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Hi Blog. What follows is a rough draft of the text of the speech I’ll be giving on Tues, March 23, before a United Nations rep. I have twenty minutes tops. I read this at a normal pace aloud today and it came about sixteen minutes. Eight pages, 2500 words, written in a conversational style. FYI. Thanks for your support, and see you at the upcoming FRANCA meetings this Sunday and next Saturday. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Statements to Mr Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, in Tokyo, March 23, 2010, by ARUDOU Debito, Chair, Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA, www.francajapan.org), regarding racial discrimination in Japan.
This document may be downloaded at https://www.debito.org/ArudouBustamantestatement032310.doc
The powerpoint accompanying this presentation may be downloaded at https://www.debito.org/FRANCABustamantepresentation032310.ppt
Table of contents for the belowmentioned “blue folder” with links to sources at https://www.debito.org/?p=6201
First, let me thank Mr. Bustamante and the United Nations for their attention to the situation of minorities and disenfranchised peoples in Japan. There are very few effective forums in Japan for us to take our grievances, and we all very much appreciate the Special Rapporteur hearing as many sides of the story as possible.
I wish to focus on the situation of peoples of “foreign” origin and appearance, such as White and non-Asian peoples like me, and how we tend to be treated in Japanese society. Put simply, we are not officially registered or even counted sometimes as genuine residents. We are not treated as taxpayers, not protected as consumers, not seen as ethnicities even in the national census. We not even regarded as deserving of the same human rights as Japanese, according to government-sponsored opinion polls and human rights surveys (blue folder items I-1, I-6 and III-6). This view of “foreigner” as “only temporary in Japan” is a blind spot even the United Nations seems to share, but I’ll get that later.
Here is a blue 500-page information folder I will give you after my talk, with primary source materials, articles, reference papers, and testimonials from other people in Japan who would like their voice heard. It will substantiate what I will be saying in summary below.
To start off, here is an overview of our presence in Japan. According to official figures, the number of Non-Japanese on 3-month visas and up in Japan has grown since 1990 from about one million to over two million. The number of Permanent Residents has reached record numbers, of over one million. In other words, about half of all registered Non-Japanese in Japan can stay here permanently. I would like to point out here how difficult it is to receive Permanent Residency in Japan. It takes about five years if you are married to a Japanese, ten years if you are not. The point is, a million Non-Japanese Permanent Residents are not a “temporary” segment of Japanese society.
Moreover, this does not count the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 naturalized Japanese citizens since the 1960’s. I am one of those naturalized Japanese citizens. Nor does this count the international families from Non-Japanese marrying Japanese. We have about 40,000 international marriages every year, a significant increase from the 30,000 per year a decade ago. If each couple has two children over their lifetime, which is not an unreasonable assumption, eventually that means 80,000 ethnically-diverse Japanese children. Over ten years, that adds up to 800,000 – almost a million again. However, not all of these children will “look Japanese”.
Sadly, we don’t know how many children, or people, of diverse backgrounds with Japanese citizenship are out there, because the Japanese Census does not survey for ethnicity. The Japanese Census only surveys for nationality, despite our repeated requests for the census to reflect Japan’s diversity. Meaning, when I fill out the Census, I write down “Japanese” for my nationality, but there is no way for me to indicate that I am a “Caucasian Japanese”, or an “Japanese of American extraction” (amerika kei nihonjin). I believe this is by design, because the politics of identity in Japan are “monoculturality and monoethnicity”. This is simply a fiction. It wasn’t true in the past, and with modern Japan’s emerging immigration, assimilation, and ethnic diversity, it’s even less true now. The official conflation of Japanese nationality and ethnicity is incorrect, and our government is willfully refusing to collect any data that would correct that.
The point is, the lines have blurred to the point where we cannot tell who is “Japanese” any more just by looking at them. This means any time we have any distinctions made between “foreigner” and “Japanese”, be it police racial profiling or “Japanese Only” signs, it will also affect some Japanese citizens too. This is why we need a law against racial discrimination in Japan – not only because it will help non-citizens assimilate into Japan, but also it will protect Japanese against xenophobia, bigotry, and exclusionism. Discrimination that is “deep and profound”, and “practiced undisturbed in Japan”, according to UN Rapporteur Doudou Diene in 2005 and 2006.
