Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Earlier this year the GOJ released a nationwide survey of discrimination toward NJ in Japan (details on Debito.org here and here). Debito.org predicted that the results of this could be (and would be) something the media would cite, now that they had tangible statistics.   (Even though, as reported previously on Debito.org, in the Nikkei Asian Review’s case, they would periodically still try to explain them away. But it would still be cited nonetheless.)  Here’s the latest example, again from the Nikkei Asian Review, with the shocking statistic, “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants”.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

As Japan looks for river of foreign talent, landlords erect a dam
Discrimination could hinder companies hiring more from overseas
Nikkei Asian Review, August 23, 2017
By TSUBASA SURUGA, Nikkei staff writer
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/As-Japan-looks-for-river-of-foreign-talent-landlords-erect-a-dam

TOKYOSamith Hilmy, a 26-year-old student from Sri Lanka, was waiting anxiously at a real estate office in Tokyo as an agent went through the procedure of ringing the Japanese landlord of an apartment the student was interested in renting.

Following a brief exchange, which lasted no more than 10 seconds, Hilmy said, the agent hung up the phone and uttered the same three-word phrase he had heard from a dozen or so agents over a month of home hunting: “Sorry, no foreigners.”

When Hilmy first arrived in Japan in April, his Japanese language school set him up in an apartment for six months in Shin-Okubo, a district in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward. But he has to leave the place soon, and time is short.

He said he has also encountered some real estate agents that demanded four to five months’ worth of rent up front — some want a year’s worth — as “insurance” in case he leaves the apartment or the country without notice.

“I felt,” he said, “like I was being treated like a criminal.”

Hilmy’s odyssey is not unlike the reality faced by many foreigners living in Japan. This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face.

According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.

The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam.

As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

They have to endure the humiliating phone call that often ends with a “sorry, no foreigners” because some landlords worry about tenants from other countries flying the coop, so to speak.

A few years ago, a 63-year-old landlord from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district who asked not to be named rented an apartment to a male Chinese student. After six months or so, he said, neighbors began reporting that two other men had moved into the same flat, “often making a racket late at night.”

When the neighbors confronted the student, the tenant pretended not to understand Japanese. “It made me more hesitant [to rent to foreigners],” the landlord said. “I just don’t want any more trouble.”

Hiroyuki Goto, CEO of Global Trust Networks, a Tokyo-based guarantor service provider for foreign tenants, said not many landlords have actually had these kinds of experiences but the stories “have spread across the country, causing fear among landlords.”

Other reasons include landlords who assume foreign tenants would trouble neighbors — from Brazilians throwing large home parties and firing up the barbecue to American college students who like partying into the night in their apartments.

Goto said even if prospective tenants are skilled workers with stable jobs at big-name Japanese companies, many housing units remain out of reach.

Total OA Systems — a Tokyo-based IT consultancy with 200 or so employees, including those in China and the Philippines — plans to expand the number of its foreign engineers working in Japan. It currently has only a handful.

The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo.

Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”

Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent.

This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”

Some companies are taking the matter into their own hands. YKK recently opened a small serviced apartment complex for its foreign-born employees in Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, central Japan. Its flagship plant is a 10-minute drive away.

The world’s leading zipper maker is getting ready to expand into the low-end segments in China and other parts of Asia. To get a head start, it is training more foreign employees who could go on to become managers at these plants and elsewhere. These trainees work stints of up to three years in Kurobe.

The 10 apartments are close to full with engineers from Indonesia and other countries, and YKK is already considering whether it needs more housing for the more than 30 overseas engineers it plans to welcome every year.

YKK’s foreign employees used to live in other company dormitories or in private housing rented by the company. YKK said it has not experienced landlords rejecting its foreign-born employees but feels its serviced apartments help these workers avoid cultural quibbles with would-be neighbors.

More serviced apartment units would “allow [the foreign employees] to concentrate on their training from the day after they arrive to Japan,” a representative said.

Japan has no law prohibiting landlords from refusing applicants based on ethnicity or nationality.

“Judicially, the only way to resolve such a rejection is through civil lawsuits, which is an extremely high hurdle for foreigners,” said Yumi Itakura, an attorney with the Tokyo Public Law Office, citing costly trial fees and a lack of law firms with enough capacity to help non-Japanese clients.

But there have been efforts by industry players to tackle the issue. The Japan Property Management Association, a group of over 1,300 companies handling some 5 million properties, in 2003 created guidelines that include advice for landlords and real estate agencies in dealing with prospective foreign tenants.

“In some countries, a rental contract doesn’t require a guarantor [which is common in Japan],” one piece of advice says. “Housing rules differ by country and region, therefore you should carefully explain the values and customs that are behind Japan’s housing rules.”

For foreign tenants, the association created an “Apartment Search Guidebook,” which describes the country’s common housing rules in six languages. An example: “Living with people other than those stated in the rental agreement or sub-leasing the property are violations of the rental agreement.”

At the local government level, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward is a forerunner in trying to tackle housing rental rejections. In 1991, the ward specifically stated in an ordinance that it will “strive to resolve [tenant] discrimination” based on nationality.

The issue is particularly important for Shinjuku, which has the highest proportion of foreign residents in Tokyo. As of Aug. 1, of 341,979 residents, 42,613 were not Japanese, more than 12% of the total. People from 130 or so countries live in the ward.

The ward office provides a weekly consultation session on real estate transactions for foreign residents who are having trouble finding a place to stay. In addition, it has set up a mechanism that offers help to residents in Chinese, Korean, English, Thai, Nepalese and Burmese.

Shinjuku periodically holds liaisons with property agents for better collaboration and smoother information exchanges, according to Shinjuku’s housing division. The effort is, in part, to support the elderly, disabled and foreigners, “who tend to be the most vulnerable when it comes to securing housing,” said Osamu Kaneko, the division’s manager.

According to a survey that Shinjuku conducted in 2015, separate from the justice ministry’s study, of 1,275 foreign residents, 42.3% said they had experienced discrimination in Japan. Of those, 51.9% felt discriminated against when looking for housing.

The justice ministry study underscores just how widespread discrimination is in Japan’s housing market. But the problem could be about to swell. At least the number of foreign residents in the country is trending up. At the end of 2016, it reached an all-time high, 2.38 million, 77% more than 20 years earlier.

Experts say access to housing in Japan is becoming ever more important as the third largest economy takes steps — though small ones — to open its door to more foreigners.

Chizuko Kawamura, a professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Daito Bunka University and an immigration policy expert, has proposed that the government set up a specialized body on multicultural initiatives that would make way for foreign resident support systems — from housing, education, medical access and fair employment.

This is “not limited to housing,” Kawamura said. “If our government cannot address the social needs of [foreigners] already living in Japan, we won’t be able to support those coming into the country in the future.”
ENDS
============================

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Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener provides Debito.org with details on his successful lawsuit against “Japanese Only” Nihon Autoplaza car company

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. As mentioned in the previous blog entry, Osaka resident Ibrahim Yener won his court case against a car company that refused him on the grounds (the company claims after the fact in court) of being a foreigner with insufficient Japanese language. However, Mr. Yener has just written in to Debito.org with more detail on his case, making it clear below that arbitrary language barriers were merely a ruse to refuse all “foreigners” (even those with Japanese citizenship) their business. Fortunately, the exclusionary Defendant’s reasoning didn’t wash in court.

The Defendant, not mentioned in the Asahi article in the previous blog entry, is Nihon Autoplaza, and they offer services such as buying used cars on Japan’s very vibrant second-hand automobile auction market. (I have bought cars through that auction system before, and lack of access to it will have a significant impact on your ability to get a used car affordably in Japan, something quite necessary for people in Japan’s ruralities or for small businesses.)

More detail follows from Mr. Yener himself, writing directly to Debito.org. Reproducing with permission. Well done, sir.

One more takeaway from this case is that, according to Mr. Yener, the Defendant acted even more idiotically in court, angering the judge. So I’m worried that this case might not have been as slam-dunk as it might seem for future victims of “Japanese Only” businesses who want to sue (because a lawsuit is the only real option Japan’s international residents have to protect themselves against discrimination).  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

From: “Ibrahim YENER”
Date: September 15, 2017
To: <debito@debito.org>

Dear Dr. Debito Arudou.

My name is Ibrahim YENER. I am the guy who took legal action against Japanese company.

You’re probably wondering where all those things started from.
Let me make a brief explanation.

Last year, I contacted that company to buy a used car through their web page contact form.

The very next day I got an e-mail (I am going to paste the entire reply below this mail) from that company saying they are not going to send me papers because of I am foreigner. Also EVEN IF a foreigner became a Japanese citizen they still won’t send it.

So, next day (20th of October) about 11am I contacted them by phone and I told the boss of that company that one of his employee sent me something weird by mistake. Even that time I was giving him a chance to apologize.

Then I asked him, did you guys really think about if I take you to court?

And what made me angry was his answer: “Do whatever you want.”

So, at that point I knew I have no opportunity but take this case to court.
Because, I faced so many discrimination cases in Japan in 14 years.

But this time I decided to stand and fight instead of be quiet.

Anyway, that sick-minded person shows up at court room with a mask on his face.
And the judge asked him to remove that mask, but he replied, “There is a foreigner here.  I have to protect my privacy.”

The judge became so angry and told him that “Here is court room, there is no privacy in here. Either you take that mask off or leave the court room”.

So, he replied, “Let me think about it”.

The judge told him that “I am not asking you to remove that mask off, I am ordering you to take that mask off or leave immediately.”

At that moment, I knew I won the case, but I prepared myself for high-court just in case the court will decide it was not discrimination.

Anyway, if you have any questions, I will be very happy to answer them.

Here is the original mail from that company:

—–Original Message—–
From: 日本オートプラザ 山下 [mailto:japan_support@autoplaza.co.jp]
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 18:21
To: Yener Ibrahim
Subject: 【日本オートプラザ】資料請求につきまして

Yener Ibrahim 様

お世話になっております。

大変申し訳ございませんが、当社ではご加盟頂く際の審査基準として
日本国籍の保有者の方を対象としておりますので
外国人の方には資料の送信を見合わせて頂いております。

また、日本国籍をお持ちであったとしても
日本語の能力にも問題が無いと弊社が判断した際にのみ
弊社と加盟契約が可能となります。

したがいまして、日本国籍をお持ちであり、
日本語の能力もネイティブと遜色が無いという場合には
再度ご連絡頂けば資料を送信させて頂いておりますが
日本語の能力につていては、最終的には弊社が判断し、
不十分な場合には加盟契約を受け付けておりませんので予めご了承ください。

———————————————————————–
株式会社日本オートプラザ
本社 〒532-0011大阪市淀川区西中島6丁目2−3チサン第7新大阪ビル8F
tel:06-6101-0015 fax:06-6101-0016
東京支社 〒111-0053東京都台東区浅草橋5−2−14浅草橋ハイツビル3F

http://www.autoplaza.co.jp/
————————————————————————
—–Original Message Ends—–

Regards,
Ibrahim YENER
//////////////////////////////////////////

Translation of the email from Nihon Autoplaza by Debito:

To: Ibrahim Yener
From: Mr. Yamashita, Autoplaza

Thank you for your email.

We are sorry but our company’s screening standards for accepting members are applicable to people with Japanese citizenship, so we will not be sending our materials to a foreigner.

In addition, even if the applicant has Japanese citizenship, our company only allows membership contracts from those who have been determined by our company to have no problems in Japanese language ability.

Therefore, even if someone has Japanese citizenship, and can hold their own (sonshoku) against someone with native ability in Japanese, we can send you our materials if you contact us again, but in terms of determining Japanese language ability, the final decision rests with our company, so kindly understand in advance that we will not accept an application if we decide the Japanese language is insufficient.

Nihon Autoplaza KK
Osaka-shi Yodogawa-ku Nakashima 6-2-3, Chisan Dai 7 Shin-Osaka Bldg. 8F
tel:06-6101-0015 fax:06-6101-0016
ENDS

=====================================
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NJ Osakan Ibrahim Yener wins lawsuit against “Japanese only” car dealer

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Good news.  Another NJ wins in court against a “Japanese Only” establishment, this time a car dealer who wouldn’t send Osakan Plaintiff Ibrahim Yener information about their goods because he’s a foreigner.

Yener joins the ranks of Ana Bortz, the Otaru Onsen Plaintiffs, and Steve McGowan, all of whom won and/or lost in court in varying degrees.

The positive thing to note here is that Mr. Yener filed suit all by himself, without legal representation, and still won.  He no doubt had the company dead to rights because he had their refusal in writing.  That means that anyone else with a case as watertight as his can also take it to court and win, and I advise people to do so whenever possible.

The negative thing to note here is that once again the award amount has been reduced.  In the Bortz Case, the award was 2 million yen, in the Otaru Case it was 1 million yen per plaintiff, and in the McGowan Case, after a ludicrous defeat in lower court, it was eventually only 350,000 yen on appeal, which didn’t even come close to covering his legal fees.  In the Yener Case, it’s now been reduced to a paltry 200,000 yen, which means it’s a good thing he didn’t seek legal representation.

(And as the article notes, the discriminator is thinking of appealing, claiming this amount — essentially pocket change for a company — is too high.  The idiots also try to make the common excuse that “Japanese Only” alludes to a language barrier, not a racial one; nice try, but didn’t hold up in court.)

Anyway, glad that Mr. Yener won.  It’s just a pity that after all this time and effort, there isn’t any deterrent of punitive damages against racial discriminators.  That’s why we need a criminal law against racial discrimination in Japan — because the excuse the Japanese government officially keeps making (that laws are unnecessary because there is a court system for redress) becomes less compelling with every lawsuit filed.  Dr. Debito Arudou

UPDATE:  Ibrahim Yener writes to Debito.org directly to provide more details on his case.

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

Turkish man wins solo battle in fight against discrimination
By SATOKO ONUKI/ Staff Writer
Asahi Shinbun, September 4, 2017, courtesy lots of people
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709040042.html

PHOTO: Ibrahim Yener, a 40-year-old Turkish national, in Osaka’s Kita Ward on Aug. 29. He successfully fought a court battle against a car dealer that declined to offer information about a used car on grounds Yener does not have Japanese citizenship. (Satoko Onuki)

OSAKA–Incensed at a car dealer’s refusal to send him literature on its range because he is not Japanese, Ibrahim Yener, a Turkish national, decided to wage a legal battle against the company for discriminating against a foreigner.

And Yener, who is 40 and a resident of Osaka, did it all alone–without a lawyer to represent him.

He said he opted out of hiring legal representation because he was confident his claim “is 100 percent legitimate.”

Yener went online to learn how to write a complaint to the court in Japanese and got friends to help him.

His complaint seeking 1 million yen ($9,090) in damages, filed with the Osaka District Court in March, reads: “I was informed by a company official that they will not serve foreigners.”

On Aug. 25, his efforts paid off.

The court ordered the company to pay Yener 200,000 yen in damages for “discriminating against him merely on grounds that he is a foreign national.”

Yener’s quest for equal treatment began when he made an online request last October for information on a second-hand car he was thinking of buying from the Osaka-based dealer.

The company replied: “We serve only those with Japanese nationality, and we do not meet requests for information from foreigners.”

Yener, a big fan of Japan and its culture, arrived in 2003.

His fascination with Japan began after he watched “Seven Samurai” by internationally-renowned filmmaker Akira Kurosawa while he was still back in his home country.

After his arrival in Japan, he studied the language in earnest and has worked for an information technology company and other businesses.

On occasion Yener had been distressed to hear people ridicule foreign nationals who cannot read kanji. He said there are times when he feels he is not treated “as an equal.”

“Regrettably, many people in Japan, not just the car dealer, think that they can discriminate against foreigners,” he said. “Since I admire Japan, I am very saddened by that.”

Many of Yener’s work colleagues sympathized with his plight and extended their assistance when he took the case to court.

“The lawsuit represents more than his personal battle as it raises an important question for everyone who lives in Japan,” said a colleague.

Preparing the documents was an enormous effort, and Yener was forced to take a day off from work so he could testify in court.

Nevertheless, Yener felt he was on a mission and prepared to fight to the end.

“Our world is certainly becoming a better place, compared with 100 years ago,” he said. “We can enjoy today’s world because people in the preceding era plucked up the courage and challenged (what was unreasonable). I, too, fought for people who will live in this society 100 years from now.”

The president of the car company said he is considering filing an appeal, adding that the sum ordered by the court is too high.

“Our original intention was to refuse to serve people who have difficulty understanding Japanese,” he said.
ENDS

UPDATE:  Ibrahim Yener writes to Debito.org directly to provide more details on his case.
=========================
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“Japanese Only” signs come down in Monbetsu, Hokkaido. Finally. It only took 22 years.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Good news. A couple of weeks ago, friends Olaf and James wrote in to say that they went down Hamanasu Doori in Monbetsu, a seaport town in Eastern Outback Hokkaido. Here’s what book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 3 has to say about this case (expanded from the original entry on the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments on Debito.org):

============================
Monbetsu, Hokkaidō

Place: Miscellaneous places around Monbetsu City (Hokkaidō) (two public/private sector bathhouses, a ramen shop, a restaurant, a karaoke parlor, and more than 100 bars).

Background: According to newspaper articles, plus several visits and interviews between 2000 and 2009 by the author and other activists, since 1995 Monbetsu’s local restaurateurs’ association (inshokuten kumiai) created and sold standardized signs in Cyrillic saying “Japanese Only Store” (Nihonjin sen’yō ten) that went up on over 100 bars and restaurants in the Hamanasu Dōri nightlife district. Interviews with bars displaying the signs revealed fears of Russian sailors’ custom, including the language barrier, drunken unruliness, nonpayment of bills, rumors of rape, surrounding Japanese customer dissatisfaction, and ties to Russian organized crime (although many interviewees said they had no actual experience with any of these issues – the sign was a preventive measure); some refused the author’s business even though he is not Russian and was accompanied by other Japanese. Three restaurants and a karaoke parlor expressed similar sentiments, and said they would have refused the author had he not been a fluent Japanese speaker. Two bathhouses (one private-sector, one public/private (dai-san sekutā)) claimed drunk and unruly Russian bathers were driving away Japanese customers).

Action taken by observers/activists: In July 2000, the Japanese Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu) Asahikawa Branch wrote a letter (see ER Chapter Eight) to the restaurateurs’ association calling their activities “clear racial discrimination against foreigners,” demanding they remove their exclusionary signs. In an interview with the author in April 2001, the kumiai head claimed that these signs were now the property of their respective purchasers, and what they did with them was not their concern. After extensive media exposure of the situation in local newspapers and national TV between 2000 and 2005, signs began coming down, and further interviews and media exposure of the restaurants, karaoke parlor, and the bathhouses resulted in exclusionary rules being rescinded in the karaoke parlor, one restaurant and the public/private-sector bathhouse. In 2006, an interview with another restaurant enabled the author to personally take down one of the Cyrillic signs with permission. In 2004, the author and one other activist submitted a petition (chinjō) to pass a local anti-discrimination ordinance (jōrei), which subsequently died in committee.

Current status (as of end-2014): Confirmed in January 2010, at least sixteen of the original mass-produced Cyrillic signs are confirmed as remaining on the storefronts of Hamanasu Dōri bars and one restaurant. The private-sector bathhouse still has an exclusionary sign, but will let in “foreign” clientele if they speak a level of Japanese that satisfies the manager on duty. One of the former exclusionary restaurants went bankrupt in 2007. Monbetsu still has no anti-discrimination ordinance.

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

So the update is:  The exclusionary signs are down in Hamanasu Doori.  Pity it only took 22 years for it to happen, apparently by attrition.  No thanks to the Monbetsu City Government, natch.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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

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Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Guess what. Ten years after bribing and booting out its Nikkei “Returnee” workers from South America (who had been given sweetheart visas of de facto Permanent Residency, higher-paying jobs than the “Trainee” slaves from places like China (but still lower than real Japanese, natch)), and four years after lifting a ban on their return, the government has officially decided to introduce a new residency status to exploit the next (4th) generation of Nikkei. As long as they a) speak Japanese, b) are young enough to devote their best working years here, c) come alone, and d) only stay three years. Those are some tweaks that makes things less advantageous for the foreigner, so I guess the previous racist policy favoring Wajin foreigners has been improved (as far as the government is concerned) to keep them disposable, and less likely to need a bribe to go home when the next economic downturn happens. That’s how the Japanese government learns from its mistakes — by making the visa status more exclusionary and exploitative.

As Submitter JK says, “This smells to me like a scheme to recruit more laborers.” Nice how the Yomiuri, as usual, decides to conveniently forget that historical context in its article. Dr. Debito Arudou

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

4th generation to get new status
July 31, 2017, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Courtesy of JK
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003851875

The Justice Ministry plans to introduce a new residency status for fourth-generation Japanese descendants living abroad that will enable them to work in Japan under certain conditions, such as acquiring a set level of Japanese language skills.

About 1,000 people will be accepted each year in the early stages, sources said. The ministry will solicit comments from the public soon, and then decide when to roll out the program.

The aim of the new system is to help fourth-generation Japanese descendants deepen their interest in and knowledge about Japan, and nurture people who would be a bridge between Japan and the communities of Japanese descendants abroad in the future.

Those who are accepted will be aged 18 to 30 and given “designated activities” status, which will allow them to work during their stay in Japan, according to the ministry’s plan.

Participants will be required to have Japanese skills equivalent to the N4 level of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test — able to conduct basic everyday conversations — at the time of their arrival. When they renew their residency status, they will be required to have skills equivalent to the N3 level — understanding complex sentences. They will not be allowed to bring family members.

The residency status will need to be renewed each year, with the maximum stay set at three years. It will be possible to stay longer if they are allowed to change their residency status due to marriage, employment or other reasons.

The ministry envisages accepting fourth-generation Japanese descendants from countries — such as Brazil, Peru and the United States — where a number of ethnic Japanese communities were formed and took root as a result of Japanese migration before and after World War II. A ceiling for the number of accepted applicants will be set for each country or region, sources said.

Under the current system, second- and third-generation Japanese descendants can obtain a status such as “long-term resident” and are eligible for long-term stays and employment. However, there has been no preferential treatment for fourth-generation descendants except for underage biological children — who are unmarried and dependent — of the third-generation parents who are long-term residents.

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Japan Times cites Debito on “Tackling [anti-foreigner] signs in Japan that you’re not welcome”, including Tokyo Harajuku Takeshita Doori

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Hi Blog. Here’s an earnest Japan Times journalist trying to take on some nasty anti-foreign signs up in a prominent Tokyo shopping area. The article cites me at the end, thanks. Read on for another comment from me that didn’t make the cut. Dr. Debito Arudou

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

Tackling signs in Japan that you’re not welcome
BY DAISUKE KIKUCHI
The Japan Times, June 4, 2017

Entire article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/04/national/tackling-signs-japan-youre-not-welcome/

“MOTHER F——- KISS MY ANUS. F—- OFF Mother F——-… foreigner. Sneaking PHOTO.”

A hand-written sign bearing these words is among several decorated with similar insults that greet shoppers outside a fashion store that sells rock-style clothing in Tokyo. The sign sits among shirts emblazoned with designs featuring overseas rock bands such as Iron Maiden, Children Of Bodom and Marilyn Manson in the fashion and kawaii culture mecca of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street in Shibuya Ward.

The Japan Times visited the shop after being approached by a foreign resident who was disgusted to see the signs while he was with his young daughter.

“The shop is absolutely covered in these messages,” wrote the reader. “I walk past this place from time to time. The thing that annoys me most is that Harajuku is such an anything-goes area full of all kinds of subcultures and minorities, not least of all foreigners, so this place is like a nasty little pit of intolerance inside an oasis of colour and joy.”

Asked about the thinking behind the signs, a staff member at the store explained that the shop put them up after becoming frustrated by the terrible manners of foreign shoppers.

“They usually take pictures, without permission,” said the staff member. The shop is concerned about images of its products being uploaded to the internet, she said. As to whether they would consider taking down the sign, she added: “I’m not so sure. If (they) had good manners, we wouldn’t do this, but there are so many that have really bad manners.”

[…]

In 2002 the Sapporo District Court ordered a bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, to pay ¥1 million each in damages to three plaintiffs refused entry because they did not look Japanese. This ruling was based on articles of the civil code protecting individual rights and authorizing damages when these rights are violated, Article 14 of the Constitution — which forbids discrimination — and international conventions on racial discrimination and civil rights. However, the court did not uphold the plaintiffs’ claim against the city for its failure to implement an ordinance against racial discrimination based on the international pact cited in the Bortz case. That verdict was confirmed by the Sapporo High Court.

Debito Arudou, a plaintiff in the Otaru case and a columnist for The Japan Times who writes about human rights, hosted a “Rogues Gallery” of “Japanese only” and other discriminatory signs found across the country on his website, Debito.org, in the years after the Otaru case. There, readers could post photos of signs they found locally or on their travels, as well as any measures taken to get those signs removed, some of which proved successful.

“After the Otaru onsens case, bigoted shopkeeps realized they could put up ‘Japanese only’ signs with impunity, and they proliferated around Japan,” explains Arudou. “I dropped by those places, asked ‘Why this sign?’ and what could we do about it.

“Most managers adamantly denied any racism on their part, until I asked if someone like I, a Caucasian with a Japanese passport, could come in. When they said no, I pointed out the racism, to which they just shifted tack and blamed their racist customers. When they said yes, I often came inside and got more information about what was necessary to get the signs down. When they said they’ll think about it and I should come back later, I did and was usually denied entry again. I’d say each situation happened about a third of the time.

“We did get several signs down,” Arudou says. “Part of it was by calm persuasion about what how unenforceable the policy was: How were they to decide who was Japanese, especially when I was proving it was possible to be one without looking like one — and what about Japan’s international children? Part of it was the need to make the rules clear despite a language barrier. I listened to their rules, wrote up a bilingual sign for them to display, and received their exclusionary sign in trade. And part of it was quietly pulling signs down in the middle of the night. They didn’t go back up.”

Based on his experiences, Arudou advises engaging with business owners displaying discriminatory signs.

“If you have the language ability, or a friend or native speaker who is so inclined, ask the manager why the sign is up, and what it would take to get it down,” Arudou says. “After all, we shouldn’t allow racist behavior to be normalized through public signage. And if that doesn’t work, of course, I would never advocate that people pull the signs down quietly in the middle of the night. Never ever.”
ENDS

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

NB: I also commented directly about the signs that open this article, which didn’t make the cut:

=====================================
The authorities are right. This isn’t a “Japanese Only” sign. It’s just a rude anti-foreigner sign, painstakingly rendered by shop staff too angry to say “No photos, please.” Kinda ironic, given the penchant for Japanese tourists here in Hawaii to take snapshots of anything they find exotic. At least merchants here word their notices more politely.

You could make the case that this is hate speech, but it might not convince enough people who can’t be bothered with signs that don’t affect them. It’s better to contact tourist associations, and do some name-and-shame as the 2020 Olympics loom.

Or better yet, create unintended consequences. Tell people where the sign is, and go take pictures of it. Add to the irony with photos of “no photos”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From:  JK
Hi Debito:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, tourists tend to concentrate in major cities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cautionary tale: Bern on how no protections against harassment in Japan’s universities targets NJ regardless of Japan savviness and skill level

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a crie du coeur from an academic I respect mightily named Bern. He has spent umpteen years in Japan’s higher education, both at the faculty and the Dean level (there have been very few NJ Deans ever in Japan’s universities), and has complete fluency in reading, writing, and spoken Japanese. Yet even after all his work acculturating and developing the same (if not greater) job skills as native speakers, he could not avoid institutional harassment. As he says below, “until harassment and discrimination laws are clarified and given real teeth” in Japan, all NJ faculty and staff are at risk.

And I speak from personal experience that this can happen to anyone. For NJ educators’ mental and vocational integrity, due consideration should be taken before ever considering a career in Japanese academia. Someday I’ll give an opinion piece about why Japan’s positions for NJ academics are, quite simply, a hoax, and why Japanese educational institutions should be avoided, full stop. But not yet. Meanwhile, here’s Bern:

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

Date: April 9, 2017
To: debito@debito.org
From: Bern

While this post for your blog describes an attempt by one university to isolate and harass (including a false claim of harassment that failed in epic fashion) a foreign faculty member, it is also meant to be a reminder. As a foreigner in Japan, things can go wrong even with the Japanese language fluency, the cultural and legal knowledge, the degrees and publications, the connections, etc., etc. that we are always told we should get in order to be “safe.” In other words, and until harassment and discrimination laws are clarified and given real teeth, we are all at risk.

As stated above, I have over 26 years of experience as a university teacher and administrator, including positions at public, national and private universities in Japan and in the USA. I have also been successful in these positions. Among other things, I was the first non-Japanese in Iwate National University’s 120-year history to be made department head (英米パート主任), and then the first non-Japanese there to be made the head of a division (欧米言語文化コース代表). Previous to that, I was dean (学部長) at Miyazaki International College, at the time the youngest dean in Japan and one of just seven non-Japanese deans in the country. Finally, I’ve been a union member, including serving as officer, for twenty years, during which time I have helped well over fifty people with labor concerns.

