Archive for the 'Japanese Government' Category
Things that are happening at the Japanese Government level regarding human rights and NJ in Japan.
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th November 2014
Two weeks ago Debito.org wrote on the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Japan’s ruling that NJ have “no right” to social welfare (seikatsu hogo) because they are not citizens. I have been hearing rumblings that the media have been misinterpreting this ruling due to linguistics and politics, and that an adjudged no legal right has not resulted in denials. I submit to you the corrections from Tozen Union’s Louis Carlet, with a followup from another Debito.org Commenter that are simply too good to languish within comments. Nevertheless, as noted in that earlier Debito.org post, the point remains that there are some very nasty and xenophobic people in Japan’s political system who are capitalizing on what people think the Supreme Court said. Which may mean, in this increasingly ultra-rightist political climate, that the effect might ultimately be the same.
CARLET: [Japan Times’] Otake’s article is mistaken on two major points. First, the Supreme Court in no way found foreigners ineligible for welfare. Second, the ruling, far from landmark, upheld the status quo. The highest court overturned the High Court’s actual landmark ruling which said that foreigners have “quasi rights” to welfare. Up until then foreigners never had the “guaranteed right” (kenri) to welfare but they were and are eligible just like Japanese citizens.
I think the problem is mistranslation. Kenri means a guaranteed right whereas “no right” in English suggests ineligible. The only difference arising from not having the kenri is that if the welfare office rejects an application from a citizen then the Japanese person can appeal the decision to the office. A foreigner with no kenri for welfare cannot appeal at the office but only in court. That is the ONLY difference between how foreigners and Japanese are treated by the welfare office. Foreigners get welfare just like Japanese do. In fact the plaintiff currently gets welfare although originally rejected.
OSFISH: The clarification that needs to be repeated over and over again is that “welfare” here does not mean “welfare” in its biggest sense of all social expenditures, such as pensions, health costs, unemployment insurance and so on. It does not mean shakai hoken in any sense at all. Welfare in this limited sense is a means-tested benefit for people who have fallen through the gaps of insurance-based social protection because they cannot contribute, or are not under the umbrella of a contributor. The main recipients are long-term disabled, single mothers (abandoned by their partners) and elderly with inadequate or no pension rights. It is a completely different system to shakai hoken and operates on a different logic of desert and eligibility. Broadly speaking, the same social insurance/social assistance split operates in large parts of the industrialised world. Japan more or less imported its system from Europe.
To repeat: welfare here does not mean shakai hoken. Please rest easy, and do NOT consider opting out based on this ruling; it’s got nothing legally or logically to do with shakai hoken. And in any case, welfare is not being taken away. People in dire straits need to know that.[…]
[According to this GOJ source] 66% of all recipients are Koreans – almost all probably zainichi SPRs: a group that really stretches the concept of “foreign”, I’m sure you’ll agree. Of those Koreans, and quite disproportionately compared to other groups, around half of the recipients are old people. I would hazard a guess that this is a strong reflection of the economic disenfranchisement of the first post-war generation of zainichi. These are people who were disproportionately not properly or poorly integrated into the economy and welfare system. (For what it’s worth, incomer “foreigners” claim less than their “share”, but this shouldn’t be too surprising or interpreted as anything meaningful, as residence status is attached to visa status, is attached to good evidence of financial stability. Of course there are going to be fewer incomer recipients.)
Let’s combine this fact that Koreans make up the bulk of recipients with the far-right party’s suggestion that “foreign” recipients should naturalise or leave. For a westerner claiming social assistance, it would be very hard indeed to naturalise if you could not demonstrate financial stability. It’s pretty much out of the question. However, for zainichi Koreans, that financial stability condition doesn’t apply. The rules for SPR naturalisation are not strict. So it looks to me like an attempt to coerce elderly impoverished zainichi Koreans into giving up their nationality and identity. That’s why this relatively small amount of budget money matters to these thoroughly unpleasant people.
Posted in Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media | 4 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th November 2014
Opening: This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up?
By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval.
By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support.
Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course…
(Your thoughts on the question welcome here and at the JT site.)
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media | 22 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st November 2014
Two good JT columns recently indicate how gaiatsu is becoming one of the last tools left for anyone to counter Japan’s Right-Wing Swing. One from a long-time columnist (Hugh Cortazzi) who has written for decades about Japan with a diplomat’s charm. But he’s recently been quite undiplomatic in tone when assessing the PM Abe Administration:
CORTAZZI: Extreme nationalism is a threat to democratic institutions and values everywhere. Recent reports in the British media about the growing influence of right-wing extremists in Japan have caused deep concern among friends of Japan here. […] In the eyes of Japanese right-wing nationalists, the only crime committed by Japan’s military leaders was that they failed. The rightists lack ethical principles and are opposed to democratic institutions.[…] It seems that Japan has reverted to one-party government. This could lead to autocracy and the infringement of human rights.
DEBITO: Quite strong language from a former ambassador to Japan. Now check this out, from a poli-sci professor at Housei University. It’s even stronger:
YAMAGUCHI: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his intention to counter China, has reiterated that Japan shares such Western values as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. He has also reportedly proclaimed Japan’s intention to seek permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council as part of an attempt to expand his diplomacy on a global scale. Such remarks are an indication that his stupidity and egocentrism are beyond redemption. […] It is hardly possible that [the UNSC] would welcome a nation whose leader denies its wartime aggression and atrocities. The head of a Cabinet whose members sympathize with racial discrimination and historical revisionism can hardly win international trust by merely voicing his support for freedom and democracy.[…]
What he wanted to say, I presume, was that Japan’s freedom and democracy could be shoved aside when the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism spreads like wild fire. It is pathetic that we have to quote the foreign media to criticize what is going on in this country. It is the job of members of the media and academics to tell people immersed in narcissism that they, in fact, have ugly aspects.
DEBITO: It’s nice when a Japanese academic in his field makes statements like “the nation’s deep-seated tendency of conformism”, because at least he can get away with saying them without being accused of racism, cultural imperialism, or ignorance. When Japan’s media follows a trend into intolerance to extremes not seen much in Japan’s Postwar Era, it’s time for denunciations to happen. Because they’re not going to happen from within at this point. They must come from without. And to that end, Debito.org is happy to report when others are seeing it that way too.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th October 2014
JT: But the July ruling [that found permanent residents of Japan legally ineligible for public assistance] has given momentum to some forces, including those harboring anti-foreigner sentiments and advocates of cutting “waste” in government spending, to try to limit foreigners’ access to welfare. The minor opposition party Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), co-founded by ultranationalist Shintaro Ishihara, plans to submit bills to the extraordinary Diet session that would give destitute foreigners a year to choose between two extremes: becoming naturalized citizens or leaving the country.
The move follows an August proposal, by a team of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic party tasked with eliminating wasteful state spending, to restrict welfare assistance to foreigners. “The welfare outlays to foreigners run up to ¥122 billion per year,” the Aug. 4 report by the LDP team said. “We must say it is difficult to maintain the status quo.” The team also said the government “should create guidelines (on public assistance) for foreigners who arrive in Japan, and consider deporting those who cannot maintain a living.”
JT commenter: “According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s total social welfare benefits reached ¥103.487 trillion in fiscal 2010, topping ¥100 trillion for the first time.”
Okay, so in Japan, the total welfare budget is 103.487 trillion yen. But only 0.122 trillion yen of that goes to foreigners, so that means that the other 103.365 trillion yen are going to Japanese people! Here, let’s do some math:
103.487 trillion yen / 127 million Japanese = Each Japanese person is, on average, sucking 814,858 yen per year from the welfare system!
Now let’s do the math for foreigners:
122 billion yen / 2 million foreigners = Each foreigner is, on average, sucking 61,000 yen per year from the welfare system!
Japan’s GDP is 536,122,300,000,000 yen (over 536 TRILLION yen). So 122 billion yen is less than 0.03% of Japan’s economy. Basically, Shintaro Ishihara with his Jisedai no Tou, and the LDP, are wasting countless hours of time on something that, at best, will save Japan 0.03% of its GDP. To make an analogy, I make about $28,000 a year. So this is the same as me OBSESSING and LOSING SLEEP AT NIGHT over how I can save $8 per year.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Fun Facts, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd October 2014
Kyodo: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other. The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names. Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned. During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.”
