “The Japanese”, but also on a day-to-day basis as workers, taxpayers, and non-criminals). Nor has Keene amended his public statements in any way to reflect a less self-serving doctrine — thus elevating himself while denigrating others in his social caste. In essence, Keene has essentially “pulled up the ladder behind him”, stopping others from enjoying the same trappings of what the NYT claims is “acceptance”. Thus, how NJ sempai in Japan (even after naturalization) eat their young to suit themselves is a fascinating dynamic that this article inadvertently charts.
This article represents a missed research opportunity for an otherwise incredibly thorough reporter (Martin has written peerless articles on Fukushima, and I simply adored his report on the Ogasawaras). How about this for a research question: Why else might The Don have naturalized? I say it doesn’t involve the self-hugging cloaked as some odd form of self-sacrifice. How about investigating the fact that while gay marriage is not allowed in Japan, adoption (due to the vagaries of the Koseki Family Registry system) is a common way for same-sex partners to pass on their inheritance and legacies to their loved ones — by making them part of their family. Naturalization makes it clear that there will be no extranationality conceits to interfere with the smooth transfer of claims. This article could have been a fine peg to hang that research on.
Not to mention the fact that even seasoned journalists at the NYT can fall for The Fame: Ever hear of the old adage that enables many a minority to receive the veneer of “acceptance” despite all the racialized reasons to deny it? It’s called: “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.” Yes, so many lovely “thanks” from strangers in coffee shops; but as I’ve written before, The Don sadly won’t be around for any denouement once The Fame inevitably fades.
Anyway, if one gives the NYT the benefit of the doubt here, I think the tack of the article should have been, “A person has to jump through THIS many hoops in order to be considered ‘one of them’ [sic] in Japan? Go through all of this, and you should be ‘accepted’ by the time you are, oh, say, ninety years old.” Instead, this development is portrayed as a mutual victory for The Don and Japan.
Why is this not problematized? Because this article is a eulogy — it’s only saying the good things about a person (not yet) departed, and about a society that will not realize that it needs New Japanese who are younger and able to do more than just feebly salve (instead of save) a “wounded nation”. That’s the bigger metaphor, I think, The Don’s naturalization represents to today’s Japan.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 13 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 17th November 2012
Archiving something important today: The text of the first law explicitly against (inter alia) racial discrimination in Japan that was passed (and then subsequently UNpassed by a panicky public). Although I have already written about this subject before, let me give you the story in more detail, then finish with the text of the jōrei so it does not disappear from the historical record. The fact that this former law has been removed entirely from the legislative record of Tottori Prefecture’s website is a crime against history, and an unbefitting end to a template of human-rights legislation so needed in Japan. So let me, for the purposes of keeping a record of the casualty of this catastrophic event, blog the entire text of the Ordinance on Debito.org to keep it web searchable. First, however, the background:
On October 12, 2005, after nearly a year of deliberations and amendments, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved a human rights ordinance (tottori-ken jinken shingai kyūsai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jōrei) that would not only financially penalize eight types of human rights violations (including physical abuse, sexual harassment, slander, and discrimination by “race” – including “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation”), but also set up an investigative panel for deliberations and provide for public exposure of offenders. Going farther than the already-existing Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu, which has no policing or punitive powers), it could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, and even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen. Sponsored by Tottori Governor Katayama Yoshihiro, it was to be a trial measure — taking effect on June 1, 2006 and expiring on March 31, 2010. It was a carefully-planned ordinance, created by a committee of 26 people over the course of two years, with input from a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and three non-citizen residents. It passed the Tottori Prefectural Assembly by a wide margin: 35-3. However, the counterattack was immediate…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 6 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 19th October 2012
Kyodo: Japan Pension Service has drawn up a guideline that renders foreign residents on welfare no longer eligible for a uniform waiver from premium payments for the public pension, effectively a turnaround from a long-held practice of treating them equally with Japanese, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Human rights activists said it is tantamount to discrimination based on nationality. In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance. Around 42,000 were households led by foreign residents.
In a reply dated Aug. 10 to a query from a local pension service office, JPS, a government affiliate commissioned to undertake pension services, said, “Public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty as done so for Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not subject to the law on public assistance.”
Posted in Exclusionism, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Pension System, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 15 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 7th October 2012
MMT: An interesting bit of news that was on the JT homepage this week. It seems that although the alien registration card is considered equal to the new zairyu card until July 2015 by the government, it appears not for certain government agencies. Japan Post has a notice on their homepage stating that foreign residents can no longer use the alien registration card as of July 9th, 2012 (or in other words, the same day the zairyu card became available). How the post office can reject ID which is still valid and basically force longer-term residents into changing over their cards immediately is beyond my comprehension.