I have just finished two years in the most bizarre employment situation I personally have ever encountered. Some background: I worked at Iwate National University until March, 2015. It was an exciting and sometimes challenging, position, with mostly great colleagues. However, the work demands were very high, and with the ongoing hiring freeze, coupled with multiple MEXT-mandated pay cuts and constant MEXT pressure to make wholesale curriculum changes to “fix” nonexistent problems, things did not look to get any easier in the years to come.

So when, in the late summer of 2014, Iwate Prefectural University (IPU) contacted me about possibly moving over to join them, I was very excited. The position was to be for equivalent pay but with far less administrative responsibilities, as well as teaching duties more in line with my research and education. Serious discussions started that August. I was to be replacing a good friend of mine, Christine, who was taking early retirement. I would be working with Ogawa, who I considered a friend, and who I ironically had helped to get her current position. I would also be working with Kumamoto, who I got to know when she suddenly had to take leave for a semester and I was asked to teach her 西洋文化研究法 class instead. (This is a course on academic writing and research methods in Japanese. In other words, and on just three weeks of notice, I had to prepare and then teach a class on Japanese academic writing and research methods in Japanese to twenty Japanese university students.) Moreover, I thought I knew Ishibashi, the current 学科長 (Dept. Head). I also knew the one other foreign faculty member–as he wishes for anonymity let’s call him “A”–who I felt was a good guy. I have an email account full of correspondence about how everyone at IPU was looking forward to working with me, and how we would work together to make IPU a better place.

And so I made the change over, unfortunately without getting everything formally in writing first. To say that actual conditions were different from the verbal offer actually understates what awaited me at Iwate Prefectural University.

I arrived at a department where nearly half of my new colleagues (five out of eleven) had in recent years filed 鬱病診断書 (official diagnoses of severe depression) and rarely or never came to work, a department where three people (again out of just eleven) had had formal harassment claims made against them in the past four years. However, more on that last bit later.

My first inkling of trouble came when “A” suddenly resigned his tenured position at IPU to take a nontenured position (for less money) elsewhere. He submitted this resignation at the end of February, about one month before I was to start at IPU. I was disappointed, so I asked him about his decision…and he responded only with “You’ll know yourself soon.” I asked Christine and Ogawa about this. Christine responded cheerfully with assurances that, while disagreements happened, most people got along fine. (In her defense, Christine had no Japanese language ability and so apparently was blissfully unaware of the seriousness of many of the ongoing issues. She also wrote written statements in support of me later.) Ogawa never responded, which was a huge red flag, but at that point I had already resigned…so had no choice but to move on.

March 27, 2015 was my moving day. While carrying boxes upstairs, I was seen by Ogawa, who reminded me that we’d agreed to meet that day to discuss the English curriculum. I dutifully stopped unloading boxes and went to her office–to be honest, I was excited about discussing curriculum reform with my colleague and friend. However, there was to be no discussion. Instead, Ogawa informed me that I was to use a collection of grammar exercises and other explanatory materials “she” (they were actually taken from multiple junior and senior high school textbooks) had produced to supplement my 英会話 (English conversation) activities. I was a bit stunned, as I wasn’t hired to teach English conversation, didn’t have any English conversation classes to teach, and had already ordered textbooks for my other classes (back in February!). I attempted to explain this, saying that we should discuss materials and methodology at length over the semester and try to make a joint decision by the summer…and she exploded. She told me that she thought I’d be more “cooperative,” and asked me again and again if I knew my “place.” Despite repeated efforts–often in writing–on my part, we would not discuss English curriculum reform (or anything else) again during my two years at that campus.

My “place,” by the way, was professor (教授). Ogawa was a lecturer (講師), as was Kumamoto. That said, and this was confirmed by Mr. Chiba at the Labor Board (労働局), the unwritten policy at my new department was that rank didn’t matter, nor was there shared faculty governance in the usual sense seen at most national or public universities in Japan. Nothing was discussed or decided openly; we would have 学科会議 (department meetings), which I would attend religiously, only to be told that everything had already been decided. At these meetings, for instance, I first learned I would be denied the opportunity to work with the overseas exchange programs and even denied the opportunity to meet people arriving from overseas. E.g., regarding the latter, Kumamoto, after handing me a Japanese document–a letter of appreciation to Ohio University–and giving me five minutes (she actually stood next to me checking her watch) to translate it, then told me that I would not be allowed to meet the visiting faculty and students from OU that year. “Maybe next year,” I was told. Similarly, when I volunteered (begged) again and again to be informed of and allowed to participate in faculty-student events, including the Fourth of July Party, the Halloween Party, etc., etc., I was refused.

While I’ve heard again and again about this happening to many other foreigners, while I’ve personally advised foreign faculty who’ve been treated in this fashion, this is the first time such a thing had ever happened to me. I was systemically denied input into decision-making about school activities, English program reform, etc., etc. Instead, I was given the work nobody wanted to do. For example, I was made the first non-Japanese member of the 入試 committee, a committee so challenging new Japanese committee members are assigned a 先輩 (veteran colleague) to assist them with the multitude of responsibilities. I, however, was provided no veteran colleague. Instead, I was simply handed a large bag with the over 1,700 pages of things I “needed to know” about my new responsibilities, and then sent out alone to do, among other things, eleven high school visits in my first four months. (My Japanese colleagues went out in groups, to an average of just five schools.)

Still, I soldiered on, trying to prove myself to my new colleagues. In addition to the eleven high school campus visits, I did three 公開講座 (special lectures) on three different Saturdays (my Japanese colleagues averaged one), completed the onerous data-collection/number-crunching tasks (compiling from Japanese language surveys submitted by incoming freshman, etc.), etc., etc. And then, when I asked one day about the differences between the promised and actual work conditions, when I more strongly requested inclusion into the events and decision-making process, two of my colleagues (Kumamoto and Ogawa) did something I still find stunning:

They called a number of my students in and asked them to file a false harassment complaint against me.

How do I know they did this? Because my students–bless them–balked at doing this, and because these students then told me about what happened in writing. And not just this, Ogawa, in her complete stupidity, told two faculty members at other universities that she and Kumamoto would be doing this to me. Those faculty members (both friends) then informed me…again in writing.

To say I was blindsided, that I felt betrayed and humiliated and scared, is an understatement. Shocked, I reached out privately to Ogawa (my friend!) and asked for an explanation. She never responded. I then documented the harassment and asked Ishibashi to intervene, to mediate a discussion; he refused. Instead, on March 9, 2016, apparently after consultation with Ogawa and Kumamoto, Ishibashi stripped me of all duties beyond teaching.

I filed a complaint with the Labor Board (労働局), which reviewed the evidence, decided that I had a case, and intervened multiple times on my behalf. The national and regional unions intervened as well. It was in consultation with the latter that I first learned how often false harassment complaints are used to intimidate/bully at universities in Japan. I then found out that the same thing had happened not just to me, but to the three other faculty members at my university who had been accused of harassment.

The way it works is this: The 窓口 (ombudsman) for harassment complaints (in my case Kumamoto) calls in your students either singularly or in groups, talks about unstated and vague concerns or rumors she’s “heard” about you, tells the students she’s become aware from “other students” that you have been saying or doing inappropriate things in or outside of class, and then pressures your students to file a formal harassment complaint. Note that there does not have to be cause–e.g., no student had ever complained about me, and my student evaluations for that semester averaged a perfect score. More troubling, the specific contents of these complaints are kept confidential, making it very difficult to fight.

Again, I was lucky. My students protected me, and they did so in writing. Four faculty members submitted written statements in my support. I also taped conversations with Ishibashi, with Kumamoto and with Ogawa. Finally, after 26 years, I have an extensive support network inside and outside Japan. I wish all of you reading this similar luck.

That said, even with all my evidence, backing and connections, the best I could achieve was an “armed truce” where I was excluded and isolated but not harmed further. Note that at no time did I request the punishment of anyone–all I wanted was the harassment to stop and to be allowed to do the work they’d hired me to do. IPU refused to investigate–no student witnesses were ever contacted, nor did they speak to the multiple faculty members who’d submitted written statements in my support. They further refused to allow me to work–basically, I was getting paid to sit in my office to do nothing.

While some (including a number of my friends) teased me that this was an ideal position to be in, I wanted to be allowed to do my job. The Labor Board and the union recommended continuing to fight. However, fighting it out in court would have taken years, with the possible payout limited by Japanese law to 3,000,000 yen–or just $30,000 US–with about one third of that going to my attorney. (This, by the way, is what I mean by these laws not having teeth.)

I went out instead and found a tenured position at a university elsewhere. I am currently outside of Japan. The funniest thing is that, in my last conversation with him, Ishibashi assured me that I would never be able to find work again, that he “would see to it.” Maybe I should send him a postcard, signing it “Andy Dufresne”?

Be careful out there. Best, Bern
ENDS
=============================

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Reuters: Japan’s foreign asylum seekers tricked into Fukushima radiation clean-up

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a scoop involving several layers of odious. It’s not just a matter of Japan’s poor or homeless (or other foreigners) being exploited for dangerous and life-threatening jobs cleaning up the radioactive mess in Fukushima.  Now Japan’s government is quite possibly complicit in tricking foreign ASYLUM SEEKERS into doing the dirty work for the sake of being granted extensions to their visa (which in the end turned out to be “a false promise”). All this under conditions where, according to the Reuters article below, “more than half of the 1,020 companies involved in decontamination violated labor and safety laws”. Further, as submitter JDG notes, “Asylum seekers in Japan tricked into doing nuclear decontamination work in Fukushima because when they get over-dosed on radiation and contaminated, the J-gov can always reject their asylum applications and deport them after all, right?”

As Debito.org has noted before, there is a metaphorical radioactivity to Fukushima that overwhelms law and order and corrodes all sense, bringing out the corrupt criminal underbelly of Japan’s bureaucratic and political worlds. Fukushima’s running-sore of an issue has undermined all integrity at the eventual expense of lives, particularly those of the most powerless in society. Six years after the event, the whitewashing of the issue continues. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Bangladeshi asylum seekers tricked into radiation clean-up: media
Reuters India, March 8, 2017, courtesy of JDG
By Minami Funakoshi and Thomas Wilson | TOKYO
http://in.reuters.com/article/us-japan-fukushima-asylumseeker-idINKBN16F0YN

FILE PHOTO – Big black plastic bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation are dumped at a seaside, devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

Two Bangladeshi asylum seekers in Japan cleared up radioactive contamination from one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters on the false promise doing so would win them permission to stay in the country longer, media reported on Wednesday.

The Fukushima nuclear plant suffered multiple meltdowns after being hit by a tsunami triggered by a big earthquake on March 11, 2011. Companies decontaminating areas around the plant, which usually involves removing radioactive top soil, have struggled to find workers willing to do the job.

The two men, who arrived in Japan in 2013 saying they were escaping political persecution, said they were told by brokers and construction companies that their visas would be extended if they did decontamination work, the Chunichi newspaper reported.

“We believed the visa story because they said it’s a job Japanese people don’t want to do,” Chunichi quoted one of the men, Monir Hossain, as saying.

Reuters was not able to reach the two men.

The men did the decontamination work in Iitate village, about 50 km (30 miles) south of the plant, from January to March 2015, Chunichi said.

Japan maintains tight controls on the entry of foreign workers but asylum seekers are allowed to work while their applications are reviewed. Many have permits allowing them to stay and work that have to be renewed every six months.

Mitsushi Uragami, a justice ministry official who oversees refugee recognition, said there were no residence permits on offer for people doing decontamination.

“The length of asylum seekers’ residence permits and them doing decontamination work are unrelated. If anyone is giving inaccurate explanations about this, it’s problematic,” Uragami told Reuters.

The department was investigating the case, he said.

Takuya Nomoto, an environment ministry official overseeing decontamination, said the Chunichi report did not give the names of the companies or labor brokers involved, and as such the ministry was not able to confirm it.

The Fukushima Labour Bureau said this month more than half of the 1,020 companies involved in decontamination violated labor and safety laws last year.

Reuters revealed in 2013 that homeless men were put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima for less than the minimum wage.

Reuters also found the clean-up depended on a little scrutinized network of subcontractors – many of them inexperienced with nuclear work and some with ties to organized crime.

(Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Robert Birsel)
ENDS

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPPOSITION ENERGIZED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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

BACKGROUND ARTICLE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROTECTING THE NATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

——————————–

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

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

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

Version with links to sources follows

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

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

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

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

9 Priyanka Yoshikawa wins Miss World Japan

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

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

8 Japan’s multiethnic citizens score at 2016 Olympics

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

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

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

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

7 Renho Murata takes helm of the Democratic Party

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

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

6 Abubakar Awudu Suraj case loses once and for all

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

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

5 2016 Upper house elections seal Shinzo Abe’s mandate

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

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

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

4 Next generation of “Great Gaijin Massacres” loom

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

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

3 The government surveys NJ discrimination

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

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

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

2 Blowback involving NJ tourism and labor

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

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

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

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

1 Hate speech law gets passed — and enforced

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

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

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

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

Bubbling under the top 10

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

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

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

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

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

——————–
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Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. Unclear how it’ll be enforced.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a little something that may or may not matter in future. As the Abe Administration seeks to expand the NJ “Trainee” sweatshop and slave-labor program out of the construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishery industries and into nursing (not to mention the “special economic zones” so that foreigners with college degrees and Japanese language ability will have the privilege of tilling land and weeding crops on Japanese farms; seriously), we finally have a law to prevent the widespread abuses of NJ not covered by labor laws.  Abuses so widespread, as the article says below, that “about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws,” according to the GOJ.  That’s quite a stat.

Now will this law be enforced? Remains to be seen.  I’m not sure how this governmental “body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers” will work in practice.  We’ve already seen how ineffectual other human-rights organs for “counseling” (such as the Ministry of Justice’s Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights) are in Japan.  And there are all manner of institutionalized incentives (and decades of established practice) for people to turn blind eyes.  After all, the only ones being hurt by this slavery program are foreigners, and they can just go back home if they don’t like it.  (Except that they can’t.)  Debito.org will keep you posted on developments. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////
Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign trainees
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES
NOV 18, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/18/national/japan-enacts-law-prevent-abuse-foreign-trainees/

In an effort to prevent human rights abuses in the workplace, a law was enacted Friday to improve supervision of companies that accept foreign workers under a government program.

The move comes after the government decided recently to include nursing care in the list of industries in which foreign trainees can work under the Technical Intern Training Program, following the related legislation’s passage through the Upper House.

The change is expected to lead to an increase in the number of foreigners working as nursing caregivers in Japan, where demand for such services is expected to grow as the population grays.

Japan introduced the training program for foreign nationals in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. It currently covers 74 job categories chiefly in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishery industries.

But the scheme has faced charges both within and outside Japan that it is a cover for importing cheap labor. There have been reports of harsh working conditions, including illegally long work hours and nonpayment of wages.

To tackle such illicit handling of foreign trainees, Japan will establish a body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers.

Since August, the Justice Ministry has instructed more than 200 mediator groups to stop using phrases such as “securing labor” in their advertisements calling on companies to accept foreign trainees. The government says the mediator groups bear the task of making sure the firms are accepting the trainees to transfer technical skills and make international contributions.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws, with offenses including having trainees work illegally long hours.

A 26-year-old Vietnamese man who is trained for machinery use in Gifu Prefecture said some of his friends left companies after suffering violence from Japanese employees.

Under the new law, penalties will be imposed to ban employers from confiscating foreign trainees’ passports against their will and restricting their movements.

Companies that are judged as treating foreign trainees fairly will be allowed to have them work for up to five years, instead of the currently allowed three-year maximum.

When nursing care services are encompassed by the training program, it will be the first time that foreign trainees will be engaged in offering services directly to other people.

The government is planning to require the trainees to have a certain level of Japanese language skills to prevent communication problems when dealing with co-workers and people in their care.
ENDS

==============================
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CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a submission from Debito.org Reader CR, about the application of the “five year rule” of Japanese Labor Contract Law in Japan’s blue-chip companies. Although the 2003 revision in the law was meant to say, “five years of contract renewals means you must rehire the person as a regular employee (sei sha-in) without a contract” (which would end the exploitative system of unstable employment through perpetual contracting), it’s had the opposite effect:  encouraging employers to cap the contracts at five years.  Meaning that starting from April 1, 2018, five years since the revised Labor Contract Law took effect, we’re expecting to see a mass firing of Japan’s contract laborers.

This is precisely what has been happening to Japan’s non-tenured foreign academics for generations in Japan’s Academic Apartheid System, with the occasional “massacre” of older Japanese contracted academics just to save money, but now it’s being expanded systemwide to the non-academic private sector.  We’ve seen rumblings of its application at Tohoku University for everyone.  But of course we have to make it even worse for foreign workers:  At Canon, one of Japan’s flagship companies, NJ are being given special “temp” employment categories with contracts explicitly capped at five years from the outset.  One more reason to read your employment contracts carefully, if not avoid entirely the increasingly unstable and segregated jobs in Japanese companies.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

——————————————–

From: CR
Date: December 8, 2016
Hi Debito,

Long-time reader, few-times commenter. I’m contacting you because I think this would be a good follow-up to your post about the 5-year massacre issue.

I work as a translator for Canon. Although I don’t work at the 本社 (HQ), I am a Canon Inc. employee.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: you are welcome to use any information I provide here in your blog (and I am willing to get additional information as far as I am able), but I would prefer to remain anonymous.

At Canon, NJ are hired as “プロ社員” (pro sha-in), which basically means “contract employee”. Note that there is also a “Jプロ社員” (J-pro sha-in) category, as Japanese can also be hired as contract employees (my understanding is Japanese who are 中途採用 (chuuto saiyou, or halfway hires) start as contract employees, but can move to 正社員 (sei sha-in, or regular non-contract workers) within a year or two; I don’t know the conditions for this, however).

The contracts are typical one-year contracts with the option of renewal, provided renewal is the desire of both parties; basically the standard you would expect. As you know, in 2013 the revision to the Labor Contract Act came into effect, essentially giving contract employees an avenue to become 正社員 regular non-contract workers after five years of continuous, contract-based employment (the earliest this could happen for an employee is then April 1, 2018). This, presumably, was designed to help people like myself achieve greater employment security.

Here’s the thing. Apparently, after the revision to the law, and I’m not sure of the exact date that they started doing this because to my knowledge there are not really frequent hirings of NJ and nobody I’ve spoken with seems to know, NJ hires have a clause in their contract stipulating that there will be no further renewal after their period of employment reaches the 5-year mark. Potential hires are informed of this before or during the interview process, apparently, so those in the know can make an informed decision. However, it is also my understanding that there are people who were hired before this change took place and are being grandfathered in; in other words, the 5-year limit clause is not being added to their contracts, and presumably they will be able to become 正社員 when the time comes, but newer NJ hired will not.

Obviously I’m pretty incensed about this, it’s difficult to work in an environment where there are clear discriminations such as this. Note that while I believe the discriminations are racially-based, the only thing that is visible is based off nationality. I don’t know how the company handles NJ who have naturalized, or even if any naturalized Japanese citizens are among the employee ranks. It rankles even more because there are always various “Compliance”-related initiatives, announcements, and activities, to show employees how important it is to play fair, not discriminate, follow the rules and the law, etc.

So, big, established, famous, international Japanese companies are already putting discriminatory clauses that violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law into the contracts of NJ. Also, this effectively puts the kibosh on any potential promotions of NJ; you cannot be promoted as a contract employee. The glass ceiling is alive and well.

It would be nice to this get some attention and change as a result, but I won’t hold my breath about changes, at least.

All the best, CR

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

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Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  First have a read of this article, and then I’ll comment:

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

Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business
BY LOUISE GEORGE KITTAKA
The Japan Times Community Page, DEC 4, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/12/04/how-tos/riding-foreign-jr-kyushu-can-costly-business/

The last column of the year starts off with a problem regarding buying JR train tickets in Kyushu. Reader A writes:

I thought you might be interested in this issue that I encountered when using an automatic ticket machine in Hakata Station, Fukuoka.

Because I don’t read Japanese so well, I changed the machine to English language. As I went through the menu I could not select the “nimai-kippu” (two tickets of the same type) option, which offers a discount. The only options I had were two individual tickets — if I recall correctly the price difference was ¥2,000. I canceled the sale and went to the counter and had a conversation with the clerk, who confirmed that once English is selected, the cheaper two-ticket option wouldn’t be offered.

I was thinking how many hundreds of thousands of yen have been taken from people simply because they select English and don’t happen to know about the cheaper ticket options. My wife actually emailed JR Kyushu, but just got back a standard, “Thank you for your email.”

I spoke to a representative in JR Kyushu’s PR department. After some investigation, he confirmed that this situation still exists with some of the ticket machines once the foreign language option button (for English, Korean and Chinese) is pressed. It seems that there are two types of ticket machines, and while it isn’t a problem for the “two-ticket option” for shorter distances (kin-kyori), it does affect those for machines for longer distances (shitei kenbai). As our reader pointed out, this could result in non-Japanese customers paying quite a bit more if they purchase tickets through the machine.

“While JR Kyushu isn’t in a position to change the machines immediately, we will take this opportunity to discuss the situation and see how we can improve things for our foreign customers,” said the rep. He thanked the reader and Lifelines for bringing the problem to the department’s attention.

Has anyone encountered a similar problem with JR tickets in other parts of Japan? JR Kyushu’s spokesperson said it is possible the same situation could be happening in other areas, too.

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

COMMENT:  Two things:  One is that we have proof positive in a national newspaper of separate pricing schemes based upon language.  And this at one of Japan’s flagship companies (Japan Railways), no less.  Consider the parallels:  A restaurant with menus with cheaper prices for customers if they can read Chinese (something frowned upon as discrimination elsewhere).  Or travel agencies that reserve cheaper plane tickets for Japanese citizens only (see here too). Japan’s train network in Kyushu is filtering customers by language ability and charging Japanese-illiterates a premium.  This must stop, obviously, because it’s discriminatory.

And this is a great example to bring up point two:  How people still defend the practice, no matter what.  I waited a few days to post this, and sure enough, the Japan Times article predictably collected a few comments from guestists and denialists.  They decried anyone calling this practice “racist” (even though it is, under modern definitions of racial discrimination being a process of differentiation, othering, and subordination).  They instead went to the extreme of calling the decriers “racist”, or conversely the practice of selling discounted train fares to foreign tourists “racist” (actually, they can be sold to Japanese-citizen tourists as well as long as they don’t live in Japan), despite all the government campaigns to promote foreign tourism these days.

The point to stress is Japan’s subtle racism is particularly devious because of its plausible deniability.  People will seize on any excuse to justify discriminatory treatment.  Want equal rights or treatment in Japan?  Become a Japanese citizen.  Want equal access to cheaper train fares?  Learn Japanese.  You see, discrimination is the fault of those being discriminated against — because they didn’t take every measure to evade the discrimination.  Its an acceptance of a differentiated and othered status, used to justify the subordination — which deflects discussion of why this discriminatory system exists in the first place.

Why can’t customers just be treated as customers, and their money for access be valued the same way, regardless of their language ability? Well, I’ll tell you why.  Because to JR, it’s not a matter of fairness or equality.  It’s a combination of setsuyaku and mendokusai.  Making discounts multilingual would be costly, and then there’s the factor of profiteering from the extra fares.  The incentive system is clear:  Why pay more for a system that brings in less revenue?  And besides, the foreigners won’t realize it (because foreigners obviously don’t read Japanese), won’t complain (because they’re so powerless, with no voice in Japan except, ahem, the Japan Times), or they aren’t organized in numbers big enough for a meaningful boycott (plus, as seen above, anyone calling for organized action will be called racist even by their own side).

This is one reason why discrimination is so hard to get rid of in Japan.  It’s subtle enough at times for people to naysay it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

============================
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Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has talked at length about the “Great Gaijin Massacre of 1992-4,” where National and Public Universities decided to terminate en masse (at the urging of the Ministry of Education) their foreign faculty who were over 35 years old 1) as a cost-cutting measure, and 2) because they could — since most NJ were on contract employment (meaning one could be “fired” through a simple contract non-renewal), while full-time J faculty were almost always employed on permanent non-contracted tenure from day one. “Academic Apartheid” is what respected scholars such as Ivan Hall called it. And conditions have not really gotten better, as (again through government design) more full-time Japanese faculty are being put on contract employment themselves, while far fewer full-time NJ are being granted permanent tenure.

Now we have a new looming massacre. The labor laws changed again in 2013 to require employers to stop keeping people on perpetual renewable contract status. After five years of employment, employers must switch them to permanent noncontracted status. Well, the five-year mark is April 1, 2018, meaning there is an incentive for employers to fire people before they hit a half-decade of employment. Debito.org said before that that would happen, and there were some doubters. But here’s the first published evidence of that happening, at Tohoku University, courtesy of our labor law expert at the Japan Times.  After all these years of service, even less job security awaits. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs
by Hifumi Okunuki
The Japan Times, Nov 27, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/

I have discussed the “five-year rule” several times before in this column — the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013. Under the amendment, any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. See my earlier stories for more details, particularly my March 2013 column, “Labor law reform raises rather than relieves workers’ worries.”

The amendment was supposed to give workers more job security. Or at least that is what lawmakers claimed the purpose was. From the start I had my doubts — doubts that are now being borne out.

The fact is, employers are using the amendment as an excuse to fire their workers or change their working conditions before April 2018. When the law was enacted, it was not grandfathered to entitle those who had already worked more than five years. That meant the clock started on April Fools’ Day, 2013, and that the first time it will be possible to use this purported job-security measure will be April 1, 2018.

After enactment, some employers put new hires on one-year contracts with a three-renewal limit, or a five-year maximum with no renewal possible afterwards. It seems obvious this was to avoid being restricted by the five-year rule, which is really a “more-than-five-year rule.” Other employers are planning to either change their employees’ working conditions or fire or nonrenew their employees over the coming year, 2017. Again, it seems obvious that their intention is to avoid the new law and thereby violate its job-security spirit.

And this month I’ll name names — or a name in this case. This month’s installment delves into the “Tohoku University massacre.” This prestigious, famous and respected college with a long history and tradition has revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees when they next come up for renewal. This kind of move — effectively a mass firing — is rare in Japan, and the plan has already had a huge impact in education and labor-law circles.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/

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

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Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka.  The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins.  Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse:  Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!

This is odious.  Given the recent Debito.org report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests“, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6,2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic.  Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or the local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)

Read on for Onur’s latest.  Well done.   Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Date: Nov. 17, 2016
From: Onur
Hello Dr. Debito,

I am Onur, who sent the poster that Ibaraki Police distributed to the Hotels. I had a similar experience in Fukuoka. I stayed in S.B Hotel Hamanomachi. I saw the attached poster on the reception desk. I asked permission and took a photo it. It clearly says that they ask every foreigner to present his/her passport.

20161030_175006b

However, I just wrote my Japanese address to guest registration form during check-in and the reception did not ask me to show a passport or a card. The check-in was smooth.

Later I stayed in Hotel New Gaea Hakata-Eki Minami. The reception asked my passport. I said I don’t carry it. Then they asked my residence card. I don’t have to show it but I showed my residence card to reassure them. Then the receptionist took my card and went to another room without saying anything. I was shocked. I asked what are you doing? He said he is copying my residence card. I said no. According to the law as I am a foreigner with an address in Japan, no copying is necessary. Then the receptionist was shocked when I said no. He did not say anything and gave my card back to me.

I decided to solve this problem by contacting the people in charge. At the bottom of the poster, it is written “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefectural Police”. Therefore, first, I went to Central Health Center (中央保健所) in Fukuoka City. I talked with the person in charge for the hotels. He was very friendly and helpful. I showed the poster in the first hotel and told the incident in the second hotel. He said that even though the poster says “Health Center in Fukuoka Prefecture” at the bottom of the poster, the poster is not prepared by the health center and he has never seen this poster before. He said the information in the poster is definitely wrong and the poster may have been prepared by the hotel. He said they will contact to those two hotels and warn them.

Then I went to Fukuoka Prefectural Police Headquarters. I showed the poster and asked to talk with the officer in charge. As the prefectural headquarters is very big, it took a long time to find out the officer in charge. Three officers came. They were friendly and willing to solve the problem. First I showed the poster. They accepted that the police printed the poster and distributed to the all hotels in Fukuoka prefecture. I showed the official announcement of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry at https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf and said that their poster is clearly different. They were very surprised. It seems that they did not know the details of the hotel law and regulations well. They could not understand what is wrong in their poster. I gave a long speech about the law and the guidelines of the ministry. They finally understood the problem and apologized. They said they will check it in detail and fix the poster.