At this point, I would like to show some differences in standpoint, between my esteemed colleagues and minorities being represented today, and the people I am trying to speak for. The minorities in Japan as defined under the CERD, including the Ainu, the Ryūkyūans, the Zainichi Special Permanent Resident ethnic Koreans and Chinese, and the Burakumin, will be speaking to you this week and next as people who have been here for a long time, much longer than people like me, of course. They make their claims based upon time-honored and genuine grievances that have never been properly redressed. For ease of understanding, I will call some of them the “Oldcomers”. I am here on behalf of what I will call the “Newcomers”, people who have come here from other countries relatively recently, to make a life in Japan. Both “Oldcomers” and “Newcomers” contribute to Japanese society, including taxes, service, and culture. But it is we “Newcomers” who really need the protections of a Japanese law against racial discrimination, because we, the people who are seen because of our skin color as “foreigners” in Japan, are often singled out and targeted for our own special variety of discriminatory treatment.
Here are examples I will talk briefly about now:
1) Discrimination in housing and accommodation
2) Racial Profiling by Japanese Police, through policies officially depicting Non-Japanese as criminals, terrorists, and carriers of infectious disease
3) Refusal to be registered or counted as residents by the Japanese Government
4) “Japanese Only” exclusions in businesses open to the public
5) Objects of unfettered hate speech
All of these examples are substantiated in the blue information folder, but again, words in brief about each item.
1) Discrimination in housing and accommodation
One of the first barriers many Newcomers face in Japan is the daunting prospect of finding an apartment. According to the Mainichi Shimbun (Jan 8 2010), on average in Tokyo it takes 15 visits to realtors for a Non-Japanese to find an apartment. Common experience — and this is all we have because there is no government study of this problem — dictates that the agent generally phrases the issue to landlords as, “The renter is a foreigner, but is that okay?” This overt discrimination happens with complete impunity in Japan. One Osaka realtor even advertises apartments as “gaijin allowed”, thus an option at odds with the status quo. Again, there is no national government body collecting information on this problem, or hearing grievances. The people who face discriminatory landlords can only take them to court. This means years, money for lawyers and court fees, and an uncertain outcome, when all you need is a place to live, now.
Another issue is hotels. They are expressly forbidden by the Hotel Management Law Article 5 to refuse customers unless rooms are full, there is a clear threat of contagious disease, or a clear threat to “public morals” (as in pornography). However, government surveys, according to CNN et.al, (Oct 9, 2008), indicate that 27% of all Japanese hotels don’t want foreign guests. Not to be outdone, the Fukushima Prefecture Tourist Information website until last January advertised, as per their own preset options, that 318 of their member hotels were all refusing Non-Japanese, even though this is clearly illegal. Thus even when a law technically forbids exclusionism, it is not enforced. Excluders even get promoted by the authorities.
2) Racial Profiling by Japanese Police
Another rude awakening happens when you walk down the street. Japanese police will stop you in public, sometimes rudely demand your ID card (which all foreigners – only — must carry at all times or face incarceration and criminal prosecution), and record your personal details. This can be for walking while White, cycling while foreign-looking, using public transportation while multiethnic, or standing waiting for arrivals at airports while colored. In one person’s case, he has been “carded”, sometimes through physical force, more than 50 times in one year, as of today exactly 125 times over ten years (blue folder item I-2).
The police claim they are hunting for foreign criminals and visa overstayers, or there are special security measures or campaigns in place, etc. However, you can see in the blue folder, this is an extension of the depiction of Non-Japanese in official government policies as “terrorists, criminals, and carriers of infectious diseases” (items II-9 through 11). None of these things are contingent on nationality. Consequently, after 2007 all non-citizens must be fingerprinted every time they re-enter Japan. This includes the “Newcomer” Permanent Residents, which goes farther than its model, the US-VISIT program this, which does not refingerprint Green Card holders. The epitome of bad physical and social science must be the National Research Institute of Police Science, which has received years of government grants to research “foreign DNA”, for more effective racial profiling at crime scenes (see blue folder item II-2).
In sum, thanks to national policy justifying racial profiling, the Japanese police are seeing non-Japanese as “foreign agents” in both senses of the word. They are systematically taking measures to deal with them as a social problem, not a fellow resident or immigrant. Furthermore, it goes without saying that enforcement depends upon personal appearance, as I too have been racially profiled on several occasions by police in public.
3) Refusal to be counted as residents by the Japanese Government
It is too complicated to talk about fully here (see blue folder, item III-1), but Japan’s registration system, meaning the current Koseki Family Registry and the Jūminhyō Residency Certificate systems, refuse to list Non-Japanese as “spouse” — or even “family member”. Because they are not citizens. In sum, officially Non-Japanese residents are not “residents” (jūmin), even though they pay Residency Taxes (jūminzei) like anyone else. Worse, some local governments (such as Tokyo Nerima Ward) do not even count Non-Japanese in their population tallies. This is the ultimate in invisibility, and it is government-sanctioned.