As a further bit of news regarding this story, I called the immigration help line on October 1, 2012, to see if they were aware of this development. The staff informed me that yes, the alien registration card is still valid, as stated and acts as one’s zairyu card until July 9th, 2015. When I asked if they were aware that the Japan Post officially began rejecting the alien registration card the very same day the zairyu card became available, they replied that perhaps in cases such as with banks and the post office, you may have to switch over to the new card in order to have acceptable ID. I quickly pointed out that since the government (namely, the Ministry of Justice, no less) has deemed this ID to be equal to the zairyu card for a further three years, shouldn’t it be unacceptable (unlawful?) for any any semi-government agency or private business to reject it? They agreed that my argument “made sense.”
The immigration staff then suggested that if my alien registration card is rejected by the post office or other place of business that I should give them the number for the Tokyo Immigration administration office (03-5796-7250) so that the post office can call them and get a clarification. It was at that point that I hinted that perhaps it was the job of the immigration department to inform all relevant agencies to stop making arbitrary rules regarding which government-issued ID they will choose to accept: to which I got no answer. Strange, indeed.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 16 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 26th September 2012
Here’s something interesting. A Debito.org Reader submits an article about an AP interview with the head investigator behind the Fukushima Nuclear Disasters, Kurokawa Hiroshi, who in his report on what caused the disaster (depending on which version you read) not only points a finger away from “specific executives or officials” (rather blaming “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture”), but also rather subtly points a finger at NJ. As written below, part of the responsibility also lies within the international community. Quote:
“[Kurokawa] said [his six-month investigation] showed that bureaucrats brushed off evidence of tsunami risks that had been clear as far back as 2006, and that representatives from international watchdog groups took travel money from the utilities.”
Gosh, travel money as hush money? That must have been quite a lavish journey. As the submitter notes: “NJ allowed themselves into being bribed by TEPCO, and therefore, failed to make sure TEPCO was acting properly? Total blame shifting. Why didn’t he say that in his English presentation to the FCCJ?”
Perhaps because “Kurokawa made similar points in other parts of the report,” sort of thing (see article)? Or maybe it’s the flip side of “we’re all victims” now: “We’re all to blame.”
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 23rd September 2012
Been doing some writing and inserting the definition of “gaijin” in Japan in terms of marketing into my research, and found that the “Gaijin Mask” found at Tokyu Hands in 2009 and featured on Debito.org has recently been changed to “Gaikokujin Mask”, according to Amazon Japan.
Note the stereotypical racialized characteristics for both “dokkiri” party goods include large a large nose, blue eyes, cleft chin, blond hair, “Hollywood smile,” and grand gesticulations. The default language for the “foreigner” (as seen by the harō and ha-i!) is English (if not katakana Japanese for the desu copula). However, “gaijin” has been adjusted to “gaikokujin” (as if that makes the commodification of racism all better).
Note also that even though this apparently has been a recent change (information was received by Amazon Japan only last month), it’s suddenly “Currently unavailable” and “can not be shipped outside Japan”. (I wonder if anyone looking at the product with an IP in Japan is also unable to purchase it.) See screen capture here:
Same thing with the racialized Little Black Sambo dolls I found on Amazon Japan last night (which have been on sale since shortly after unbook Little Black Sambo was resuscitated in Japan, extending racism into the next generation): It’s also “Currently unavailable.” And not for sale anyway outside of Japan. So methinks the producers are well aware that they could get in trouble if marketed to an overseas audience. But no matter — there’s money to be made here — who cares if the product is racialized when the domestic market from childhood thinks racism of this sort is unproblematic?…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Good News, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 22 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 1st August 2012
As a tangent, here’s an article looking at issues of race and ethnicity in China through a veil of vignettes. A lot of the issues raised can be (and have been) applied to Japan. Just not as harshly. I’ve made the point before about how the Western media seems to give Japan a free pass regarding racism as a “friendly” state. Yet, as per the Newsweek article below, Western media couches racism more as representative of the spectre of Chinese nationalism and bad treatment of expats. Compare: When we had the ultimate example of racism in Japan during the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005), the overseas press took it up handily, but we also had oodles of apologists rise up en masse to dismiss or defend it. Including Western toadies like Gregory Clark (see how clumsily Clark took up this USA Today article of March 8, 2000 by Peter Hadfield on racism in Japan back in the day), who defended it as Japanese cultural uniqueness and exceptionalism to “global standards” (said pundit even went so far as to claim “antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” — while in the process getting even the exclusionary onsen’s name wrong). But I digress.
Again, I’m not sure why Japan is so seductive to the Western media (Dower would perhaps claim it’s part of the GOJ’s media savviness, starting with the Imperial duck hunt charm offensive of SCAP that saved the Imperial system (Embracing Defeat, p. 299-301)), while China keeps getting treated as devious. The only theory I can come up is geopolitics (and the fear that the future of democracy and economic growth will have Chinese uniparty characteristics). What say you, Readers?