A few days later I got a phone call from the police. They apologized again. They said they will print a new poster, but it may take a long time to replace all the posters in the prefecture. They said they will ask the hotels to check only the residence card without copying it to verify the address, if the foreigner guest says he has an address in Japan. I said it is wrong again. I said “I called the ministry and they told me that there is no need to check the residence card or passport if a foreigner says he is living in Japan and writes the Japanese address to check-in form. Please call the ministry for the details and follow their guidelines exactly”. Later the Central Health Center in Fukuoka called me. They said they talked with those two hotels and also the police headquarters and warned them about following the rules. They said please call us if you experience such a problem again.

In short, if you experience such a problem in a hotel, I think the best way to solve is to contact the local Health Center, which is the local authority over the hotels, and also the police headquarters if they are involved.

Best Regards,
Onur
ENDS

===========

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Mainichi Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors. Good luck with that without an anti racial discrimination law

mytest

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JK:  Hi Debito:  The GOJ wants foreign visitors spend a couple trillion yen the year the Olympics comes to town, so why not strike while the iron is hot and use this as leverage against xenophobic establishments by calling them out on their behavior (i.e. “there’s this shop down the way that excludes anyone foreign-looking — surely that reflects poorly on Japan and hurts the government’s numbers.”)?

Debito:  Agreed.  And that’s the big blind spot in this editorial.  It talks about the shortcomings of tourism policy focusing only on infrastructure and profit, but neglects to mention the issues of how a police force dedicated to racial profiling (especially at hotels), or how being refused service somewhere just because the proprietor has a “thing” about foreigners (and can get away with it because Japan has no law against racial discrimination), can really ruin a visit.  “Cultivating Japan fans” is one way of putting it, “stopping xenophobes” is another.  And that should be part of formal GOJ policy as well.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors
November 1, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161101/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

In just 10 months, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has already smashed through the 20 million mark for the year, surpassing the previous annual record of about 19.74 million arrivals set in 2015.

The first time foreign visitors topped 10 million was in 2013. At the time, the government set a target of “20 million people by 2020,” but visitor numbers expanded far faster than expected. Now the government is shooting for 40 million in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The wave of people coming to see Japan is a welcome development on many fronts, especially as our country’s population ages and begins to decline, particularly in the countryside. There are, of course, direct and obvious economic benefits from so many visitors shopping, eating and filling Japan’s hotel rooms. However, the tourism boom has also made companies and regional communities more outward-looking in their thinking, and that’s deeply significant.

However, while 20 million visitors is nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the world champion of foreign tourism, France, which attracted more than 80 million visitors in 2014. And France isn’t the only country beating Japan by a wide margin. To put it another way, Japan has a lot of tourism growth potential.

What’s important is to avoid viewing visitors to our shores as mere consumers.

The government has declared it wants to see foreign visitors drop 8 trillion yen in Japan in 2020. There’s nothing wrong with setting a numerical target in and of itself, but focusing solely on visitor spending could lead to a nasty trip-up.

This is, simply put, because conditions can change. A rising yen may make Japan a less attractive destination, while economic events abroad could also bring down visitor numbers. And those considering visiting Japan to shop for Japanese products may think twice if they find they can buy the same stuff online.

If a small town in regional Japan brought in a big-box retail outlet to attract foreign shoppers, it may see a short-term rise in visitors from abroad. However, most of the benefits might end up in the pockets of the retailer and the companies supplying it … and not the host community.

The conclusion that sparkly tourist-oriented facilities are needed to bring in visitors is wrong. There are attractions and ways to welcome foreign tourists that are close to hand and just waiting to be uncovered. Take farm stays, for example. Visitors don’t just stay the night and chow down on fresh produce; they help harvest it as well. Then there are tours of recycling centers that get visitors to think about how to tackle environmental issues. These sorts of “hands-on” experiences are likely to have a good chance of attracting more people back to Japan for repeat visits.

Also, while earthquakes are a major risk in Japan, disaster prevention can also become a resource for attracting visitors. For example, the Tokyo Fire Department has facilities called Life Safety Learning centers where visitors can feel what it’s like to be in an earthquake, among other hands-on activities. These centers have never been marketed outside Japan, and yet they are seeing more foreign visitors.

If Japan spends all its time chasing visitor numbers and tourist spending figures, it will eventually hit a wall. It should instead introduce people to the many faces of Japan, give them the chance to actually do things with Japanese people, and generally provide a diverse and substantive experience, looking to cultivate long-term “Japan fans.”

Original Japanese
訪日客2千万人 息の長いファン作りを
毎日新聞2016年11月1日 東京朝刊
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161101/ddm/005/070/169000c

今年、日本を訪れた外国人旅行者が2000万人を突破した。昨年は1年間で過去最多となる1974万人を記録したが、今年は10カ月で2000万人に達した。

訪日外国人数が初めて1000万の大台に乗ったのは2013年のことだ。当時は「20年に2000万人」の達成を目指していた。外国人の日本訪問は予想以上の速さで増加し、政府は今や、「20年に4000万人」を目標としている。

国内の人口が減少に転じ、特に地方の過疎、高齢化が進む中、世界から人がやって来ることは多くの意味で歓迎できる。買い物や宿泊といった直接的な経済効果はもちろんだが、企業や地域社会が、外向きの思考へ意識転換するきっかけを得る意義は大きい。

ただ、2000万人を突破したとはいえ、世界には年間8000万人超(14年)のフランスを筆頭に、外国人客の受け入れ数で日本をしのぐ国が少なくない。まだまだ成長の潜在性があるということだ。

重要なのは、訪日客を単に外から来る消費者と見ないことだろう。

政府は20年に訪日客の消費額を8兆円とする目標を掲げる。目標設定自体、悪いことではないが、消費額ばかりにこだわると足をすくわれかねない。

訪日に不利な円高や、海外の経済情勢の悪化などに左右される恐れがあるからだ。さらに、インターネットなどで簡単に日本製品が買えるようになれば、「わざわざ日本まで行かなくても」となるかもしれない。

例えば地方の町が外国人客を増やそうと量販店を誘致したとする。一時的な集客効果があるかもしれないが、恩恵を受けるのは主に量販店やそこで売られる製品の企業であって、地元の経済では必ずしもない。

では、観光の目玉となる施設が不可欠かというと、それも違う。魅力や招致の手法は案外身近に埋もれているものである。

農家に泊まって、土地の食を味わうだけでなく収穫など農作業を体験する企画や、ごみのリサイクル施設を訪れ環境問題を考えるツアーなど、体験型の観光は、今後リピーターの訪日客を増やすうえで可能性がありそうだ。

地震は日本にとってリスクでも、防災は観光資源に変わり得る。地震の揺れなどを体験できる東京消防庁の災害教育施設には、海外向けの宣伝をしているわけでもないのに、外国人の来館が増えている。

数字を追うばかりでは無理が来る。世界の人々が日本のさまざまな顔を発見したり、日本人と共に何かを体験したりするような多様な品ぞろえで、息の長いファン作りにチャレンジしたい。

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

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Shiki on unlawful and racist check-in practices at “foreigner-friendly” Sakura Hotel Jimbocho, Tokyo

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Turning the keyboard over to someone who had a bad experience at one of the allegedly “foreigner friendly” public accommodations in Japan.  According to Shiki, this hotel is racially profiling its customers in violation of the law and blaming the police for it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

November 6, 2016
Hello Dr. Debito,

My name is Shiki, and I’m a long term resident in Japan, having been living for almost 9 years now, and I’m actually in the process of naturalization.

I wanted to report about the most horrible experience I’ve had in Japan, which happened on October 25, 2016, at a Hotel called “Sakura Hotel Jimbocho“.

I live in Sapporo, and a few weeks ago I was told by my boss that they needed me to go Tokyo in less than a week from that date. I reserved my air ticket, and looked for hotels near where is the Tokyo office of my company.

I looked at many capsule hotels, but since I needed to finish some work before the next day I preferred to get a single room so that I could work in my Notebook, but the problem was that all hotels around that area where more expensive that what the company was willing to cover for my stay.

Then I remembered that near that place, I saw once this “Sakura Hotel”, which even thou I never used any of “Sakura” services, I knew it they offered guest houses and weekly mansions mainly targeted to foreigners, so I just went to their site to see what that place was about, and it appeared to be a normal hotel, mainly targeted to tourists, but they were also offering it as a cheap business hotel for Japanese people. So I took a look at the prices, and it was perfect.

It was a small room, with free wifi, and so close to the office that I could actually just walk to it, and I could arrive late at night to check in (which I needed to), so with no second thoughts I just reserved it.

And this was the time I saw the first red flag of what was about to come. In the registration they asked for my nationality, which is something I’ve never been asked before. And it said that “Foreigners were required to show their passports”, so I looked at this, and saw your posts about the subject, and then I just thought “Thet are just doing this for the tourists”, so I just left the default that was “Japanese” in nationality.

I arrived at the hotel past 11pm, and went to the lobby and it was the usual check-in, until the guy asked me for my passport, to what I just said “I’m not a tourist”, then this guy asked me if I was Japanese, and I told him that no but that I was not a tourist and didn’t even had my passport with me.

So he then started to ask for my Residence Card, and I told him that my Residence Card contained private information, so I was not comfortable showing it, and then the guy, late at night told me that then they could not take me as a guest unless I showed them my residence card.

At that moment I was not sure if it was even legal for them to refuse me service, so I insisted that the whole thing of the passport is supposed to be targeted at tourists who do not have a residence in Japan, and that since I had an actual address in Japan that rule did not apply to me.  Then this guy proceeded to say that it was “hotel policy”, and that if I didn’t wanted to comply with “hotel policy” I was free to search for another hotel.

It was late at night, I’ve searched mant cheap hotels on internet and I knew all of them were full, my phone battery died, so i couldn’t even search anything, so really I was forced to give him my card, which he took a copy witbout my permission, and asked him to destroy the copy, thing he refused to do, and threatened me to “return me my money” if I continued “causing trouble”.

So I got to my room and immediately searched for my legal standing on this matter, and this us when I knew that they cannot refuse me service, so I went down with a copy of the law, and told the guy on the lobby to read it.

He took a look at it, and then told him that it was actually illegal for him to refuse me service, and that I wanted them to destroy the copy of my residence card or that I would sue them.

The first response of this guy was “you are free to do whatever you want”, and then I proceeded to ask for his name, and told him I was going to contact management of the company and tell them what he just said.

The he proceeded to make excuses that he dodn’t knew about the law, that he has to report foreigners to the police, and almost telling me that he was gping to “get scolded” by the police if they saw my name without any ID.

I told him it wasn’t my problem, and that he just needed to show the police that I have an address in Japan. He told me that police was going to scold him for not giving the ID of a foreigner, and when I asked him how would they even know if I’m a foreigner and not of Japanese nationality, he proceeded to make a racist statement about how “He can tell by their face, or their accent”. I told him that was racist and he proceeded to once again threaten me about “returning me my money” even after was I told him.

So I returned to my room, and wrote a mail of what just happened to the management of the hotel.  The next day when I was about to check out, this new guy told me he was in charge of the hotel and that he saw my mail.

He apologized for how the guy last night handled the situation, and then he started to explain me that they have many foreign customers, and because of this they are tightly under the watch of the police, and that ws tbe reaspn for their policy.

I told him that his policy is illegal, since the residence card is contains sensitive information and that they cannot ask and then try to refuse service if I don’t comply.

He told me that they need some kind of identification, and I told them that I was more than happy to give them my identification, but just not my residence card.

He continued trying to justify himself, at one point he even started out of nowhere to speak in broken Spanish (he probably saw in the residence card info I refused to give that I was from a Spanish speaking country, which made me more mad than anything, specially when I was talking with him in Japanese without any problem), and I was running late, so I just told him that I have never been asked by a hotel to provide any extra information outside of my name and address, and he told me that they “may” change their policy.

I’m really considering taking legal action against this company, and I hope this helps to expose this company to their foreign customers, so that next time they want to use their services they are aware that they are a company that racially profiles people and ask them illegally based on this to provide personal information under the illegal threat of refusal of service.

Regards, Shiki.

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

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Overseas online info site Traveloco.jp’s “Japanese Only” rules: “People with foreign-sounding names refused service”

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. Here we have an online information site called Traveloco.jp, which apparently reserves its services “for Japanese Only living abroad”. This is another permutation of Japanese corporate practices erecting arbitrary firewalls between people due to their nationality, ethnicity, etc., or, in Traveloco.jp’s case, “having a name that does not appear to be Japanese”. I wonder how “Arudou Debito” would fare.  And as MT says below, why can’t anyone who can read and write Japanese be allowed equal access and service?  Debito.org Reader MT sends this report. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Date:  June 27, 2016
From: MT
Hi Debito,

I am thinking of suing traveloco.jp site because they closed and banned my account right after I informed them of my name ([MT]), which is not Japanese.

In the email below, the reason I was refused service is that “your name does not appear to be Japanese”.  Our correspondence, in reverse order:

================================
From: トラベロコ <info@traveloco.jp>
To: [MT]
Date: 2016/6/27, Mon 09:14
Subject: ご登録解除のご連絡(トラベロコ)

お返事ありがとうございます。
トラベロコです。

ご登録情報を確認させて頂きましたが、
日本人の方ではないようです。 [emphasis added]

大変申し訳ございませんが、当サイトにてロコに登録していただけるのは
日本人方に限定しておりますので、外国人の方はご登録頂けません。
[emphasis added]

よくある質問>私もロコになりたいのですが。
https://traveloco.jp/faq#faq-13

また、今回のご連絡いただいたメール内容から、社内で検討させていただき、
サイト利用規約「3条4.vi」に該当するとして、登録を解除させて頂きました。
https://traveloco.jp/pages/terms

ご了承下さい。

————————————-traveloco
トラベロコ
mail: info@traveloco.jp
URL: http://traveloco.jp/
> —– Original Message —–
> From: トラベロコ <info@traveloco.jp>
> To: [MT]
> Date: 2016/6/27, Mon 01:27
> Subject: Re: ロコ応募について
>
> お返事ありがとうございます。
> トラベロコです。
>
> ご連絡遅くなり、申し訳ございません。
>
> お問い合わせの件について、
> 具体的には、プロフィール情報のお名前欄などの項目が
> 正しく登録されておりませんので、正確にご登録
> いただいてから、ご応募頂けますでしょうか。
>
> プロフィール情報
> https://traveloco.jp/mypage/profile/
>
> Travelocoは匿名でご利用いただけるサイトになりますが、
> ロコへの登録にあたっては、最低限の個人情報を登録する
> ことは、皆様に安全にご利用頂くための必要条件とさせて
> 頂いております。
>
> なお、ロコの応募審査上、正しい情報の登録が確認できるまでは
> 一部機能は停止させていただいておりますので、ご了承下さい。
>
> どうぞよろしくお願い致します。
>
> ————————————-traveloco
> トラベロコ
> mail: info@traveloco.jp
> URL: http://traveloco.jp/
>
> 2016年6月25日 15:12 :
>> 私の説明をちゃんと詠んでください 問題の原点、教えたでしょう。
>>
>> 情報の一部に不備 は、回答となってない。
>> どの部分か、正確に教えなさい。どうやってなおせるか ということをちゃんと説明するのは、サポートの仕事でしょう?
>>
>> テンプレートの回答を出すよりちゃんとした回答を作ってください。
>>
>> 其の一 まずは、私の説明を読む。
>> その二 内容を理解する
>> その三 内容を理解した上、内容に沿って解決案を出す
>>
>> 上記が常識でしょう。
>>
>> ロコのサービスの二十%取って、こんな最悪なサポートをするつもり?冗談でしう。
>>
>> 私はナニをすればいいか、ステップバイステップで教えなさい。

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

MT: Their terms of use do not mention such a thing, nothing like “our services are meant to be used only an exclusively by persons holding a Japanese passport” or something similar, nothing. They just kick out those who has a western name, based on the NAME itself.

Terms of use of their services: (from https://traveloco.jp/pages/terms)

4. 当社は、登録申請者が、以下の各号のいずれかの事由に該当する場合は、登録および再登録を拒否することがあり、またその理由について一切開示義務を負いません。
当社に提供した登録事項の全部または一部につき虚偽、誤記または記載漏れがあった場合
未成年者、成年被後見人、被保佐人または被補助人のいずれかであり、法定代理人、後見人、保佐人または補助人の同意等を得ていなかった場合
反社会的勢力等(暴力団、暴力団員、右翼団体、反社会的勢力、その他これに準ずる者を意味します。以下同じ。)である、または資金提供その他を通じて反社会的勢力等の維持、運営もしくは経営に協力もしくは関与する等反社会的勢力等との何らかの交流もしくは関与を行っていると当社が判断した場合
登録希望者が過去当社との契約に違反した者またはその関係者であると当社が判断した場合
第10条に定める措置を受けたことがある場合
その他、当社が登録を適当でないと判断した場合

Note that there is no mention of anything that refers to this funny “Japanese only” policy though (only in the QA section: https://traveloco.jp/faq#faq-13, but this is nothing to do with legal terms, since the terms of use are not mentioning it explicitly), so I gave it a try with registering, since I had some interesting ideas for them and some services to share with those Japanese who would be interested in my country or would be coming to [my country of origin].

The whole correspondence started via their website so the first part when I was asking why I cannot register my page and services (at first, it was a technical question but they failed to reply in details, instead they sent me some template bullshit to send me off – so, understandably, I got very upset), is missing since it was not done via email but via a form on their site on my account page – and I have no access to that any more.

I would like to ask The Japan Times to track this down, and ask them publicly why are they doing this in the 21st century, where human and personal rights should be taken very seriously? Even in Aichi, Nagoya, where they are located.

I would like an official apology from the company’s main rep, Mr. SHIIYA Yutaka (椎谷豊, facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yshiiya) via Japanese mass media. And I want them to review their policies, so that everyone (regardless of race) who is capable to communicate in Japanese could use the site with no discrimination against them – especially not based on their western-like names (if it is not a “Japanese” name)!

My correspondence above with them speaks for itself. And these are young entrepreneurs, not just some old folks, but the Y-generation!!! This sentiment and notion of Japaneseness is routed very very deeply even in these young men, who are brainwashed (or getting on some nationalist waves to make big money, maybe?). They are getting their foot in the door of the start-up world.

In the meantime I am seeking legal help, because I want others to know this. This site is “only for Japanese”, the online version of “Japanese only” bars, “Japanese only” onsens, etc…

Of course, you have my permission to make a report on your own site about this. In case I sue them, I will keep you updated.

Thanks a lot, Debito, and pls keep up the good work. I have just read about your book, Embedded Racism, and will get my copy soon. Sincerely, MT

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

ENDS

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

mytest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 98, “Ibaraki Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth”, June 6, 2016 (UPDATED with links to sources)

mytest

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

Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth
Repeat-offender Ibaraki force called to account for backsliding on the issue of hotel snooping
By Debito Arudou.  Column 98 for The Japan Times Community Page, June 6, 2016 Version updated with links to sources.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/06/05/issues/japans-police-still-unfettered-law-truth/

Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law.

A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.

IbarakipolicehotelposterApr2016
But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.

What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago.

The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.

It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005:

“After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”

Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold?

Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…

But back to Onur, who also took action. He stayed an extra day in Mito and raised the issue with local authorities:

“I went to Mito City Public Health Department (Hokensho), who were very helpful, and confirmed that as a resident I need not show ID at hotels. Then I showed them the poster from the Ibaraki police department. Surprised, they said they had never seen this poster before, and the police had not contacted them about it. They said it is clearly different from the real law, especially the bit about ‘every foreign guest.’

“The Hokensho added that the police have become stricter because of the G-7 (Ise-Shima) summit and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They said they would check the hotel and inform me of the result.”

But Onur wasn’t done yet: “Then I talked with two officers at the Mito City Police Department’s Security Division. They listened without making any comments. I showed them an official announcement from the Health Ministry and said that their poster is clearly different.

“The police read the ministry announcement and took notes like they were unaware of the law, asking questions like ‘Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask for your ID card?’ and ‘Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?’ I offered the contact number at Health Ministry for more information, but they said it wasn’t necessary. Finally, I asked them to fix their poster. They said they would check the law and behave accordingly.”

Shortly afterwards, Onur got a call from the Hokensho: “They checked my hotel and saw the poster was now changed. It seems the Ibaraki police had printed a new one and distributed it to all hotels within a few hours! The Hokensho said the new poster clearly states ‘foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan,’ which follows regulations. They said the police warned the hotel not to make the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.”

Well done. It’s satisfying to have others retrace our steps and get even better results. It’s just a shame that he should have to.

However, two issues still niggle. One is that photocopying requirement, which, according to The Japan Times’ own legal columnist, Colin P. A. Jones, may also be questionable:

“According to the Personal Information Protection Act (Kojin Joho Hogo Ho), the hotel should explain to you why they are collecting personal information from you, which is what they are doing if they take a copy of your passport,” Jones said in an email. “So if they can confirm that you are a resident of Japan by looking at your residence card or driver’s license, they do not need to take a copy because they have confirmed that the Hotel Act no longer applies. If they take a copy they are collecting personal information beyond what is necessary for the expressed purpose. In my experience, once you point this out, hotel staff then start mumbling about ‘their policies,’ but of course those don’t trump the law.”

Second issue: Ibaraki.

Ibaraki is where cops take local grumps seriously when they report a “suspicious foreigner” standing near JR Ushiku Station — seriously enough to arrest him on Aug. 13, 2014, for not carrying his “gaijin card.” Well, that “foreigner” turned out to be a Japanese, and Japanese are not required to carry ID. Whoops.

Ibaraki is also the site of a mysterious and under-reported knife attack on Chinese “trainee” laborers (the Japan Times, Feb. 23, 2015), which resulted in an as-yet-unresolved[*] murder. (Funny that. Imagine the media outcry if foreigners had knifed Japanese!)

Do Ibaraki police have anything to do with this? Actually, yes.

Ibaraki police have posted in public places some of Japan’s most militantly anti-foreign posters. I mean this literally: Since 2008, at least three different versions have depicted cops, bedecked in paramilitary weaponry, physically subduing foreigners. The slogan: “Protect (Japan) by heading (foreigners) off at the shores.”

Ibaraki police have also offered the public online information about “foreign crime infrastructure,” as if it’s somehow separate from or more ominous than the yakuza. They claim that foreigners are responsible for drugs, illegal medical activities, underground taxis, false IDs — and paternity scams to get Japanese citizenship. And, conveniently, the National Police Agency argued within its 2010 white paper that foreign crime infrastructure “cannot be grasped through statistics” (see “Police ‘foreign crime wave’ falsehoods fuel racism,” JBC, July 8, 2013). It’s enough to make the public paranoid.

And Ibaraki is a strange place for such militancy. It does not have a particularly high concentration of foreigners. Except for, of course, those behind bars at Ibaraki’s Ushiku Detention Center.

Japan’s infamous immigration detention centers, or “gaijin tanks,” are where foreign visa overstayers and asylum seekers are left to rot indefinitely in what Amnesty International in 2002 called “secret detention facilities.” Gaijin tanks don’t get the oversight governing Japan’s prisons because the former do not officially qualify as “prisons.” They’re pretty bad places to be.

And Ushiku’s gaijin tank is notoriously bad. It has made headlines over the past decade for drugging and subjecting detainees to conditions so horrendous that they have gone on hunger strikes, committed suicide or died having received improper medical care and under other mysterious circumstances.

Therein lies the point I keep banging on about in this column: What happens when racial discrimination is left unrestrained by laws? It just gets normalized and embedded.

Treating people badly without official checks and balances eventually makes abuse tolerated and ignored — like background radiation. And, fueled by the innate fear of The Outsider, the abuses just get worse and worse. Because they can.

In this case, the unfettered xenophobia radiating from the Ushiku Detention Center, Ibaraki’s fast-breeder reactor of foreigner dehumanization and abuse, has clearly corroded Ibaraki police’s judgment — to the point where they feel they can outright lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce, and have their propaganda irradiate hotels, street-corner busybodies and the general public.

It’s time for people to realize that Japanese police’s free rein to maintain our allegedly “safe society” has limits. For officially treating an entire people as potentially “unsafe” is dangerous in itself.

Ibaraki Prefecture thus offers a fascinating case study. Of what happens to a neighborhood when xenophobia goes beyond the occasional international summit or sports event, and becomes regularized into official extralegal standard operating procedure.

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

Debito’s latest project is the mockumentary film “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin,” which is now being funded on Kickstarter. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send all your comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

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

[*]  Correction:  According to Chinese media translated into Japanese, the abovementioned knife attack and murder of Chinese “Trainees” has resulted in the arrest of 5 Vietnamese nationals:

日本の中国人技能実習生、ベトナム人5人に包丁で襲われ1人死亡1人負傷=茨城県警察は殺人と殺人未遂容疑で逮捕―中国紙
http://www.recordchina.co.jp/a114724.html

2015年7月23日、人民日報(電子版)は日本の報道を引用し、中国人技能実習生を殺害したとして、茨城県警察が殺人と殺人未遂の容疑でベトナム人5人を逮捕したと伝えた。

警察によると、今年2月22日午後9時40分ごろ、当時農業技能実習生だった中国人の孫文君(スン・ウェンジュン)さん(33)は茨城県鉾田市の路上を同僚と歩いていた際、包丁を持ったベトナム人の男女5人に襲われた。

これにより孫さんは死亡し、もう1人の中国人技能実習生も負傷した。その後の調査で、ベトナム人男女らの中には元農業技能実習生もおり、警察は動機などについて調べを進めている。(翻訳・編集/内山)ENDS

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Telegraph: Tourists in Japan to use fingerprints as ‘currency’ instead of cash; another case of Gaijin as Guinea Pig

mytest

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Hi Blog. First the article, then some commentary:

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Tourists in Japan to use fingerprints as ‘currency’ instead of cash
The system aims to make shopping and checking into hotels more convenient for overseas visitors
The Telegraph, by Danielle Demetriou, Tokyo 11 APRIL 2016 • 9:20AM Courtesy of JK and BB
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/11/tourists-in-japan-to-use-fingerprints-as-currency/

Visitors to Japan may soon be able to forget the hassle of having to change money – with the launch of a new system enabling fingerprints to be used as currency.

The system, which will launch this summer, aims to make shopping and checking into hotels faster and more convenient for overseas visitors, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

It will involve foreign visitors first registering their details, including fingerprints and credit card information, in airports or other convenient public locations.

The new system will also enable the government to analyse the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists.

Registered tourists will then be able to buy products, with taxes automatically deducted, from select stores by placing two fingers on a small fingerprint-reading device.

The fingerprint system will also be used as a speedy substitute for presenting passports when checking into hotels, which is currently a legal obligation for overseas tourists, according to reports.

In its first test phase, the project will involve 300 souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other establishments frequented by tourists in popular destinations including the mountainous hot spring resort area Hakone and the coastal town Kamakura.

The fingerprint experiment is part of a wider effort by the Japanese government to encourage visitors from overseas to visit the capital in the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Officials are hoping to launch the system throughout the country – including Tokyo – by 2020, with as many as 40 million overseas annual visitors expected by that year.

The new system will also enable the government to analyse the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists, with anonymous data to be managed by a government-led consultative body.

The data obtained from the project will be used to help government officials create effective tourism management policies, according to Yomiuri.

One concern among officials, however, is that some tourists may be reluctant to provide fingerprint information voluntarily due to fears relating to privacy issues.

Fingerprint as payment

Biometrics – using your body to as an alternative to passwords – are on the rise. In February, Mastercard confirmed it would accept selfies and fingerprints instead of account passwords in the UK.

Several mobile wallets already use fingerprints as a way to authenticate payment. Registering debit or credit cards to an Apple Pay-compatible iPhone allows users to make payments or transactions by pressing a thumb or finger to the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the home button to verify their identity.

Customers can also use it to travel around London’s TfL networks.

Samsung Pay and Android Pay have also started to let consumers pay for things using the fingerprint scanner.

How secure are fingerprints?

In the case of mobile payments, the smartphone maker, such as Apple, does not store your card numbers on the device you’re using for Apple Pay, nor on their servers. Instead, when a card is added, a unique Device Account Number is created and encrypted. This number is stored in a chip within your device called the secure Element.

When you go to make a transaction, the Device Account Number is matched with a dynamic security code unique to that specific payment, which is then processed.

If your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch is lost or stolen, you can suspend Apple Pay remotely or wipe it fully using Find My iPhone.

Fingerprints, like any other security measure, can be spoofed. In fact, researchers have claimed they have hacked a Samsung Galaxy S6 and a Huawei Honor 7 phone by taking a photo of someone’s finger and printing it out with special ink. The other problem is you have only 10 fingerprints – and they can never be changed. [Really? — Ed.]

However it is still considerably more difficult to steal and reproduce a fingerprint than to brute-force guess a password or a pin. Perhaps the most secure approach is to have a two-step authentication system that includes both a password and a fingerprint.

