Nikkei Asian Review: “In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth”. An optimistic antidote to the regular media Gaijin Bashing

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As an antidote to the program talked about last blog entry, where hunting NJ for public amusement and sport became yet another TV show, here’s a relatively rare article showing the good that NJ do for Japanese society:  revitalizing communities that are dying, as they age and endure an exodus of their young to more prosperous cities.  The article is a bit too optimistic to be realistic (given that all this progress could be undone with a simple mass cancellation of visas and government repatriation bribes; the former has happened multiple times in Japan’s history), but I’d rather have the article than not.  Have a look and tell us what you think.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth
Newcomers fill the labor and tax void as young Japanese bolt to Tokyo
YUSUKE SAKURAI, Nikkei staff writer
March 21, 2018
https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/In-rural-Japan-immigrants-spark-a-rebirth

PHOTO CAPTION:  Nearly half the students at Keiwa Elementary School in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, have at least one parent from another country.

(Courtesy of this Nikkei article)

TOKYO — In roughly three decades, the number of foreign residents in Japan has grown to 2.47 million, from just 980,000 in 1989. So while this period will go down in history as the time the country’s population went into decline, it has also brought an unprecedented influx of newcomers from abroad.

Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian: The students at Keiwa Elementary School in the southwestern prefecture of Mie speak nine different languages at home. But at school they use Japanese.

“This is how you draw an equilateral pentagon,” one non-Japanese sixth-grader said nonchalantly in February. “Can you pass me a protractor?” asked another. Their fluent Japanese had no detectable accent.

Nearly half the school’s 250 students belong to at least one non-Japanese parent, making the school a microcosm of rural Japan’s new diversity.

The subject of Japanese demographics calls to mind an aging society, a falling birthrate, population decline and rural decay. And yet, under the radar, the increase in immigration has been changing pockets of the country, energizing smaller municipalities that were desperate for labor and tax revenue.

There was a time when Keiwa Elementary’s student body had dwindled to just one-seventh of its peak. But thanks partly to a rise in the number of foreign residents working in the nearby Chukyo industrial area, its classrooms are buzzing again.

Kevin Sahayan, a student from the Philippines, said he started learning Japanese when he enrolled in third grade, upon his arrival in the country. “Now that I have learned Japanese, I have more friends and I have fun playing soccer after school,” the 12-year-old said.

“Guess which nationality I am!” children asked as, one after another, they pulled the sleeve of this puzzled reporter.

“You probably won’t get it so I will tell you. I’m half-Filipina and half-Japanese. That girl over there is Japanese, and that one there …,” explained student Ai Maruyama. Asked whether she feels “different” in the environment, she said, “No, not at all.”

In Mie, overall, the number of non-Japanese newcomers more than offset that of residents who moved to Tokyo last year — 5,999 versus 5,907.

This is no small point, considering that the government is struggling to stop the hollowing out of regional industry. Nationwide, around 120,000 people relocated to the Tokyo area in 2017, mainly for education or work, according to the internal affairs ministry. It was the fourth straight year in which the figure topped 100,000, even though the government aims to reduce it to zero by 2020.

But in Gifu and Shiga prefectures, which are adjacent to Mie, increases in residents from abroad made up for 80% of departures in 2017.

In Gifu, local housing company Sunshow Industry has been helping non-Japanese residents purchase homes for five years. Its office in the city of Kani has a sign at the entrance in Portuguese, inviting passers-by to come in for a consultation. Twenty-percent of its customers are foreign nationals.

One Sunday in February, a Brazilian man came in, looking for a house that would be big enough for his family. “I have kids aged 20 and 18, so I want a house where we can have lots of breathing space,” said the 43-year-old crane operator, who has lived in Japan for about two decades.

Sunshow started catering to international residents, mainly from Latin America, as more and more came to work at a Sony subsidiary’s plant in the city of Minokamo. Unlike the kids at Keiwa Elementary, though, adults are not always so quick to overlook differences.

Five years ago, if a Latin American tried to settle in their neighborhood, there would be many residents who would protest it,” said Toshiyuki Shiraki, who finds land for Sunshow. In some cases, the hostility persisted even after international workers moved in. A major point of contention was seemingly minor: some newcomers’ failure to separate their trash in accordance with the rules.

But Shiraki said the tensions appear to have largely subsided, after a greater effort was made to explain the local ways. Now, Japanese residents seem less averse to sharing their neighborhoods.

Even now, foreign residents make up only about 2% of Japan’s population of 127 million, but in certain places the ratio is quite a bit higher. It exceeds 5% in 31 municipalities; the town of Oizumi, in Gunma Prefecture, had the highest share of 17% as of January.

Three municipalities, including Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and the northern village of Shimukappu in Hokkaido, had ratios over 10%.

Other communities have taken notice of how foreign residents offer vital manpower for companies and more tax revenue for local governments. Some are actively courting immigrants.

The Hokkaido town of Higashikawa set up a Japanese language school to encourage young foreign residents to come, particularly those from other parts of Asia, like Taiwan. This is the first school of its kind run by a Japanese municipality.

The city of Mimasaka, in the western prefecture of Okayama, plans to open a sister school of Vietnam’s University of Danang.

Foreign nationals tend to gravitate to places where their children are likely to receive better education. Mie — home to Keiwa Elementary — is a testament to this. The prefecture is gaining a reputation for supporting students born to non-Japanese parents. “Mieko san no Nihongo,” a textbook for teaching classroom Japanese developed by the Mie International Exchange Foundation, has proved useful in this regard and is now used in elementary and junior high schools nationwide.

According to the Ministry of Education, the number of students requiring additional instruction in the Japanese language at public elementary and junior high schools topped 30,000 for the first time in the year ended March 2017.

The central government, too, is looking to bring more foreign workers into the country. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said his government will design a reform plan for this purpose by the summer. Yet Abe is not exactly jumping in with both feet — the policy will not encourage permanent settlement, with a cap to be placed on the maximum stay and restrictions on bringing family members along.

Even so, Japan is far more diverse than it was in 1950, when there were only 600,000 residents from overseas. From large cities to tiny villages, Japanese grow ever more accustomed to mingling with their fellow global citizens. And the newcomers are breathing life into communities that looked destined to fade.
ENDS

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SCMP: “Tennis queen Naomi Osaka a role model, says ‘Indian’ Miss Japan Priyanka Yoshikawa”. A little more complex than that.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Have a look at this article, then I’ll comment:

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Tennis queen Osaka a role model, says ‘Indian’ Miss Japan
Mixed-race beauty queen believes tennis ace can break down racial barriers in homogenous Japan
South China Morning Post Monday, 24 September, 2018
https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2165500/tennis-queen-osaka-role-model-says-indian-miss-japan

Japanese tennis sensation Naomi Osaka not only hit the cash jackpot with her historic US Open victory – she struck a blow for racial equality, according to a former Miss Japan.

Following her 6-2, 6-4 thrashing of childhood idol Serena Williams in New York earlier this month, Osaka is set to become a global marketing force as sponsors prepare to break the bank to sign the 20-year-old.

But Priyanka Yoshikawa, who two years ago was crowned Miss Japan, believes Osaka can also help break down cultural barriers in a country where multi-racial children make up just two per cent of those born annually.

“Japan should be proud of her – she can definitely break down walls, she will have a big impact.”

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother, a Haitian father and was raised in the United States, is set to shine a light on what it means to be Japanese, predicts Yoshikawa.

“The way she speaks, and her humbleness, are so Japanese,” said the 24-year-old.

“Japan puts all ‘haafu’ in the same bucket,” added Yoshikawa, referring to the Japanese for “half” – a word to describe mixed race.

“Whether you’re part Russian, American or African, you’re still categorised as ‘haafu’ in Japan.”

Yoshikawa’s Bollywood looks swept her to Miss Japan victory a year after Ariana Miyamoto faced an ugly backlash in 2015 for becoming the first black woman to represent the country.

Critics took to social media complaining that Miss Universe Japan should have been won by a “pure” Japanese.

Unlike Yoshikawa and Miyamoto, Osaka speaks hardly any Japanese after moving to Florida with her family as a toddler.

“It’s not about language,” insists the Tokyo-born Yoshikawa, who was bullied because of her skin colour as a child.

“Why does that bother people? It’s just because she has darker skin and is mixed race. People still ask me if I eat curry every day or if I can use chopsticks!

“But she’s what she thinks she is. If you think you’re Japanese, you’re Japanese.”

Osaka, who won her first title at Indian Wells earlier this year, is not the first mixed-race athlete to achieve fame in Japan.

Koji Murofushi, who is half-Romanian, captured the hammer throw gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, while half-Iranian Yu Darvish is a starting pitcher for Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs.

Sprinter Asuka Cambridge, who has Jamaican blood, claimed a silver medal in the 4x100m relay at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while two of Japan’s Davis Cup tennis team – Taro Daniel and Ben McLachlan – are also of mixed race.

But Osaka is set to become the highest profile, not to mention the richest.

Despite having her 10-match win streak snapped by Karolina Pliskova in Tokyo at the weekend, Osaka can take consolation in her ballooning financial worth.

Sportswear giant Adidas is reportedly lining up a record sponsorship deal worth more than US$10 million a year that would see Osaka become the second highest-paid female athlete behind Williams, according to Forbes.

Osaka is also endorsed by Yonex, Japanese food company Nissin and watch maker Citizen.
A new three-year deal with car maker Nissan underlined her earning power after becoming the first Japanese player to win a grand slam singles title.

“Compared to Kei Nishikori, who is a superstar in Japan but not in the world’s top five, Naomi Osaka has the potential to be number one,” said Hirotaka Matsuoka, sports marketing professor at Waseda University.

“She is tri-racial (Japan, United States and Haiti), a world athlete. Naomi is now the most marketable athlete in Japan, maybe in the world.”

But Yoshikawa believes Osaka’s celebrity will help change the DNA of Japanese pop culture, like mixed-race fashion icons Rola, Jun Hasegawa and Jessica Michibata before her.

“Naomi can definitely do so much good in the future” said Yoshikawa.

“But it’s still going to take more time for people to think ‘haafu’ can be Japanese,” she warned. “We need more people like Naomi.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Tennis sensation Osaka strikes blow for racial equality: ex-Miss Japan
RELATED ARTICLE: Half-Indian ‘elephant whisperer’ crowned Miss Japan but many would prefer ‘pure’ winner

(Ms. Yoshikawa and I during a panel discussion on Al-Jazeera, in 2016. Link to that broadcast here.)

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COMMENT: Indeed. Japan needs more people like Naomi. And like Priyanka. And Ariana Miyamoto. And Murofushi. And Asuka Cambridge.  And Bekki.  And Jero.  And Darvish.  And Miyazawa Rie.  And Umemiya Anna.  And Hiroko Grace. And Kinugasa “Iron Man” Sachio. And any number of other “haafu” celebrities in Japan who have made history over generations, but barely made a dent in diversifying Japan’s racialized self-concept of “Japaneseness” being predominantly pure-blooded.  I’m not sure what’s different this time.

Again, Debito.org is very happy to cheer on Ms. Osaka as she navigates her way through Japan’s adult society and through the trappings and pitfalls of sports fame. But it‘s far too soon to be this optimistic that any real change has happened or will happen. As we’ve seen from the world-class people above, it takes a lot more than one tennis star to undo this degree of “Embedded Racism“. Where’s the “tipping point“?  Dr. Debito Arudou

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My Japan Times JBC Col 113: “Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career” (Sep. 19, 2018)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Developed from an earlier post on Debito.org, here is my 113th JUST BE CAUSE column for The Japan Times Community page.  Here’s a teaser opening with a link to the rest of the article.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career
JBC 113 for the Japan Times Community page
By Debito Arudou, September 19, 2018

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

First, Just Be Cause congratulates Naomi Osaka on her outstanding win over tennis legend Serena Williams in the U.S. Open. Osaka’s grace under fire was world-class, and she deserves all the plaudits she can get.

And let’s just get this out of the way: I also agree that Williams had every right to protest her treatment by a heavy-handed umpire. The ump made the game about his ability to punish instead of defuse a situation, and penalized a woman more severely than men for similar infractions.

But that commentary is for the Sports pages. Here’s the JBC issue:

Ms. Osaka, I don’t think you understand what you’ve gotten yourself into by choosing to play for Japan.

Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/19/issues/warning-naomi-osaka-playing-japan-can-seriously-shorten-career/

Naomi Osaka’s US Open victory over Serena Williams: Congratulations, but I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into.

mytest

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Hi Blog. First off, I want to say congratulations to Naomi Osaka, for winning the US Open last weekend, soundly defeating her hero and template, tennis legend Serena Williams.

And I say this with all the commensurate respect to her and Ms. Williams, whom I also believe had every right to protest her treatment at the hands of a heavy-handed tennis umpire, who made the game about him and his punitive powers, and not about keeping the match civil, orderly, or fair in terms of gender-parity of rules enforcement. There, that’s where I stand on that.

But Ms. Osaka, I don’t think you have any idea what you’ve gotten yourself into by deciding to play tennis for Japan.

Now, another first off: this blog entry is NOT to dispute whether Ms. Osaka is “Japanese” or not. She has Japanese and American citizenships, so of course legally she is Japanese. Further, if she wishes to self-identify as a Japanese, that is her right as an individual. Debito.org has always supported the right of individuals to decide their identity for themselves, and not suffer identity policing from others. Ms. Osaka is a Japanese. And an American. And a Haitian, her father’s background. Bravo for this confluence of diverse influences to produce a world-class athlete.

But where I think a problem arises, in terms of self-awareness as a Japanese sports champion representing Japan, is illustrated by the following video:


Courtesy http://www.haitianinternet.com/photos/naomi-osaka-answers-how-haitian-and-japanese-culture-made-he.html

Text: “I was born in Osaka. I came to New York when I was three. I moved from New York to Florida when I was about eight or nine. And then I’ve been training in Florida since… My dad’s Haitian, so I grew up in a Haitian household in New York. I lived with my Grandma. And my mom’s Japanese, and I grew up with the Japanese culture too. And if you’re saying American, I guess because I lived in America I have that too.”

I can see how living in America for just about all of your life (the past seventeen of your twenty years) could make you “American”. I could also see how growing up in a Haitian household could deepen that ethnic tie to Haiti. But I don’t think she’s thought this through well:

It seems a bit dangerous to assume that just because your mother is Japanese, that makes you representatively “Japanese” (especially in a society where the very real phenomenon of kikoku shijou, “Returnee Japanese Students”, suffer ethnic and cultural displacement after only a year or less of being educated abroad during primary and secondary school years).

Compound that with the fact that you don’t read, write, or speak much Japanese beyond the “Kitchen Japanese” level (or as Nikkan Sports renders her abilities, “kikitori wa aru teido rikai suru ga, hanasu no wa nigate“, or “can understand Japanese somewhat when it’s being spoken to her, but speaking isn’t her thing”). But she likes Japanese Anime and Manga, eats unagi and sushi (as the Japanese media has dutifully reported). Somehow that’ll… do?

Again, Ms. Osaka can claim her “Japaneseness”, but it will be a hard road ahead for her given Japan’s unreal expectations of Japanese athletes.

Debito.org has talked extensively in the past how Japan puts undue pressure on its athletes (especially in international competitions, since national pride and issues of superiority-inferiority come into play very quickly), sometimes with fatal results.

Doubly so for “haafu” Japanese, since questions about their identity and loyalties seep in to complicate things further. There are plenty of examples of Japanese with diverse backgrounds being discounted or disqualified from being “true” Japanese when they don’t win something (such as international beauty pageants). But when they do win (as seen numerous times with Japan’s Nobel Laureates, many of whom have long left Japan, taken foreign citizenships, and even said that they wouldn’t have gotten their achievements if they had remained in Japan), it’s suddenly because they are “Japanese”.

Let’s call it “Nippon-Claiming“. It’s a common phenomenon in radicalized societies where “They’ll Claim Us If We’re Famous”. And now with this landmark victory at the US Open, Ms. Osaka has been claimed. (She’s even had the rare honor of having her name rendered all in Kanji and Hiragana, not Katakana, in the Japanese press.)

But most of that will only continue if she continues to win. Otherwise, given Japan’s constant self-conception of “Japanese” as radicalized entities, she’d be losing tournaments because of her mixed-ness (as has been claimed about Japan’s rugby teams and figure skaters). She’s not pure enough as a haafu to measure up.

So why did she choose to represent Japan?  It wasn’t exactly because of deep emotional ties.  The New York Times discussed it in a feature on her dated August 23, 2018:

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“Though born in Japan, Osaka has lived in the United States since she was 3. She is not fully fluent in Japanese. Yet nearly a decade ago, her father decided that his two daughters would represent Japan, not America. It was a prescient move.

“…The United States Tennis Association showed little interest in helping [Naomi Osaka and her sister Mari] develop. Rather than vie for support with hundreds of other talented young players in America, [Naomi’s father] Francois made a pivotal decision: His daughters, from age 13, would play for Japan, the nation they left behind nearly a decade earlier…

“The decision to play for Japan has had major repercussions in Osaka’s life, from the way she is perceived in Japan and the United States to the size of the endorsement contracts she can now command as a top Japanese athlete ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics… The Japan Tennis Association, facing a drought of top female players, offered them an opportunity. But for Tamaki and Francois, who spent many years in Japan himself, it was natural for the girls to play in the country where they were born, even if the parent’s own memories of the place were tinged with anger and regret.

“…[Ms.] Osaka has been embraced by Japanese media, companies and fans hungering for a female tennis star. Nissin, one of the world’s largest instant-noodle companies, has already signed her to a lucrative deal, as has Wowow, the tennis channel that broadcasts her matches in Japan. The Osaka camp plans to announce a large new endorsement deal before the U.S. Open, and other Japanese multinationals are circling. Osaka’s biggest payday may come at the end of the year, when her Adidas shoe-and-apparel contract expires — just in time for the prelude to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“If Osaka played under the American flag, it’s very unlikely that these opportunities would exist. Japanese companies would have no reason to court her and U.S. brands would have other higher-ranked young guns to consider, like Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens. But as Japan’s top-ranked player, Osaka has the full attention of the country’s top brands, whose sponsorship fees can run far higher than those of their Western counterparts.”

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That NYT feature also concludes presciently:

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“In Japan, sports fans already know who Osaka is: She’s the rising star playing for the land of the rising sun. Her Japanese might not be perfect, her appearance not traditional. But the barriers may ultimately be no match for success. ‘If Naomi wins a Grand Slam, the other things won’t matter as much,’ Fukuhara says. ‘All of Japan would embrace her.’”

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True. But the problem is the converse will also be true: if she doesn’t continue to win, that support evaporates.

And all Ms. Osaka’s talent and youthful energy may wind up being frittered away dealing with the limitless pressure put upon representatives of Japanese society — a pressure of perfectionism that expects Japanese champions to remain champions no matter what.

In essence, this approach, decided by Ms. Osaka’s father, to make her a bigger-fish-in-a-smaller-pond may backfire, becoming the millstone around her neck:  a drag that could shorten her overall career if not her life.

Again, I congratulate Ms. Osaka on her success, and wish her the best of luck. But I really don’t think she knows what she’s gotten herself into. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Farrah on Hamamatsu’s city-sponsored “Gaijin Day” event: Problematic wording and execution, esp. given the history of Hamamatsu, and who attended.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I didn’t want to bring this up until after the event was over, but check out this poster for “Gaijin Day”, sponsored by enough people (including the City of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture) to make it normal and unproblematized.

Source:  https://www.hamamatsucastle.com/がいじんの日-the-gaijin-day-2018/ (bigger scanned reproduction below)

Some people did see a problem, and one, Farrah, reported what happened there to Debito.org.  My comment follows hers.

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From: Farrah
Subject: Comments – Gaijin Festival
Date: September 2, 2018
To: debito@debito.org

In late-August, an ALT friend of mine from Kansai told me about this event that was happening in Hamamatsu, called, “Gaijin Day”. Amused and slightly offended by the wording, she was actually interested in coming all the way down to my neck of the woods to attend it. The flyer for the event went viral in many expat groups on social media, and posts were flooded with comments about the title of the event. I figured that the organizers chose to call this event “Gaijin Day” to get lots of attention, and they did.

At first I thought that it would merely be a spectacle of foreigners flying into Japan to perform. But when I looked at the list, it was a bunch of people who were sansei/yonsei, Japanese people of mixed-heritage who lived in the Tokai region. I was immediately offended by the name of the event at that point. This is my fifth year living in Hamamatsu, and I’ve done extensive ethnographic research on Brazilian and Peruvian immigrant communities since November of last year. I know that referring to such an established part of the Japanese diaspora as merely “gaijin” was inaccurate and disrespectful. The worst part of all was that the Hamamatsu City Government and HICE Center (Hamamatsu Foundation for International Communication and Exchange) were the main sponsors for the event.

Hamamatsu has the highest immigrant population in Japan (22,260 immigrant residents as of July 2017), with the highest Brazilian population in the entire country. Actually, the population was almost double in Japan before 2007, but the Japanese government offered cash payments to nikkeijin to leave Japan permanently to reduce the immigrant population. From 2009-2010, they were offered around ¥300,000 per worker and ¥200,000 per dependent willing to leave Japan. About 20,000 nikkeijin took the offer, with the amount of Brazilian and Peruvian immigrants shrinking by more than 87,000 combined. The permanent leave requirement was reduced to three years, with many former residents coming back for employment in Hamamatsu and the Tokai region. This change in the permanent leave policy may be in response to the fact that Japan’s population is declining (with the elderly population increasing), leaving the country dependent on immigrant workers.

“To serve as a viable solution for Japan’s aging, immigrants would need to make up at least 10 percent of the overall population by some estimates—an unfeasibly large number by most accounts given the strong preference that remains for ethnic and cultural homogeneity and the public backlash that would likely ensue.” (Council of Europe)

This city should be an example of what living in a diverse and multicultural society would look like for the rest of Japan. However, there is little intercultural inclusion or integration between these communities. Most of these immigrants are not ALTs or eikaiwa teachers. They are Brazilian, Peruvian, Filipino, Indonesian, and Chinese people with mixed Japanese heritage. Many of them work in factories for car/train parts and in tea-picking farms. To call these long-term residents with Japanese grandparents (at least) “gaijin” is incredibly disturbing.

When I would read comments that supported the idea of referring to the performers as “gaijin”, I realized that majority of these people, Japanese and non-Japanese, were unaware about the legacy and the history of immigrant Japanese communities. Many of these people were born and raised in Japan, and many of them speak Japanese. I teach at a public high school with a lot of students from these communities, and majority of them speak Japanese as native speakers and have never went to their parents’/grandparents’ “home” countries. Their main cultural identity and mentality is Japanese, and yet they’re labeled as “gaijin” simply because they have a multicultural and multiethnic background. Why does having another culture to be proud of cancel their eligibility to be “Japanese”?

When I shared the flyer with my own comments on Facebook, I received over 100 responses from friends and acquaintances alike. I noticed that the non-Japanese people who disagreed with the idea of sansei/yonsei being labeled as “gaijin” as harmful were white Americans, Canadians, and Australians. They’re not minorities in their own countries, and in the end, they can always be reassured that they belong to their home countries without such backlash. They are completely desensitized and inexperienced with the concept of carrying a politicized multicultural identity because they never had to experience it in their home countries. I am first-generation American, and my parents are also immigrants. I have more personal experience being a minority in my own home country. I am constantly questioned about my identity by white Americans (and even by Japanese people at times), despite the fact that I was born and raised in the US and speak in English as a native speaker. When you’re a person of color or a minority in the place where you were born and raised, you face lots of scrutiny and oppression on your identity.

After holding many interviews with families and talking to my students about these issues in my research (as well as casual conversations), I have learned that being labeled as a “gaijin” as a mixed-race Japanese resident in Japan can be harmful to their self-image and identity. Majority of them have told me that even in Brazil and Peru, locals perceive them as “Japanese”, so they feel that they cannot fit into either country. The US may have their problems with racism, prejudice, and discrimination, but at least there are many support systems and articles out there that can reassure that minorities do belong. Japan does not have the same kind of representation or support for sansei/yonsei members in their society.

I actually attended the “Gaijin Day” event later on. It was located next to Hamamatsu Station, so it was inevitable to attend it anyways. As I thought, the vendors were all Brazilian and Peruvian, and they spoke to me in Japanese with little hesitation. There were also cell phone companies targeting Brazilian and Peruvian residents, holding up signs in Japanese, Portuguese, and English. Two individuals hosted the event: A full-Japanese radio host from Hamamatsu, and a Brazilian-Japanese performer who lived in Nagoya. Majority of the people in the audience were also Brazilian, but did not live in Hamamatsu. Some of what the hosts said irked me at times. “Today, we are all gaijin!” “Why do you have all these signs in Japanese? The Brazilians can’t read them!” I felt that the way the event was commenced also re-enforced stereotypes and constantly misused/over-used the term, “gaijin”. Most of my Filipino, Brazilian, and Peruvian friends refused to attend because of the naming of the event. “If I go there, I’m saying it’s okay to call me ‘gaijin’ even though I pay the same taxes and have a Japanese last name.”

The event was coordinated by two Brazilian men in their 40s, who came to Japan later in their adulthood. I tried to politely ask them about why they decided to call this event, “Gaijin Day”, but they immediately asked me about my heritage and said that it was not an issue to them because they identify themselves as “gaijin”. My yonsei and Japanese friends also received the same harsh responses when they tried to discuss the issue over the phone; it was as if the decision to label their community as “gaijin” was an autocratic decision with the concept of the sansei/yonsei population as a monolith. There was not a survey available to express my opinion at the event, either.

While I do understand that some residents from these communities, especially nikkei residents, mainly identify as “gaijin”, many of them also refuse to adhere to the label, especially newer generations of yonsei residents in Japan. Unlike the organizers of this event, many of them were born and raised in Japan, and plan to live here for the rest of their life. And yet, they are being labeled as “gaijin” by other people, not by choice. The idea behind language reclamation (taking back a slur/derogatory term and using it positively) does not function with this event because there is little to reclaim. The idea that mixed-race sansei/yonsei are legitimate Japanese people isn’t even established in the mainstream, and it’s under the assumption that every single person in the diaspora views themselves as non-Japanese, which is far from the truth.

Here is the main problem: when you decide to publicize a huge event that profits off of how diverse and multicultural your city is, the last thing you should do is use language that excludes the community that makes it special. Brazilian and Peruvian residents are already discriminated against a lot by Japanese locals in Hamamatsu. Japanese peers, teachers, and authority figures constantly tell them that they are “gaijin”. The reason why some older Brazilian and Peruvian residents especially have a hard time learning Japanese is because they are not really given much government support, and because the Japanese community does not welcome them as equals. The city government only recently created programs to help mixed-race residents learn Japanese a few years ago.

Imagine being a yonsei child who was born and raised in Japan, mainly speaks Japanese, and attends a Japanese public school (where students might call you “gaijin” if you can’t pass as Japanese or if you have a non-Japanese name). You come to a huge event that refers to you and everyone in your community as a “gaijin”. How are you supposed to feel?

Some may argue that this is a sign of progress; you’re supporting local businesses and performers who are sansei/yonsei. However, I see it as very regressive and problematic to a huge degree. They are remotely far from being “gaijin”, and you’re promoting the multicultural communities here at their own expense by reminding them that they’re not fully Japanese. They are a legitimate part of the Japanese diaspora and Japan itself. I think the Japanese diaspora seems to be the only one in the world where many people claim that possessing any other heritage/culture automatically makes you not Japanese at all.

On the signs of the event, the slogan is, “The Gaijin Day: We live in Japan together!”

Yes, you can live in Japan together, but you will always be separate. You will always be classed as non-Japanese. Having any heritage or culture mixed in will cancel out your Japanese identity. That’s the message that you are sending to the mixed-race residents here, especially to the younger generations. And that’s a very toxic message to send.  Farrah.