Newsweek: In recent months, tensions over the unsavory behavior of some of Beijing’s foreign residents have come to the fore. In May there was a furious public reaction after footage was posted online showing the aftermath of an alleged attempted sexual assault on a young Beijing woman by a drunken British man. The pictures showed angry locals beating up the supposed perpetrator. This was soon followed by film of an incident on a train in which a Russian cellist from the Beijing Symphony Orchestra insulted a Chinese passenger who asked him to take his feet off the back of her chair. The cellist eventually made a public apology, but still had to resign his post.
Amid a mood of public anger, at least in online forums, the Beijing police announced a three-month campaign to crack down on “foreigners illegally staying in the capital”—including those who had jobs but no work permit or who had overstayed their visas. They also set up a hotline and encouraged locals to “report such violations,” according to Chinese media. Several other cities, including Shanghai, also stepped up spot-checks on the documents of foreigners, in the most visible campaign of its type since the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Posted in Discussions, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 24 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 20th July 2012
COMMENT FROM SUBMITTER: It appears that Panasonic, rather than advertise on Facebook the proper way, instead is targeting non Japanese living in Japan and offering 2,000 yen if they download the app and give Panasonic and Findateacher.net their Facebook passwords.
I believe this is not only against the privacy laws in Japan, Facebook has clearly stated it will consider taking legal action against companies that take part in this practice. Sharing one’s Facebook password, also give a company access to the private information of all of that user’s friends, violating the privacy of other Facebook users.
I thought I would bring this to your attention as it is targeting non Japanese ethnic groups.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 15 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th July 2012
One social statistic that is very politically-charged in Japan (along with the unemployment rate, which is according to some kept low due to methodological differences in measurement) is Japan’s birth rate. I have already argued that Japan’s demographic science is already riddled with politics (in order to make the option of immigration a taboo topic). But here is another academic arguing that how the birth rate is measured differs from time to time, sometimes resulting in not counting NJ women giving birth in Japan! In other words, Japan’s demographic science is methodologically leaning towards only counting births of Japanese citizens, not of births of people in Japan — and a prominent scientist named Yoshida at Tohoku University is actually advocating that NJ births be excluded from Japan’s birth rate tally, for the purposes of formulating “appropriate public policy”! Application of the Nationality Clause to demographics to systematically exclude them from public policy considerations? The author of this piece from H-Japan calls it “apartheid”. So would I.
John Morris: The starting point for Professor Yoshida’s research is the discrepancy between the official birth rate announced by the Japanese government. The birth rate for years when a census conducted is higher than that for years when there is no census. The reason for this is that in census years, the birth rate is calculated on the basis of women of Japanese nationality resident in Japan, whereas in non-census years the birth rate is calculated using the total number of women in the relevant age cohort; i.e. including women of foreign nationality resident in Japan. Professor Yoshida recalculated the birth rate for 2011, a non-census year, excluding women of foreign nationality from his figures and compared it to the birth rate for 2010, a census year, for various levels of local governmental bodies across Japan. His press release demonstrates that when comparing 2011 and 2010, the official figures for the birth rate show either no change (10 prefectures ) or a decline across the prefectures of Japan, whereas when the 2 years are compared using his equivalent data, the birth rate shows a decline in only 8 prefectures (of which 5 are most likely affected by the events of March 2011), and actually shows an increase (albeit small) in 30 prefectures…
Professor Yoshida’s work contains two problems. If he wishes to point out the methodological inconsistency in the way the current Japanese birth rate is calculated, he has an important and very valid point. All scholars who use the official figures for the Japanese birth rate should be aware of his research. However, if he is going to claim (as he does in his press release and on public television and radio) that his figure are the objectively ‘correct’ figures for the Japanese birth rate, than his calculations are just as methodogically flawed as the governmental figures that he criticises. His calculations assume that all children of Japanese nationality born in Japan are born by women of Japanese nationality. The rate of marriages of Japanese men to women of foreign nationality has accounted for 3.2 to 4.6% of all marriages in Japan over the past 10 years or so. The overwhelming majority of children born from these marriages will be registered as ‘Japanese nationals.’ The gist of Professor Yoshida’s criticism of the official figures for the birth rate in non-census years is that they are lower than the reality. However, the figures that he claims are the objectively correct figures, by the same token, will always produce a figure for the birth rate that is higher than the reality, because it denies that there are children born to mothers of foreign nationality throughout Japan. If Professor Yoshida merely wished to demonstrate the inconsistency of the official figures for the Japanese birth rate then his research would be valid. However, to claim that his figures are objectively correct is not as invalid as the data that he criticises and for exactly the same reason that he criticises the government figures, the gross insult that he has committed by denying the existence of 10’s of thousands of women of foreign nationality married to Japanese men and bearing Japanese children is unforgivable…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Japanese Politics, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 11 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th July 2012
After many years of bureaucratic policy trial balloons and lots of advance warning, July 9, 2012 has finally come to pass, and the longstanding Alien Registration System, promulgated in 1952 to help the GOJ keep track of the pesky aliens (mostly former citizens of the Japanese Empire who were stripped of their Japanese citizenship) who wouldn’t go back to “their country” (staying on in Japan as Zainichi, generational “foreigners” born in Japan to this day), has been abolished sixty years later. In its place, NJ are now registered on Japan’s juuminhyou Residency Certificates — closing up a ludicrous system where only citizens could be registered as “residents” (juumin) despite paying Residents’ Tax (yup, juuminzei), and teeth-grindlingly stupid moves such as local governments giving animals and fictional characters their own honorary “juuminhyou” despite untaxable status. Now NJ can also now be listed with their Japanese (and non-Japanese) families properly as family members and heads of household (no longer excluded even from local population tallies for not being listed in the juumin kihon daicho). Finally, closure to that. Good riddance.