ENDS

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

COMMENT:  This article seems a bit too much in thrall to the possibilities of the new technology to pay sufficient attention to the possible abuses of fingerprinting (and no attention to the history of fingerprinting in Japan in particular).  Culturally speaking, fingerprinting in Japan is associated with criminal activity, which is why so many Japanese (and let alone other NJ and Zainichi Korean minorities) are reluctant to have their fingerprints taken (let alone be forced to carry ID) and stored in a leaky government database.  That’s why once again, the Gaijin as Guinea Pig phenomenon is kicking in — where it’s the powerless people in a society who are having government designs for social control being foisted upon them first, before it gets suggested as policy for the rest of the population.

The point is that Japan has long been trying to find ways to track their Gaijin population best (and has managed it with new remotely-trackable RFID-chipped Gaijin Cards).  It is merely expanding upon their reinstitution of border fingerprinting for foreigners only in 2007 that was once seen as a “violation of human rights” barely ten years earlier.  They’ve got all these Gaijin fingerprints from the border.  Why not use them and not only track their whereabouts but also what they do with their money and time?  Once there is enough data for the government to claim, “It’s convenient.  It’s precedented.  It’s safely stored.  And it’s going to make us No. 1 again in something technological,” then watch as public policy switches to suggest it for everyone else in Japan.  Japan’s control-freak bureaucracy will settle for nothing less than as much information and control over its people as possible.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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The 2nd Great Gaijin Massacre in Japan’s education system, with 5-year contracts coming due in 2018 (2023 for uni profs).

mytest

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Hi Blog. This is an update to the Ninkisei Issue within Japan’s Academic Apartheid Education System, where foreign educators are given perpetual contracts. A contracted position may not sound bad to Western ears, but Japan’s tertiary education system (the second largest in the world) generally does not contract full-time Japanese educators. Since most full-time Japanese enjoy permanent tenure from day one of hiring, a contract becomes a term limit only for foreigners. Abuses of the system include “The Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994, where most foreign faculty above the age of 35 in National Universities (kokuritsu daigaku) found their contracts were not being renewed — in a successful attempt by the Ministry of Education to bring in younger, cheaper foreigners. Since these veteran teachers had not paid into overseas pension plans (and decades of Japanese pension payments are nonrefundable), they could not simply “go home”. They got stuck with part-time work with no benefits to pay house loans, fund kids’ college tuition, or fulfill pension plans.

According to Ivan Hall’s CARTELS OF THE MIND (WW Norton, 1998), there are more full-time foreign faculty with permanent tenure in one American university than in all of Japan! Not to mention a systemwide disdain (“academic apartheid”) towards foreign educators regardless of qualification, seeing them merely as cheap disposable labor. See the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions with breathtakingly unequal employment policies, at www.debito.org/blacklist.html

Now for the update.  Let’s see what happened to the survivors a quarter century on. The upshot is that their turn to be fired is now coming. According to labor union expert CF:

================================
“I have given it a nickname – the “2018 Cliff” If you have been working from (April) 2013 continually on renewable contracts, then (March) 2018 will be 5 years of employment, therefore on April 1 2018, if you demand permanent employment, the company must keep you on as permanent – until retirement (albeit on the pre-2018 conditions) from April 2019. To avoid this, companies will be dumping staff before the end of March 2018 to avoid the transfer to permanent status (無期転換). For better or worse, universities and research facilities deadline is 2023, so employees have an extra 5 years’ grace. The Cliff is coming, and many will be pushed off.
================================

COMMENT: So this is what NJ who persevered and contributed the bulk of their working lives to Japanese society, get at the end: An unceremonious dumping onto the job market, with no new place to go, and skills that will not easily transfer to their country of origin. And often before their MINIMUM 25 years (yes!) of required Japan-pension contributions are fulfilled.

People seeking to make a life in Japan: Beware! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

What follows is a discussion that transpired on a labor-rights listserv I subscribe to. Posts are used and redacted with permission:

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

Date: April 4, 2016
From: AB

Now going on three years, I was forced to resign in protest from a ’tenured’ position as an Associate Professor at [Honey Badger Japan] Jr. College. Going on 32 years, over half my life, living continuously in Japan – most of which was spent running from college to college as a hijokin adjunct, a graduate degree in T.E.S.O.L., research and publications, community out-reach work and international volunteer activities … phht … all gone.

How did HB Jr. College. do it? Or more importantly for fellow readers of this listserv, Easy. Here’s how it went down in my case.

Even after 11 years as a tenured full time member of the faculty, my department (only 8 full-timers at most) pretty much excluded me from any decision making processes at the required weekly meetings — and unlike my ethnic Japanese colleagues behavior towards each other, presumed to have the right to micro-manage my classes down to what language I should use in the classroom or in open campus activities, what materials are too easy, too difficult, or too unconventional for ‘my’ classes, and what pedagogic approaches I should use. A colleague (same age, became full-time when I did) opined that even on my weekends, I should first get departmental permission to use my English for volunteer activities … even in support of other departments at HBJC. I had no idea what they did on their weekends, could have been pachinko or Kabukicho for all I knew.

After some years of just shucking and jiving while bearing it all, I finally complained to the Gakucho (Dean), who reassured me that I was hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai. Of course, how could he have said anything other?

I reported this back to my gakka’s shunin (Head of Department) who said:

1 – The current Dean of the school is wrong.
2 – I was hired while under the administration of a previous Dean with different policies, and those unstated policies were still in effect.
3 – The Department will not include volunteer activities in its curricula this year, so I am forbidden to use my office or resources for community outreach activities with the local city government (I was on the board of directors of XXXXX City government’s Kokusai Koryu Kyoukai) and other volunteer activities … four trips (at my own expense) to [an impoverished Asian country] with students from my own school as well as students from other Tokyo colleges, accompanying my students to a local kindergarten to teach English … as well as XXXXX in-house high school, working with Soup no Kai supporting the homeless in Shinjuku, collaborating with an NGO supporting the severely handicapped, and so on. Things that I thought would have been expected for promotion in U.S. universities were expressly forbidden by two successive department chairmen.

I reported the Department Chairman’s opinion to the Dean, particularly comment 3 which seemed contradictory to the school’s raison d’être as stated on their glossy homepage. The Dean disagreed with the department opinion, and once again, reassured me that I am an equal among equals, and it is up to me to just ‘try harder’ to communicate with my colleagues.

I requested a meeting between the Dean and my Department Chairman to decide my status … whatever that might be … along with its attendant rights and obligations. No such meeting was forthcoming, and neither did either indicate any willingness to discuss, much less settle, the issue.

Informed by the Gakubucho (Dean of the Jr. College and also a member of my department) that I was entitled and eligible to take my one year research sabbatical, I parlayed my volunteer activities in [the impoverished Asian country] with [a local institute] to serve as my sponsor, I quit my one part-time job at XXXXXXX University, and just prior to preparing for a year abroad, was presented by the Dean with a one page document, in Japanese, drawn up specifically for me. No other teachers who had taken sabbaticals in HBJC’s over 120 year history had ever been required to sign such a document requiring me to obey ALL school wide rules and attendant obligations, as well as ALL departmental rules and attendant obligations.

I pointed out that those rules and obligations were contradictory and problematic … and that they, themselves, have as yet to have agreed upon my status and obligations. In that meeting with the Gakucho and Gakubucho, I told them that if I sign such a document, according to department rules, I was explicitly forbidden by my department to voluntarily help even my own seminar student prepare for the XXXXXXXXX Speech Contest.  I had been the only one in the school since even before becoming tenured who took personal responsibility for speech contestant preparation.  Her speech was about her first hand experience at a seaside community during the Great Tohoku Earthquake. I asked the Gakucho and the Gakubucho that if I signed the document forbidding me from helping that student, if they would take personal responsibility for that student’s still embryonic speech. I still have a digital recording of that meeting, and the only response you will hear is an awkward silence.

Pressed again to either sign, or not sign, at the risk of losing my sabbatical … I had to make a choice on the spot, either support the student, or support my ‘career’. With no family depending on me to bring home the bacon, I had the luxury of choice, so I refused to sign. Meeting ended. Research sabbatical immediately revoked.

A day or so later, I made a phone call to XXXXXX University explaining my sabbatical had been canceled and inquired whether I might retain my 3 koma one-day a week schedule. ‘Sorry, that position has already been filled’ was the courteous reply.

Later I received a letter from the head of the Board of Directors of HBJC Inc. telling me that as I have demonstrated no willingness or capacity to follow BOTH the school and the department rules, as of the following academic year, I was to be relieved of all rights to teach classes, and report to my office and await forthcoming orders to be later more clearly specified.

In the meantime, I joined a local union, showed up to a few larger union meetings, and talked with a lawyer — who said I would likely win a case against the school, but it would be a long, emotionally costly, pyrrhic victory at best. A year and a half later, a couple of meetings between the school lawyer and my labor union reps, and my allotted medical leave of absence had expired, leaving me with no choice but to either return to the school under the same conditions (no classes, no research sabbatical) … or resign.

In effect, fellow listserv readers, ignore this cautionary tale at your own peril. When push comes to shove, your ‘contract’ is not worth the paper it’s written on.  Thinking that at age 60, with half a life-time experience, I could just start all over again and go back to life as an itinerant hijokin, living year by year. Ha. Can not even get beyond the faceless intercom voice at the new pre-school next door to my apartment to offer my services as an English volunteer (and here I am being led by mass media to believe the day care centers are in crisis mode) — much less even get a single koma of part-time work in Japan.

I will end this post with [this thought]: Earlier tonight, I saw on NHK 7 pm news that Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Dean gave the opening ceremony speech in English … ‘Be positive. Take chances’. What a crock. A goddamn Kabuki show. And followed at 7:30 pm by more Olympics-inspired panem et circenses in place of my beloved Hiroko Kuniya in prime-time ’Close Up Gendai’ … as if a bevy of ambitious cute young things in the late night CUG ‘plus’ will make up for her once or twice in a generation journalistic integrity. Sincerely, AB.

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

Date: April 14, 2016
From: CD

AB, it sounds like you were put through hell and back. I’m really sorry to hear it!

I’ve advised a number of people in labor situations over the years, including six people over the last twelve months. To be honest, there seems to be a recent upswing in these kinds of cases, almost to the extent of the great “gaikokujin kyoushi” purge of the 90s. While I have my own theories, I’d be interested in reading other opinions about whether and why this may be happening.

I have a pretty good track record with labor cases, not to mention negotiating experience on both sides of the table. From this perspective, let me offer some general advice:

1) Regardless of the provocation, don’t ever quit (unless of course you have a great new job lined up). Let them fire you instead–being terminated gives you advantages later.

2) While certain things can be required of joukin (aka “tenured”) university faculty–to include both the submission of syllabi and the wording used in said syllabi–many of the things listed in AB’s post (e.g., language of instruction, specific pedagogical approaches and materials) usually cannot be demanded of university joukin. (Part-timers can have less protection.) The only exceptions to this that I know of would be where the language and pedagogical requirements were either known to the applicant before hire or represent standards developed and agreed to by all (to include AB) the joukin faculty responsible for these classes–situations seen mostly with intensive language programs or English-medium instruction (EMI) departments/institutions.

3) Given #2, and assuming that AB really was joukin (hired under the same conditions, rights, and obligations as ethnic Japanese members of the kyoujukai), many of the issues described at his workplace fit the government’s definition of Power Harassment (パワハラ).

4) There are several legal remedies available to people in such situations, some expensive and some not so expensive. Regarding the latter, on February 13 in a post to this listserv, I described in detail a FREE (albeit slow) process where the city will fight your employer to stop the Power Harassment (to include even unlawful termination). Again, this process is SLOW–typically, it takes four months to a year to conclude a case. However, I have found it reasonably effective (they usually can negotiate better treatment/employment terms and/or buyouts)… and again it’s free.

5) As alluded to in #2, #3 and #4, the laws here are, to a surprising extent, designed to protect the employee. Moreover, even as a foreign contract worker, you sometimes (e.g., occasionally even in the case of contract non-renewal) have legal protections/recourses available to you that are not available in your home country. Failing to utilize them when wronged is… silly.

6) That said, join a union and try to prepare BEFORE trouble starts. Unions tend not to look favorably upon those who join only after something bad happens. Some will refuse outright to help, while others may be lukewarm in their support. In addition to joining a union, always keep everything (including the advertised copy of your job description and all pertinent emails) and document everything related to your job duties and work performance. While most likely you will never need them, the sad reality in this country is that you never really know. I personally have known foreigners who have had no problems for YEARS–sometimes over twenty years–only to come to work one day and suddenly find that they are no longer wanted.

7) If you need action/results quickly, use a lawyer–preferably one either contacted through your union or specializing in labor issues–and prepare to go to court. Remember that Japanese people DO sue their employers, and such lawsuits are not so rare. At my current university (and department…), there have been three (!) such lawsuits over the last eight years.

8) Know that, regardless of the strength of your case, your lawyer will never promise victory. (Typically, the best they’ll give you is a 50-50 chance if it goes to court.) That said, as I’ve posted numerous times before, your employer almost always does NOT want to go to court–because of the stigma involved in such cases, even winning represents bad publicity. Given this, employers in my experience will almost invariably seek to settle before going to trial.

9) Your employer will most likely lowball you with their first settlement offer and/or try to intimidate you into taking nothing. Now, the amount of settlement you can (should?) receive depends on many factors, including your hiring status (e.g., “joukin” or “ninki-tsuki”), years employed, the strength of your case and employer perception of your ability/willingness to fight. (I have personally found the last to be the most important factor.) That said, with regards to termination and contract nonrenewal cases, while every situation is different (and assuming you are not simply reinstated to your position), I’ve generally seen settlement ranges from four months to twelve months of salary.

Hope this helps! Sincerely, CD

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

Date: April 14, 2016
From: EF

At this point I would advise against teachers to stay here after age 50 or even after 45, unless you have tenure. I met a teacher who is 57 and lost his job at [a National University] after 8 years. Seven other teachers were gotten rid of too. He has a Ph.D. in education but can only get part-time work now. I know another teacher in [a city near Tokyo] who has no job and he must be about 58 or 59 now.

At my new job in XXXXX City the form asked whether I want to get paid or even be paid for commuting.  I guess they hope I will work for free. What do they want, retired teachers to just volunteer.  This could be because of money problems. At a national university in Tokyo, with a deficit of 400 million yen, the university decides that the tea machine in the part-time teachers’ room has got to go. This is in Chofu. Sincerely, EF

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Date: April 15, 2016
From: GH

I would be wary of the idea that universities have an exemption to the five-year rule. There was a big discussion at my university about this last year, and the head of HR and one of the rijis told me that the wording of the exemption is not very clear (surprise surprise!) and that even among national universities, there was disagreement about what it actually means. Apparently, some universities are now taking the limit to be ten years whereas others are playing it safe and assuming it to be five. Wherever you work, it might be a good idea to find out how they are interpreting it.

My grasp of the legislation is not at the level of some of the posters here, but as I understand it, this new law comes with a number of loopholes anyway. For example, universities will still be able to cut part-timers if they are no longer needed because of “changes to the curriculum” regardless of how long they have worked there. A change to the curriculum could be something as minor as a tiny alteration to the name of a class (“the class that teacher taught is no longer offered at our university, so his/her services are no longer required”) so it seems to me that universities could still get rid of someone quite easily if they wanted to.

I think that in a perverse way, the situation will only become clear when the first person takes their institution to court. If / when that happens, all the other institutions will panic and there will be a huge cull. If it never happens, I guess universities will gradually forget about it. As I say, I am most certainly not an expert on this, but this is the situation as it was explained to me by the people in charge at my university. Sincerely, GH

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Date: April 15, 2016
From: AB

To: ARUDOU, Debito

Hello Debito san,

Maybe you remember our recent exchange in an e-mail saying I was working on my own writing chops to add to the ‘Great Dialog’ of culture … what it means to be a human, what do we mean by ‘education’, and so on. I have been doing so on Quora, and many times, have posted links to your web page to substantiate my more anecdotal arguments. I am grateful for your critical eye and sheer doggedness in providing a much needed source of information that deserves a wider audience.

I am now 60, and apparently locked out of a career track in academia … failing to gain even one koma of part-time work after two years of submitting resumes and showing up for interviews, failing to gain permission to resume doctoral studies at XXXX Japan, and even failing to gain admission to an on-line Master’s Degree course at XXXXXXXX University in the US. As such, I do not have the financial safety-net of any institution at my disposal, and neither do I have the presumption that I will some day regain such institutional protection. And being kanji illiterate, I don’t even know how much I don’t know about Japanese law and what obligations and rights to which I am entitled (similar to my being kept running circles in the dark at HBJC Inc.). Feeling the full force of the Dunning-Kruger effect here.

Despite an abundance of information from your website (and book – bought, but not yet read), and some well-considered and well-meant advice from listserv members, Facebook ‘buddies’, Quora, and even family back in the states … my day to day survival, even my sanity, is sustained by only three things:

1 – A small community made up primarily of a close circle of friends, mostly Japanese — and mostly here in Japan. I think the constraints of Dunbar’s Number has more than a little to do with this.

2 – The new found leisure to read from the great works of the liberal arts tradition as well as more recent STEM oriented material … and write — as therapy. It helps to have at my disposal more than a lifetime’s worth of books, music, movies, and a wall full of video lectures from The Great Courses series.

3 – A stubborn tenacity to stand by the values and beliefs I have gained from the above two.

Kind regards, Debito san. And keep up the good fight.  Sincerely, AB.

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

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GOJ busybodies hard at work alienating: Shinjuku Foreign Residents Manual assumes NJ criminal tendencies; Kyoto public notices “cultivate foreign tourist manners”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Despite all the campaigns to increase foreign tourism and “prepare” Japanese society for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, sometimes Debito.org feels like suggesting people just avoid Japan’s sweaty-headed public-servant busybodies, who spend our tax monies to further alienate NJ residents and tourists from the rest of Japanese society. Check these out:

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March 17, 2016
From: “Concerned Long-Time NJ Resident”
Dear Dr. Arudou,

Here is the full “Shinjuku Foreign Residents” guide available online.

In English: http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/about/pdf/poster-leafret/frm-english.pdf

In case it disappears: ShinjukuForeignResidentManual2016

In Japanese (which was not available at the kuyakusho office, only foreign language versions were there): http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/about/pdf/poster-leafret/frm-japanese.pdf

In case it disappears:ShinjukuForeignResidentManualJ2016

Some screen captures follow.  Here is the cover and back cover:

ShinjukuForeignResidentManual20161

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Note how this is a guide designed to “avoid getting caught up in criminal activity” (yes, hanzai in the original Japanese).  Yet look at the first four pages within.  Find the crimes:

ShinjukuForeignResidents20162

Right.  That age-old canard about foreign residents being mentally incapable of throwing away their garbage correctly.  I can think of plenty of Japanese I’ve seen having the same trouble, only without being accused of “criminal” activity.  And it’s not a crime anyway.  Nor are these activities:

ShinjukuForeignResidents20163

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I’m quite sure the police will respond.  But not because they received a complaint about the Japanese in my neighborhood I’ve experienced that hoard, are untidy, or are noisy at inopportune times.  Rather, police will respond because they got tipped off by some busybody claiming a foreigner was “suspicious” (grounds for arrest in Japan if you’re suspicious while foreign-looking), which is something this manual can’t caution against.

And how about this one:

ShinjukuForeignResidents20164

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Crikey.  This manual should be distributed to Japanese!  Flagrant rule-breakers on a regular basis there! But Japanese, not foreigners, aren’t assumed to be criminal, because Japan, runs the narrative, is a peaceful, safe, law-abiding society, whereas foreign countries, and their foreigners, by definition, are not, because we Japanese are different and unique and… oh, you get the idea.

Anyway, here’s what submitter “Concerned Long-Time NJ Resident” had to say about this manual:

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

This guide still has me angry that this sort of view of “foreigners” is still persisting—maybe even growing—as the Olympics approach; worse, it is being promoted by a government agency. I have been stopped by the Japanese police many times (for no reason other than being “foreign-looking”) and treated like a criminal when I simply pass through the train station, and I’ve seen similar treatment at the station of other “foreigners.” So after those experiences, pamphlets like this that further the view of non-Japanese in Japan as criminal-prone imbeciles really rub me the wrong way. There are plenty of guides for residents of Japan that do NOT take this approach with non-Japanese residents when explaining laws and helpful services that have been translated to other languages.

I have already called and complained to the organization that put this guide out and the kuyakusho office as well. Thank you for giving a voice against such issues when so few in Japan even speak up for the rights of non-Japanese residents (and Japanese too) in Japan. It is greatly appreciated. As for credit, just leave out my name and say it was from “a concerned long-time non-Japanese resident” of Japan. I’m most concerned about the issue rather than any credit, plus I don’t need to be harassed by any rightwing nuts.

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

Meanwhile, it’s not just Shinjuku.  The Yomiuri reports on NJ-targeting busybodies elsewhere:

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

From:  JK
Date:  May 12, 2016
Hi Debito: This was a new one for me:

Picture signboards to cultivate manners of foreign tourists
The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2016
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002901542

TokyoMannersSign2016

A signboard set up until early April on a path along the Chidorigafuchi moat in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

With breaches of etiquette by foreign tourists becoming a problem in tourist spots nationwide, local communities are using signboards featuring illustrations, pictograms and manga to inform visitors of how best to behave.

These moves are aimed at helping foreign tourists understand Japanese etiquette and rules, in order to prevent such trouble, but some are concerned that the signs could spoil the scenery at tourist spots.

In three locations that are good for viewing cherry blossoms in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, including the Chidorigafuchi moat, signboards were set up this spring for the first time, urging visitors not to break cherry tree branches. Explanations were written in English, Chinese and Korean with a pictogram of a hand trying to hold a tree branch and a line through it.

According to the Chiyoda City Tourism Association, which set up the signboards, it had received complaints from a large number of nearby local residents and Japanese tourists that foreign tourists were breaking the branches of cherry trees. To inform them in an easy-to-understand way that this is a breach of local mores, the association decided to include the illustration on the warning signboards.

Some signboards explain etiquette using manga. Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, set them up in February in a parking area for large buses near the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.

Sets of four-frame cartoons warn visitors not to enter the premises to take memorial photos and explain how to use Japanese-style toilets. About 2,000 tourists arrive daily at the parking area. Many of them are with group tours from Asian countries, Europe and the United States.

An official of the ward office expects the signboards to be effective, saying, “We hope visitors will understand the proper etiquette while they’re in the parking area and then go on to enjoy their visit.”

In 2015, the number of foreign tourists to Japan hit a record high of 19.73 million.
The Cabinet Office conducted a survey of 3,000 Japanese nationals nationwide in August last year about the situation involving foreign tourists.

With multiple answers allowed regarding things people are worried about as the number of foreign tourists increases, 26 percent of respondents cited growing trouble due to differences in etiquette, cultures and customs. This figure was the second highest after the 30 percent who mentioned security issues.

Match signs to surroundings

Signboards were set up to avoid such trouble, but the signs themselves have also caused concern.

Kyoto’s Gion district is lined by many ochaya tea houses and ryotei Japanese restaurants, and Gionmachi Minamigawa Chiku Kyogikai, an association of local residents in the southern part of the Gion district, set up wooden signboards about two meters tall at four locations there in December last year.

KyotoMannersSignboard2016

Pictograms and X marks are used instead of letters. They warn against six kinds of prohibited actions, including pulling on the kimono sleeves of maiko and leaning against or sitting on fences.

However, the district is designated by the Kyoto city government as a zone for the maintenance and improvement of historical scenic beauty.

A senior member of the local association said, “We didn’t want to set up the signboards because they impair the scenic beauty, but we could not overlook the breaches of etiquette.”

Seiko Ikeda, a specially assigned professor at St. Agnes’ University, who is studying relations between scenic beauty and signboards in tourist spots, said, “Although I understand the feelings of local residents, I feel uncomfortable about such signboards.”

She added: “Also, in the context of hospitality for foreign tourists, more comprehensive consideration is necessary. For example, such signboards should not bear pictures or designs with aggressive images, and they should harmonize with the surrounding scenery.”

Nobuko Akashi, president of the Japan Manner and Protocol Association, a nonprofit organization that recommends other measures than signboards, said, “Steady efforts are essential, such as thoroughly notifying visitors about etiquette and rules before they come to Japan via information websites for overseas.”

ENDS

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

SUBMITTER JK COMMENTS: All these foreigners keep causing meiwaku because they don’t have proper manners or etiquette,  so while we didn’t want to spoil the view, we couldn’t gaman anymore and put up signboards telling them what not to do. Perhaps if we nix the pictures and blend the signboards into the surrounding scenery, the view wouldn’t be so spoilt.

My problem with “helping foreign tourists understand Japanese etiquette and rules” is two-fold.

First, it knows no bounds (e.g. Don’t break the branches, and while you’re at it, don’t pull on the kimono sleeves of maiko or lean against or sit on fences).

Second, it’s decidedly one-sided mindset (e.g. Do the local residents understand why the cherry tree branches are being broken? Is it unintentional or unintentional? Do foreign tourists dislike cherry tree branches?).  Regards, JK

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

CONCLUDING WORD FROM DEBITO:  I understand full well the need for cautioning people when tourists, or anyone, are disrespectful towards local sights and environments.  But creating reactionary media that stigmatizes foreigners as if they are natural-born criminals or incorrigible rule-breakers (i.e., naturally unable to follow rules because they are foreigners) is equally disrespectful.  Care must be taken and tact used to avoid belittling guests, not to mention alienating NJ residents, and busybodies who get paranoid about any strangers darkening their doorsteps must not have free rein to overthink countermeasures (for it soon becomes an invitation to xenophobia).

How about the government or these self-appointed local “manner and protocol associations” quietly advising tour agencies to rein in their patrons, and make the rules clear, as Japanese tour agencies do for Japanese abroad?  It worked in the Otaru Onsens Case.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Nate Nossal essay on how free enterprise and small-business establishment in Japan is stifled

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  As Debito.org is a forum for voices that might not otherwise be heard, let me turn the keyboard to Debito.org Reader Nate Nossal, who shares his experiences at being an entrepreneur in Japan.  As somebody who has also done the arduous task of founding his own company in Japan, I am simpatico.  Over to Nate.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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JAPAN: A COUNTRY LARGELY OPPOSED TO FREE ENTERPRISE
By Nate Dossal Ph.D., Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
Exclusive to Debito.org, March 25, 2016

Japan is a country which is largely opposed to free enterprise. As one who has studied economics and subscribes to the notion that the ability for individuals to do business is integral to a society’s wealth and commerce, as well as that society’s ability to solve problems generally, I find this condition amusingly shortsighted. As one who is living in and attempting to do business in Japan I find this condition depressing. After all, what is it that individuals can do best as entrepreneurs? We stand to make money by solving problems for other people. I will discuss some extraordinary barriers to business created by just a few layers of legal or bureaucratic excess which discourage or disable free enterprise in two examples of personal experience. It is assumed that there is some reason that people have gone through such troubles to erect these legal barriers, and I can only speculate what some of those possible reasons might be. On the microeconomic level, the effects of the clearly anti-business atmosphere created by those specific barriers are devastating. Businesses which could and should be thriving, multiplying, growing, and revolving multiples of yen back out into the local economy are stopped dead. Theoretically, all money gets spent somewhere, but inevitably some of that money which would have been spent in the local Ishikawa ken economy (where these stories take place) gets saved, sent away, or spent elsewhere and the greater Ishikawa ken economy suffers for this.

Case 1: Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) Souvenir Goods classic failure of lost opportunities on several levels… This writer did soon after beginning his graduate studies in a national Japanese university discover that something was missing. Despite searching high and low throughout the dingy offices and one store on campus, there was a peculiar, complete absence of any commercially available souvenir goods from that university. Not a shirt, not a cap, a notebook or a pencil with “JAIST” written on it was for sale. It was especially noticeable just for one very personal reason: I wanted to be able to send my dad in the U.S. a t-shirt. I always sent him a t-shirt from the companies or the universities of which I became a member. Indeed, this may seem very peculiar to any person who may have ever worked in the marketing office of any-sized university. The sale of such school “pride” items can be profitable in itself, but at any rate is costless to the university, even after taking into account the price of design and production, maintaining stock and administration for the sale of goods. Even a small market makes up for all of this since the target market is highly invested in the product, the supplier is decidedly monopolistic by nature, and the turnover from new staff and students assures some consistent demand for the products. All of that is of course aside from the main point–schools need name recognition and the sale of pride products is a major source of free advertising in this aspect.

As a graduate student I mistakenly saw this as a great opportunity to accomplish three related good deeds, and get a JAIST golf shirt made for my dad too: I would design and have produced several items that would surely be of interest to students and staff of the university, market and sell them–which would satisfy that same demand which I myself sensed. With no commitment from or involvement of the university required at all, except for their permission to do so, I could single-handedly increase my university’s name recognition in the community, and presumably around the world to some small degree. Finally, I could make some small profit as a reward for my efforts, which I would surely need to help support my research and living expenses. This was to be a slam-dunk. A no-brainer. BANG! What a bonanza, I thought. I engaged the staff I knew in this conversation, and a meeting was arranged for me to discuss this radical new idea being offered to them free of charge. I spent a couple of days researching suppliers for this kind of goods, and had some mock-ups of the proposed goods made, which I included with a bi-lingual proposal for a license to use the university’s existing logo and images. Six men and women came to hear my awkwardly foreign Japanese presentation, but they were all visibly impressed. At the end I was told that although no firm decision could be made by such a group of self-described office functionaries, they assumed that the benefits I was offering, and the price I was asking (zero) would make it a good idea for the university. Mere days later, I received an email from one of the lowest level office workers that the vice president of the university said “no.” I would be better off focusing my energies on my research rather than trying to help them solve the problems of the university.