Friend: I’m sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan’s hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they “hate Japan”, then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully.
Debito: I disagree. Sakurai is a bully. I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation. And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did. People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto’s actions. He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city. And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed. Good. Fire with fire.
Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena. My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example. It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did. Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out.
UPDATE OCT 23: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto has just come out, according to J-Cast.com, in favor of making the Regular and Special Permanent Residents into one unified category. Now it’s time for me to make some qualifications…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th October 2014
It’s the next natural step of Japan’s Extreme Right: jingoism and terrorism. They feel empowered enough in present-day Japanese society (especially in the wake of the Asahi retracting some articles on Japan’s “Comfort Women” wartime sexual slavery) to start making larger threats to bodily harm. No longer are they satisfied with being bully boys during demonstrations (beating up Leftists with relative impunity, see here and here) — as seen in the article below they have to hound from livelihood those who oppose them using nail bombs. The tactics behind the practitioners of hate speech have morphed into real power to conduct ideological witch hunts. And it won’t stop there — the most powerful elements of the Extreme Right are gearing up like never before in the Postwar Era to rewrite history overseas too (see Yomiuri advert below). The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize did not go to people advocating for the conservation of Article 9 in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” is more evidence that the outside world still hasn’t caught up with what’s really going on with Japan’s Right Wing Swing.
Mainichi: Two universities have received letters threatening to harm their students unless the institutions dismiss a pair of instructors, who as Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporters had written articles about the wartime comfort women issue.
Yomiuri Ad: Now, more than ever, Japan needs to tell the world the facts about this matter and dispel entrenched misperceptions about comfort women. Instead, the Foreign Ministry will build “Japan House” public relations hubs in major cities overseas to promote Japanese cuisine and anime as a pillar of the “strategic proliferation of information abroad.” Does the ministry have its priorities in the right order? A task force charged with protecting Japan’s reputation and directly controlled by the prime minister should be set up, and a minister and dedicated secretariat placed in charge of handling this matter. A united effort by the whole government is required—urgently.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Education, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 37 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th October 2014
JT: After years of pressure from foreign governments, and enormous efforts by “left-behind” parents to have access to children abducted to and from Japan after marital separation or divorce, the Japanese government became a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April.
That is, of course, good news. Now the issue becomes one of enforcement. And to that end, this column has serious doubts that the Japanese government will honor this treaty in good faith.
These doubts are based on precedent. After all, Japan famously ignores human-rights treaties. For example, nearly 20 years after ratifying the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination, and nearly 30 since acceding to the U.N. Convention on Discrimination against Women, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, nor a statute guaranteeing workplace gender equality backed by enforceable criminal penalties.
We have also seen Japan caveat its way out of enforcing the Hague before signing. For example, as noted in previous JT articles (e.g., “Solving parental child abduction problem no piece of cake” by Colin P.A. Jones, Mar. 1, 2011), the debate on custody has been muddied with ungrounded fears that returned children would, for example, face domestic violence (DV) from the foreign parent. DV in Japan is being redefined to include nontactile acts such as “yelling,” “angry looks” and “silent stares” (particularly from men).
It is within this context that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently issued a pamphlet titled “What is the Hague Convention?” Available in Japanese (www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000033409.pdf) and English (www.mofa.go.jp/files/000034153.pdf), it offers a 12-page manga in which a Japanese father carefully explains the Hague Convention to his Japanese-French son. The pamphlet has sparked considerable controversy…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 19 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th October 2014
JT: In most countries, police officers and criminals are supposed to be on opposite sides of the law, especially the higher up the chain of command you go, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doesn’t appear to think this is necessary. Last month, photographs surfaced showing several members of Abe’s new Cabinet socializing with members of an anti-Korean hate group known as Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (more commonly known as Zaitokukai). The appearance of such images raises some disturbing issues. […]
At a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Sept. 25, [Cabinet member] Yamatani [Eriko] denied that the weekly’s article was true and alleged she had been misquoted. However, when she was asked to publicly repudiate Zaitokukai, she refused — three times. Shukan Bunshun last week published a follow-up article and included an audio recording of its interview with her, suggesting Yamatani did indeed lie at her news conference. It also added a proverb to its coverage: “All thieves start as liars.” But lying to the press is not a crime, nor is hate speech illegal in Japan. Hate crimes are not illegal either. That said, generating profit for organized crime is something else…
Posted in Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st October 2014
Continuing with the hate speech theme (and the perpetrators of it in Japan, e.g., Zaitokukai), here is an editorial from the Asahi decrying that support of this group (or at least the unwillingness to disavow or take measures against their spreading public hatred of minorities) appears to reside in the highest levels of government. As the person being cited, Yamatani Eriko, is the nation’s top cop in the current PM Abe Cabinet, this information bodes ill for any legal measures or remedies against hate speech in Japan, something the UN recently advised Japan to adopt.
BTW, this is the same Yamatani Eriko who spoke out against a memorial against Japan’s wartime “Comfort Women” sexual slavery in Palisades Park, New Jersey (not the Glendale, California monument), including the following “explanation” in two languages on her blog of May 6, 2012 (courtesy of MS), with the requisite denialism:
Conclusion: “Moreover, it cannot be tolerated that Japanese children are bullied and felt sorrowful due to a lie that Japan conducted the abduction of 200,000 girls which is not true at all, and that the lie has been spread throughout the world.”
These are the people who currently lead Japan. Is there any more doubt about the claim of Japan’s right-wing swing?
Posted in Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, 日本語 | 33 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th September 2014
Continuing on with the theme of Japan’s Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don’t want to take responsibility for), this blog entry talks about the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place — they’re usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them (article included).
This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese (article). And it’s not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon (article). Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ (article). Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can’t say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on (article), what with the massacre of Korean residents back in 1923.
To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed (article). That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples) (article).
So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government’s proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan’s current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Media, 日本語 | 4 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th September 2014
SCMP: But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.
“It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist. “After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.
“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.” Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women. “It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.
UPDATE: THIS SCMP ARTICLE PRODUCED AN ARTICLE IN HUFFINGTON POST JAPAN:
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, Racist Images in Media, 日本語 | 7 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th September 2014
Japan, after years of pressure from overseas, is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, where children of international marriages are to be protected against psychologically-damaging abductions and severed contact with one parent after marriage dissolution and divorce. Debito.org has covered this issue extensively in the past. What matters now is how Japan intends to enforce the treaty. Debito.org has argued that we are not hopeful about Japan following the spirit of the agreement in good faith. It has been reinterpreting sections with caveats to give the Japanese side undue advantages in negotiations, indirectly portraying the Non Japanese (NJ) party as the suspicious interloper, redefining important issues such as domestic violence (DV) to include heated arguments and “silent stares” etc., refusing to see abductions by the Japanese parent as much more than a natural repatriation, and not being self-aware that in Japan, child abduction and severed contact with one parent is quite normal (due in part to the vagaries of the Family Registration System (koseki)), but not necessarily in the best interests of the child. Japan has been, in short, a haven for international child abductions, and how the GOJ will interpret the Hague to its people is crucial for change in public mindsets and enforcement.
To that end, Debito.org is fortunate to have received a copy from a concerned reader of a 2014 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimushou) pamphlet explaining the Hague to the Japanese public. Scanned below in full, within its discourse are troubling assumptions and presumptions that bear scrutiny and exposure, as they remain along the lines of the concerns expressed above. If this is Japan’s official mindset towards international child abductions, then Debito.org remains pessimistic, if not cynical, about Japan’s intentions to enforce the Hague in good faith.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 37 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th September 2014
Got quoted (and some of Debito.org’s “Japanese Only” signs posted) in BBC Brasil today (thanks Ewerthon for the link). I’ll paste the article below with the Google machine translation in English afterwards. Corrections welcome.
Machine translated excerpt: “A report of the UN Human Rights Committee referred to the Japanese government, highlights the passive reaction of the police in demonstrations of this kind. The authorities have been criticized for only observe, without taking any effective action to curb abuses.
In late August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the country “firmly approached the manifestations of hatred and racism and incitement to racial hatred and violence during public demonstrations.” Since 2013, Japan has registered more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches.[…]
For the writer, activist and American-born researcher naturalized Japanese Arudou Debito, “(such discriminatory attitudes) have become increasingly overt, organized, and normalized.”