Sources:

http://www.hi-hice.jp/index.php
https://rm.coe.int/city-of-hamamatsu-intercultural-profile/168076dee5

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  First, it is disappointing that the site of Gaijin no Hi is Hamamatsu.  Given Hamamatsu’s special history with NJ residents (particularly its very progressive Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001), using exclusionary language such as “Gaijin” (given its history as an epithet as well; see below) feels truly, as Farrah put it, regressive.

Have they also learned nothing from the Toyoda Sengen of 2004 and Yokkaichi Sengen of 2006?  (I guess not; but surely the Japanese officials behind this weren’t similarly bribed to leave Japan in 2009?!)

Second, about that word Gaijin.  As I’ve argued before, it’s essentially a radicalized epithet with “othering” dynamics similar to “nigger”.  My arguments for that are in my Japan Times columns here, here, and here.

Bad form, Hamamatsu.  You should know better by now.  And if not by now, how much will it take?  That’s the power of Embedded Racism:  It even overcomes history.  Dr. Debito Arudou

The poster in higher resolution (click to expand):

========================================
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Trevor Noah controversy on French World Cup team: “Africa won the World Cup”. Debito.org disagrees with French Ambassador’s protest letter.

mytest

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Hi Blog. A recent storm in a teacup that happens to be germane to Debito.org is a recent “Behind the Scenes” vlog starring Trevor Noah, where he talks to his audience between takes of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”.

In a previous segment, he pointed out how the diverse French Soccer Team won the 2018 World Cup, what with a significant number of their players being of African origin.  But he summarized it as a joke:  “Africa won the World Cup!”  “Africa won the World Cup!”

This occasioned a letter of protest from Gerard Araud, Ambassador of France to the U.S., which Trevor read out to his studio audience. Here is the segment, followed by my commentary:

If you cannot watch the segment, it runs as follows:  First, Noah read the text of Araud’s letter (with a French accent, which was a bit corny, but that’s one of the licenses of a comedy show):

SIR– I watched with great attention your July 17 show when you spoke of the victory of the French team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final which took place last Sunday. I heard your words about an “African” victory. Nothing could be less true.

(Interjected Noah: “I could have said they were Scandinavian. That would have been less true.”)

As many of the players have already stated themselves, their parents may have come from another country, but the great majority of them, all but two out of 23 were born in France. They were educated in France. They learned to play soccer in France. They are French citizens. They’re proud of their country, France. The rich and various backgrounds of these players are a reflection of France’s diversity.

(Interjected Noah: “I’m not trying to be an asshole, but I think it’s more a reflection of France’s colonialism.”)

France is indeed a cosmopolitan country. But every citizen is part of the French identity. Together they belong to the nation of France. Unlike in the United States of America, France does not refer to its citizens based on their race, religion, or origin. To us, there is no hyphenated identity. Roots are an individual reality. By calling them an African team, it seems like you’re denying their French-ness. This, even in jest, legitimizes the ideology which claims whiteness is the only definition of being French.”

There is one more paragraph to the letter, but that’s as far as Noah read.  Noah acknowledged how having dual identities is used against people to “other” them from other French. “In France, a lot of Nazis in that country use the fact that these players are of African descent to shit on their French-ness. They say, ‘You’re not French. You’re African. Go back to where you came from.’ They use that as a line of attack.”

But then he counterargued: “My opinion is, coming from South Africa, coming from Africa, and even watching the World Cup in the United States of America, black people all over the world were celebrating the African-ness of the French players. Not in a negative way, but in a positive way. They look at this Africans who CAN become French. It’s a celebration of that achievement.

“Now this is what I find weird in these arguments, when people say, ‘They’re not African. They’re French.’ And I’m like, ‘Why can’t they be both?’ Why is that duality only afforded a select group of people? Why can’t they not be African? What they’re arguing here is, ‘In order to be French, you have to erase everything that is African…?” So what are they saying when they say, ‘our culture’? So you cannot be French and African at the same time, which I vehemently disagree with… I love how African they are, and how French they are. I don’t take their French-ness away, but I also don’t think you have to take their their African-ness away.”

He concluded, “And that is what I love about America. America is not a perfect country, but what I love about this place is that people can still celebrate their identity in their American-ness. You can go to a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in America, celebrating that you are Irish. You can go to a Puerto Rican Day Parade in American and celebrate the fact that you are Puerto Rican and American at the same time. You can celebrate Juneteenth as a Black person and still go, ‘Yo, I’m AFRICAN-American,’ which is the duality of the two worlds.”

Noah cited the case of Mamoudou Gassama, a Malinese immigrant to France, who famously scaled a building to save a child that was dangling from a balcony, and used it to demonstrate how far immigrants have to go to “become French”. Gassama got to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, got French citizenship and a job.  Noah highlighted this dynamic in his own version of  the phenomenon of “They’ll claim us if we’re famous:”  “When they are unemployed, when they may commit a crime or when they are considered unsavory it’s the ‘African immigrant’. When their children go on to provide a World Cup victory for France, we should only refer to them as ‘France.’”

Noah reiterated that he will nonetheless celebrate his claim that “Africans” won the World Cup. “So, I will continue to praise them for being African because I believe that they are of Africa, their parents are from Africa and they can be French at the same time.  And if French people are saying they can’t be both, then I think that they have a problem and not me.”

@GeraldAraud responded on Twitter:

End of the argument with @Trevornoah He didn’t refer to a double identity. He said »they are African. They couldn’t get this suntan in the south of France ». i.e They can’t be French because they are black. The argument of the white supremacist. 6:02 AM – Jul 19, 2018

Which, as The Atlantic commented: “is a misreading of Noah’s argument, and of his original joke. It also cuts to the core of one of the biggest questions in Europe today: Who is allowed to define national identity — the state, or the citizens?”

=====================

COMMENT: Debito.org’s take on this is probably not hard to guess. We agree with Noah’s argument that hyphenated identities can, should, and in fact must exist.  Because a) hyphenated identities are a reality (people are diverse, and they shouldn’t have to suppress them for national goals of putative homogeneity); b) they are a personal choice, to include as one’s self-determined identity, and not the business of The State to police; and c) the alternative incurs too many abuses.

Here’s what I mean:  Legal statuses (such as French citizenship) are supposed to be something that one can earn unarbitrarily (i.e., with qualifications that apply to all applicants), and afterwards are enforced in a way that does not require one to subsume or sacrifice one’s identity in perpetuity as a “citizen-with-an-asterisk”, forever currying favor with a society’s dominant majority.  That is to say, currying favor with people who aren’t diverse themselves, and who often abuse identity politics to criticize diverse people as not being, say, “French” etc. enough.  A lack of hyphenation becomes a power game, and the immigrant who has to “hide” something is at a perpetual disadvantage, as a permanent part of her or him is effectively perceived as a negative thing.

This is something I have studied in other societies that do not accept hyphenated identities (such as Japan, where I am a naturalized citizen myself, and often accused of “not being Japanese enough” if I do anything that causes disagreement or debate — even though I am behaving just like some other “Japanese” would in the same situation). And it leads to the deracinated person expending a lifetime of energy dealing with microaggressions, and trying to please unempathetic others who never had to question, self-determine, or fight for their own identities. All of that is outlined in my book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination“. (More here.)

Returning to this debate:  The abovementioned Atlantic article gives the French side of this issue I think quite well (i.e., how it is “an affront to the French ideal that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the state”), for there will always be a tension within national goals for assimilating outsiders (melting pot? salad bowl? mosaic? kaleidoscope? or no immigration policy at all, as in Japan’s case?).

But I salute Trevor Noah for dealing with this issue in a thoughtful and measured manner, and for coming out on the side that, in the long run, works out much better for all involved. Dr. Debito Arudou

=================

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Japan Supreme Court enforces Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions (for Japanese claimants). Yet Sakura TV claims Hague is for “selfish White men” trying to entrap women from “uncivilized countries” as “babysitters”

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. We had an important Supreme Court ruling come down earlier this month, where an international custody dispute between two Japanese divorcees living in different countries resulted in the custodial parent overseas being awarded custody of the child, as per the Hague Convention on International Child Abductions. (See Japan Times article excerpt below.)

Debito.org has commented at length on this issue (and I have even written a novel based upon true stories of Japan’s safe haven for international child abductions). Part of the issue is that due to the insanity of Japan’s Family Registry (koseki) System, after a divorce only ONE parent (as in, one family) gets total custody of the child, with no joint custody or legally-guaranteed visitation rights. This happens to EVERYONE who marries, has children, and divorces in Japan (regardless of nationality).

But what makes this Supreme Court decision somewhat inapplicable to anyone but Wajin Japanese is the fact that other custody issues under the Hague (which Japan only signed kicking and screaming, and with enough caveats to lead to probable nonenforcement), which involved NON-Japanese parents, faced a great deal of racism and propaganda, even from the Japanese government.

As evidence, consider this TV segment (with English subtitles) on Japan’s ultraconservative (PM Abe Shinzo is a frequent contributor) Sakura Channel TV network (firmly established with the “present Japan positively no matter what” NHK World network).  It contains enough bald-facedly anti-foreign hypotheticals (including the requisite stereotype that foreign men are violent, and Japanese women are trying to escape DV) to inspire entire sociological articles, and the incredible claim that Japan’s court system is just appeasing White people and forcing a “selfish” alien system upon Japan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmbuabX9_S0&feature=share

The best bits were when banner commentator Takayama Masayuki claimed a) White men just marry women from “uncivilized” countries until they find better women (such as ex-girlfriends from high school) and then divorce them, capturing the former as “babysitters” for once-a-week meet-ups with their kids (which Takayama overtly claims is the “premise” of the Hague Convention in the first place); and b) (which was not translated properly in the subtitles) where Takayama at the very end cites Mori Ohgai (poet, soldier, medical doctor and translator who wrote sexualized fiction about a liaison between a Japanese man and a German woman) to say, “play around with White WOMEN and then escape back home.” (Who’s being selfish, not to mention hypocritical, now?)

Take yet another plunge into this racialized sexpit of debate, where the racism doesn’t even bother to embed itself.  Dr. Debito Arudou

//////////////////////////////////////////

Supreme Court breaks new ground, ruling in favor of U.S.-based Japanese father in international custody battle
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 15, 2018, Courtesy of lots of people.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/15/national/crime-legal/supreme-court-breaks-new-ground-ruling-favor-u-s-based-japanese-father-international-custody-battle/

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favor of a U.S.-based Japanese father seeking to reunite with his teenage son, who was taken by his estranged wife to Japan in 2016, concluding that the wife’s dogged refusal to abide by an earlier court order mandating the minor’s repatriation amounts to her “illegally confining” him.

The ruling is believed to be the first by the Supreme Court on cases where return orders by courts have been refused. It is likely to send a strong message regarding domestic legislation that is often slammed as impotent on cross-border child abductions, despite Japan’s commitments under the Hague Convention, following mounting criticism that return orders issued by courts have been ignored.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Nagoya High Court.

This latest case involved a formerly U.S.-based Japanese couple whose marital relationship began to deteriorate in 2008. According to the ruling, the wife unilaterally took away one of her children, then aged 11, in January 2016 and brought him to Japan where the two have since lived together.

Upon a complaint by the husband, a Tokyo court issued in September the same year a “return order” for the child under the Hague Convention, but the wife didn’t comply. When a court-appointed officer intervened to recover the child the following year the wife “refused to unlock the door,” prompting the officer to enter her residence via a second-story window, the ruling said. The mother then put up a fierce fight to retain the child, who also articulated his wish to stay in Japan.

On Thursday the top court overturned a Nagoya High Court ruling that acknowledged the child’s desire to stay in Japan. The latest ruling judged the minor was “in a difficult position to make a multifaceted, objective judgment about whether to remain under control of his mother,” citing his “heavy reliance” on her and the “undue psychological influence” she was likely exerting upon him in his life in Japan. The apparent lack of his free will, the ruling said, meant the mother’s attempt to keep the child equated to detention…

Rest of the article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/03/15/national/crime-legal/supreme-court-breaks-new-ground-ruling-favor-u-s-based-japanese-father-international-custody-battle/

ENDS
===================================

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My Japan Times column JBC 111: “White Supremacists and Japan: A Love Story” (March 8, 2018)

mytest

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Hi Blog. This month sees a Japan Times column that I’m particularly proud of, as it ties a lot of things together. My research question was, “Why do people react so viscerally whenever somebody criticizes Japan?” And I think I found the answer: Japan attracts and nurtures White Supremacists.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

==========================================
WHITE SUPREMACISTS AND JAPAN: A LOVE STORY
JBC 111 for the Japan Times Community page
By Debito Arudou, Thursday, March 8, 2018

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

The Washington Post reported something interesting on Feb. 14: A farm put up a sign saying “Resist White Supremacy.” And it incurred a surprising amount of online backlash.

Calls for boycotts. Accusations and recriminations. One-star Facebook reviews that had nothing to do with their products.

The article pondered: Who, other than a White Supremacist, would object to a message rejecting white supremacy?

But if you’ve ever protested racism in Japan, or read comments sections in Japanese media, you’ll know these reactions have been old hat for nearly two decades.

In fact, this column will argue that online intolerance and attack have been Japan exports…

Read the rest in the JT at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/03/07/issues/white-supremacists-japan-love-story/
==========================================

This will be the anchor site for discussion about the article on Debito.org. Thanks for reading, everyone. Dr. Debito Arudou

PS:  If trolls show up here, as they probably will, as per Commenting Guidelines, Debito.org reserves the right to make public their IP addresses.

============
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Wash Post: “NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage praising Japan’s brutal occupation”, rightly so

mytest

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Hi Blog. PyeongChang.  It’s Olympics time again, and, as long-time readers know, I’m a fan of the athleticism but not the nationalism (and inevitable comparisons of strengths and weaknesses along national lines) that is endemic to bordered sports. Too many people compete for glory as representatives of whole societies, not for individual bests, and that particularly takes a toll on Japan’s athletes.

I’ve been a relentless critic of Japan’s sports commentary, but now that I’m watching it in the US, fair game. I was quite incandescent with rage at times listening to NBC’s stupid, overgeneralizing, and often borderline racist commentary of the Opening Ceremonies. (One of the most annoying was when Katie Couric noted how internet addiction is allegedly a problem in South Korea, and used it as a segue into a shameless plug of her upcoming show on internet addiction in America; and this relates to the Olympics how!?)

Fortunately, I was not alone, and Korea protested not only the overgeneralizations, but also the ahistorical comments that were ill-considered. Fortunately, NBC apologized (and told the press that the offending commentator’s “assignment is over”), which is better than I’ve ever seen NHK do for its nasty coverage. Here’s the Washington Post on the issue. Dr. Debito Arudou

////////////////////////////////////////////
NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage that praised Japan’s brutal occupation
By Avi Selk February 11, 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/02/11/nbc-apologizes-to-koreans-for-olympics-coverage-that-praised-japans-brutal-occupation/

Friday’s Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in South Korea were, by most accounts, spectacular. NBC’s coverage of the spectacle, on the other hand, was considered hit and miss. Occasionally disastrous.

It wasn’t so much the hosts, Katie Couric and Mike Tirico, who annoyed critics, but rather the network’s analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo.

Slate wrote that Ramo’s commentary amounted to bland trivia about Asia “seemingly plucked from hastily written social studies reports” — such as his observation that white and blue flags stood for North and South Korean unity. Variety compared his commentary to a Wikipedia article.

But Ramo’s big misstep came when he noticed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the crowd and offered what he knew about the country’s history with Korea.

Japan was “a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Ramo said, correctly (though he did not mention that historians say the Japanese army forced tens of thousands of Koreans into sex slavery.)

“But,” Ramo continued, “every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation.”

This was definitely not correct. Every Korean did not agree that Japanese colonialism had its upside. In fact, thousands signed a petition demanding that NBC apologize for Ramo’s statement.

“His incorrect and insensitive comment about Korea’s history has enraged many of its people,” the Korea Times observed.

“Some say it’s questionable whether Ramo has been even following the news leading up to the current Olympics, as some of the disputes between South Korea and Japan erupted even during the preparation phase of the games,” the Korea Herald added, mentioning as an example the unified Korean flag that Ramo liked so much.

In fact, the Herald reported, an earlier flag design had outraged Japan because it included a group of islets still claimed by both countries.

Japan and South Korea have not even fully reconciled over atrocities committed during the occupation. While the Japanese government has expressed remorse and set up a fund in the 1990s to help victims it once referred to as “comfort women,” some politicians and academics claim estimates of 200,000 sex slaves are exaggerated. Many South Koreans, in turns, compare those skeptics to Holocaust deniers.

The morning after the Opening Ceremonies, NBC apologized for Ramo’s remarks. “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments,” an anchor said during a Saturday broadcast, according to MSN.

In a statement to The Washington Post, NBC Sports said that the network also apologized in writing and that “we’re very gratified that [the PyeongChang Olympics] has accepted that apology.”

Yahoo Sports reported this was the second time that Ramo, who co-directs a think tank founded by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, has appeared as an Olympics analyst for NBC. He shared an Emmy Award for his commentary during Beijing’s Summer Games in 2008.

Ramo could not be immediately reached for comment. An NBC official told The Post that his assignment is over.
ENDS
==============================================

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Hawaii’s false alarm missile attack of Jan 13, 2018. JT reports: “Hawaii residents spooked but Japanese sanguine”. Poor reporting and social science.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Making news (especially in the United States) was the alert on January 13 sent throughout Hawaii that the islands were under nuclear attack. And there were a number of reports of final messages to loved ones and otherwise panicked behavior as people tried to make use of their final moments. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm, but the local government kept us in suspense for 38 minutes.  That is where the news is — the incompetence of local authorities coupled with international tensions fanned by an incompetent president.

But leave it to the Japan Times to try to draw sociocultural lines around the event. With the smarmy title, “False-alarm missile alert spooks Hawaii residents but Japanese sanguine,” it tried to paint Japanese as preternaturally calm while Americans were panicked. Drawing from a humongous sample size of three — yes, three — “Japanese”, the JT reported juicy quotes such as this:

[Megumi] Gong, [a housewife and college student from Shizuoka Prefecture who has lived in Honolulu for the last three years], characterized the differences between how Americans and Japanese reacted as “fascinating.” “I don’t know if it is a sense of crisis or an obsession with life, or whether one is more accustomed to emergency situations, but the difference in the responses is fascinating,” she said. Japanese, Gong said, “are afraid” but “aren’t panicked” — a kind of “it cannot be helped” attitude. “We don’t call our family to say I love you. We still go to work,” she said. “Also, we give up fast,” as if we “will die if the missile” comes. We “can’t do anything.”

Such is the blindness of transplant diaspora, who act, without any apparent social science training, as Cultural Representative of All Japan, wheeled out to represent an entire society of more than 100 million as a “we” monolith, and taken seriously by media merely by dint of her having Japanese background.  And in contrast, at least one of my contacts in Hokkaido (which also had a DPRK missile alert (for real) over Oshima Hantou and Erimo last September) would disagree with the lack of local panic.

When I raised the faulty social science on the JT discussion board, one respondent pointed out:

I believe one of the points of the article is to show contrast between those that are familiar with situations like this, and those that are not. Some people have a tendency to rely on either experience, or some sort of education that dictates initial reaction. When people cannot extrapolate a clear path of action based on an educated or experienced mindset, they have nothing to rely on, so they ignorantly panic instead. If anything, this article tells me that the “locals” need a solid plan they can focus on when the next alarm goes off. Ignorance can certainly be disastrous.

That point would be fair enough.  Except that the article didn’t actually say that.  It just smarmily made the case that Americans panic and Japanese don’t — by temperament, not by training.

As for the local panic point:  I’m in Hawaii too, and I didn’t even know about the missile alert until it was called off as a false alarm.  (January 13 just so happens to be my birthday, and I was sleeping in.)  Why?  Because nobody in my neighborhood panicked.  Some reports made it seem to be more of a Waikiki thing, which calls into question how many of these tourists were “Americans” in the first place.

Poor reportage, Japan Times.  You can do better than this.  Dr. Debito Arudou

===================================
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New Years Eve 2017 TV Blackface Debate in Japan (again): Referential Links

mytest

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Hi Blog. With the recent broadcast of an “Eddie Murphy homage” (with Japanese tarento Hamada Masatoshi doing blackface) on one of the most-watched shows in Japan all year, Debito.org feels a need at least to mention that there is a hot debate going on about whether Blackface is appropriate in other societies (such as Japan) with a different history of race relations.


(Courtesy of The Japan Times)

My opinion is that doing Blackface is almost always a bad thing, due to its historical connotation regardless of context. And I add the caveat of “almost always” while struggling to think of any exception, except for purposes of historical grounding behind the issue. (And it’s not limited to blackface: Debito.org has covered racialized media in Japan, broadcast without input from the minorities affected, many times in the past, including here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)  And the fact that this is happening again despite a similar Blackface incident not two years ago (which ended up with the broadcast being cancelled a priori) is merely willful ignorance on the part of Japan’s media outlets.

But that’s all I’ll say. I think Baye McNeil has a lock on the issue, and I’ll just refer Debito.org Readers to his most recent Japan Times column, at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/10/our-lives/time-japan-scrub-off-blackface-good/

Even better is a YouTube panel discussion sponsored by The Japan Times that involves McNeil, Anthropologist Dr. John G. Russell of Gifudai, and YouTuber Aoki Yuta.

Dr. Russell’s comments about Japan’s history with Blackface (there is in fact a history, despite the narrative that Japan is ignorant therefore innocent) are particularly salient. Watch if you want a definitive conclusion to the issue of Blackface in Japan for yourself. Dr. Debito Arudou

============================
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A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Hi Blog. As is tradition, here is JBC’s annual countdown of the top 10 human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan over the past year, as published in The Japan Times.

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination [NB: I didn’t write the headline.]
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 3, 2018

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/03/issues/2017-japan-woke-issue-discrimination/

(Version with links to sources.)

In ascending order:

10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record

Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total.

In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline.

Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.

9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit

Japan’s secondary schools have a degree of uniformity that stifles diversity. And this trend reached its logical conclusion with the news that one school was forcing children with natural hair color that’s anything but black to dye and straighten their locks.

We talked about dyeing a decade ago (“Schools single out foreign roots,” July 17, 2007), noting its adverse effects on children’s physical and mental health. Yet the Asahi Shimbun reported in May that 57 percent of surveyed Tokyo metropolitan high schools still require “proof of real hair color.” In Osaka, it’s more like 80 percent.

Last October a student filed suit against Osaka Prefecture for mental anguish. Kaifukan High School in the city of Habikino had forced her to dye her naturally brown hair every four days, regardless of the rashes and scalp irritation. When even that proved insufficiently black, she was barred from a school festival and deleted from the school register.

The tone-deaf school justified this by saying, “Even a blond-haired foreign exchange student dyed her hair black.” This lawsuit’s outcome will signal whether Japan’s increasingly diverse student population can ever escape this kind of institutionalized harassment. But at least one student is standing up for herself.

8) Five-year limit on contract employment backfires

As reported in the JT by Hifumi Okunuki (“‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs,” Nov. 27, 2016), Japan’s Labor Contract Law was revised in 2013 to increase worker job security. To put an end to perennial full-time contracted employment, anyone working more than five years on serial fixed-term contracts will now be able to switch to normalized full-time noncontracted (seishain) status if they wish.

However, the law was not retroactive and the clock started ticking on April 1, 2013, so as the five-year deadline approaches this coming April, employers are now terminating contracts en masse: Last April, Tohoku University told 3,200 employees their current contracts would be their last.

But contract law has a special impact on NJ workers, as many endure perpetual contracted status (especially educators in Japan’s university system). The five-year rule has now normalized the practice of periodically “vacationing” and “rehiring” NJ to avoid continuous contracts, while encouraging major companies to finagle NJ employees’ working conditions by offering them “special temp status” (for example, explicitly capping contracts at less than five years).

Hence the bamboo ceiling remains alive and well, except it’s been expanded from just filtering out foreign nationals to affecting anyone.

7) Hate-speech law has concrete effects

Despite concerns about potential infringement of freedom of speech, a hate speech law was enacted in 2016 to, among other things, specifically protect foreign nationals from public defamation. It worked: Kyodo reported last year that xenophobic rallies, once averaging about one a day somewhere in Japan, were down by nearly half. Racialized invective has been softened, and official permission for hate groups to use public venues denied.

Of course, this hate speech law is not legislation with criminal penalties against, for example, racial discrimination. And it still assumes that noncitizens (rather than, for example, members of “visible minorities” who happen to be citizens) need special protection, incurring accusations of favoritism and “reverse discrimination.”

Nevertheless, according to the Mainichi, haters have been chastened. A report quotes one hate rally attendee as saying that before the law change, “I felt like anything I said was protected by the shield of ‘freedom of speech’… I felt safe because I knew the police officers would protect us. It felt like we had the upper hand.”

Not so much anymore.

6) Pension system qualification lowered to 10 years

Last year saw an important amendment to Japan’s state pension (nenkin) rules. Until last August, you had to invest a minimum of 300 months, or 25 years, in the various schemes to qualify for payouts after reaching retirement age.

Japan thus turned workers into “pension prisoners” — if you ever took your career elsewhere, you would get at most a small lump-sum payout from Japan, and possibly zero from your new country of residence for not paying in enough. (It was especially punitive toward Japan’s South American workers, who forfeited pensions when bribed by the government to “return home” during 2009’s economic downturn.)

Although things have improved under bilateral totalization agreements (where pension payments in designated countries get counted toward Japan’s 25-year minimum), this year Japan lowered the bar to the more reasonable 10 years. (More on this at www.debito.org/?p=14704.)

Of course, this does not resolve the fact that Japan will have the highest proportion of pensioners anywhere on Earth. Payouts and minimum retirement ages will be revised accordingly to make the pension worth little. But still, it will not be zero, and payments can be claimed anywhere in the world when you’re ready.

5) Renho resigns, Democratic Party withers

In 2016, in an unprecedented move, a member of an ethnic minority became the leader of a major Japanese political party. Alas, that party was the Democratic Party (formerly the Democratic Party of Japan), which in 2017 crumbled into nothing.

Renho, a Taiwanese-Japanese who served in Cabinets under two DPJ prime ministers, was a popular reformer. (She was re-elected in 2010 with a record number of votes for her district.) However, last year her integrity was questioned when it emerged that she had technically retained dual citizenship by not formally renouncing her Taiwanese nationality. That was rectified in July, but weeks later Renho resigned, ostensibly to “take responsibility” for a poor DP showing in the Tokyo prefectural election. From there, the DP downward-spiraled into virtual oblivion.

Many Japanese politicians have been tainted by scandal merely for associating with foreign types (for example, former DPJ Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in 2011). Renho, alas, could not escape the stigma of her own putative “foreignness” — a huge setback for Japan’s politically invested ethnic minorities.

4) ‘Trainee’ program expanded, with ‘reforms’

Since 1993, to offset a labor shortage in Japan’s rusting small-firm industries, the government has been providing unskilled labor under an ostensible training program for foreign workers.

However, because “trainees” were not legally “workers” protected by labor laws, the program was rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicideeven slavery and murder.

Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.

So guess what: In 2014, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe announced it would be expanded. Once restricted to the construction, manufacturing, agricultural and fishery industries, as of November it also includes nursing and caregiving. New opportunities were also proposed in “special economic zones” (so that foreign college graduates with Japanese language skills can pull weeds and till farmland — seriously). Furthermore, visas will be longer-term (up to five years).

To counter the abuses, the government also launched an official watchdog agency in November to do on-site inspections, offer counseling services to workers and penalize miscreant employers. But labor rights groups remain skeptical. The program’s fundamental incentives remain unchanged — not to actually “train” foreign laborers (or even provide Japanese language instruction), but rather to exploit them as cheap unskilled labor.

