Archive for the 'Good News' Category
We hear enough bad news on this blog. Now cheer up–it’s not all bad. Let’s recognize the good too.
Posted by debito on 27th December 2012
A bit of good news. A member of a nasty Rightist group was sentenced to a year in jail for harassing a Japanese company for using a Korean actress in its advertising. That’s hopeful, as we are seeing examples of xenophobia in Japan going beyond internet and political-arena bile (as well as signposted exclusionism) and into the street for race-bating and interpersonal confrontation. Without some kind of brake like this court decision, it’s only a matter of time before somebody goes too far and we have race riots in Japan.
I would have liked to have seen a little more detail in the article below about the timeline of the harassment. I can speak from personal experience that it can take a year or more between an event and a conclusive court decision in Japan, so how responsive is Japan’s judiciary being here? Also, note that this case is not punishing somebody for hate speech against an ethnic group or a person in Japan — it’s protecting a Japanese company against threatening behavior, a bit different. I will be more reassured when we have a (similarly criminal, not civil) case involving arrest, prosecution, and jail time for an individual threatening an individual on the grounds of his/her ethnicity/national origin. But I don’t think that will happen under the current legal regime, as “the government does not think that Japan is currently in a situation where dissemination of racial discriminatory ideas or incitement of racial discrimination are conducted to the extent that the government must consider taking legislative measures for punishment against dissemination of racial discriminatory idea, etc. at the risk of unjustly atrophying lawful speech…” That assessment was made by the MOFA to the UN more than a decade ago. Given what I see are xenophobic tidings in Japan these days, I think it’s time for an update.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Lawsuits, Media | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd December 2012
I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.
This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012. Get ready to get yourself a new copy!
(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Good News, Handbook for Newcomers, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Practical advice, 日本語 | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 28th October 2012
Something very important happened a few days ago when Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro made a surprise announcement that he would resign his governorship, launch a new political party, and run for a Diet seat in the next Lower House election due in two months.
I say bring it on. This xenophobic old bigot (now 80) has fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book: self-delusion, brought on by decades of megalomania and ideological sound-chambering within a cadre of sycophants — which Alberto Fujimori (an old friend of Ishihara and his elite ruling circles) similary fell for when the self-deluded demagogue buggered off back to Chile (forfeiting his unextradictable safe haven in Japan) to stand for reelection in Peru. Fujimori, as you know, was then extradited to Peru for trial and is now doing essentially life in prison. But I digress.
I say bring it on for two reasons. One is that even if elected (which he will be, under Japan’s Proportional Representation system — the main avenue for celebrity schmoes to pad their resume and stroke their egos), Ishihara can do less damage as a Dietmember of a fringe party (analysts already are beginning to doubt the strength of the Rightist alliance between other fringe parties) than as Governor of Tokyo, with an entire Metropolitan Police Force (the strongest and most influential in all of Japan) at his disposal to target people he doesn’t like. One of the reasons he says he resigned his Diet seat in 1995 after 25 years in office is because of his frustration with the powerlessness of the Diet in the face of the pervasive Japanese bureaucracy (which, as he correctly claims, rules the country). Now he’s going right back to that same Diet, and I think he thinks he’ll stop at nothing short of becoming PM (He won’t. He won’t live long enough. Osaka Mayor Hashimoto is the bigger threat at half the age.)
The other reason is because it’s time to put some cards on the table. The Center-Left in Japan (in the form of the DPJ) tried their liberalizations (with NJ PR local suffrage, etc.) and lost badly due to the hue and cry over how NJ, if given any power in Japan, would automatically abuse it and destroy Japan). The image in Japanese politics nowadays is of a rightward swing. Alright, let’s see just how rightward. Japan’s bureaucrats like things just the way they are (their sole purpose is to keep the status quo as is, even if that means Japan irradiates itself and strangles itself to death demographically). It would take a miracle (something I think not even Ishihara is capable of) to dismantle that system. If Ishihara wins, Japan’s rightward swing is conclusive, and the world will have to stop ignoring a resurgent militarist xenophobic Japan. If Ishihara loses, that will take a lot of wind out of Rightist sails and push the country back towards centrism.
In this poker game, I believe Ishihara will lose. And NJ in Japan have already won a victory by having that bigot abdicate his throne/bully pulpit as leader of one of the world’s largest cities.
Posted in Good News, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 35 Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd October 2012
From The Shadows, a documentary film about Parental Child abduction in Japan, will premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival on October 23rd and October 27th. This film follows the lives of 5 “Left Behind Parents” trying desperately to reconnect with their children after having their child-parent relationship cut by the other parent. Through their individual stories we examine why this situation is so common in Japan and hear opinions from an array of experts on the situation. The film has had work-in-progress screenings on Capitol Hill (Nov. 2011) and in Tokyo (Apr. 2012) that was attended by the foreign ministry and several embassy reps.
The screening venues and times for the Philadelphia Film Festival are:
1. Tuesday October 23rd, 5:00 pm – Prince Music Theater – 1412 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19102
2. Saturday October 27th 7:35 pm – Ritz East – 125 South Second Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
First go to this link: http://filmadelphia.festivalgenius.com/2012/films/fromtheshadows0_mattantell_filmadelphia2012
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 5 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd September 2012
Been doing some writing and inserting the definition of “gaijin” in Japan in terms of marketing into my research, and found that the “Gaijin Mask” found at Tokyu Hands in 2009 and featured on Debito.org has recently been changed to “Gaikokujin Mask”, according to Amazon Japan.
Note the stereotypical racialized characteristics for both “dokkiri” party goods include large a large nose, blue eyes, cleft chin, blond hair, “Hollywood smile,” and grand gesticulations. The default language for the “foreigner” (as seen by the harō and ha-i!) is English (if not katakana Japanese for the desu copula). However, “gaijin” has been adjusted to “gaikokujin” (as if that makes the commodification of racism all better).
Note also that even though this apparently has been a recent change (information was received by Amazon Japan only last month), it’s suddenly “Currently unavailable” and “can not be shipped outside Japan”. (I wonder if anyone looking at the product with an IP in Japan is also unable to purchase it.) See screen capture here:
Same thing with the racialized Little Black Sambo dolls I found on Amazon Japan last night (which have been on sale since shortly after unbook Little Black Sambo was resuscitated in Japan, extending racism into the next generation): It’s also “Currently unavailable.” And not for sale anyway outside of Japan. So methinks the producers are well aware that they could get in trouble if marketed to an overseas audience. But no matter — there’s money to be made here — who cares if the product is racialized when the domestic market from childhood thinks racism of this sort is unproblematic?…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Good News, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd July 2012
In light of how NJ nurses under a national visa program have been treated in the face of a chronic careworkers shortage, here we have a case where even local sponsorship of a NJ doctor is also viewed (according to the Yomiuri, which may indeed in the interest of “balance” be conjuring up a tempest in a teapot) with suspicion because she is a foreigner. After all, she might not stay! Then again, so might not anyone else being trained on that scholarship program regardless of nationality. Ah, but foreigners are different, you see. They always represent a flight risk… Anyhoo, good news tainted with an editorial bias of caution and trepidation just because the subject is NJ.
Yomiuri: Facing a serious and chronic shortage of doctors, the town of Ichinohe felt it necessary to look overseas to find medical staff willing to live and work in the rural area. The town plans to spend more than 10 million yen on school and living expenses for a Vietnamese woman on the condition that she will practice medicine in the town for at least seven years after obtaining her license.
The unusual plan raised eyebrows when the town ran it by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and some residents have questioned why the town is sponsoring a foreigner. However, Ichinohe Mayor Akira Inaba believes the unprecedented plan is just what the town needs. “The scholarship program for Japanese medical students hasn’t attracted enough applicants to meet its quota,” he said. “We have no other choice but to secure our doctors on our own.”
Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th July 2012
After many years of bureaucratic policy trial balloons and lots of advance warning, July 9, 2012 has finally come to pass, and the longstanding Alien Registration System, promulgated in 1952 to help the GOJ keep track of the pesky aliens (mostly former citizens of the Japanese Empire who were stripped of their Japanese citizenship) who wouldn’t go back to “their country” (staying on in Japan as Zainichi, generational “foreigners” born in Japan to this day), has been abolished sixty years later. In its place, NJ are now registered on Japan’s juuminhyou Residency Certificates — closing up a ludicrous system where only citizens could be registered as “residents” (juumin) despite paying Residents’ Tax (yup, juuminzei), and teeth-grindlingly stupid moves such as local governments giving animals and fictional characters their own honorary “juuminhyou” despite untaxable status. Now NJ can also now be listed with their Japanese (and non-Japanese) families properly as family members and heads of household (no longer excluded even from local population tallies for not being listed in the juumin kihon daicho). Finally, closure to that. Good riddance.
That said, the new system also includes new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado), which are higher-tech versions (I say remotely trackable due to the RFID technology inside, by design; see below) and still required under criminal law to be carried 24-7 under penalty of search, seizure, and possible incarceration for a week or three. That hasn’t changed. In fact I would now argue it’s gotten worse — since Japanese citizens (even if computer chip technology has also been introduced into J driver licenses and passports, which not all Japanese get anyway) are not required by law to carry any ID whatsoever at all times. Some historical links regarding the true intention of the ZRK (tracking and control of untrustworthy NJ, not convenience for them as is generally sold) follow.
I’ll paste some articles below and let’s see what the media has made of this. Feel free to tell us how the changes have been affecting you as well.
Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 87 Comments »
Posted by debito on 4th July 2012
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 dated July 3, 2012, is on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective. Have a read and a think.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 28th June 2012
Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for ‘co-existence with foreigners’”, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. I offer summaries of each presenter’s materials below. My overall comment is that despite some fair-to-middling presentation styles (one a bit limply bureaucratic, another full of irrelevant chaff), all of them have their heart in the right place. Two of them I just wanted to hug the presenter afterwards for getting things right all the way down to the proper semantics (of seeing NJ as fellow “resident” with their own sense of “community”; they even overrode the potentially dichotomous “coexistence” meme for seeing NJ as perpetual outsiders to “handle and administrate”, which Japan’s sweaty-handed bureaucrats can never get beyond). How much of this advice will be taken is another issue, but at least the advice is being given. It’s a good Third Act in this political theatre. It’s just a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions thrown in later down the line as an afterthought. And there’s still no mention of that law against racial discrimination…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 13th June 2012
Making headlines this past week has been the Govinda Mainali Murder Case, a cause celebre I’ve known about for years (thanks to a very active domestic support group with regular mailings in Japanese). It’s come to a head, where DNA evidence has finally cast enough doubt on the evidence behind the conviction (see Yomiuri article immediately below), and it’s come to light (see Japan Times editorial below) that the prosecution withheld (or didn’t bother to have tested) vital evidence from the court (yes, they can do that in Japan) that would have exonerated him. It also put him in double jeopardy, meaning trying him more than once for the same crime (technically illegal, but yes, they can do that in Japan), reversing a not-guilty decision in lower court. As if that wasn’t enough, note the date of the Yomiuri article below stating the negative DNA test (July 2011) — meaning it only took Japan’s criminal justice system about a year for him to finally get his retrial, on top of the 15 years he’s been incarcerated. And after all that, now that it looks like Govinda is going to have his name cleared, Immigration is just going to deport him. The police in Japan are sore losers.
Now, check out the details in Terrie’s Take below, where the plot really thickens because the murder victim, a prostitute in her off-hours, was an employee with TEPCO (yes, that TEPCO) with names of some high-level clients in her address books…
As Terrie Lloyd notes below (as have I in the Japan Times), the already prosecutor-heavy criminal justice system in Japan is even more so if the suspect is a NJ. More and more it looks like Govinda Mainali was actually a patsy for the powerful because he was a convenient foreigner for the Japanese police to pin this on. I’ve already discussed in detail before how Japan’s criminal investigation system is fully stacked against NJ victims (start here with the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases, then progress to the Suraj Case, where the police have still gotten away with murder). The Govinda Case is yet another case study for everyone to remember for when the NJ are potential perps. Can’t win either way once the Japanese police get their hands on you.
Posted in Good News, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese police/Foreign crime, 日本語 | 35 Comments »
Posted by debito on 10th June 2012
John Morris at H-JAPAN: A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL:
The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level). Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development. However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking: a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated. Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below. In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re NJ in Japan. More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 20 Comments »
Posted by debito on 13th May 2012
As the very popular and quite influential Community Page at the Japan Times celebrated its 10th Anniversary this week, I was asked (along with their former editor and best reporter) to say a few words as their featured columnist (now for four years plus). Here’s what I said. There are links to other celebratory articles below that. Enjoy, and congrats Community Page. You’re doing great things. Thanks for being there for our writings, and for us.
ZG: Having been an infrequent contributor to other publications, I was impressed by the comparative professionalism at The Japan Times: I was never forced to toe any editorial line by the Community Page (unlike, say, the vanity projects that pass for English-language newspapers at the Asahi and Yomiuri, who tend to take criticism of Japan in English by NJ authors as a personal affront). It was also nice that the JT paid its contributors the amount as promised promptly, something relatively rare in this business.
Honesty has served the Community Page well. Over the past decade, we have had hundreds of contributors writing exposes on subjects few other domestic outlets would touch, including unequal hiring practices due to nationality, the merits of unionization, international divorces from the studiously ignored NJ partner’s perspective, the Japanese judiciary’s systematic discrimination against claimants based on race or social origin, the biased treatment of NJ crime by police and the media, public policies and government statements that latently and blatantly disenfranchise whole peoples in Japan, one’s rights under the law and revised visa regimes, and even new takes on the perennial debate over the epithet “gaijin.”
Where else in our domestic media could this motley collection of journalists, scholars, pundits, activists and general malcontents consistently splash their views across a page (now two) every Tuesday — and have their presence permanently recorded in this country’s best online archive of English articles on Japan?
For that matter, where else in Japan’s media does anyone even acknowledge that there is a “community” of NJ in Japan, or offer authoritative information specifically for the benefit of this community? Only here.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, History, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, NJ legacies | 9 Comments »
Posted by debito on 10th May 2012
Some news on the Japan Child Abductions Issue, where Japan has long set itself up as a safe haven for one parent to abscond with their child following separation or divorce (regardless of whether the marriage was international or domestic), what with no joint custody and no guaranteed child visitation in Japan. Thanks to the Koseki Family Registry system, the divorced couple becomes strangers to each other, and children go on only one parent’s koseki (with the other parent losing all legal title and access to their kids unless the custodial parent approves). In cases of international/intercontinental separation or divorce, the Japanese partner can abduct their child to Japan (since Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, and the Japanese embassy does not enforceably require the permission of both parents to issue a Japanese child a Japanese passport), and that’s it — the kids are gone. Japanese courts have always ruled that the absconder has established “habitual residence” in Japan by dint, so who dares wins. Meanwhile, despite international protests about the GOJ not being a signatory to the Hague, Japan has been dragging its feet for years now on signing (and as I have argued in the past, will probably caveat its way out of enforcing it anyway, as it has done with other treaties (like the CERD and the ICCPR)).
Finally, enough has become enough for sensible people. According to articles below, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has once again come out in public making a link between the irony of all the tragedymaking regarding Japanese being kidnapped decades ago by the DPRK (which is indeed a tragedy, yes), yet the lack of tragedy over Japanese still kidnapping international kids. Good. We’ve made that comparison before here on Debito.org, and were roundly condemned by the usual suspects for doing so. (And, as a related tangent, I’ve probably criticized the most by people misquoting me as advocating that foreigners shouldn’t marry Japanese. No, for the record, I’m saying NOBODY, Japanese or NJ, should get married and have children under the insane family law system in Japan; the risks are too great if parents separate).