After also having noticed that no student council had existed, three years later, I established one with the political assistance of my professor. Among the many reasons for establishing a student council, one of them would be to re-assess this weird lack of JAIST shirts and coffee mugs. The road to market was a barrage of nay-naying from surprising sources: a very provincial type woman belonging to the management of the single university store deigned to meet with me to discuss the possible placement of our Student Council brand official JAIST Goods in the store. I was expecting some discussion of division of profits and liabilities, a contract, some discussion of their standard business practices and process, maybe the need for some assurances or money. The first thing this lady said to me though was, irrelevantly enough, that she didn’t think Japanese students would buy those goods. In fact they did buy, and large quantities of goods were requested. Orders from Japanese professors and administrators of 20 and 100 came. The university president (Japanese, of course) wanted a golf shirt, a cap and a mug. But none of this would be made available with any help or assistance from the university store, or the university itself whatsoever. In fact, the Council received a threatening email from someone in the “labor management section” about infringing on the JAIST copyright. That person had been alerted to our proposed activities by none other than the anti-business store manager! Is it possible? That people would be so steadfastly in opposition to me making a few hundred yen while serving their own needs? Anyway, we enlisted the student body in a competition to design our own logo, to avoid any trouble with the now rabidly anti-business office staff. Even still, we received truly unending innocuous-seeming requests for increasingly invasive information (including financial information of the proposed private business, the names, contact information and prices of my suppliers, and my own personal financial information) from the office of student affairs apparently aimed at infringing upon or discouraging our entrepreneurship. It seems the university office workers were quite keen on ensuring that no student ever makes any kind of profit from any kind of sales of any kind of product on any national university grounds…Like, it was more abhorrent to them than the thought of consuming cherry vodka fanny bangers at a faculty disciplinary hearing. In the end, even our advisor and protector, the Dean of the school was disparaged, and we were kindly requested NOT to attempt to address this problem of no-JAIST-goods for them anymore. It was a mixed success: We managed to design, produce, market and distribute exactly one cycle of a much desired product, and I broke even on the venture. It would be the last time ever for this want-to-be capitalist at that institution, however. That was fine, anyway I would graduate soon and had bigger ideas to entertain.

Case 2: A friend of mine, a German pilot and safety officer for EU pilots would fly into Komatsu International Airport a couple times of year and stay for two or four days while his plane was prepared to fly again. During those days, he complained, he would have nothing much to do except hang around his hotel room, roam the streets in search of any intelligible (English) communication and inevitably drink copious quantities of hotel bar alcohol. What he and his company needed was some local person who could provide the kind of guidance I could give, and take the pilots to the beach or the mountains, maybe offer a bicycle rental. In fact though, it wasn’t just the pilots flying in and out of Komatsu. Since Kanazawa opened up its first Shinkansen train line last year, literally thousands of foreign, mostly non-Japanese speaking, illiterate and largely lost and out-of-place tourists have been wandering through the well-preserved feudal-era narrow streets of this place. I know this is true because I routinely hear the laments of my Kanazawa Hotel and Inn Association English students–they are so busy now; their rooms are always full; they need more staff; they need to hurry up and try to learn more English to cope with the many language problems that have resulted. The real test though is the Starbucks test. Not the economic barometer of disposable income, but this: ten years ago, it was often possible, but not at all guaranteed to encounter even one other foreigner at Starbucks. This year, Kanazawa Station Starbucks and M-za Starbucks are packed almost exclusively with foreign clientele of European descent. I am sure that none of these people live here, either. They’re all carrying cameras and backpacks, and most are of retirement age. These people desperately need no-nonsense, English speaking tour guides, and I am willing to bet that many of them would be happy to pay money for that privilege.

Over the last several months, I carefully developed a website to address this need and to help to those tourists who may want a little more help to navigate this unforgivingly non-English speaking corner of the north. They could also use my help parting with some of their much-needed money while they are temporary participants in this local economy. To do that, I need only impart a sliver of the bounty of knowledge of this place which I have amassed in 13 years of research, learning and teaching. They also need transportation, some equipment in case of going kayaking, skiing, or mountain climbing, for example, and of course oodles of accident and life insurance. I expected that much. What I didn’t expect was this: about the time I was really feeling ready, in fact overdue to launch that exact business, I was sternly warned by my wife who informed me of recent news reports of Chinese nationals in the Tokyo area who were arrested for operating a similar-type business without a license. While living in a country where I am aware that a license for serving tea exists, it quite honestly never for a moment occurred to me (or maybe to those Chinese business operators) that I could need a license to show people around my hometown. After being juggled around on the phone between several Japan legalese-only speaking tourism offices, I dutifully arranged an in-person meeting with my prefectural travel and tourism bureau.

I was welcomed by the panel of three officers–two from tourism and one from legal. The three were not personally difficult or offensive in any way. They even apologized for the fact that none of the the three of them, and no one in the national tourism offices ANTA and JATA could speak English. Pretty soon though, the air sucking through teeth began. “Mmmm, muzukashii…” That is the beginning of almost every un-scripted conversation foreigners have with Japanese standing behind a service counter. It is the calm but firm discouragement I suffer at every mention of trying to improve my station, assume a level-appropriate role in almost anything, or help to fix even the most obvious of problems. “It would be easier if you had a Japanese partner,” one said bluntly. I told him that while I appreciated his suggestion, I came to get the information on doing it myself, or with my wife. “Umm…” he stammered until the lawyer could help out “Well your wife has a job,” the lawyer said, “so it would be against her working conditions to engage in any outside business activity.” Which although it is true enough, if completely aside from the point. Let me tell this to you straight: after 13 years of working in Japanese schools and companies, there is no possibility of me having an equal partner. No matter what I do or how good I may be, I will always be held in lower regard than, and held back by my Japanese counterpart. They nodded in apparent understanding without need for example, and bit by bit laid out the separate processes as best as they themselves understood them. If I could do it, they said, I would be a pioneer.

The news they had for me was not good: I need not merely to prove my financial worthiness to the state and present insurance certificates. I need to pass a national test for a travel agency. It’s only offered in Japanese of course, and full of Japanese legal jargon. Maybe I can get some help for this, but the test is offered only once per year! Once. That’s pretty bad. On top of that, if I am actually thinking of transporting people in my car (um, I thought that was what cars were FOR) then I can’t do that with just a regular passenger car license. I need a taxi driver’s license, which the tourism agency told me would be practically impossible for (a foreigner) to accomplish. “Oh, so all of those hotel van drivers have taxi licenses?” I asked. The panel of three gave each other those uncomfortable Japanese glances and the lawyer said no, that was different. Be that as it may, I thought how this touches directly on another issue, Japan’s reinterpretation of the Geneva Convention covering international driving privileges. I had a commercial 10 ton license with air brakes certification, and the chauffeur and taxi license when I came here, but I just didn’t have the extraordinary resources of time required for transferring all those licenses and testing and re-testing individually for each one of them after all I went through just to get my regular car and motorcycle licenses back. OK, so in order to take foreign people to the beach and get paid for it, I need a travel agent’s license and a taxi driver’s license, and I need to register my business (no kidding, a 14 part process) which includes depositing no less than 100,000 yen (about $9,000) cash with the Japanese government, presumably interest free, or maybe with negative interest. I also need to show and maintain a similar balance in my company account. No doubt, this is an extraordinary, if not cock-blockingly prohibitive set of artificial barriers to free enterprise. Some of this is understandable, as I said. Companies need insurance. If I were in a position to do harm to the environment or local population, some financial assurances (though probably not a “deposit” like as with some shyster landlord) would be expected. On top of all this, though, and I really don’t think I could ever invest 200,000 yen in licensure before ever even getting a company started to be honest, but on top of all this, at the end of my meeting in the Ishikawa ken cho I was asked in all seriousness where my office would be located. This is significant, the lawyer said, because for the lowest level of licensure (the 200,000 yen one) I could only do business within one municipality’s distance from my home office. After going the processes outlined already, and they are extreme, I would get a license that wouldn’t even include Kanazawa. The license for the type of small business I envisioned requires an 18 million yen commitment.

I go deadpan. I search in vain for the hidden cameras, wait hopelessly for the comedian in the yellow suit and giant bow tie to jump out laughing. This is real though. This is the anti-business environment they have created. It kills any small businesses before they could ever get started, and for what? What does all this process and licensure get for Japan? A few badly-needed interest-free loans? Probably that is an emergency of their own making. Is it enough to make up for the multiplied effects of dampening the business spirit? John Maynard Keynes wouldn’t say so. Does it prevent ill-intentioned or unqualified players from entering the market? Surely it must, since this condition would seem to prevent MOST players, qualified or not from entering the economy. With my PhD, my Global Human Resources doctoral certificate, and my advanced Japanese credential from a national university, as well as years of volunteer and professional service in the field which I would like to work independently, probably no one would say I am at all unqualified to take foreigners on local side trips, even for money.

I am not saying I was singled-out or unfairly discriminated against for being a foreigner necessarily. While this is a positively horrible set of conditions, and terrible treatment of a prospective entrepreneur who should be met with open arms, Japanese law and government treats its own citizens just as badly. The outright hostility of the Japanese government towards small businesses like these assure larger market share to larger entities–or else they just assure that some markets will simply never be, for lack of active, qualified and viable suppliers. The people at my former university will continue to want, and not get university logo-emblazoned items to send back home. The local citizens will continue not knowing what JAIST is, or even that it exists at all–possibly the most hilarious marketing failure in the country. And foreign tourists will sip a few coffees and walk themselves around downtown for a day or two and go on to Kyoto or home. Many of them will say how wonderful and enigmatic that dusty old Kanazawa town was, but it might be better. If they could have had a locally-educated English speaking guide to show them the most beautiful and meaningful places in the Ishikawa countryside, I would at a minimum explain the history of the Farmers’ Rebellion, the importance of the Shirayama Hime Jinja, Bassho’s passage, or the City of Temples. They also would be sure to spend more money while they were here, and that money could support not only me and my family, but the people I would have employed in the company that I fear now will never be.

-Nate Nossal Ph.D., Ishikawa Prefecture

ENDS

Stigmatization thru “foreign driver stickers”: First Okinawa, now Hokkaido (Mainichi Shinbun)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Check this out:
Hokkaido creates car stickers for foreign rent-a-car drivers
April 16, 2016 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160416/p2a/00m/0na/005000c

HokkaidoForeignDriverSticker2016
A sticker for foreign people using rent-a-cars, created by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government. (Mainichi)

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government has prepared 2,500 stickers for use by foreigners driving rent-a-cars, in order to identify them to other drivers and prepare against on-the-road trouble.

The stickers, which read “A person from a foreign country is driving,” were distributed to rent-a-car companies in Hokkaido. In fiscal 2014, around 24,000 rent-a-cars were used by foreign tourists, around 14,000 more than in fiscal 2012. Accidents and driver arguments are expected, so the stickers were created to warn other drivers, similar to stickers for new drivers.

The magnetic stickers are 14.5 centimeters square and carry Hokkaido’s tourism character “Kyun-chan,” a Japanese pika. A prefectural government official says, “When people see (a car with the sticker), we want them to act kindly.”
ENDS

Japanese version
外国人観光客
レンタカー利用でステッカー 北海道
毎日新聞2016年4月7日 20時01分(最終更新 4月7日 22時35分)
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20160408/k00/00m/040/051000c

外国人運転の車に配慮してもらおうと、北海道は、「外国の方が運転しています」とメッセージを記載したマグネット式ステッカー2500枚を作製し、道内レンタカー会社に配布した。

外国人観光客のレンタカー利用は2014年度で約2万4000台に上り、12年度より約1万4000台増。事故やトラブルも予想され、初心運転者向けの「若葉マーク」のようにアピールすることにした。

ステッカーは14.5センチ四方で、北海道観光のPRキャラクター「キュンちゃん」(エゾナキウサギ)のイラスト入り。担当者は「うさぎを見たら、温かく見守ってほしい」。【一條優太】
ENDS

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

SUBMITTER JK COMMENTS:  Hi Debito.  “Friendly Driving”…um…right…more like 注意:外人の運転手だよ!

I wonder how MOFA would react if, oh I dunno, rent-a-car companies in Hawaii started issuing stickers for Japanese drivers stating “A person from Japan is driving”, in order to “identify them to other drivers and prepare against on-the-road trouble” because after all, “accidents and driver arguments are expected”.

DEBITO COMMENTS:  It would seem that the Japanese reflex of pointing out differences over similarities (a byproduct of the quest to keep Japan “unique” in the world narrative) has created perennial blind spots towards the effects of “stigmatization”.  That is to say, if you keep pointing out how different a group of people is (in this case, “foreign drivers”, even if you say you are doing it “out of kindness”), it still differentiates and “others” people — with the inevitable subordinating presumption that foreign drivers are somehow more prone to accidents, need to be taken notice of, or treated with special care.  Why else would the public be notified (if not warned) that a foreign driver is present?

Shoe on the other foot:  How would people like it if females behind the wheel had to bear a “women driver” sticker?  What if the “foreign driver” (for example, somebody who has been driving in Japan not as a tourist for years, or on the British side of the road the same as Japan?) would rather opt out of all the special attention?  And what of the Japanese tourists from the metropolises who are “paper drivers” and probably have much less road experience than average compared to any motorized society in the world?  Let’s see how a “tourist driver” sticker (slapped on Japanese drivers too) would fare.

This sticker is, to put it bluntly in Japanese, 有り難迷惑 (arigata meiwaku), or “kindness” to the point of being a nuisance.   And it is not even the first “foreign driver” sticker Debito.org has heard of — last October we reported on similar stickers in Okinawa with the same purpose:

OkinawaGaikokujinDriverstickerOct2015

For more on Japan’s poor history of stigmatization of “foreigners” in the name of “kindness”, see Embedded Racism pp. 21-8, 94, and 281-282.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all “foreign guests” are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact. Read on:
//////////////////////////////////////////////////

April 12, 2016
Hello Dr. Debito,

I have some news on the passport copy rule in the hotels, which shows the role of the local police in the unnecessary checking and copying of ID cards of foreigners living in Japan. Last weekend I stayed at Mimatsu Hotel in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form during check-in.

However, the reception asked for my passport. I said I don’t carry my passport and they said any ID card like driver’s license is OK. Although showing is not necessary, I showed them my residence card with my address and permanent resident status on it. They said that they must copy the card. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I was surprised to hear that also the hotel has such rule in addition to the law of Japan! I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy.

They showed me a poster on the wall. The poster prepared by the Mito City Police Department Security Division was saying that “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us”. I said that the real law is different and showed them the copy of https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf . After seeing the document, they reluctantly allowed me to stay.

I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. The next day during the check-out I asked the receptionist of the hotel to take a photo of the poster prepared by the Mito City Police Department to check it in detail. The receptionist gave permission so I took the photo of the poster and printed it at an Internet Cafe. I am sending the poster as an attachment.

IbarakipolicehotelposterApr2016

[CAPTION COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Note the three official lies in this official poster issued by the Ibaraki Police:  1) Japanese law requires every foreign guest to present their passport (no:  every foreign tourist without an address in Japan); 2) the requirement of photocopying (which is stated nowhere in the law), and 3) their citation of the Hotel Business Law, which states none of this.]

It was Sunday and all public offices were closed, so I cancelled my bus reservation by paying cancellation fee and stayed one more day in Mito, which cost me lots of money. In Monday morning, I went to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), because when I had called the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry to learn more about the law, they had told me to inform the Public Health Department of the city in case a problem occurs in a hotel.

The officers at Public Health Department were very helpful. They said that as I have an address in Japan, I do not have to present my ID to the hotel. I showed them the poster of the police department. The officers were very surprised. They said that they have never seen this poster before and also the police did not contact the Public Health Department regarding the poster. They said that the explanation in the poster is clearly different from the real law, especially the English translation which says “every foreign guest”. They commented that the police is becoming more and more strict since last year because the G7 Summit and Tokyo Olympics are approaching. Finally, they said that they will check the hotel and inform me about the result.

As a final step, I went to the Mito City Police Department. I said I want to learn more about their poster. Two police officers from the security division came. I told them the incident at the hotel and informed them about the result of my call to Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry and my visit to Public Health Department regarding the law. They listened without making any comments. I showed them the official announcement of the ministry at https://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/content/000062471.pdf and said that their poster is clearly different. They took notes like the number of the law as if they are not aware of the law and they read the announcement of the ministry. They asked questions like “Do the other hotels in other parts of Japan ask your ID card? Isn’t checking the ID card necessary to confirm that a foreigner really has an address in Japan?” I answered their questions and asked them to contact the ministry for detailed information. I said I called the ministry, so I can give the phone number of the ministry if they want. They said it is not necessary. Finally, I said please fix your poster. They said they will check the law and behave accordingly.

In the afternoon, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again. Finally, they thanked me for informing them about this problem.

[REQUEST FROM DEBITO:  Any readers near or in Mito who can drop by a hotel and take a picture of the new notice for us?  Thanks.]

In short, if you ever encounter such a problem with a hotel, go to the local Public Health Department (保健所). They were very helpful and quick. If the problem is due to the police (not a misunderstanding of the hotel management), do not hesitate to go to the police department.

Regards, Onur

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

COMMENT:  Ibaraki sure seems to have it in for foreigners.  Check out these past notices from their police forces:

From “Update: Ibaraki Police’s third new NJ-scare poster”
Debito.org, July 29th, 2009
http://www.debito.org/?p=3996

ibarakiposterjuly20092

From “Ibaraki Pref Police put up new and improved public posters portraying NJ as coastal invaders”
Debito.org, November 20th, 2008
http://www.debito.org/?p=2057

dsc00002

IbarakiNPAposter07.jpg

And how about these Debito.org entries?

Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article (UPDATED with news of another underreported NJ death)

Debito.org,  Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Nikkei: Another Japanese nabbed for being like a “suspicious foreigner” in Ibaraki. Adding it to the collection

Debito.org, Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Oh that’s right.  Ibaraki is home to a really mean foreign detention center:

AFP: Another hunger strike in Immigration Detention Center, this time in Ushiku, Ibaraki

Debito.org, Monday, May 24th, 2010

Japan Times on Ibaraki Detention Ctr hunger strikers: GOJ meeting because of UN visit?

Debito.org, Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Japan Times & Sano Hiromi on violence towards NJ detainees at Ibaraki Detention Center, hunger strike

Debito.org, Friday, March 12th, 2010

There’s also a mention of a death in detention in Ibaraki at that detention center, mentioned in the following Reuters expose.

Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged

Debito.org, Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Ibaraki Police have also notified the public about how “foreign crime groups” behave, courtesy of http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/kenkei/a01_safety/security/infra.html

NPA “Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures” campaign also targets “foreign crime” anew. Justifies more anonymous anti-NJ signs

Debito.org, Thursday, June 20th, 2013, which included the following racialized illustration:

hanzaiinfuraibarakijune2013

It would seem the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep in Ibaraki.  Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center in an area, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on “people who look suspicious” because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese).  Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people?  Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study.

Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work.  I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago.  Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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Tangent: Terrie Lloyd on why Abenomics is a “failure”: lack of essential structural reforms

mytest

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(If you’re looking for an April Fools entry on Debito.org, check out this one from six years ago.)

Hi Blog. Terrie Lloyd offers his perspective on why Abenomics is faltering: Pandering (as the LDP has always done) to special interests, and ignoring the necessary structural reforms (including, he rightfully mentions, a proper immigration policy). Although talking about economies and effective economic policy is a very inexact science, this article is good food for thought and rings true, especially the conclusion about the incentives towards military adventurism. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

* * * * * * * * TERRIE’S TAKE – BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan. (http://www.terrielloyd.com)

General Edition Sunday, March 20, 2016, Issue No. 843

– What’s New — How the Failure of Abenomics Leads to the Record Sales of Safes

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at: http://mailman.japaninc.com/mailman/listinfo/terrie

BACK ISSUES
http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take, or, http://mailman.japaninc.com/pipermail/terrie/

+++ WHAT’S NEW

After a strong start last year, the ruling LDP government seemed genuinely perplexed when at the end of the year the nation’s annual Real GDP was found to be just 0.5% and for the last quarter a problematic -0.3%. The government’s leadership continue have their collective heads buried in the sand by blaming an unusually warm winter and other external factors for the anemic performance. You kind of feel sorry for them. After all, they have done everything by the textbook (well, the Keynesian textbook, anyway), by expanding the nation’s money supply aggressively, and by implementing various stimulus packages.

But unfortunately Mr. Abe’s crew seem to have forgotten one small thing, they need the public to respond to their pump-priming (the whole point of Keynesian policies), and this means being seen to be making real regulatory reforms for the future, not just recirculating cash among vested interests. Abe needs to make good on his promised third arrow – slashing business regulations and encouraging innovation, liberalizing the labor market, getting tough with the agricultural sector, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing workforce diversity through immigration and improved support of working mothers.

But instead the reverse is happening. For example, if you look at the 2015 statistics for Japan, the allocation of funds for development/promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), the drivers of employment and economic growth in any country, fell from JPY825bn in 2012 to just JPY186bn last year. At the same time, the government spent JPY1.042trn (six times as much) on “stable food supply”, a code for rice farmer subsidies. In other words, it’s business for the vested interests as usual.

And now with the Bank of Japan moving to impose negative interest rates on retail banks so as to force them to start investing their cash instead of parking it, we can all see that the Bank of Japan’s policy makers are running out of ammunition. This means that Abe’s politicians either need to do their share of heavy lifting by implementing reforms or the economy will be pretty much driven by external influences. Right now, those influences are driving the yen back to 100 to the US dollar, and will undo any of the benefits achieved over the last 3 years.

For the rest of us, this means that sectors that have been enjoying increased business because of the cheap yen will see a reversal of fortunes, including the exports, international recruiting, inbound tourism, and banking/investment (i.e., a slow down in the repatriation of overseas earnings by Japan-based parent companies). At least overseas trips and food imports will get cheaper, though… 😉

The media is full of articles speculating as to why Abenomics is not working, and certainly international pressures are one cause. But we don’t think they are the root cause. For that, you need to look at WHY the Japanese public and its corporations are so reluctant to take a risk and spend some of their hoarded cash. Our take is that the malaise is caused by one simple thing: a lack of trust in the government and its policies.

Without trust that there will be innovation and growth, the leadership of big companies see their current record earnings as temporary and don’t want to share them with employees. The employees themselves hold off on spending, thus strangling the birthrate, car ownership, stock market shares, travel, and advanced education. As an end-game the public starts pulling cash out of the system and stashes it literally under the mattress or in safes at home.

This is no joke and the situation is prompting all kinds of abnormal (but perfectly logical) behavior by the public. For example, there has been a surge in cash hoardings, with an extra 6.2% ten thousand yen bills going into circulation last year, the highest jump in demand since 2002. This means that there is now totally about JPY100trn (US$890bn) of cash in circulation, around 20% of the total economy. And to hold all that cash, there has also been a run on home safes, with sales soaring 60% to 70% above last year.

It’s ironic that even as consumers distrust the government, they still trust it to honor the bills it issues.

Well, not everyone trusts the government to honor its paper and as the Japanese are generally well educated there is a growing segment of the community that is starting to buy gold. The price of gold bars has risen to JPY5,027/gram and demand in 2015 was up a whopping 70%, from 17.9 metric tons in 2014 to 32.8 tons in 2015. This makes Japan the seventh largest consumer of gold in Asia, even though as a nation they don’t really have a recent gold culture like the Chinese and Indians do. At this rate, Japanese consumers will spend about JPY300bn in 2016 just on gold.

So what is the government to do with this seemingly intractable situation? There are really only two ways forward for Abe’s government: either confront their personal demons and attack and reform vested interests while funding SMEs who are the real growth engines for the country, OR, devalue all that cash hidden under mattresses through more inflationary policies and distract the public’s attention with a little military adventure.

And what better than a little military adventure against the Chinese bogeyman through a SE Asian proxy such as the Philippines?

ENDS

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

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Onur on continued racial profiling at Japanese hotel check-ins: Discrimination is even coin-operated!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Another letter below from a Debito.org Reader talking about how Japanese hotels are continuing to racially profile their customers at the behest of the police, and in a way actually against the law. More on this here. Reprinted with permission of the author.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

//////////////////////////////////////
March 3, 2016
Hello Dr. Debito,

I am a foreigner living in Japan. Your “WHAT TO DO IF” page has a column about “…you are asked for your passport number at a hotel, despite having an address in Japan.” and “…you are refused service at a hotel.”, which is very informative. I would like to share my experience.

I travel often, so I stay in many business hotels in Japan. Not all but many of them caused many problems due to the passport copy rule. Of course I carry only my residence card, not my passport. In the past I used to allow them when the hotel wants to copy my residence card. I remember that a hotel in Asakusa ward of Tokyo even asked me to copy my residence card by myself! The woman at the reception pointed the coin operated photocopier in the hall and told me to copy my residence card and bring it to the reception. I said it is coin operated, not free and she said pay the money to the machine. I paid the money, copied my residence card by myself and gave the copy to the reception. Even though it was hotel’s photocopier, they did not pay the money back!

Later I learned that as I have an address in Japan, hotels do not have the authority to ask my residence card and started to reject them when they asked to copy it. Still I was showing the card when they asked. Two years ago I had a bad experience at Inuyama Central Hotel in Aichi Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form, but two old male receptionists asked my passport. As I don’t carry it, I showed them my residence card and my address on it. They wanted to copy it, but I said no. They said that they must copy my residence card according to the law of Japan. I said copying is not necessary and they did not allow me to check-in! We had a long argument, but they refused me service. I was extremely tired and exhausted, it was late at night and it would be hard to find a place stay at that time, so I decided to resolve it the next day and allowed them to copy my residence card.

The next day I checked out and tried to find some help. Unfortunately it was Sunday and public offices were closed. I went to the the police center but they were not knowledgeable about the law. Then I went to the local Tourism Association. They called the hotel but the hotel said they are sure that the IDs of all foreigners must be copied. The association called other hotels to confirm and other hotels said that that law applies only to the tourists.

The association called again the Inuyama Central Hotel to inform, but the hotel said that they also checked it and learned that only the passports of tourists must be copied! I said I want to get the copy of my residence card back and went to the hotel. In the hotel I saw only a young female receptionist. She gave the copy and just said sorry (moushiwakegozaimasen). I said “I lost half a day and had many problems because of your hotel’s fault and is that all you say?”. She said moushiwakegozaimasen only and got rid of me. You can read my review and their reply on Rakuten travel at
http://review.travel.rakuten.co.jp/hotel/voice/108717/10869996?f_time=&f_keyword=&f_age=0&f_sex=0&f_mem1=0&f_mem2=0&f_mem3=0&f_mem4=0&f_mem5=0&f_cat1=1&f_cat3=1&f_teikei=&f_static=1&f_point=1&f_sort=0&f_next=0&f_offset=1

This problem is widespread in Japan, not limited hotels in the rural places, which are not familiar with foreign guests. Even Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku in Tokyo, which is a big hotel full of foreigner guests wanted to copy my residence card. My review is at
http://review.travel.rakuten.co.jp/hotel/voice/1026/11413873?f_time=&f_keyword=&f_age=0&f_sex=0&f_mem1=0&f_mem2=0&f_mem3=0&f_mem4=0&f_mem5=0&f_cat1=1&f_cat3=1&f_teikei=&f_static=1&f_point=1&f_sort=0&f_next=0&f_offset=4

Later I called the department related to the hotel law at Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) by phone 03-5253-1111(ext: 2437)and asked the law. They said “The foreigners living and having an address in Japan do not have to show their ID to hotels. It is enough to write the address in Japan to the guest registration form. If the guest is living in Japan, the hotels do not have to copy IDs, or ask to see the IDs or check whether the address written to the guest registration form is correct”.

It seems like copying IDs of all foreigners is being enforced by the police. Recently I reviewed another hotel which asked to copy my residence card and as a reply they said that copying the residence cards is requested by the police. My review and their reply is on the page http://review.travel.rakuten.co.jp/hotel/voice/15873/13252581?f_time=&f_keyword=&f_age=0&f_sex=0&f_mem1=0&f_mem2=0&f_mem3=0&f_mem4=0&f_mem5=0&f_cat1=1&f_cat3=1&f_teikei=&f_static=1&f_point=1&f_sort=0&f_next=0&f_offset=1

I did a search on the Internet and saw that a Zainichi Korean had the same problem at Yonaga City in Tottori Prefecture and called the police station to clarify the rules. It is written in detail on the page http://blog.goo.ne.jp/gekkan-io/e/01e22b16aecd84285992755fc96f46b4. In short, the police accepted that they are forcing the hotels to check and copy the IDs of all foreigners! Police is even asking the hotel to call the police if a foreigner does not show his ID! At the same time they say that showing the ID is voluntary and a foreigner has the right to refuse showing it. A big dilemma!