Debito collects, since 1999, pictures of signs of shops, bars, restaurants, karaoke bars, many of them sent in by readers from all over Japan, with English phrases – and even in Portuguese – prohibiting the entry of foreigners. The collection became a book entitled Japanese Only: The Otaru case of spa and racial discrimination in Japan. [NB: Not quite right, but my clarification was ignored by editors.]
Debito is said still worried that with the increasing dissemination of the thoughts of the extreme right, the cause get more and more “fans”.”Japan still has the belief that extremism is less likely to happen in its ‘peaceful society'”,” he explained. “I do not think it’s that simple. Ignoring the problems of hatred, intolerance and exclusivism towards minorities hoping they simply disappear too is a positive and historically dangerous thought.”
The Brazilian community in Japan is also a constant target of discriminatory attitudes. Fourth largest group among the foreigners living in the country, Brazilians are constantly complaining of abuses generated by racial discrimination and the issue is always raised in discussions with local authorities…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Articles & Publications, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, United Nations | 15 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th September 2014
“VISIBLE MINORITIES” ARE BEING CAUGHT IN THE DRAGNET
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Column 79 for the Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Community Page, September 4, 2014
Around noon on Aug. 13, in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, a local apartment manager notified the police that a “suspicious foreigner” was hanging around the nearby JR train station.
Cops duly descended upon someone described by the Asahi as a “20-year-old male who came from the Philippines with a Japanese passport” (sic).
When asked what he was doing, he said he was meeting friends. When asked his nationality, he mentioned his dual citizenship. Unfortunately, he carried no proof of that.
So far, nothing illegal here: Carrying ID at all times is not legally required for Japanese citizens.
But it is for foreigners. So the cops, convinced that he was really a foreigner, took him in for questioning — for five hours. Then they arrested him under the Immigration Control Act for, according to a Nikkei report, not carrying his passport, and interrogated him for another seven.
In the wee hours of Aug. 14, after ascertaining that his father is Japanese and mother foreign, he was released with verbal apologies. That hardly suffices. If any of you have ever undergone Japan’s “voluntary questioning” and/or 23 days of interrogation after arrest, you know how harrowing it can be. And this isn’t the first instance…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 1 Comment »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 31st August 2014
Two posts ago I talked about the UN’s most recent report on Japan’s human rights record (and how there seems to have been almost no progress made). Well, also interesting is the public record of the give-and-take between UN officials and Japan’s mission to the UN. That’s below. It offers a glimpse of the mindsets of Japan’s representatives, and how they will defend Japan’s status quo no matter what. The parts that are germane to Debito.org are bolded up, so have a read. This is probably a glimpse as to what courses the GOJ will (not) take regarding human rights issues in future.
BTW, If you want to see how much has not changed (these UN reviews happen every two years), get a load of what happened last time Japan faced the music in the UN regarding its human rights record, back in 2010. The GOJ even claimed Japan was taking “every conceivable measure” to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2008 (yeah, except for an actual law against racial discrimination, unrequited since 1996!). Debito.org’s archives and analysis go back even farther, so click here. And when everyone by now realizes that Japan’s human-rights efforts are a joke (seriously, back in 2013), the Japanese representative will angrily shout to the audience, “Why are you laughing? SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” This is not a joke.
Concluding remarks (excerpt):
ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said Japan was making progress in the implementation of the Convention. Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which would plug the gaps in the domestic legislation as recommended by the Committee five years ago. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech. It should install a national human rights institution without delay…
AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, [said] Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, United Nations | 19 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th August 2014
Opening paragraphs: Readers may be expecting this column to have something to say about the Supreme Court decision of July 18, which decreed that non-Japanese (NJ) residents are not guaranteed social welfare benefits.
But many have already expressed shock and outrage on these pages, pointing out the injustice of paying into a system that may choose to exclude them in their time of need. After all, no explicit law means no absolute guarantee of legal protection, no matter what court or bureaucratic precedents may establish.
I’m more surprised by the lack of outrage at a similar legal regime running parallel to this: Japan’s lack of a law protecting against racial discrimination (RD). It affects people on a daily basis, yet is accepted as part of “normal” unequal treatment in Japan — and not just of non-citizens, either.
This brings me to an argument I wanted to round off from last month’s column, about how Japan has a hard time admitting RD ever happens in Japan. Some argue it’s because RD does not befit Japan’s self-image as a “civilized” society. But I would go one step further (natch) and say: RD makes people go crazy….
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th August 2014
Jones in the JT: This newspaper’s well-intentioned July 27 editorial declaring that the social safety net should be for all taxpayers is perfectly understandable — particularly given that the petitioner was an elderly Chinese who was born and spent her whole life here. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to equate feeding the maw of whatever tax-fueled Leviathan nation state you happen to live in with being entitled to anything from it in return. This is particularly true in Japan, where by law it is generally more important that one of your parents be Japanese than where you were born, raised or paid taxes. After all, being a dutiful taxpayer alone won’t get your visa renewed or keep you from getting kicked out of the country; why should it get you a welfare payment either?
Thus, if you live here on a foreign passport, you might want to snuggle up in a comfy chair and read through the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, since for most purposes, that is your constitution. Having its roots in an Occupation-era decree modeled after U.S. immigration laws then in effect (missing some important features, as will be discussed later), the ICRRA did not become a “law” until 1982, when it was amended in connection with Japan’s accession to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I say it is your constitution because in 1978, the Supreme Court acknowledged that most constitutional protections did extend to foreigners, but only within the framework of the immigration laws and regulations, including the broad administrative discretion granted by these to Ministry of Justice officials.
COMMENT: What I’d like to have clarified is Colin’s point about whether or not people (particularly non-citizen permanent residents) who pay taxes really have no rights to expect the benefits from The State. Let me ask Debito.org Readers to assist me in doing a little research. Let’s find some law journals and other academic research written by specialists that give comparative rights for non-citizen residents in an international light. Here are two research questions:
1) Are non-citizen residents (particularly permanent residents, as taxpayers) entitled to the same social welfare benefits (e.g., unemployment, child support, and other safety-net measures designed to rescue citizens from destitution) in other developed countries? (Let’s say the G8, or widen it out to the OECD if necessary.)
2) Do guarantees of civil and human rights guaranteed in the national constitutions of developed countries also apply to “all people/residents”, including non-citizens, or are they strictly reserved for citizens, as they apparently are in Japan?
Note that we are not looking for absolute equality (that’s impossible, otherwise there would be no benefit to citizenship). But simply put: Do foreign residents receive the same guarantee against various social adversities elsewhere as a legally-enshrined human right, or not? Please send us some links to some articles in the comments section, with pertinent excerpts/abstracts included.
Posted in Discussions, Exclusionism, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Lawsuits | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd August 2014
KM: Hi Debito! Here’s another indication that the government cares more about short-term visitors than about the foreigners who actually live here:
Yomiuri: The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will develop a system to show Japanese TV programs with subtitles in foreign languages, including English and Chinese, to provide a more comfortable viewing experience for foreign visitors, according to sources. In response to the increasing number of visitors from overseas, the envisaged system will be launched by 2020, the year in which the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held, the sources said. Behind the ministry’s decision were requests from foreign visitors for more foreign-language subtitles for domestic TV programs. The envisaged system will be offered for news programs related to visitors’ safety and security during their stay, as well as variety shows.
KM: I have a few thoughts about this:
1) It probably would be nice to have more programing with English subtitles (and subtitles in other languages) but I’m a bit surprised that such a huge adjustment to daily programing in Japan would be made on behalf of those visiting short-term for the olympics. Of course, it would be open to anyone but the article (and a similar article in Japanese) makes it sound like the olympics and the comments of short-term visitors are primary motivations for the change.
2) The article says that Japanese content will be “automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles.” Such subtitles might be intelligible for things like a weather forecast, but I can’t imagine them being of much use (except as something to laugh at — because of their poor quality) with variety programs.
3) Instead of making a major adjustment like this to satisfy the whims of short-term visitors, perhaps the money to make this change could be spent to improve the quality of disaster information and disaster warning systems for people who actually live here.