As per articles below, the Japanese press is of course rallying the public behind the home team via editorial camouflaged as news (it’s hard to discern even what Campbell actually said). It’s even trying to instruct the Japanese public how English is different than Japanese. You see, if a North Korean kidnaps a Japanese, its “abduction” (rachi). But if a Japanese kidnaps an international child, its “tsuresari” (taking along and disappearing). But you see, the English language is inflexible — it only has one word for this action: “abduction”. So it’s all one big “linguistic misunderstanding”. Even though, in either case, abduction is what it is.
And if you really want to take this issue to the next level of linkage, consider this comment from a friend:
“As noted in Wikipedia, “In 1944, the Japanese authorities extended the mobilization of Japanese civilians for labor to the Korean peninsula. Of the 5,400,000 Koreans conscripted, about 670,000 were taken to mainland Japan . . .” And the Japanese have the audacity to complain about 20 or so Japanese abducted to North Korea? The Japanese government should apologize and compensate the 5 million Koreans conscripted 70 years ago before uttering a single word about the actions of North Korea 35 years ago.”
So underlying all of this is an issue of hypocrisy, and now the GOJ is probably going to have to resort to its only real defense when cornered on an issue: agonistic posturing and outrage — trying to derail the issue in favor of maintaining “The Relationship”. People have fallen for this before (after all, the US wants to keep its military bases and its market to sell inter alia weaponry). But I’m not sure this issue is really big enough (I think Masumoto has an inflated sense of his own power) to do that. Let’s keep our eyes on this one, since it’s a good case study of gaiatsu and GOJ policy in the making.
Posted in Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Good News, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, 日本語 | 14 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd May 2012
JBC: Microagressions, particularly those of a racialized nature, are, according to Dr. Derald Wing Sue in Psychology Today (Oct. 5, 2010), “the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to (visible minorities) by well-intentioned (members of an ethnic majority in a society) who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated.”
They include, in Japan’s case, verbal cues (such as “You speak such good Japanese!” — after saying only a sentence or two — or “How long will you be in Japan?” regardless of whether a non-Japanese (NJ) might have lived the preponderance of their life here), nonverbal cues (people espying NJ and clutching their purse more tightly, or leaving the only empty train seat next to them), or environmental cues (media caricatures of NJ with exaggerated noses or excessive skin coloration, McDonald’s “Mr. James” mascot (JBC, Sept. 1, 2009)).
Usually these are unconscious acts grounded in established discourses of interactions. Nobody “means” to make you feel alienated, different, out of place, or stereotyped.
But microaggressions are also subtle societal self-enforcement mechanisms to put people “in their place.” For NJ, that “place” is usually the submissive status of “visitor” or “guest,” with the Japanese questioner assuming the dominant position of “host” or “cultural representative of all Japan.”
It’s a powerful analytical tool. Now we have a word to describe why it gets discomfiting when people keep asking if you can use chopsticks (the assumption being that manual dexterity is linked to phenotype), or if you can eat nattō (same with taste buds), or if you’ll be going “home” soon (meaning Japan is just a temporary stop in your life and you don’t belong here). It can even help you realize why it’s so difficult for the NJ long-termer to become a senpai in the workplace (since NJ subordination is so constant and renewed in daily interaction that it becomes normalized).
Now let’s consider microaggression’s effects. Dr. Sue’s research suggests that subtle “microinsults and microinvalidations are potentially more harmful (than overt, conscious acts of racism) because of their invisibility, which puts (visible minorities) in a psychological bind.”
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Good News | 181 Comments »
Posted by debito on 25th April 2012
As I wrote last week, next week heralds a celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Japan Times’ Tuesday Community Page. As I’ve written about 100 articles and JBC columns for it so far, I’ll be doing double duty next week with two articles, one in commemoration, and one a regular JBC column (more on the topic shortly before publication).
This week, however, in anticipation, the JT announced that it would be offering FIVE free copies of Akira Higuchi and Arudou Debito’s bilingual HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (more on it here), which has been a solid and steady seller, what with all the information about getting the right visa, getting a steady job, getting settled for a permanent life in Japan, and dealing with problems and issues that may come up.
That’s right, five free copies of HANDBOOK, and all you have to do is write a Haiku in English about Japan — “the good, the bad and the ugly”. Some examples by Zeit Gist contributor Colin Jones this week include:
Random card checking
Fingerprints at the airport
Have constitutional rights
Except when they don’t
Barred from the hot springs
for invisible tattoo
It says “foreigner”
Now, those are my kinda Haiku. And no doubt we’ll have some anti-Debito ones too (taste the irony of being rewarded by the very person you’re dissing!). Go for it! Submit via:
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Handbook for Newcomers, Media | 18 Comments »
Posted by debito on 19th April 2012
SPECIAL NOTICE: The JT Community Page: A decade serving the community
JT: On May 8, the Japan Times will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Community pages, which have been providing news, analysis and opinion by, for and about the foreign community in Japan since May 9, 2002. To mark the occasion, we are asking readers to pick their favorite Zeit Gist article of the past decade, be it a memorable scoop, informative feature or scathing critique.
In return, The Japan Times is offering readers the chance to win a B4-size poster (above) illustrated by longtime Community artist Chris Mackenzie.
Alternatively, winners can opt for one of 10 copies of “3.11: One Year On,” a 64-page Japan Times Special Report bringing together JT articles from the past year about the triple disasters in Tohoku and their aftermath. Please state your preference on the form below. This offer ends at 5 p.m. JST on Friday, May 5.
The following are the Community editor’s picks of just some of the standout Zeit Gist articles of the last decade. Some were chosen because they help tell the story of of the last 10 years in Japan, others because the articles proved to be extremely popular – and in some cases simply because they are great reads.
COMMENT: Short list of the editor’s picks at
Debito has two of those articles listed, “Punishing foreigners, exonerating Japanese” (on skewed criminal jurisprudence by nationality), and “Demise of crime magazine historic” (on the GAIJIN HANZAI magazine and how we not only got it off the shelves, but also helped drive the slimy publisher bankrupt). Or you can see all the Community Page articles I’ve written, with one-line synopses, at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#JOURNALISTIC
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Media, NJ legacies | 1 Comment »
Posted by debito on 15th March 2012
Mainichi: Some 23 percent of Japan’s top 122 companies are considering employing more foreigners starting from next year, citing plans for overseas expansion as their main incentive, a Mainichi survey has revealed. Sixty-two companies, some 50.8 percent of all firms surveyed, further answered that they are likely to hire more foreign employees in the next 10 years as well. Conversely, 45 companies, or 36.9 percent, answered that their foreign employee numbers will remain unchanged. There were no firms that plan to decrease foreign employment from current figures.
COMMENT: Well, seems that trumpeting that Japanese companies want to hire foreigners is becoming a periodic media thing (the last survey put up on Debito.org was featured in the Asahi back in April 2010). But saying you want something is not news; actually doing it, is. But the lack of job-placement support for NJ graduates of Japanese universities, and the treatment of Michael Woodford (who rose through the ranks to CEO over decades of dedication to the company, only to be sacked for “cultural reasons” in a sea of corruption), do not inspire hope.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Labor issues, Media, 日本語 | 9 Comments »
Posted by debito on 9th March 2012
Good news. Congratulations to The Don for getting his Japanese citizenship, and on what looks to be an expedited schedule (of course; the guy is in his ninetieth year!). I think it’s good that an old man can realize his twilight dreams, and take advantage of opportunities that he has clearly earned as a contributor to Japan in the world.