Arguing with the hotels on this residence card check and copying is very annoying. Refusing to allow copying the card may not be enough as the hotel may continue asking it to other foreigners. Recently, when I stay in a hotel that asked to copy residence card, I am writing a review on Rakuten hoping that the hotel and checks and learns the real law. I also give a low rating to those hotels in the review. Average rating in on-line reservation sites is somewhat important in Japan, so probably many hotels would take it into account. If many foreigners people do the same thing, more hotels may abide the law.

Regards, Onur

Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let’s revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post:

Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: ironies of different Japanese and English versions (Debito.org, July 16, 2012).

Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not).  It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it.  But not everyone, as Roger exposes below.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

DISCLAIMER appended March 12, 2016 JST:  Debito.org has given this issue space because 1) one of our missions is to provide a voice to underrepresented views, 2) we have reported in the past that having two different versions of the Fukushima Report based on language was odd, and 3) Roger has made his claims under his name and is thus taking responsibility for the contents.  The reportage culture of the FCCJ is also coming under scrutiny in this post, and as a former member of the FCCJ myself I have been a target of bullying and censorship, so it is possible there may be a “there” there in this case.  That said, the views below are Roger’s, and not necessarily those of Debito.org as a whole.  Moreover, again, Roger has put his name to his views to take responsibility, and those who do not comment under their actual names will not have their comments approved IF they direct their criticisms at people by name.  Thus commenters’ names and their claims will be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the names they mention.  (That means in the comments section, “War Dog” has had his posts edited or deleted for engaging in personal attacks.)

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
March 8, 2016
Dear Debito,

I don’t think we’ve met, but I am aware of who you are because I authorized an invitation for you to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan between 2000 and 2005.

I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn’s former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report.

More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa’s introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course.

I pitched my article to the press club’s Board of Directors. No response. So now I’m doing it the old-fashioned way – contacting everyone who erroneously reported individually.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.

Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.

It was an invention.

Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.”

In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture.

It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).

I have reported this matter to the Board of Directors of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan because the consultant, a former speechwriter for Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, was working as publisher and editor of the club’s magazine at the time of the news conference; in fact, on the day of the news conference.

It may be true that Japanese culture is to blame for the Fukushima disaster. But it isn’t what the commission concluded and submitted formally (in Japanese) to the Diet on July 5, 2012.

Attached are records showing the commission’s hiring and financial relationship with the consultant (click on links to pdf files):
1. Attachments for report

2. Kurokawa statements in Fukushima commission report

3. media outlets fukushima

4. Attachment 1..

I have downplayed the FCCJ’s involvement because it is my hope that the club’s Board of Directors will address this matter in an open and transparent way. Unfortunately, the current BOD is under attack because they settled three litigations last December (two by staff and one by members) over the firing of 50 employees.

I proposed an article to the club’s magazine in August 2013 in which I summarized evidence that had been submitted to the courts. I was refused. But had the magazine published my article, there is a good chance that the lawsuits could have been settled then, saving the club nearly ¥25 million in legal fees. That’s nearly $200,000.

This time again, I have asked for space in the magazine. No response.

If you read the club’s notice, you won’t find a single reference to the fact that Kurokawa hired a club fiduciary to help alter an official, taxpayer-funded report. Or that there was controversy over the translation.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/events-calendar/press-events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/03/10/3955/-/press-conference-kiyoshi-kurokawa-author-of-capture-of-regulatory.html

Mure Dickie of the Financial Times is the only reporter who reported the translation discrepancies on the day of the FCCJ news conference: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/94fba34a-c8ee-11e1-a768-00144feabdc0.html

Dickie, of course, didn’t know that these weren’t ‘translation’ mistakes.

It is not uncommon for newsmakers to hire PR consultants to help with their messaging. What is uncommon – and almost without precedent – is for the consultant to be an editor of a publication that has an interest in the news event in question – and that publishes a report about that event.

As you are aware, Asahi Shimbun took a brutal beating for altering the testimony of the late Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager.

How is this different?

Kurokawa signed off on the rewrite; it wasn’t a translation. But the commission didn’t approve. I contacted the commission two weeks after the news conference. They said: “Refer to the Japanese, the official.”

The club’s magazine was founded by two AP legends – Max Desfor (pictured on the lobby wall with his Pulitzer Prize winning Korean War photograph) and John Roderick (pictured with Mao Zedong).

I shudder to think of what they would say if they knew that the magazine was now in the hands of a PR specialist and a one-time tabloid magazine editor who, by extension, now decide what constitutes ‘news’.

For your reference: I am a 30-year veteran journalist, have never worked for a major news organization though did plenty of freelance work. I also served as FCCJ president (once), vice president (twice) and BOD director (twice). I chaired the club’s speaker program for five years and signed off on 800 press luncheons including the last sitting Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, on Sept. 14, 2001.

Sincerely, Roger Schreffler, Providence RI & Tokyo

ENDS

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

FCCJ Writeup on Kurokawa Kiyoshi Presser on March 10, 2016:

Thursday, March 10, 2016, 12:00 – 13:00

5th Anniversary Series for 3.11 Disaster 

FCCJKurokawaKiyoshi031016
Kiyoshi Kurokawa
Author of “Regulatory Capture”
Language: The speech and Q & A will be in English.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/events-calendar/press-events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/03/10/3955/-/press-conference-kiyoshi-kurokawa-author-of-capture-of-regulatory.html

 Five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is in the process of restarting more reactors and has made some progress in the cleanup and decommissioning of the wrecked plant. Meanwhile, there are still some 100,000 evacuees from around the Fukushima site.

 A new independent nuclear watchdog has also been set up along with new regulations prompted by Fukushima. But the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is under pressure from politicians and utilities to process restart applications more quickly and to be less strict on seismic issues and other matters. Equally important are the questions as to what lessons plant operators have learned from the unprecedented triple meltdown. Recent problems with restarts and disclosure by the utilities, among other issues, aren’t reassuring.

 At this critical juncture, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the former chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, will come to the Club to talk about his new book “Regulatory Capture,” and answer questions about what has happened since the Fukushima accident. In the introduction to his 2012 Diet report, Kurokawa was scathing in his criticism of regulators and utilities, saying, “It was a profoundly man‐made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

 In his new book, in addition to describing the set up of the commission and its investigation of the Fukushima accident, he talks about Japan not learning the necessary lessons from it and applying them to prevent accidents in the future.”

 “If there are major accidents or problems in areas other than nuclear power, Japan will make the same mistakes again, become isolated and lose the trust of the international community. The Fukushima nuclear accident is not over yet. Japan must seize the opportunity to change itself, or else its future will be in danger,” he says.

 Dr. Kurokawa, MD and MACP, is an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, chairman of the Health and Global Policy Institute, chairman of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or on the website (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.

Professional Activities Committee

ENDS

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

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER: 

Debito,

As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurokawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world.

Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, available on the FCCJ website for members only.  Here’s an audio file of the question (an excerpt from minute 34 on the recording, for 3:26, in WMA format. Kurokawa press conference and .mp3 format:

where he now blames other factors on the outcome, such as a lack of time, him summarizing his own personal opinion for the report, and the lack of concision in the Japanese language.] 

Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.

Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?

The Associated Press followed up with a question about the translation team. Kurokawa mentioned an acquaintance of his, Sakon Uda, who was ‘managing director’ of the project and currently works for Keniichi Ohmae at Ohmae’s graduate school of business.

I don’t know if the AP will follow up. But the AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012.

The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.

Following is the translation of the official Japanese introduction. Kurokawa talks about ‘mindset’ (思いこみ and マインドセット) but not ‘culture’.

Best, Roger Schreffler

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

Preface of Kurokawa Kiyoshi’s Statements (from the full text)

THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT IS NOT OVER.

This large-scale accident will forever remain part of the world’s history of nuclear power. The world was astounded at the fact that such an accident could occur in Japan, a scientifically and technologically advanced country. Caught in the focus of the world’s attention, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) revealed, in their response to the disaster, some fundamental problems underlying Japanese society.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was the third nuclear power plant to start commercial operation in Japan. Japan began to study the commercial use of nuclear power in the 1950s. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, nuclear power generation became part of Japan’s national policy, unifying the political, bureaucratic, and business circles into one entity promoting its use.

Nuclear power is not only the most incredibly powerful energy ever acquired by the human race, but a colossally complicated system that requires extremely-high levels of expertise as well as operational and management competence. Advanced countries have learned lessons through experience and from many tragic events, including the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. Authorities in charge of the world’s nuclear power have maintained a basic stance of protecting people and the environment from all sorts of accidents and disasters, while nuclear operators have evolved in sustaining and enhancing the safety of equipment and operations.

Japan has itself dealt with a number of nuclear power plant accidents, small and large. Most of these were responded to, but without sufficient transparency; sometimes they were concealed by the organizations concerned. The government, together with TEPCO, the largest of the country’s ten utilities, promoted nuclear power by advocating its use as a safe energy source, while maintaining that accidents could not occur in Japan.

Consequently, the Japanese nuclear power plants were to face the March 11 earthquake totally unprepared.

Why did this accident, which should have been foreseeable, actually occur? The answer to this question dates to the time of Japan’s high economic growth. As Japan pushed nuclear power generation as national policy with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination, an intricate form of “Regulatory Capture” was created.

The factors that contributed to this include: the political dominance by a single party for nearly half a century; the distinct organizational structure of both the bureaucratic and business sectors, characterized by the hiring of new university graduates as a group; the seniority-based promotion system; the lifetime employment system; and the “mindset” of the Japanese people that took these for granted. As the economy developed, Japan’s “self- confidence” started to develop into “arrogance and conceit.”

The “single-track elites”—who make their way to the top of their organization according to the year of their entry into the company or the ministry—pursued the critical mission of abiding by precedent and defending the interests of their organization. They assigned a higher priority to this mission over that of protecting the lives of the people. Hence, while being aware of the global trends in safety control, Japan buried its head in the sand and put off implementing necessary safety measures.

We do not question the exceptional challenge entailed in the response to the vast scale of the disaster created by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident on March 11, 2012. Furthermore, we understand that the accident occurred a mere eighteen months after the historical change in power, the birth of a new (non-Liberal Democratic Party) government for the first time in some fifty years.

Were the government, regulators and the operator prepared to respond to a severe nuclear accident? Did they truly understand the weight of responsibility they bore in their respective positions? And were they fully committed to fulfill those responsibilities? To the contrary, they showed questionable risk management capabilities by repeatedly saying that circumstances were “beyond assumptions” and “not confirmed yet.” This attitude actually exacerbated the damage that eventually impacted not only Japan, but the world at large. Undeniably, this accident was a “manmade disaster” that stemmed from the lack of a sense of responsibility in protecting the lives of the people and the society by present and past government administrations, regulators and TEPCO.

Nine months after this massive accident, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission was established by a unanimous resolution of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors of the National Diet, which represent the people of Japan. It is the first investigation commission in Japan’s history of constitutional government, and is independent both from the government and from the operator, as set up under the National Diet of Japan.

To investigate what was at the center of this accident, we could not but touch upon the root of the problems of the former regulators and their relationship structure with the operators. The Commission chose three keywords as the bases of our investigative activities: the people, the future and the world. We defined our mission with phrases such as “conducting an investigation on the accident by the people for the people,” and “to submit recommendations for the future based on the lessons learned from the mistakes,” and “to investigate from the standpoint of Japan’s status as a member of international society (Japan’s responsibility to the world.)” This report is the fruit of six months of investigative activities carried through with a few constraints.

About a century ago, Kanichi Aasakawa, a great historian born and raised in Fukushima, blew the whistle in a book titled Nihon no kaki (“Crisis for Japan”). It was a wake-up call concerning the state model of Japan after the victory in the Japanese-Russo War. In his book, he accurately predicted the path that Japan, with its “inability to change,” would take after the war’s end.

How now will Japan deal with the aftermath of this catastrophe, which occurred as a result of Japan’s “inability to change”? And how will the country, in fact, change subsequently? The world is closely watching Japan, and we, the Japanese people, must not throw this experience away. It is an opportunity, in turn, to drastically reform the government that failed to protect the livelihood of its people, the nuclear organizations, the social structure, and the “mindset” of the Japanese—thereby regaining confidence in the country. We hope this report serves as the first step for all Japanese to evaluate and transform ourselves in terms of the state model that Japan should pursue.

Last but not least, I strongly hope from the bottom of my heart that the people of Fukushima—particularly the children upon whose shoulders rest the future of Japan—will be able to resume their lives of peace as soon as possible. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the people all over of the world who extended their warm assistance and encouragement in the wake of this devastating accident. My sincere thanks also go to the many people who kindly cooperated and supported our investigation, the members of the Diet who unswervingly strove to make this National Diet’s investigation commission a reality, and all the staff of the commission office for their many days and nights of work.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa
ENDS

ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools (plus an aside on odd Japan Times editorial bias)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This post deals with Government-sponsored slave wages (or worse) for NJ educators within the Japanese public school system through the cost-cutting “Assistant Language Teachers” (ALTs) “outsourcing” system–a backdoor way for local governments to get cheaper JETs than having to go through the national government’s JET Programme (where wages and work conditions are more fixed at a higher standard).  The cost-cutting for the ALTs has gotten to the point (inevitably) where the ALTs are no longer being paid a living wage.  Here’s the math, courtesy of the Fukuoka General Union:


Courtesy of Fukuoka General Union and Chris Flynn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G95K0vjB3A
Caption: Uploaded on Feb 10, 2016
This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food and nothing else. They just can’t survive on this low wage.
北九州市の市立中学校で働く派遣の語学指導助手の給料の実態。可処分収入は月3万円、­それはすべて食費に使うと1日1000円ぐらい。フルタイムの先生なのに貧困層。現実­です。

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

As further background to the ALT issue, here is a Japan Times Letter to the Editor by Chris Clancy:

Purging the nation of racism
The Japan Times JAN 30, 2016
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/01/30/reader-mail/purging-nation-racism/

Chulbom Lee, in his Letter to the Editor in the Jan. 17 issue titled “Move forward by protecting foreign residents,” reminds readers that not even two years ago the U.N. Committee of Racial Discrimination called on Japan to take action against incidents of racism that continue to plague the country. Lee insinuates that increased legal protection against harassment or job discrimination for Japan’s foreign residents would prove the nation is not still steeped in past militaristic nationalism.

One could make a case for the continuing plight of the assistant language teacher (ALT). Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal — is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs. How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.

The fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously — ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made — is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.

Time is past due for Japanese government at all levels to take a stand for tax-paying foreign nationals! We can only hope that such monkey business will not last too far into the new year.

CHRIS CLANCY
NAGANO
////////////////////////////////////////////////////

As an interesting aside, Chris Clancy kindly sent me the original letter he submitted to the editor.  Note what it originally sourced:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////
ORIGINAL TEXT FOLLOWS, COURTESY OF CHRIS CLANCY:

Arudou Debito gives a fair assessment of the good, the bad and impeded progress regarding human rights issues in Japan in his most recent “Just Be Cause” column (“Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015,” January 3). One issue he could also have included is the continuing plight of the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT).

Team teaching in which ALTs assist Japanese teachers of English (JTE) in classrooms for the betterment of students’ communicative abilities was introduced in Japan some 30 years ago. The progress that has been made over that time — however minimal – is a direct result of the individual efforts of countless foreign ALTs. How is this success rewarded? Those ALTs fortunate enough to be either participants of the Japan Exchange Programme (JET) or directly hired by educational offices earn similar standards of remuneration and remain employed under virtually the same limited term contract stipulations as their predecessors. Those staffed by outside agencies contracted by the education offices are even worse off. The government has in effect created a transient population of anonymous, expendable individuals that reeks of slavery.

Arudou-san points out that Japan did sign the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination in December 1995, but the fact that ALTs are all non-Japanese makes the discriminatory practice racial. Any governmental administer who fails to take this matter seriously – ignoring the issue altogether or claiming budgetary constraints as a reason improvements cannot be made – is guilty of perpetuating racial discrimination. How is this crime punished? Bonuses twice a year and annual salary increases for perpetrators.

We can only hope that such monkey business will not continue too far into the new year. Perhaps improved conditions for foreign educators will be one of the positive stories in Arudou-san’s top 10 for 2016.

Chris Clancy, MSEd (educator, USA)
////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Receiving no response, and wanting to make sure that this issue got the exposure it deserved, Chris submitted two more versions of this letter to the JT editors (I reproduce the one above with his permission).  Editors took the one that avoided sourcing my article.

So it’s interesting how certain elements within the Japan Times are that unfriendly. Not only do they sometimes not put up links to my columns on the Japan Times Facebook feed when they come out (is avoiding increasing their readership something they’re professionally entitled to do?), they’ve also refused to review my book “Embedded Racism“, claiming that they don’t review individual monographs anymore. Except when they’re 20-year-old monographs by Alex Kerr (last January). Or “Essential Reading for Japanophiles” [sic].  Odd bias, that. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JT on corporate threats to student activists’ futures (SEALDs in particular); this is probably why they suddenly turned craven

mytest

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Hi Blog. One particular topic Debito.org has not touched upon enough is activism in general by liberal-minded students, in particular the group attracting much attention called Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). I have only mentioned them here and in my year-end round up of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues for 2015 for the Japan Times (I placed them at #6), where I wrote:

=======================================
“On the other hand, the most high-profile youth group against the Abe Cabinet’s right-wing push (and darling of the international media), the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), decided to flame out with flair. At an news conference in October at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, SEALDs leaders announced that with their impending graduation from college, they wouldn’t just be stepping down in 2016 as organizers — they would disband the group without a transition to a younger generation.

“Coming off as more concerned with their own short-term individual interests than the larger movements within Japanese society, SEALDs seemed to show that even Japan’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and appealing young activists (which matters, as this year the voting age will drop from 20 to 18) are nonetheless intimidated by power, and treat human rights advocacy as a temporary hobby.”
=======================================

While I am not changing my position regarding the cravenness of SEALDs organizers, let’s be fair. They have been overtly threatened by authority. Check out this article from last August. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////
Should SEALDs student activists worry about not getting hired?
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI
THE JAPAN TIMES, AUG 30, 2015

Summer 2015 — 70 years since Japan’s defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition have rammed two security bills through the Lower House that overturn decades of interpretation of the Constitution by enabling Japan to engage in collective self-defense. Now he hopes to do the same in the Upper House.

Opposition to the government’s aggressive push to loosen restrictions on the use of military force is being heard from many corners. The beacon for students opposing the bills has been the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs. Under the slogan of protecting “freedom, peace and democracy,” these students have loudly voiced their opposition to the government’s push for militarization at protests around the country.

SEALDs have put paid to two tired tropes that have been regularly trotted out over the years about Japan’s students: first, that they have no interest in politics, and second, that student social movements here are a thing of the past. Inspired by SEALDs, even high schoolers and mothers who had never before engaged in social activism have taken to the streets to demand that our country commit to never again waging war, and that our youths are never asked to kill those of other countries. Jumping on the bandwagon have been the elderly, under the collective banner of OLDs, and even the middle-aged, or MIDDLEs.

This resolute, relentless movement has already begun to have a clear impact on our society. The recent drop in support for the Abe government is at least in part a result of grass-roots movements such as SEALDs. One Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House tweeted: “SEALDs members just don’t want to go off to war, i.e., their actions are based on extreme selfishness.”

But if these youths were only thinking of themselves, would they really be engaged in a collective social movement like SEALDs? Also, the idea that not wanting to go off to war is “selfish” is itself a serious attack on individual thought and freedom of conscience. It reminds me of the totalitarianism that prevailed before the war, and I was shocked to hear a modern-day politician utter such a comment. I assumed he must be some old fogey, so when I discovered it was 36-year-old Takaya Muto, I was flabbergasted.

The fact that a lawmaker would use such extremist language perhaps offers some insight into the extent of panic within the LDP at SEALDs’ growing strength. The comment caused quite a stir. That and some alleged financial shenanigans led to Muto’s resignation from the LDP on Aug. 19.

For politicians chomping at the bit to deploy Japan’s forces overseas, SEALDs are apparently quite an irritant. An independent member of the Yukuhashi city assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture also stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he riffed on a comment by one SEALDs member that “we tremble at the thought of going to war.” Shinya Kotsubo parodied it on his blog on July 26, titling his article “SEALDs members should tremble at the thought that they’ll never get a job.” He explained further, writing, “You are demonstrating now while you’re students, so don’t come crying when no one will hire you later on.”

“When companies scout for students,” he elaborated, “they look at the name of the university. They don’t look at the students themselves. All the power lies in the side that selects. … Since the corporation is the one that selects, everything must follow the company’s rules and interests. This is reality.

“To give a specific example, say a sports club becomes involved in a rape scandal. The university’s reputation is damaged and it affects all students. The rapists’ reputations are of course damaged, but the university is also seen as ‘that kind of university.’ The fellow students who were unable to prevent such a scandal become tainted as people who would be likewise unable or unwilling to protect the reputation of the company. So there would be no reason to hire such a student.

“The university’s reputation was not built by the current student body. Since it was not acquired by current students, they have no right to protest. … This reputation was a gift given to current students from their seniors who have already graduated and gone out into the world, making a name for the university. If they damage the reputation of the university to which they belong, it’s obvious how things are going to play out. We should do everything possible to eliminate the risk of this. A corporation should not be asked to shoulder such a risk to its reputation.

“Careers begin with an offer from a corporation, but it’s already too late for that. The result is that they will all be shot down. Some students are at prestigious schools such as Waseda or Keio University. These students are probably OK since many famous politicians, police and bureaucrats are from there. Selection takes precedence in all cases, so the impact on these students will only be slight. However, students at universities with little power, history or tradition won’t be so lucky. They will not be selected and as a result, all will be eliminated. I have even heard of cases where the professors join the demos and egg on their students.”

To sum up, Kotsubo says: 1) Corporations have all the power over whether to hire; 2) when hiring, corporations place great weight on the reputation of an applicant’s university and don’t really look at the students themselves; 3) if the university’s brand name is hurt, all students attending that university lose credibility; 4) students engaged in social movements are damaging the brand value of their universities; 5) the risk for students at prestigious colleges like Waseda and Keio is slight, but students at less prestigious schools are a write-off (i.e., They will never get a job); and 6) I am saying all this for the benefit of students, but the most guilty are the professors who encourage students to protest without warning them of the risks.

Let’s examine Kotsubo’s rant from the perspective of labor law…

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/30/issues/sealds-student-activists-worry-not-getting-hired/

JT: Sakanaka argues success of ‘Abenomics’ hinges on immigration policy (old article from May 2014; not much has changed)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s an article that is about a year and a half old, but it’s remarkable how much the landscape of the debate on immigration into Japan has not changed since.  We have immigration proponent Sakanaka Hidenori (of whom I am a fan:  I cite him extensively in book “Embedded Racism“, and deal with the arguments below in Ch. 10) meeting with people who are only concerned about money, and arguing that immigration is also important for them to keep their fix.  Meanwhile, from a political standpoint, it is clear in the article below that Abe and his power elite aren’t really going to budge on the issue either:  To them, foreign residents are merely temporary workers, who should come here and contribute but not expect a stake in their investments into this society.  Not really news, I guess, but the issue is laid out so nakedly clear here, especially in the last half of the article.  Have a read.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Success of ‘Abenomics’ hinges on immigration policy
BY REIJI YESHIVA, THE JAPAN TIMES MAY 18, 2014
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/18/national/success-abenomics-hinges-immigration-policy/

In March, Hidenori Sakanaka, a former director of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, was contacted by — and met with — a group of people he had never dreamed of crossing paths with: asset managers from global investment firms.

Sakanaka, who now heads the Japan Immigration Policy Institute in Tokyo, was asked to explain Japan’s notoriously tight immigration policies and his proposal to drastically ease them to save Japan from the severe consequences of its rapidly aging and shrinking population.

Sakanaka said the asset managers showed strong interest in a remark made the previous month by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and that they were wondering if they should buy Japanese assets, such as stocks and real estate.

In February, Abe indicated he is considering easing Japan’s immigration policies to accept more migrant workers to drive long-term economic growth.

The asset managers reportedly included representatives from investment giants BlackRock Inc. and Capital Group.

“Global investors have a consistent policy of not investing in a country with a shrinking working and consumer population,” Sakanaka told The Japan Times.

“If the working population keeps shrinking, it will keep pushing down consumption and the country will be unable to maintain economic growth. In short, this means the growth strategies of ‘Abenomics’ can’t be successful without accepting immigrants,” Sakanaka said.

Abe is set to revamp in June the elusive “third arrow” of his economic program — structural reforms and subsidies that could boost Japan’s potential for mid- to long-term growth.

Whether drastic deregulation of immigration is part of the third arrow is something that both the public and the foreign investment firms want to know.

Japan’s population will dramatically shrink over the next five decades, from 117.52 million in 2012 to 87 million in 2060 — if the fertility rate doesn’t climb. The rate is expected to hover at 1.39 this year before dipping to 1.33 through 2024 and edging up to 1.35 for the foreseeable future.

Gross domestic product is expected to shrink accordingly, which could reduce the world’s third-largest economy to a minor player both economically and politically, many fear.

“Whether to accept (more) immigrants or not is an issue relevant to the future of our country and the overall life of the people. I understand that (the government) should study it from various angles after undergoing national-level discussions,” Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Feb. 13.

On May 12, members of a special government advisory panel on deregulation proposed creating six special regions where visa regulations would be eased to attract more foreign professionals and domestic helpers and baby sitters to assist them.

The daily Nikkei reported the government is likely to insert visa deregulation for certain types of foreigners in the Abenomics revamp due in June, but how many he is willing to let in remains unclear.

The conservative politician has so far appeared reluctant to promote heavy immigration and risk transforming Japan’s stable but rather rigid and exclusive society.

Abe has argued Japan should give more foreigners three- to five-year visas rather than let a massive number of immigrants permanently settle in Japan.

“What are immigrants? The U.S. is a country of immigrants who came from all around the world and formed the (United States). Many people have come to the country and become part of it. We won’t adopt a policy like that,” Abe said on a TV program aired April 20.

“On the other hand, it is definitely true that Japan’s population will keep shrinking and Japan will see a labor shortage in various production fields,” Abe said, adding he will consider easing regulations on issuing three- to five-year visas.

“It’s not an immigrant policy. We’d like them to work and raise incomes for a limited period of time, and then return home,” Abe said.

Among the core supporters of LDP lawmakers, including Abe himself, are nationalistic voters opposed to welcoming large numbers of unskilled foreign laborers, who are now barred from Japan. They fear that bringing in such people would increase the crime rate and deprive Japanese of job opportunities in the still-sluggish economy. This concern seems to be shared by a majority of Japanese. According to a poll by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun in April, while 74 percent of the 1,512 polled said they believe population decline will hurt Japan’s economy and contribute to its decline, 54 percent said they opposed bringing in more foreigners versus 37 percent who backed the idea.

Two high-ranking officials close to Abe, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said they are aware that foreign investors are interested in potential changes in Japanese immigration policy.

But their main interest appears to be to keep foreign investors interested in Japan, and trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, rather than transform Japan into a multicultural society by accepting more immigrants.

One of the two officials has repeatedly suggested he is paying close attention to foreign investors, pointing out that it is they, not Japanese investors, who have been pushing up stock prices since Abe took office in December 2012.

“We won’t call it an immigration policy, but I think we should accept more foreign workers,” the official said in February.

Hiking immigration is a sensitive issue for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, the official said. But the idea of using them to fill shortages in medical, nursing, child care, for example, would be more palatable to such politicians, the official added.

Abe’s call for more short- to midterm migrant workers might help the short-handed construction, medical and nursing industries, among others. But it is unlikely to solve Japan’s long-term population crisis.

Junichi Goto, professor of economics at Keio University and an expert on immigration issues, said few people are opposed to bringing in more foreign professionals to reinvigorate the economy and that deregulation is urgently needed.

When it comes to unskilled workers, however, Goto is opposed to flooding Japan with cheap labor and says that a national consensus on the issue hasn’t been formed yet.

According to Goto’s studies and simulations, bringing in low-wage, unskilled foreigners would benefit consumers by pushing down domestic labor costs and thus prices for goods and services, thereby boosting consumption. On the other hand, he says the cost of domestic education, medical and other public services would rise.

The benefits of bringing in foreigners will far outweigh the demerits, unless Japan ships them in by the millions, Goto’s study says.

“If the Japanese people wish to accept millions of foreign workers, that would be OK. But I don’t think they are ready for such a big social change yet,” Goto said.

