Archive for the 'Japanese Government' Category
Things that are happening at the Japanese Government level regarding human rights and NJ in Japan.
Posted by debito on 21st May 2013
We have some positive movements regarding the treatment of hate speech in Japan, particularly regarding that “Kill all Koreans” hate demo that took place last February (god bless the ensuing gaiatsu of international attention for making the GOJ finally take some action to deal with this deservedly embarrassing incident). First, the Asahi reports that one of the participants in the Zaitokukai hate demo named Akai Hiroshi was arrested by the police, for violent bodily contact contact with a person protesting Zaitokukai activities.
It’s a good start, and I’m glad that there are protests regarding the hateful, xenophobic protesters (usually their activities get ignored even if they involve violence against counter-demonstrators).. Except for the fact that this sort of hate speech has by now reached the highest and lowest levels of society, as in anti-Korean stickers being sold in Diet buildings, and anti-Korean graffiti being scrawled on public transportation, according to J-Cast. The good news, however, is that we’re hearing about these events at all (discrimination often goes ignored in the J-media if its against NJ).
Also good news is that the authorities are taking measures against them, as seen in this sign sent to me yesterday by AP: Taken in Sekime-Seiiku Station in the Osaka area, May 20, 2013. The sign reads: A bright society where people respect each others’ human rights. Let’s stop scrawling discriminatory GRAFFITI that will hurt people’s hearts. If you notice any discriminatory graffiti, let us know (addendum: let a station attendant know). Signed, Osaka City Citizens’ Bureau.
Submitter AP writes: “I talked to the 駅長 as well. I said I don’t know what lead to posting that message, but as a foreigner in Japan I sometimes face 差別 and understand why this kind of thing is important to address, and thanked him. He seemed appreciative as well.” Good. Then maybe people are realizing that this sort of thing affects everyone in society, not just some guest foreigners whose lives and feelings have no connection with ours. These are positive developments.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 9th May 2013
We now have the xenophobic public demonstrations talked about previously on Debito.org, which had slogans such as “Kill the Koreans!” in Tokyo and “start a Tsuruhashi Massacre like the Nanking Massacre!” in Osaka, being debated and decried in Japan’s political circles. Witness this article fresh from the Asahi (translation mine):
Asahi: On May 9, the issue of the Zaitokukai’s repeated demos containing hate speech, calling for people to “Kill the Koreans”, was taken up in the Upper House’s Judicial Committee. Justice Minister Tanigaki Sadakazu said, “I am filled with concern. This runs directly counter to the course of a civilized nation.”… In regards to next steps, Tanigaki limited his statement to, “This is extremely worrisome because it is related to freedom of expression. I wish to observe most carefully to see whether it leads to sentiments of racial discrimination.”
Comments have also come from the top.
Japan Daily Press: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his concern on the increase of hate speech in the country in an Upper House Budget Committee session on May 7. The premier criticized the hate-mongering that has become rampant on the internet and in specific areas around the nation, adding that the hate these people show is dishonoring Japan… Abe concluded that those who are spreading hate speech – online or offline – do not represent the Japanese people. He also specifically said that it was his intention to restrict hateful comments posted on his official Facebook page. “It’s completely wrong to put others down and feel as if we are superior,” he said. “Such acts dishonor ourselves.”
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Although I am happy that the LDP is saying that these hateful tendencies are a bad thing, there are two tendencies that should be noted. One is that these are reactive, not active, stances by the governing parties. These clear and powerful acts of hate speech happened months ago, and now we’re just getting to them during question time, in response to opposition questions? Far too slow. The LDP should have denounced this behavior immediately if it ran so counter to what PM Abe can so cocksurely say is not “The Japanese Way of Thinking”. (And given that these people are legislators, where is the proposal for a law against it?)
The other is Abe’s disingenuousness. Abe might now say that those who are disseminating this kind of hate speech “do not represent the Japanese people”. Yet these right-wing haters are precisely Abe’s support base. As I discussed in my articles in the Japan Times (“Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan will suffer”, February 4, 2013) and on Japan Focus (“Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance.” Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3. March 4, 2013), Abe has been intimately involved with the Sakura TV crowd, for years now advocating all manner of hateful invective towards NJ, particularly Japan’s neighbors and domestic NJ residents. Abe is thus talking out of both sides of his mouth here.
In sum, if Abe wants to keep harping on about “honor” (whatever that means), I think he should be looking at himself and his political activities in the mirror. These hate-speech activities are a direct result of the political machinations of his political ilk, if not him personally. That a man could exist in such a powerful position in government not once, but twice, says indicative things about Japan’s view of “honor”, and about the Japanese public’s tolerance of disingenuousness.
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 27 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd May 2013
NYT: Since taking over as Japan’s prime minister in December, Shinzo Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party have been juggling a packed agenda of complicated issues, including reviving the country’s economy, coping with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and managing prickly relations with neighbors like North Korea. Stirring up extraneous controversy is counterproductive, but that’s exactly what he and his nationalist allies in Parliament have done. On Tuesday, a group of 168 mostly low-ranking conservative lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, which honors Japan’s war dead, including several who were executed as war criminals after World War II. It was the largest mass visit by Parliament in recent memory…
Japan and China both need to work on a peaceful solution to their territorial issues. But it seems especially foolhardy for Japan to inflame hostilities with China and South Korea when all countries need to be working cooperatively to resolve the problems with North Korea and its nuclear program. Instead of exacerbating historical wounds, Mr. Abe should focus on writing Japan’s future, with an emphasis on improving its long-stagnant economy and enhancing its role as a leading democracy in Asia and beyond.
Posted in Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media | 23 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th April 2013
We’ve talked about Tokyo’s Olympic bids for 2016 and 2020 before on Debito.org (I see them as basically a vanity project for Japan’s elite ruling class to convince themselves that the outside world is still paying attention to them, especially after successful bids in Beijing 2008 and Pyeongchang (South Korea) 2018). But here’s an interesting development: According to the New York Times, Tokyo Governor Inose Naoki (a good writer and analyst before he became Vice-Governor then Governor, and from whom I expected more intelligence and sophistication) is taking cheap shots at other Olympic bidders, violating IOC rules.
Particularly at Istanbul for its religious and ethnic/economic composition, Inose has said, “Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes”. He also said that other countries lack “Tokyo’s excellent sense of hospitality”. Funny, that. As if Japan does not have classes of its own based upon economic clout or connections to a ruling elite.
And of course, there’s the frequent claim by Japan’s promoters of lack of infrastructure and development elsewhere. Never mind how that infrastructure doesn’t seem to be taking care of its hundreds of thousands of victims and homeless after the Tohoku Disasters more than two years afterwards. But you see, we’re not holding the Olympics in Fukushima. And we’ll take advantage of Fukushima by trying to claim a sympathy vote for Tokyo in their stead. Also never mind that unfettered discrimination against domestic minorities in a society also violates the Olympic Charter. So much to see when you scratch the surface.
There were some subsidiary arguments about Japan’s aging society, which Inose turned on their head to say that healthy seniors are the sign of a healthier society. That’s fine — that’s just boosterism. But then he violates IOC rules again by denigrating: “I’m sure people in Turkey want to live long. And if they want to live long, they should create a culture like what we have in Japan. There might be a lot of young people, but if they die young, it doesn’t mean much.”
See what I mean about a lack of sophistication? I guess the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree (as Inose is an Ishihara Shintaro protege, and Ishihara is a bonafide bigot). Or else Inose has been so steeped in the dominant discourse of Japan being a unique and peerlessly rich, homogeneous, developed society, that he actually has come to believe it himself. Hence the blind spots cluttering his analysis. Put it down to the effects of being steeped in affluence and power.
As submitter MH notes about what he calls Inose’s “idiotic, xenophobic and downright racist comments”, “One doesn’t have to extrapolate too far to see how a racist landlord or real estate agency might feel a certain (ingrained) justification for banning foreigners.” Quite. So much for Japan’s “excellent sense of hospitality”.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Sport | 34 Comments »
Posted by debito on 21st April 2013
Kyoto Shimbun: On April 10, the [Governor] of Kyoto Keiji Yamada made public his intentions to appeal to the government to award overseas students who graduate from Kyoto [universities] with the right to permanent residence. It is a proposal entitled ‘Kyoto University Special Ward’ and also incorporates other supportive measures for foreign students. With a decrease in student intake within Japan in recent years, it is hoped that by providing incentives for academically skilled overseas students, Kyoto will not only be able to compete with other cities like Tokyo but will also be able to add a new lease of life to its cultural city….
With air of conviction, Kyoto’s [Governor] put his proposition to the panel: “What I’d like to ask you to consider is whether overseas students who graduate from Kyoto [universities] and take part in the city’s job training program can be given permanent resident status. I’d like to work with everyone in producing an effective policy.”
COMMENT: Interesting and very positive proposal, but it will come to naught, of course. Still, it shows how local governments are much more responsive to the needs of NJ than the central government (which is dominated by the control-the-borders-and-police-foreigners-only mindset of the Ministry of Justice). Although the central government occasionally deigns to listen to the locals (especially when they band together and say, “Our NJ residents need this!” as per the Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001), ultimately the regular blind spots prevail, and I think they will in this case too (as awarding PR is the job of the MOJ, not local governments).
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 18 Comments »
Posted by debito on 18th April 2013
We have some more harbingers of Japan’s retreat into itself. International marriages are way down, and so are Japanese students studying abroad. First, check out this significant stat about international marriage: At last measurement, international marriage figures (in blue) have dropped by about 25% since their peak in 2006! (International divorce figures, in yellow, have crept up too.) I call it significant because it removes one of the fundamental means to Japan’s increased diversity. If Japan’s perennially low birthrate means fewer children, having fewer international marriages means probably fewer international Japanese children. And this will quite possibly lead to further marginalization of the “half” population as a temporary “blip” in international coupling (last seen as a “social problem” with the Postwar konketsuji mixed-blood children, publicly stigmatized for being “bastard children of prostitutes”; see Fish, Robert A. 2009. “‘Mixed-blood’ Japanese: A Reconsideration of Race and Purity in Japan.” Pp. 40-58 in Weiner, ed., Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity. 2nd ed. Sheffield: Routledge.)
Next up, consider how Japanese students are not going overseas much (according to the Japan Times, they are being significantly outdistanced by, for example, the South Koreans and Chinese): That said, I’m a bit skeptical about whether this trend means a great deal, as I don’t think people who study abroad necessarily become more broad-minded or open to outside ideas (and Japanese society has structural mechanisms for marginalizing students who leave the system anyway). Moreover, the domestic discourse nowadays is finding ways to rationalize away the need, for example, to study a foreign language at all. Nevertheless, I would argue that these trends are not particularly good for Japan, as they are not only harbingers of insularity, but also encouraging even further insularity in addition to recent trends I have written about before
Posted in Education, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 14 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th April 2013
Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight
By Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon
Published by Columbia University Press, this unprecedented study of sex trafficking, forced labor, organ trafficking, and sex tourism across twenty-four nations highlights the experiences of the victims, perpetrators, and anti-traffickers involved in this brutal trade. Combining statistical data with intimate accounts and interviews, journalist Stephanie Hepburn and justice scholar Rita J. Simon create a dynamic volume sure to educate and spur action.
Among the nations examined is Japan, which has not elaborated a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Although the government took a strong step forward in its 2009 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons by acknowledging that sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking, forced-labor victims continue to be marginalized. As a result of ethnocentric policies, the government prohibits foreign unskilled laborers from working in Japan. But the disparity between the nation’s immigration posture and its labor needs has created a quandary. With a demand for inexpensive labor but without an adequate low wage labor force, Japan uses the government-run Industrial Training Program and Technical Internship Program to create a temporary and low-cost migrant workforce for employers. The stated purpose of the program is to transfer skill, technology, and knowledge to persons of other nations and thereby play a central role in the economic growth of developing nations, specifically those in East Asia. Instead, it has created opportunities for exploitation and human trafficking.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Education, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 9th April 2013
I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.
The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc. A synopsis of the new book is below.
You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, United Nations, 日本語 | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 6th April 2013
Here’s something interesting for those of you working in Japan and intending to stay on until retirement. Those of you who have done the research (see also our HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN) will know that (aside from a quickie lump-sum you can withdraw if you’ve only paid in for a few years and are leaving Japan) you have to pay into Japan’s mandatory pension system for 300 months (i.e., 25 years) or you don’t get anything back. Further, you can’t collect it until the mandatory retirement age, which was 60, but now has been raised to 61 and soon will be raised to 65, according to the Japan Times. So that means that even if you want to stop work early even after paying in for 300 months, you simply cannot collect. This is also assuming that, given the decreasing population and increasing pensioners, Japan’s pension system will even be solvent by the time you reach retirement age. Something to think about.
JT: From next month, when the 2013 fiscal year begins, the revised Law Concerning Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons takes effect, and the mandatory retirement age, defined as the minimum age for payout of social security pensions — last raised from 55 to 60 years in 1998 — will go up to 61, and then increase incrementally at the rate of one year of age every three years, until 2025, when the mandatory retirement age reaches 65.
Posted in Handbook for Newcomers, Japanese Government, Pension System, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 16 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd April 2013
Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.
One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.
In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.
The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.
Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijuusha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijuusha (special permanent resident, for the Zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).
Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 30th March 2013
As our last post talked about labor law issues (and the proposal to abridge Labor Standards in favor of greater “flexibility” to dismiss labor without reasons), here’s an important article that came out in the Japan Times last December that I was waiting to get to, discussing issues once again of employer power over employees: When is a person under the authority of his or her employer, deserving compensation as “work time”? Okunuki talks about important cases in a very enlightening article about just how grey “work hours” are, and underscoring how powerless Japanese employees are regarding all that overtime going unpaid — how many people take things to court or to labor unions to fight under this precedent, or are even aware of “kyakkan setsu vs. nibun setsu”?. And the proposal we discussed last blog entry is to give even more power to employers?
JT: The Labor Standards Law sidesteps a proper definition, and labor law scholars fall into two camps over how a work hour should be defined. One subscribes to what is known as kyakkan-setsu, roughly translating as “objective theory.” This camp argues that work hours are the entire time during which the employee can objectively be considered to be under the authority of her or his employer.
The nibun-setsu (two-part theory) camp, on the other hand, splits work hours into “core” and “peripheral” work hours, with the status of the latter gray area between strictly defined work hours and break time to be determined through agreement between the employer and employed.
The gold standard in case law regarding work hours is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard case. The Supreme Court’s Petty Bench on March 9, 2000, rejected outright the nibun-setsu approach and backed the kyakkan-setsu interpretation. Let’s examine the case.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th March 2013
Asahi: Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth. Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.” The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
COMMENT: Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig”, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners. For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997. More examples here. Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at. Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections. Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody? Again, deserves to be known about.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 6 Comments »
Posted by debito on 24th March 2013
Asahi: A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned. In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced. [...] According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.
COMMENT: We’ve talked about Japan’s “Points System” before on Debito.org, where I took a dim view of it as just another “revolving door” labor visa regime to bring people over, leech off their prime working lives, and then boot them back home without letting them settle and reap the rewards for contributing to Japanese society (cf. the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “foreign caregivers“, all of whom I have written about for the Japan Times). Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications. As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high. Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit. Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”. These policy failures will keep happening again and again until NJ are treated as “people”, and given a fair chance by the GOJ at becoming “Japanese” (with transfers of political, economic, and social power — and that includes input at the policymaking stage too). But I still don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Posted in Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 34 Comments »
Posted by debito on 21st March 2013
Making national news whenever statistics come out is how Japan deals with (i.e., mostly rejects) refugees. I was always curious about why refugee numbers have always been considered newsworthy (when there are many other significant NJ-related statistics that merit more fanfare but don’t, such as the number of “Newcomers” with Permanent Residency overtaking the “Oldcomer” Zainichis with Special Permanent Residency in 2007, representing a sea change in the composition of permanent immigrant NJs in Japan). But then I found something in an academic writing that put things in perspective: Acceptance of refugees are one bellwether of Japan’s acceptance of international norms, as part of its “greater role in international cooperation” and an attempt “to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy”. First the most recent news article, then the academic article to put it in perspective:
Kyodo: In 2011, there were 21 foreigners recognized as refugees, but for 2012, the number fell to 18. Since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees.