4) “Japanese Only” exclusions in businesses open to the public
Since Japan has no law against racial discrimination, there have been signs up nationwide at places open to the general public, saying “Japanese Only”, “No Foreigners allowed”, etc. (blue folder item III-1). Places enforcing exclusionary rules include stores, restaurants, hotels, family public bathhouses, bars, discos, an eyeglass outlet, a ballet school, an internet café, a billiards hall, a women’s boutique, and a newspaper subscription service. Nevertheless, the government has said repeatedly to the UN that we don’t a racial discrimination law because we have an effective judicial system. That is untrue. In the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005, blue folder items III-1 and III-7), where two Non-Japanese and one naturalized Japanese were excluded from a public bathhouse, judges refused to rule that this activity was illegal due to racial discrimination. They called it “unrational discrimination”. Moreover, they refused to enforce the CERD as law, or sanction the negligent Otaru City government for not taking effective measures against racial discrimination. The Supreme Court even refused to hear the case. Furthermore, in 2006, an African-American was refused entry into an eyeglass store by an openly racist owner, yet the Osaka District Court ruled in favor of the owner! We need a criminal law, with enforceable punishments, because the present judicial system will not fix this.
5) Objects of unfettered hate speech
The blue folder talks more about cyberbullying of minorities and prejudiced statements made by our politicians over the years. Other NGOs will talk more about the anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hate speech during the current debate about granting local suffrage rights to Permanent Residents. I would instead like to briefly mention some media, such as magazine “Underground Files of Crimes by Gaijin [sic]” (Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu (2007), blue folder item III-2), or “PR Suffrage will make Japan Disappear” (Gaikokujin Sanseiken de Nihon ga Nakunaru Hi) (2010). Both of these books stretch their case to talk about an innate criminality or deviousness in the foreign element, and “Underground Files of Crimes” even includes things that are not crimes, such as dating Japanese women. It even includes epithets like “nigger”, racist caricatures, and ponderings on whether Korean pudenda smell like kimchi. This is hate speech. And it is not illegal in Japan.
To summarize, the Japanese government’s stance towards the CERD is simple (blue folder item VI-1). The Ainu, Ryūkūans, and Burakumin are citizens, therefore they don’t need CERD protection because they are protected by the Japanese Constitution. However, the Zainichis and “Newcomers” are not citizens, therefore they don’t get protection from the CERD. Therefore, our government effectively argues, the CERD does not cover anyone in Japan.
Yeah, well what about me? Or our children? Are there really no ethnic minorities with Japanese citizenship in Japan?
In conclusion, I would like to thank the United Nations and their Rapporteurs for investigating our cases. The CERD Committee on March 16, 2010 (CERD/C/JPN/CO/3-6), issued some very welcome recommendations. However, and I would like to go back to something I said in the beginning, that the UN has a blind spot in these negotiations.
In the CERD Committee’s discussions with the Japanese government in Geneva on February 24 and 25, 2010, very little mention was made of the CERD’s non-enforcement in Japan’s judiciary and criminal code. Almost no mention was made of Japan’s “Japanese Only” signs. These are the most indefensible violation of the CERD.
The problem is, both sides, both Japan and the UN, have a blind spot in how they perceive Japan’s “minorities”. Non-Japanese were never couched as residents of or immigrants to Japan, but rather as “foreign migrants”. The unconscious assumption seems to be that 1) “foreign migrants” have a “temporary status” in Japan (particularly when Japan’s reps portrayed ethnic schools for Non-Japanese as for “foreign children in Japan only for the short stay”), and 2) Japan has few “ethnically diverse Japanese citizens”.
Look, it’s time for an update. Look at me. I am a Japanese. Like any other. Because the government put me through a very rigorous and arbitrary test for naturalization and I passed it. People like me are part of Japan’s future. Please, when you make your recommendations, have them reflect how Japan has changed, and how Japan must face up to its multicultural society already in place. Please, recognize us “Newcomers” as a permanent part of the debate. The Japanese government still will not. They say little that is positive about us. And they allow very nasty things to be said by our politicians, policymakers, and police.
It’s about time we all recognized the good things that we “Newcomers” too are doing for our home, Japan. Please help us.