Instead, Goto argued that Japan should first encourage more women and elderly to work to offset the predicted shrinkage. It should then ease regulations to lure foreign professionals rather than unskilled laborers, and reform the rigid seniority-based wage system to make it easier for midcareer foreigners to enter the labor market, Goto said.

At any rate, the rapid demographic changes now hitting Japan are unlikely to leave much time for the people to make a decision.

The proportion of seniors 65 or older will surge from 24 percent to as much as 39.9 percent in 2060, raising the burden on younger generations to support social security.

The Japan Policy Council, a study group of intellectuals from various fields, estimates that in 2040, 896 of Japan’s municipalities, or virtually half, will see the number of women in their 20s and 30s decline by more than half from 2010 as they flock to big cities.

Such municipalities “could eventually vanish” even if the birthrate recovers, the group warned in a report May 8.

Sakanaka praised Abe’s February remarks, saying it is a significant change from Japan’s long-standing reluctance to accept foreign workers.

But if Abe decides to open Japan only to short-term migrants, rather than permanent immigrants, Abenomics will end in failure, Sakanaka warned.
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 94 Annual Top Ten: “Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015”, Jan. 3, 2016

mytest

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Hi Blog. My latest Just Be Cause column 94 for the Japan Times Community Page:

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
Battles over history, the media and the message scar 2015
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 3, 2016

2015 was another year of a few steps forward but many steps back in terms of human rights in Japan. The progressive grass roots consolidated their base and found more of a voice in public, while conservatives at the top pressed on with their agenda of turning the clock back to a past they continue to misrepresent. Here are the top 10 human rights issues of the year as they affected non-Japanese residents:

10) NHK ruling swats ‘flyjin’ myth

In November, the Tokyo District Court ordered NHK to pay ¥5.14 million to staffer Emmanuelle Bodin, voiding the public broadcaster’s decision to terminate her contract for fleeing Japan in March 2011. The court stated: “Given the circumstances under which the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima No. 1 plant’s nuclear accident took place, it is absolutely impossible to criticize as irresponsible her decision to evacuate abroad to protect her life,” and that NHK “cannot contractually obligate people to show such excessive allegiance” to the company.

This ruling legally reaffirmed the right of employees to flee if they feel the need to protect themselves. So much for the “flyjin” myth and all the opprobrium heaped upon non-Japanese specifically for allegedly deserting their posts…

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/01/03/issues/battles-history-media-message-scar-2015/

JT: Anchorwoman who fled Japan during Fukushima crisis to get lost salary from NHK: So much for “Flyjin” myth.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something else that happened a few weeks ago that warrants mention on Debito.org, if only to show that NJ do sometimes get the justice they seek in Japanese courts (it only took nearly three years).  And given the text of the court decision itself, so much for the accusations made about NJ “Flyjin” deserting their posts.  Rubbish then, verifiably so now.  It was all just bullying, and in this case lying about the record by NHK in court (also known as perjury, but this being both Japan and NHK, nothing will come of it).  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Anchorwoman who fled Japan during Fukushima crisis to get lost salary from NHK
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, THE JAPAN TIMES, NOV 16, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/16/national/anchorwoman-fled-japan-fukushima-crisis-get-lost-salary-nhk/

The Tokyo District Court on Monday nullified a decision by NHK to end the contract of a French anchorwoman who temporarily fled Japan during the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011.

The ruling also declared that Emmanuelle Bodin’s decision to leave Japan in the face of the nation’s worst-ever nuclear crisis and prioritize her life over work did not represent professional negligence.

“Given the circumstances under which the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima No. 1 plant’s nuclear accident took place, it is absolutely impossible to criticize as irresponsible her decision to evacuate abroad to protect her life,” the ruling said.

Although lauding those who remained at work with the public broadcaster following the disasters, the court said NHK “cannot contractually obligate people to show such excessive allegiance” to the company.

Bodin’s attorneys said it is not clear how the ruling will affect similar cases, if any, that involve non-Japanese often labeled as “flyjin,” a play on the word gaijin (foreigner), who missed work because they fled the disaster.

“My pursuit of justice has finally been vindicated,” Bodin, 58, told a news conference in Tokyo.

“Today, we are reminded once again that it is the responsibility of a company, regardless of how powerful an organization it is, to take good care of its employees and treat them with fairness and compassion,” she said in Japanese.

The court ordered NHK to pay her ¥5.14 million in unpaid salary that she would have received had she been allowed to renew her contract for the following fiscal year.

Bodin, who worked as an anchor and translator for NHK radio programs for more than 20 years, fled Japan in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima crisis in accordance with an instruction issued by the French government to evacuate the country.

Prior to departing on March 15, 2011, Bodin asked her colleague, a veteran French anchorman in his 70s, to substitute for her while she was away to ensure her absence would cause no major trouble for the company.

She then called a superior in her radio news section notifying the person that she was temporarily leaving the country but would return by the end of the month and that she had arranged for her colleague to cover her shifts. The manager responded by giving approval, according to the ruling.

A week after that, NHK sent Bodin a letter notifying her that her contract would shortly be discontinued, providing no detailed explanations as to why.

The terse letter only reminded her of abstract provisions of her contract that stipulate employees can be sacked if “the circumstances demanded so” or if their work performance is deemed “so inadequate it has no sign of improvement.”

Over the course of the nearly three-year-long trial, NHK squarely contradicted Bodin’s claim, even going so far as to say that she did not call her French colleague in the first place, according to her lawyers. It also said Bodin’s call with her superior lasted just 20 to 30 seconds, and that in it she had “unilaterally” conveyed her intention to skip her anchoring duty scheduled for hours later and promptly hung up. The French colleague also testified in favor of NHK, claiming that he had received no such call from her.

However, her phone records, presented to the court by her lawyers, clearly showed she had spoken both to the colleague and her superior for more than five and two minutes, respectively, Bodin’s lawyers said.
ENDS

Mainichi: Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto spurns ‘half Japanese’ label, seeks end to prejudice. Good, but article in English only, not for Japanese-reading audience.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I am increasingly impressed by the resilience of Ms. Miyamoto, as she manages to keep her message on track:

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

Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto spurns ‘half Japanese’ label, seeks end to prejudice
November 15, 2015 (Mainichi Japan), Courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20151115p2a00m0na001000c.html

As Japan’s internationalization continues, the country’s representatives in competitions abroad are also becoming increasingly diverse. The 31-man roster of the national rugby team that so electrified Japan in the recent Rugby World Cup, for example, boasted no less than 10 players born outside the country. And then there is Ariana Miyamoto, who this year became the first mixed-race woman to be crowned Miss Universe Japan.

“There are foreigner athletes representing Japan, and then there’s also me,” Miyamoto, 21, told the Mainichi Shimbun in a recent interview. “I think Japanese society has changed a bit, but it still has a ways to go.” Miyamoto, the daughter of an African American father and Japanese mother, is set to represent Japan in the annual Miss Universe pageant on Dec. 20 this year.

Though she has become a positive symbol of Japan’s internationalization, when she was selected to represent Japan in the pageant, she was also the target of many Internet attacks that she “doesn’t look Japanese.”

Miyamoto was born and raised in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, where her father worked at a U.S. military base. As a child, she was bullied for her different appearance, and even had garbage thrown at her. She spent two hours every morning before going to school straightening her hair to try and look the same as her classmates.

“I hated the term ‘beautiful whiteness’ that was used so much in cosmetics commercials on TV, because you can’t really become white-skinned with makeup,” she recalled.

She began to break free of such painful feelings when she started playing volleyball in the third grade. She proved very good at the sport, and in junior high school she was invited to attend a school in the prefecture renowned for its volleyball team.

However, Miyamoto said she began to build real self-confidence when she went to the United States for high school. Her parents had divorced and her father had moved to Arkansas. Miyamoto moved in with him and went to the local high school, where she was complimented by classmates for her beautiful skin color. It was then that Miyamoto says she realized how diverse the world really is.

After returning home to Japan, Miyamoto worked a number of jobs including as a bartender. She also had a mixed-race friend who had grown up in similar circumstances to herself. Her friend, however, was deeply pained by being unable to fit in inside Japan — a sorrow that eventually drove the person to suicide.

“I want to end racial prejudice,” said Miyamoto, adding that this was her reason for auditioning to represent Japan at the Miss Universe pageant.

According to a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare demographic statistics, the number of international marriages in Japan began to rise from the mid-1980s, peaking in 2006 with 44,701 couples tying the trans-border knot. That made up 6.1 percent of all marriages, or one in 17. Currently, fewer unions between Japanese citizens and partners from Asia have pushed the ratio of international marriages down to about 3 percent of the total. Nevertheless, they are hardly uncommon in today’s Japan.

Meanwhile, the Japanese sports world is also looking more diverse, with Japan-born athletes like high school sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and baseball player (and recent Nippon Professional Baseball draftee) Louis Okoye making their mark.

“I don’t want to be summed up with the word ‘haafu’ (half),” said Miyamoto, referring to the Japanese colloquial term for those with one foreign parent. “It’s the same as saying they’re not really Japanese,” she went on, and expressed hope that the presence of mixed race Japanese people like herself will eventually be considered completely natural.

ENDS

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

COMMENT:  Super, Ms. Miyamoto.  Bravo.  But of course, the Japanese media is making sure her message of tolerance and inclusiveness is being contained and rendered ineffectual.  This article, for example, was not featured as a Japanese article, for a Japanese-reading audience.  Which, naturally, is the audience that most needs to hear it and be convinced by it.  Here is a screen capture of web search from the same site in Japanese.  It’s not there:

MiyamotoArianaMainichiSearch111615

Keep at it, Ms. Miyamoto.  Someday your message may even get through the editors of Japan’s most liberal daily national newspaper.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE: Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon Japan tour “Japanese Only” registration is sanitized to include NJ residents, but “Japanese Citizenship” remains requirement on actual registration page

mytest

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Hi Blog.  This is an update to the previous post, but it deserves a separate blog entry for the deceitfulness.  Thanks to Debito.org Readers contacting the organizers in Hong Kong, the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon made it clear to their Japan tour organizers (http://www.hkmarathon.jp) that restricting applications “exclusively for Japanese people” is unacceptable, as the event is open to all nationalities:

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

Case Ref No. FEED-VRSUP2-20151112-0378054 (BaCh/FiCh)

Dear Alex,

Thank you for contacting the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) on 10 November 2015, letting us know the comments posted on Dr. Arudou Debito’s website in regard to the registration requirements for the “2016 Hong Kong Marathon tour package” sold in Japan.

After receiving your email, we have immediately communicated with the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), who is the organiser of Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon. According to HKAAA, all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour. They have already advised the tour operator “Kinki Nippon Travel” to amend relevant wordings on the registration site . 

Once again, thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Should we could be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to call me or send me an email. 

Best Regards,

Fion Cheng
Senior Executive, Visitor Services
Hong Kong Tourism Board

Direct line: +852 2807 6108
Direct fax: +852 2807 6581
Website: http://www.DiscoverHongKong.com

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

HongKongMarathonJapaneseOnly20151

This has resulted in changes to the website wording, from

“This tour is designed exclusively for Japanese people.  
Applications from other nationalities are not acceptable. Applications from non-Japanese runners will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.”

HongKongMarathonJapaneseOnly20152

to

“This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan. 
Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.”

HongKongMarathonResidentOnly1112152

Sounds better.  Gone is the assumption that foreign nationals living in Japan are not residents of Japan.

However, if you actually go to the website registration page (http://www.hkmarathon.jp/pre.html), the requirement for applicants of Japanese citizenship (item six in the bullet points: 私は日本国籍を有しています) is still there:

HongKongMarathonJapaneseOnly111315

(screen capture as of November 14, 2015 JST)

So although the English has changed for the purposes of placating the English-reading world, the “secret code for domestic consumption only” that is the Japanese written language is maintaining the same “Japanese Only” rules. It is very hard to see this as a mere oversight.

And as written, NJ resident applicants still face refusal and then a non-refund of their deposit payments. It’s gone from mere exclusionism to the potential for misleading applicants into corporate theft. How duplicitous and unprofessional of the Japan-side organizers. Imagine the internet uproar if a Japanese company made a mistake this big for its Japanese customers.  Again, its seems, foreign customers in Japan don’t matter.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2015:

Was tweeted this picture in regards to the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon registration desk for Japanese in Bangkok, Thailand.  Seems to be more systematic than just Japanese organizers within Japan.  More like the organization is excluding foreigners everywhere in the world, including in those nations where Japanese are foreigners themselves.

HongKongMarathonJeseOnlyTwitPic111215

More tweeted details from the same source were: “November 12, 2015 in Bangkok Thailand. Registration for the Standard Chartered BKK marathon. they also had their own ‘bib boards’ i.e. Names and bib numbers not with the rest of the marathon runners, but ‘separate'”.

20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon Japan tour registration is “Japanese Only”: “Applications from non-Japanese runners ‘invalid’, deposit payment not refunded.”

mytest

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Hi Blog. We’ve seen exclusionism in Japan’s sports leagues before (baseball, hockey, the Kokutai, the Ekiden, and Sumo, for example). Now we can see that Japan uses the same exclusionary practices when it processes paying customers to participate in overseas events THROUGH Japanese companies. Such as can be seen here at the 20th Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon, which refuses all NJ customers (and will not refund their application fees, either):

Source: http://www.hkmarathon.jp, courtesy of HW.

Screen captures of the site, dated November 9, 2015:

HongKongMarathonJapaneseOnly20151

Note the bottom-right black box that says [ONLY JAPANESE].

This is reconfirmed when you scroll down to the next section, where it says in red script:

This tour is designed exclusively for Japanese people.  
Applications from other nationalities are not acceptable. Applications from non-Japanese runners will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.

HongKongMarathonJapaneseOnly20152

And again in the right-hand column, just for good measure before you click on anything:

“This website is designed exclusively for Japanese people. Applications from other nationalities are not acceptable. Applications from non-Japanese runners will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded.”

Who is managing this?  Again, scrolling down.

HongKongMarathonJapaneseOnly20153

We have Kinki Nippon Tourist Agency, The Club Tourism Marathon Tour (their slogan, “Let’s run the world!”), and HIS Travel Agency (aka No. 1 Travel, which has had “Japanese Only” pricing and different (higher) prices for foreign customers in the past).

Who’s sponsoring this?  The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Hong Kong Tourist Agency.  I wonder if they know this is going on.

COMMENT:  What’s wrong with this?  The assumption that anyone who does not have a Japanese passport is not a resident of Japan.  What about those people living permanently in Japan who might like to join this tour but do not have citizenship?  How are they supposed to partake in this tour?  Oh, I guess as customers, they just don’t count because they’re foreign. I would love to hear how this was justified at their board meetings when they decided upon this exclusionary policy.

As submitter HW said, “Apparently marathons are only for Japanese people. I wonder if they will let us watch, though?”  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

UPDATE NOVEMBER 12, 2015:  After the Hong Kong sponsors were contacted by Debito.org Readers, the Japanese marathon tour site was amended to read:  

“This tour is designed exclusively for people residing in Japan.  Applications from other countries are not acceptable. Applications from runners who are not residing in Japan will be treated as “invalid” and any deposit payment would not be refunded. ”  

The Hong Kong Tourism Association has written (full letter below):

After receiving your email, we have immediately communicated with the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), who is the organiser of Standard Charted Hong Kong Marathon. According to HKAAA, all people who are residing in Japan, regardless of their nationalities, are allowed to join the mentioned tour. They have already advised the tour operator “Kinki Nippon Travel” to amend relevant wordings on the registration site.

Gone is the assumption that foreigners in Japan are not residents of Japan.  Bravo HKAAA and HKTA for their quick and decisive work. And also thank you Debito.org Readers.  

UPDATE NOVEMBER 13, 2015:  

Alas, the job is not quite done.  On the application website itself, the requirement of Japanese Citizenship is still there.  More details here

“Foreign Driver” stickers appearing on Okinawan rental cars

mytest

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Hi Blog.  In another turn of logic in Japan, where differentiation between foreigners and Japanese is so normal that it’s standard operating procedure for a significant amount of public policy, we have a case where “Foreign Driver” stickers have been created in Okinawa to call public attention to rental cars rented by foreigners.  Of course, with this constant differentiation comes the facile logical conclusion by policymakers that foreigners get into accidents BECAUSE they are foreigners.  And presto, more public policy that once again targets foreigners.

All the heart marks and polite language below in the “Foreign Driver” sign can’t compensate for that fact.  Anyone want to find out if domestic NJ residents with Japanese driver licenses, who of course also become tourists if they travel within Japan, also get stuck with this sticker?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Foreigner Driving Stickers Appearing in Okinawa
Fukuoka Now Magazine, Oct. 23, 2015, courtesy of SB
http://fukuoka-now.com/en/news/foreigner-driving-stickers-appearing-in-okinawa/

The number of foreign visitors renting cars is on the rise. In fiscal 2014, the number of car rentals around Fukuoka Airport jumped 250% to 6,572. Meanwhile, the Kyushu District Transportation Bureau offers a ¥2,500 2-day “all-you-can-drive” expressway pass. In the three-month period of last October to December, about 2,000 foreign tourists used the service, and the bureau expects this year’s numbers to outstrip last year’s. In Okinawa, a spate of minor accidents has led car rental shops to put “Foreigner Driving” stickers on cars rented to foreign tourists.“I keep an eye out for rental cars with wa license plates now,” admits a local taxi driver, referring to the rental car license plates whose numbers are prefaced by the hiragana character wa (わ).

Source: Nishinippon Shimbun 10/22

OkinawaGaikokujinDriverstickerOct2015

ENDS

Asahi TV: Police training drill in Tokyo on how to deal with jewelry thieves brandishing knives. Oh, and they’re “foreign” thieves.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Apparently the Tokyo police believe that jewelry stores need training in how to fend off thieves.  Foreign thieves, that is.  Even though according to the NPA’s own statistics, theft (almost always committed by Japanese) is by far the most common crime in Japan — even more than traffic accidents!

And by “foreign thieves”, we don’t just mean the cat-burglar type of jewel thief (although even police also claim those as due to “foreigners” because of their “daring”.  Seriously.)  We mean the loud, violent type, with perps shouting “kane” while wielding knives, as foreigners do, right?  Fortunately, they can be repulsed by shopkeepers wielding poles and by police brandishing batons.

TV Asahi was on the scene to record the event at a real jewelry store in public (in Okachimachi, Tokyo) to make the proceedings even more visible.  Broadcast October 9, 2015.  Check it out:

Courtesy of http://news.tv-asahi.co.jp/news_society/articles/000060244.html


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InY88UamAjI

If above links are dead, this video has been archived below (mp4), courtesy of DG and JLO.

TV Asahi:  実際の宝石店を使って強盗への対応訓練が行われました。

訓練は、2人組の外国人が指輪を奪い、店員にナイフを突き付けて現金を要求する想定です。
警視庁上野署・田邉彰生活安全課長:「安全安心な御徒町を目指してやっていきたい」
JR御徒町駅周辺では、去年から今年にかけて宝石店での窃盗事件が数件起きていて、警視庁は防犯対策を強化していきたいとしています。

COMMENT:  If you want an exercise to show how to repulse robbers, fine.  But there is no need to depict them as foreigners.  Depict them as thieves, regardless of nationality, and arrest them.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan moving on to the next sucker societies for cheap or slave labor: Cambodia and Vietnam

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’ve been contacted by a source in western Honshu (who knows Cambodia very well) that the Japanese Government (GOJ) is now sucking labor from the next sucker society:

//////////////////////////////////////////
October 16, 2015
From XY:
Hi Debito Hope all’s well!
I am getting a LOT of messages these days from friends in Cambodia asking about the opportunities for their friends to work in Japan. I tell them the conditions are tough and the climates a killer (for them) but they say it’s better than the sweatshops in their homeland.

One of my Cambodian friends is in Kumamoto for a year and a half on a study program. He just got here. He is freezing his ass off already and wants me to send him clothes (he doesn’t have money to buy any, he needs his small allowance for food). Poor guy.

Anyhow, I had no idea Japanese companies are doing so much serious recruiting in Cambo and Vietnam these days… The impoverished Cambodians are coming here in droves.

Messaging a businessman in Cambo right now, he wants to provide labor to Japanese companies. Do you think they are treating these foreign workers better than in the past, or is it the same thing?

I responded:
It’s the same thing. Japan’s reputation has run sour in Brazil/Peru, China, The Philippines, and Indonesia. Japan is just moving on to another set of suckers. It would love to get their hands on Burmese too.
//////////////////////////////////////////

Debito.org Readers, let’s keep our eyes open for articles and GOJ policy papers on how Japan’s moving on to the next impoverished country to import and exploit as cheap or slave labor. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say

mytest

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Hi Blog. This article is nearly a year old, but it is still worth a read, if only to remind everyone of how things have not changed in Japan’s exploitative visa regimes. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say
By Harumi Ozawa, The Japan Times, November 23, 2014
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/11/23/national/japan-sanctioning-mass-slave-labor-via-foreign-trainee-program/

The first word En learned when he began working at a construction site in Japan after moving from China was “baka,” Japanese for “idiot.”

The 31-year-old farmer is one of 50,000 Chinese who signed up for a government-run program that promises foreigners the chance to earn money while acquiring valuable on-the-job training. Like many of his compatriots, he hoped to leave Japan with cash in his pocket and a new set of skills that would give him a better shot at work at home.

“My Japanese colleagues would always say baka to me,” said En, who spoke only on condition that his full name not be revealed. “I am exhausted physically and mentally.”

His problem is not the bullying by Japanese colleagues, nor the two-hour commute each-way or the mind-numbing work that largely consists of breaking apart old buildings. It is the ¥1 million he borrowed to take part in the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program, ostensibly to cover traveling expenses and other “fees” charged by middlemen.

The loan has left him a virtual slave to Japan’s labor-hungry construction industry. “I cannot go back before I make enough money to repay the debt,” he said.

Japan is desperately short of workers to pay taxes to fund pensions and health care for its rapidly graying population, but it is almost constitutionally allergic to immigration. Less than 2 percent of the populace is classified as “non-Japanese” by the government; by comparison, around 13 percent of British residents are foreign-born.

This results, critics say, in ranks of poorly protected employees brought in through a government-sanctioned back door that is ripe for abuse and exploitation.

“This trainee program is a system of slave labor. You cannot just quit and leave. It’s a system of human trafficking, forced labor,” said Ippei Torii, director of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan, a nongovernmental group that supports foreign workers.

Around a quarter of Japan’s population of 127 million is 65 or older, and this proportion is expected to jump to 40 percent in the coming decades. The heavily indebted government, which owes creditors more than twice what the economy generates annually, is scrambling to find the money to cover the welfare and health costs associated with the burgeoning ranks of the elderly even as the taxpayer base shrinks.

Japan’s average birthrate of around 1.4 children per woman, far below the level necessary to replenish the national workforce, is ratcheting up the pressure.

In most developed nations, this kind of shortfall is plugged by immigration, but Japan allows no unskilled workers into the country amid fears by some they would threaten the nation’s culture of consensus, an argument others view as mere cover for xenophobia.

But in 1993, as the economy was on the way down from its bubbly 1980s zenith, the government began the foreign trainee program, which allows tens of thousands of workers, mostly from China, Vietnam and Indonesia, to come to Japan and supply labor for industries including textiles, construction, farming and manufacturing.

The program, however, has not been without its critics. Japan’s top ally, the U.S., has even singled it out, with the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report for years slamming the program’s “deceptive recruitment practices.”

“The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said this year, using the program’s acronym.

Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services.

The government rejects claims the program is abusive, yet acknowledges there have been some upstream problems. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that,” an immigration official said. “It is not a system of slave labor.”

The official insisted it was not in authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted they were not allowed to charge deposit fees. “It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the program that would allow foreign trainees to stay in Japan for five years instead of three, and says such labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Abe is also aware that the nation’s health care sector must increasingly look abroad to fill the shortage of workers.

“It has been said that we will need 1 million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses.

For Kenmochi, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the sector must do as much as it can to make them feel welcome. “It must be hard to leave home and work overseas,” he said. “We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles with them.”

Torii of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan said this is just the kind of attitude Japan needs to learn: “The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not. They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”

ENDS

JK on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader JK keeps sending me intriguing tacks on recent articles (thanks), and here’s another bunch:

Debito.org hasn’t talked as much as other topics about the Government of Japan (GOJ)’s attitude towards refugees (in that, the acceptance of refugees is one measure of international contributions by the club of rich, developed countries and UN treaty signatories). But it is safe to say that the GOJ has not been cooperative, accepting fewer people in total over the past sixty years than some countries do in a single year — as the United Nations is aware.

So now the Abe Administration is trying a different tack:  Accepting refugees as temporary students, and then sending them “home” someday.  JK parses that to bits below.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

From:  JK

Hi Debito:

From articles cited at the very bottom:

“The idea is that by accepting refugees as students, Japan could aid in training personnel for the later reconstruction of Syria.”

「留学生の受け入れで、将来的にシリアの再建に関わる人材の育成に寄与したい 考え。」

…and…

“The plan represents the government’s efforts to think of a way to contribute to solving the Syria issue, without influencing the current refugee authorization system.”

「政府としては、現状の難民認定制度の枠組みや基準に影響を与えない形で、実 質的にシリア問題に貢献できる方法を探った形だ。」

Translation: GOJ doesn’t want to look bad at the UN in front of the other nations who are actually doing something to help refugees, so what to do?…Ah! Accept refugees as students to make it look like Japan is making a difference — Japan trains the Syrians so that one day they can go ‘home’ and fix everything up, and as students, they’re not in a position to stay for good as would be the case if they were accepted as refugees. It’s a win-win!

My armchair social theory is that the GOJ’s view of NJ is strictly monetary (i.e. get money from NJ tourists, give money to NJ refugees; NJ trainees / NJ bribes, etc.).

Abe speaks to boost Japan tourism at New York event
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002455922

Japan will do more to be well prepared to host foreign guests going into the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, he said at the seminar also joined by former New York Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui and U.S. actress Charlotte Kate Fox.

Abe: Japan ready to help refugees, but not take them in
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150930p2g00m0in032000c.html

“As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe told a news conference, according to the official translation of his comments.

Translation: Accepting immigrants is the last thing we should do.  Sincerely, JK

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

Sources:

難民:「受け入れ」検討…政府、シリアから留学生として
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20150925k0000m010107000c.html

毎日新聞 2015年09月25日 09時00分

シリアなどから欧州に難民が押し寄せている問題を受け、日本政府はシリアから留学生として難民を受け入れる方向で検討に入った。欧州連合(EU)はギリシャなどに着いた12万人の難民受け入れで合意。米国も人数を年々増やし、2017会計年度には10万人を受け入れる方針を表明した。28日からニューヨークの国連総会で行われる各国首脳らの一般討論演説では、難民問題も議題になる見通しで、日本としてシリア問題に貢献する姿勢を国際社会に表明する狙いがある。

関係者によると、難民問題の解決に向けた資金拠出に加え、人的な面でも貢献できないか検討。留学生の受け入れで、将来的にシリアの再建に関わる人材の育成に寄与したい考え。

法務省によると、昨年の難民認定者数は5000人の申請者に対し11人。シリアからの難民申請者も、ほとんどが人道的配慮による在留許可にとどまる。留学生としての受け入れは、通常の難民認定とは異なるが、正規の資格で日本に滞在できる。政府としては、現状の難民認定制度の枠組みや基準に影響を与えない形で、実質的にシリア問題に貢献できる方法を探った形だ。【三木幸治、隅俊之】
【毎日新聞】
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Japanese gov’t considers accepting Syrian refugees as students
September 25, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150925p2a00m0na002000c.html

Japanese gov’t considers accepting Syrian refugees as students

As refugees from Syria and other countries pour into Europe, the Japanese government has begun to ponder accepting Syrian refugees in the form of students.

The European Union has agreed to accept 120,000 refugees that have arrived in countries including Greece, while the United States has announced its intention to accept an increasing number of refugees over the years, with 100,000 to be accepted in fiscal 2017. During speeches by member nations’ heads of state at the general debate of the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting Sept. 28, the refugee problem is expected to be discussed, and Japan aims to display to the international community its contributory stance in trying to solve the Syria problem.

According to an insider source, in addition to helping fund the solving of the refugee problem, considerations are also being made over whether Japan can contribute on the human side of the issue. The idea is that by accepting refugees as students, Japan could aid in training personnel for the later reconstruction of Syria.

The Ministry of Justice says that last year out of 5,000 refugee applicants, Japan approved 11. Most of the refugee applicants from Syria are only being allowed to stay out of humanitarian consideration. Acceptance as students, while different from the normal system of accommodating refugees, would allow refugees to be in Japan with official authorization. The plan represents the government’s efforts to think of a way to contribute to solving the Syria issue, without influencing the current refugee authorization system.
ENDS
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Abe speaks to boost Japan tourism at New York event
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002455922
8:05 pm, September 29, 2015 Jiji Press

NEW YORK (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he wants people to know more about Japan and have more exchanges with Japanese people.