Posted in Gaiatsu, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Sport, Tourism, 日本語 | 26 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st July 2014
JIJI: Japan came under pressure at a U.N. meeting Tuesday to do more to help stop hate speech that promotes discrimination by race or nationality. “According to information we received, there have been more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches in 2013, mainly in Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” Yuval Shany from Israel, one of the experts at the U.N. Human Rights Committee, said at the meeting in Geneva. Shany asked Japan whether it is considering adopting legislation to address hate and racist speech. Existing laws in Japan do not allow police to intervene to stop hate speech demonstrations, Shany said at the meeting held to review the civil and political rights situation in Japan. “It seems almost nothing has been done by the government to react to Japanese-only signs which have been posted in a number of places,” Shany said.
Kyodo: The Osaka High Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that branded as “discriminatory” demonstrations staged near a pro-Pyongyang Korean school by anti-Korean activists who used hate-speech slogans. A three-judge high court panel turned down an appeal by the Zaitokukai group against the Kyoto District Court decision ordering that it pay about ¥12 million in damages to the school operator, Kyoto Chosen Gakuen. The order also banned the group from staging demonstrations near the school in Minami Ward, Kyoto.
Johnston: The good news is that, finally, more and more people in Osaka and the Kansai region are fighting back against the haters. Counter-demonstrations against Zaitokukai in particular are increasing. At the same time, there is a feeling among many here that, as Osaka and Korea have a deep ties, things will work themselves out. But that’s the problem. What’s needed now is not “historical perspective,” “understanding” or “respect,” but legislation ensuring protection and punishment. This is precisely because perspective, understanding and respect alone will not stop hate speech — especially that directed at new groups or those who have not traditionally been as ostracized as ethnic minorities.
AFP: A far-right Polish MEP outraged lawmakers gathered in the European Parliament on Wednesday by comparing the continent’s unemployed youth to “niggers” in the U.S. South. […] Comparing job-seeking youth to black laborers in the American South during the 1960s, Korwin-Mikke said: “Four millions humans lost jobs. Well, it was four million niggers. But now we have 20 millions Europeans who are the Negroes of Europe.
Grauniad: A former local election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) in France has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s justice minister, who is black, to an ape. […] On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne, French Guiana’s capital, sentenced her to nine months in jail, banned her from standing for election for five years, and imposed a €50,000 (£39,500) fine. French Guiana is an overseas département of France and is inside the European Union. It also handed the FN a €30,000 fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party, founded by Taubira.
COMMENT: So there is precedent, example, template, and international embarrassment. Will this result in a law in Japan against hate speech (ken’o hatsugen)? I say again: not in the foreseeable future, sadly. As noted on Debito.org many times, we have had all four of these pressures in Japan for decades now (not to mention an international treaty signed in specific), yet we still can’t get a law against racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu) in Japan.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, United Nations | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th July 2014
In an event sure to make my year-end top ten most important human rights issues of 2014, Japan’s highest court just overturned the Fukuoka High Court’s 2011 decision, ruling that an octogenarian granny who, despite being born in Japan, living her life here as a Zainichi Special Permanent Resident, and contributing to Japan’s social welfare systems, has no right to the benefits of her contributions because she’s foreign (i.e., not “kokumin”). More comment after the articles:
JT: The Supreme Court ruled Friday that foreigners with permanent residency status are ineligible for welfare benefits, overturning a decision by the Fukuoka High Court that had acknowledged their eligibility under the public assistance law. The decision by the top court’s Second Petit Bench concerned a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency who was born and grew up in Japan. The woman applied for welfare benefits with the Oita municipal office in Oita Prefecture in December 2008 but was denied the benefits on the grounds she had some savings. The woman then filed a suit demanding that the city’s decision be repealed. She is now receiving the benefits because the municipality accepted her welfare application in October 2011. While the recipients of welfare benefits are limited to Japanese nationals by law, the government issued a notice in 1954 saying foreigners should be treated in accordance with the public assistance law. Since the government limited recipients to Japanese nationals and foreigners with permanent residency in 1990, municipalities have exercised their discretion in doling out the benefits. In October 2010, the Oita District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit, saying that denying the public assistance law to foreigners was within the discretion of a municipal government. In November 2011, however, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that foreigners with permanent residency have been protected under the public assistance law.
COMMENT: And now the pendulum has swung again, with a great big Bronx Cheer for all NJ in Japan. More information on what has appeared on Debito.org over the years in this blog entry.
My final thought on this for now is how the online commenters (who consistently blame NJ for anything bad that happens to them) spin this one against the plaintiff? It’s a challenge: She’s an 82-year-old granny Zainichi living her entire life in Japan trying to get her tax benefits back, for heaven’s sake. Still, the reflexes are kicking in. We’ve already had one person commenting at the Japan Times about how this ruling was a means to deal with “illegal immigrants” somehow (the JT immediately spotted this as trolling and deleted it; wish they would be more proactive with my columns as trolls keep derailing any meaningful debate). Any more gems out there, go ahead and quote them in the Comments section below. A ruling this egregiously anti-NJ becomes an interesting psychological experiment to see how far the self-hating gaijin will go to deny they have any rights to anything whatsoever in Japan.
UPDATE JULY 25, 2014: This very blog entry gets cited in the South China Morning Post.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Lawsuits, 日本語 | 61 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th July 2014
We’ve discussed on Debito.org before the rigmarole of NJ drivers in Japan getting J Driver Licenses, being subjected to extra intrusive procedures that are of questionable legality. Well, a Debito.org Reader decided to do his civic duty and ask for some reasons why. And this is what he found out. Read on and feel free to contribute your own experiences.
JDriver: As you might know, residents of foreign citizenship (外国籍の方 in the bureaucratic parlance) are required to show their residence cards or in other way demonstrate their status of residence when getting or renewing their drivers license. Obedient citizen as I am, of course I went along with it and presented it when asked, but I did make clear I would like to be clarified on the legal basis for such a request. I didn’t expect that the person doing the registration would know something like this off the top of their head, but I was intended on talking to someone eventually who could point to this and that paragraph of this or that law that governs these circumstances.
So after all the procedure was finished and I got my license, I went to the window I was told I’d get my questions answered. The first person could only, after quite a while, produce the Immigration law article 23, which only says that you are in general required to present the passport or the residence card when the police and other authorities ask for it “in the execution of their duties.” So I asked for a specific law or ordinance that shows that in this concrete case it is indeed their duty to ask for the card. I got sent to her boss, who again only wasted my time with the same answer (Immigration law) and got irritated and dismissed me, but not before arranging for me to see the final boss of bosses, who should be able to answer my, I thought very simple, question i.e. what is the legal basis for what you’re doing?
Neither the last guy could legitimize the demand in legal terms, so we agreed that he will research it and call me later to let me know. He did call later the same day, only to tell me that after all, the legal basis would have to be in the Immigration law, because he couldn’t find any other! He said it is all done to prevent the “illegal overstayers” from getting drivers license, as if that, or any other goal, would justify working outside of legal framework. I was flabbergasted that apparently no one in the whole Koto drivers center (江東試験場) knew the legal basis of their actions…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Discussions, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 28 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st July 2014
Opening paragraphs: Hang around Japan long enough and you’re bound to hear the refrain that the Japanese have an inferiority complex (rettōkan) towards “Westerners” (ōbeijin).
You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese too had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, lighter skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising angles, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery.
This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.
But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th June 2014
Debito.org Reader JK offers the following links and commentary about two important subjects: 1) The unwillingness of Japan’s media to count NJ as “residents” in official population tallies (despite NJ inclusion on the juumin kihon daichou Resident Registry since 2012), and 2) the widespread misogyny in Japan’s policymaking arenas that has no recourse but to appeal to pressure from the outside world (gaiatsu) for assistance (as NJ minorities clearly also must do).
Speaking to the first point in particular: Before we even touch upon the lousy demographic science, how insulting for NJ once again to simply “not count” as part of Japan’s population. Some J-articles have minced words by qualifying the ethnically-cleansed statistic as “the population of Japanese people” (nihonjin no jinkou). But others (see the Nikkei below) simply render it as “Japan’s population” (nihon no jinkou). When they eventually get around to mentioning that NJ are also here, they render them as “nihon ni taizai suru gaikokujin” (NJ “staying” in Japan, as opposed to zaijuu “residing”). How immensely arrogant and unappreciative of all that NJ residents do for Japan!