Kashiwazaki: Since the mid-1970s, Japan has come into prominence in the international arena as a major player in the world economy. Internationalization became a slogan for the new direction of the country, with demands from both within and abroad to open, to take a leadership role, and to assume international responsibility. For the Japanese government, successful economic development provided the opportunity to assume a greater role in international cooperation and to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy. To do so would require accepting an emerging set of international legal norms, including those in the area of citizenship…
The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 generated refugees from Indochina. In the same year, the G7 Summit meeting was established. As the only Asian country admitted to membership in the G7 Summit, Japan was obliged to take some steps to accommodate refugees… With the acceptance of refugees, the Japanese government was compelled to join relevant international conventions. Japan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural, Rights in 1979, and then ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981.
COMMENT: Japan basically only acceded to these international norms and agreements as a vanity project — a matter of “not looking like an outlier” in the international community. Not because policymakers had any good-faith interest in helping NJ or outsiders in need come to Japan and settle. That’s why we see honne hiccoughs from time to time (like the one in 2010 when a 78-year-old Zainichi granny was denied social welfare by Oita Prefectural Government — where a court ruled that “Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity”. So much for those international treaties guaranteeing equal treatment being respected by Japan’s judiciary!). We’ve also seen how Japan simply will not pass a law against racial discrimination (despite signing another international agreement, the UN CERD, in 1995) — and will in fact counteract anyone who does. So in this context, Kyodo’s reporting that “since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees,” should come as no surprise. The GOJ has no intention of keeping its international treaty promises. They are merely national self-esteem boosters, not real guidelines or goals.
Posted in Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, United Nations | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 18th March 2013
Here are a couple of interesting cases that have fallen through the cracks recently, what with all the higher-level geopolitical flurry and consequent hate speech garnering so much attention. With not much to link them thematically except that these are complaints made into public disputes, let me combine them into one blog post and let them stand for themselves as bellwethers of the times.
First up, we have a criminal complaint filed with the police for classroom bullying resulting in serious injury due to his Pakistani ethnicity. This is one of a long line of cases of ethnic bullying in Japan, once again with insufficient intervention by authorities, and we’re lucky this time it hasn’t resulted yet in PTSD or a suicide. Like it has in these cases here with an ethnic Chinese schoolgirl, with an Indian student in 2007, or a Filipina-Japanese student in 2010 (in the last case NHK neglected to mention ethnicity as an issue). Of course, even here the Mainichi declines to give the name of the school involved. Whatever happened to perennial promises of a “major bullying study” at the ministerial level a couple of years ago to prevent things like this? Or of grassroots NGO actions way back when?
Next, here’s an article about a victim fighting back. We have a thirty-something city councilor (in another unnamed local government in Hyougo-Ken) who proposed (in writing) to a woman (now 28, who accepted), then broke it off as soon as he heard that she was a Japanese citizen with a Zainichi Korean grandfather (horrors — how that might damage his political career!, he said). So in October of last year (appearing in an article dated January 28, 2013), she sued him for 2.4 million yen. Stay tuned. Interesting to see if the outcome will indicate how, once again, naturalization still doesn’t make a former NJ a “real Japanese” in elite society’s eyes:
And finally, courtesy of japanCRUSH last January, we have this interesting titbit: “Japanese defense minister Onodera Itsunori is the latest politician to enter the fray by calling former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio a ‘traitor’ on a television programme. Onodera’s remark came after Hatoyama commented to Chinese officials that the Senkaku Islands should be recognised as disputed territory, rather than Japanese territory, during his trip to China. Interestingly, Hatoyama caused further controversy this week when he apologised for the Nanjing massacre.”
So this is what it’s coming to. Dissent from prominent Japanese (who, in Hatoyama’s case, are no longer even political representatives) who act on their conscience, deviate from the saber-rattling party line, and show any efforts at reconciliation in this era of regional brinkmanship get decried as “traitors”. Doesn’t seem like there is much space for tolerance of moderate or diverse views (or people) anymore.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Lawsuits, Media | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 15th March 2013
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
By Arudou Debito
Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.
This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th March 2013
Over the years I have gotten from many corners (particularly from people who have not researched things too deeply) how “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) requirements for Japanese citizenship are not all that far from the international norm, and how Japan’s Nationality Law (which requires blood ties to a Japanese citizen for conferral of Japanese nationality) is but one example of many in the community of nations that confer nationality/citizenship by blood.
Well, I knew both from experience and in my gut that there was something wrong with that. I felt that Japan’s method of conferring nationality/citizenship was quite specially exclusive (for example, we’ve had half a million Zainichi former citizens of Empire excluded from full “Denizenship” (see below) in Japanese society for three Postwar generations now, and only a tiny number of people becoming naturalized Japanese citizens every year). This exclusion (which every nation does when deciding national membership, but…) has been done in ways unbecoming of a country with the reputation of being a legitimate, competent, advanced Western democracy — one Japan has had since its emergence as a “rich society” in the 1980s — and thus expected to take on a greater role in international cooperation (such as acceptance of refugees) by accepting international legal norms (such as signing and enforcing international treaties).
Now I’ve found something in writing from someone who HAS researched things deeply, Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako at Keio, and she too finds that Japan’s policies towards the outside world are outside the international norm. Excerpts from one of her writings follows:
Conclusion: It has never been policy in Japan, despite all the promises we heard in the “Kokusaika” 1980s about “getting in, making the effort to work hard in Japanese companies, learning the language and culture, and ultimately becoming Japanese like everyone else”, to let immigrants stay or make it easier for them to stay. So it’s not going to happen (no matter what recent flawed GOJ Cabinet opinion polls claim about the public’s “no longer rejecting” NJ), because of official government policy not to let people settle, and because policymakers don’t trust foreigners to ever be “Japanese”…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 20 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th March 2013
The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games. In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly. Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.
Academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki might agree with the assessment of rising discrimination, as she documents on academic website Japan Focus the protection of xenophobic Rightists and the police harassment of their liberal opponents. Her conclusion: “But there is no rule of law if the instigators of violence are left to peddle hatred with impunity, while those who pursue historical justice and responsibility are subject to police harassment. There is no respect for human rights where those in power use cyber bullying in an attempt to silence their opponents. And democracy is left impoverished when freedom of hate speech is protected more zealously than freedom of reasoned political debate.” Have a look.
SITYS. This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe. And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination. Wake up, IOC.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS, Sport | 16 Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd March 2013
Kyodo: More than 80 percent of respondents in a new poll said they are open to foreign nationals of Japanese descent living in the nation, the Cabinet Office reported. The office’s first survey of its kind, released Thursday, found 80.9 percent of respondents expressed openness to living alongside those with Japanese ancestry, including Brazilian and Peruvian descendents of Japanese immigrants. Only 12.9 percent opposed the idea.
JDG: “It’s a brilliantly pointless piece of reporting, for the sake of massaging the egos of the Japanese readers, and assuring them that Japan is a ‘modern’ country… J-public are finally willing to accept foreigners… as long as they are ‘Japanese’ foreigners… I feel like I have gone back in time 5 years. The same politicians are back, the same old economic policies are back, and now Japan wants all those Nikkeijin they paid to go home, to come back too?”
RM: Hopefully government officials will use this survey to promote further initiatives to empower the Nikkei (and hopefully other non-Japanese) in Japan. Publicly conducting the survey, posting it on the Cabinet Office website, and releasing it to the press, may indicate that the government is testing public support for such initiatives.
DEBITO: Bingo! As has been noted before on Debito.org, the Cabinet, in its sessions last summer on how to “accept” NJ into Japanese society for future economic vitality, only showed interest in the treatment of Nikkei. Nikkei, you see, are somehow part of “us” (due to Wajin blood conceits), and it looks like Japan’s policymakers are going to give the old failed Nikkei worker importation strategy another try, and cite this “shooting fish in a barrel” survey to support it.
Anyway, if the Cabinet is so keen on taking surveys, how about its perpetually embarrassing (and, as I’ve reported in the Japan Times, very flawed) Cabinet Survey on Human Rights that it conducts every four years? I just found the 2012 version, a year late, made public with significantly less fanfare. Perhaps because the results in the past were far more revealing about Japan’s cognitive dissonance regarding human rights, meaning a large proportion don’t support granting equal human rights to foreign humans! You see, human rights for NJ, by the very nature of having to ask this kind of question, are optional in Japan. Less so, it would seem based upon this new Cabinet survey, for the “foreigners” with the right bloodline. Which is the conceit that this new Cabinet survey is pandering to.
Ultimately, I believe the GOJ will once again fall into the same old shortsightedness (like so many other societies) of wanting “workers” only to discover later they brought in “people”. And then, as before, society will seek to denigrate if not get rid of them as soon as they actually have needs (such as health care to provide, children to educate, lifestyles that reflect their backgrounds, retirement pensions to pay, political power to cede) that run counter to the original national plans…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »
Posted by debito on 22nd February 2013
Wash Post: Miki Dezaki, who first arrived in Japan on a teacher exchange program in 2007, wanted to learn about the nation that his parents had once called home. He taught English, explored the country and affectionately chronicled his cross-cultural adventures on social media, most recently on YouTube, where he gained a small following for videos like “Hitchhiking Okinawa” and the truly cringe-worthy “What Americans think of Japan.” One of them, on the experience of being gay in Japan, attracted 75,000 views and dozens of thoughtful comments.
Dezaki didn’t think the reaction to his latest video was going to be any different, but he was wrong. “If I should have anticipated something, I should have anticipated the netouyu,” [sic] he told me, referring to the informal army of young, hyper-nationalist Japanese Web users who tend to descend on any article — or person — they perceive as critical of Japan. But before the netouyu put Dezaki in their crosshairs, sending him death threats and hounding his employers, previous employers and even the local politicians who oversee his employers, there was just a teacher and his students…
COMMENT: Miki Dezaki contacted me last week for some advice about how to deal with this (I watched the abovementioned video on “Racism in Japan” and found it to be a valuable teaching aid, especially since it reconnected me with “Eye of the Storm”, the original of which I saw in grade school four decades ago); the only major problem I have with it is that it neglects to mention current stripes of racism against immigrants and Visible Minorities in Japan), and told him to stand his ground. Now the “Netouyo” (Netto Uyoku, or Internet Right-Wing, misspelled throughout the article above) have stepped up their pressure and attacks on him, and authorities aren’t being courageous enough to stand up to them. Now that his issue has been published in the Washington Post, I can quote this article and let that represent the debate.
The focus of the debate is this: a perpetual weak spot regarding bullying in Japanese society. We have loud invisible complainants cloaked by the Internet, who can espouse hateful sentiments against people and shout down historical and current social problems, and they aren’t simply ignored and seen as the cowards they are: anonymous bullies who lack the strength of their convictions to appear in public and take responsibility for their comments and death threats. People in authority must learn to ignore them, for these gnats only get further emboldened by any attention and success they receive. The implicit irony in all of this is that they take advantage of the right to “freedom of speech” to try and deny the same rights to those they merely disagree with. I hope that sense prevails and the debate is allowed to proceed and videos stay up. Miki has done admirable work making all this information (including translations into Japanese) on uncomfortable truths accessible to a Japanese audience. Bravo, Miki. Stand your ground. Debito.org Readers, please lend your support.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, ２ちゃんねる, Japanese Government, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, 日本語 | 32 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th February 2013
Japan Times payroll: “Thank you very much for contributing your articles to The Japan Times.
We would like to inform you that the special reconstruction income tax, introduced by the government to secure financial resources for reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, took effect on January 1, 2013. This tax is imposed on individuals and corporations – both Japanese and foreign – at a rate of 2.1 percent over a 25-year period through 2037.”
Debito: Have other Debito.org also received word of yet another tax on income to go towards “reconstruction”? We’ve already seen where money earmarked for “disaster relief” has been going — to fund corrupt bureaucratic practices within the GOJ (e.g., “road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling”). I’ve also heard of pay cut after pay cut in the academic communities for “reconstruction”, with little to no accountability over the funds afterwards (one case I’ve heard of is where the gakuchou of a major national university has been sequestering monies into an account to earn interest for his own purposes). So what say you, Debito.org Readers? Are you also seeing more skimming, both GOJ and non-GOJ related, from your paychecks for “reconstruction”? Just how bad do things have to get before people say “enough”?
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th February 2013
In a sad precedent, we have a clear case of death through overwork being officially recognized as such for a NJ doctor. It’s sadder that it has taken so long (more than two years) for that official recognition to come through. I’ve long realized that Japan has at times some pretty crazy work ethics (and a peer group atmosphere that encourages people to give their all, even until they die), but it seems even more crazy for NJ to leave their societies to come to a place that will work them to death. Especially as a NJ “trainee”, where they have even fewer labor-law rights than the locals who are in similar work circumstances. This situation has to be known about, since Japan’s immigration laws aren’t allowing a labor market where enough doctors (even imported ones) can satiate the perpetual labor shortage being referred to below. Only when GOJ authorities realize that the jig is up, because the international labor force is avoiding Japan as a harsh labor market to work within, will things change.
Mainichi: A regional labor standards inspection office in Aomori Prefecture has recognized that a Chinese trainee doctor who was working at a municipal hospital died from overwork, a lawyer representing the victim has disclosed. It is reportedly the country’s first case in which a foreign doctor working in Japan has been recognized by a labor standards office as having died from overwork. The Hirosaki Labor Standards Inspection Office in Aomori Prefecture acknowledged that the 2010 death of Lu Yongfu, a Chinese trainee doctor at a municipal hospital in Hirosaki, was work-related, in a decision on Dec. 20. Lu died at the age of 28 after working up to 121 hours overtime a month…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 16 Comments »
Posted by debito on 11th February 2013
Sometimes I wish the Star Trek Universal Translators were already here. But we’re getting closer. Here’s a Google Translate version of an article that came out in Die Zeit newspaper a couple of months ago that cites me and others about Japan’s political problems with creating an immigration policy. Not a lot here that frequent readers of Debito.org don’t already know, but here’s a German media take on the issue:
DIE ZEIT: For decades, Japan has been in a shaky position. The once-booming industrial nation barely registered economic growth. The national debt – in terms of economic power – is higher than that of Greece.
Even today, every fourth Japanese is over 65 years old . The birth rate is so low that the population will decline by 2050 from 127 million today to below 90 million. Several governments have tried to counter by more kindergartens, child care allowance and the like, but little has borne fruit. In 100 years, there might be only 40 million Japanese.
Now there is a lack of skilled labor, falling tax revenues, and no one knows who is going to pay in the future the growing pension claims. According to calculations by the United Nations, by 2050 only 17 million workers will be found to fund the pensions.
But there is a solution: Immigrants like Ezekiel Ramat. Japan’s foreign population is currently 1.3 percent, extremely low for a highly developed country: Germany has at about 8.5 percent foreigners. In Japan, the number of immigrants in recent years even went down. But strange: no one in politics seems to care about immigration policy. Neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor the main opposition parties mention the subject at all in their campaigns. When asked, all assert that they want to promote more immigration. But they make no specific proposals…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 26 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th February 2013
Japan Times JBC: On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.
I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.
So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time…
Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”
Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents)…
The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Education, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 46 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th February 2013
In one of the most haunting news dispatches I’ve seen on Japan, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of the BBC reported from the field last November in a video I have watched several times just to take in all the points. I’ll paste the accompanying text below, but make sure you watch the video, as Wingfield-Hayes takes us to the Senkakus, before a pre-PM Abe Shinzou talking tough, to otherwise sensible-looking college students spouting in public anti-Chinese vitriol to support a remilitarizing Japan, before an equally vitriolic Ishihara Shintaro calling for Japan to unsheath its sword (who, visibly chuffed by the international attention coming back with a smirk (and a surprising level of English) to make sure the BBC got his point), finishing aboard a brand-spanking new Japanese aircraft carrier, the Hyuuga (one of two others planned), showing an emerging arms race in Japan. Watch it! And shudder as the dogs of war begin straining their leashes.
Posted in Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Japanese Government, Tangents | 23 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th January 2013
In an interesting development, NHK is offering opportunities for NJ (both journalist and resident) to give their views on the “The 2011 Great Tohoku, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami”. For example:
NHK is looking for non-Japanese journalists to cover stories in the Tohoku region. All the expenses are paid by NHK. NHK Enterprises will soon start the production of a new series program. Its title is “Tomorrow: Japan, beyond 3.11”. NHK will air this series from April 2013 and NHK Enterprises will produce 30 episodes in one year. The synopsis of this series is as follows;
A huge disaster attacked Japan. It was as if it denied the civilization which we build in 20th and 21st century. But many new movements begin in all over Japan. They are about ecology, new energy, industry, education, community, mental care and etc. Many experts and scientists are working hard to build the future of Japan not only in Tohoku area but also all over Japan. They think they have to utilize the precious experience of disaster.In this series, a foreign journalist, presenter or editor of TV, radio, or website will visit the places where new movements begin. And this series will depict the process of his or her discovery and will ask his or her impression. It will tell us the new things which Japanese people have not recognized…
Quite an opportunity, and for all expenses paid. This opportunity is also being echoed within a call to GaijinPot for NJ residents to give their views:
NHK is seeking to interview those who had experienced The 2011 Great Tohoku, Japan Earthquake & Tsunami while living in Japan. They will film your unique perspective and experience on the disaster, and it impacted your life in Japan. The interview will take place for the special documentary program in February to be aired in March…
**** My 3.11 memory *****
“That night I walked home with what seemed like every other person in Tokyo. My abiding memory of that walk was the good spirits, friendly nature and calm resolve to get home shared by everybody…”
NHK in fact has a history of using NJ to advance an agenda, for example using a quite willing supplicant in Tarento Daniel Kahl to portray overseas media as being biased regarding reportage on Fukushima (something Debito.org has had opinions about in the past). Consider this five minutes (!!) of NHK airtime devoted to Kahl for the newsworthy gesture of making a grandstanding YouTube video. It’s hard to believe that the above proposals won’t be put to the same ends, which is why I created this blog entry to discuss it.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Japanese Government, Media | 22 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th January 2013
Debito.org has reported in the past on how media fearmongering against foreigners (by the Yomiuri, natch) has caused people in the boonies to get paranoid about NJ purchasing land for apparently nefarious purposes (for who knows what they’ll do to the water table beneath them!). Well, the Asahi below has surveyed this paranoia and exposed it for the bunkum it is.
It’s especially ironic when the New York Times does a story two days later (in their “Great Homes and Destinations” column, a promo piece on the buyer’s market for real estate in Japan) and buys hook line and sinker the assertion by vested interests that “Foreign buyers face no restrictions in Japan.” Not anymore, and not for a little while now (Debito.org’s earliest story on this is from 2010!). More under-researched bunkum posing as news. Especially in this time of politically-motivated NJ Witch Hunts in Japan’s property market.
Asahi: A flap over “foreigners” buying Japan’s upland forests and potentially controlling the nation’s water resources has caused some local authorities to push the panic button and introduce heightened oversight of some land sales. Four prefectural governments have written new rules and nine others are considering similar measures, which they say are intended to help protect the national nature of Japan’s water resources. But The Asahi Shimbun has found limited evidence of foreigners buying Japan’s forests—and not a single confirmed case of them doing so with the aim of securing control of water.
Fears that foreign nations—notably, China—might buy up forest and deplete subterranean water caused a storm in political circles and the news media three years ago. At that time, China’s economic power was increasingly being viewed as a threat, amid acquisitions of Japanese enterprises and real estate by Chinese capital. News reports fueled the scare…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 33 Comments »
Posted by debito on 11th January 2013
As part of a continuing series of how the Post-Fukushima Debacles have laid bare just how irredeemably broken Japan’s system is (see related articles here (item #2), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the NYT has just reported the latest on the Fukushima radiation cleanup effort. Within, we can witness a wonderful fusion of corruption, xenophobia, and unaccountable bureaucratic culture that have been symptomatic of why Japan as a society cannot not fix itself. And this time, it’s a wonderful capsule summary of why foreign technology and assistance will lose out to featherbedded domestic interests (the Kensetsu Zoku, who are making a right mess of things). And how there’s no hope of it getting better since the corrupt corporatists who facilitated this system in the first place (LDP under Abe and co.) are back in power as of December with a fresh mandate. A choice excerpt from the NYT, very, very germane to the purview of Debito.org:
NYT: Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge. “Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”
This is an incredibly racist insult to all the NJ who were both there and who went up there to help the victims of the disasters at great time, expense, and risk to their health — without scaring people. I have two articles below the NYT from the WSJ which outline what a horrible little fellow this Nishiyama is, and how he keeps bouncing right back into power despite scandal within Japan’s unaccountable bureaucracy.
After that, I have some links to previous comments on this article. I originally put this up yesterday as an addendum to a previous blog entry, but the comments there (see most of them in context here) are worth archiving here because they express the appropriate amount of outrage. About a system that is, in the end, betraying everyone.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 98 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th January 2013
Second in a series of two of prominent passings is American Senator Daniel Inouye, a notable Congressman who held on to his congressional seat longer than even legacy legislator Ted Kennedy. As per the local obit excerpt below, he had a quite glorious career in the military as part of the groundbreaking 442nd (some veterans I’ve even met in Hawai’i), then was a pathbreaker for Asian-Americans as a public servant. But consider how he was able to do this. as least as far back as Franklin Roosevelt (the better part of a century ago), we had the United States at the highest levels of public office attempting to untangle race/national or social origin from nationality.
This is something that Japanese society to this day has never accomplished (Japan’s Nationality Law still requires blood for citizenship, and from that derives the entanglement of race and legal status). Nor is Japan really trying. I speak from personal experience (not to mention court precedent) when I say that civil and political rights in Japan are grounded upon being “Japanese”, and “Japaneseness” is grounded upon phenotype (i.e., “looking Japanese”). This MUST be untangled by Japan if it ever hopes to encourage people to come in and settle down as “New Japanese”, not to mention allow people of mixed heritage to breathe as diverse people. But I neither see it happening soon, nor are progressive steps even being taken towards it (I am in fact arguing that Japan in recent years has been regressing… see here, here and here).
As further proof of the helpfulness of a society with notions of citizenship disentangled from race/national or social origin, we have another Senator from Hawaii who just got elected, Mazie Hirono — and she wasn’t even born in the United States! She was born in Japan.
Now, you might say that, well, Finland-born Caucasian Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei has also been elected to high office in Japan. But Tsurunen has been at his post for more than a decade now, and he’s squandered the opportunity by settling into it like a sinecure — doing just about nothing for the rights of NJ in Japan (such as not even bothering to attend or send a rep to a UN CERD meeting at the Diet on May 18, 2006). In fact, Tsurunen has even gone so far as marginalize and gaijinize himself! If one gives him the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but if), such are the effects of constant pressure of being socially “Othered” in Japan, despite his legal duty to uphold his constitutional status as a Japanese citizen and an elected official.
In comparison, the hurdles Hirono overcame were significant but not insuperable. Even though she was nowhere near as articulate or politically thoroughbred as her Republican opponent, former Hawai’i Governor Laura Lingle, Hirono still grossed nearly double the votes (261,025 to 155,565) last November 6 to clinch the seat. Further, if the legacy of Inouye is any template, I think Hirono will do more than just settle for being a symbolic sphinx in her role as a legislator. Because she can — in a polity which can elect people for life despite their foreign (or foreign-looking) backgrounds, she has more opportunities in society than Tsurunen ever will — or will make for himself.
My point is, the disentanglement of race/social origin from nationality (i.e., rendering clearly and politically at the highest levels of government) is something that every state must do if it is to survive as a nation-state in future. Given its demographics, especially Japan.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Practical advice, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 13 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th January 2013
Let me devote this blog entry to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated. Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding: Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property). A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken. NYT obituary enclosed below.
A few Debito.org-esque comments: One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous. That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here). (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)
Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced. One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).
The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24. Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap. (ILO data here.) Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work. Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.
Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”. We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14′s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only. We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education. Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments. And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.
I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing. My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.
Posted in History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd January 2013
Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
Links to sources included
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 29th December 2012
In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid. As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down! They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan. And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.
That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.
Immediately below is the article I’m referring to. Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots. According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants. Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan. But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.” This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted! Why? As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 61 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th December 2012
It’s been said that people get the democracy that they deserve. Although unduly harsh, that rings true today, as the results of 2012′s election have absolutely routed the DPJ and placed the old-school LDP/Koumeitou alliance and the even older-school Ishihara Party, pardon, Japan Restoration Party (JRP) with a greater than 3/4 majority (LDP/KMT at 324, JRP 54) as a total in the 480-seat Lower House. (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This is well over the 320 votes necessary to override the Upper House’s vetoes, and essentially makes Japan’s bicameral legislature unicameral. This new parliamentary composition could very well squeeze out a revision to the Self-Defense Forces (calling it what it really is: a standing military that should be unconstitutional) as well as force a “revision of the pacifist American-made Japanese Constitution” out of this. My synopsis of this election, and future prospects for the direction Japan is now heading, follow below.
In brief: Keep an eye on what happens from now, folks, because I think that once the sake cups have been drained and hangovers recovered from, these people are going to get to work with a vengeance. Because for this generation of old-schoolers (such as Ishihara), there’s not much time left for the Wartime Generation to undo all the Postwar liberalizations of Japan that have helped make Japan rich without overt remilitarization and aggression. For these fans of a martial Japan, who only value, respect, and covet a world in terms of power and hierarchy, revenge will be sweet.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, SITYS | 89 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th December 2012
JBC Intro: Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.
This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.
In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.
Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.
“Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 44 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th December 2012
As a follow-up to the Debito.org post a few weeks ago on putting trackable chips on all non-citizens, we have the same kind of push happening for Japan’s citizens (as per this old article that got buried in my draft blog posts, sorry) for very different express reasons (except for the oft-claimed “convenience” of those being identified, with the unescapable whiff of policing). That said, note how whenever there is an issue involving the infringement of civil/human rights for “citizens”, there is also an ameliorating push to protect those rights with legislation (see second article below). For “foreigners”, however, all civil, political, and human rights are essentially left to the mandate of the policing Ministry of Justice, which frequently makes a hash of things. But all this public concern over, say, privacy rights (whereas foreigners in Japan have had no guaranteed right to privacy in the Postwar Era, since the creation of the Foreign Registry Law)… Again, it’s one differentiation within Japan’s discourse that alienates Newcomers and Oldcomers, and sets the stage for making disenfranchised exceptions for people who don’t appear to be “Japanese”. Have a think about this dichotomy, and how the GOJ a) normalizes discrimination, while b) ironically tries to foist the same style of rights abrogations on the general public that have been long-tested upon the “gaijin guinea pigs”.
Japan Press: The Noda Cabinet approved bills at its meeting on February 14 that will assign an identification number to every citizen and every company, without regard to concerns over privacy abuse or to apprehensions about the possibility of having to pay more in taxes in order to receive better welfare services. The identification system will collate personal information currently administrated under different programs such as for pension, healthcare, and taxation. The government states that it wants to implement a national ID system in January 2015.
There is now growing concern that such a national identity system could lead to invasion of privacy issues and may also be used to restrict government social security payments. The government claims that a national ID system will provide easier access to social welfare programs for low-income families. If that is the aim, it can use other means to provide benefits. What is the government’s true motive?
Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., 日本語 | 11 Comments »
Posted by debito on 29th November 2012
Contributor Stephanie: My daughter is a 6th grader at a small country public school here in Hokkaido. Every month they get a magazine called “Chagurin” (I think it may be JA sponsored). Anyways, she looks forward to reading these as they have interesting articles and ideas. But this month in the December issue there is an article called “Hikon Taikoku America no Kodomotachi” [Children of the Poverty Great-Power Country of America]. After reading it she told her teacher she did not think parts of it were true, the teacher said it was written so it is true.
She brought this article home to us and translated it. I am so … what is the word…disappointed, mad…it is just not right that this lady writes an article with so many false statements and big generalizations. There are parts of truth but presented in a negative way.
Basically saying America is not a good place and no matter where you go you will see people living in tents in the parks. Other points — the poorer you are the fatter you are (which implies people are fat because they are poor). The health care is poor and it costs 150.000 yen to get one filling! Because people can not afford this they do not go to the dentist they in turn can not bite right, have interviews or get jobs.
One more thing. If you take a look at the photo with the boy with the “bad teeth” — as soon as I saw this photo I doubted those teeth are real. They remind me way too much of the fake halloween wax costume teeth I always had growing up. I sent the photo to a dental hygienist who has been working in America 20+ years and she said “In my 20+ years I have never seen teeth like these. They look like the fake halloween teeth.” When I write the author of the article I will be asking her for the photographer’s info to clarify the facts behind this photo. I think you can glean more by reading this yourself so I will attach the article, front cover, and back page…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Food, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 51 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th November 2012
The UN Human Rights Council has once again prodded Japan to do something to improve its record on human rights (and this time the GOJ, which must submit a report every two years, actually submitted something on time, not eight years overdue as a combined “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Report”). Here’s how the media reported on their interplay:
Kyodo: A panel under the U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed some 170 recommendations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including Tokyo’s handling of the so-called comfort women issue, the euphemism for the Imperial army’s wartime sex slaves…
Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town of Futaba, which found itself in the center of the nuclear storm since it cohosts the wrecked plant, had actively campaigned for the inclusion of this right. The report also called on Japan to abolish the death penalty after more than 20 countries, including prominent EU member states, objected to its continued use of capital punishment.
COMMENT: As you can see in the HRC’s press brief enclosed in this blog entry, once again the GOJ is avoiding the topic of creating a legal framework to protect people against racial discrimination — claiming it’s already forbidden by the Japanese Constitution (but as we’ve stressed here umpteen times, no explicit law in the Civil or Criminal Code means no enforcement of the Constitution). But all the UN HRC seems to be able to do is frown a lot and continue the talk shop. Further, the UN still chooses the word “migrants” over “immigrants”, which makes NJ (and their J children) who need these rights look like they’re only temporary workers — the “blind spot” continues. Meanwhile, Fukushima and the death penalty seem to have sucked all the oxygen out of the debate arena regarding other human rights issues. In this blog entry is an excerpt of what Japan submitted to the HRC for consideration, and a media brief of the HRC’ s recommendations. It’s basically cosmetic changes, open to plenty of bureaucratic case-by-case “discretion”, and amounting to little promise of fundamental systemic or structural changes.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, United Nations | 3 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd November 2012
As Readers of Debito.org know, Japan instituted its new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado, or ZRK) from July 15, 2012, promising to promote the “convenience” of NJ residents by streamlining bureaucratic procedures. But as I have argued, the Ministry of Justice’s main interest is not the convenience of NJ (or else it would have not left NJ in legal limbo when Japan’s Postal Authorities arbitrarily decided not to honor the old Gaijin Cards as a valid form of ID any longer — even though the MOJ acknowledged the old Gaijin Cards issued by them were still legal for at most three more years). No, the MOJ’s interest is in policing NJ (well, “administering” (kanri) is how they benignly put it, as they explicitly noted in their Cabinet-level presentation last May about how to “co-exist” with NJ in future — essentially by cracking down on visa overstayers further).
To that end, the ZRK has an embedded IC Chip with RFID technology, which, as I have argued for years now, is a means to remotely track NJ in a crowd and beef up racial profiling. After all, if the NPA scans a crowd and sees somebody walking while visibly “foreign”, they now have probable cause to stop them for one of their patented ID checkpoints formerly permitted under the Foreign Registry Law. Hey you, gaijin, why aren’t you showing up on our scanners? Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…
However, here’s where the SITYS (See I Told You So) comes in: People who should know better have constantly argued that I’m donning a tinfoil hat for saying that embedded IC Chips are remotely trackable, and will be used not only for identity theft (for NJ only, since only they are legally required by law to carry ZRK at all times or face criminal penalty), but also for enhanced policing. No amount of evidence presented (even “the scan-proof travel pouches” long on sale) has convinced them. So let’s try again:
Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”. If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?…
Posted in Discussions, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, SITYS | 66 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th November 2012
Archiving something important today: The text of the first law explicitly against (inter alia) racial discrimination in Japan that was passed (and then subsequently UNpassed by a panicky public). Although I have already written about this subject before, let me give you the story in more detail, then finish with the text of the jōrei so it does not disappear from the historical record. The fact that this former law has been removed entirely from the legislative record of Tottori Prefecture’s website is a crime against history, and an unbefitting end to a template of human-rights legislation so needed in Japan. So let me, for the purposes of keeping a record of the casualty of this catastrophic event, blog the entire text of the Ordinance on Debito.org to keep it web searchable. First, however, the background:
On October 12, 2005, after nearly a year of deliberations and amendments, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved a human rights ordinance (tottori-ken jinken shingai kyūsai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jōrei) that would not only financially penalize eight types of human rights violations (including physical abuse, sexual harassment, slander, and discrimination by “race” – including “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation”), but also set up an investigative panel for deliberations and provide for public exposure of offenders. Going farther than the already-existing Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu, which has no policing or punitive powers), it could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, and even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen. Sponsored by Tottori Governor Katayama Yoshihiro, it was to be a trial measure — taking effect on June 1, 2006 and expiring on March 31, 2010. It was a carefully-planned ordinance, created by a committee of 26 people over the course of two years, with input from a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and three non-citizen residents. It passed the Tottori Prefectural Assembly by a wide margin: 35-3. However, the counterattack was immediate…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 6 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th November 2012
JT JBC: On Oct. 25, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced his resignation from office. He now plans to stand for election to the Diet as head of a new conservative party. He suggested political alliances with other conservative reactionaries and xenophobes, including Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) chief Takeo Hiranuma (Just Be Cause, Feb. 2, 2010). And all before a Lower House election that must be held within two months.
I say: Bring it on. Because it’s time for somebody to make clear which way Japan is heading.
The world’s media has largely misunderstood — or misrepresented — what kind of an elected official Ishihara is, often portraying him as a “nationalist” (which sounds like a patriot). He is in fact a hate-mongering racist bigot.
This is the man, remember, who began his governorship by calling for foreigners to be rounded up on sight in the event of a natural disaster — for they might (unprecedentedly) riot! Cue one natural disaster in 2011: No riots. Yet no retraction. Thus he got a free pass.
This is also a man who goes beyond the standard right-wing denials of the dark side of Japanese history, such as the Nanjing Massacre and the “comfort women.” He has called the 2011 tsunami “divine retribution” for Japan’s sins, insinuated that Africans in Japan are unintelligent, said commentators on Japan “don’t matter” if they’re foreign, likened foreign judo practitioners to “beasts,” claimed Chinese are criminals due to their “ethnic DNA,” called parts of Tokyo with higher foreign populations “hotbeds of crime” too scary for even Japanese crooks to enter, and stigmatized Japanese politicians who support more rights for foreigners by saying they must have foreign roots themselves (as if Japanese with tainted bloodlines are somehow unpatriotic).
He has also stated that old women are “useless” and “toxic” to civilization, gays “gadding about” are “pitiable,” French is unqualified as an international language because of its counting system — and so on ad nauseam, painting grotesque caricatures of foreigners and minorities in broad, bigoted strokes. Just listing them all would take up my entire column.
Yet, instead of pillorying this piece of work out of office, the media has generally dismissed his statements as “gaffes.” But a gaffe is technically an error or an unintended misstatement — and Ishihara’s are too frequent to be anything but deliberate.
Sadly, due to the limited attention span inherent in media cycles, Ishihara managed to out-stare the press. They then excused their own lack of tenacity by treating his outrageous comments like a personality quirk, as if he suffers from a particularly offensive form of Tourette’s — effectively handing him a free pass. Passes got freer after one re-election. Then another…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 36 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd November 2012
For all the talk we have had in the past of Japan’s efficient government and incorruptible bureaucracy (dating from, oh, perhaps Chalmers’ MITI AND THE JAPANESE MIRACLE — even Transparency International still ranks Japan higher than say, oh, the US, France, or Spain in its “Corruption Perceptions Index 2011″), one major factor that not only despirits a nation but also steals its wherewithal is an unaccountable administrative branch robbing the public coffers blind. In this case, the GOJ is reportedly siphoning off disaster funds that had been earmarked to save people’s lives and livelihoods and diverted to support completely unrelated projects. The news below goes beyond the fact that TEPCO and the GOJ have finally admitted their collusion to cover up their malfeasance in preventing the nuclear meltdown (article archived below — note that the investigative committee was led by a NJ). It shows, as Debito.org first mentioned back in December 2011 (and repeated in a different incarnation last July) that our first “see I told you so” moment (where even our critics would not capitulate for being wrong about corruption and coverup) stating that Japan’s control-freak governance system in Japan is irredeemably broken, was ever more right all along.
AP: About a quarter of the US$148 billion budget for reconstruction after Japan’s March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster has been spent on unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory and research whaling. The findings of a government audit buttress complaints over shortcomings and delays in the reconstruction effort. More than half the budget is yet to be disbursed, stalled by indecision and bureaucracy, while nearly all of the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone remain uncertain whether, when and how they will ever resettle… Among the unrelated projects benefiting from the reconstruction budgets are: road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling, ostensibly for research, according to data from the government audit released last week. A list of budget items and spending shows some 30 million yen went to promoting the Tokyo Sky Tree, a transmission tower that is the world’s tallest freestanding broadcast structure. Another 2.8 billion yen was requested by the Justice Ministry for a publicity campaign to “reassure the public” about the risks of big disasters.
AP: The utility behind Japan’s nuclear disaster acknowledged for the first time Friday that it could have avoided the crisis. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said in a statement that it had known safety improvements were needed before last year’s tsunami triggered three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but it had feared the political, economic and legal consequences of implementing them. “When looking back on the accident, the problem was that preparations were not made in advance,” TEPCO’s internal reform task force, led by company President Naomi Hirose, said in the statement. “Could necessary measures have been taken with previous tsunami evaluations? It was possible to take action” by adopting more extensive safety measures, the task force said… Investigative reports compiled by the government and the parliament panels said collusion between the company and government regulators allowed lax supervision and allowed TEPCO to continue lagging behind in safety steps.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, SITYS, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 28 Comments »
Posted by debito on 31st October 2012
The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan does a very good article summarizing what it was once like for us “Bubble Era” veterans, and how views of Japan were once either Japan as the perfectible society to be emulated or as the irresistible wave of the future (as in, in addition to the pop-culture economic bellwethers listed below, Michael J. Fox’s boss in BACK TO THE FUTURE II being a Japanese).
Now, as the article indicates below, it’s all collapsed, and former boosters have now become pessimists (with even Japan championer Ezra Vogel now turning his attention to China!). Here in Hawaii, the Chinese consumer is ascendant, with the likely domination of Chinese over Japanese language on store signs fairly soon. In this year’s remake of TOTAL RECALL, the exotic language being used in the background was no longer Japanese (a la BLADE RUNNER), but rather Chinese. Check out the dominant kanji in this greeting card: Mainland Chinese (with Japanese far receding). I think this trend will continue as Japan is eclipsed not only by China but even South Korea (Gangnam Style on last week’s episode of SOUTH PARK anyone? It’s Japan with more color and better pronunciation of diphthongs…) in terms of economics, politics, and visions of the future.
WASH POST: Jesper Koll, an economist who’s lived in Japan for 26 years, says it’s not easy for him to keep faith in a country that’s shrinking, aging, stuck in protracted economic gloom and losing fast ground to China as the region’s dominant power. “I am the last Japan optimist,” Koll said in a recent speech in Tokyo.
Indeed, the once-common species has been virtually wiped out. It was only two decades ago that Japan’s boosters — mainly foreign diplomats and authors, economists and entrepreneurs — touted the tiny nation as a global model for how to attain prosperity and power. But the group has turned gradually into nonbelievers, with several of the last holdouts losing faith only recently, as Japan has failed to carry out meaningful reforms after the March 2011 triple disaster. The mass turnabout has helped launch an alternative — and increasingly accepted — school of thought about Japan: The country is not just in a prolonged slump but also in an inescapable decline.
Posted in History, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 45 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 25th October 2012
Guest author “Bitter Valley” is back again with another thing he wants to get off his chest. I think he should, so here it is. One of my pet theories about Japan’s swing towards insularity and conservatism is that as people get older (and Japan as a society is doing just that demographically), they get more politically conservative and resistant to change — or at least change that is not in their best interests. And as “Bitter Valley” points out, it means an inordinate weighting of political power and economic resources in favor of the old at the expense of the young (especially since the very young have no vote, ever fewer numbers, and few political and civil rights to begin with). This is manifesting itself in ways that BV thinks are worth mentioning in Japan’s most cosmopolitan city. Given how centralized political power is in Japan, what happens here will set precedents for the rest of the nation.
BV: Hi Debito, this is “Bitter Valley” again. We’ve just had some terrible news that the second major children’s facility we have access to in Shibuya, the Kodomo no Shiro (Kiddies Castle) is closing down in 2015. It’s a bit of a hammer blow for us, as we have already just lost the Jidokaikan (Tokyo Children’s Center), which is going to be demolished for another old people’s home. Regardless of what might really behind the closures (more on this later) it’s going to lower the quality of life for kids and mums and dads in Shibuya (and wider afield) considerably.
Both children’s facilities are/were two of the only major educational/ fun/ accessible/ cheap (no or low cost) play centers. Both, incidentally, were/are tremendous resources for Shibuya’s large ratio of multinational kids. Parents of older children say that there are schools with most classes not only have one but several multiracial or foreign or Japanese but of NJ parentage in classes. Increasingly it’s seen as no big deal. That’s great, at least to non-knuckleheads and/or racists. But the closures suck. First of all the Tokyo Children’s Hall (Jidokaikan) was shut down last year and this spring….
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Discussions, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 53 Comments »
Posted by debito on 22nd October 2012
Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed. Only a revolution can save it. What kind of revolution? Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”
That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.
“Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” [...] No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth. Sakanaka claims to have found one. Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” [...] It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 52 Comments »
Posted by debito on 19th October 2012
Kyodo: Japan Pension Service has drawn up a guideline that renders foreign residents on welfare no longer eligible for a uniform waiver from premium payments for the public pension, effectively a turnaround from a long-held practice of treating them equally with Japanese, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Human rights activists said it is tantamount to discrimination based on nationality. In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance. Around 42,000 were households led by foreign residents.
In a reply dated Aug. 10 to a query from a local pension service office, JPS, a government affiliate commissioned to undertake pension services, said, “Public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty as done so for Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not subject to the law on public assistance.”
Posted in Exclusionism, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Pension System, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 15 Comments »
Posted by debito on 10th October 2012
Before I wrote my monthly Japan Times column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes published on Oct 2, I wrote a completely different column that approached the issue from the back door: How Japan’s enormous focus on “genuine” and “legitimate” leads to diversity getting subsumed. And when it leads to diversity in opinion being subsumed, you get a society that is particularly susceptible to top-down control of not only the dominant social discourse, but also the very perception of reality within a society. And that leads us to crazy ideas such as a few far offshore rocks being worth all this fuss.
Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, the people who approve columns at The Japan Times didn’t “get” it, even after two major rewrites and sixteen drafts. (Actually, in all fairness it wasn’t only them — two other friends of mine didn’t “get” it either. But two of my friends in academia did. And we suspect that it was just too “Ivory Tower” for a journalistic audience.) So eight hours before deadline, I rewrote the damn thing entirely, and what you saw published is the result.
But The Japan Times suggested that I blog it and see what others think. So here it is: The column on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes that I wanted to run. I think there are plenty of ideas in there that are still worth salvaging. But let me ask you, Debito.org Readers: Do you “get” it?
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media | 40 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th October 2012
MMT: An interesting bit of news that was on the JT homepage this week. It seems that although the alien registration card is considered equal to the new zairyu card until July 2015 by the government, it appears not for certain government agencies. Japan Post has a notice on their homepage stating that foreign residents can no longer use the alien registration card as of July 9th, 2012 (or in other words, the same day the zairyu card became available). How the post office can reject ID which is still valid and basically force longer-term residents into changing over their cards immediately is beyond my comprehension.
As a further bit of news regarding this story, I called the immigration help line on October 1, 2012, to see if they were aware of this development. The staff informed me that yes, the alien registration card is still valid, as stated and acts as one’s zairyu card until July 9th, 2015. When I asked if they were aware that the Japan Post officially began rejecting the alien registration card the very same day the zairyu card became available, they replied that perhaps in cases such as with banks and the post office, you may have to switch over to the new card in order to have acceptable ID. I quickly pointed out that since the government (namely, the Ministry of Justice, no less) has deemed this ID to be equal to the zairyu card for a further three years, shouldn’t it be unacceptable (unlawful?) for any any semi-government agency or private business to reject it? They agreed that my argument “made sense.”
The immigration staff then suggested that if my alien registration card is rejected by the post office or other place of business that I should give them the number for the Tokyo Immigration administration office (03-5796-7250) so that the post office can call them and get a clarification. It was at that point that I hinted that perhaps it was the job of the immigration department to inform all relevant agencies to stop making arbitrary rules regarding which government-issued ID they will choose to accept: to which I got no answer. Strange, indeed.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 16 Comments »
Posted by debito on 4th October 2012
Japan Times: No doubt you’ve seen the news about the Takeshima and Senkaku disputes: Japan is sparring with China, South Korea and Taiwan over some specks in the ocean.
Why is this happening? Theories include pre-election political posturing and securing borders to exploit resources. But it’s gotten to the point where even respected academics (such as Stanford’s Harumi Befu and Harvard’s Ted Bestor) are worriedly writing, “current developments are counterproductive to the lasting peace in East Asia and are dangerously degenerating into belligerent diplomacy.”
My take on these scraps is pretty simple: They are merely a way to distract the Japanese public from a larger malaise, the symptoms of which include Japan’s loss of clout as Asia’s leading economy, perpetual economic funk, ineffectual political leadership and an irradiated food chain.
But the larger question remains: How could these far-flung rocks get so much domestic political traction? …
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 25 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 »