That said, the new system also includes new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado), which are higher-tech versions (I say remotely trackable due to the RFID technology inside, by design; see below) and still required under criminal law to be carried 24-7 under penalty of search, seizure, and possible incarceration for a week or three. That hasn’t changed. In fact I would now argue it’s gotten worse — since Japanese citizens (even if computer chip technology has also been introduced into J driver licenses and passports, which not all Japanese get anyway) are not required by law to carry any ID whatsoever at all times. Some historical links regarding the true intention of the ZRK (tracking and control of untrustworthy NJ, not convenience for them as is generally sold) follow.
I’ll paste some articles below and let’s see what the media has made of this. Feel free to tell us how the changes have been affecting you as well.
Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 87 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 25th June 2012
Many people sent me this important article, and I apologize for the amount of time it took to put it up. Here we have a fascinating case study of how Japan still to this day decides to overwrite indigenous difference within its own land. The case here is of the non-Wajin peoples (the Oubeikei, descendants of NJ sailors) on the outlying Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (technically part of Tokyo-to, believe it or not). Not content to ignore the Oubeikei as minorities in Japan (despite having Japanese citizenship yet NJ ethnic diversity), the system (as witnessed in the non-preservation of history, see below) is now in the process of overwriting them as simply non-existent, thanks to the attrition of mortality.
It’s a common tactic within the “monocultural” meme in Japan: Simply pretend that diversity doesn’t exist in Japan, and continuously assert that NJ are an exogenous force within Japan’s history with only gaiatsu as an influence (from Commodore Perry on down). Meanwhile, Western media (and scholarship; don’t forget the legacy of Reischauer) parrots and proliferates this fiction through canards such as the “borrowing” theory, i.e., “Japan borrows ‘things’ [never people] from the outside world and uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them.” This is how the legacies of NJ as resident and generational contributor to Japanese society are constantly downplayed and transmuted into, e.g., “temporary English teacher”, “temporary fad sportsman”, “temporary advisor/researcher” etc. — all memes that forever see NJ and their descendants as merely exceptional and subsumable with time (as was done with the postwar appearance of “konketsuji” children of US-Japanese liaisons during The Occupation).
And Japan wants the Northern Territories (Kuriles) back? Imagine what will happen to the Russian residents there? It’s no longer a world where people can ignore Japan’s past destruction of cultures (cf. the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Korean Kingdom, the indigenous Formosans), but neither can the GOJ simply assume that Asian-looking minorities can be rendered invisible (as many of the Russian residents are Caucasian) like the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc. have been Nor can one assume that NJ will be allowed to assimilate properly into Japanese society while maintaining the dignity of diversity, even as the GOJ is now considering when advocating an actual NJ migration policy. The SOP is still, as is being witnessed below on the Ogasawaras, one of willful ignorance and othering, subsumption, and overwriting of history. It portends ill for Japan’s future prospects as an international, multicultural, multiethnic society.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 21 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 22nd June 2012
The Kyodo article below, on how Indonesian and Filipina nurses and caregivers (even those who have passed the arduous qualifying exam) are leaving Japan anyway, has been featured within the comments section of another Debito.org blog entry (here). It seems to be gathering steam there, so let me post the article here as a stand-alone, and repost below it the subsequent replies from Debito.org Readers (the really good ones start doing the math, revealing there’s something fishy going on at the administrative level, beyond just blaming the NJ caregivers for not doing what they’re told after all the GOJ bullshit they’ve put up with).
My take on this Kyodo article is about the nasty little editorial slants and needles within. Particularly nasty is how all otherwise qualified NJ caregivers are suddenly unworthy of emptying Japanese bedpans just because some decide they have a life outside Japan. Quoth one professor with a PhD in nastiness at Todai (Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education): “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”
Moreover, Kyodo, is this news, or editorializing? “Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia ‘for personal reasons,’ bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.” Awww, diddums!