Yomiuri: Japan’s population on Jan. 1 of this year was down 0.19 percent from a year before at 126,434,964, falling for the fifth straight year, the internal affairs ministry said Wednesday. The figure was calculated based on Japan’s resident registry network system and does not include foreign residents.
Mainichi: A Tokyo metropolitan assemblywoman [Shiomura Ayaka], who was subjected to sexist jeers during a recent assembly meeting, stressed that the heckling came from more than one person as she spoke at a news conference for the foreign media. […] The Tokyo metropolitan assembly voted down on Wednesday a resolution that called for identifying assembly members who heckled an assemblywoman last week with sexist remarks, with disapproval by the Liberal Democratic Party delegation, the biggest group in the assembly.
JK comments: The quote I’d like to focus on is this: “The incident has caused deep embarrassment to Japan which is preparing to host the Olympics.” Soo…. seeing as how the political option got voted down twice, it looks to me like the only option Shiomura has to effect change in the gikai is via pulling the shame lever in form of a Kisha Club press conference. My take is that this move is intended to generate attention with gaiatsu as a real and possible side effect. Assuming this is case, can your conclusion to the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case (i.e. Gaiatsu is basically the only way to make progress against racial discrimination in Japan) be generalized to include political misogyny as well?
Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 36 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd June 2014
REUTERS: The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.
Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave. […]
Not long after [Trainees Lu, Qian and Jiang’s] arrival, the [Burberry outsourcing] apparel association took the women’s passports and passed them to Kameda in violation of Japanese law protecting interns’ freedom of movement, according to the lawsuit. An Ishikawa Apparel Association spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said the group does not conduct inappropriate supervision and training, but declined further comment citing the lawsuit.
At the factory, Lu, Qian and Jiang’s overtime stretched to more than 100 hours a month, the lawsuit says. A timesheet prepared with data supplied by Kameda to the Japanese labor standards bureau shows Lu logged an average of 208 hours a month doing overtime and “homework” during her second year in Japan. That is equivalent to almost 16 hours a day, six days a week. Japanese labor policy considers 80 hours of overtime a month the “death by overwork” threshold.
For this, Lu earned about 400 yen, about $4, an hour at Kameda, the timesheet shows. The local minimum wage at the time was 691 yen an hour, and Japanese law requires a premium of as much as 50 percent of the base wage for overtime. […]
Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th June 2014
Any good organization wanting public approval (or in this case, approval from its geopolitical “friends”) does outreach. And this very professional online magazine issued yesterday from the Abe Administration, called “We are Tomodachi”, is worth an introduction to Debito.org Readers. It offers fascinating insights into what the PM Abe Administration is thinking (or trying to convince you it is thinking — something few branches of Japan’s governmental organs do in any convincing detail even for its citizens). As The Economist (London) recently noted, Abe is “Japan’s most purposeful prime minister for many years”, and herein many of Abe’s purposes are clearly argued in well-proofed English, albeit in all their stiff transparency. Here’s the Table of Contents: […]
Part travel guide, part geopolitical gaijin handling, part cultural screed (cue those shakuhachis!), “We Are Tomodachi” magazine is a great read to deconstruct how the Abe Administration is trying to march the Post-Bubble discourse on Japan back into the first-generation Postwar discourse. Ah, those were the days, when Japan’s elites had near-total control over Japan’s image in the world, and so few outsiders had any understanding (or or had experienced Japan in great depth) that they would ever be taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t a “real Japanese” (moreover, the handful of NJ who did know something could be co-opted as anointed cultural emissaries; they’re still trying to do it within this very magazine). No, since then millions of people have since experienced Japan beyond the GOJ boilerplate, have lived and invested their lives in Japan, and have learned the Japanese language. So the dialogue is not so easily controlled by the elites anymore. (PM Abe’s Gaijin Handlers: If you’re dropping in on Debito.org again, Yokoso and enjoy our Omotenashi!)
So, Gaijin Handlers, here’s a lesson on what to avoid next time: What irritates people like us who know better is your cultivated mysticism in elite conversations about anything cultural in Japan. Consider this example of bogus social science (depicted as a “secret”) from page 72:
“The Japanese have a reputation for being taciturn and hard to communicate with. Probably the most difficult part of Japanese communication for people from other countries is the way people here converse wordlessly. When people are standing silently at some natural attraction, they’re using their five senses to feel nature and commune with it. So if you notice some quiet Japanese in such a spot, you might try joining them in their silence, taking in everything around you with all your senses: light, wind, sky, clouds, sounds, smells. Because even when nobody is talking, there is plenty of communication going on in Japan.”
This is a juicy claim for deconstruction under a number of genres of social science. The biggest confusion you’re going to cause in NJ tourists and newbies will come when they confront the amount of noise at many a tourist trap (especially from those trying to “nigiyaka” the place up with their megaphoned music), and wonder how they’re supposed to use all their five senses like the mystical Japanese apparently do. Logically, this also means the purported J-silence around awkward conversations could be due to the inscrutably “shy” Japanese trying to take NJ in with all their five senses too (I wonder what happens when they get to “Smell”, “Touch”, or “Taste”?). What rubbishy analytical tools. And it’s one reason why so many people (Japanese and NJ) go nuts in Japan, because they’re constantly told one thing yet experience another.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tourism | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th June 2014
Opening: Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.
However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!
And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.
Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work….
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd June 2014
Good news. The Urawa Reds’ fans “Japanese Only” banner last March (which, as Debito.org reported, could have been as usual swept under the carpet of cultural relativism) has occasioned much debate (see here and here) and even proactive and remedial measures. Witness this:
ASAHI: J.League’s players and team officials will be forced to take mandatory anti-discrimination classes as fallout from a fan’s banner that said “Japanese Only” and was not removed from a stadium during a league game in March. Officials with the Justice Ministry’s legal affairs bureaus and local volunteer human rights advocates commissioned by the agency, in agreement with the league, will visit all 51 teams in the J1, J2 and J3 divisions from June onward to give the classes. […] The class instructors will expound on what acts constitute discrimination and use specific incidents, such as when a foreigner was denied admission to a “sento” (public bath), to demonstrate discriminatory acts. They will also discuss ways to improve interactions with foreigners, sources said.”
Well, good. I’m not going to nit-pick this well-intentioned and positive move. It’s long overdue, and Debito.org welcomes it. (Well, okay, one thing: It’s funny how the lore on our Otaru Onsens Case (i.e., the “sento” denying entry to “a foreigner”) has boiled down to one “foreigner” (which I was not, and it was more people denied than just me) going to just one sento (there were at least three with “Japanese Only” signs up at the time in Otaru). Somehow it’s still a case of “discrimination against foreigners”, which is the wrong lesson to take from this case, since the discrimination also targeted Japanese people.)
Now witness this:
KYODO: J3 player handed three-game ban for racist comments…
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Sport | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd May 2014
Significant news: In addition to the bars, bathhouses, internet cafes, stores, restaurants, apartment rental agencies, schools, and even hospitals, etc. that have “Japanese Only” policies in Japan, the media has now publicized a longstanding case of a tertiary education institution doing the same. A place called Konsho Gakuen in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, offering instruction in cooking, nutrition, and confections, has since it opened in 1976 never accepted NJ into their student body. This exclusion was even written in their recruitment material as a “policy” (houshin): (scan)
People knew about this. A Peruvian student denied entry complained to the authorities in 2012. But after some perfunctory scolding from Saitama Prefecture, everyone realized that nothing could be done about it. Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan. Nobody could be penalized, and it was unclear if anyone could lose a license as an educational institution.
So finally it hits the media. And after some defiance by the school (claiming to NHK below that they don’t want to be responsible for NJ getting jobs in Japan; how conscientious), they caved in after about a week and said that the policy would be reversed (suck on the excuses they offered the media for why they had been doing it up to now — including the standard, “we didn’t know it was wrong” and “it’s no big deal”).