So expect more of the same. Except that now the program will ingest even more foreign workers for longer. After all, uncompetitive factories will continue to use cheap labor to avoid bankruptcy, construction will expand due to the Olympics, and more elderly Japanese will require caregivers.

3) North Korean missile tests and the fallout

Last year North Korea, the perpetual destabilizer of East Asia, commanded even more worldwide attention than usual (even popularizing the obscure word “dotard” among native English speakers). Flexing its muscles as a probable nuclear power, it test-fired missiles over Japan. The Japanese government responded by calling 2017 “the most severe security environment since the end of World War II” and warned regions of launches via the J-Alert system, while local authorities ran duck-and-cover-style nuclear attack drills.

This is but the most recent episode in a long history of Japan-North Korea reactionary antagonism. However, Japan is particularly wary of the possibility of infiltration. Members of the North Korean diaspora live in Japan (attending ethnic schools with photos of the Kim dynasty on their walls), with established networks for smuggling, money laundering and kidnapping of Japanese.

Essentially, North Korea’s international recklessness and habitual stupidity empower Japan’s warmongers and xenophobes to reinforce Japan’s bunker mentalities. They’ve successfully created domestic policies (such as the new “anti-conspiracy law”) that curtail civil, political and human rights for foreign and Japanese nationals alike — all legitimized based on the fear of North Koreans gaining even an iota of power in Japan.

Thus, North Korea’s antics ruin Japan’s liberal society for everyone. And last year Kim Jong Un upped the ante.

2) Abe glides to fifth electoral victory

In October, PM Abe won his fifth straight election (Lower House 2012, Upper House 2013, Lower House 2014, Upper House 2016, and this time Lower House 2017). No Japanese leader has ever enjoyed such a winning streak. But why?

Abe’s success is partly down to an aging society being predictably more conservative. No political party in the democratic world has held on to power as long as Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Voting LDP, particularly in rural Japan, where votes count more than urban ones do, is often generational habit.

It’s also partly due to an opposition in disarray: After the DP stumbled and fell, the newly formed Kibo no To (Party of Hope) (whose policies weren’t all that different from the LDP’s) soured under the leadership of mercurial Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike — who resigned as party head, effectively abandoning her baby, in November.

And, to give due credit, it’s partly because Abe offers reassuring policies that, as usual for the LDP, sloganize stability and preservation of the status quo over concrete results or necessary reforms.

As far as Japan’s NJ residents are concerned, this election offered no good news. No party offered any policy improvements whatsoever for Japan’s international residents. (As noted above, how could they, what with North Korea’s missiles flying overhead?)

But xenophobia in fact had political traction: A prerequisite for DP politicians to defect to Kibo no To was a pledge to oppose suffrage rights for NJ permanent residents — for fear, they openly argued, that NJ would swarm into a voting bloc and take control over regions of Japan!

In sum, 2017’s election was not a rout of the opposition as has been seen before; the ruling coalition even lost a few seats. Moreover, the biggest victors, a new Constitutional Democratic Party streamlined of wishy-washy former DP members, offered a clear voice to the strong opposition among Japanese to changing the Constitution.

That said, JBC believes those changes will probably happen anyway, because despite this year’s scandals (e.g., the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen school debacles), five wins at the ballot box have made it clear that voters are just fine with Abe in power, whatever he does.

1) Government human rights survey of foreign residents

In March, the Justice Ministry released the results of a nationwide survey of NJ about the discrimination they face. It offered valuable insights: Nearly 40 percent of respondents looking for a place to live in the past five years had been refused for being foreign (and this did not include multiple rejections); more than a quarter gave up on a place after seeing a “no foreigners” clause.

Twenty-five percent of respondents looking for work said they had been rejected for being foreign, and nearly a fifth said they had received a lower salary for the same reason. Nearly 30 percent said they were targeted by race-based insults. More than 37 percent said they supported a law against “foreigner discrimination” (sic).

There’s lots more (see “Time to act on insights on landmark survey,” JBC, April 26), and even with all the caveats (e.g., excluding Japan’s visible-minority citizens, who tend to be treated as foreigners, and offering no questions about discrimination by officialdom, such as police street ID checks or the manufacturing of fictitious foreign crime waves), it’s an unimpeachable set of official stats that may, despite the xenophobic political climate, result in future antidiscrimination policies.

Bubbling under:

Osaka cuts sister-city ties with San Francisco as “comfort women” wartime sex slavery issue heats up.

Turkish resident Ibrahim Yener wins discrimination lawsuit against Osaka car agency — without using a lawyer.

In an international child custody dispute, Japan’s Supreme Court OKs defying a Hague Convention return order from a U.S. court, enabling future child abductions to Japan regardless of the treaty.

Record numbers of foreign tourists come to Japan and spend.

More NJ deaths in official custody, including those incarcerated at immigration detention centers and a New Zealander who died while strapped to a bed at a psychiatric hospital.

Charles Jenkins, U.S. Army deserter to North Korea and husband of a Japanese woman abducted to the same country, dies in Niigata Prefecture at age 77.

ENDS

=======================================
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Racism in US World Series against baseball pitcher Yu Darvish: Immediately punished, and turned into learning opportunity

mytest

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Hi Blog. Racism in sports worldwide is a problem (that’s why we have had explicit rules against it in, for example, FIFA). And when it happens in sports outside of Japan (where racism, of course, happenseven though it’s often not discussed or dealt with in terms ofracial discrimination“), how it’s dealt with is instructive.

Consider Yu Darvish, who has gone from local pitcher in my pennant-winning local team (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Sapporo) to the starting pitcher for the LA Dodgers in the World Series, and how he recently dealt with a racist incident in the middle of the event:

////////////////////////////////////
Yuli Gurriel Suspended 5 2018 Games for Racist Gesture; Avoids World Series Ban
ADAM WELLS, VIA CNN.COM, OCTOBER 28, 2017
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2741139-yuli-gurriel-suspended-5-2018-games-for-racist-gesture-avoids-world-series-ban

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 27: Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel has reportedly been suspended for the first five games of next season after making a racist gesture aimed at Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish in Game 3 of the World Series.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported Gurriel’s suspension.

The Astros issued a statement on Gurriel’s punishment:

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred cited four reasons for not wanting to suspend Gurriel during the World Series, including not wanting to punish the other players on the Astros roster by having a starter sit out, per Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Manfred did say there was “no place in our game” for what Gurriel did.

Before MLB decided on Gurriel’s punishment, ESPN’s Buster Olney noted it would be difficult to suspend him for any games in the World Series due to the way the appeals process is set up.

Gurriel homered off Darvish in the second inning of Houston’s 5-3 win on Friday. After returning to the dugout, television cameras showed Gurriel pulling down on the corners of his eyes. He apologized for the incident following the game.

“I did not mean it to be offensive at any point,” Gurriel said, per ESPN’s Scott Lauber. “Quite the opposite. I have always had a lot of respect [for Japanese people]. … I’ve never had anything against Darvish. For me, he’s always been one of the best pitchers. I never had any luck against him. If I offended him, I apologize. It was not my intention.”

Per Gabe Lacques and Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today, Gurriel also admitted using the Spanish term “Chinito,” which translates to “little Chinese guy,” in the dugout.

Darvish told reporters after the game he felt Gurriel’s gesture was “disrespectful” and later issued a statement on Twitter about the situation:

A Cuba native, Gurriel played 15 seasons in the Cuban National Series and Japan Central League from 2001-16. He signed a five-year deal with the Astros in July 2016 and appeared in 36 games last season.

In his first full MLB season in 2017, the 33-year-old hit .299/.332/.486 with 18 home runs in 139 games.
ENDS
////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT: The most interesting take on this was from The Washington Post, so let me simply quote them:

///////////////////////////////////////

At World Series, a racist taunt fuels a stunning episode of civility
By Thomas Boswell, Columnist, The Washington Post, October 28, 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/at-world-series-a-racist-taunt-fuels-a-stunning-episode-of-civility/2017/10/28/93c5fa9a-bc1b-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.0c4547bdaed0

HOUSTON — Shocking acts of civility, common sense, accountability and generosity have broken out at the World Series. Please, someone put a stop to this before it spreads.

On Saturday, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros without pay for five games at the beginning of next season for making a racially insensitive gesture and yelling an anti-Asian insult at Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night. It is not expected that the players’ union will contest the discipline.

Gurriel’s immediate expression of remorse after the game, as well as a full apology and a desire to meet Darvish personally to apologize, may have helped the Astros first baseman avoid being suspended during this World Series.

Just as pertinent, Darvish, after saying that Gurriel’s acts were “disrespectful” to Asians around the world, wrote in a tweet that, “I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. . . . Let’s stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.”

What is the world coming to?

First, an apology for ugly acts that appears sincere and without strings attached. Then, generosity from the victim toward the man who has insulted him. And the next day, in a situation in which there probably is no perfect discipline, a punishment to which everyone involved appears to have agreed to agree.

Gurriel, who went 0 for 3 and grounded into a double play Saturday in the Astros’ 6-2 loss in Game 4, will have to live with whatever damage he has done to his reputation both by his acts and by his honesty in admitting to them. But his team will not be punished during the World Series. And the Dodgers, who had the family of Jackie Robinson involved in pregame ceremonies earlier this month, appear to agree with Darvish that this is a moment for education and conciliation, not outrage.

In this incident, the devil — but also the instant disgust, apparently followed by dignity and decency — truly is in the details. Let’s go through them.

The Cuban-born Gurriel was brushed back Friday night by a 93-mph fastball thrown in the second inning by Darvish, who is of Japanese-Iranian descent. Gurriel retaliated, as hitters have always tried to do, by hitting a homer on the next pitch.

When Gurriel returned to the Houston dugout, he did what countless hitters have done in such emotional competitive moments. He made a disparaging comment directed at the pitcher and added an insulting gesture.

If Gurriel had yelled that Darvish was a gutless cheap-shot artist and added the universal gesture for “choker” by grabbing his throat, then no big deal — just hardball. Maybe the Dodgers or Darvish see it and Gurriel or some Astro gets drilled.

But instead, in a split-second of self-destructive glee, Gurriel made the universal insulting gesture, seen all over the world for generations, of using his fingers to pull his eyes until they looked slanted. And he yelled “Chinito,” which translates as “little Chinese boy.”

At this point, because the moment was captured on video, American social media erupted with predictable racial vitriol, packed with anonymous insults that would make anything Gurriel did seem mild.

Then a remarkable thing happened. After the game, won by the Astros, Houston Manager A.J. Hinch praised the 33-year-old Gurriel for his slugging, a homer and double. But when asked about the racially charged incident, Hinch faced it immediately. “I am aware of it,” Hinch said. “He’s remorseful. He’s going to have a statement.”

Not just sorry but “remorseful,” a stronger choice of word.

Gurriel answered questions afterward at his locker. In one answer, he seemed to duck behind the excuse that he was simply telling teammates that he had had bad luck in the past against Asians. In the end, far from trying to gloss over what he had done, he volunteered that he had played for a year in Japan and knew that “Chinito” was an insult.

“In Cuba and in other places, we call all Asian people Chinese,” Gurriel said through team interpreter Alex Cintron. “But I played in Japan, and I know [that is] offensive, so I apologize for that.”

Gurriel did not say that his word had been misunderstood by dugout lip-readers or that it had been taken out of context or that he did not consider the term an insult. Gurriel had used a race-based disparaging word, and he simply said, “I apologize for that.” He did not excuse himself by citing the heat of the moment or the proximity of the previous fastball.

“I didn’t want to offend anybody,” Gurriel added. “I don’t want to offend him or anybody in Japan. I have a lot of respect. I played in Japan.”

Clearly, at least for a couple of seconds, Gurriel intended to offend Darvish, just as generations of hitters have yelled baseball’s magic twelve-letter word at pitchers after an apparent brushback, followed by a home run. But I will give Gurriel the benefit of the doubt that he really does respect people in Japan, is familiar with their culture and wishes he could stuff that “Chinito” back in his lungs, not simply because he was caught — on camera — but because he really feels shame.

Because Gurriel answered several similar questions, he did, at least in translation, appear to fall into the fashionable dodge of apologizing to anybody who was offended — the backhanded non-apology apology. But to me, these are the words that count: “Of course, I want to talk to him because I don’t have anything against him,” Gurriel said. “I want to apologize to him.”

That’s an apology-apology. No hairsplitting. No blame-ducking. But Gurriel also did not accuse himself of being a racist, either. In the direct way of many athletes, he stepped up, faced the hard moment and did his best to apologize.

As for the slant-eyed gesture, that requires as much interpretation as a raised middle finger. It means what it means. Those who deny it merely self-identify as sympathizers with those who use racially derogatory gestures, words and symbols. Thanks. That’s always useful information.

Darvish, the “victim” in current parlance, gave a distinguished account of his own character in his balanced but forgiving response.

Immediately after the game, Darvish said, through an interpreter: “Of course, Houston has Asian fans and Japanese fans. Acting like that is disrespectful to people around the world and the Houston organization.”

Later, in a tweet, Davish wrote, “No one is perfect. That includes both you and I. What he [did] today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, this is a giant step for mankind.”

Both my cynicism barometer and my irony meter just broke.

In recent times, American culture has become addicted to the adrenaline rush of outrage. Each day, we awake as a nation looking for something to disagree with and get angry about. We don’t even realize what is most obvious: This is sickness. If a family acted this way, it would destroy itself and maximize its own misery. Yet we not only excuse deliberate divisiveness in politics, we ignore it by the gross.

Perhaps we can look to a Cuban, in this country for less than two years, for an example of the ability to make both an ugly mistake and a direct apology.

And to someone of Japanese-Iranian descent who grew up in Osaka, Japan, and came to America only five years ago, to hear a voice that says we should “count on everyone’s big love” and “put our effort into learning rather than to accuse.”

MLB’s ability to impose discipline quickly was helped by Hinch’s appropriate response. Balanced against that, Darvish’s broad-minded response laid the ground for discipline that, MLB hopes, was proportional to the act.

If only, on larger scales, our opportunities for minimizing our divisions could be handled as well as Gurriel and Darvish handled theirs. Gurriel acknowledged that he shamed his own decency and will have to live with the consequences. That’s hard to do. Darvish saw an ancient ugliness raise its head again but chose to view it as a moment for education and understanding. That’s mighty tough, too.
ENDS
//////////////////////////////////

FINAL COMMENT: People might argue compellingly that this outcome is too severe, or insufficient. Yes, Gurriel could have been suspended immediately, not next season, when his absence would matter more to his team. Or yes, others might argue (and have), that there are differing cultural interpretations of gestures and sentiments towards people of differences depending on society.

Nevertheless, in this case, I rather like the attitudes taken by officialdom (immediate response to tamp down on racist expressions) and by the target (anger but optimism that this will be a lesson learned).

I’m just a bit worried that the typical reaction in the Japanese press will be, “Well, discrimination happened to one of ours! Disgraceful! You see? Our racism towards others is just what everyone does worldwide. So there’s little need to address it here.” I doubt it will be seen as a “teaching moment”, beyond saying that racism happens in other countries to us Japanese, not in Japan. That’s the standard narrative reinforced in standardized education in Japan, and that’s why when you see it happen in Japan, it’s less likely to have constructive outcomes like these.  Now that is a wasted opportunity.  Well done, US MLB and all parties to this incident.  Dr. Debito Arudou

=======================

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In the wake of my previous blog entry about a new exploitative visa system for the next generation of Nikkei workers, here’s a hand-wringing article from the Asahi about how people don’t (but really should) accept NJ as part of Japanese society.

It seems like these articles are cyclical — I remember them from a good ten years ago (for example here and here and here and here).  But papers gotta sell, even if magazines anywhere gotta hawk the same weight-loss and exercise regimens to the reading public.  Fortunately, the Asahi draws the same conclusions I would. Alas, next serious economic downturn, all this will be out of the window and foreigners will be unaccepted again.

Maybe I’m getting too old to hope for much change anymore.  Where’s the tipping point?  Dr. Debito Arudou

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
July 27, 2017 
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707270006.html
PHOTO:  A foreign student from Vietnam, right, is taught how to deal with customers at a convenience store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. Foreigners are often seen at convenience stores in urban areas of Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Foreign workers in Japan are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource amid Japan’s declining birthrate and growing elderly population.

However, recent headlines in the media express concern about the influx of immigrants.

“Should we accept immigrants?” one publication asked.

Another worried that, “What will happen if foreigners become our bosses?”

The reality is that the number of foreign workers now totals more than 1 million. Japanese are increasingly coming in contact with foreigners in their daily lives, so they are no longer an “invisible presence.”

ACCEPTANCE IS UNAVOIDABLE

The Justice Ministry announced in January that foreigners working in Japan totaled 1,083,769 as of the end of October 2016.

Economic magazines such as Nikkei Business or Weekly Toyo Keizai have published articles related to immigration and foreign workers.

One contentious point among those articles is the existence of foreign workers working under a status akin to “unskilled labor,” which is not permitted, in principle, in Japan.

The Justice Ministry says that there are no rules and definitions concerning immigration in domestic law. So, Japan accepts immigrants under the title of “technical intern trainees,” who are expected to disseminate technology upon their return home, or “foreign students,” instead of accepting them as unskilled workers.

An article in the June edition of the monthly business magazine Wedge was titled, “Before we realized it, Japan has become a nation of immigrants.”

The article analyzed the situation where foreign students are employed in physical labor, working on farms and in factories and in the service industry, such as at hotels as cleaning staff, while introducing local communities that accepted immigrants as a measure to halt declining populations.

“When we are in Tokyo, it is hard for us to notice, but a work force shortage in local areas is so serious that those areas have no choice but to accept immigrants,” said Shinya Shiokawa, editor in chief of Wedge. “No one can be apathetic to them.”

While accepting immigrants has been discussed, foreign workers are more likely to be employed at restaurants or convenience stores in urban areas.

“Foreigners or people who have roots in overseas countries are talked of as if they do not exist, although they are already present in Japan’s society,” said Hiroshi Komai, professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University, specializing in international sociology.

Until the 1950s, Japan was a nation that was dispatching immigrants to South America and other countries. In the 1980s amid a rising yen and the nation’s economic bubble, Japan was attracting an influx of foreigners.

In 2006, the internal affairs ministry drafted a plan to facilitate diversity in local communities.

While the central government banned immigrants from employment in low-skilled jobs, it allowed them to work under the name of trainees or on-the-job training. Komai said that local governments and nonprofit organizations have taken the lead in accepting immigrants and encouraging multiculturism in society.

“The central government has consistently treated immigrant workers as ‘they are present but non-existent,’ but the measure has already met limitations,” Komai said.

LITTLE FOREIGN PRESENCE IN LITERATURE

In the literature world, immigrants figure prominently in many stories in other countries. In Japan, however, the presence of immigrants in literature is not as common.

In Japan, there are many books on ethnic Koreans who were born and grew up in the country. One is “Geni’s Puzzle,” written in 2016 by Che Sil, a third-generation Korean, who was awarded the prestigious Oda Sakunosuke Prize. On the other hand, novels themed on “immigrants who come to Japan” are extremely rare.

“There are many overseas mystery novels that deal with immigration issues,” said Fuyuki Ikegami, a literary critic. “But in Japan, perhaps because Japan hasn’t accepted immigrants politically and socially, the theme can’t be as easily utilized and matured in a story.”

However, there are signs of change. Novels such as “i,” written by Kanako Nishi in 2016, and Yuzaburo Otokawa’s “R.S. Villasenor,” in 2017, describe immigrants coming from other countries.

The latter is the story of the daughter of a man from the Philippines who brings traditional Filipino craftwork to the traditional Japanese art of dyeing.

“While describing cultural integration, it tactfully addresses the immigration issue as a theme in a natural way,” Ikegami said.

Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University who specializes in Japan-Asia relations, said the existence of a “nationality dogma” in Japanese society is a barrier.

“Japanese people have a strong sense that Japanese society exists for people who have Japanese citizenship,” he said. “The length of residing in Japan doesn’t matter, and people other than Japanese can’t be admitted as a member of society.”

Tanaka said that the most important thing now is to operate on a standpoint of “for whom society exists.”

“Society exists particularly for people living there. If residing there, people should be treated the same whether they come from other countries or they don’t have roots in Japan. But that sense is still weak in Japan, and we have to change that,” he said.
ENDS

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I’m trying to maintain my summer vacation (and a dry-out from the Internet for a little while), but every now and again I stumble across something interesting (what with this golden age of political comedy in the US), and here’s something indirectly Japan-related.

Trevor Noah and company on the Daily Show make an interesting case about how Trump’s language, both in terms of content and syntax, is challenging for translators in other languages to render.  They make the point that the impact and nuance is often softened by translator self-censorship (or filling in the gaps with personal interpretations).  I understand well, having been in their situations more than once.  (And let me say here for the record:  I am not a trained interpreter, and I have had numerous debates with interpreters with accuracy versus diplomatic rendering of the language.  I fall on the side of total accuracy warts and all.)  Worth a watch:

But at minute 4:00 of the segment, the Japanese interpreter claims that there is no accurate way to translate Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pu**y” remark.  She even claims that there is no word “in the exact sense” for “pu**y” in Japanese.

Rubbish.  I can think of quite a few words that would do the trick, in content and especially in nuance.  The two easiest, of course, are om*nko or om*nta, as in “om*nta o tsukandari shite“,  and in Trump’s case I would even remove their honorific prefixes.

Of course, that would require bleeping out the syllable after “man”, but it’s been done on Japanese TV before.  I’ve seen it.

But I dislike it when people, especially in this case a professional interpreter, play dumb and deny.  Repeating that old lie that we heard as beginning Japanese students that “there are no bad words in Japanese”.

Like it or not, “om*nta” what 45 said.  Portray it accurately.  Or, as the segment argued well, the awfulness of 45’s speech is bleached out simply because the interpreter is being too diplomatic, cultured, or prudish.  Dr. Debito Arudou

=================================

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

mytest

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Hi Blog. I hope everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is having a pleasant summer (and as for you lot Down Under, a much pleasanter winter than can be had up north!).

While on vacation I saw this review-cum-obituary of the late Boye Lafayette De Mente in the Japan Times. Written by Amy Chavez, it headlines him as “a giant of writing on Japan”:

////////////////////////////////////////
Remembering the life and works of Boye De Mente, a giant of writing on Japan
BY AMY CHAVEZ, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES
JUN 25, 2017

Any Japanophile will have at least one of the 30 or so books authored by Boye Lafayette De Mente during his long and prolific writing career in Japan.

His works are read by travelers, businesspeople and scholars alike, with offerings ranging from “The Pocket Tokyo Subway Guide” to the “Tuttle Japanese Business Dictionary,” and my personal favorite, “Kata: The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese.” Several of his books have become classics…
////////////////////////////////////////

Full article at:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/06/25/our-lives/remembering-life-works-boye-de-mente-giant-writing-japan/

I would respectfully disagree. As I wrote in the Comments Section of that article:

=============================================
One the last of the truly old-school postwar “Japan analysts”, who helped set the tone of Japanology as a pseudoscience fueled by stereotype. Check out his list of titles on Wikipedia and you’ll see the undermining of Tuttle as a reliable-source publisher. “Women of the Orient: Intimate Profiles of the World’s Most Feminine Women”, dated 1992, where he boasts of his sexual escapades, and draws broad conclusions about how Asian women please White men like him, anyone? Or if you want something approaching a different kind of lingus, try “The Japanese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Japanese Thought and Culture.” (“Complete”?). Plenty more that anybody actually trained in modern Humanities or Social Sciences would find highly problematic.

Eulogies are one thing. But let’s not whitewash this person’s publishing record. “Classic” does mean “influential”, but it should not in this case necessarily imply “good”.
=============================================

Now, I am aware of the old adage of “Of the dead, nothing but good is to be said”, and I’m saying nothing about De Mente as a person.  I am assessing his work, as I hope someone would after I pass.  What I am critical of is the effects of his works, which are whitewashed in Chavez’s piece. (Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Chavez’s lousy social science in her writings to begin with: See for example her “How about a gaijin circus in gazelle land?” from the JT in 2010.)

As I allude in my comment above, De Mente is of a genre of writers who paint Japan in immensely broad and often sloppy strokes.  He expands upon a narrow amount of personal experience to make sweeping (and generally outdated) judgments about a society, and then replicates this across societies often with ribald results (and titles). De Mente not only portrayed Japan as a playground for rapacious White Men and “feminine” “Oriental Girls” (seriously, that’s one of his book titles in 2009), but also positioned himself as an oracle on how to use “samurai practices” and “code words” to triumph in careers, understand “thought and culture”, and even understand “the lively art of mistress-keeping“. And the fact that this was taken seriously–because there were so few analytical books on Japan when De Mente started out–is one reason why Japanology is such a mixed bag in terms of actual in-depth analysis. To this day, sweetmeat books on manga and anime are more likely to get book deals and sell better than anything, say, some powerful analysis Chalmers Johnson or Tessa Morris-Suzuki would write.

In sum, after reading a couple of De Mente’s books (as well as Jack Seward‘s, another profiteer of this Orientalist genre), I vowed never to read pseudoscientific books with analytical paradigms built on sand until I came up with my own paradigms — informed by facts, statistics, long experience full of trial-and-error, and full immersion making a life in Japan for decades like anyone else (including buying a house and taking out citizenship). Accomplishing that took some time, of course, and not all of my past writing goes beyond even De Mente. But I kept at it, and improved over the years; and now “Embedded Racism” has been reviewed very favorably by fellow scholars, thanks.

Will “Embedded Racism” have an influence within Japanese Studies, enough to be labelled a “classic” someday? Here’s hoping, but people more likely want to read about “Weird Japan”, Geisha, and how to bed Japanese women. And I challenge anyone to find a country written more about in the English language basically in terms of exotica and erotica.  We don’t take Japan, or scholarship on Japan, seriously enough partially because of that. That’s De Mente et al.’s legacy. RIP to the man, and someday RIP to his genre. Dr. Debito Arudou

================================

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

mytest

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Hi Blog. Tangent today on something that made me think.  I was listening to NPR the other day when I heard the following segment from NPR Fresh Air with Terry Gross: “Churchill, Orwell And The Fight Against Totalitarianism”, dated May 22, 2017.  Gross interviewed Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks, who said the writings of Winston Churchill and George Orwell still resonate today, and who discussed the caliber of the generals serving in the Trump administration.  Ricks, the author of the new book “Churchill And Orwell: The Fight For Freedom”, and writer of the blog The Best Defense for Foreign Policy magazine, had this to say at the very end of the interview.  Gross sets up the question:

////////////////////////////////////////

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

So you write (reading aloud) “the fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

So I’d like you to talk to how that reflects on Churchill and Orwell and how that reflects today.

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

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

////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  The point of this exchange was to conclude with how this fact-based (as opposed to opinion-based) dynamic has broken down over time, especially in current American politics.  And having lived in a society for an extended period where the search for the truth is less important than understanding power, and the existence of an objective reality is constantly doubted if not outright dismissed, I think it’s a good idea to keep this segment in mind on a personal level.  Periodically renew your commitment to fact-based inquiry towards an objective reality, and undertake decision-making with the flexibility to change your mind when presented with the facts.  Dr. Debito Arudou

==================================

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

mytest

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

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

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

/////////////////////////////////////////

Survey: 57% of Tokyo high schools demand hair-color proof
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN May 1, 2017, courtesy of AT
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705010035.html

Photo: Some Tokyo-run high schools ask guardians to sign and seal a form to verify students’ claims of having naturally light-colored or curly hair. (Ippei Minetoshi)

Nearly 60 percent of public high schools in Tokyo ask students with light-colored hair for proof, such as childhood photos, that these locks are their “real hair,” an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Many schools run by the Tokyo metropolitan government prohibit their students from dyeing or perming their hair as part of the dress code. The system of asking for “proof of real hair” was introduced to prevent schools from scolding or humiliating students whose hair is not naturally black.