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 23 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 16th June 2012
Today’s post is about geopolitics and concomitant media attitudes. Here we have an American media outlet (CNN) publishing a Old China Hand’s fears about the “specter of xenophobia” in China because of a crackdown on “illegal foreigners”. Fine, make that case. I would agree. It does encourage xenophobia.
But note how what China is doing (and for what has been announced as a temporary amount of time, but nevertheless the precedent has been set) is what Japan’s been doing for years, if not generations, to its foreigners: Random racial profiling street ID “spot checks”. Police hotlines to report “suspicious foreigners”. Preemptive measures during high-profile events to promote “public security”. Public funds for ferreting out “foreign criminals” through “foreign DNA” testing research (oh, wait, AFAIK that’s just Japan). The CNN author’s citations back to the Boxer Rebellion and public resentment towards “foreign devils” in Mao’s China may be a tad alarmist (and any historian could match those with Japan’s occasional ee ja nai ka anti-Christian demonstrations and the anti-foreign propaganda during WWII Japan (cf. Dower, War Without Mercy) — and then fear a backslide into bad habits), but the point is this:
Why does China get harshly criticized for this yet Japan once again gets a free pass? Well, geopolitics, of course. Japan is a trusted ally, China is an untrustworthy adversary. CNN, your bias is showing. But it would be nice if the media could see the parallels sometime and similarly admonish Japan away from its xenophobia. Given Japan’s ultrasensitivity to foreign media opinion, it might even deter.
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 12 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th June 2012
John Morris at H-JAPAN: A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL:
The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level). Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development. However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking: a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated. Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below. In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re NJ in Japan. More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 20 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 6th June 2012
JBC: Last month’s column on “microaggressions” was my most debated yet. Thanks for reading and commenting.
So this month, let’s explore how the microaggression dynamic works in all societies, and why some people live in denial of it. Brace yourself for a bit of theory …
All societies, when defining themselves, decide who is “us” and who is “them.” So do countries. In the name of sovereignty, nation-states must decide who is a member (i.e., a citizen) and who is not (i.e., a foreigner). (If they didn’t, there’d be no point to citizenship.)
Nation-states also perpetuate themselves by creating a feeling of community for their citizens — national narratives, invented traditions and official shared histories. So the concept of “Who is ‘us’?” gets created, reinforced and generationally encoded through the media, public policy, primary education, etc.
What about encoding “Who is ‘them’?” It is by nature a process of differentiation. Foreigners by definition have different legal, civil and political rights in any society. (They usually cannot vote, for example.)
But differentiation is also codified in everyday interaction. To determine their community’s borders and clarify their identity within it, people tend to contrast themselves with outsiders. This is a process of socially “othering” people.
Eventually the presumptions of “Others” as “different” become normalized into mundane assumptions, such as stereotypes. Herein come the microaggressions…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 113 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 29th May 2012
Since the debate on “Microaggressions” and racialized treatment of people in Japan went into full swing over the past month, one other blog has been offering a good deal of insight as to how people are ultracentrifuged for special treatment in Japan by race, and how those people being ultracentrifuged likewise treat each other in a racialized manner. Such are the habits fostered by this dread social disease called racism, and in Japan’s case it’s good to have a different take on it at last.
Baye McNeil, author of the new book “HI, MY NAME IS LOCO AND I AM A RACIST”, has a dynamic blog called “Loco in Yokohama” I think you ought to check out. He writes about racism in Japan with a fresh brazenness that I think many Debito.org Readers might find interesting. His 4-part (so far) series entitled, “Why do Gaijin Clash Over the Issue of Racism in Japan” is what drew me in.
Links and quick summaries of those four parts below, and you should read the posts in order. If you’re at all interested in how you (and your multiethnic children) are being slotted in the subordinated “gaijin” category in Japan not only by Japanese, but by other NJ, you will want to read these and have a think.
Also interesting is our respective positions in the blogosphere. As Baye himself points out, I’m White, and he’s Black (or whatever label you want to use: Caucasian/African-American etc.), and how we get treated by NJ as vehicles of the debate is a facet little covered in discussion (case in point: the “Tepido” Stalkers are friendly towards him, natch — ‘cos they don’t to be branded as “racists”). So let’s read some Baye and cue up on that issue before we get into my next Japan Times Just Be Cause Column (out June 5), where I will offer “Microaggressions Part Two”.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 20 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 7th May 2012
The Japan Times came out with an editorial last Sunday, entitled “Flyjin rather few,” which talked about a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government survey of NJ in Tokyo, carried out to ascertain how many stayed or left after the disasters of March 2011 and beyond. The survey was trying to see if the “Flyjin” phenomenon really happened, and in doing so, the JT notes, potentially resuscitated the invective of Japanese media and xenophobic pundits branding NJ as deserters.