Debito.org would normally cheer for this. But the school is just taking their sign down. Whether they will actually ALLOW foreigners to join their student body is something that remains to be seen (and the J-media is remarkably untenacious when it comes to following up on stories of racial discrimination). When we see enrollments that are beyond token acceptances (or happen at all, actually) over the course of a few years, then we’ll cheer.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Exclusionism, Food, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 32 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th May 2014
As noted in the Japan Today article cited below, SAPIO debate magazine (June 2014) devoted an issue specifically to the issue of immigration (imin) to Japan (what with the Abe Administration’s renewed plan to import 200,000 NJ per year). Good. But then SAPIO fumbles the issue with narratives that microaggress the NJ immigrant back into a position of being powerless and voiceless. First, let’s start with SAPIO’s cover. Notice anything funny? Look at the sub-headline in yellow talking about having a vigorous debate from “each world” (kyaku kai). Each? Look at the debaters pictured. See any Visible Minorities there? Nope, they’re left out of the debate once again. All we get are the typical powerful pundits (probably all Wajin, with “Papa Bear” Wajin Ishihara second in line). Where is the voice of the immigrant?
And by “immigrant”, I mean people who have immigrated to Japan as NJ and made a life here as long-term resident if not actual Permanent-Resident holder. The people who have indefinite leave to remain. The “Newcomers”, who work in Japan and work for Japan. As depicted in the picture of the labor-union demonstrators in the inset photo in the top right.
Now look at the larger photo. It’s a xenophobic public demonstration about issues between Japan and Korea (and no doubt China). That’s not a debate about immigration. It’s a hate rally airing historical grievances between Japan and it’s neighbors, gussied up as a jerry-rigged issue about “Zainichis having special privileges as NJ”. The point is that the cover does not convey the issue of “immigration in Japan” accurately. Zainichi issues dominate and suck the oxygen out of the arena.
Lastly about this photo, note how all the Wajin demonstrators have their faces blocked out in the photo. Clearly Wajin have privacies to protect. Not so the NJ protesting in the photo inset. Hence NJ once again have fewer rights to privacy in the Japanese media. Just like this photo from the racist Gaijin Hanzai Magazine of yore (remember that?). Comparative powerlessness in visual form. Now let’s look at some arguments within the magazine itself:
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, GAIJIN HANZAI mag, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 21 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th May 2014
When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009. The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation). Kyodo News back then rather ignorantly observed how problematic the “Trainee” system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then: Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle”, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see article below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month. (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)
Now sit down for this news: The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it. As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020. And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.
This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists. But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers? They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right? So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative. And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th May 2014
Today’s post is a history lesson, about a very different Japan that took racial discrimination very seriously. Especially when Japanese were the victims of it overseas. Let me type in a section from Majima Ayu, “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan”, in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel, Eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013, pp. 398-401.
Pathos of the Glorious “Colored”
Japan’s Racial Equality Clause was denied by the Western powers, and racial discrimination such as the Japanese exclusion in California still remains, which is enough insult to raise the wrath among the Japanese. — Emperor Showa, 1946.
As cited, the Emperor Showa (1901-1989) saw the exclusion Act as “a remote cause of the Pacific War”… In fact, opinions against the Japanese Exclusion Act were an immediate reason for public outcry in Japan. The population had become exasperated by the weak-kneed diplomacy that brought national dishonor amidst the emotional bashing from the mass media. This manifested in extremely emotional and near mass-hysteric situation, such as the suicides near the American Embassy on May 31, the follow-up suicides, the events for consoling the spirits of the deceased, and the countless letters sent to the Naval Department calling for war against the United States…
American’s racial categorization aggravated Japan’s anger, which turned to anxiety as a result of Japan’s diminishing sense of belonging in the world; “the world being limited to the Western powers”, as Tokutomi cited earlier, even if Japan earned a status equal to that of the Western powers, there would still be a great “distance” between them, namely one of racial and religious differences, and the whole difference between the East and West. The sentiment of being a “solitary wanderer” rejected by the West contradicts the manner in which Japan brought about its own isolation. Tokutomi also asserted that the express “Asian” had no other meaning beyond the geographical, and thus Japan’s self-perceptions and identity no longer belonged to Asia. The sense of isolation was actually based on the denial of “Asia”, and it came from Japan’s own identification built upon the idea of “Quit Asia and Join Europe”. It could be said that Japan’s contradictory identification came to reveal Japan’s inability to identify with either the East or the West, a situation that came about through the emergence of a consciousness of the racial distance, especially from 1919 to 1924.
COMMENT: Look at how crazy racial discrimination makes people. Mass hysteria? Suicides? Rumors of war? Feeling rejected by the West after the elites had taken a risk and turned the national narrative away from the East? Thereby laying the groundwork for Postwar Japan’s narrative of uniqueness and exceptionalism that fuels much of the irrational and hypocritical behavior one sees in Japan today (especially vis-a-vis racial discrimination towards anyone NOT “Japanese”). Yet during Prewar Japan (when Japan was colonizing), the GOJ denied that it could even ideologically PRACTICE racial discrimination, since it was liberating fellow members of the Asian race (Oguma Eiji 2002: 332-3); and now we get denials that it exists in Japan, or that Japanese even understand the concept of racial discrimination because Japanese society allegedly has no races. After all, racial discrimination is something done to us Japanese by less civilized societies. It couldn’t happen in Japan. Yet it does. And when that is pointed out, then the denialism comes roaring back intertwined, as the above passage demonstrates, with the historical baggage of victimization.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 6 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th April 2014
Excerpt: In 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama gave a speech about people’s “empathy deficit.” He described empathy as “the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.”
“When you think like this,” he continued, “when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”
I agree. Enormous social problems arise when people don’t understand (or rather, don’t try to understand) what’s going on in other people’s minds. I was mindful of that during my Ph.D. fieldwork, when I interviewed dozens of “Japanese Only” businesses. I always asked for (and got, often in great detail) the reasoning behind their exclusionism. I never agreed with their stopgap solutions (shutting out people they thought were “foreign” because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough), but I gained some sympathy for what they were going through.
But sympathy is not the same as empathy, and that is one reason why discrimination against foreigners and minorities is so hard to combat in Japan. Japanese society is good at sympathy, but empathy? Less so…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th April 2014
Mainichi: Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments or other residences was given as an ongoing violation of their human rights by almost half of respondents to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
COMMENT: It is indeed good to see people acknowledging that discrimination towards NJ exists. And that the most common answer by respondents chosen (since it is probably the most normalized and systemic NJ discrimination) is in residence rentals. After all, take a look at this new system of guarantor-free housing by “Tokyo Sharehouse” — which has at least fifteen “sharehouses” advertised as “Japanese Only”:
LaFelice Ikejiri (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1324/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1324/
Claris Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1325/ (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1325/
Domondo Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1095/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1095/
Aviril Shibuya (Japanese Only in both meanings): http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1431/
Pleades Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/847/
La Vita Komazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/500/
La Levre Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/846/
Leviair Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/506/
Flora Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/502/
La Famille (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/503/
Pechka Shimo-Kitazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/507/
Amitie Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/508/
Cerisier Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/504/
Stella Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/501/
Solare Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/509/
Y’know, that’s funny. Why would this company go through all the trouble to put up a website in English and then use it to refuse NJ? So they’d look international? Or so they’d look exclusionary to an international audience? And you gotta love how they pretentiously put the names of the residences in faux French, yet won’t take French people…!
So, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, thanks for those surveys saying how sad it is that NJ are being discriminated against in housing. But what are they for, exactly? Mere omphaloskepsis? How about doing something to stop these bigots from discriminating?
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 42 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st March 2014
Some moderately good news also came down the pipeline a few days ago, when the Suraj Case of police brutality and death in detention was drawn to a conclusion in Civil Court. The Tokyo District Court faulted the GOJ with “illegal” excessive force, and doled out restitution of a paltry sum of about USD $50,000 for a man’s life. Hokay. For many (unless there is an appeal), that means case closed.
It’s good that somebody was found fault with. Up until now, Japan’s Immigration Bureau got away with a clear case of cold-blooded murder of a NJ being manhandled by overzealous authorities. However, this was a decision that took place in CIVIL Court, not Criminal, meaning no criminal penalty has been applied to Suraj’s killers.
Contrast this with a very similar murder that just came down in the UK: The Mubenga Case. Same time line (an excruciatingly slow four years), same class of human being as far as the developed countries see it (a dark African man from Ghana/Angola), and same killing while in official custody. Except in the UK case, you get arrests, a charge of manslaughter, and killers’ names made public. In other words, the System in the latter case is less likely to protect individuals for their excesses, which is the much better deterrent for them to do this brutal act again. Thus we’re more likely to see Surajs happen than Mubengas, since Japan’s criminal prosecutors decided not to pursue Suraj’s case. And so the Suraj Case remains Japan’s shame, and should be a deterrent for future immigrants to come to Japan: In Japan’s overall criminal system of “hostage justice”, an overstayed visa may become a capital offense.