The Asahi Shimbun interviewed all 173 full-time high schools run by the Tokyo metropolitan government on whether they ask students to submit forms of “proof of real hair.”

Ninety-eight of the 170 schools that responded to the survey answered “yes,” representing 57 percent of all schools contacted.

At least 19 schools ask their students to submit pictures of themselves as infants or junior high school students to prove the true color of their hair, the survey showed.

“Some students insist that their hair is natural even though it is dyed,” said a teacher at a metropolitan-run school in Setagaya Ward. “We ask their parents to confirm these claims as their responsibility.”

The style of the form varies from school to school. Most schools ask guardians to describe their children’s hair, such as, “My child’s hair is brown,” on the forms. The guardians’ seals are required to validate the information.

The number of students who submit the forms ranges from a few to a few dozen every year at each school.

Many schools hand out forms to new students who appear to have dyed or permed hair at a school information session attended by their guardians before the beginning of the academic year.

The school said the forms are intended to avoid unnecessary problems with the students if they are admitted. But the forms also show that the school is making efforts in providing “non-academic guidance.”

As the nation’s birthrate declines, competition between public schools and private schools to secure enrollees has intensified. Strict discipline can be a strong selling point.

Katsufumi Horikawa, chief of the guidance department at Tokyo’s board of education, said asking for proof of natural hair “is a valid process to prevent mistaken warnings to students (with naturally non-black or curly hair) and making them feel bad.”

However, he expressed concerns that some schools are going too far.

“Photographs are private documents, and extra consideration to protect personal rights is needed,” Horikawa said.

The education board of Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, said it is “aware of the practice at several high schools.” Also in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures said they do not have information about the practice.
ENDS

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Most Tokyo high schools demand students prove their real hair color, study finds
Business Insider.com, by Chris Weller
May 4, 2017, courtesy of BS
http://www.businessinsider.com/japanese-students-hair-color-2017-5

In the US, dress-code violations might include an offensive t-shirt or a mini skirt. In Japan, a dye job can do you in.

According to a new survey published by Tokyo news outlet The Asahi Shimbun, 57% of public high schools in the city require students to prove that their hair color is natural.

The measure is designed to uphold strict Japanese standards regarding physical appearance: In addition to prohibiting students from perming or dyeing their hair, many Japanese schools mandate crisp, respectable dress and don’t allow overly long or unkempt hair.

According to Asahi Shimbun, 98 of the 170 schools surveyed by the paper had such a policy in place. The number of children who’d been made to prove their hair color was real ranged from a few to a few dozen during the most recent school year.

“Some students insist that their hair is natural even though it is dyed,” one teacher told Asahi Simbun. “We ask their parents to confirm these claims as their responsibility.”

Unlike the US, Japan’s population is fairly homogeneous. As a result, the culture often places a premium on uniformity — even slight deviations from the norm tend to stand out, and provoke criticism in more conservative circles.

Natsuko Fujimaki, a Tokyo-based entrepreneur, says this is where the Japanese concept of majime comes into play. The term refers to a preference for order, tidiness, and often perfectionism. It tracks closely with a desire to stay reserved and sensible in comportment.

“They try to follow the rules for everything,” Fujimkai [sic] tells Business Insider.

In order to prove that a student’s hair is natural, schools will often ask parents to submit childhood photos depicting the kid’s hair color. In less extreme cases, parents only need to verify in writing (with a signature) that their child’s hair hasn’t been treated in any way.

The practice is not new. Even a decade ago, some schools required students to prove they hadn’t dyed or curled their hair. In extreme cases, schools would even require foreign-born students to dye their hair to conform to the rest of the student body as part of a forced assimilation process.

“Every week teachers would check if Nicola was dyeing her hair brown,” a Brazilian-born student named Maria told Japan Times of her sister, Nicola, in 2007. “Even though she said this is her natural color, she was instructed to straighten and dye it black. She did so once a week. But the ordeal traumatized her. She still has a complex about her appearance.”

Hair dye and perms aren’t the only beauty choices subject to Japanese dress-code standards. Many male students can’t wear spiky or messy hairstyles, allow their hair to cover their eyes, or let it grow past their collars. Some schools require female students to pin their hair back “in a way that does not interfere with classroom instruction,” as one school’s code put it.

According to Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s falling birth rate plays a role in these rules. With fewer students to fill the schools, public and private schools have started competing for parents’ attention. One strategy they’ve adopted: Highlight their strict hair policies to show how majime they are about education, in hopes parents will be impressed by the rigor.

Some critics say the requirement that students prove their hair is natural violates their privacy.

Meanwhile, advocates allege it does the students a favor, since one verification process can prevent headmasters from constantly asking whether a child’s hair is real. They say asking for initial proof ends up sparing kids even greater psychological harm.
ENDS

========================

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

mytest

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Hi Blog. In our previous blog entry, Debito.org Reader StrepThroat brought up the issue of Japanese medical prescription doses being too low to be effectual for some larger patients, particularly larger NJ patients used to larger doses overseas. Some respondents recommended taking double the dose and going to the doctor again for refill of the prescription, while others self-medicated with overseas supplements, and still others mentioned falling through the system entirely (particularly when it came to painkillers).

Joe Kurosu MD, who runs a clinic in Shimokitazawa, adds to this discussion in a January 2010 series of opinion pieces in the Asahi Shinbun, by saying:

//////////////////////////////////////////

Asahi:  “For reasons that are unclear, however, the indicated maximum dose is often significantly lower than that which is standard in other parts of the world. Difference in physical frame and incidents of side effects are some of the purported reasons, but a scientifically convincing basis is lacking.

“A significant number of resident foreign nationals currently receive health care through the Japanese national health insurance system, but are ill-served because of these dosage standards.

“The maximum daily doses indicated on package inserts of standard medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, for example, are one-quarter to one-half of the standard doses in other countries for the identical drug. […]

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

Here are scans of Dr. Kurosu’s articles in English and Japanese, courtesy of Dr. Kurosu himself (pctclinic.com) and RJ.

PDF versions here (click on link):
Kurosu2
KurosuArticleJP

There was another question as to whether Japanese medical testers screen for Japanese as an ethnicity (or “race”) when it comes to clinical trials.  Well, yes they do — as demonstrated here in Hawaii when I saw an ad in our campus newspaper back in 2012 calling for “Japanese” people to volunteer for a series of clinical trials “to help Japanese people”, sponsored by Covance.  I inquired (as a Japanese citizen), but was told that they were only interested in “ethnic Japanese” (including those who didn’t have Japanese citizenship, but had “Japanese blood”).  Oh well.  Missed out on my body mass.

Many thanks to everyone for helping make Debito.org a valuable resource and forum. Dr. Debito Arudou

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  We’ve dealt with cases of hospitals refusing to treat NJ patients before (see some cases here).  Here’s something that’s never come up on Debito.org before:  How even when NJ receive treatment, medicines may be ineffectual due to low dosages.  Check this out.  I’m not a doctor (well, not one that can write prescriptions), so I hope members of the medical community can weigh in on this one.  Dr. Debito Arudou

////////////////////////////////////

From: StrepThroat
Subject: Fwd: Indirect discrimination in prescriptions?
Date: May 6, 2017
To: debito@debito.org

Dear Debito,

I don’t tend to get sick often but just my luck, I was hit with some evil form of strep throat just as Golden Week started. After hours of hunting down an open hospital, and then another hour or so to hunt down an open pharmacist, I had my prescription antibiotic cut down to 2/3rds the prescription at the pharmacy. Apparently the doctor had taken my size into consideration when writing the prescription…but the pharmacists called him out on it exceeding the maximum daily dosage. I protested but was ultimately left with what the rest of the world considers a children’s dosage. After speaking with the pharmacist, doctor, and other pharmacists, what I found was the maximum dosage of certain medications is regulated by law and the maximum dosages for sales within Japan are determined by trials done exclusively on ethnic Japanese. I’m hardly a huge guy but at 75kg, I’m surely larger than the average Japanese. so this results in less than ideal dosages for nearly everything. For example, this time I was given:

acetaminophen:

Extra Strength Tylenol is 1000mg every 6 hours.
Normal Tylenol is 650mg every 6 hours.
Childrens Tylenol is 500mg every 6 hours.
Japanese Calonol is 400mg every 6 hours.

clarithromycin:

Overseas recommended dosage is 250-500mg twice a day.
Japanese dosage is 200mg twice a day.

Huscode 741 combo pills

Overseas adult dosage is 3 pills, 3 times a day.
Overseas children’s dosage is 2 pills 3 times a day.
Japan dosage is 2 pills, 3 times a day.

Basically, strict regulation of dosage size, based on the average ethnic Japanese rather than a more reasonable system based on body weight or age like in other countries. The end result is ineffective, children’s dosing or less for those of us who don’t fit the garigari average Japanese body size standard.

Probably not intentional racism but the narrow-minded mindset to use only locals for domestic Japanese consumptions means at the end of the day, it is likely to affect most NJ patients as well as any Japanese that are larger than the average Japanese. Every doc and pharmacist agreed the dosages were too small but gave the usual shogainai/gamanshikadekinai answers.

Sincerely yours, StrepThroat

========================
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UPDATE:  Asahi: Joe Kurosu MD on ineffectually low doses of prescription medicine for NJ patients and bureaucratic intransigence, in the Asahi Shinbun http://www.debito.org/?p=14616

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

mytest

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

//////////////////////////////////////////////

From:  JK
Hi Debito:

From the article: “What’s needed are initiatives that introduce [tourists to] things that are great about Japan, like hot springs, Japanese cuisine, and local history and culture.”

Well, that and no ‘Japanese only’ signs at hot springs, restaurants, etc…

Sharp decline in tourists’ spending
The Yomiuri Shimbun Courtesy of JK
7:49 pm, January 18, 2017
By Toru Ando and Yuto Yoshida / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003466816

While a record 24 million-plus foreign tourists came to Japan last year, spending per person dropped sharply in 2016, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

Fewer foreign visitors are engaging in extravagant shopping sprees, so figuring out how to use Japan’s charms to increase tourism outside major metropolitan areas and encourage longer stays is becoming an issue. A total of 24,039,000 foreign tourists visited Japan in 2016.

The agency on Tuesday released the results of a survey on foreign tourists’ consumption in 2016. The increase in the number of tourists pushed overall spending to a record ¥3.75 trillion, but per-person spending was down 11.5 percent from the previous year to ¥155,896, the largest drop ever recorded.

Behind the decline was the yen’s appreciation from the previous year, as well as a change in the purpose of travel from “consumption” through shopping and other means, to trips aimed at “experiencing things” such as nature and culture.

The government hopes to raise per-person spending to ¥200,000 by 2020. But Takeshi Okano, a senior researcher at Daiwa Institute of Research Holdings Ltd., was skeptical.

“There’s a limit to widening the scope of tourism if only consumption is focused on. What’s needed are initiatives that introduce [tourists to] things that are great about Japan, like hot springs, Japanese cuisine, and local history and culture. These efforts should be aimed at getting people to make repeat visits,” he said.

However, tourists tend to concentrate in major cities.

On Monday, a 19-year-old university student from Shanghai was in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. “I bought some figurines from anime I like,” he said, looking satisfied with his first trip to Japan.

Robert Macolino, a 56-year-old Australian, was shopping in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Macolino said he had also visited Kyoto and Nara, and appreciated the different charms of each city.

The main tourist destinations are concentrated in the so-called golden route that connects Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and other major cities. First-time visitors to Japan are even more likely to stick to these areas. Figuring out how to buck this trend and get tourists to visit other regions is a major challenge.

Starting this fiscal year, the Japan Tourism Agency is helping local regions that share tourism resources — such as modern architecture, sake brewing, or shrines and temples — create themed tours. For instance, Shizuoka, Aichi, Saitama, Tochigi and Miyagi prefectures are receiving state funds to plan and promote tours of their shrines and temples with strong connections to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun in the Edo period.

“Areas outside the major cities have many great tourism resources. Visitors to these areas will increase if we make them better known and get the information out there,” an official at the agency said.
ENDS

////////////////////////////

Hi Debito.  Here’s another.  My gut reaction is that the GOJ is trying to exploit NJ possessing a certain degree of acculturation for their labor, what do you think? Regards -JK

///////////////////////////

‘Cool Japan’ smarts may give foreigners a residence edge
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003452588
8:44 pm, January 18, 2017
The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government is considering establishing a certification test for assessing the competency and know-how of foreigners engaged in activities related to the “Cool Japan” initiative, such as anime and fashion. The aim is to accept more of these foreigners into National Strategic Special Zones, according to sources.

The government intends to relax the requirements for obtaining resident status for candidates who meet certain competency criteria and conditions. The plan is aimed at foreign students graduating from Japanese vocational schools, the sources said.

By creating a friendly working environment for foreigners with strong interests in Japanese culture, the government aims to increase the number of foreigners with an intimate familiarity with Japan. They could then serve as informal bridges for future exchanges between Japan and their home countries.

A working group of the government’s National Strategic Special Zones initiative is currently discussing the matter. It plans to grant resident status to foreigners after confirming their competency via certification tests and other methods. The government aims make relevant revisions to the National Strategic Special Zones Law in fiscal 2017.

Under the current residency status system, which is based on the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, foreigners who have graduated from Japanese vocational schools are not eligible for resident status due to a lack of work experience. Consequently, they cannot work in Japan despite a desire to do so. This has been recognized as a problem.

Japanese language proficiency would also be assessed in the envisaged certification test, in addition to relevant professional skills.

“More foreigners will obtain resident status,” a government source said.

The working group is considering allowing foreigners to obtain certification to stay in Japan for several years, the sources said.
ENDS
===========================

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a story that people have been talking about for quite some time in the Comments section of Debito.org (but sandbagged by other projects, I haven’t quite gotten to until now, thanks to this good round-up article by Dr. David McNeill):  Schools fostering ultra-rightist narratives even from a kindergarten age.

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

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

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan’s Shinzo Abe under fire over ultra-right school
PM accused of giving sweetheart deal to school with ties to hard-right lobby group
David McNeill in Tokyo. The Irish Times, Feb 23, 2017
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/japan-s-shinzo-abe-under-fire-over-ultra-right-school-1.2986573

PHOTO: Shinzo Abe with Donald Trump: The Japanse prime minister has offered to resign if his involvement in the school controversy is confirmed. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times

Lingering suspicions about far-right ties to Japan’s government have surfaced again in a row about an alleged sweetheart deal for the operator of an ultra-nationalist kindergarten.

Under fire in parliament, prime minister Shinzo Abe, one of Japan’s longest-serving leaders, said he would step down if his involvement in the deal is substantiated.

The private kindergarten in Osaka has its 3-5-year-old students memorise a 19th-century edict that was used to indoctrinate youngsters during the second World War. Children at the school chant patriotic slogans in front of pictures of the emperor, including: “Should emergencies arise, offer yourselves courageously to the state.”

Its operator, Moritomo Gakuen, was recently investigated under hate speech laws after publishing ethnic slurs of Korean and Chinese people, who it dubbed shinajin – roughly meaning “chink”.

Opposition politicians have singled out the sale of a plot of land last year to Mr Gakuen [sic] by the government in Osaka Prefecture at a fraction of the appraised price.

A primary school is being built on the 8,770sq m plot. Mr Abe’s wife, Akie, will be its honorary principal when it opens in April. The prime minister’s name was allegedly used to solicit donations.

Below list price
Yasunori Kagoike, the president of the kindergarten, has denied that the million yen (€1.1 million) paid for the plot last June, far below its list price of million yen, was too cheap.

The school says the cost of cleaning up arsenic and other contamination found on the site explains the whopping discount. “We have done things open and above board,” Mr Kagoike said this week.

The controversy has thrown a spotlight on Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Charter, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to the government. Mr Kagoike leads a local chapter of the group.

About a third of the Diet (parliament) and more than half of Mr Abe’s 19-member cabinet support Nippon Kaigi. Mr Abe is a specialist adviser to its parliamentary league.

Like followers of US president Donald Trump, members of Nippon Kaigi want to “take back” their country from the liberal forces that they believe are destroying it. The group’s goals include building up the nation’s military forces, instilling patriotism in the young, and revising much of the pre-war Meiji constitution.

Blatantly revisionist
Critics say its charter is a shopping list of blatantly revisionist causes: applaud Japan’s wartime “liberation” of east Asia from western colonialism; rebuild the armed forces; inculcate patriotism among students brainwashed by left-wing teachers; and revere the emperor as he was worshipped before the war.

Mr Abe has denied that he or his wife were involved in the land sale or that he gave permission for his name to be used, though both have praised the curriculum offered by the kindergarten.

Responding to questions from opposition politicians last Friday, Mr Abe said he did not know that donations were being solicited for a “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe” memorial elementary school.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, adding that he would “quit as prime minister and as a Diet member” if found to have been involved in the scandal.

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan PM’s wife cuts ties with school at heart of political furor
Reuters, February 24, 2017, By Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg | TOKYO
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-politics-abe-idUSKBN16308L?il=0

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife has cut ties with an elementary school involved in a land deal that provoked opposition questions just as the Japanese leader was basking in the glow of a friendly summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Abe has said neither he nor his wife, Akie, was involved in a murky deal for the purchase of state-owned land by Moritomo Gakuen, an educational body in the western city of Osaka that also runs a kindergarten promoting patriotism.

The affair has energized the often-floundering opposition, offering a reminder of the unexpected pitfalls that could still emerge for Abe’s seemingly stable rule, now in its fifth year.

Abe, grilled about the purchase of the land at a rock-bottom price, said on Friday his wife would scrap a plan to become honorary principal of an elementary school the institution will open in April.

Last year, Moritomo Gakuen paid 134 million yen ($1.2 million), or 14 percent of the appraisal price, for an 8,770-sq-m (94,400-square-foot) plot on which to build the elementary school, official data show.

The difference reflects the cost of waste cleanup at the site, officials have said. Finance Minister Taro Aso told parliament this week there were no problems with the deal.

Abe said his wife had tried to refuse the role as honorary principal, and only accepted after it was announced to parents.

“Despite this, she decided that it would be detrimental for both the students and the parents if she continued, and so she told them she would resign,” he added.

OPPOSITION ENERGIZED

The institution’s president, Yasunori Kagoike, heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to Abe and his cabinet.

On the school’s website, Akie had said: “I was impressed by Mr. Kagoike’s passion for education and have assumed the post of honorary principal.”

Abe said the comments were removed from the website on Thursday at his wife’s request.

Abe reiterated that he had declined to let his name be used when Moritomo Gakuen sought donations for what it called the “Abe Shinzo Memorial Elementary School”.

He has also denied that either he or his wife was involved in obtaining approval for the school, or in the land acquisition, saying last Friday that he would resign if evidence to the contrary were found.

The main opposition Democratic Party has seized on the affair. “The prime minister is talking as if he were the victim, but it is the people who should be angry,” Democratic Party lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto told reporters.

His cabinet this time has lost several ministers to money scandals, but Abe himself has been untainted by scandal.

Abe’s approval rating rose five points to 66 percent in a media survey after his summit with Trump, where the leaders hugged, golfed and reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan alliance.

But his popularity could take a hit if the scandal continues to preoccupy the media, some political analysts said.

“The thing that makes a scandal really serious is when it keeps getting headlines,” said Chuo University political science professor Steven Reed.

ENDS

///////////////////////////////////////////////

BACKGROUND ARTICLE:

Reuters LIFESTYLE | Thu Dec 8, 2016 | 8:25pm EST
Japanese kindergarten teaches students pre-war ideals
By Kwiyeon Ha | TOKYO
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-education-idUSKBN13X1UV

(NB:  Do check out the link for its visuals; must see.)

At first glance, the Tsukamoto kindergarten looks like any other school in Japan, but its unique curriculum is reminiscent of pre-war Japan.

The private school, which has been visited by Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, aims to instil in its 3- to 5-year-old students a sense of patriotism with a curriculum focused on Japanese traditions and culture.

Its mornings start with uniformed children singing the national anthem in front of the country’s flag and reciting in stilted Japanese the pre-war Imperial Rescript on Education, containing commandments set out in 1890 to nurture “ideal” citizens under the Emperor Meiji. These embody Confucian virtues and demanded devotion to the emperor and sacrifice for the country.

“Be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters,” they chant. “Should emergencies arise, offer yourselves courageously to the state.”

After World War Two, occupying U.S. forces abolished the rescript, which many saw as a source of the obedience and moral certitude that helped fuel Japanese militarism.

In 1947, the postwar government passed the Fundamental Law on Education to bolster the liberal and democratic values of the postwar pacifist constitution.

Tsukamoto kindergarten, in Osaka, introduced the rescript 15 years ago, although school officials say it is not intended to fuel nationalism.

“What we’re aiming to foster in education is patriotism or ‘Japanese-ism’, expanding Japan’s spirit all over the world, not so-called nationalism. These are totally different,” said Yasunori Kagoike, principal of the kindergarten.

PHOTO:  A student stops to bow to a portrait of Japanese former Emperor Hirohito and Empress Kojun at Tsukamoto kindergarten in Osaka, Japan, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ha Kwiyeon

Kagoike heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to Abe and his Cabinet and for which education reform is a key tenet.

PROTECTING THE NATION

Cultural activities at the school, where the walls are lined with images of the imperial family to which students bow throughout the day, include learning traditional Japanese musical instruments, martial arts and board games. Students also take trips to military bases.

Kagoike said he hopes other schools will adopt their curriculum so children are prepared to protect their nation against potential threats from other countries.

“If an imperialist nation is trying to harm Japan, we need to fight against it. For that, revising Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is indeed necessary and should be carried out as soon as possible,” he said.

Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution renounces war and, if read literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces, although Japan’s military, called the Self-Defense Forces, has over 200,000 personnel and is equipped with high-tech weapons.

Revising the constitution is one of the key policy targets of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. His government has already stretched its limits to give the military a bigger role.

Using an analogy of stopping a burglar getting into the house, teacher Chinami Kagoike – the principal’s daughter – said she teaches students it is necessary to fight against such threats to protect themselves and their families.

“Strengthening Japan would be subject to severe criticism from various countries,” she said. “But instead of pulling away from this, I teach children that the Japanese government has clearly demonstrated its will, so you also need to break silence and go forward and say you want to protect your family.”

The kindergarten plans to open a primary school next year and Akie Abe will be the honorary principal, according to school brochures.

Michael Cucek, an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Tokyo campus, said Abe’s wife is often seen as a proxy for the prime minister, who during his first, 2006-2007 term oversaw the revision of the education law to put patriotism back in school curricula.

ENDS

——————————–

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

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, but they already have one:  how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same.

And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted below) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out. Dr. Debito Arudou

///////////////////////////////////////////////
Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES FEB 7, 2017
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/07/national/trainee-program-small-firms-drive-rise-japans-foreign-worker-numbers/

The official number of foreign workers in Japan has surpassed 1 million for the first time, thanks in part to aggressive employment by regional companies and small businesses to cope with the labor shortage.

While these firms, though few and far between, are breaking new ground with their hiring, it remains unclear how the government wants to go about allowing in more foreign workers as it works out a new policy.

Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya.

It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers.

Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future.

“I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said.

A manager in the bank’s personnel section said: “The two of them had the power to carve out a life in Japan from scratch, and we have expectations that they will prosper in various ways.”

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam.

“I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

“It is difficult for a company of our size to employ Japanese students in science and technology, and recently it has been especially tough,” said the company’s president, Makoto Yoshimoto, adding that it’s hard to compete against larger companies for the most talented graduates from Japanese universities.

Yoshimoto noticed many diligent and outstanding students when the company started conducting business in Vietnam several years ago. Twenty applicants responded to the company’s job listings, but only two, including Kien, were hired.

Many foreign workers have also been working at small businesses but for low wages, brought to Japan under the government’s skills acquisition program that critics say is a cover for hiring cheap labor. These workers often return home just when they get used to their jobs, which are usually based on three-year contracts.

Yoshimoto said: “For the two Vietnamese this is regular employment with the same salary as for Japanese. I won’t mind if they work here until they retire.”

According to a survey by employment information company Disco that covered 630 firms nationwide, 38.1 percent employed or planned to employ foreign students in fiscal 2016, while more than half — 59.8 percent — expect to hire such workers in fiscal 2017.

The percentage of foreign workers who were recruited after graduating from overseas universities is expected to rise from 18.9 percent in fiscal 2016 to 32 percent in fiscal 2017. Disco said small and medium-size domestic companies that are little known to students are starting to recruit college graduates from abroad.

There were 1.08 million foreign workers on the official books at the end of October, up 19.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey by the labor ministry.

This was the first time the 1 million milestone was passed since 2008, when the ministry first started collecting statistics based on hiring reports by businesses.

The government has been promoting employment of foreign nationals with advanced skills and knowledge, but in reality, trainees under the skills acquisition program have been fueling the growth.

The latest ministry data show that program trainees grew by 25.4 percent to 211,108, outstripping specialized professionals, who increased 20.1 percent to 200,994. The number of students working as part-timers jumped by a robust 25 percent to 209,657.

The government, faced with a declining and graying population, is exploring the ramifications of accepting more foreign workers.

A debate is underway among lawmakers and bureaucrats over whether to expand the scope of businesses that can hire foreign nationals as regular workers to cover glaring shortfalls in the agricultural and construction industries, not just highly skilled professions.

But many in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition have expressed concern that throwing the doors open further for foreign workers would lift the lid on a Pandora’s box of immigration troubles.

Even labor unions, despite a desire to defend the rights of foreign workers, are wary of their influence on domestic employment and are against their easy acceptance into the workforce.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////////////

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After 19 long years, Japan has a grand champion of sumo once more
By Anna Fifield. The Washington Post, January 25, 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-19-long-years-japan-has-a-grand-champion-of-sumo-once-more/2017/01/25/

TOKYO — After decades of scandals and humiliation at the hands of Mongolian wrestlers, sumo finally has Japanese grand champion again.

Kisenosato, a 30-year-old, 385-pound wrestler, was promoted Wednesday to the rank of yokozuna, the first time a Japanese competitor has been elevated to the highest tier in sumo in 19 years.

“The position of yokozuna is proof of much hard work and he’ll need to continue to work hard and protect the position like hell,” Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, told reporters when announcing the promotion.

Japan’s national sport has been in decline in recent years, partly the result of a generational shift towards sports like baseball, partly because of the health issues associated with the heft needed to wrestle, and partly because of the increasing dominance of foreigners.

All three of the current yokozuna, whose ranks Kisenosato now joins, come from Mongolia. Competitors from Brazil, Russia, China and even Hawaii have also been doing well in past years.

So Kisenosato electrified Japan at the weekend when he won the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, recording 14 wins and only one loss.

Usually, a wrestler is promoted to yokozuna after winning two tournaments, but the Yokozuna Deliberation Council Monday recommended that Kisenosato be elevated to the top rank after only one victory.

The Japan Sumo Association concurred Wednesday, making Kisenosato the first Japanese wrestler to be promoted to grand champion since Wakanohana in 1998.

“Kisenosato to end long drought of Japan-born yokozuna,” a headline in the Asahi newspaper declared. “Hopes are rising that this new Japanese yokozuna will reinvigorate the world of sumo,” a writer said in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Kisenosato had something of a reputation for fragility, failing to come through high-pressure matches on many occasions. But at the tournament on Sunday, something felt different, he said.

“I was not excessively tense and was able to fight while keeping my calm,” he told Japanese reporters. “In addition to my own power, I felt that some different power was working.”

Indeed, Kisenosato has set another record: It took him 89 rounds of tournaments to become yokozuna, the slowest record in modern sumo history. And his victory Sunday came only after two Mongolian yokozuna pulled out of the tournament.