The JT editorial is a doozy. Not only does it demonstrate that “the vast majority of foreigners in Tokyo stayed right where they were — in Tokyo”, it also castigates the whole thought process behind it: “The survey did little to focus on what can be done to ensure that all residents of Tokyo be given clear information about conditions and constructive advice about what to do in the event a similar disaster strikes in Tokyo in the near future.”
“The ‘flyjin’ issue, besides being a derogatory term, was always a tempest in a teapot. Surveys that find information to help improve communications are important, but it is the actions that follow that really count. The metropolitan government should prepare a means to give all residents of Tokyo, whatever nationality they are, trustworthy information during emergencies so safe, sensible decisions can be made.”
In other words, the JT was easily able to see through the stupid science (e.g., the singling out of NJ, the small sample size, limiting it to Tokyo residents, the lack of clear aim or rigor in methodology, and ultimately its lack of conclusion: “The survey did little to better understand all Tokyoites’ complicated reactions to the crisis.”)
Yet people who should know better, and who should be advocating for the needs of the NJ Communities in Japan, are already citing this survey as somehow indicative. Japan Probe, for example, states that this survey “confirms Post-3/11 “Flyjin” Phenomenon / 25 Percent of Tokyo’s Foreign Residents Fled”, and apparently “deals a major blow to certain bloggers who have claimed that the “flyjin” phenomenon was a myth”.
One of those certain bloggers indeedy would be me. And I gave much harder and rigorous numbers from all of Japan and from the central government and for the entire year, clearly exposing the “Flyjin” phenomenon as myth in my April Japan Times column. Hence, there’s no clearer interpretation of Japan Probe’s conclusion than the will to live in obtuse denial.
But that’s what keeps hatenas hovering around my head. Wouldn’t it be nicer if online resources like Japan Probe (which calls itself “The web’s no.1 source for Japan-related news and entertainment”) would work for the good of the NJ communities it purports to inform? It did do so once upon a time, for example, during the whole GAIJIN HANZAI mook debacle, where Japan Probe was instrumental in helping get the racist magazine on foreign crime off the shelves and the publisher bankrupted. But now, why try so hard, as the Japan Times Editorial above saliently notes, “to exaggerate the extent of foreigners leaving the country and impugn their motives for leaving”?
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, GAIJIN HANZAI mag, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 52 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 16th April 2012
As Japan switches its economic clout into more “soft power” issues (i.e., selling its culture instead of its hardware; cf. METI’s promotion of “Cool Japan”), we are seeing instances of where Japan’s conceits and “blind spots” (i.e., a lack of cultural sensitivity towards, for example, minorities both in Japanese society and in other societies) have seeped into its output, with imperfect filters in place.
Take for example one of my favorite sites for procrastination and indulging in hilarious writing: Cracked.com. They have a pretty good research staff, and have dug up several instances of Japanese video games (since Japan dominates the industry) that are, as they put it, “politically incorrect” (today’s word for “racist”, since you can still be “politically incorrect” yet use it as a source of, say, humor; but it’s still the same “othering”, racializing, and subordinating process). We have examples of:
Gay characters in the Sega’s VENDETTA street-fighting game the dry-hump everything as a weapon, and in BARE KNUCKLE 3 that mince about flamingly etc. (these were left in the Japanese version but removed from the overseas versions and in subsequent versions).
Blackface and n*gger-lipped characters in Nintendo’s SQUARE NO TOM SAWYER game (which never got released in the US; wonder why).
GEKISHA BOY, where street-animal African-Americans come in three types: “street pimp, prostitute, and Michael Jackson”.
Sega’s DJ BOY, which features a stereotypical Big Black Mama shooting fireballs out of her anus.
And plenty more. As Cracked.com demonstrates, the Japanese market generally keeps these (and other) stereotypes and conceits alive and well (as if Japan doesn’t need to worry about how they affect public perceptions of minorities in Japan), while for overseas markets things get sanitized (or not, occasioning protests and backpedaling) when Japanese sellers suddenly develop a “sensitivity”.
If Japan really wants to keep its cultural exports viable, maybe it should attempt understand how other people anywhere, including within Japan, might feel about being represented in such a fashion. Or, if stereotyping is used as a source of humor, allow for everyone to be “fair game” (which, I have argued before, doesn’t happen enough in Japan; there is certainly ample Japanese protest when Japanese get similarly stereotyped).
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 15 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th April 2012
JDG: On Sunday (8th April) I went via Hankyu Kurakuenguchi station to Shukugawa, where along the river bank many people enjoy hanami every year. It is (apparently) a very highly rated location on a national scale.
I have been meny years with Japanese friends, and have never had a problem. However, this was the first year that I went early and alone in order to secure a nice spot. Shukugawa has rules on it’s website (such as no ‘reserving’ of a spot with unattended blue sheets, and you must not enter the roped off areas around the tree roots), which I read in advance.
I arrived at 10.30 am, and immediately I found a nice spot and stopped, then some old guy started hassling me to move on, saying that I wasn’t allowed to stop there. I told him to shut up, and then ignored him (thinking he was just some grumpy old codger), but as I was setting out my sheet and blanket, four more old guys came along to join him, and tried telling me that the place I was in was off limits. I pointed to the Japanese groups set up all around me, and asked ‘What about them?’, but the old guys just ignored my question, and told me that they would call the police if I tried to give them any trouble.
I know I wasn’t breaking any of Shukugawa’s rules, so I just ignored them and waited for the rest of my group to arrive. For the next hour the group of five old guys stood over me, coming over every 5 minutes to ask me if I was going to move on, or asking me if I didn’t think that I was selfish by taking up so much room (one blue sheet), and even taking my photo twice. I told them that it was against the law to take my photo without my permission…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Food, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 33 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 24th March 2012
This week I gave a couple of presentations on my campus, one that I will share with everyone: It’s about the whole “Flyjin” phenomenon, where the Japanese media was outright accusing NJ of deserting their posts and fleeing Japan.
I’ve already written a column on this for the Japan Times (where I argued that if true, so what? It’s not as if NJ have been made to feel welcome or settled in Japan). But this time, now that the data is in, I argue that the phenomenon was a myth to begin with. Statistics show that a) NJ populations dropped most in ethnic groups (the Brazilians) that are not clustered around Touhoku to begin with, and b) the accusations in the Shuukanshi that NJ criminals were banding together to commit crime were false, as NJ crime dropped even further in 2011 (to levels not seen since 1993 — NPA crime statistics have to go as far back now as 1982 now to somehow depict a “rise”).
Also discussed are the unexamined hypocrisies of Ishihara scaring the public in 2000 about the probability of “foreigner riots” during a natural disaster (which never happened; the bigot still got re-elected a month after the disasters anyway), and the Japanese fleeing Bangkok during the flooding last October (taking their Thai workers with them; on special temporary visas of course). And other important information that got drowned out in the NJ blame game/scapegoating (such as other issues of discrimination, including hotel refusals of Japanese “flyjin” fleeing Touhoku, and more accurate facts from the ground).
Download my powerpoint presentation on this at http://www.debito.org/flyjin032012.pptx
Posted in Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Speech materials | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th March 2012
AFP: Japan’s government on Friday approved a bill to join a pact on settling cross-border child custody rows, opening the way for its adoption after years of foreign pressure.
Asahi: In an outline of procedures for the Hague Convention on international child-custody disputes, a government panel has proposed allowing court officials to forcibly remove a child from a Japanese parent to return him or her to the country of habitual residence… The subcommittee proposed that factors, such as the risk that the child will face violence back in the country of habitual residence and a situation in which it is difficult for the parents to take custody of the child, be considered.
Specific cases cited include: the parent demanding custody of the child commits acts of violence against the other parent in front of the child; the parent in a foreign country is addicted to drugs or alcohol; and the Japanese parent who returns with the child may be arrested.
COMMENT: Love the invective that one sees time and again in the Japanese media and GOJ debates, where we have the appearance of victimized Japanese females being harassed by NJ males (including even the threat of domestic violence), when in fact child abduction and parental alienation happens between Japanese too, given that there is no joint custody or guaranteed visitation rights in Japan. Check out this article below from the Asahi last January. Bonus: The newspaper’s pictorially racist portrayal of the non-Distaff Side of the international couple. And that’s before you even get to the unlikely prospect of Japan actually ever enforcing the Hague (see here also), just like it never enforces the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination. The discourse will continue as such.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 22 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 23rd February 2012
Speaking of GOJ visa statuses with high to insurmountable hurdles, here’s how the years-long (started in 2008) bilateral program to bring over nurses from The Philippines and Indonesia to work in Japan’s medical system is doing: As predicted. Precisely due to “language barriers”, NJ are being relegated to lower-skilled labor and then sent home (or else, as you can also see below, going home by themselves after having enough of it all). Again, this is the point of Japan’s visa regimes — make sure migrants never become immigrants, siphon off the best working years of their lives, send them back for whatever excuse or shortcoming you can come up with, then bring in a new batch of dupes filled with false hopes. That way you keep the revolving-door labor market revolving, and never let NJ settle down here and get their due for their tax and pension payments. How nice. But as I’ve written before, it’s been the perpetual SOP for the GOJ.
Yomiuri: More than half of 104 Indonesian nurses who came to Japan in 2008 through a bilateral economic partnership agreement to obtain nursing licenses have returned home, due mainly to difficulties meeting Japanese language requirements, it has been learned.