Abe made the comments at a seminar organized at a New York hotel by the Japan National Tourism Organization to promote visits to Japan.

Japan will do more to be well prepared to host foreign guests going into the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, he said at the seminar also joined by former New York Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui and U.S. actress Charlotte Kate Fox.
ENDS
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Abe: Japan ready to help refugees, but not take them in
September 30, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150930p2g00m0in032000c.html

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Japan’s prime minister said Tuesday that his nation needs to attend to its own demographic challenges posed by falling birth rates and an aging population before opening its doors to refugees.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced at the U.N. General Assembly that Japan is ramping up assistance in response to the exodus of refugees to Europe from the Middle East and Africa.

He said Japan will provide $1.5 billion in emergency aid for refugees and for stabilization of communities facing upheaval.

But speaking to reporters later Tuesday he poured cold water on the idea of Japan opening its doors to those fleeing.

He said Japan first needed to attend to domestic challenges which he proposes to tackle under a revamped economic policy that aims to boost GDP to a post-war record level, while bolstering the social security system to support families.

“As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe told a news conference, according to the official translation of his comments.

He added that Japan would “discharge our own responsibility” in addressing the refugee crisis, which he described as helping to improve conditions that cause the exodus.

Abe earlier told the world body that Japan would provide $810 million this year for emergency assistance of refugees and internally displaced persons from Syria and Iraq, triple what it gave last year. Abe said Japan is also preparing about $750 million for stabilization efforts in the Middle East and Africa.

Japan prides itself on being a good global citizen. It is one of the largest aid donors in the world. Last year Japan gave $181.6 million to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, making it second only to the United States in generosity.

But it has offered very few if any resettlement places for refugees from the civil war in Syria.

According to Ministry of Justice data, it accepted just 11 asylum seekers out of a record 5,000 applications last year, although Japanese officials say most of the asylum applicants were from other Asian countries and were already living in Japan.

Some argue that increased immigration could help arrest a shrinking population, which is currently 126 million. Abe says he is determined to ensure that in 50 years the Japanese population has stabilized at 100 million.

ENDS

Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has long complained about how NJ (especially the “Trainees” being thrust into sweatshop and slave labor) were being exploited by ill-designed and unsupervised visa statuses in Japan. Let’s take a look at the American example and do a bit of triangulating. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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A Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor?
A Japanese woman’s poor working conditions as a Waikiki pastry chef illustrate the dark side of a visa program that brings thousands of temporary foreign workers to Hawaii each year.
April 7, 2015·By Rui Kaneya

http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/04/a-cultural-exchange-program-or-a-ticket-to-sweatshop-labor/

It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal.

She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m.

But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.

In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used.

When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear.

Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly.

Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away.

Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work.

“Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.” — Kathryn Xian, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

“At the time, I was confused and didn’t know what to do,” the chef said, recalling her ordeal in 2012. Civil Beat granted her anonymity and withheld the restaurant’s name at her request. She said she feared reprisals.

The chef’s story, recounted in an interview conducted in Japanese, provides a rare glimpse into the dark side of the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which was created half a century ago to foster “global understanding” through cultural exchanges but has since blossomed into the source of thriving, multi-million-dollar businesses.

But it’s virtually impossible to determine just how common these experiences are among about 2,000 J-1 visa holders in Hawaii.

That’s in part because the program, as a cultural exchange, isn’t subject to monitoring by the U.S. Department of Labor — unlike other guest worker programs.

The State Department, for its part, recently established a system to keep track of all complaints it receives, but spokeswoman Susan Pittman told Civil Beat that the tally for the entire program isn’t readily available, and a Freedom of Information Act request must be submitted before the data could be compiled.

Kathryn Xian, founder and executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says another reason the issue tends to fly under people’s radar is that the victims often choose to escape their situation by simply returning to their home country.

“What’s difficult about J-1 is that these people usually don’t seek help,” Xian said. “Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.”
‘Notoriety’ and ‘Disrepute’

Created under the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, the J-1 program was designed to give foreign students and young professionals a temporary work experience and expose them to the American way of life — at no cost to taxpayers.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people pay upwards of $10,000 in fees and insurance to enter the country under the program and work for four to 18 months. The State Department’s latest figures show that more than 297,000 J-1 visas were issued in 2012, including 2,021 visas for those heading to work in Hawaii.

But, in recent years, some participants — and their advocates — have complained that it’s being used as a source of cheap, foreign labor with little federal oversight.

The issue grabbed national headlines in 2012, when hundreds of J-1 visa holders working at Hershey’s packing plant in Pennsylvania staged a raucous protest. About 400 of them were staying in the country for “Summer Work Travel,” the biggest of the 14 categories of the J-1 program allowing students of modest means to work in a temporary job as a way of offsetting the costs of their travel to the U.S.

“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place. But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.” — Stephen Boykewich, National Guestworker Alliance

They were put to work, often on night shifts, lifting heavy boxes and packing chocolates on Hershey’s fast-moving production line — while being paid substantially below the minimum wage after deductions.

The troubling tales of the summer programs were nothing new to officials at the State Department. In 2010, an investigation by the Associated Press uncovered widespread abuse, finding that some students were taking home less than $1 an hour, while others were being forced to work as strippers — even though the regulations prohibit the students from taking on work that could “bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute.”

In response, the State Department conducted a systematic review of the summer program and eventually acknowledged that its “work component … has too often overshadowed the core cultural component.”

The department later issued new rules for the program that significantly reduced the types of jobs the students can perform — to keep them away from most warehouse, construction, manufacturing and food-processing work. The rules also tightened requirements on the sponsor organizations and their contractors that administer the J-1 program on behalf of the State Department, ensuring that students were matched up with jobs that are appropriate and safe.
Ripe for Exploitation

The changes haven’t rooted out all the unlawful labor practices in the J-1 program.

Last week, the Labor Department announced that a Waikiki-based wedding planner called Wave USA Inc. — aka Ka Nalu Wedding — agreed to pay more than $35,000 in restitution to a group of eight Japanese employees, all of whom were here on J-1.

According to the Labor Department, the eight were the company’s “front-line workers” from November 2012 to July 2014 and were paid full-time salaries that varied from $700 to $1,000 a month — a rate well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Stephen Boykewich, communications director at the National Guestworker Alliance, which helped organize the Hershey’s protest in 2012, said the problems persist because of the program’s flawed setup: The sponsor organizations and their contractors, which are responsible for vetting the hosting companies, are the ones tasked to monitor the working conditions. So, when any problem comes up, they have a vested interest in downplaying it.

“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place,” Boykewich said. “But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.”

In Hawaii, the issue is compounded by the fact that there are only seven sponsor organizations operating in the islands, and they only place participants into academic institutions — typically as scholars or physicians.

That means those looking for nonacademic work in Hawaii are forced to find their sponsor organization from the mainland, and this arrangement makes the regular, on-site monitoring of the working conditions a logistical nightmare.

John Robert Egan, an immigration attorney who once chaired the Hawaii chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the way the system is set up now works to the advantage of unscrupulous employers.

“Part of the problem is that they are bringing in people who don’t speak good enough English and are not familiar with the legal system and don’t know what protections are available. So that’s ripe for exploitation,” Egan said.

‘Alleged Bad Acts’

The Japanese pastry chef came to Hawaii hoping that her training here would bring her closer to realizing her dream of opening her own bakery.

To make her trip possible, she had to work with layers of contractors in Japan. First, she dealt with a company called Global Associates and its subsidiary, Hawaii Exchange Service. They then put her in touch with their affiliate — a Japanese company called the American Career Opportunity Inc. — to help her go through an English proficiency test and work with a California-based sponsor organization called the ASSE International Student Exchange Programs.

In all, she paid about $8,850 in fees and $1,300 for her medical insurance. And she spent thousands of dollars more to make living arrangements in Hawaii.

By the time she arrived and discovered her restaurant’s working conditions, her savings account had been tapped out. “I felt trapped as I had invested so much time and money to come to work on my J-1 visa,” she wrote in her 2012 affidavit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “I did not believe I could go home as I would realistically never have another opportunity to come back to the U.S.”

But going back to work for the restaurant wasn’t much of a choice for her, either. Luckily, a network of friends, victims’ advocates and pro bono attorneys came to her rescue and got her in touch with officials at the U.S. State and Labor departments.

“I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.” — Pastry chef from Japan

This, in turn, triggered a barrage of calls from officials at American Career Opportunity and Global Associates. They called her — and her mother in Japan — incessantly, trying to convince her to go back to work at the restaurant. When it became clear that she wasn’t going back, she said they tried to intimidate her into voluntarily returning to Japan.

Fearing that she’d be deported, she fled her apartment and went into hiding. At first, she stayed at the house of a married couple she had befriended during her first week in Hawaii. Then, Xian of the Pacific Alliance found her space at a shelter run by a local church.

As far as the chef knows, the investigations at the State and Labor departments are still pending — more than three years later. Meanwhile, with the help of attorneys, she applied for a T-1 visa, which is set aside for trafficking victims. After about a year, her application was approved, enabling her to stay in the country and start working again.

Ira Kurzban, general counsel for ASSE, says the company wasn’t notified about the case until federal authorities got involved.

“From our perspective, we did everything we could possibly do as soon as we learned that there was a problem,” Kurzban said, adding that the State Department “has never said” that the company engaged in “any of the alleged bad acts that were claimed to have happened.”

Officials from the State and Labor departments declined to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.

Officials at American Career Opportunity did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment. Global Associates and Hawaii Exchange Service could not be reached.

The chef is trying to move past her bitter experience. With Xian’s help, she managed to recover the fees she had paid for her visa. And, last year, she got a cooking job at the Kahala Mall and has saved enough to move into her own apartment.

But there’s one thing she still can’t shake: “It’s been three years now, but, to this day, I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.”

ENDS

Tangent: Economist on “Japan’s Citizen Kane”: Shouriki Matsutaro; explains a lot about J-media’s interlocking relationship with J-politics

mytest

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Hi Blog. A great little tangent from The Economist’s Christmas Special of 2012. This story is fantastic (in fact, it beggars belief), and it answers a number of questions I always had about the status quo in Japan (especially when it comes to the interlocking of politics and media). I thought Watanabe Tsuneo (of the same publishing empire; the Yomiuri) is one of Japan’s most morally-corrupt powerful men. This guy beats him. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Matsutaro Shoriki
Japan’s Citizen Kane

A media mogul whose extraordinary life still shapes his country, for good and ill
The Economist. Dec 22nd 2012 | From the print edition
http://www.economist.com/node/21568589/print

THE ECONOMIST’S office in Tokyo is in the headquarters of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s biggest-selling newspaper. Every day, as you walk past bowing guards and immaculate receptionists, set back in a corner you pass a bronze statue of an owlish man with a bald head and thick, round-rimmed glasses, poring over a paper. He is Matsutaro Shoriki (pictured), who acquired the paper in its left-wing adolescence in the 1920s, and turned it into a scrappy, sensational pugilist for right-wing politics. The statue is not flattering: with his potato-like head and beakish nose, he seems to be pecking at the newspaper rather than reading it.

Shoriki lurks in the background of much of 20th-century Japan, too. He created so much of what defines the nation today that it is a wonder he is not as well known as, say, William Randolph Hearst (one of his big Western admirers) is in America. Shoriki was as much the pugnacious, brooding, manipulative and visionary “Citizen Kane” as Hearst.

Before he took over the Yomiuri, Shoriki was head of Tokyo’s torturous secret police. Later, to help him sell papers, he introduced professional baseball to Japan. After the second world war he was jailed for alleged war crimes; upon his release he set up Japan’s first private television network. To cap it all, he was the “father of nuclear power”, using his cabinet position and media clout to transform an atom-bombed nation into one of the strongest advocates of atomic energy. That legacy now smoulders amid the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Victories of the spirit

Japanese history is peppered with stories of giants whom almost no one outside the country has ever heard of. Because of Japan’s reverence for humility, their tales tend to be subsumed within the companies or projects the individuals created. Shoriki is different. There is nothing humble about him: his is a story of ruthless ambition, bordering on megalomania.

He got a taste for power early, when he rose like a rocket through the police force. He was 28 when, in 1913, he joined the Metropolitan Police. He had recently graduated from the elite University of Tokyo, but was more interested in judo than studying, so had failed the civil-service entrance exams. Police work carried lower prestige, but it suited him. Within a year he was promoted to head a police station in Nihonbashi, the old heart of the city.

Japan’s economy was booming. The first world war was a godsend for a country that was undergoing breakneck modernisation. After its own military victories against Russia and China, and the annexation of Korea in 1910, Japan was puffed up with pride at being one of the world’s colonial powers. But the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 brought a ferment of new ideas—including the demand for wider male suffrage in Japan—which the police and the patrician old guard viewed with alarm. Shoriki was put in charge of suppressing student demonstrations at Waseda University, then one of Tokyo’s most liberal institutions. He later introduced a masseur, masquerading as a communist, to entrap three radical professors. To this day, Waseda’s left-wingers loathe him.

In 1918 he astutely predicted the spread of rice riots from Toyama, the rural prefecture where he was born, to Tokyo. When he marched among the rioters, his sword tethered to his side to show he did not mean violence, a jagged stone hit him on the head. His courage in persuading the mob to calm down, with blood streaming down his face, appears to show him at his best. In “Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan”, a biography published in 1957 (and regarded by some as a ghostwritten auto-hagiography), Edward Uhlan and Dana Thomas, two American journalists, describe the moment in which he “dispersed a frenzied mob without raising a finger” as the greatest “victory of the spirit” in his life.

But he was no saint. As communist agitation spread in the early 1920s, and Koreans in Japan increasingly rebelled against colonisation, Shoriki was promoted to be chief of staff of the Metropolitan Police, which in effect made him head of the secret police. He had responsibility for infiltrating labour and Korean groups and rooting out the “red menace”.

Then in September 1923, shortly after the Japanese Communist Party had been formed, Tokyo and nearby Yokohama suffered a devastating earthquake that, coupled with the ensuing fires, killed more than 100,000 people. An orgy of opportunistic anti-Korean slaughter followed, which Shoriki may have stoked and then diverted into an attack on socialists.

When, a few months later, professional catastrophe struck, his extensive political connections rescued him. On his watch, a young socialist tried to kill the Crown Prince (later Emperor Hirohito), an event for which Shoriki was given the harshest sanction: “disciplinary dismissal”. Thrown out of work, it occurred to him that newspapers might be an influential business. The Yomiuri Shimbun was struggling, having just built a new headquarters that collapsed in the earthquake. Shoriki needed ¥100,000 ($20,000 then) to buy it out; he turned to one of his contacts, a leading right-wing politician, for financial support. It was a shrewd investment: Shoriki turned the Yomiuri into an establishment crusader.

Evidence of the personality that he quickly stamped upon it can be found in the Yomiuri’s sixth-floor library. You need to borrow the librarian’s magnifying glass to read the tight old kanji, or Chinese script, in which the paper was written. But it is quickly apparent that under him it was a much livelier read than the staid stuff it serves up nowadays. This was Japan’s “Taisho era”, a rare time of democratic upheaval and self-indulgence, summed up in the phrase eroguronansensu, or erotic, grotesque nonsense. That quickly became Shoriki’s sales pitch for the Yomiuri, though because he spoke not a word of English he mangled the terms into “grotic” and “erotesque”.

Never mind: it worked. Next to lurid stories about adultery and photos of flapper-era mogas (modern girls) are advertisements for clinics treating the consequences (“Before the parties at the end of the year, you should sort out your gonorrhoea”). There are pages about hit songs from the new craze of radio that was sweeping the country, a trend that Japanese newspapers had until then ignored. In 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria, Shoriki seized the moment to go head-to-head with his bigger Tokyo rivals, the Asahi and the Mainichi, by launching an evening edition to bring readers sizzling China-bashing updates from the front.

Two years later, in 1933, comes an episode of vintage Shoriki. His editors had noticed the rising incidence of suicide; one popular method was for couples to hurl themselves hand-in-hand into a fiery volcano called Miharayama, on a Pacific island a long boat ride from Tokyo. In one year 944 people had taken the plunge: at a time of growing militarism, this was not regarded as a very patriotic endeavour.

Into the volcano
The Yomiuri decided it should warn people what they were throwing themselves into. With a flurry of publicity, the paper told its readers it would separately lower an editor and a photographer towards the molten furnace in a gondola. But first the paper sent down two animals to test for poisonous gases, eliciting the priceless headline: “Monkey paralysed. Rat dead.” When the gas-masked journalists did make it, they descended 415 metres, which the Yomiuri claimed was a world record. One of them relayed sightings of corpses to the surface by jerry-rigged telephone. It made for wonderful copy, but did nothing to stop the suicides.

This cloak of supposed public interest, wrapped around gory sensationalism, sent the Yomiuri’s circulation soaring. Between 1924 and 1937 it rose from 58,000 to 800,000, a feat that made the Yomiuri the biggest newspaper in Tokyo.

Banzai Babe

The melding of commercial pragmatism with ideological dogma shaped much of Shoriki’s career. But another factor also defined the second half of his life: his relationship with America.

Baseball was its first manifestation. Shoriki was no baseball fan, but he knew he could use the sport to sell newspapers. The trouble was that Japan had no professional baseball teams. So, on the advice of a rival newspaper proprietor, he set out to bring Babe Ruth, the legendary Yankees slugger, to Tokyo. At first, Ruth was too busy: he did not join the all-star team that came out to Japan to play for capacity crowds in 1931. But in 1934, past his prime and noticeably overweight, he finally arrived.

It was a tense time, both within Japan and in its diplomacy. Soldiers burning with fascist zeal were assassinating government moderates in a bid to rekindle the traditional “spirit” of Nippon. The visit was controversial, coming just as Japan appeared to be turning its back on the outside world. But Shoriki’s intuition worked: ordinary Japanese went mad for Ruth and his team. Tens of thousands packed the streets of Ginza to see them parade in open-top cars. People thronged the Meiji stadium to watch them play, most barely minding (though Shoriki did) that the home sides usually lost.

Ordinary Japanese went mad for Ruth and his team. Tens of thousands packed the streets of Ginza to see them parade in open-top cars. People thronged the Meiji stadium to watch them play, most barely minding (though Shoriki did) that the home sides usually lost.
Not everyone was so thrilled: a madcap group called the “War God Society” protested at the Americans’ “defilement” of grounds sacred to the Meiji emperor. Not long afterwards Shoriki was stabbed in the neck with a Japanese sword by an ex-policeman who professed to hate his pro-Americanism. He lost a litre of blood and nearly died. Undeterred, Shoriki founded the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, which has dominated the sport in Japan ever since.

This relationship with America would be twisted by war. The Yomiuri, like all its rivals, was a fervent cheerleader for Japan’s Pacific conquests; as the imperial army advanced south, so the Yomiuri set up offices and newspapers around South-East Asia. When the war ended in 1945 the charge-sheet against Shoriki looked strong: he had been a director of the quasi-fascist Imperial Rule Assistance Association, set up in 1940, which promoted war. His newspaper was suspected of being a propaganda organ of the militarists. Damningly, many of the strongest accusations of fascism that were made against him came from his own writers and editors.

The Yomiuri was in revolt at the time. At the end of the war, encouraged by the liberal ideas of the American occupation, a group of left-wing journalists staged a coup at the paper. For months the internal battle spilled onto the front pages. Headlines branded Shoriki a war criminal, even as he continued to show up as publisher each day. By December he was locked up in Sugamo Prison with the rest of Japan’s suspected warmongers, charged with Class A war crimes.

The nuclear option

Prison was a bitter ordeal. Shoriki took to meditating for many hours a day, while pulling every string he could to clear himself. In the digital dossiers of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, which are published online by the University of Virginia, he even at one stage begs for his release on the ground that “the life of the Yomiuri Shimbun is at stake”.

Suddenly, it seems, his American jailers decided that most of the accusations against Shoriki were of an “ideological and political nature”, made by striking employees who deserved little credence (America was growing nervous of the left-wing unionism it had inadvertently nurtured). On August 22nd 1947 a recommendation was made to free Shoriki, and he walked out after 21 months inside. Though still purged from public life, he would later claim that his spell at “Sugamo University” was an ideal networking opportunity. It gave him access to right-wingers who would come back to rule the country, with Shoriki’s help, just four years after America finally signed a peace treaty with Japan in 1951.

But by this stage Shoriki was 62, and had an enormous cliff to climb to achieve what he most passionately craved: political power. He used two means to get there: television, then nuclear energy. Both enterprises involved a man whose influence hangs over Shoriki’s later years, Hidetoshi Shibata. He was the main source for another biography of Shoriki, by Shinichi Sano—the premise of which is that Shoriki stole most of his ideas from his underlings, and jealously took all the credit for himself. But in Shibata’s case, at least, the two seem to have used each other.

Shibata, a news reporter, heard of a plan put forward in America to use television to spread anti-communist propaganda around the world, with the former enemies West Germany and Japan as the bases. He brought the idea to Shoriki, who offered to help finance a new station—if the Americans helped persuade the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to lift his blacklisting. Using Shibata’s American contacts, Shoriki browbeat the government to end the monopoly of NHK, the state broadcaster. His purge duly lifted, he raised more than ¥800m to establish Japan’s first private network, Nippon Television, in 1952. Today it is the most popular TV station in Japan.

But television was only the next stage in his journey. By 1954 Japan was in the grip of anti-American hysteria. After the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American H-bomb testing in the Pacific Marshall Islands blanketed 23 Japanese tuna fishermen with radioactive ash. After one of the men affected died, anti-nuclear passions soared. Shoriki, as well as America’s CIA, was terrified at the thought that the Soviet Union and China might take advantage of the uproar to displace American influence in Japan.

He hit upon another remarkable plan, this time to use nuclear energy as a tool of pro-American leverage. Yet another biographer claims this was a CIA plot—an idea pooh-poohed by other scholars, who believe that Shoriki exploited the Americans at least as much as vice versa. Dwight Eisenhower had recently made his “Atoms for Peace” speech, promoting the spread of nuclear energy to counter the stigma of nuclear weapons. In December 1954 John Jay Hopkins, president of General Dynamics, a pioneering nuclear conglomerate, suggested an “Atomic Marshall Plan” for Japan.

Shoriki pressured Hopkins to travel to Tokyo to deliver the message in person; at the first hint of assent, the Yomiuri splashed the news on its front page. With all the hoopla that had heralded the arrival of Babe Ruth more than 20 years earlier, the paper played up the visit in May 1955. Shoriki used giant screens artfully erected on street corners both to spread the pro-nuclear message and to boost the fledgling NTV’s ratings.

At the same time he and some of his pronuclear cronies in parliament were pulling strings, with results that still resonate. He won a Diet seat on a nuclear-energy platform, then helped form the Liberal Democratic Party. It ruled Japan for almost all of the next 55 years (and is now returning to power). In January 1956, as a cabinet member of the first LDP government, he was appointed president of Japan’s new Atomic Energy Commission. To the surprise and horror of some of the scientists on the commission, his first announcement was that Japan would have a reactor within five years. He never let practicalities get in the way of a story.

This was not quite the end. Ultimately, Japan got its reactors (ironically, the first was British, not American). But Shoriki could not secure his biggest goal, the premiership, and perhaps it was this shortcoming that ultimately racked him with a sense of failure. The end of his life story is told by Yasuko Shibata, the 82-year-old wife of his former right-hand man, who lives in a sumptuous retirement home in Yokohama. She giggles as she recalls how Shoriki once offered her a thick envelope of cash, after her husband had stormed off following one of the two men’s many rows. To her, at least, he was neither a monster nor a patsy. “It doesn’t matter whether you like Shoriki or not, he was not the kind of small guy that the CIA could push around,” she insists.

Mrs Shibata tells a story of Shoriki’s final days in 1969 that reveals, like Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane”, how tortured he was at the end. His own wife had died, and he had moved into a dingy room in Tokyo with his mistress. Lying in her arms and approaching death himself, he heard revellers drinking outside and, in a feverish state, thought it was Shibata threatening to kill him unless he was given the credit he deserved. Shoriki need not have worried about his own legacy. For good or ill, it lingers on.

From the print edition: Christmas Specials
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Nikkei interview with Japan’s most famous naturalized former Zainichi Korean: SoftBank’s Son Masayoshi

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Hi Blog.  One person I have kept some track of over the years is the leader of SoftBank, Son Masayoshi.  While I don’t really see his sensitivity towards minorities in Japan translating into flexibility towards NJ residents in SoftBank’s business practices (SoftBank, like NTT DoCoMo, demands a deposit from its NJ customers (to the tune of 100,000 yen) in order to get an iPhone subscription (something not mentioned on its Japanese site).  I also have a friend from overseas who, during his monthlong journeys around Japan, had his phone hacked into, and was saddled with a $1400 internet bill on his credit card when he went back; protests to the company were met with a, “You’re a foreigner, so you must have misunderstood how to use our phone; you’re just trying to skip out on paying your bill,” reception from SoftBank.  This despite SoftBank having him on record renting the very same phone five times before and paying without incident.), Son is being interviewed below as a discrimination fighter.  This is the first I’ve heard of him doing this (and I hope this article also came out in Japanese), so let’s hope he continues in this vein.  And that SoftBank knocks off its hypocritically discriminatory business practices.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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SoftBank’s Son stands up to anti-Korean bigotry in Japan
Nikkei Asian Review August 27, 2015 12:00 am JST, Courtesy of AA

TOKYO — SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has long been discriminated against by Japanese because he is ethnically Korean.
http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20150827-THE-GREAT-FALL/Business/SoftBank-s-Son-stands-up-to-anti-Korean-bigotry-in-Japan

Even in his early childhood, he was attacked verbally and physically by Japanese classmates. In kindergarten, he was jeered at for being Korean. Once, another child cut his head open with a stone.

Today, he finds himself the target of malicious comments on the Internet. In a recent interview, Son talked about his experiences and his decision to be open about his background.

Q: Why did you choose to use your Korean family name instead of your Japanese one?

A: I used to go by Masayoshi Yasumoto before I went to the U.S. at the age of 16.

After I returned from the U.S. and decided to start a business, I had a choice before me — whether I should go with the Japanese family name Yasumoto, which all my family and relatives use, or the ancestral surname Son.

It is undoubtedly easier to go by Yasumoto when living in Japanese society. A number of celebrities and professional athletes use Japanese family names in their chosen professions. It is not my intention to criticize such a practice. But I decided to go against the tide and become the first among my relatives to use Son as my family name.

I won’t go into the reasons and the origin of this issue, but if you are born into one of those families of Korean descent, you are subject to groundless discrimination. There are many children who undergo such hardship.

When I was in elementary and junior high school, I was in agony over my identity so much that I seriously contemplated taking my own life. I’d say discrimination against people is that tough.

Then you might ask why I decided to go against all my relatives, including uncles and aunts, and started to use the Korean family name, Son.

I wanted to become a role model for ethnic Korean children and show them that a person of Korean descent like me, who publicly uses a Korean surname, can achieve success despite various challenges. If my doing so gives a sense of hope to even just one young person or 100 of them, I believe that is a million times more effective than raising a placard and shouting, “No discrimination.”

Q: Your coming out as an ethnic Korean risked involving the rest of your family, right?

A: I met with fierce objections from my relatives, who had hidden their real family name to live their lives in a small community. One of my relatives said, “If you come out as a Son from among us, that will expose all of us.”

People would start saying things like “They are ethnic Koreans” or “Your nephew is a Son, not a Yasumoto. So, you, too, are part of the kimchee clan.” That’s why they tried to dissuade me. But I told them: “What I will do may disturb you all, uncles and aunties. If so, you don’t need to say that I am a relative of yours. Just pretend that I am not related to you.”

Q: I hope there will be more success stories like yours in Japan. What do you think is necessary for that to happen?

A: Currently, many Japanese companies are losing confidence. They are losing out to competition and have collectively become introverted. In such circumstances, even if we are the only one, SoftBank has risen to the occasion and taken on much bigger rivals in the U.S. And if we survive … that will create a ripple effect and inspire even one company or 10 companies. I think that’s a form of social contribution.

Son speaks before an audience. The slogan in the background says, “Challenge yourself and new horizons will emerge.”
Not just us, but Mr. Tadashi Yanai (chairman and president of Fast Retailing) and Mr. Shigenobu Nagamori (chairman and president of Nidec), and Rakuten, DeNA and other companies are working hard to challenge themselves. If young business leaders can set a couple of successful precedents, that could give a much-needed boost and help revive the Japanese economy.

While it is important to oppose a move toward widening the wealth gap and put in place a social safety net, I think there is no need to stand in the way of other people’s success. It is unnecessary to gang up and lash out at those who are successful.

Successful people can serve as a light of hope for others. Personally, I think it is important to create a society where we can praise success and successful people. That will help keep alive Japanese dreams and create Japanese heroes.

Interviewed by Nikkei Ecology staff writer Takahiro Onishi; Nikkei Business Online Editor-in-Chief Shintaro Ikeda contributed to this story.

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