Some worry that Kisenosato has been promoted too quickly or that rules were bent to allow him to reach grand champion status.

“I like Kisenosato. Of course I want to see a Japanese yokozuna! And I believe his stable results in the past six tournaments were wonderful,” Ebizo, a renowned and outspoken kabuki actor, wrote on his blog this week. “But he became yokozuna with only one tournament win. I wonder if this could be an attempt to produce a Japanese yokozuna after such a long time.”

Yuki Oda contributed to this report.

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////

Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years
BBC, 25 January 2017, courtesy of JDG
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38721106

Japan has formally named its first home-grown sumo grand champion in almost two decades, in a boost to the traditional wrestling sport.

Kisenosato, 30, was promoted to the top-most yokozuna rank after his win in the first tournament of the year.

He is the first Japanese-born wrestler to make it since Wakanohana in 1998. Five wrestlers from American Samoa and Mongolia have made it in the interim.

Foreign wrestlers have come to dominate sumo, amid a lack of local recruits.

Kisenosato, who comes from Ibaraki to the north of Tokyo and weighs 178kg (392 pounds), has been an ozeki – the second-highest rank – since 2012.

After being runner-up on multiple occasions, he finally clinched his first tournament victory – and thereby his promotion to yokozuna – in the first competition of 2017.

“I accept with all humility,” Kisenosato said in a press conference after the Japan Sumo Association formally approved him.

“I will devote myself to the role and try not to disgrace the title of yokozuna.”

What is sumo?
PHOTO: Wakanohana (R) competes against Akebono (L) at the Sumo Basho in Vancouver (file image)Image copyrightAFP
PHOTO: Wakanohana (R), seen here fighting Hawaiian Akebono, was the last Japanese wrestler to be promoted to yokozuna

Japan’s much-loved traditional sport dates back hundreds of years.

Two wrestlers face off in an elevated circular ring and try to push each other to the ground or out of the ring.

There are six tournaments each year in which each wrestler fights 15 bouts.

Wrestlers, who traditionally go by one fighting name, are ranked and the ultimate goal is to become a yokozuna.

Many Japanese fans will be pleased to see a local wrestler back at the top of a sport regarded as a cultural icon.

As yokuzuna, Kisenosato, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara, joins three other wrestlers in sumo’s ultimate rank – Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.

The trio all come from Mongolia, following a path forged by sumo bad-boy Asashoryu, who was Mongolia’s first yokozuna in 2003.

The last Japanese-born wrestlers to reach the top were brothers Takanohana and Wakanohana, who made it to yokozuna in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

In recent years, sumo has been hit by falling numbers of Japanese recruits, partly because it is seen as a tough, highly regimented life.

Young sumo wrestlers train in tightly-knit “stables” where they eat, sleep and practise together and are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in the belief that it will toughen them up.

In 2009, a leading coach was jailed for six years for ordering wrestlers to beat a young trainee who later died, in a case that shocked the nation.

Those at the top of the sport are also expected to be role models, showing honour and humility – and can be criticised if they get it wrong.

Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu led the sport for many years, but sumo elders were troubled by some of his behaviour

Sumo must also compete with the rising popularity of football and baseball, which have vibrant leagues that draw crowds of young Japanese fans.

But the sport is attractive to wrestlers from other nations, who can earn a good living. Wrestlers have come from Estonia, Bulgaria, Georgia, China, Hawaii and Egypt, as well as Mongolia and American Samoa.

As a child, Kisenosato was a pitcher in his school’s baseball club before he chose to train as a wrestler at a stable in Tokyo.

He made his debut in 2002 and, reported Japan’s Mainichi newspaper, the 73 tournaments he took to become a yokozuna are the most by any wrestler since 1926.

Speaking to reporters after the tournament victory on Monday that sealed his elevation, Kisenosato said he was pleased to be holding the Emperor’s Cup trophy at last.

“I’ve finally got my hands on it and the sense of pleasure hasn’t changed,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words but it has a nice weight to it.”

ENDS

================

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I’ve heard that people are worried I’m getting more easygoing in my old age (just turned 52), and that I’m settling for less (cheering on the baby steps) while not spading the spades enough.  Well, in my defense, I’m generally doing more big-picture stuff these days — signs of the times that indicate future trends and policy directions.  But this time, let’s do some Classic Debito, where I’m taking an isolated incident (such as a single article by a journalist lacking in self-awareness) and parse the text to find hidden subtextual meanings.  I’d generally do this for government documents (since they more likely express official attitudes of a committee), but let’s have fun with the article below.  Maybe you will see that I haven’t lost the verve, and that even Bowie could rock well into his fifties.  Here goes.  Article follows, with my comments in nonboldface:

////////////////////////////////////////

NATIONAL
Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants
BY ANNA MASUI, KYODO NEWS/JAPAN TIMES
JAN 17, 2017, courtesy of JDG
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/17/national/japans-shared-dwellings-evolving-meet-diverse-needs-tenants/

PHOTO: Residents dine together at a Tokyo share house run by Borderless Japan, which ensures an equal number of Japanese and non-Japanese tenants. | KYODO

The face of share house living is changing in Japan as operators are stepping up efforts to meet a variety of needs among residents.

COMMENT:  From the opening line, we’re set up to see that we’re diversifying qualifications to rent an apartment, which is very welcome given how strict some landlords in Japan can be.  Fine, but… look how it’s contextualized in the very next sentence.

A two-story share house in a residential area in the western Tokyo city of Chofu allows residents to keep pets.

COMMENT:  Oh, pets.  Okay, so this is an article about allowing pets in with the paying humans?  The next paragraphs remain in that groove:

In late November, residents gathered in the 23-sq.-meter living area to share nabe hot pot fare, with their small pet dogs playing around them.

The home costs much less than other share houses for residents with pets, said Natsumi Yamada, 37, who moved there with her dog in March.

Yurina Wakatsuki, 25, began to live in the house in July to “interact with someone else because I used to only commute between my home and company.”

“I now enjoy going to a nearby cafe with my dog,” she said.

COMMENT:  Okay, but wait for the pivot:

The house is owned by House-Zoo, which was founded in 2016. The Tokyo-based company currently operates 12 share houses in the capital and Saitama Prefecture, allowing residents to keep up to two small pets, including dogs, cats, birds and rabbits, each.

COMMENT:  “House-Zoo”, eh?  So we’re talking about inter-species relationships, eh? Go on.

While share houses that permit residents to keep pets usually charge lease deposits equivalent to several months’ rent, House-Zoo demands a deposit of only ¥30,000. Some 70 people have lived in its share houses.

“It is costly to live in cities with pets,” said Muneki Tanaka, president of the company. “Share houses can lower costs and we will continue to provide environments where people can live with animals around them.”

COMMENT:  So far, so good.  About half the article has contextualized Japanese living with their pets.  But suddenly, the pivot:

Borderless Japan Corp. in Tokyo operates share houses where Japanese and foreign nationals live roughly on a 50-50 basis, accepting residents between 18 and 35 years of age.

COMMENT:  Huh?  We’ve gone from living with dogs and other pets to living with foreigners?  (And note the age cap.)

The operation began in 2008 as a spinoff from support services for foreign nationals unable to lease rooms partly due to the absence of guarantors.

COMMENT:  And also partly due to the issue of racist landlords simply unwilling to rent to a foreigner.  Because it’s not illegal to refuse accommodations (or entry in general) to foreigners on the basis of nationality or race in Japan.  According to the Asahi, 42% of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward alone encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52% of that was in finding apartments.  Racism, not a lack of guarantor, is generally the first slammed door a newcomer NJ faces.  How nice of this to be glossed over in the article.

The company has 70 “borderless houses” in Tokyo, Saitama, Osaka and Kyoto, having some 5,000 residents. People from the United States, France, Sweden and other Western countries account for a large portion of the residents.

COMMENT:  This should not be news.  “Borderless” houses should be the norm.  The fact that they are not the norm should be one focus of this article.

Despite residents keeping the houses in order by rotating cleaning duties, problems occasionally occur due to differences in living practices and cultures.

COMMENT:  Ah yes, another box checked off on my “Japanese media BINGO card”:  No article or discussion on foreigners in Japan (including even those on business, corporate safety, immigration, and of course garbage sorting) is complete without mentioning intrinsic and allegedly inevitable J/NJ problems due to “cultural differences”.  Not because certain people as individuals are untidy or aren’t used to their mommies not doing their laundry for them…

Ah the joys of dorm life.  Except in many societies, dorm residents don’t put conflicts down to “culture”, and just accept that some individuals are dicks.

Nevertheless, non-Japanese residents said they feel welcome thanks to the presence of Japanese friends, while Japanese welcome opportunities to learn differences in values and to improve their foreign language ability.

COMMENT:  As written that sounds like quite a nice trade off.  NJ get put to work enlightening them about their “differences” and teaching them gaikokugo, while Japanese just honor them with their presence.  Sounds like a better deal for the Japanese resident.

Meanwhile, real estate company Oakhouse manages Social Residence share houses, promoting interaction among residents who offer skills and information in their specialty to other residents through regular events such as cooking lessons.

Oakhouse now owns 17 share houses in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, some of which are equipped with studios for yoga, dance and music.

COMMENT:  Sounds like a lot of work just to be a resident.  Remember the age cap of 18-35 mentioned above?  Well, this is clearly not a place where people, especially middle-aged professionals, can just live and be left alone.  Come back home from a hard day’s work, and there’s still more work to be done?

Well, you might say, if you don’t like communal living, then don’t choose to live there.  But remember, Japanese have a lot more choice.  NJ don’t, in Japan.  So it sounds like NJ are being forced to be social in order to live there.  Kinda like camp counselors, in charge of keeping the camp kids entertained, except without the power to set the camp agenda.

“I have come to enjoy communal life through my experience of traveling abroad,” said Ikuya Yoshizawa, 23, who lives in Oakhouse’s residence in Kodaira, Tokyo.

“Events are enjoyable and opportunities to learn what I don’t know are stimulating,” he added. ENDS

COMMENT:  I wonder how a NJ resident feels.  Oh, we didn’t get a quote from them. The only residents who count, by the grace of their presence, are the Japanese who need to be stimulated.  An article written by a J reporter for a J audience, clearly, with NJ being treated as exotic animals being studied in their imported-native habitat.

CONCLUSION:  While I think we can assume that these places are run by well-meaning people just trying to put a roof over people’s heads, this article is written without much self-awareness.  Especially by couching NJ-friendly housing in the context of pet-friendly housing (“House-Zoo” is a dead giveaway), I think we can infer that the subconscious attitude of the reporter is that foreigners are entertainers there for the pleasure of the Japanese residents.  Like a pet cat or a dog.

But that’s, again, indicative of a bigger-picture trend.  Consider all the tokenism found in Japanese companies (especially during the Kokusaika Era, which I experienced first-hand) in hiring young, genki gaijin to “internationalize” their company, and then putting them to work in temporary, trite, and expendable jobs so that they could give the company smiles but never get promoted to a post with any power.

All this, and the reporter ignoring the fact that racist landlords (not the lack of a guarantor) are the primary reason why “no pets, no foreigners” apartments exist.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

=============================

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

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

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

Print version at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/

Version with links to sources follows

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

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

We’ve named and shamed this before (“Downloadable Discrimination,” Zeit Gist, March 30, 2004). From Feb. 16, 2004, Japan’s Immigration Bureau had websites where anyone could anonymously rat on foreigners for any reason whatsoever — including (as a preset option) the xenophobic “repugnance and anxiety” (ken-o fuan). This occasioned calls for abolition from rights groups, including Amnesty International, and government leaders. As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations pointed out in 2005, “The program has ordinary citizens essentially spying on people suspected of being illegal aliens, which serves only to advance prejudice and discrimination toward foreigners.”

Yet Japan’s police “see no evil” when it suits them. According to the Asahi in 2015, the sites were being inundated with hate emails “slandering” Japan’s Zainichi generational Korean community. Immigration suddenly realized that false leads from trolls were a waste of time. Yep, we told you so more than a decade ago. Glad it sunk in.

9 Priyanka Yoshikawa wins Miss World Japan

This year showed us that 2015 was not a fluke. In 2015, multiethnic American-Japanese Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan competition as Japan’s first biracial national beauty queen. In 2016, Indian-Japanese Priyanka Yoshikawa was elected to represent Japan despite protests about whether she is a “real” Japanese. Although these events are cheer-worthy because they demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is not purely a matter of looks, they’re more important because the women’s stories of being “different” have highlighted their struggles for acceptance. When the domestic media bothers to report them, that is.

The discussion has mostly been a shallow one about “looks.” Sadly, this is par for the course. As I said to ABC NewsRadio Australia, “Why do we keep doing these 19th-century rituals? Demeaning women by putting them on a stage, making them do debasing things, and then saying, ‘This is a standard of beauty that is or is not Japanese?’ How about we just call it what it is: incitement to superficial judgment of people not as individuals but by physical appearance?” Progress made, yes, but the real progress will be when beauty pageants stop entirely.

8 Japan’s multiethnic citizens score at 2016 Olympics

Similarly, Japan’s athletes have long been scrutinized for their “foreignness.” If they are “half” or even naturalized, their “foreignness” becomes a factor no matter what.

If they do badly, “It’s the foreigners’ fault.” As seen when Japan’s men’s rugby team lost in 2011 and the nation’s rugby union criticized coach John Kirwan for using “too many foreign players” (including naturalized former NJ). The team was then ethnically cleansed. When multiethnic Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed underperformed in 2014, Tokyo 2020 Olympics Chair Yoshiro Mori essentially labeled them leftovers, bashing them (mistakenly) as “naturalized citizens” who couldn’t make the U.S. Team.

But if they do well, they get celebrated. Remember October 2015, when Brave Blossoms, the men’s rugby team, scored an upset over South Africa, and their players’ enhanced physical strength was attributed to their multiethnicity? Suddenly the fact that many players didn’t “look Japanese” (11 were even born outside Japan) was no problem.

Same when Japanese athletes did well in Rio last year. Prominent performances by multiethnic Japanese, including Mashu Baker (Gold in Judo); members of Japan’s Rugby Sevens (the men’s team came in fourth); other members of Japan’s soccer, basketball and athletics teams; and most prominently, runner Asuka Cambridge (who missed out on Gold only to Usain Bolt) made it clear that hybrid Japanese help Japan in sports. If only people would stop putting up the extra hurdle of attributing success or failure to race.

7 Renho Murata takes helm of the Democratic Party

After years of tired leftist politics with stale or uninspiring leaders, last September the main opposition Democratic Party made young and dynamic Taiwanese-Japanese politician Renho Murata its leader. It was the first time a multiethnic Japanese has ever helmed a major party, and immediately there were full-throated doubts about her loyalties. Media and politicos brought up Renho’s alleged ties to untrustworthy China (even though Taiwan and China are different countries; even the Ministry of Justice said that Taiwanese in Japan are not under PRC law), or that she had technically naturalized (Renho was born before Japanese citizenship could legally pass through her mother) but had not renounced her dual citizenship, which wasn’t an issue when she was a Cabinet member, nor when former Peruvian President and dual citizen Alberto Fujimori ran for a Diet seat in 2007 (Zeit Gist, May 5, 2009).

Whatever. Renho has proven herself a charismatic leader with an acerbic wit, ready to ask difficult and pointed questions of decision makers. She famously did so in 2009, during deliberations to fund the “world’s most powerful computer,’ when she asked, “What’s wrong with being number two?” The project still passed, but demanding potential boondoggles justify themselves is an important job. The fact that Renho is not cowed by tough questions herself is good for a country, which with 680,000 Japanese dual citizens deserves fresh unfettered talent with international backgrounds.

6 Abubakar Awudu Suraj case loses once and for all

This has made the JBC annual Top 10 several times, because it’s a test case of accountability when NJ die in official custody. In 2010, Ghanaian visa overstayer Abubakar Awudu Suraj was so “brutally” (according to this newspaper) restrained during deportation that he was asphyxiated. Suraj’s widow, unsuccessfully seeking justice through Japan’s criminal justice system, won civil damages from the Immigration Bureau in a 2014 Tokyo District Court decision. However, last January, the Tokyo High Court overturned this, deciding that the lethal level of physical force was “not illegal” — it was even “necessary” — and concluded that the authorities were “not culpable.” Suraj’s widow took it to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected last November.

Conclusion: Life is cheap in Japan’s Immigration detention systems (Reuters last year reported more NJ deaths in custody due to official negligence). And now our judiciary has spoken: If NJ suffer from a lethal level of force — sorry, are killed by police — nobody is responsible.

5 2016 Upper house elections seal Shinzo Abe’s mandate

Past JBC columns on Japan’s right-wing swing anticipated that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would capitalize on the left’s disarray and take Japan’s imagined community back to an imagined past. Sure enough, winning the Upper House elections last July and solidifying a majority in both houses of Parliament, he accomplished this hat trick. Since then, Abe’s popular support, according to the Asahi, remains at near record-highs (here and here). There’s even talk of changing the rules so he can be PM beyond his mandated five-year term.

That’s it then, really. Everything we feared his administration would do since 2012 is all coming to pass: the dismissing of universal human rights as a “Western concept,” the muzzling and intimidation of the press under a vague state secrets act, the deliberate destabilization of East Asia over petty territorial disputes, the enfranchising of historical denialism through a far-right cabal of elites, the emboldening of domestic xenophobia to accomplish remilitarization, the resurgence of enforced patriotism in Japan’s education system, the further exploitation of foreign workers under an expanded “trainee” program, and the forthcoming fundamental abrogation of Japan’s “Peace Constitution.”

Making Japan “great” again, similar to what’s happening in the United States under President-elect Donald Trump, has been going on for the past four years. With no signs of it abating.

4 Next generation of “Great Gaijin Massacres” loom

In April 2013, Japan’s Labor Contracts Law was amended to state that companies, after five years of continuous contract renewals, must hire their temporary workers as “regular employees” (seishain). Meant to stop employers from hiring people perpetually on insecure contract jobs (“insecure” because employees are easily fired by contract nonrenewal), it is having the opposite effect: Companies are inserting five-year caps in contracts to avoid hiring people for real. Last November, The Japan Times reported on the “Tohoku University job massacre,” where 3,200 contract workers are slated to be fired en masse in 2017.

JBC sees this as yet another “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” scenario (ZG, July 8, 2008). This happened in Japanese academia for generations: Known as “Academic Apartheid,” foreign full-time scholars received perpetual contract employment while Japanese full-time scholars received permanent uncontracted tenure from day one. This unequal status resulted in the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-4, where the Ministry of Education (MOE) told National and Public Universities not to renew the contracts of foreigners over the age of 35 as a cost-cutting measure. Then from 1997, the MOE encouraged contract employment be expanded to Japanese full-time educators. From 2018, it will be expanded to the nonacademic private sector. It’s a classic case of Martin Niemoller’s “First they came …” poem: Denying equal rights to part of the population eventually got normalized and applied to everyone.

3 The government surveys NJ discrimination

Japan has been suddenly cognizant of “foreigner discrimination” this year. Not “racial discrimination,” of course, but baby steps. The Asahi kicked things off in January by reporting that 42 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52 percent of that was in finding apartments. Glad to have the stats, albeit localized.

Then the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights conducted its first-ever nationwide survey of discrimination toward longer-term NJ residents by mailing them a detailed multilingual survey (available at www.debito.org/?p=14298), asking questions specifically about unequal treatment in housing, employment, education, social situations, etc. It even mentioned the establishment of “laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination against foreigners” (not a law against discrimination by race, natch).

Although this survey is well-intentioned, it still has two big blind spots: It depicted discrimination as 1) due to extranationality, not physical appearance, and 2) done by Japanese people, not the government through systemic racism embedded in Japan’s laws and systems (see my book “Embedded Racism” for more). As such, the survey won’t resolve the root problems fundamental to Japan’s very identity as an ethnostate.

2 Blowback involving NJ tourism and labor

Japan’s oft-touted sense of “selfless hospitality” (omotenashi) is an odd thing. We are seeing designated “foreigner taxis” at Kyoto Station (with a segregated stop), “foreign driver” stickers on Hokkaido and Okinawa rental cars stigmatizing NJ tourists (and NJ residents touring), and media grumblings about ill-mannered Chinese crowding stores, spending scads of money (diddums!) and leaving behind litter. (Japan’s tourist sites were of course sparkling clean before foreigners showed up. Not.)

Then there’s the omnipresent threat of terrorism, depicted for years now by the government as something imported by foreigners into a formerly “safe Japan” (although all terrorist acts so far in Japan have been homegrown). To that end, 2016 was when Japan’s Supreme Court explicitly approved police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion. (What’s next? Surveilling foreign residents due to their extranationality?)

Yet foreigners are a necessary evil. Japan still needs them to do its dirty work in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishery and nursing sectors. So this year the foreign “trainee” work program was expanded, along with measures against abuses. About time — bad things, including NJ slavery and child labor have been happening for decades, with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry acknowledging that about 70 percent of employers hiring “trainees” engage in illegal labor practices. Omotenashi has been counterweighted by government-sponsored exploitation of NJ, and now with the upcoming 2020 Olympics, there’s plenty more dirty work out there.

And after all this, 2016 offered one big bright spot:

1 Hate speech law gets passed — and enforced

Japan’s first law protecting “foreigners” from group denigration in public was passed nationwide in May. JBC (Feb. 1) heralded it as a step in the right direction. Critics quickly pointed out its shortcomings: It doesn’t actually ban hate speech, or have penalties for violators, and it only covers people of overseas origin “who live legally in Japan” (meaning “foreigners,” but not all of them). Plus it skirts the issue of racial discrimination, natch.

However, it has had important effects. The law offered a working definition of hate speech and silenced people claiming the “Western construct” of hate speech didn’t exist in Japan. It also gave Japan’s bureaucrats the power to curtail haters. The Mainichi Shimbun reported that this year’s xenophobic rallies, once daily on average somewhere in Japan, had decreased. Rallies also reportedly softened their hateful invective. Since Japan’s outdoor public gatherings need police and community approval (ZG March 4, 2003), even an official frown on hatred can be powerful.

Official frowning spread. The National Police Agency advised prefectural police departments to respond to hate speech demos. A court banned a rally in a Korean area of Kawasaki for “illegal actions that infringe upon the personal rights for leading a personal life.” Another court ordered hate group Zaitokukai to compensate a Zainichi Korean for public slurs against her. Both judges cited the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination, which has been ignored in lawsuits against “Japanese only” establishments.

These are remarkable new outcomes in a society loath to call “No Foreigners Allowed” signs discriminatory, let alone order police to take them down. Progress to build upon.

Bubbling under the top 10

11 Population of registered NJ residents reaches record 2.23 million despite significant decreases in recent years.

12 “Special economic zones” expand to the aging agriculture sector, and want “skilled foreigners” with college degrees and Japanese-language ability to till fields on three-year visas. Seriously.

13 The Nankai Line train conductor who apologized to passengers for “too many foreigners” on an airport-bound train is officially reprimanded, not ignored.

14 Osaka sushi restaurant Ichibazushi, which was bullying foreign customers by deliberately adding too much wasabi, is forced by social media to publicly apologize.

15 Debito.org’s archive of human rights issues in Japan celebrates its 20th Anniversary.

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

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Once again, the JT comes out with an insightful article about the difference between appearance and reality, especially in Japan’s labor market.  Okunuki Hifumi tells us about how Japan’s most-coveted job — civil servant (!) — actually comes with at a price of fewer rights under Japan’s labor laws.  Depending on your status, bureaucrats lack the right to strike, collectively bargain, or unionize (not to mention, as it wasn’t in this article, engage in “political activities”).  And that can severely weaken their ability to fight back when labor abuses occur (see in particular footnote 6) or, as schoolteachers, to educate students about politics.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

(Photo Caption) Pop quiz: Which of these types of government worker has the right to strike — tax inspectors, schoolteachers, firefighters or public health workers? Answer: None of the above, thanks to an Occupation-era law designed to tamp down the influence of communism. | KYODO PHOTO

The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 21, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

I research labor law and teach it to university students. In the first class, I break up the two groups of labor laws — those related to individual and collective labor relations — for my students. Individual labor relations law begins and ends with the 1947 Labor Standards Act (rōdō kijun hō); its collective counterpart is surely the 1950 Trade Union Act (rōdō kumiai hō).

About 99.9 percent of my 18-20-year-olds look blank the first time they hear the word “rōdō kumiai,” or labor union. Some of them have arubaito (part-time jobs) and thus already have become rōdōsha (workers) protected by labor laws, but they have not heard of labor unions and have no idea what such a creature looks like. I have my work cut out trying to explain to them the concepts of labor unions, collective bargaining and striking.

A popular professional aspiration among university students today is to join the ranks of kōmuin, or government employees. Civil servants have stable employment, meaning they don’t have to worry about the possibility of being laid off. Their work hours and days off are usually quite favorable compared with those at private-sector firms. (At least that is what is said — that is the reputation. The reality is not so straightforward.)

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

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

Read the rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

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

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=================================

From: XY
Subject: MOJ NJ Survey
Date: November 14, 2016
To: debito@debito.org

Dear Debito,

I am XY, a long year NJ resident. First I want to thank you for the great work you do to enhance human rights in Japan. I learned most of the discrepancies between law and practice (especially Hotels *cough*) from your blog. Great work.

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

外国人人権アンケート(Cover Letter)
外国人人権アンケート(英語)
外国人人権アンケート(日本語)

=================================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:

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

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

First, two pages from the statement of purpose from the Cover Letter, so you get the tone:

Document-page-001

Document-page-002

Next, here’s the odd very first question.  It inquires whether the foreigner being surveyed actually interacts with Japanese, or lives as a hikikomori hermit inside a terrarium.  (It’s a bit hard to envision this kind of question coming from other governments.  In a question about discrimination towards NJ, why is this the first question?  Is it a means to discount future responses with, “Well, it’s the foreigner’s own fault he’s discriminated against — he should get out more”?).  Anyway:

Document-page-006

Skipping down to the next section, we see that they get to the discrimination issues (housing first, and that’s a major one) pretty systematically, and with the possibility of open-ended answers.  Good.

Document-page-008

Same with discrimination in employment:

Document-page-009

And then discrimination in access to services and in daily interactions:

Document-page-010

And then we get to a decent list of miscellany.  Note that there is no mention of any discrimination by officialdom, such as police harassment, racial profiling, or Gaijin Card Instant Checkpoints on the street or in hotels.  (Naturally:  The BOHR is part of the Ministry of Justice, as are the Japanese police forces — and their bunker mentalities are but an inevitable part of managing Japan’s security and erstwhile “world’s safest society” against outside threats).  According to this list, discrimination only seems to happen because of nasty “Japanese people” as individuals, not because of something more systemic and embedded, such as Japan’s laws, enforcement of laws, or judiciary.

Document-page-011

Then we get to issues of hate speech:

Document-page-012

Document-page-013

Then we get to the subject of what to do about it.  The survey starts off with the typical boilerplate about “cultural differences” (the regular way of blaming foreigners for “being different”, thereby deserving differential treatment), but then by item 6 we get a mention of a law against preventing “discrimination against foreigners” (as opposed to racial discrimination, which is what it is).  So at least a legislative solution is mentioned as an option.  Good.

Document-page-014

The rest talks about what measures the surveyed person has taken against discrimination using existing GOJ structures (the BOHR).  Then it concludes some background about the surveyed person’s age, nationality, visa status, home language, etc. (which is where that funny first question about “how much contact do you have with Japanese?” should have come; putting it first is, again, indicative.)

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

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

========================

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

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

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

Happy Halloween. Let’s talk about something really scary: elections in the United States and Japan.

I say scary because these countries are the No. 1 and No. 3 largest economies in the world, not to mention representative democracies considered too big to fail. Yet the way things are going is truly frightening.

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

The U.S.: two tribes go to war […]

Read the rest in The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/10/30/issues/u-s-japan-elections-scary-ways/

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

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito. The Japan Times, Just Be Cause column 101
To be published Oct 3, 2016

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

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

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

=====================

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Debito panelist on Al-Jazeera program “The Stream”: “The politics of identity in Japan” after Yoshikawa Priyanka’s pageant victory

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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AlJazeeraPriyankaDebito091416

The politics of identity in Japan
The conversation on race and ethnicity widens in the island nation.
Al-Jazeera.com Program “The Stream”, September 14, 2016
http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201609131500-0025282

For the second year in a row, Japan has crowned a biracial woman the winner of a major beauty pageant, reviving a conversation in the island nation about race, xenophobia and what it means to be Japanese.

Japan is frequently labeled as one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, but some say this is a myth that discounts the minorities living there and stifles dialogue about discrimination in the country.

In May, Japan passed its first anti-hate speech law in an attempt to curb racism and xenophobia. While critics sceptical about the law’s effectiveness poked holes in the bill, many have applauded the government for taking steps toward addressing what they say is an often ignored issue.

Some have viewed Priyanka Yoshikawa’s Miss World Japan win as a sign the country is becoming more open to diversity. Others argue Japan has been open for a long time, and stories suggesting otherwise are reinforcing antiquated stereotypes. We discuss at 19:30 GMT.

On today’s episode, we speak to:

Priyanka Yoshikawa @Miss_priyanka20
Miss World Japan 2016

Baye McNeil @locohama
Author, columnist for The Japan Times
bayemcneil.com

Edward Sumoto @MixedRootsJapan
Founder, Mixed Roots Japan
mixroots.jp

Debito Arudou @arudoudebito
Author, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
debito.org

Yuta Aoki @ThatYuta
YouTuber
youtube.com/YPlusShow

See it at http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201609131500-0025282

============================

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ABC NewsRadio Australia, Japan in Focus: The winner of Miss World Japan, Yoshikawa Priyanka, prompts another racial debate. Interviews Debito

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. ABC NewsRadio Australia interviews me again, this time about Yoshikawa Priyanka, second winner in a row (the first being Miyamoto Ariana last year) of a major national beauty pageant in Japan with mixed roots. Have a listen. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

=========================
Japan in Focus: The winner of Miss World Japan prompts another racial debate and Japan warns that its businesses may withdraw from the UK after Brexit
http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4535998.htm
Duration: 14:48, posted Sept. 12, 2016

ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan in Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.

This week: For the second year in a row a bi-racial woman has won a beauty pageant in Japan, prompting a racial debate; Japan has issued a warning that its businesses may withdraw from the UK once it leaves the European Union; and the Japanese telecoms giant Softbank has bought the British smartphone chip-designing company ARM for more than $30 billion.

Eleni Psaltis speaks to Dr Debito Arudou from the University of Hawaii; Nigel Driffield, a Professor of international business at Warwick business school in the UK; and Dr Harminder Singh, a senior lecturer in Business Information Systems at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.

http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4535998.htm

==========================
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“Deep in Japan” Podcast interviews Debito on Racism in Japan and book “Embedded Racism” (UPDATED: Goes viral in Poland!)

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Jeff Krueger interviewed me a few days ago, and put up this podcast. He did a lot of research for this podcast, including reading 400-page book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” in three sittings, and investigating much of the anti-activist narrative in Japan. I had a listen to it this morning, and think it’s probably the best interview I’ve ever had done. Please have a listen and support his channel, even leave a review up at iTunes.

///////////////////////////////////////////////

Podcast: Deep in Japan, by Jeff Krueger
Title: “Debito: Racism in Japan”
Released: Aug 14, 2016

In this podcast, I interview writer, researcher, activist, Japan Times columnist, naturalized Japanese citizen and, most recently, author of the amazing book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” Dr. Arudou Debito. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Debito’s books and articles, visit his award-winning blog at www.debito.org. As always, sounds provided by www.bensound.com/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/podcast/deep-in-japan/id1121048809?l=en&mt=2
Soundcloud (free subscription via Facebook etc.): https://soundcloud.com/deep-in-japan/debito-racism-in-japan

Deep in Japan homepage at https://soundcloud.com/deep-in-japan

ENDS

=======================

UPDATE AUGUST 18:  Podcast goes viral in… Poland!  (Thanks to this popular vlog.)  Now at 6700 listens on Soundcloud alone!  Thanks!

=======================

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Japan Center for Michigan Universities (Hikone, Shiga Pref.) sponsors July 23 lecture by Japan’s first Muslim lawyer Junko Hayashi, on Islam and issues faced by Muslims in Japan

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Passing this information and flyer along upon request as a matter of record. Attend the talk.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

=========================
The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, is proud to welcome Junko Hayashi, Japan’s first female Muslim attorney, to speak about Islam and the issues faced by Muslims in Japan. In a recent court battle, Ms. Hayashi represented Japanese Muslims that were being watched by the Japanese government for no reason other than they are Muslims. The surveillance of these Japanese citizens came to light after information gathered by police was accidentally leaked on the Internet. Japanese courts ruled that there was no constitutional violation and that the threat of international terrorism outweighed any privacy right held by the plaintiffs.

Muslim culture is an important part of Michigan culture, making JCMU the ideal place to host this event. JCMU is also a place where people from many different cultures come together to learn about culture and language while exchanging ideas that make our world a better place. It is JCMU’s hope that the Islamophobia gripping much of the Western world can be avoided in Japan through education and mutual understanding.

Ms. Hayashi will present at JCMU (1435-86 Matsubara-Cho, Hikone-Shi, Shiga-Ken 522-0002) on July 23, 2016 in both English and Japanese. People interested in attending the lecture can register by email at register@jcmu.org. The English language lecture will start at 17:00, with the Japanese lecture following at 19:00. Admission is free.  For further information about JCMU and its programs please see our website English website at jcmu.isp.msu.edu and our Japanese website at www.jcmu.net.
=========================

As the requester notes:  “Thank you so much for helping us get the word out. With the recent terror attacks in Bangladesh I fear the worst for the rise of Islmaophobia in Japan. The Japan Times just posted an article about the Muslim surveillance case last night. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/07/13/issues/shadow-surveillance-looms-japans-muslims/ It would be great if we could get the Japan Times down here to hear the lecture.”

Flyer:Islam in Japan Flyer072316

=======================

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TV “Economist” Mitsuhashi Takaaki on foreign labor in Japan: “80% of Chinese in Japan are spies”: “foreigners will destroy Japanese culture”

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Let’s get right to it with a post from Debito.org Reader AG:
=========================
Date: June 12, 2016
From: AG
Dear Debito:

There is a lot of discussion about immigration and work in Japan. There is a video showing a so called economist ranting and spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about why allowing immigration into Japan is a bad idea. Perhaps you would like to see into it and share it with your community at Debito.org. I support your site in many ways and I appreciate your insight and many matters that are wrong in Japan. I understand that your bottom line is to try to make a positive change in life.

Here’s the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C18_G6wIh-Y

Sincerely, AG
=========================

COMMENT: The above video about Mitsuhashi Takaaki, a commentator, writer, TV personality, seminarist (juku), failed LDP candidate, and blogger about things he considers to be politics and economics, shows how normalized bigotry is in Japan — to the point of silliness.

Once you get past the stupid tic he has with pushing up his eyeglasses (redolent of aspiring Hollywood wannabes of the 1910s-1930s who thought their cute catchphrase, gesture, or sneeze would fuel an entire career), you realize what he’s enabling: Japanese media to espouse xenophobia.

In the video, where he’s critical of PM Abe’s policies (ignorantly portraying Abe as a proponent of importing foreign labor in order to undercut Japanese workers’ salaries), he goes beyond economics and into bigotry:  about Chinese (depicted as invading hordes with queue hairstyles, where he claims that “80% are spies” [source, please?]) and foreigners in general (they will “destroy Japanese culture”).  The research gets so sloppy that it reaches the point of silliness (at minute 0:30 they even misspelled TPP as “Trance Pacific Partnership”).  Watch the video yourself, but not as a lunch digestion aid.

In the end, Mitsuhashi is just an IT dork relishing his time in the sun, riding a patriotic wave while dividing, “othering”, and bullying minorities for his own financial gain.

Again, it’s one more indication that the long-awaited next generation of “more liberal Japanese” will be just as narrow-minded as the previous one (if not even more so, since they have no memory of the wartime excesses their embedded racism led to generations ago).  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

===================================

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One reason why human rights are not taken seriously in Japan: Childish essays like these in the Mainichi.

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  The discussion about Japan’s recent passage of a hate-speech law continues.  An article recently appeared in the Mainichi, about which Debito.org Reader JK said when submitting, “I don’t recall ever seeing anything this cut-and-dry; it’s a nice change.”

Have a read, then I’ll comment:

//////////////////////////////

Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Discrimination has no place in Japan
June 12, 2016 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
By Rika Kayama, Psychiatrist
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160612/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

The so-called anti-hate speech law has come into force.

When I first saw a hate speech demonstration, with marchers barking vicious slogans aimed primarily at Japan’s Korean residents, I could barely believe my eyes. On the internet, too, people toss out discriminatory comments against other foreign citizens, against Japan’s Ainu and Okinawan peoples, against those receiving welfare benefits and the disabled. There are those who spread false rumors that these people are getting unfair financial aid.

The new hate speech law is what you might call a “principle law,” as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects “those originally from nations outside this country” who are “living legally in Japan.” As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, “It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable.” I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, “Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan.”

In fact, I have a lot of people struggling with discrimination come to my practice; people discriminated against because they are foreigners, because they are ill, because they are single mothers. Some are treated unfairly at work or in the areas where they live, are looked upon with frigid eyes that seem to say, “You are not like us,” all for some aspect of themselves that they cannot change.

What’s more, the reasons given for this prejudice are usually untrue. For example, the romantic partner of one of my patients didn’t want to get married “because depression is inherited.” This is simply not true, and in the end I had the couple come in together to explain things. When the session was done, the reluctant party was reluctant no more, leaving with a smile and promising to “explain this to my parents as well.” Arbitrary “those people are all so-and-so” labels are very often founded on basic errors of fact.

I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.

So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that’s impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It’s time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, “We will not tolerate discrimination.” (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)  ENDS

Japanese version

香山リカのココロの万華鏡
脱差別 日本も仲間入り /東京
毎日新聞2016年6月7日 地方版
東京都
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20160607/ddl/k13/070/107000c

いわゆるヘイトスピーチ対策法が施行された。

主に在日韓国・朝鮮人の方に対して差別的言動を大声で叫びながら集団で道路を歩くヘイトスピーチデモを最初に目にしたときは「まさかこれが現実とは」を目を疑った。さらにネットには、ほかの国の人たち、日本人であるアイヌ民族や沖縄の人たち、生活保護を受給していたり障害を持っていたりする人たちに対しても、平気で差別の言葉を投げかけたり「不当に手当をもらっている」といったデマを拡散したりする人たちがいる。

今回の法律は理念法と呼ばれ、実際にそれを破った人に罰則を与えるものではない。また、その対象が「本邦外出身者」「適法に日本に居住する人」となっているので、日本人で差別を受けている人や難民申請をしている人などは該当しないことになっている。ただ、法律とともに出された「付帯決議」には「定義以外のものであれば差別は許されるというのは誤り」とあり、国会が「日本では差別は許さない」と認めたと考えてよいだろう。

診察室にも差別で苦しむ人は大勢やって来る。外国人だから、病気を持っているから、シングルマザーだから。本人にはどうしようもないことで「あなたは私たちとは違う」と白い目で見られ、職場や地域で不利な扱いを受けることもある。

しかもたいていの場合、差別の理由として考えられていることは間違いだ。たとえば、「うつ病は遺伝するから」と結婚に反対された患者さんがいたが、婚約者にも来てもらってそれは誤りであることを丁寧に説明したら、「わかりました。両親にも説明します」と明るい顔でこたえてくれた。「あの人はこれこれだから」という決めつけのほとんどは、こういう単純な間違いに基づいている。

海外の研究で「ある会社で、同じ国籍、民族の人ばかりの部署より、多様な人々が集まった部署のほうが創造的なアイデアが多く出た」という論文を読んだことがある。いろいろな考え、立場の人たちと一生懸命コミュニケーションするほうが、最初からわかり合っている関係で仕事をするよりも、刺激が多く画期的な意見が出やすいというのだ。

自分と違う人と話そう。すぐには無理だとしても、なんとかわかり合おう。最初から毛ぎらいしたり差別して追い出したりするのは、もうやめよう。法律ができたことで、ようやく日本も「私たちは差別を許さない」と宣言する国の仲間入りができた。(精神科医)ENDS

//////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  While this article is well-intentioned, and says most of the things that ought to be said, the tone is pretty unsophisticated (especially if you read the Japanese version — the English version has been leveled-up somewhat).  I have always found it annoying how discussions of human rights in Japan generally drop down to the kindergarten level, where motherly homilies of “we’re all human beings”, “let’s just get along” and “talking to somebody different will solve everything” are so simplistic as to invite scoffing from bigots who simply won’t do that.

I know this comment sounds unkind towards an author who is trying to promote kindness, but this article is not much of a public policy statement for suggestion of enforcement.  And based upon this, I doubt that if the author had ever been part of a government shingikai on this issue that she would have come up with anything more than slogans, bon mots, patient anecdotes, and vague guidelines instead of actual legal and sociological arguments (strong enough to convince even the bigots) for why discrimination is a bad thing for a society and how it can be stopped.

For example, you simply cannot cite a (unknown) paper without more detail and expect it to stand without contrarians easily saying, “Well, that’s overseas, and we’re unique, special Japan, and that doesn’t apply here when foreigners aren’t real minorities or residents anyway.”  While I’m glad that Japan, through this non-punitive hate-speech law, now has a statement of intolerance towards intolerance, this essay doesn’t really build upon it.  Let’s not get all motherly in tone.  Let’s get serious and write about how people who express public hatred towards entire peoples should be publicly punished for it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Ivan Hall’s new book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!” A memoir of his USIS stationing in Afghanistan and East Pakistan. Now available as Amazon Kindle ebook.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Debito.org is proud to announce that longtime friend and colleague Dr. Ivan P. Hall, author of the landmark books “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan”, has just come out with his latest book.

Exclusively for now on Amazon Kindle is “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!: Afghanistan: Then a Land Still at Peace. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh): There, an Island of Toleration, 1958-1961“. It is his long-awaited memoir of being stationed as a young man with the USIS as a cultural attache.

Cover

Book summary:

Being the Wry Eye Witness Chronicle of Rookie American Cultural Diplomat Ivan P. Hall.

As a fragile peace in Afghanistan breaks down once again in 2016, and as machete murders in broad daylight of progressive intellectuals by radical zealots erode the rare heritage of religious toleration in secularist Bangladesh, Ivan Hall with grace and wry wit brings back to life for us today – in a chronicle penned then and there – the now totally counterintuitive “Happier Islams” he experienced as a young cultural officer with the U.S. Information Service, sent out in 1958-1961 to promote America’s good name in Muslim South Asia.

In Kabul a half century ago Islam though forbiddingly traditional was still politically quiescent. In Dacca, East Pakistan (today’s Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh) a less rigid type of Islam had long accommodated its large Hindu minority. And a “Happier US,” too, as American diplomats worked in lightly guarded embassies, personal safety taken for granted, enjoying an individual and political popularity unthinkable throughout the Muslim world today.

Rare as a memoir by an active embassy officer (rather than scholar or journalist) about a still dictator-run Afghanistan totally at peace in the late 1950s, Hall’s story also offers a unique glimpse into Dacca’s lively America-savvy intelligentsia as of 1960. Illustrated by 200 color photos taken at the time, and updated with geopolitical backgrounders for his two posts then and now, Hall’s narrative also casts a critical eye on the bent of his USIS employer at the height of the Cold War for short-term political advocacy at the expense of long-term cultural ties. By way of contrast his prologue and epilogue limn the heartwarming American genius for private sector “cultural diplomacy he witnessed or took part in during his years “before and after,” in Europe and Japan.

Crawling onto the Great Buddha’s head at Bamian. Mounting the first modern art exhibition in Afghanistan. Picnicking on mountain meadows later pummeled by Soviet gunships. Capturing on camera those remote mood-laden landscapes, those stunning Afghan juxtapositions of verdant and austere. Directing Broadway hits with young Pakistani actors destined to become Foreign Secretaries and top ambassadors of Bangladesh. Flying lessons with the Pakistan Air Force. Living it up in Calcutta. The nagging moral conundrum of that extraordinary artistic sensibility throughout Bengal cheek-by-jowl with material poverty and physical pain never seen before or after on such a vast and poignant scale. Rousing welcomes for his talks on Faulkner or the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign at Muslim Libraries and Assembly Halls. A heady and nostalgic anecdotal romp through worlds long since lost.

Ivan’s Bio reads as follows:

Ivan P. Hall’s passion for straddling cultural gaps dates from his birth on the Protestant campus of the American College of Sofia in Orthodox Bulgaria in 1932. Following his Princeton B.A. in European History in 1954, he served with the U.S. Army as a German language interpreter in military intelligence in Bavaria and as a ‘cellist with the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, took an M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and was stationed with the U.S. Information Service in 1958-1961 as a rookie cultural officer in Afghanistan and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh), including a heady stint at 27 as acting U.S. Cultural Attaché in Kabul.

Turning then to East Asia with a Ph.D. from Harvard in Japanese History, Hall went on to author three books on Japan’s always fascinating if ambivalent intellectual ties with the outside world including a biography of the controversial Meiji westernizer Mori Arinori (1973); Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop, chosen by Business Week as one of its Ten Best Business Books of 1997; and Bamboozled! – How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan and its Implications for Our Future in Asia (2002).

Hall has taught courses in English and Japanese on Modern Japan, Japanese Intellectual History, American Intellectual History, Political Ideology, and International Cultural Relations as a professor at The Gakushuin and visiting professor at Keio and Tsukuba Universities in Japan and as a lecturer at Tokyo University, Yonsei and Renmin Universities in Seoul and Beijing, and the Harvard Summer School. From 1977-1984 he was the Tokyo-based Associate Executive Director of the federally funded Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission for scholarly and artistic exchanges between those two countries. He now makes his home in Thailand.

I urge anyone who is interested in either Ivan’s view of the world, or how the world was quite a different place vis-a-vis the Cold War’s relationship with Islam a mere half-century ago, to download and read “Happier Islams” on Amazon Kindle.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Telegraph: Tourists in Japan to use fingerprints as ‘currency’ instead of cash; another case of Gaijin as Guinea Pig

mytest

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Hi Blog. First the article, then some commentary:

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Tourists in Japan to use fingerprints as ‘currency’ instead of cash
The system aims to make shopping and checking into hotels more convenient for overseas visitors
The Telegraph, by Danielle Demetriou, Tokyo 11 APRIL 2016 • 9:20AM Courtesy of JK and BB
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/11/tourists-in-japan-to-use-fingerprints-as-currency/

Visitors to Japan may soon be able to forget the hassle of having to change money – with the launch of a new system enabling fingerprints to be used as currency.

The system, which will launch this summer, aims to make shopping and checking into hotels faster and more convenient for overseas visitors, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

It will involve foreign visitors first registering their details, including fingerprints and credit card information, in airports or other convenient public locations.

The new system will also enable the government to analyse the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists.

Registered tourists will then be able to buy products, with taxes automatically deducted, from select stores by placing two fingers on a small fingerprint-reading device.

The fingerprint system will also be used as a speedy substitute for presenting passports when checking into hotels, which is currently a legal obligation for overseas tourists, according to reports.

In its first test phase, the project will involve 300 souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other establishments frequented by tourists in popular destinations including the mountainous hot spring resort area Hakone and the coastal town Kamakura.

The fingerprint experiment is part of a wider effort by the Japanese government to encourage visitors from overseas to visit the capital in the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Officials are hoping to launch the system throughout the country – including Tokyo – by 2020, with as many as 40 million overseas annual visitors expected by that year.

The new system will also enable the government to analyse the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists, with anonymous data to be managed by a government-led consultative body.

The data obtained from the project will be used to help government officials create effective tourism management policies, according to Yomiuri.

One concern among officials, however, is that some tourists may be reluctant to provide fingerprint information voluntarily due to fears relating to privacy issues.

Fingerprint as payment

Biometrics – using your body to as an alternative to passwords – are on the rise. In February, Mastercard confirmed it would accept selfies and fingerprints instead of account passwords in the UK.

Several mobile wallets already use fingerprints as a way to authenticate payment. Registering debit or credit cards to an Apple Pay-compatible iPhone allows users to make payments or transactions by pressing a thumb or finger to the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the home button to verify their identity.

Customers can also use it to travel around London’s TfL networks.

Samsung Pay and Android Pay have also started to let consumers pay for things using the fingerprint scanner.

How secure are fingerprints?

In the case of mobile payments, the smartphone maker, such as Apple, does not store your card numbers on the device you’re using for Apple Pay, nor on their servers. Instead, when a card is added, a unique Device Account Number is created and encrypted. This number is stored in a chip within your device called the secure Element.

When you go to make a transaction, the Device Account Number is matched with a dynamic security code unique to that specific payment, which is then processed.

If your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch is lost or stolen, you can suspend Apple Pay remotely or wipe it fully using Find My iPhone.

Fingerprints, like any other security measure, can be spoofed. In fact, researchers have claimed they have hacked a Samsung Galaxy S6 and a Huawei Honor 7 phone by taking a photo of someone’s finger and printing it out with special ink. The other problem is you have only 10 fingerprints – and they can never be changed. [Really? — Ed.]

However it is still considerably more difficult to steal and reproduce a fingerprint than to brute-force guess a password or a pin. Perhaps the most secure approach is to have a two-step authentication system that includes both a password and a fingerprint.

ENDS

////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  This article seems a bit too much in thrall to the possibilities of the new technology to pay sufficient attention to the possible abuses of fingerprinting (and no attention to the history of fingerprinting in Japan in particular).  Culturally speaking, fingerprinting in Japan is associated with criminal activity, which is why so many Japanese (and let alone other NJ and Zainichi Korean minorities) are reluctant to have their fingerprints taken (let alone be forced to carry ID) and stored in a leaky government database.  That’s why once again, the Gaijin as Guinea Pig phenomenon is kicking in — where it’s the powerless people in a society who are having government designs for social control being foisted upon them first, before it gets suggested as policy for the rest of the population.

The point is that Japan has long been trying to find ways to track their Gaijin population best (and has managed it with new remotely-trackable RFID-chipped Gaijin Cards).  It is merely expanding upon their reinstitution of border fingerprinting for foreigners only in 2007 that was once seen as a “violation of human rights” barely ten years earlier.  They’ve got all these Gaijin fingerprints from the border.  Why not use them and not only track their whereabouts but also what they do with their money and time?  Once there is enough data for the government to claim, “It’s convenient.  It’s precedented.  It’s safely stored.  And it’s going to make us No. 1 again in something technological,” then watch as public policy switches to suggest it for everyone else in Japan.  Japan’s control-freak bureaucracy will settle for nothing less than as much information and control over its people as possible.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

==============

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GOJ busybodies hard at work alienating: Shinjuku Foreign Residents Manual assumes NJ criminal tendencies; Kyoto public notices “cultivate foreign tourist manners”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Despite all the campaigns to increase foreign tourism and “prepare” Japanese society for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, sometimes Debito.org feels like suggesting people just avoid Japan’s sweaty-headed public-servant busybodies, who spend our tax monies to further alienate NJ residents and tourists from the rest of Japanese society. Check these out:

///////////////////////////////////

March 17, 2016
From: “Concerned Long-Time NJ Resident”
Dear Dr. Arudou,

Here is the full “Shinjuku Foreign Residents” guide available online.

In English: http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/about/pdf/poster-leafret/frm-english.pdf

In case it disappears: ShinjukuForeignResidentManual2016

In Japanese (which was not available at the kuyakusho office, only foreign language versions were there): http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/about/pdf/poster-leafret/frm-japanese.pdf

In case it disappears:ShinjukuForeignResidentManualJ2016

Some screen captures follow.  Here is the cover and back cover:

ShinjukuForeignResidentManual20161

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Note how this is a guide designed to “avoid getting caught up in criminal activity” (yes, hanzai in the original Japanese).  Yet look at the first four pages within.  Find the crimes:

ShinjukuForeignResidents20162

Right.  That age-old canard about foreign residents being mentally incapable of throwing away their garbage correctly.  I can think of plenty of Japanese I’ve seen having the same trouble, only without being accused of “criminal” activity.  And it’s not a crime anyway.  Nor are these activities:

ShinjukuForeignResidents20163

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I’m quite sure the police will respond.  But not because they received a complaint about the Japanese in my neighborhood I’ve experienced that hoard, are untidy, or are noisy at inopportune times.  Rather, police will respond because they got tipped off by some busybody claiming a foreigner was “suspicious” (grounds for arrest in Japan if you’re suspicious while foreign-looking), which is something this manual can’t caution against.

And how about this one:

ShinjukuForeignResidents20164

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Crikey.  This manual should be distributed to Japanese!  Flagrant rule-breakers on a regular basis there! But Japanese, not foreigners, aren’t assumed to be criminal, because Japan, runs the narrative, is a peaceful, safe, law-abiding society, whereas foreign countries, and their foreigners, by definition, are not, because we Japanese are different and unique and… oh, you get the idea.

Anyway, here’s what submitter “Concerned Long-Time NJ Resident” had to say about this manual:

======================================

This guide still has me angry that this sort of view of “foreigners” is still persisting—maybe even growing—as the Olympics approach; worse, it is being promoted by a government agency. I have been stopped by the Japanese police many times (for no reason other than being “foreign-looking”) and treated like a criminal when I simply pass through the train station, and I’ve seen similar treatment at the station of other “foreigners.” So after those experiences, pamphlets like this that further the view of non-Japanese in Japan as criminal-prone imbeciles really rub me the wrong way. There are plenty of guides for residents of Japan that do NOT take this approach with non-Japanese residents when explaining laws and helpful services that have been translated to other languages.

I have already called and complained to the organization that put this guide out and the kuyakusho office as well. Thank you for giving a voice against such issues when so few in Japan even speak up for the rights of non-Japanese residents (and Japanese too) in Japan. It is greatly appreciated. As for credit, just leave out my name and say it was from “a concerned long-time non-Japanese resident” of Japan. I’m most concerned about the issue rather than any credit, plus I don’t need to be harassed by any rightwing nuts.

======================================

Meanwhile, it’s not just Shinjuku.  The Yomiuri reports on NJ-targeting busybodies elsewhere:

======================================

From:  JK
Date:  May 12, 2016
Hi Debito: This was a new one for me:

Picture signboards to cultivate manners of foreign tourists
The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2016
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002901542

TokyoMannersSign2016

A signboard set up until early April on a path along the Chidorigafuchi moat in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

With breaches of etiquette by foreign tourists becoming a problem in tourist spots nationwide, local communities are using signboards featuring illustrations, pictograms and manga to inform visitors of how best to behave.

These moves are aimed at helping foreign tourists understand Japanese etiquette and rules, in order to prevent such trouble, but some are concerned that the signs could spoil the scenery at tourist spots.

In three locations that are good for viewing cherry blossoms in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, including the Chidorigafuchi moat, signboards were set up this spring for the first time, urging visitors not to break cherry tree branches. Explanations were written in English, Chinese and Korean with a pictogram of a hand trying to hold a tree branch and a line through it.

According to the Chiyoda City Tourism Association, which set up the signboards, it had received complaints from a large number of nearby local residents and Japanese tourists that foreign tourists were breaking the branches of cherry trees. To inform them in an easy-to-understand way that this is a breach of local mores, the association decided to include the illustration on the warning signboards.

Some signboards explain etiquette using manga. Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, set them up in February in a parking area for large buses near the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.

Sets of four-frame cartoons warn visitors not to enter the premises to take memorial photos and explain how to use Japanese-style toilets. About 2,000 tourists arrive daily at the parking area. Many of them are with group tours from Asian countries, Europe and the United States.

An official of the ward office expects the signboards to be effective, saying, “We hope visitors will understand the proper etiquette while they’re in the parking area and then go on to enjoy their visit.”

In 2015, the number of foreign tourists to Japan hit a record high of 19.73 million.
The Cabinet Office conducted a survey of 3,000 Japanese nationals nationwide in August last year about the situation involving foreign tourists.

With multiple answers allowed regarding things people are worried about as the number of foreign tourists increases, 26 percent of respondents cited growing trouble due to differences in etiquette, cultures and customs. This figure was the second highest after the 30 percent who mentioned security issues.

Match signs to surroundings

Signboards were set up to avoid such trouble, but the signs themselves have also caused concern.

Kyoto’s Gion district is lined by many ochaya tea houses and ryotei Japanese restaurants, and Gionmachi Minamigawa Chiku Kyogikai, an association of local residents in the southern part of the Gion district, set up wooden signboards about two meters tall at four locations there in December last year.

KyotoMannersSignboard2016

Pictograms and X marks are used instead of letters. They warn against six kinds of prohibited actions, including pulling on the kimono sleeves of maiko and leaning against or sitting on fences.

However, the district is designated by the Kyoto city government as a zone for the maintenance and improvement of historical scenic beauty.

A senior member of the local association said, “We didn’t want to set up the signboards because they impair the scenic beauty, but we could not overlook the breaches of etiquette.”

Seiko Ikeda, a specially assigned professor at St. Agnes’ University, who is studying relations between scenic beauty and signboards in tourist spots, said, “Although I understand the feelings of local residents, I feel uncomfortable about such signboards.”

She added: “Also, in the context of hospitality for foreign tourists, more comprehensive consideration is necessary. For example, such signboards should not bear pictures or designs with aggressive images, and they should harmonize with the surrounding scenery.”

Nobuko Akashi, president of the Japan Manner and Protocol Association, a nonprofit organization that recommends other measures than signboards, said, “Steady efforts are essential, such as thoroughly notifying visitors about etiquette and rules before they come to Japan via information websites for overseas.”

ENDS

============================================

SUBMITTER JK COMMENTS: All these foreigners keep causing meiwaku because they don’t have proper manners or etiquette,  so while we didn’t want to spoil the view, we couldn’t gaman anymore and put up signboards telling them what not to do. Perhaps if we nix the pictures and blend the signboards into the surrounding scenery, the view wouldn’t be so spoilt.

My problem with “helping foreign tourists understand Japanese etiquette and rules” is two-fold.

First, it knows no bounds (e.g. Don’t break the branches, and while you’re at it, don’t pull on the kimono sleeves of maiko or lean against or sit on fences).

Second, it’s decidedly one-sided mindset (e.g. Do the local residents understand why the cherry tree branches are being broken? Is it unintentional or unintentional? Do foreign tourists dislike cherry tree branches?).  Regards, JK

============================================

CONCLUDING WORD FROM DEBITO:  I understand full well the need for cautioning people when tourists, or anyone, are disrespectful towards local sights and environments.  But creating reactionary media that stigmatizes foreigners as if they are natural-born criminals or incorrigible rule-breakers (i.e., naturally unable to follow rules because they are foreigners) is equally disrespectful.  Care must be taken and tact used to avoid belittling guests, not to mention alienating NJ residents, and busybodies who get paranoid about any strangers darkening their doorsteps must not have free rein to overthink countermeasures (for it soon becomes an invitation to xenophobia).

How about the government or these self-appointed local “manner and protocol associations” quietly advising tour agencies to rein in their patrons, and make the rules clear, as Japanese tour agencies do for Japanese abroad?  It worked in the Otaru Onsens Case.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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My latest Japan Times column JBC 97: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments” (May 2, 2016)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest column, which is a departure from my usual writing.  Enjoy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments
BY DEBITO ARUDOU, THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 1, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/05/01/issues/enjoy-life-japan-moments/

After more than 30 years of studying Japan, I’ve learned to appreciate one thing people here do well: living in the moment.

By that I mean there seems to be a common understanding that moments are temporary and bounded — that the feelings one has now may never happen again, so they should be enjoyed to the fullest right here, right now, without regard to the future.

I can think of several examples. Consider the stereotypical honeymooning couple in Hawaii. They famously capture every moment in photographs — from humdrum hotel rooms to food on the plate. They even camcord as much as they can to miss as few moments as possible.

Why? Safekeeping. For who knows when said couple will ever get back to Hawaii (or, for that matter, be allowed to have an extended vacation anywhere, including Japan)? Soon they’ll have kids, demanding jobs, meticulous budgets, and busywork until retirement. No chance in the foreseeable future to enjoy moments like these.

So they frame a beachside photo atop the TV, preserve a keepsake in a drawer, store a dress or aloha shirt far too colorful to ever wear in public — anything to take them back to that precious time and place in their mind’s eye. (Emperor Hirohito reputedly treasured his Paris Metro ticket as a lifetime memento, and was buried with his Disneyland souvenir Mickey Mouse watch.)

Another example: extramarital love affairs. Sleeping around is practically a national sport in Japan (hence the elaborate love hotel industry), and for a good reason: the wonderful moments lovers can surreptitiously capture. It’s a vacation from real life. For chances are their tryst is temporary; it fills a void. But how pleasant their time is in their secret world! […]

Read the rest at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/05/01/issues/enjoy-life-japan-moments/

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Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s an article talking about policy shift towards Japan’s immigration policy in all but name.  It’s still something in the pipeline with policy trial balloons (and the obligatory caution about how foreigners pose a “public safety” risk), so Debito.org is not heralding any sea changes.  Plus the reporters severely undermine the credibility of their article by citing their hairdresser as a source!  Ignore that bad science and let’s focus upon the current debate in stasis.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo
By Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki
Reuters, April 25, 2016, Courtesy of MS
https://www.yahoo.com/news/japan-eyes-more-foreign-workers-stealthily-challenging-immigration-032238719–business.html?nhp=1

TOKYO (Reuters) – Desperately seeking an antidote to a rapidly aging population, Japanese policymakers are exploring ways to bring in more foreign workers without calling it an “immigration policy”.

Immigration is a touchy subject in a land where conservatives prize cultural homogeneity and politicians fear losing votes from workers worried about losing jobs.

But a tight labor market and ever-shrinking work force are making Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy team and lawmakers consider the politically controversial option.

Signaling the shift, leading members of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) panel on Tuesday proposed expanding the types of jobs open to foreign workers, and double their numbers from current levels of close to 1 million.

“Domestically, there is a big allergy. As a politician, one must be aware of that,” Takeshi Noda, an adviser to the LDP panel, told Reuters in an interview.

Unlike the United States, where Donald Trump has made immigration an election issue, Japan has little history of immigration. But, that makes ethnic and cultural diversity seem more of a threat in Japan than it may seem elsewhere.

And while Japan is not caught up in the mass migration crisis afflicting Europe, the controversies in other regions do color the way Japanese think about immigration.

LDP lawmakers floated immigration proposals almost a decade ago, but those came to naught. Since then, however, labor shortages have worsened and demographic forecasts have become more dire.

BY ANY OTHER NAME

An economic uptick since Abe took office in December 2012, rebuilding after the 2011 tsunami and a construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have pushed labor demand to its highest in 24 years.

That has helped boost foreign worker numbers by 40 percent since 2013, with Chinese accounting for more than one-third followed by Vietnamese, Filipinos and Brazilians.

But visa conditions largely barring unskilled workers mean foreigners still make up only about 1.4 percent of the workforce, compared with the 5 percent or more found – according to IMF estimates – in most advanced economies.

So far, measures to attract more foreign workers have focused on easing entry for highly skilled professionals and expanding a “trainee” system that was designed to share technology with developing countries, but which critics say has become a backdoor source of cheap labor.

This time, the LDP panel leaders’ proposal went further, suggesting foreigners be accepted in other sectors facing shortages, such as nursing and farming – initially for five years with visa renewal possible.

They also proposed creating a framework whereby the number of foreign workers would be doubled from around 908,000 currently, and the term “unskilled labor” would be abandoned.

In a sign of the sensitivies, however – especially ahead of a July upper house election – panel chief Yoshio Kimura stressed the proposal should not be misconstrued as an “immigration policy” and said steps were needed to offset any negative impact on jobs and public safety.

After a heated debate in which one lawmaker said the plan would “leave Japan in tatters”, members agreed to let the panel organizers decide whether to make any revisions to the proposal.

Experts, however, say changes are afoot regardless of the semantics.

“The government insists it is not adopting an immigration policy, but whatever the word, faced with a shrinking population, it is changing its former stance and has begun to move toward a real immigration policy,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, a former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief.

Two cabinet members have already advocated adopting an immigration policy, as have some LDP panel members.

“The fundamental problem of the Japanese economy is that the potential growth rate is low,” LDP panel adviser Seiichiro Murakami told Reuters. “To raise that, big structural reforms including … immigration policy are necessary.”

The influential Nikkei Business weekly has dubbed a foreign worker-driven growth strategy “imin-omics”, a pun on the premier’s “Abenomics” revival plan and “imin”, the Japanese word for “immigrants”.

Abe, however, has made drawing more women and elderly into the work force while boosting the birth rate priorities, and publicly the government rules out any “immigration policy”.

Still, Abe’s right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said debate on more foreign workers lay ahead.

“We are seeking to mobilize the power of women and the elderly as much as possible, but at the same time we recognize that the acceptance of foreigners is a major issue,” Suga told Reuters.

He said the future debate would also consider the longer term issue of permanent residence for less skilled foreigners, but added caution was needed.

Conservatives are likely to resist major change.

For example, an ex-labor minister commenting at the LDP panel earlier on a proposal to let in foreign beauticians said the idea was fine, as long as their customers were foreign, too.

But hairdresser Mitsuo Igarashi, who has four barber chairs in his downtown Tokyo barbershop but only himself to clip and shave, wants to hire other barbers and doesn’t care where they come from. “We’ve got to let in more foreigners,” said Igarashi.
ENDS

=====================================

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Economist: United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of Imperial female succession, drops issue as a “distraction” from report

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Off on a tangent this time, as Debito.org is not in the habit of talking about the Japanese Imperial System (unless it has an impact on how NJ are treated in Japan, such as here or here).  But this time, check this article out from The Economist.  I will tie it into Debito.org’s themes in commentary below.

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan’s male-only emperor system
Imperial lather
The United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of empresses
Mar 19th 2016 | TOKYO | From the print edition, courtesy of the author
http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21695073-united-nations-fails-stick-up-rights-empresses-imperial-lather

THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too.

It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed.

Polls suggest that most Japanese would welcome a female monarch. A decade ago a looming succession crisis triggered a robust discussion, led by Junichiro Koizumi, then prime minister and Mr Abe’s political mentor, on whether to allow a woman to ascend the throne. But the birth of Hisahito, a boy prince, ended the debate. A draft law was quietly shelved.

Mr Abe does not share Mr Koizumi’s iconoclasm. An arch-traditionalist, he wants the male-only system preserved to protect the imperial bloodline. But in other ways he has been an unlikely champion of diversity since he came to power (for the second time) in 2012. He has cajoled Japanese firms into promoting more women and urged them to make it easier for them to come back to work after having children.

There is a long way to go. Japan is bottom of the rich world in most rankings of sexual equality. For the past month Mr Abe has struggled with the political fallout from a much-read blog post by a working mother angry at a chronic shortage of day-care places. Still, Mr Abe’s efforts appear to be getting somewhere. From April big companies will have to declare their plans for promoting women. The hope is that this will shame firms that overlook female talent. As for the proportion of board members who are women, it has inched up by a percentage point in the past year—to 2.7%.

The UN committee notes this progress but laments foot-dragging on other issues. Japanese women are still meant to need spousal consent for abortions, it says, even in cases of rape. Divorced women must wait months before remarrying thanks to an archaic rule designed to remove uncertainty over the paternity of unborn children. For most Japanese women, the question of whether or not some future princess can become empress is hardly pressing. But Yoko Shida, a constitutional scholar, says it matters nonetheless. It is, she says, a symbol of discrimination.

ENDS
============================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  What’s interesting here is not that Japan protested outside comment about their emperor system (that happens with some frequency), but that the United Nations took it seriously enough to drop the issue.  Pretty remarkable that the UN, which faces criticism for many of its human-rights stances, would be cowed by this. It only encourages Japan’s rabid right to become more reactionary in regards to international criticism — because oversight bodies will possibly retreat if the Abe Admin kicks up a fuss.

When I asked the author a bit more about the reasoning of the UN committee members, he said that nobody on the committee would discuss it with him.  He said he was told that it became a distraction from the report, so they dropped it. Supposedly they felt this was an issue for Japan, not the UN.

Wow, that’s awfully generous. I can imagine numerous countries making the same argument — this contentious point is merely a “distraction” so drop it. Once again, Japan gets geopolitically kid-gloved.  What’s next:  Japan protests UN criticism of its “Japanese Only” practices as “totally inappropriate”?  Actually, Japan essentially has (see also book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 8), but not to the point of the UN withdrawing its criticism.  Yet.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

===================================
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Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let’s revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post:

Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: ironies of different Japanese and English versions (Debito.org, July 16, 2012).

Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not).  It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it.  But not everyone, as Roger exposes below.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

DISCLAIMER appended March 12, 2016 JST:  Debito.org has given this issue space because 1) one of our missions is to provide a voice to underrepresented views, 2) we have reported in the past that having two different versions of the Fukushima Report based on language was odd, and 3) Roger has made his claims under his name and is thus taking responsibility for the contents.  The reportage culture of the FCCJ is also coming under scrutiny in this post, and as a former member of the FCCJ myself I have been a target of bullying and censorship, so it is possible there may be a “there” there in this case.  That said, the views below are Roger’s, and not necessarily those of Debito.org as a whole.  Moreover, again, Roger has put his name to his views to take responsibility, and those who do not comment under their actual names will not have their comments approved IF they direct their criticisms at people by name.  Thus commenters’ names and their claims will be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the names they mention.  (That means in the comments section, “War Dog” has had his posts edited or deleted for engaging in personal attacks.)

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
March 8, 2016
Dear Debito,

I don’t think we’ve met, but I am aware of who you are because I authorized an invitation for you to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan between 2000 and 2005.

I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn’s former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report.

More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa’s introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course.

I pitched my article to the press club’s Board of Directors. No response. So now I’m doing it the old-fashioned way – contacting everyone who erroneously reported individually.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.

Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.

It was an invention.

Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.”

In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture.

It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).

I have reported this matter to the Board of Directors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan because the consultant, a former speechwriter for Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, was working as publisher and editor of the club’s magazine at the time of the news conference; in fact, on the day of the news conference.

It may be true that Japanese culture is to blame for the Fukushima disaster. But it isn’t what the commission concluded and submitted formally (in Japanese) to the Diet on July 5, 2012.

Attached are records showing the commission’s hiring and financial relationship with the consultant (click on links to pdf files):
1. Attachments for report

2. Kurokawa statements in Fukushima commission report

3. media outlets fukushima

4. Attachment 1..

I have downplayed the FCCJ’s involvement because it is my hope that the club’s Board of Directors will address this matter in an open and transparent way. Unfortunately, the current BOD is under attack because they settled three litigations last December (two by staff and one by members) over the firing of 50 employees.

I proposed an article to the club’s magazine in August 2013 in which I summarized evidence that had been submitted to the courts. I was refused. But had the magazine published my article, there is a good chance that the lawsuits could have been settled then, saving the club nearly ¥25 million in legal fees. That’s nearly $200,000.

This time again, I have asked for space in the magazine. No response.

If you read the club’s notice, you won’t find a single reference to the fact that Kurokawa hired a club fiduciary to help alter an official, taxpayer-funded report. Or that there was controversy over the translation.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/events-calendar/press-events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/03/10/3955/-/press-conference-kiyoshi-kurokawa-author-of-capture-of-regulatory.html

Mure Dickie of the Financial Times is the only reporter who reported the translation discrepancies on the day of the FCCJ news conference: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/94fba34a-c8ee-11e1-a768-00144feabdc0.html

Dickie, of course, didn’t know that these weren’t ‘translation’ mistakes.

It is not uncommon for newsmakers to hire PR consultants to help with their messaging. What is uncommon – and almost without precedent – is for the consultant to be an editor of a publication that has an interest in the news event in question – and that publishes a report about that event.

As you are aware, Asahi Shimbun took a brutal beating for altering the testimony of the late Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager.

How is this different?

Kurokawa signed off on the rewrite; it wasn’t a translation. But the commission didn’t approve. I contacted the commission two weeks after the news conference. They said: “Refer to the Japanese, the official.”

The club’s magazine was founded by two AP legends – Max Desfor (pictured on the lobby wall with his Pulitzer Prize winning Korean War photograph) and John Roderick (pictured with Mao Zedong).

I shudder to think of what they would say if they knew that the magazine was now in the hands of a PR specialist and a one-time tabloid magazine editor who, by extension, now decide what constitutes ‘news’.

For your reference: I am a 30-year veteran journalist, have never worked for a major news organization though did plenty of freelance work. I also served as FCCJ president (once), vice president (twice) and BOD director (twice). I chaired the club’s speaker program for five years and signed off on 800 press luncheons including the last sitting Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, on Sept. 14, 2001.

Sincerely, Roger Schreffler, Providence RI & Tokyo

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

FCCJ Writeup on Kurokawa Kiyoshi Presser on March 10, 2016:

Thursday, March 10, 2016, 12:00 – 13:00

5th Anniversary Series for 3.11 Disaster 

FCCJKurokawaKiyoshi031016
Kiyoshi Kurokawa
Author of “Regulatory Capture”
Language: The speech and Q & A will be in English.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/events-calendar/press-events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/03/10/3955/-/press-conference-kiyoshi-kurokawa-author-of-capture-of-regulatory.html

 Five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is in the process of restarting more reactors and has made some progress in the cleanup and decommissioning of the wrecked plant. Meanwhile, there are still some 100,000 evacuees from around the Fukushima site.

 A new independent nuclear watchdog has also been set up along with new regulations prompted by Fukushima. But the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is under pressure from politicians and utilities to process restart applications more quickly and to be less strict on seismic issues and other matters. Equally important are the questions as to what lessons plant operators have learned from the unprecedented triple meltdown. Recent problems with restarts and disclosure by the utilities, among other issues, aren’t reassuring.

 At this critical juncture, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the former chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, will come to the Club to talk about his new book “Regulatory Capture,” and answer questions about what has happened since the Fukushima accident. In the introduction to his 2012 Diet report, Kurokawa was scathing in his criticism of regulators and utilities, saying, “It was a profoundly man‐made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

 In his new book, in addition to describing the set up of the commission and its investigation of the Fukushima accident, he talks about Japan not learning the necessary lessons from it and applying them to prevent accidents in the future.”

 “If there are major accidents or problems in areas other than nuclear power, Japan will make the same mistakes again, become isolated and lose the trust of the international community. The Fukushima nuclear accident is not over yet. Japan must seize the opportunity to change itself, or else its future will be in danger,” he says.

 Dr. Kurokawa, MD and MACP, is an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, chairman of the Health and Global Policy Institute, chairman of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or on the website (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.

Professional Activities Committee

ENDS

===============================================

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER: 

Debito,

As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurokawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world.

Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, available on the FCCJ website for members only.  Here’s an audio file of the question (an excerpt from minute 34 on the recording, for 3:26, in WMA format. Kurokawa press conference and .mp3 format:

where he now blames other factors on the outcome, such as a lack of time, him summarizing his own personal opinion for the report, and the lack of concision in the Japanese language.] 

Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.

Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?

The Associated Press followed up with a question about the translation team. Kurokawa mentioned an acquaintance of his, Sakon Uda, who was ‘managing director’ of the project and currently works for Keniichi Ohmae at Ohmae’s graduate school of business.

I don’t know if the AP will follow up. But the AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012.

The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.

Following is the translation of the official Japanese introduction. Kurokawa talks about ‘mindset’ (思いこみ and マインドセット) but not ‘culture’.

Best, Roger Schreffler

======================================

Preface of Kurokawa Kiyoshi’s Statements (from the full text)

THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT IS NOT OVER.

This large-scale accident will forever remain part of the world’s history of nuclear power. The world was astounded at the fact that such an accident could occur in Japan, a scientifically and technologically advanced country. Caught in the focus of the world’s attention, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) revealed, in their response to the disaster, some fundamental problems underlying Japanese society.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was the third nuclear power plant to start commercial operation in Japan. Japan began to study the commercial use of nuclear power in the 1950s. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, nuclear power generation became part of Japan’s national policy, unifying the political, bureaucratic, and business circles into one entity promoting its use.

Nuclear power is not only the most incredibly powerful energy ever acquired by the human race, but a colossally complicated system that requires extremely-high levels of expertise as well as operational and management competence. Advanced countries have learned lessons through experience and from many tragic events, including the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. Authorities in charge of the world’s nuclear power have maintained a basic stance of protecting people and the environment from all sorts of accidents and disasters, while nuclear operators have evolved in sustaining and enhancing the safety of equipment and operations.

Japan has itself dealt with a number of nuclear power plant accidents, small and large. Most of these were responded to, but without sufficient transparency; sometimes they were concealed by the organizations concerned. The government, together with TEPCO, the largest of the country’s ten utilities, promoted nuclear power by advocating its use as a safe energy source, while maintaining that accidents could not occur in Japan.

Consequently, the Japanese nuclear power plants were to face the March 11 earthquake totally unprepared.

Why did this accident, which should have been foreseeable, actually occur? The answer to this question dates to the time of Japan’s high economic growth. As Japan pushed nuclear power generation as national policy with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination, an intricate form of “Regulatory Capture” was created.

The factors that contributed to this include: the political dominance by a single party for nearly half a century; the distinct organizational structure of both the bureaucratic and business sectors, characterized by the hiring of new university graduates as a group; the seniority-based promotion system; the lifetime employment system; and the “mindset” of the Japanese people that took these for granted. As the economy developed, Japan’s “self- confidence” started to develop into “arrogance and conceit.”

The “single-track elites”—who make their way to the top of their organization according to the year of their entry into the company or the ministry—pursued the critical mission of abiding by precedent and defending the interests of their organization. They assigned a higher priority to this mission over that of protecting the lives of the people. Hence, while being aware of the global trends in safety control, Japan buried its head in the sand and put off implementing necessary safety measures.

We do not question the exceptional challenge entailed in the response to the vast scale of the disaster created by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident on March 11, 2012. Furthermore, we understand that the accident occurred a mere eighteen months after the historical change in power, the birth of a new (non-Liberal Democratic Party) government for the first time in some fifty years.

Were the government, regulators and the operator prepared to respond to a severe nuclear accident? Did they truly understand the weight of responsibility they bore in their respective positions? And were they fully committed to fulfill those responsibilities? To the contrary, they showed questionable risk management capabilities by repeatedly saying that circumstances were “beyond assumptions” and “not confirmed yet.” This attitude actually exacerbated the damage that eventually impacted not only Japan, but the world at large. Undeniably, this accident was a “manmade disaster” that stemmed from the lack of a sense of responsibility in protecting the lives of the people and the society by present and past government administrations, regulators and TEPCO.

Nine months after this massive accident, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission was established by a unanimous resolution of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors of the National Diet, which represent the people of Japan. It is the first investigation commission in Japan’s history of constitutional government, and is independent both from the government and from the operator, as set up under the National Diet of Japan.

To investigate what was at the center of this accident, we could not but touch upon the root of the problems of the former regulators and their relationship structure with the operators. The Commission chose three keywords as the bases of our investigative activities: the people, the future and the world. We defined our mission with phrases such as “conducting an investigation on the accident by the people for the people,” and “to submit recommendations for the future based on the lessons learned from the mistakes,” and “to investigate from the standpoint of Japan’s status as a member of international society (Japan’s responsibility to the world.)” This report is the fruit of six months of investigative activities carried through with a few constraints.

About a century ago, Kanichi Aasakawa, a great historian born and raised in Fukushima, blew the whistle in a book titled Nihon no kaki (“Crisis for Japan”). It was a wake-up call concerning the state model of Japan after the victory in the Japanese-Russo War. In his book, he accurately predicted the path that Japan, with its “inability to change,” would take after the war’s end.

How now will Japan deal with the aftermath of this catastrophe, which occurred as a result of Japan’s “inability to change”? And how will the country, in fact, change subsequently? The world is closely watching Japan, and we, the Japanese people, must not throw this experience away. It is an opportunity, in turn, to drastically reform the government that failed to protect the livelihood of its people, the nuclear organizations, the social structure, and the “mindset” of the Japanese—thereby regaining confidence in the country. We hope this report serves as the first step for all Japanese to evaluate and transform ourselves in terms of the state model that Japan should pursue.

Last but not least, I strongly hope from the bottom of my heart that the people of Fukushima—particularly the children upon whose shoulders rest the future of Japan—will be able to resume their lives of peace as soon as possible. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the people all over of the world who extended their warm assistance and encouragement in the wake of this devastating accident. My sincere thanks also go to the many people who kindly cooperated and supported our investigation, the members of the Diet who unswervingly strove to make this National Diet’s investigation commission a reality, and all the staff of the commission office for their many days and nights of work.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa
ENDS

Kyodo: Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial. Separate taxi stands? What’s next: separate hotels?

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Here’s something that feels more problematic the more I think about it:  “Foreigner-friendly” taxicabs being introduced in Kyoto.  As noted below, they are government-sponsored vehicles with multilingual drivers and more space for tourist luggage.  Sounds good so far.  Until you get to the fact that they have a separate alighting point at one station in Kyoto.  Already, we are getting into shades of “separate but equal” (as opposed to equal and undifferentiated), which we are seeing in a number of venues dealing with foreign tourism (for example, here).

While I applaud the effort to improve service, it doesn’t resolve the root problem (mentioned within the Kyodo article below) — that taxi cabs are refusing NJ passengers.  So instead of going after miscreant taxis, they’re creating a separate taxi system to equalize things.  Except that it won’t.  Think about it.  Now we’ll have busybody train station ojisan waving  “foreign-looking” people over to the foreign taxi stand even when they’re not tourists.  Or we’ll have people being told that they have to go to that solitary Kyoto Station stand, regardless of where they are, if they want to get a “foreigner-friendly” cab.  And, with the law of unintended consequences, we’ll have even more taxi drivers refusing to pick up foreign-looking people — after all, their logic will go, “There’s already a taxi designated for them, so I don’t have to bother picking them up — they can wait for one.”  As if foreign-friendly taxis could ever have the same coverage as regular taxis.  See, “separate but equal” essentially never works because, as history demonstrates, it’s too hard to achieve.

If they really want to improve service, have the city assign somebody “foreign-looking” to hail taxis in Kyoto, and have him or her officially report misbehaving taxis to the Kyoto Tourist Agency (there is one, and I’ve done this very thing for at least one exclusionary Kyoto hotel; there were repercussions).  And tell those taxis (like restaurants hear that they’re being reviewed by reviewers posing as regular customers) that there will be person(s) posing as an evaluator so you better not avoid picking up customers.  Monitoring for consumer quality is quite normal, and if Japan is serious about omotenashi, it had better avoid making historical mistakes.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

(Further comment by submitter JDG here.)

///////////////////////////////////////

Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES MAR 1, 2016, Courtesy of JDG
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/01/national/kyoto-taxis-specializing-foreign-tourists-begin-one-year-trial/

KYOTO – A one-year trial run for taxis aimed at non-Japanese tourists started Tuesday in the city of Kyoto, the first such service in Japan aimed at enhancing the experience for overseas visitors.

The “foreigner-friendly taxis” accept credit cards, have space for two large suitcases and drivers who are able to communicate in a variety of languages such as English and Chinese, project officials said.

The trial is being jointly organized by the city, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and other bodies.

A taxi stand for the cabs has been set up in front of JR Kyoto Station in Shimogyo Ward. A total of 69 taxis and 87 drivers from 23 cab operators will operate the service through next March.

According to city officials, some taxi drivers have tended to refuse to pick up foreign tourists because of communication difficulties, and the new project is aimed at resolving this.

A ceremony to mark the start of the service was held Tuesday in front of the taxi stand.

Mireia Daroca, a 30-year-old language teacher from Spain who lives in the city, said she has sometimes been asked by drivers in the past to write down her destination in Japanese, but with this service that will not be necessary.

ENDS

Sankei column by Okabe Noburu suggesting Japanese language tests for foreign correspondent visas, to weed out their “anti-Japan” biases

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog.  Here’s an interesting column by one of our favorite newspapers, the Sankei Shinbun, famous for its anti-foreigner slants.  Their columnist, Okabe Noburu, Senior Reporter for Diplomatic Issues, links a lack of language ability in foreign reporters to their tendency to hold “anti-Japan” biases.  In a meandering column that brings in all sorts of anti-immigration slants itself, Okabe finally reaches the conclusion that maybe Japan might make language tests a condition for visas for foreign correspondents.  That way they’ll have a “correct” view of Japan.  Without any intended irony, it seems that Okabe, who seems to claim competency in English (enough to pick on ethnic accents in English), holds biased views himself despite.  Have a read.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

//////////////////////////////////////////////////

Give Japanese language tests to foreign reporters with “anti-Japan” slants

Okabe Noburu, Sankei Shinbun, December 15, 2015, translation by Debito

It’s a scene I’ve seen before somewhere.  After one day being posted to London, I remembered New York City, where like a “salad bowl” with many colors of vegetables, a variety of races and ethnicities that do not mix (majiri awazu) dot the city.  

At this time 80% of London’s population is made up of people coming from overseas, and according to the national census, it seems that of the entire population only 44.9% are of white people born in England.  

After the war, because English people don’t like manual labor, they brought in immigrants from former colonies, such as Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, but recently there has been a huge influx of people from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, so British society’s multiculturalization and multiethnicification has been proceeding.  The immigrant problem is one of a history of empire.  The English spoken by this variety of races has several “country accents” mixed in, so it’s hard to understand.  Even English has been hybridized.

When I applied for my visa I had to take an English test.  As language ability had not been demanded of me as an exchange student in the 1990s or during my half-year posting in Russia in the 1990s, this struck me as odd.  However, after being dispatched, I came to the painful realization that understanding England meant first acquiring the language.

Before being posted, I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.  I was pained to see foreign reporters who couldn’t function in Japanese broadcasting their “anti-Japan” slants to the world.  How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for foreign correspondents getting a visa?  It might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.

ENDS.  Original article follows:

偏向「反日」外国人記者に語学試験を
産経新聞 2015.12.15 07:28
http://www.sankei.com/column/news/151215/clm1512150004-n1.html

どこかで見た光景だ。1日にロンドンに赴任して思い出したのは、色々な野菜が入った「サラダボウル」のように、多彩な人種や民族が混じり合わずに点在する街ニューヨークだった。

現在ロンドンの人口の8割は海外から来た人で占められ、国勢調査では、英国生まれの白人は全人口の44・9%に過ぎないらしい。

戦後、英国人は肉体労働を嫌い、アジア、アフリカ、西インド諸島の旧植民地の移民を受け入れ、最近は中東や東欧から大量に流入し、英国社会は多民族、多文化が進んだ。移民問題は大英帝国の歴史そのものだ。多様な人種が話す英語もそれぞれの「お国なまり」が混じって聞き取りにくい。英語も多種多様なのだ。

赴任のビザ(査証)取得の際に英語の試験を課せられた。1990年代初めに留学した米国や90年代後半に駐在したロシアでは語学力を要求されなかったため異様に思えた。しかし赴任してみると、英国理解には、まず言語を習得すべきだと痛感した。

赴任前、入会していた日本外国特派員協会で、日本語ができない外国人記者たちが偏向した「反日」記事を世界に発信しているのを苦々しく感じた。日本も日本語能力を外国人特派員へのビザ発給の条件にしたらどうだろうか。正しい日本理解につながるかもしれない。(岡部伸)

ABC News Australia: Video on PM Abe’s secretive and ultra-conservative organization “Nippon Kaigi”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here is an excellent bit of investigative journalism done by the Australians on an organization that the USG would do well to do their own research on (and the US media pay due attention to):  PM Abe’s Nippon Kaigi, which threatens to undo just about everything The American Occupation did to demilitarize Postwar Japan and defang its self-destructive ultranationalism.  Why hasn’t anyone else done a good in-depth report on them, even after this came out over a year ago?  Because it’s probably not something people want to believe–that the belligerent elements of Prewar Japan are not only ascendant, they are already well-organized within Japan’s highest echelons of government.  A transcript follows, but I strongly recommend people click on the link and watch the video at the ABC News Australia Lateline program to get the full effect.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4364818.htm

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Lifting the lid on one of the most influential, and secretive, political organisations in Japan

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 02/12/2015

Reporter: Matthew Carney

Nippon Kaigi, or ‘Japan Conference’, has an impressive list of members and aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies, and Lateline gains rare access to this secretive and ultra-conservative organisation.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: It’s been described as one of the most influential political organisations in Japan. Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, has an impressive list of members and advisors, including the Prime Minister and much of his cabinet. But very little is known about this right-wing nationalist lobby group which aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies and even change the Constitution. It operates mostly out of the public eye, but North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney gained rare access to file this exclusive story for Lateline.

MATTHEW CARNEY, REPORTER: A call has gone out and people from all over Japan have responded. To hear a vision from one of Japan’s most powerful political organisations, the Nippon Kaigi. And it’s back to the future. Nippon Kaigi want to restore the status of the Emperor, keep women in the home to nurture family and rebuild the might of the armed forces.

To do that, they have to scrap the pacifist constitution that was imposed by the Americans. This is the first step, they say, to shake off the shame of the defeat in World War II and restore pride.

YOSHIKO SAKURAI, JOURNALIST (voiceover translation): We need to ask ourselves: will the current constitution of Japan protect Japan and its people? The answer is no. We need a constitution that reflects the true Japanese identity.

MATTHEW CARNEY: The biggest champion to the cause and the group’s specialist advisor is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (voiceover translation): To create a constitution suitable for the 21st Century, that’s where it needs to be spread throughout Japan. I seek your continued support on this. Let’s move forward towards changing the Constitution.

MATTHEW CARNEY: The Nippon Kaigi has serious clout. The Deputy Prime Minister is also a member, as well as 80 per cent of the cabinet, as are almost half of all parliamentarians. It’s a kind of uber lobby group that uses its 38,000 members to mobilise support.

The Nippon Kaigi has pledged to collect 10 million signatures by next April to change the Constitution. Some say it’s a cult-like organisation.

KOICHI NAKANO, SOPHIA UNIVERSITY: I think it is, you know, cultish, in the sense that it’s very sectarian. They have a very strong view of us and them. They have a sense of the inner group because they feel victimised, marginalised and they have been subjected to severe injustice, that they need to take back Japan.

MATTHEW CARNEY: But their spokesperson says they are only trying to normalise Japan.

AKIRA MOMOCHI, NIPPON KAIGI, STRATEGIC COMMITTEE (voiceover translation): It is proper for an independent sovereign nation to have an army. There are no sovereign nations without one. Armies are deterrents. They exist to prevent war. We’ll keep our pacifist traditions, but we need to respond to the rising threat of China.

MATTHEW CARNEY: The fundamental vision for many in the group is to go back to a time when they say Japan was pure and free from foreign influence, like the Edo Period in the 16th to 18th centuries when outsiders were strictly forbidden and Japanese culture flourished. They believe this beautiful Japan has been lost.

HIDEAKI KASE, NIPPON KAIGI, TOKYO BRANCH: There are two Japans. One is traditional Japan and one is Westernised Japan. And we wish to revert to the traditional Japan.

KOICHI NAKANO: They are romantic, they are irrational, they live in their own world. So they lack strategic thinking in terms of what they are going for and for what reason and how does that serve national interest in realistic terms?

MATTHEW CARNEY: The darker side to the organisation is to deny any wrongdoing in Japan’s war-time past. They assert World War II was one of defence, not aggression. They say comfort women were not sex slaves, but well-paid prostitutes and the rape and pillage of Nanjing in China that historians say killed up to 200,000 was a fiction.

HIDEAKI KASE: There was no massacre at all. That is an utterly false accusation.

KOICHI NAKANO: They try to rewrite history in order – and they think that this is fundamental to what they see as Japan’s need to restore pride. They think that because the kids and the – you know, the adults of Japan are being brainwashed by self-blame and a sense of shame in their history.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Many in Japan think Nippon Kaigi’s ideas are dangerous and have to be countered. Professor Setsu Kobayashi is one of the country’s top constitutional experts.

SETSU KOBAYASHI, CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERT (voiceover translation): They’re thinking about Asia before the war when Japan was the leader of Asia. They want to repeat that. They openly say that.

MATTHEW CARNEY: On his Friday lunchtime radio spot, he warns against reform of the Constitution, arguing it could lead Japan down the warpath. So far, Prime Minister Abe and Nippon Kaigi have succeeded in passing security bills that let the armed forces fight overseas again. Kobayashi says the move is unconstitutional.

SETSU KOBAYASHI (voiceover translation): The majority of people are not convinced. We have to fight and not give up, otherwise we’ll live under a dictatorship. Freedom and democracy will not exist.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Professor Kobayashi was once a member of Nippon Kaigi, but is now one of its biggest critics. He tried to change them from the inside, but couldn’t. As a self-described commoner, he says the organisation is one of elites, out of touch with the people. Polls consistently show that the majority of Japanese don’t want the country’s pacifist constitution to change.

SETSU KOBAYASHI (voiceover translation): They want to achieve the dream that Japan pursued pre-war to be one of the top five military powers in the world. To enable this, our country will go around the world fighting wars alongside the Americans. Mr Abe went to the United Nations and said that Japan will seek aggressive peace; militarism is another name.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Professor Kobayashi now devotes much of his time fighting the Nippon Kaigi and the reform of the Constitution. He believes it’s a battle for the very hearts and minds of the Japanese and the outcome will decide the country’s future. The Nippon Kaigi say their ambition is to simply protect Japan and its identity.

AKIRA MOMOCHI (voiceover translation): It is a difference of opinion. We want to retain the Japanese traditions, to make Japan as it should be. We have the power to do it.

ENDS

JT: Japan’s public baths hope foreign tourists and residents will keep taps running; oh, the irony!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another quick one that’s just dying for a shout-out specially on Debito.org for its delightful irony:

In yet another example of how Japan’s economy is not going to save itself unless it allows in and unlocks the potential of its foreign residents, here we have the flashpoint issue for “Japanese Only” signposted exclusionism: public baths (sento or onsen).  As per the Otaru Onsens Case (which has inspired two books), we had people who did not “look Japanese” (including native-born and naturalized Japanese citizens) being refused by xenophobic and racist bathhouse managers just because they could (there is no law against it in Japan).

Now, according to the Japan Times below (in a woefully under-researched article), the bathhouse industry is reporting that they are in serious financial trouble (examples of this were apparent long ago:  here’s one in Wakkanai, Hokkaido that refused “foreigners” until the day it went bankrupt).  And now they want to attract foreign tourists.  It’s a great metaphor for Japan’s lack of an immigration policy in general:  Take their money (as tourists or temporary laborers), but don’t change the rules so that they are protected against wanton discrimination from the locals.  It’s acceptance with a big, big asterisk.

Admittedly, this is another step in the right direction.  But it’s one that should have been done decades ago (when we suggested that bathhouse rules simply be explained with multilingual signs; duh).  But alas, there’s no outlawing the racists in Japan, so this is one consequence.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan’s public baths hope foreign tourists will help keep the taps running
BY SATOKO KAWASAKI, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
THE JAPAN TIMES, JANUARY 5, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/05/national/japans-public-baths-hope-foreign-tourists-will-help-keep-the-taps-running/

Japan’s public baths, known as sento, represent an institution with hundreds of years of history. They provided an important public service in the days before homes had their own hot-water bathtubs.

Sento can range in style from simple hot springs piped into a large tub to modern facilities resembling theme parks and offering a range of therapies.

In the Edo Period (1603-1868), sento were so popular that every town had on. They were important centers of the community.

Sento are on the decline both because homes now have fully fledged bathrooms and because retiring operators find it hard to find successors to take on their businesses. There are now around 630 establishments in Tokyo, down from 2,700 in 1968, a peak year for sento.

Faced with this trend, the Tokyo Sento Association is trying to tap demand from non-Japanese residents and tourists.

It has installed explanatory signs at each facility showing non-Japanese speakers how to use a sento in five languages. It also plans to create an app for people to search for sento in English.

ENDS

Asahi: Survey: Discrimination encountered by 42% of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward; Asahi wants NJ resident opinions

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Asahi Shinbun recently has been doing specials on NJ as residents of Japan (another positive step towards situating them in Japan and humanizing them properly).  First, they do some assessments of the problems of discrimination, then they ask for feedback from NJ readers (“The Asahi Shimbun is also seeking opinions from foreign residents about life in Japanese communities at the AJW website. Please send in your contributions in English to asahi_forum@asahi.com”) and give it in follow-up articles (such as the fluff piece on “Do as the Romans do” also included below).  At least somebody is broaching the possibilities of immigration and assimilation.

Debito.org Readers, please feel free to take up the Asahi’s invitation.  Many of you are already, like it or not, Visible Minorities.  Now be Visible Residents.  And I hope that the GOJ expands its discrimination surveys beyond Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, nationwide.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Survey: Discrimination encountered by 42% of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward
Asahi Shinbun, January 25, 2016, courtesy of JK
By YURI IMAMURA/ Staff Writer
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201601250038

Around 42.3 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward “often” or “sometimes” feel discriminated against by Japanese people, particularly during searches for a home, a survey showed.

In comparison, 47.2 percent of non-Japanese in the ward said they “never” or “not too often” experience such discrimination, according to the survey by the Shinjuku Ward government.

The situation most cited for prejudice or discrimination against foreign residents was “when they were searching for a place to live,” at 51.9 percent, followed by “when they were working,” at 33.2 percent, and “when they were going through procedures at a public agency,” at 25.6 percent.

Around 38,000 foreign residents make up 11 percent of Shinjuku Ward’s population.

The ward sent questionnaires to 7,000 randomly selected foreign and Japanese residents listed in the Basic Resident Register last summer for the Survey on Multicultural Living in Shinjuku Ward. It received responses from about 2,000 residents through autumn.

A total of 22.1 percent of the Japanese residents said that having foreign neighbors is “favorable” or “relatively favorable,” surpassing the 16.9 percent who said it is “unfavorable” or “relatively unfavorable.”

The Japanese respondents, however, cited various concerns about having foreign neighbors.

Some 47.6 percent of the Japanese said, “I am worried about how they would take out the garbage,” followed by 35.4 percent who said, “I am worried about loud voices and other noises from their rooms.”

On the positive side, 28.1 percent of the Japanese respondents said having foreign neighbors “would help me take an interest in foreign countries,” while 26.7 percent said it “would help increase my chances to experience foreign cultures.”

Asked what is most needed to eliminate prejudice and discrimination, 50.7 percent of the Japanese said “accepting the different lifestyles of each other.”

AJW is also seeking views from foreign residents about life in Japanese communities.

////////////////////////
TO OUR READERS: AJW seeks views from foreign residents about life in Japanese communities
January 08, 2016, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201601080088

Opening up Japan to more immigrants has been proposed to deal with demographic problems facing Japan, including a declining and graying population.

But that option raises the question of whether Japanese communities are prepared to allow more foreign residents into their neighborhoods.

That is why the AJW site wants to hear from foreign residents of Japan as part of a project being organized by The Asahi Shimbun.

The vernacular Asahi is planning a weekly series of special pages on the theme of Japanese and foreigners living in the same community. The series is scheduled to begin in late January and will run in the weekend issues of the Asahi.

A main objective of the special pages will be to determine what factors help or stand in the way of Japanese who live in neighborhoods with an increasing number of foreign residents.

Special pages in the past have dealt with various themes, and the views sent in by readers were the main material used in putting together the pages.

For the new theme that will begin in January, the pages will again consist mainly of the views and opinions sent in by Japanese readers.

But to provide a different perspective on the issue, we are also interested in hearing from foreign residents to get their side of the story.

We would like to hear about your experiences in living in Japanese communities, your interactions with your neighbors as well as comparisons with life in your native land or in other nations where you may have once lived.

The contributions sent in by foreign residents will be used to shed a different light on interactions between Japanese and foreign residents in various communities.

Please send in your contributions in English to asahi_forum@asahi.com

We ask that you also include your name and a contact number in case reporters at the Asahi wish to make further contact to ask you questions.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
ENDS

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Asahi readers weigh in on ‘do as the Romans do’ in Japan for foreign residents
January 26, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201601260001

Asahi Shimbun readers are divided over whether foreign nationals living in Japan should “do as the Romans do” to assimilate in this multicultural age.

With the number of foreign residents hitting a record high of 2.17 million as of June 2015, many readers referred to the positive contributions that non-Japanese can make to their communities, while others were concerned about cultural friction and deteriorating public safety.

A central issue was whether foreign nationals need to embrace the “do as the Romans do” approach to become fully functioning members of their communities.

Younger generations, citing growing globalization, said such a mentality was counterproductive.

Of 699 people who responded to an online questionnaire posted in early January, 495 said as of Jan. 21 that a society with a sizable foreign community will inevitably be multicultural where people with diverse cultural backgrounds and values live harmoniously.

Respondents are allowed to pick multiple answers.

In 465 cases, respondents said such a multicultural society will provide greater opportunities for members to learn and experience different languages and cultures.

However, 371 agreed that a multicultural society could create cultural friction over language and lifestyle differences, while 275 voiced concern that accepting a huge influx of immigrants could have a major impact on public safety.

Of the 699 respondents, 335 said they feel very familiar brushing shoulders with foreign residents and 197 said they are somewhat familiar with foreigners, while 124 said they are not very familiar, followed by 43 people who said they are not at all familiar with foreigners.

The survey also collected opinion letters, and readers turned out to be divided over what attitude foreign nationals should adopt in order to become fully functioning members of Japanese society.

A woman in her 50s from Osaka Prefecture said foreign nationals should adopt the “do as the Romans do” mentality and respect Japanese laws, culture and customs if they want to create symbiotic relations with Japanese.

“I believe the ‘do as the Romans do’ attitude is essential for anyone to live in a foreign country, and I would like to ask how many foreigners came to Japan with the idea of respecting Japanese culture in such a manner,” the woman wrote.

A respondent from Tokyo in her 40s said that “if a foreigner chooses to live in Japan, he or she must at least have respect for Japanese culture and manners.”

However, she added that “I think the time is ripe for Japanese people to reform their island-nation mentality, which tends to exclude outsiders.”

“I myself need to keep an open mind to build friendly relations with foreign residents,” she wrote.

A man from Kyoto in his 20s also argued that requiring all members in society to adopt a “do as the Romans do” attitude is obsolete in this era of globalization.

“Culture is a transient thing by nature, and globalization has made us live in a highly diversified world,” he said. “What we need to do is find ways for different cultures and value systems to coexist in harmony.”

Sam Teckenbrock, a 58-year-old U.S.-born resident of Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, who has served as chairman of the local neighborhood association for the past seven years, said foreigners certainly need to develop the “do as the Romans do,” although he concede it was very frustrating for him trying to become accustomed to Japanese culture at first.

“Japanese are tactful as to what they say on the surface and what they truly mean, and it confused me a lot, but I eventually learned that speaking this way is partly meant to avoid hurting another person’s feelings,” he said.

“I don’t think it is difficult at all for Japanese and foreigners to live together in harmony when they candidly tell each other things they could not comprehend and try to understand each other in person.”

* * *

The Asahi Shimbun is also seeking opinions from foreign residents about life in Japanese communities at the AJW website. Please send in your contributions in English to asahi_forum@asahi.com

O’Day in APJ: Japan Focus: “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Since the SEALDs activism topic has inspired much discussion on Debito.org, let’s look at them (and other youth protesters in Japan) from another angle, where an academic colleague argues that the group is by design demonstrating without full devotion to the cause.

This article came out before SEALDs announced that it was disbanding, so I wonder if partial devotion means killing off the group without transitioning to new leadership to preserve the credibility of the hard-won brand.  (No mention either of allegations of parochialism and bullying towards NJ.)  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////

From Robin O’Day, “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 37, No. 2, September 14, 2015.

Excerpt:

SEALDs is suggesting that students can use some of the freedom that their positioning affords for political engagement, instead of channeling it into more traditional activities like sports clubs and social circles, that tend to dominate students’ leisure time.

Yet SEALDs is also proposing something more significant than a reallocation of students’ time—they are also attempting to construct a different kind of political identity among college students. Another SEALDs member explained it this way:

“Our movement is not our life; it is a part of our life not our whole life. I went to class yesterday as usual, and we have rappers, people who do music, people who just study, people who are trying to be teachers, we have all kinds of people, and our movement is a part of what we do in our life but not our whole life. If you focus on the movement and movement only, you will become narrow.”

What this SEALDs member is suggesting is a reconfiguration of what constitutes student political identity. SEALDs is essentially showing other students that it is acceptable to seriously engage political ideas, without become radical, or having to completely devote themselves to the cause. SEALDs is challenging an all-or-nothing orientation to politics that tends to cleave most students into taking either an apolitical stance, or fully committing to a cause that will likely marginalize them. Instead, SEALDs is coming up the middle with a proposition that you can be a regular student, have conventional ambitions, aspire to a middleclass life, and still carve out a piece of yourself that is informed and engaged with political issues. If this proposition is hardly radical, it is currently resonating with a broad spectrum of students.

Entire article at http://apjjf.org/-Robin-O_Day/4376/article.html

JT on corporate threats to student activists’ futures (SEALDs in particular); this is probably why they suddenly turned craven

mytest

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Hi Blog. One particular topic Debito.org has not touched upon enough is activism in general by liberal-minded students, in particular the group attracting much attention called Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). I have only mentioned them here and in my year-end round up of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2015 for the Japan Times (I placed them at #6), where I wrote:

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“On the other hand, the most high-profile youth group against the Abe Cabinet’s right-wing push (and darling of the international media), the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), decided to flame out with flair. At an news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, SEALDs leaders announced that with their impending graduation from college, they wouldn’t just be stepping down in 2016 as organizers — they would disband the group without a transition to a younger generation.

“Coming off as more concerned with their own short-term individual interests than the larger movements within Japanese society, SEALDs seemed to show that even Japan’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and appealing young activists (which matters, as this year the voting age will drop from 20 to 18) are nonetheless intimidated by power, and treat human rights advocacy as a temporary hobby.”
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While I am not changing my position regarding the cravenness of SEALDs organizers, let’s be fair. They have been overtly threatened by authority. Check out this article from last August. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Should SEALDs student activists worry about not getting hired?
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI
THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 30, 2015

Summer 2015 — 70 years since Japan’s defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition have rammed two security bills through the Lower House that overturn decades of interpretation of the Constitution by enabling Japan to engage in collective self-defense. Now he hopes to do the same in the Upper House.

Opposition to the government’s aggressive push to loosen restrictions on the use of military force is being heard from many corners. The beacon for students opposing the bills has been the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs. Under the slogan of protecting “freedom, peace and democracy,” these students have loudly voiced their opposition to the government’s push for militarization at protests around the country.

SEALDs have put paid to two tired tropes that have been regularly trotted out over the years about Japan’s students: first, that they have no interest in politics, and second, that student social movements here are a thing of the past. Inspired by SEALDs, even high schoolers and mothers who had never before engaged in social activism have taken to the streets to demand that our country commit to never again waging war, and that our youths are never asked to kill those of other countries. Jumping on the bandwagon have been the elderly, under the collective banner of OLDs, and even the middle-aged, or MIDDLEs.

This resolute, relentless movement has already begun to have a clear impact on our society. The recent drop in support for the Abe government is at least in part a result of grass-roots movements such as SEALDs. One Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House tweeted: “SEALDs members just don’t want to go off to war, i.e., their actions are based on extreme selfishness.”

But if these youths were only thinking of themselves, would they really be engaged in a collective social movement like SEALDs? Also, the idea that not wanting to go off to war is “selfish” is itself a serious attack on individual thought and freedom of conscience. It reminds me of the totalitarianism that prevailed before the war, and I was shocked to hear a modern-day politician utter such a comment. I assumed he must be some old fogey, so when I discovered it was 36-year-old Takaya Muto, I was flabbergasted.

The fact that a lawmaker would use such extremist language perhaps offers some insight into the extent of panic within the LDP at SEALDs’ growing strength. The comment caused quite a stir. That and some alleged financial shenanigans led to Muto’s resignation from the LDP on Aug. 19.

For politicians chomping at the bit to deploy Japan’s forces overseas, SEALDs are apparently quite an irritant. An independent member of the Yukuhashi city assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture also stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he riffed on a comment by one SEALDs member that “we tremble at the thought of going to war.” Shinya Kotsubo parodied it on his blog on July 26, titling his article “SEALDs members should tremble at the thought that they’ll never get a job.” He explained further, writing, “You are demonstrating now while you’re students, so don’t come crying when no one will hire you later on.”

“When companies scout for students,” he elaborated, “they look at the name of the university. They don’t look at the students themselves. All the power lies in the side that selects. … Since the corporation is the one that selects, everything must follow the company’s rules and interests. This is reality.

“To give a specific example, say a sports club becomes involved in a rape scandal. The university’s reputation is damaged and it affects all students. The rapists’ reputations are of course damaged, but the university is also seen as ‘that kind of university.’ The fellow students who were unable to prevent such a scandal become tainted as people who would be likewise unable or unwilling to protect the reputation of the company. So there would be no reason to hire such a student.

“The university’s reputation was not built by the current student body. Since it was not acquired by current students, they have no right to protest. … This reputation was a gift given to current students from their seniors who have already graduated and gone out into the world, making a name for the university. If they damage the reputation of the university to which they belong, it’s obvious how things are going to play out. We should do everything possible to eliminate the risk of this. A corporation should not be asked to shoulder such a risk to its reputation.

“Careers begin with an offer from a corporation, but it’s already too late for that. The result is that they will all be shot down. Some students are at prestigious schools such as Waseda or Keio University. These students are probably OK since many famous politicians, police and bureaucrats are from there. Selection takes precedence in all cases, so the impact on these students will only be slight. However, students at universities with little power, history or tradition won’t be so lucky. They will not be selected and as a result, all will be eliminated. I have even heard of cases where the professors join the demos and egg on their students.”

To sum up, Kotsubo says: 1) Corporations have all the power over whether to hire; 2) when hiring, corporations place great weight on the reputation of an applicant’s university and don’t really look at the students themselves; 3) if the university’s brand name is hurt, all students attending that university lose credibility; 4) students engaged in social movements are damaging the brand value of their universities; 5) the risk for students at prestigious colleges like Waseda and Keio is slight, but students at less prestigious schools are a write-off (i.e., They will never get a job); and 6) I am saying all this for the benefit of students, but the most guilty are the professors who encourage students to protest without warning them of the risks.

Let’s examine Kotsubo’s rant from the perspective of labor law…

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/30/issues/sealds-student-activists-worry-not-getting-hired/