Through the EPA program, Indonesian nurses have been allowed to work in Japanese hospitals for three years as assistant nurses who take care of inpatients. They are all licensed nurses in Indonesia. The program requires they pass an annual national nursing certification test during their three-year stay.
However, only 15 of the first group of 104 nurses who came to Japan from Indonesia passed the national exam. Among the 89 who failed the exam, 27 were granted special permission to extend their stay if they wished to because they managed to score a certain number of points on the previous exam. These nurses will take the national exam again in February.
The remaining 62 returned to Indonesia by the end of August, though they were still eligible to take the national exam. Only four of them will return to Japan to take the February exam, meaning the remaining 58 have likely given up working in Japan.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 24 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 17th February 2012
Here we have some naked xenophobia and related intolerance in interpersonal internet auctions. I have heard of numerous cases like these on Japanese internet outlets, where sellers simply refuse to sell to somebody with money if the buyer happens to be bearing money while foreign (and nothing would come of it from moderators). But here’s a report of what one person, Jeff Smith, decided to do about it. As he says, auction forums in Japan need to step up with rules to honor bona fide transactions, because that’s the entire point of money as a means of transaction — it is not foreign currency even if the buyer is foreign. Let’s wait and see what Yahoo Japan decides to do about it, if anything.
Jeff Smith: Something I came upon last night while looking for guitars on Yahoo Auctions, Japan. This individual ignoramus had the nerve to actually write in his or her auction that foreigners would be denied the right to buy said item once found to be foreign, NJ or otherwise: The statement here is as follows in English:
“Winners please be aware of the message I send upon auction close. I will not accept new bidders who do not reply, or people with bad manners. New bidders are to respond within 48 hours, and those that do so will be allowed to pay for the item. In addition, due to troubles that have occurred, I am not accepting any foreign bidders with a score under 30 rating. [This was actually changed this morning, Feb. 15, 2012: originally it said I will accept NO FOREIGN WINNERS, period.] If I find that the winner is a foreigner after the auction ends, I shall void the auction at my convenience.”
Amazed that this person could even have the gall to write in such a manner, I contacted the seller with a message as follows…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 38 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 24th January 2012
JT: A Nepalese man died Monday after being assaulted on a street in Osaka early Monday by two men and two women, police said Tuesday. Bishnu Prasad Dhamala, 42, died at a hospital after being attacked in Abeno Ward.
The police said they arrested Hiroki Shiraishi, 21, a tattoo artist, and his acquaintance, Miyoko Shiraishi, 22, at the scene after receiving a report about the assault. The police are looking into the whereabouts of the other two assailants. [who were later arrested in Tokyo] The four and Dhamala are not believed to be acquainted and the police are trying to identify the cause of the incident.
COMMENT: This is clearly a hate crime. It is reportedly a random singling out of a NJ by a group of four J youths who beat him senseless — even dropped a bicycle on his head, smashing his skull on the pavement. Fortunately (after a chase), they have all been arrested, no doubt after the security camera footage (below) made any plausible deniability of the event impossible. (In statements to the police, according to the Japanese media below, one assailant even insinuated that he couldn’t believe he had actually killed a foreigner. Come again? That’s the ultimate in kubetsu plus denial.)
There is little more to be said except that this is hardly an isolated incident. We’ve already mentioned the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey probable homicides (“probable” only because the NPA essentially refuses to acknowledge that they were outright murders, and stonewalls attempts to release further data that would probably prove things conclusively). But go back a bit, and you’ll find the Herculano Case, where a 14-year-old Brazilian boy named Herculano Reiko Lukocevicius was similarly beaten to death on October 6, 1997 by a Japanese gang in Komaki, Aichi (information about a book on his case is here); he was afforded much less press coverage (I’m glad the Japanese media is on the ball this time, with far more coverage in Japanese than in English). And of course we cannot leave out the Suraj Case, which is even more insidious since his brutal death was at the hands of officialdom (and may be but the tip of the iceberg, given Immigration’s history of ill-treatment of NJ while in detention). And if we stretch the issue even further, how about that recent curious “suicide” of a NJ suspect, accused of murdering two other Taiwanese students, who was somehow allowed to have a knife and sufficient mobility while in NPA custody presumably despite searches? All curious lapses in standard procedure when a NJ is involved.
In sum, I think it is time to retire the myth that Japan is preternaturally “safe”. After all, public maintenance of this myth not only gets in the way of honest accounting, but also makes nationality an issue, as officialdom publicly states that foreigners commit more crime (and therefore, the logic eventually ensues, shouldn’t be here in the first place). Let’s face it: When properly accounted for, reported, and considered without the bias of nationality either of victim or perp, Japan has its fair share of criminal behavior. Therefore people should be careful of being the target of basic covetousness, wanton prejudice and scapegoating, or even just random hatred. After all, Japan has no effective laws to punish the last two (see here and here) if you have the misfortune to be existing while foreign here.
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 37 Comments »