Posted in Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Lawsuits | 8 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th March 2014
J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM
JBC Column 73 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published March 13, 2014
By ARUDOU Debito, Version with links to sources
On Saturday, during their J. League match against Sagan Tosu at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans hung a “Japanese only” banner over an entrance to the stands.
It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas English media, covered the story. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and at the time of going to press Wednesday, reports were suggesting that the club had decided that the banner was discriminatory, reversing a previous finding that the fans behind the incident had “no discriminatory intent.”
So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign.…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Racist Images in Media, Sport | 25 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th March 2014
February 23, 2014
Hi Debito! Don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but the illustration at the top of this page [of the Immigration Bureau site, re Japan’s “Points System” visa,] interests me:
Almost all of the “highly-skilled” people have non-Asian looking noses. The only people that look like they might be from Korea or China are a family and the father is dressed as a factory worker. Like I say, I don’t want to read too much into this illustration but it does seem to be indicative of a tendency to want to exclude people from neighboring countries from the “preferred” group of foreigners. Here’s the image:
Posted in Bad Social Science, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Media, Racist Images in Media | 9 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th February 2014
Although I have been commenting at length at Japan’s right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn’t quite my specialty. That said, I’m happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant “victim” narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border. These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ’s behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally.
Bloomberg: Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.
Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.
Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone. The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual.
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Japanese Government, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 29 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th February 2014
With some media outlets forecasting a rise in rents due to an alleged economic recovery Abenomics (somehow seeing rising fixed costs for businesses and people as a harbinger of something good), here’s an article stating that Japan’s depopulation (except in Tokyo, where any real opportunity for economic upward mobility is clustering) is probably going to render that moot. Japan’s housing (as you longer-termers probably know, it’s already pretty crappy and not built to last) is also depopulating, as this fascinating article from the Japan Times excerpted below demonstrates. Already more than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, and in less than a generation it will be nearly a quarter. And yet there are forecasts for rents (okay, office rents) to rise again. I smell another real estate bubble in the works, although media-driven instead of demand-pulled. Should be some bargains out there for those who can find the realtors and renters who aren’t “Japanese Only.”
JT: As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, run-down, uninhabited properties like this are becoming more common. As of 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 7.57 million vacant homes, or 13.1 percent of all houses in Japan, up from 3.94 million in 1988 and 5.76 million in 1998, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The rate is expected to rise to 23.7 percent in 2028.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Fun Facts, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 20 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th February 2014
When looking through my “Draft” posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It’s another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or “See I Told You So”). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4).
When the GOJ came out with its “Points System” in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that — in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn’t as attractive a labor market as Japan’s bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades. And yes, as the article below substantiates, the “Points System” has failed — less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.
Posted in Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd February 2014
JIJI: The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday. The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.
COMMENT: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに９３万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.
I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as you note. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years.
Posted in Bad Social Science, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, 日本語 | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th January 2014
In what I consider to be good and very significant news, the Tokyo District Court ruled that NJ who had their privacy violated, due to National Police Agency leaks of personal information, were entitled to compensation.
This is good news because the government rarely loses in court. Considering past lawsuits covered by Debito.org, the police/GOJ can get away with negligence (Otaru Onsens Case), grievous bodily harm (Valentine Case), and even murder (Suraj Case).
But not privacy violations. Interesting set of priorities. But at least sometimes they can protect NJ too.
Note also what is not being ruled problematic. As mentioned below, it’s not an issue of the NPA sending out moles to spy on NJ and collecting private information on them just because they happen to be Muslim (therefore possible terrorists). It’s an issue of the NPA losing CONTROL of that information. In other words, the privacy breach was not what’s being done by The State, but rather what’s being done by letting it go public. That’s also an interesting set of priorities.
But anyway, somebody was forced to take responsibility for it. Good news for the Muslim community in Japan. More background from the Debito.org Archives on what the NPA was doing to Japan’s Muslim residents (inadequately covered by the article below), and the scandal it caused in 2000, here, here, and here.
UPDATE JAN 17: UPDATE JAN 17: I was convinced by a comment to the Japan Times yesterday to remove this entry from the “Good News” category. I now believe that the court approval of official racial profiling of Muslims has made the bad news outweigh the good.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Lawsuits, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 2 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th January 2014
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014:
“The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″
By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:
6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
4. Visa regimes get a rethink
3. Hate speech turns murderous
2. LDP holds both Diet chambers
1. The state secrets law
11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat.
10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.
9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.
8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability.
7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd January 2014
You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that). It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China. This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors.
NYT: The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. […] Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.
Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Media, SITYS | 12 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th December 2013
My conclusions first: If you really want to “look on the bright side” of recent events, we could say “we live in interesting times”. Given the normally glacial pace of reforms in Japan, the Abe Administration is proceeding with incredible speed — which he can do, given LDP control over both houses of Parliament. It’s a pity that things are heading in the Rightist direction, dismantling the Postwar order of governance and the safeguards against Prewar fascism faster than the public or media can keep up.
As discussed here before Debito.org got tackled, both inside and outside observers (including the UN) were alarmed at the contents of the State Secrets Protection Law (himitsu hogo hou), the one that leaves vague what a “government secret” is exactly (for better public non-transparency), and offers criminal penalties of up to ten years’ incarceration for violators, including journalists. The tone of this law is pretty clear: Anyone who gets in the way (and according to LDP Secretary General and defense policy wonk Ishiba Shigeru, “noisy” protestors will be labeled “terrorists”; I’m waiting for Ishiba to say the same thing about the perennially noisy, intimidating, and sometimes violent right-wing sound trucks) will be dealt with accordingly.
Debito.org said that the protests in any case were too little, too late, and it would make no difference. It didn’t (except in Abe’s approval ratings, which dipped below 50% for the first time for this administration; never mind — a few more saber rattlings with the Chinese bogeyman will remedy that), and the bill was rammed through both the Lower and Upper Houses and is now law. SITYS.
This after, as also noted on Debito.org previously, Abe’s Gaijin Handlers were sent off on a mission to placate the one country that might get them to avert this course: The United States. Top Abe advisor Kitaoka Shin’ichi recently visited Hawaii and points mainland to sell Japan’s remilitarization as a means to help America’s security exploits abroad, saying it would be possible by a mere circumvention of the Constitution by reinterpretation. Who needs to go through that laborious process of actual Constitutional revision when you can just ignore it? And it seems the Americans have signed off on it. And on Japan’s new protection measures of “state secrets”. And on a creation of a National Security Council that reports to Abe, modeled on the USG’s NSC, so who could object? Checkmate.
Look, some people might be surprised by all this, but I’m not. Debito.org saw this coming more than ten years ago, and watched it play out since 2000 as innate fears of outsiders in general were made into public policy seeing foreigners as criminals, then terrorists etc. Now. it’s Chinese foreigners in specific (what with the two-plus “Lost Decades” of stagnant to negative growth causing Japan to be eclipsed by China as the largest economy in the region). I’ve charted the arc of this public debate here in a paper for Japan Focus, showing how officially-sponsored xenophobia was used to undermine, then decimate, Japan’s Left. And with no opposition Left, there’s nothing to stop a dedicated silver-spoon elite like Abe, who has known no war (and accepts no responsibility for Japan’s historical role in it), for swinging the pendulum the furthest Right it has been in the Postwar Era. Provided his health holds up, he’s got three years to do it. Just watch him do it as quickly as possible.
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, SITYS, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 30 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th November 2013
A bit of a tangent today. The author of this article asked me for some input some months back, and I steered him towards some resources that talked about Japan’s historical involvement with Burma (and deep ties between the ruling junta and Japan’s WWII government — to the point of using the Imperial Army’s public order maintenance style over its colonies as a template to repress domestic dissent). Even with recent changes in Burma’s government, Japan’s engagement style is reportedly not changing — it’s still up to its old nontransparent policymaking tricks. I put up this article on Debito.org because it relates to the Abe Administration’s perpetual use of China not only as a bugbear to stir up nationalism and remilitarization, but also something to encircle and contain, as Abe visits more Asian countries in his first year in office than any other PM (without, notably, visiting China). Nothing quite like getting Japan’s neighbors to forget Japan’s wartime past (and, more importantly, Japan’s treatment of them as a colonizer and invader) than by offering them swagbags of largesse mixed with a message of seeing China instead as the actual threat to regional stability. Result: Who will agitate for the offsetting of Japan’s historical amnesia if the descendants of their victims (or their governments, lapping up the largesse) will not? These are the “arrows” Abe is quietly loosing, and this time outside Japan in support of his revisionism.