That said, I don’t believe that gives him license to continuously bad-mouth other NJ, whom he yet again essentially accuses of desertion, according to the Asahi article trumpeting the news of his successful application below (translation mine):
“…[Keene] received Japanese Permanent Residency, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, knowing about the large numbers of foreigners that distanced themselves from Japan, he said, ‘I came to Japan, where I will always stay. I believe in Japan, is what I wanted to broadcast.’”
The Yomiuri adds: Worried over the news that an increasing number of foreigners were leaving the country, Keene made up his mind to permanently live in Japan. “I wanted to endure the hardships with the Japanese, who had taken good care of me, at a difficult time like this,” he said… Starting next month, he will travel by ship to India and Africa for vacation.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, NJ legacies, 日本語 | 25 Comments »
Posted by debito on 11th February 2012
Speaking of incarceration of NJ under unreviewed circumstances (start here), here is what happens when the GOJ suddenly starts, as encouraged by the United Nations and even domestic think tanks such as JIPI, to actually REVIEW its own rules: They discover that not as many NJ need to be incarcerated. Quite a few of not as many. Very high percentages, even.
Well, how about that. Glad this happened, and got some press too. May it happen more often, so that the NPA and Immigration realize that there are some boundaries to their power of interrogation and incarceration, even if (and especially if) the incarcerated happen to be NJ (who are even, according to here as well as the article below, committing suicide rather than take any more of this inhumane treatment).
Mainichi/Kyodo: The number of foreign nationals detained one year or longer by Japanese immigration officials dropped significantly after a review of procedural rules for a more flexible approach in response to criticisms about the treatment of long-term detainees, data for last year showed… The Japanese government came under fire for its long-term detentions in 2007 by the United Nations, which recommended that detention periods should be limited…
Those who were held for at least one year totaled 47, down sharply from 115 at the end of 2009. The Justice Ministry said it has been actively releasing those who are subject to deportation but it sees no need for holding in custody since July 2010… The number of foreign nationals detained one year or longer by Japanese immigration officials dropped significantly after a review of procedural rules for a more flexible approach in response to criticisms about the treatment of long-term detainees, data for last year showed.
Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, United Nations | 9 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th February 2012
JT: The Just Be Cause column has been running now for four years (thanks for reading!), and I’ve noticed something peculiar: how commentators are pressured to say “nice” stuff about Japan.
If you don’t, you get criticized for an apparent “lack of balance.” As if one has to pay homage to the gods of cultural relativism (as an outsider) or tribal commonalities (as an insider).
This pressure isn’t found in every society. Britain, for example, has a media tradition (as far back as Jonathan Swift, William Hogarth and George Cruikshank) where critics can be unapologetically critical, even savage, towards authority (for example, Private Eye magazine).
But in Japan, where satire is shallow and sarcasm isn’t a means of social analysis, we are compelled to blunt our critique with pat niceties. Our media spends more time reporting nice, safe things (like how to cook and eat) than encouraging critical thinking.
Likewise, Just Be Cause gets comments of the “If Debito hates Japan so much, why does the JT keep publishing him?” ilk. As if nobody ever criticizes Japan out of love (if we critics didn’t care about this place, we wouldn’t bother).
Moreover, why must we say something nice about a place that hasn’t been all that nice to its residents over the past, oh, two stagnant decades (even more so since Fukushima)? Japan, like everywhere else, has problems that warrant attention, and this column is trying to address some of them.
Still, as thanks to the readership (and my editor, constantly put off his beer defending me in bars), I’ll succumb and say something nice about Japan for a change. In fact, I’ll give not one, but 10 reasons why I like Japan:
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Good News, Humor | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th January 2012
As the first real post of the new year, I thought we should start with a bit of unexpected good news. Let’s talk about the changes in Immigration’s registration of NJ residents coming up in July.
It’s been in the news for quite a bit of time now (my thanks to the many people who have notified me), and there is some good news within: NJ will finally be registered on Residency Certificates (juuminhyou) with their families like any other taxpayer. Maximum visa durations will also increase from 3 to 5 years, and it looks like the “Gaijin Tax” (Re-Entry Permits for NJ who dare to leave the country and think they can come back on the same Status of Residence without paying a tariff) is being amended (although it’s unclear below whether tariffs are being completely abolished).
But where GOJ giveth, GOJ taketh. The requirement for jouji keitai (24/7 carrying of Gaijin Cards) is still the same (and noncompliance I assume is still a criminal, arrestable offense), and I have expressed trepidation at the proposed IC-Chipped Cards due to their remote trackability (and how they could potentially encourage even more racial profiling).
Anyway, resolving the Juuminhyou Mondai is a big step, especially given the past insults of awarding residence certificates to sea mammals and fictional characters but not live, contributing NJ residents (not to mention omitting said NJ residents from local government population tallies). Positive steps to eliminate an eye-blinkingly stupid and xenophobic GOJ policy. Read on.
Posted in Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 34 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd November 2011
As was reported on Debito.org last October 28 regarding the issue of Japan as safe haven for international child abductions, the US courts looked like they actually might start enforcing their arrest warrants against Japanese child abductors. In this case, against a Japanese woman named Inoue Emiko who reportedly whisked the kid off to Japan despite a US court awarding the father, Moises Garcia, custody. Then Inoue used the time-honored tactic of abducting the kid anyway and getting a Japanese court to award her the kid instead regardless (with a gracious 30-day per year visitation allowed; thanks a heap). Then she presumptuously decided to have her cake and eat it too, coming back to Hawaii last April to renew her Green Card, whereupon the authorities honored the arrest warrant against her and sent her to stand trial in Wisconsin (leaving the kid in limbo with the grandparents in Japan).
Back in October I said that enough is enough, and that the American judiciary should throw the book at her. Well, guess what — they did, and it looks as though the mother will return the child to the custodial father. Bravo! Read on. Let that be a lesson to you, child abductors, and let that be an incentive for Japan to sign the Hague Convention.
Journal Sentinel: [Abducted child] Karina Garcia’s mother agreed in court Monday to have the girl home in Fox Point by Christmas. If she makes it, the 9-year-old would be the first of what advocates say are more than 300 children around the U.S. abducted to Japan in violation of American court orders to be returned through legal intervention. She also could become a poster child for how to solve a growing problem as international marriages increase in the global economy.
The girl’s father, Moises Garcia, was pleased but cautious in talking to reporters after the hearing, where his ex-wife, Emiko Inoue, pleaded no contest to the felony charge of interfering with child custody by other parent. She was found guilty, but a plea agreement could leave her with only a misdemeanor conviction if Karina returns and Inoue completes other conditions.
UPDATE DEC 25 2011: Convicted felon Inoue Emiko returns the child to the father and gets released from the clink. Bravo. And of course, the Japanese media still refuses to use her name in the domestic press. Or even call what she did a crime. Check out the wording below: “arrested on suspicion of taking her 9-year-old daughter to Japan in violation of the father’s parental rights, the father’s lawyer said”. Those pesky lawyers and their allegations; never mind the conviction and sentencing by a judge. She abducts the kid, tries to game the USG by coming back to renew her Green Card, and after all that still has visitation rights in America. All right for some, isn’t it? Try getting this fair a deal in Japan. But again, fairness is not a highly-prized cultural conceit for Team Japanners. Especially when you consider the bias in reporting. The Japanese article claims the daughter “wanted to live in Japan”, but once told of the situation, “went to America to save her mother” according to the very different headline. What a trooper! Especially after being put in this position by her irresponsible mother in the first place!
Posted in Child Abductions, Good News, Lawsuits, Media, 日本語 | 50 Comments »
Posted by debito on 18th November 2011
Yomiuri: The Fukuoka High Court ruled Tuesday that permanent residents in in Japan with foreign nationalities are eligible to receive public welfare assistance, overturning a lower court ruling. The high court accepted an appeal by a 79-year-old woman who is a permanent resident in Japan with Chinese nationality. She filed the lawsuit, claiming that the Oita city government illegally rejected her request for public welfare assistance.
Presiding Judge Hiroshi Koga said in the ruling, “Foreign citizens with permanent residency [in Japan] are legally guaranteed the same status as Japanese citizens who receive the same treatment.” The high court overturned the Oita District Court’s ruling and nullified the Oita city government’s decision not to grant the woman public welfare benefits. According to a lawyer for the plaintiff, it is the nation’s first court ruling to present a legal basis for foreign permanent residents in Japan to receive public welfare benefits.
COMMENT: Okay, that’s good news and a good precedent. Glad they took it away from the denizens of Oita, who as I noted back on Debito.org last November clearly started saying “Chotto…” to the petty bureaucrats, then backtracked within two weeks as the wagons encircled to rule against the alleged foreigner (I would like to hear more about her, i.e., if she is in fact a Zainichi or not — there is a difference between ippan eijuusha and tokubetsu eijuusha, after all, and that will be noted by any legal exceptionalists who want to stop further positive precedent building). But the fact that she’s born here, raised here, speaks Japanese as her native language, and is approaching eighty years of age, yet STILL was denied benefits by heartless bureaucrats, backed up by the judiciary, is more than a bit scary. If this gets appealed to the Supreme Court (after all, the GOJ is a sore loser in court), I hope the judges are in a good mood when they start deliberating. Maybe we should send them sweets.
Posted in Exclusionism, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, 日本語 | 9 Comments »
Posted by debito on 28th October 2011
Here’s some good news for Left-Behind Parents. The Americans are (unusually, according to the Mainichi and Yomiuri below) enforcing their arrest warrants against Japanese child abductors. In this case, against a Japanese woman who reportedly absconded with the kid off to Japan and, despite a US court awarding the father custody, then used the time-honored tactic of abducting the kid anyway and getting a Japanese court to award her the kid instead regardless (with a gracious 30-day per year visitation allowed; thanks a heap). Then she carelessly decided to have her cake and eat it too, by coming back to the US to renew her Green Card, whereupon the authorities honored the arrest warrant against her, leaving the kid in limbo with the grandparents in Japan.
Not an unusual story (especially since the Japanese media once again refuses to use the word “abduction” in conjunction with any of this — just “taking without permission”; sounds much better), except that the Americans are now finally taking action regarding child abductions to Japan, honoring court decisions despite Japan’s vehemently guarding its safe-haven status for international child abduction.
Let’s see how the Japanese media further spins this; I doubt it’ll run against Team-Japanism. But already the editorial slant in the articles below is that signing the Hague Treaty will (somehow) prevent this, in defiance of all the Japanese safe-haveners that want to either not sign it, or caveat it with DV provisions into meaninglessness. Anyway, throw the book at her. This sort of thing has gone on long enough.
Posted in Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, 日本語 | 11 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th October 2011
This is still a growing issue, and there’s an excellent Reuters article below to hang this blog post on. Consider the case of Michael Woodford, a Brit hired more than thirty years ago by Japanese firm Olympus, with the superhuman tenacity to work his way up to the post of CEO (not hired, as are many of the famous NJ executives in Japanese companies, as an international prestige appointment). The presumption is that his appointment was because Mr Woodford would be different — there are plenty of Japanese corporate drones who would have gladly not rocked the boat for a quiet life and comfortable salary. But when he actually does something different, such as uncover and question possible corporate malfeasance, he gets fired because “his style of management was incompatible with traditional Japanese practices”. This of course, as further investigations finally gather traction, calls into practice the cleanliness of those traditional Japanese corporate practices. And it looks like the only way to get them investigated properly in Japan is to take the issue to overseas regulators (this is, after all, an international company, if only in the sense that it has international holdings, but now beholden to international standards). Not to mention the Japanese media (which, as the article alludes to below, is once again asleep at its watchdog position). None of this is surprising to the Old Japan Hands, especially those let anywhere close to Japanese corporate boardrooms, who see this nest feathering as a normal, nay, an obvious part of Japanese corporate culture the higher and richer you go. But woe betide the NJ whistleblower — perpetually in a vulnerable position for being of the wrong race and for not doing what he’s told like a good little gaijin. After all, there’s peer pressure behind membership in “Team Japan”, and as soon as it’s convenient, the race/culture card gets pulled by the crooks to excuse themselves. I’m just glad Mr. Woodford had the guts to do what he did. I doubt it’ll result in a system-wide cleanup (the rot is too systemic and entrenched, and few watch the watchers in corporatist Japan). But you gotta start somewhere, since exposure of corruption must be seen to be becoming commonplace in post-Fukushima Japan. Bravo Mr. Woodford, and expose away.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Ironies & Hypocrisies, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 30 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd October 2011
As a complete tangent for today, I just wanted to share what I consider to be very happy news.
I’ve been dieting with guidance since April 1, 2011. Back then, I tipped the scales at a massive 265.3 pounds (120.6 kgs). It was the product of a steady upcline of maybe 1-2 kgs a year, slow enough over the decades to be barely noticeable save for magically-shrinking belts and the occasional sore back. After all, life was too short (and stressful) to forgo good meals (the norm in Japan just about anytime, anywhere).
But I had to draw a line somewhere. People simply can’t keep gaining weight until they pop. So from April 1, I went on a supervised diet of 1800 kcal per day (no more or else I won’t lose weight at a decent clip, no less because at my height and body type I will go into starvation mode, meaning my metabolism will drop and I won’t lose weight again). A “decent clip” defined as about two pounds per week, I have manage to lose weight every week since then (except for a month I was travelling, and successfully managed to keep my net weight steady (as in, no gain) for that full month despite all the booze and culinary temptations of eating out).
So over time this has been a mathematical process. And as of this week I’ve reached one milestone I’m very proud of.
I’ve shed a total of fifty pounds (22.7 kgs). Actually, as of this morning I weighed in at 213.4 lbs (96.8 kgs), so more than that.
It’s uncanny how much better I feel. I can get out of cars without feeling extra gravity. I can sleep on my stomach (my preferred pose, thanks to months of outdoor Boy Scout camping in high altitudes) without getting a sore back. I psychologically feel more empowered and in control of my life. And I look significantly different (here are some photos):
Posted in Good News, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by debito on 1st October 2011
CRN: Now offering assistance to those with cases of Parental Abduction. Over 50 years combined experience.
PASS provides testimony in order to educate the courts, and put “safe-guards” into place to protect children from being wrongfully removed from the USA. Effective testimony can assist parents in their court cases by educating attorneys and judges about the risks of parental abduction and the dangers associated with it. PASS assists you in making sure that high risk cases are carefully examined by the courts. When needed PASS assists the courts in implementation of supervised visitation and port closure to protect at risk youth.
Testimony includes -
★ Training courts on the factors that indicate an individual is likely to commit an international child abduction
★ Assisting Judges in assessing the degrees of the risk of international child abduction
★ Presenting arguments regarding the sufficiency proposed custody order in preventing a potential international child abduction
★ Supplying Data on the likelihood that a foreign country will return an abducted child, and / or allow continued visitation
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Child Abductions, Good News, Practical advice | 1 Comment »
Posted by debito on 24th September 2011
BAChome: Yesterday was an historic day. For the first time ever, the Japan Child Abduction issue reached the highest levels of our government. President Obama addressed the issue, to include both the Hague Convention and resolution of existing cases, in his meeting with Prime Minister Noda in New York yesterday…
AS Campbell: “The President also very strongly affirmed the Japanese decision to enter into The Hague Convention – asked that this – on Child Abduction – asked that these steps be taken clearly and that the necessary implementing legislation would be addressed. He also indicated that while that was an important milestone for Japan, that – he also asked the Japanese prime minister and the government to focus on the preexisting cases, the cases that have come before. The prime minister indicated that very clearly, he knew about the number of cases. He mentioned 123. He said that he would take special care to focus on these particular issues as we – as Japan also works to implement the joining of The Hague Convention, which the United States appreciates greatly.”
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government | 5 Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd July 2011
Yomiuri: Regarding conditions for foreign trainees in Japan, the [US State Department] noted “the media and NGOs continued to report abuses including debt bondage, restrictions on movement, unpaid wages, overtime, fraud and contracting workers out to different employers–elements which contribute to situations of trafficking.” The Japanese government has not officially recognized the existence of such problems, the report said. It also said Japan “did not identify or provide protection to any victims of forced labor.”
Asahi: The report said, “Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking… The State Department recommended the Japanese government strengthen efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish acts of forced labor, including those that fall within the foreign trainee program.
COMMENT: The U.S. State Department report text in full included in this blog entry.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th June 2011
In addition to my latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out today, read it here), I am very happy to announce that my latest book, “IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping and revenge in modern Japan”, is now available for purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
More on IN APPROPRIATE here.
Buy from Amazon by clicking this link. Or buy from Barnes and Noble by clicking this link.
FYI. Thanks as always for reading. Arudou Debito, speaking at Doshisha University law school.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News | 2 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th June 2011
Mainichi: With the nuclear plant crisis and continuing aftershocks, many foreign assistant English teachers have left Japan to return to their home countries, but one assistant language teacher (ALT) here chose to stay behind and do what he could for volunteer efforts.
Greg Lekich, 31, is an American ALT who teaches English at a high school in Sendai. Together with around 10 others, he has been doing volunteer work such as shoveling mud and helping clean people’s debris-filled houses. He says that he has many friends and students he has taught in Japan, and has grown used to where he lives now. He says he does not have plans to leave the country any time soon.
Lekich was born in Philadelphia. He spent a year of college learning Japanese and came to the country in 2004. After teaching English in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and other locations, he started work as an ALT at Miyagi Hirose High School and Miyagiken Technical High School from 2007.
When the earthquake struck on March 11, Lekich was in the teacher’s room at Miyagi Hirose High School. It was his first experience of a large earthquake. Following the instructions of the school staff, he evacuated to the athletic field outside. After walking for three hours to return home, he used the Internet to check on the safety of his foreign friends.
As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was added to the list of disasters, many foreigners in Japan began leaving the country. However, Lekich stayed in Sendai. His father, a former nuclear plant safety engineer, told him that under the circumstances, he didn’t think his son needed to worry so much about the radiation. His mother said she was worried, but asked him to do what he thought was right.
Lekich decided to volunteer. Together with other teachers in the prefecture, he made the website “Teachers for Japan,” through which he and the others have posted English videos of the disaster-hit areas and collected money for those orphaned by the quake or tsunami. He also helps with relief work such as cleaning debris in houses three or four days a week in Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai and the cities of Ishinomaki and Tagajo…
Posted in Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, NJ legacies | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 31st May 2011
The Sankei reports on May 25 that the Ministry of Justice will be loosening some of its strictures on NJ visas (the Sankei uses the word nohouzu in its headline; I’m not 100% sure of the nuance but it sounds like “a wild and endless expansion of favorable treatment regarding NJ entry visas”; rather snotty, but that’s the Sankei for ya).
The new Immigration policy is directed at NJ with very high skills (koudo jinzai — a good idea) and their families (who will also be allowed to work; wow, that’s a change!), will have a points system for evaluation (another good idea), will offer longer visa periods (5 years), and will loosen the specificity between work visas. It’s being touted as a means to make Japan more appealing to NJ labor (you had better!).
Sounds like a step in the right direction. But it’s still 中途半端. What’s missing is GOJ guaranteeing some degree of protection of labor and civil rights after NJ get here. And what about qualifications? Just try practicing law, medicine, or most other licensed skills in Japan now without going through the rigmarole of domestic certification, with walls so high (cf. the NJ nurses from Indonesia and The Philippines over the past few years) that almost all NJ applicants fail (and, magically, have to return home as usual after three years, just like any other revolving-door “Trainee” or “Researcher” NJ laborer).
This isn’t the first time a points system etc. has been floated (only to die the death of a thousand meddling bureaucrats) either. I guess the mandarins are realizing what a fix Japan is in without NJ labor. But if this kind of policy is going to happen at all, the almighty MOJ has to be the one proposing it. Then perhaps the waters will part for Moses. Let’s wait and see.
But this is on balance “good” news. But not “great” news unless the GOJ also does something to force domestic actors to treat NJ nicely. Which is doubtful.
Posted in Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 30th May 2011
The government will seek to introduce a system to enable people who claim to be victims of human rights violations to file complaints with the United Nations and other international organizations based on global treaties, sources said Thursday.
Details will be worked out among officials from relevant government bodies, mainly the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, and the government intends to obtain Cabinet consent on the matter by the end of the year, the sources said.
The individual complaint system is based on international treaties governing the protection of human rights. Under the system, when perceived rights violations are not addressed after an individual has exhausted all possible means under a country’s legal system, the person can file a complaint with certain international organizations. The relevant organization then issues warnings or advisories to the nation if it recognizes the individual’s case as a human rights violation.
After an international organization gives its opinion or recommendation to a signatory nation of the relevant international treaty, the country is asked to investigate the cases based on the international organization’s views and report back to it…
The government is considering accepting the system via Cabinet consent on the following treaties: the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, United Nations | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 11th May 2011
Congratulations to Chris Savoie on his massive U.S. court victory against his ex-wife for, inter alia, false imprisonment of his children in Japan.
Debito.org has talked about the Savoie Case for quite some time now (do a search), but I devoted a Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to it back in October 2009. I’m personally glad he’s staying the course, and seeking judicial recourse that is amounting to legally-binding agreement. This is setting an important precedent regarding the issue of international child abduction, and drawing attention to a long-neglected problem. Arudou Debito
PS: Note the lame (if not just plain inaccurate) headline by the Japan Times/Kyodo News on this, “Wife fined for taking children to Japan”; makes it sound like she got punished for being a tourist. Get on the ball. Call it what it is: Child abduction.
Posted in Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Lawsuits | 25 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th April 2011
Octogenarian scholar and Japan specialist Donald Keene has announced his intention to become a Japanese citizen, and move to Japan in light of the Tohoku Disasters. Well, good for him.
Submitter JK notes, “While I respect Keene’s accomplishments as an academic, I can’t help but feel that his writings are a reflection of a person inhabiting a self-constructed bubble Japan whose universe is made up of haiku masters, poets, and scholars.” There are also a few comments on Japan Probe that make light of his (in)decision given his advanced age.
A bit harsh, but I do find the logic — of linking a show of solidarity in the face of a crisis with a decision as personal as changing one’s nationality (and in Japan’s case, abrogating one’s former nationality) — a bit discomfiting. As per Keene’s comments below, he’s basically falling into the ancient bad habit (a la Lafcadio Hearn’s day) of treating the Japanese people as monolithic. Plus he won’t have to live quite as long with his (last-minute) decision compared to younger people who really plighted their troth here and naturalized. A nice, but oddly-reasoned, gesture on Keene’s part.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 18 Comments »
Posted by debito on 15th April 2011
SNA: A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the March 11 disaster.
Specifically, these government organizations asserted in a press release that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and that the government must take steps against this trend for the sake of the public good…
The Telecom Services Association reveals that the following requests have thus far come from the government:
March 17: Erase descriptions of the earthquake as a man-made event
March 24: Erase descriptions about the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactors
March 28: Erase claim that the earthquake was caused by foreign terrorism…
COMMENT: Here we have GOJ agencies working to stem malicious rumors from proliferating online, including those targeting NJ. Good. It’s also presented (by a news blog) as a debate between those who feel they have a right to know (and feel betrayed by the official media as an information source) and those who feel they can say anything they like about anybody thanks to freedom of speech. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but I’m glad to see somebody official trying to tackle (or, rather, at least thinking about tackling) the issue of hate speech against NJ. But without clear legal guidelines about what constitutes “hate speech” (or for that matter, “immoral information”) in Japan, those who don’t trust the government will no doubt foresee a wave of official censorship.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th April 2011
As I shift the focus of Debito.org to how NJ residents are being bashed in Japan post 3-11 despite their best efforts, it’s first prudent to start giving an example or two of how NJ are actually trying to help. Others who are similarly helping out are welcome to submit their stories here either by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or as a comment below. Well done, James. Debito
Report on the Miyagi trip this past Sunday after our Saturday fundraising efforts.
By James Gibbs. April 1, 2011
After holding a fundraising event on Mar.26, the following day we delivered donated items along with a fully-loaded van of food and clothes to Onagawa next to Ishinomaki City, which is just north of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. I’ve made the following brief report on the trip along with first-hand observations on the situation and suggestions for future assistance as I know everyone is wanting to do something to help…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, NJ legacies | 11 Comments »
Posted by debito on 9th March 2011
ARUDOU Debito is proud to announce the release of his first novel:
IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
Gary Schmidt, a small-town American boy, meets a Japanese girl in college and follows her to Japan to start a family. Little does he know that her conservative Japanese clan has hidden agendas and secret intentions. Gary eventually realizes that he must escape their clutches – and convince his family to do the same before it’s too late!
More plot synopsis for Debito.org Readers:
IN APPROPRIATE is a book about child abductions in Japan, where after a divorce, a non-Japanese man comes back to Japan to retrieve his children back to America. Although a work of fiction, it is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and Left-Behind Parents in Japan.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR “IN APPROPRIATE”:
“ARUDOU Debito’s depiction of how quickly life gets turned upside down by the crazy family rules in Japan will do more than just grab your attention. It will make you cry at the strange and deplorable tale of love lost in Japan. IN APPROPRIATE sheds necessary light on the twisted norms and laws in Japan that not only allow, but also encourage parents to abduct their children from one another. A must-read primer on the issue.” — Eric Kalmus, Children’s Rights Network Japan (www.crnjapan.net), and Left-Behind Parent.
Ordering options for paperback and ebook follow, with a link to an eleven-page excerpt.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Good News, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 20th January 2011
Hollywood Reporter said last month that the story of Richard Cory will be optioned for development into a media event (movie or TV). This is a pseudonymous story of a NJ father in an international marriage in Japan, who reported in a series of articles for the Japan Times Community Page about his hardships getting access to his children — after his wife went AWOL, then nuts. His case particularly highlights the systematic barriers that fathers and NJ face trying to get a fair shake in custody hearings, even when the J spouse is certifiable.
The optioning is good news, in the sense that the issue of “Left-Behind Parents” (LBP, to those of us who are) deserves plenty of exposure. Systematic Child Abduction and Parental Alienation after separation and divorce in Japan affects not only NJ, but LBPs who are Japanese as well.
A reality check at this juncture, however. Something being optioned does not necessarily mean something gets made. Especially when the market concerns the darker aspects of Japan: Robert Whiting’s best book, TOKYO UNDERWORLD, has languished for many years in production hell. SOUR STRAWBERRIES got made in part thanks to German government funding. FROM THE SHADOWS is still looking for investors. And even the goofy airy-fairy movies about NJ in Japan, such as Oguri Saori’s MY DARLING IS A FOREIGNER, was a flop — grossing less than $7 million bucks to become only the 71st-grossing movie in Japan last year. The more successful yet serious-in-tone movies about foreign treatment in Japan, like LOST IN TRANSLATION, are anomalous. Good luck to Richard Cory.
Posted in Child Abductions, Good News, Media | 1 Comment »
Posted by debito on 18th January 2011
In response to the feedback regarding his statements to the Japan Times last December 28, where in an article he calls himself a foreigner despite his Japanese citizenship, Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei sends this public statement through his office (not an official translation):
“I wish to thank everyone for their comments. As people have pointed out, my use of the English word ‘foreigner’ was inappropriate. I was trying to express that I am not a ‘Japan-born Japanese’ and used ‘foreigner’, but strictly speaking I should have said ‘foreign-born person’, or as I said in the article ‘Finn-born Japanese’.
“I regret using expressions that gave rise to misunderstandings, and I would like to offer my apologies.”
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 16 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th January 2011
I’m busy working on my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out February 1, addressing concerns I have, and other naturalized Japanese citizens have, when other long-term and naturalized residents called themselves “foreigners” in the Japan Times December 28). So for today, a short entry, and it’s good news. Record numbers of tourists coming in last year and pumping money into our economy:
Kyodo: “The number of foreign nationals arriving in Japan last year rose 24.6% from a year earlier to a record-high 9,443,671 due to the economic recovery in Asia and the relaxation by Tokyo of visa regulations for Chinese tourists, government data shows.”
I may have had some cross words here in the past about how NJ tourists are being treated once they get here, but why speak ill of this development? Bring them in and show them a good time — everyone wins. Let’s just hope that people will see sense and not decide to exclude NJ from their business just because there’s nothing legally stopping them from doing so.
Posted in Good News, Tourism | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th January 2011
It looks like the GOJ has pinched one of the essential avenues for Japanese overseas looking to abduct their children back to Japan after separation or divorce — the ability for a Japanese citizen to get their child’s J-passport renewed at any Japanese embassy or consulate without the consent of both parents. Somewhat good news, although commenter Getchan below points out that there are still loopholes in this development.
MOFA: To Parents with Children of Japanese Nationality:
Notice: Passport Application for Japanese Minors
Under Japanese civil law, those under the age of 20 are regarded as minors. When a Japanese minor applies for a Japanese passport, one parent/guardian must sign the “Legal Representative Signature” section on the back of the passport application. An application signed by one parent will be accepted under the assumption that the signature is a representation of consent from both parent(s)/guardian(s)…
Posted in Child Abductions, Good News, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 29th November 2010
WSJ: A powerful group of politicians, academics and business leaders is set to launch an unusual campaign to urge Japan to pry open its doors to foreigners, saying the country’s survival hinges on revamping its immigration policy.
Japan has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world, and the debate over whether to allow more foreigners to settle in the country has long been a contentious, politically charged issue for the nation. But recently, calls to allow more foreign workers to enter Japan have become louder, as the aging population continues to shrink and the country’s competitiveness and economic growth pales in comparison with its neighbor to the west: China. A minuscule 1.7% of the overall Japanese population are foreigners, compared with 6.8% in the United Kingdom and 21.4% in Switzerland, according to the OECD.
The 87-member policy council of the Japan Forum of International Relations, a powerful nonprofit research foundation, will on Thursday launch a half-page advertisement in the country’s leading newspapers, urging Japan to rethink its immigration policy. They also submitted their policy recommendations to Naoto Kan, the country’s prime minister.
“If Japan wants to survive in a globalized world economy and to advance her integration with the burgeoning East Asian economy, she essentially has no other choice but to accept foreign migrants,” the advertisement says.
The policy council has issued several recommendations, including allowing more skilled workers to enter the labor market, particularly in industries where there are shortages of domestic workers, such as construction and the auto industry. Under economic-partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, Tokyo has allowed nurses and nursing-care specialists from these countries to enter Japan, but applicants are subjected to a grueling test in Japanese that only three people have passed. The council says these tests have to be made easier…
Posted in Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 19 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th November 2010
Eurobiz Magazine a couple of months ago ran an article talking inter alia about something I’ve called the “Gaijin Tax” for more than a decade now — the Re-Entry Permit system. Thought of by some as a way of punishing the Zainichi Koreans etc. for staying behind in Japan (given all the incentives for them to leave after being stripped of colonial Japanese citizenship, moreover registered as foreigners in the late 1940′s), the Re-Entry Permit actually is a tax with a profit motive — even the lecturer cited by Tony McNicol below states this openly about its proposed abolition:
Without re-entry permit income, currently ¥6,000 for multiple re-entry, the changes are likely to lighten the government’s coffers. “This is a huge reduction in our revenue,” said Matsuno. “The Ministry of Finance is angry.”
What a piece of work our government can be. Charging for visas for foreigners and passports for nationals is one thing (and I just paid 16,000 yen for a new ten-year Japanese passport; ouch). But charging foreigners for their addiction to going “home” (or for even daring to leave Japan) with their visa held hostage, well, that’s just as I’ve suspected all along — a mean-spirited means to sponge off the NJ population. Good riddance to it.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Good News, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 19 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th November 2010
The uproar on the Uemura Akiko Suicide has led to ministerial-level action. Good news, in that something is being done about bullying in Japanese schools. Bad news is that somebody has to die before something is done (and these crackdowns on ijime are periodical things anyway; once the furore dies down, well… let’s just wait for the next victim and we’ll have another cry and outcry).
Of course, the elephant in the room is the racially-motivated nature of the bullying, which does not seem to be being addressed. If you don’t address one of the root causes (a racial background being used as ammunition), you aren’t gonna fix things. Duh. Doesn’t anyone out there in ministry land have a degree in education?
Japan Times: The education ministry will conduct a nationwide survey of bullying in schools following the suicide last month of sixth-grader Akiko Uemura, in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture.
Japan Times Editorial: Why does the board of education deny a cause-and-effect relationship between the bullying and her suicide? It appears as if the board and school authorities refused to squarely deal with the tragedy and their responsibility in the case.
Posted in Education, Exclusionism, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 28th October 2010
As another move by the GOJ to stimulate our economy through tourism (first big move was the Chinese back in July), we have the easing of visa restrictions for subcontinental Indians too. Good idea.
Indian Express: Visiting Japan for business or holiday will be easier after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s official tour to the country starting Sunday. After negotiating for four years, the two countries are set to sign a memorandum that will provide longer duration visas to Indians.
The new visa deal will benefit businesspersons the most who —on receipt of a request letter from “a duly recognized company” or from chambers of commerce or industry or trade groups —will be eligible for a five-year multiple-entry visa instead of the current “short-term” 90-day visa. Their dependents will automatically be eligible for three-year multiple entry visas. These applicants will also be exempt from submitting a host of supporting documents.
Posted in Good News, Japanese Government, Tourism | No Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd October 2010
My, my, how the worm turns. Check out how the International Terminal at Haneda Airport has gotten Tokyo bathhouses all abuzz about profit. All those customary fears about foreigners and their troublemaking ways (cf. the Otaru Onsens Case) simply evaporate when there’s the whiff of a tidal wave of tourist money to be had.
Come back foreigners, all is forgiven! Never mind about all the hand-wringing ten plus years ago, or about actually protecting them with any laws against potential refusals nationwide. This at places with owners who aren’t quite so magnanimous (or open-minded) at restaurants, hotels, etc. No doubt if there are any problems or outright xenophobia, it’ll be depicted as the foreigners’ fault all over again.
Tokyo bathhouses scrub up to lure visitors
Yomiuri Shinbun, Oct. 22, 2010
Public bathhouses in Ota Ward, Tokyo, are bubbling with excitement at the prospect of a flood of foreign visitors the new-look Haneda Airport will bring.
Thursday’s opening of a new runway and terminal at Haneda make the airport an international hub, an opportunity the bathhouses hope will stop their business going down the drain.
The Ota public bathhouse association has made posters in four foreign languages, which explain local bathing manners, such as entering the bathtub after washing your body. It also plans to visit local public baths with foreign residents on Oct. 31–the day when regular international flights go operational at Haneda…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, 日本語 | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th October 2010
Kyodo: A Japanese court repealed on Thursday a decision by Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan not to examine a request from a 78-year-old Chinese woman to look into a decision by Oita City that rejected her application for welfare benefits.
A three-judge panel at the Oita District Court acted on a suit filed by the woman, who has obtained permanent residency status in Japan, against the Oita prefectural government decision that turned away the woman’s request, filed in February last year, to examine the Oita municipal government decision not to provide welfare benefits to her.
The prefectural government dismissed the woman’s request without examining it, saying she was not eligible to seek benefits because she does not have Japanese nationality.
In Thursday’s ruling, the district court said the prefectural government must review the municipal government decision in line with the woman’s request, and decide whether she should be given benefits.
Presiding Judge Kenji Kanamitsu brushed aside the prefectural government’s argument that the city’s decision not to provide her with benefits was a ‘‘unilateral administrative action’’ against a foreigner who has no right to seek welfare benefits, and not an ‘‘administrative decision’’ as she claimed, whose appropriateness can be reviewed under the administrative appeal law.
Judge Kanamitsu said the woman is ‘‘obviously’’ eligible to ask the prefectural government to review the municipal government decision.
‘‘An application for welfare benefits has been rejected, and it means the same to the applicants, regardless of their nationalities,’’ the judge said…
Posted in Exclusionism, Good News, Japanese Government, Lawsuits | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 30th September 2010
Media: The U.S. House of Representatives turned up the pressure Wednesday on Japan, strongly urging Tokyo to return immediately half-Japanese children that lawmakers say have been kidnapped from their American parents.
The House voted overwhelmingly for a nonbinding resolution that “condemns the abduction and retention” of children held in Japan “in violation of their human rights and United States and international law.”
The resolution, which passed 416 to 1, also calls for Japan to allow Americans to visit their children and for Tokyo to join a 1980 international convention on child abduction that would allow for the quick return of the children to America.
Democratic Rep Jim Moran told reporters that the resolution sends a strong signal to Japan that the U.S. Congress “is watching and expecting action.”
Republican Rep. Chris Smith said, “Americans are fed up with our friend and ally Japan and their pattern of noncooperation.”
The Japanese Embassy said in a statement that Japan is sympathetic to the plight of children caught in custody battles between Japanese and American citizens and “is continuing to make sincere efforts to deal with this issue from the standpoint that the welfare of the child should be of the utmost importance.”
Posted in Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Good News, Japanese Government, Media | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th September 2010
In the same vein as a previous post putting Japanese and NJ crime in context, we have the Hokkaido police issuing a warning (procured from a Sapporo post office ATM area last February) about “Oreore Sagi” (“Hey Mom, it’s me, I need money fast” fraud) and other types of snatch and grab thefts. As you can read below, we have 1) a shyster phoning some old mom claiming to be her son and asking for emergency funds to be sent to an account, 2) a cash card being used for theft because the owner uses his or her birthday as their PIN number, 3) people storing their inkans too close to their bankbooks, 4) mysterious people distracting marks so they can snatch their belongings, and 5) call the police immediately if they think they’ve been a victim of crime.
Item 4) below in particular is germane to Debito.org. It mentions (in passing) that grabbers might say “you dropped some money” or “your clothes are dirty”, or speak to you in a foreign language. After distracting you, then they run off with your cash or bag.
Fine. It’s in context of other crimes committed by Japanese. Compare it with some past NPA posters making foreigners out to be the main culprits, including racist caricatures (which are fortunately avoided above), like this nasty one with darkies speaking katakana:
I think this new one is a definite improvement. Perhaps we’re getting listened to.
One more thing: About this “Oreore Sagi” fraud phenomenon. One thing I’ve always wondered is, are parents so distant from their children nowadays that they can’t recognize their own child’s voice on the phone? I don’t understand how they get duped. Explain, somebody?
Posted in Good News, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, 日本語 | 6 Comments »