DVB News: Japan’s traditional approach to diplomacy – characterised by “quiet dialogue” – is becoming a threat to Burma’s fragile reform process. In recent weeks, the Japanese government has demonstrated an alarming lack of transparency regarding both its role in Burma’s peace process and land grabbing problems at Thilawa, Japan’s flagship development project near Rangoon. Eleven News also reported on Tuesday that a Burmese parliament member demanded greater transparency about how Japanese financial aid is distributed to Burma’s health sector…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Tangents | 3 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd November 2013
UN News: Two independent United Nations human rights experts today expressed serious concern about a Government-sponsored draft bill in Japan that would decide what constitutes a State secret.
The Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the right to health requested further information from the Japanese authorities on the draft law and voiced their concerns regarding its compliance with human rights standards…
“Transparency is a core requirement for democratic governance,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue. “The draft bill not only appears to establish very broad and vague grounds for secrecy but also include serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets.”
According to reports, information related to defence, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism will all be classified as a state secret, while ministers could decide what information to keep from the public.
COMMENT: The snowball is rolling and a version of this legislation, even if “watered down” (or perhaps not), will probably be rammed through into law, since both houses of Parliament are in the hands of ultraconservative parties without a viable opposition party anymore. Why wasn’t this seen coming down the pike in the first place before it got to this stage? The warning signs were all there from last December’s election (before that, even, if you read PM Abe’s manifestoes about his “beautiful country”) about Japan’s rightward swing. This consolidation of information control has always been part and parcel of state control — no surprises, especially in Japan. So this public reaction of both naiatsu and gaiatsu is too little, too late. Get ready for the politicized criminalization of public disclosure.
Posted in Gaiatsu, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tangents, United Nations | 27 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th November 2013
Last month in Hawaii I attended a speech titled “Japan’s new National Security Strategy in the Making” by a Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka. A scholar and university president, Dr. Kitaoka is deputy chairman of the “Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security” within the Shinzo Abe administration.
I sat in because I wanted to see how a representative of Japan’s government would explain away Abe’s militaristic views to an American audience.
Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint. He was smooth. In impeccable English, to a packed room including numerous members of Hawaii’s military brass, he sold a vision of a remilitarizing Japan without a return to a prewar militarized Japan. (You can see the entire speech at http://www.vimeo.com/77183187.)
He laid out how Japan would get around its ban on having a military beyond a “self-defense force,” i.e., one that could project power beyond its borders. It would be the same way Japan got around its constitutional ban on having any standing military at all: Japan would once again reinterpret the wording of the Constitution.
His logic: If Japan has a sovereign right to “individual self-defense” (i.e., the right to attack back if attacked), it also has an inherent sovereign right to “collective self-defense” (i.e., the right to support Japan’s allies if they are attacked). A reinterpretation must happen because, inconveniently, it is too difficult to reform the Constitution itself.
That legal legerdemain to undermine a national constitution should have raised eyebrows. But…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 32 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd November 2013
Debito.org Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago. Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers. The slogan above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing. Like this one snapped in Tamagawa last September:
JF comments: “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”
It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here). JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally. Here’s the cover. Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/TokyotoGaikokujinHiringManual2013.pdf. Synopsis of the Manual follows…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Media, Practical advice, 日本語 | 11 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th October 2013
Here’s another long-standing issue within Japan’s criminal justice system — the two-tiered system of incarceration for foreigners only. When one is being detained for a violation of Japan’s criminal code, you have prison for those convicted and the daiyou kangoku interrogation centers for those awaiting conviction (and almost everyone (95%) who is indicted under this system confesses to a crime, thanks to the unsupervised and harsh interrogation techniques). Almost everyone who confesses to a crime (the most-cited figure is >99%) gets convicted and probably goes to prison.
But then there are the detention centers for foreigners with visa issues who can be incarcerated indefinitely. This is unlike Japan’s prison system where 1) there are international standards for incarceration, and 2) there is a maximum limit — as in a prison sentence — to the duration for inmates. Not so Japan’s foreigners. And not so, as you can see below, Japan’s asylum seekers, where yet another NJ has died in custody due to, the article notes below, lax oversight over the health of their detainees.
I bring this up because this case will no doubt soon be forgotten. Like the other issues of violence, unsanitary food leading to hunger strikes and suicides, Immigration brutality leading to an uncharged murder of a detainee, and more. No wonder some people would prefer an overseas refugee camp than come to Japan to languish and perhaps die in a Gaijin Tank. Best to archive it here as yet another brick in the wall.
AFP: An asylum-seeker collapsed and died after staff at a Japanese immigration center failed to call for a medic, allegedly because the doctor was having lunch, a pressure group said Thursday. Anwar Hussin, a member of Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic group, fell ill shortly after he was detained on Oct 9, according to People’s Forum on Burma, a Japan-based NGO headed by a Japanese lawyer.
Citing the 57-year-old’s cousin, the group said Hussin had been complaining of a headache all morning and fell unconscious as he began eating lunch in his cell. Fellow detainees—seven people of different nationalities—called for help because he was vomiting and having spasms, the NGO said. Detention center staff rejected their requests that a doctor be called, saying Hussin was just “having a seizure” and that the duty medic was on his lunch break, the group said, citing detainees who had spoken to the dead man’s cousin.
A doctor was summoned 51 minutes after Hussin’s collapse, according to a timeline given to his cousin by the center. Staff made an emergency call four minutes after the doctor’s arrival and 55 minutes after being made aware of the problem, the timeline showed. Hussin died in hospital on Oct 14, it said.
Posted in Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited | 10 Comments »
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th October 2013
In an apparent policy U-turn, the GOJ decided last week to lift the ban on certain South Americans of Japanese descent (Nikkei) from re-entering Japan. This after bribing them to leave in 2009 so that they would not become an inconvenient unemployment statistic (not to mention that it was cheaper to pay their airfare than to pay them their social welfare that they had invested in over the decades, or pay them their pensions in future when reaching retirement age).
The reasons for this U-turn are being discussed in a recent Japan Times article, excerpted below. The article speculates that a couple of embarrassing lawsuits and visa-denials might have tipped the GOJ’s hand (I for one doubt it; Japan’s visa regimes, as can be seen for example in its perennial stance towards refugees, are generally impervious to public exposure and international pressure). I believe it was more an issue of the GOJ facing reality (as happened more than one year ago at the highest policymaking levels, where even the GOJ still maintained the stance that if immigration was an inevitability, they had better bring back people with Japanese blood; after all, the only ones in attendance were all Wajin and one token Nikkei).
Debito.org has spoken out quite hot-tonguedly about how ludicrous the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe was, not the least because of its inherently racialized paradigms (because they only applied to Nikkei — people who were also in even more dire financial straits due to the economic downturn, such as the Chinese and Muslim factory workers laboring in conditions of indentured servitude, were left to fend for themselves because they lacked the requisite Japanese blood).
So as a matter of course Debito.org cheers for the lifting of the ban. But the Bribe and the Ban should never have happened in the first place. So the GOJ can also take its lumps even if they are ultimately making the right decision.
Does this mean that the numbers of registered NJ residents of Japan will start to increase again? I will say it could happen. I stress: could, not will happen. But if it did, that statistic, not any asset bubbles and transient stock-market numbers that people keep championing as the putative fruits of “Abenomics”, will be the real indicator of Japan’s recovery. That is to say, if Japan ever regains its sheen as an attractive place to work for international labor, then an increase in Japan’s NJ population will cause and signal a true leavening of Japan’s economic clout and prowess. But I remain skeptical at this juncture — as I’ve said before, the jig is up, and outsiders generally know that Japan has no intention or enforceable laws to treat immigrants as equals, no matter how much of their lives and taxes they invest.
At this time, I believe international migrant labor will continue to vote with their feet and work elsewhere. So good luck with significant numbers coming to Japan even with this ban lifted.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Pension System, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »