SITYS: “See I Told You So” is a special category to herald the times that despite all the naysaying by critics, what was initially said on Debito.org was eventually proven to be right all along. Since the critics never capitulate, it becomes incumbent upon Debito.org to point that out ourselves.
TOKYO — Samith 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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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.
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
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.
Hi Blog. Coming out of Debito.org’s Summer Vacation briefly with some good news:
Long-time readers of Debito.org know what a deep appreciation I have for ’80s band Duran Duran — which is still putting out good albums chock full of good music (see below), and touring to full arenas. I was at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu tonight to catch them (for the second time, the first back in Canandaigua NY on June 26, 1987). Good seats, great setlist. This was their first time playing in Honolulu (they cancelled a previous date in 1994 due to lead singer Simon Le Bon losing his voice), and as the last stop on their current tour (they spent a few days recuperating on-island), they put on an excellent show to a rapt crowd.
And, I’m proud to say, thanks to mutual friend GB, I got a backstage pass. And met and briefly chatted with Simon Le Bon. As they say, pictures or it didn’t happen:
I’m going to treasure this memory for a lifetime, as I have been following DD assiduously since 1982. Thanks GB. And thanks Simon.
Here’s the playlist, songs in the order I play them. You can find them on YouTube if not on iTunes:
Last Chance on the Stairway
A View to a Kill
Late Bar (2010 Remastered Version, from the Deluxe Version of their first eponymous album)
Too Late Marlene
My Own Way (Night Version)
Breath after Breath
Point of No Return
The Flame (as Arcadia)
What Happens Tomorrow
Reach Up for the Sunrise (Ferry Corsten Dub Mix)
Girls on Film (16 Millimeter Mix)
Only in Dreams
Box Full o’ Honey
Winter Marches On
All You Need is Now
Do You Believe in Shame?
Anyone Out There?
Late Bar (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, 17 December 1981)
Before the Rain
The Man Who Stole a Leopard
Watching the Detectives
Is There Something I Should Know?
Last Night in the City
Playing With Uranium
Be My Icon
Shadows On Your Side
Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For
El Diablo (as Arcadia)
Lady Ice (as Arcadia)
The Universe Alone
Very few of these were chart material. Many are deep album cuts, very rewarding to fans. But at 3 hours 15 minutes you have a lot of good stuff from a band you’ve probably thought was merely fashion and hair. Give them a listen. And maybe you’ll know why I’m such a devoted fan after nearly 40 years of their existence (and 52 years of mine). Dr. Debito Arudou
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Hi Blog. I thought it prudent to archive here on Debito.org another case of how other societies deal with discrimination. We keep on hearing that, “Well, people discriminate all over the world, and it’s just as bad in [insert country, usually the US] as it is in Japan. So do something about racism in your own country before you lecture Japan.” Okay, but here’s yet another example of what American society, for example, often does when somebody says something racist. There are social repercussions that deter both the current and future racists. In the case mentioned below, the racist got fired. Not ignored, defended (including being defended by foreign media in Japan), given a venue (or his own political party; see here too) to spout and normalize even more racism, or even further elected to office, as can happen in Japan.
For your consideration, and for the record. Dr. Debito Arudou
Terry Frei, a columnist who has been named Colorado’s sportswriter of the year four times, is out of a job after tweeting that he was “very uncomfortable” with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indianapolis 500 on the day before Memorial Day.
Denver Post publisher Mac Tully and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo apologized Monday for a “disrespectful and unacceptable tweet” as they announced that Frei is no longer an employee of the newspaper because of the social media comment that sparked intense backlash.
“We apologize for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters,” the statement reads. “Terry Frei is no longer an employee of The Denver Post. It’s our policy not to comment further on personnel issues. The tweet doesn’t represent what we believe nor what we stand for. We hope you will accept our profound apologies.”
Frei apologized for the tweet he put up shortly after Sato’s historic win. He later deleted it.
“Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend,” Frei tweeted after Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the prestigious race.
“I apologize,” Frei tweeted hours later. The Denver Post tweeted an immediate apology Sunday night and indicated that Frei’s tweet “does not reflect the standards and values of our organization.”
— Terry Frei (@TFrei) May 29, 2017
Frei later tweeted a lengthier apology, which he deleted and replaced with a slightly revised version to remove the title of one of his books. “I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend,” wrote Frei, who said his father was a World War II veteran.
Frei also apologized to Sato, who has had no public reaction to Frei’s comment.
Here’s the full text of Frei’s apology:
I fouled up. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I said when I said it. I should have known better and I regret it. I in no way meant to represent my employer and I apologized to The Denver Post.
On Sunday, I was going down to Fort Logan National Cemetery to place flowers on the grave of and to salute my father, Jerry Frei, who spent the four-year gap between his sophomore and junior seasons at Wisconsin flying the F-5 unarmed version of the one-man P-38 fighter plane in the 26th Photo Squadron. (And I did make that visit.) He flew alone, or with a partner in a second plane, over Japanese targets in advance of the bombing runs. When Blake Olson of Channel 9 asked him about being unarmed, he laughed and said, ‘I had a pistol.’ He flew 67 missions, crossing the 300 combat hours threshold, and earned the World War II Air Medal three times. I have written much other material about American athletes in World War II. I researched and wrote quite graphically about the deaths of my father’s teammates, Dave Schreiner and Bob Baumann, in the Battle of Okinawa. I have the picture wallet containing photos of his family and girlfriend that Schreiner was carrying when he was killed. That is part of my perspective.
I am sorry, I made a mistake, and I understand 72 years have passed since the end of World War II and I do regret people with whom I probably am very closely aligned with politically and philosophically have been so offended. To those people, I apologize. (In fact, the assumptions about my political leanings have been quite inaccurate.) I apologize to Takuma Sato. I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II — and, in this case, the specific one my father fought against. Again, I will say I’m sorry, I know better, and I’m angry at myself because there was no constructive purpose in saying it and I should not have said it, especially because The Denver Post has been dragged into this.
Contrast this reaction with the kind of treatment Japanese media gave a Japanese high school baseball player Okoye Rui nearly two years ago. Okoye, who just happens to have Japanese-Nigerian roots, brought forth reactions from the Japanese press that portrayed him as an “animal” with “wild instincts” on the “savannah”, and more. Yes, there were criticisms, as noted in Huffpost Japan, but nobody was fired or in any way clearly sanctioned for saying this about a schoolboy! Where’s the deterrent? — DDA.
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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
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
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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Hi Blog. Good news, according to Kyodo below, is that the number of hate-speech rallies in Japan has gone down significantly. Some mixed news, however, is that haters have found ways to temper their hate speech so that it avoids extreme invective (such as advocating death and destruction), but continues nonetheless with the public denigration of minorities and outsiders. Hence the new law is working, but it’s causing sophistication and subtlety in message. Sort of like replacing “Japanese Only” signs with “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”, and in practice only applying the rule to foreign-looking people.
Hence the need for something more comprehensive. Stage Two of anti-racism legislation, as Ryang Yong Song of the Anti Racism Information Center says in the article, would be this: “For the last year, discussions only focused on what is hate speech and the scope of freedom of expression, but that is not enough. A law is needed to ban all kinds of discrimination including ethnicity, birth and disability.”
The number of xenophobic rallies in which ultra-right-wing groups use discriminatory language has dropped by nearly half in the 11 months since the Diet enacted a law to deter hate speech, the National Police Agency said.
While statistics show some positive impact from the law, legal experts are starting to point out its limitations because groups are finding ways to circumvent it by modifying their language at rallies to avoid obvious epithets but still express the same kind of bigotry.
From June 3, 2016, through the end of April, police nationwide tallied 35 demonstrations involving hate speech versus 61 in the same period a year earlier.
Designed to curb hate speech, the law urges the central and municipal governments to take measures to eliminate discrimination. However, it stops short of prohibiting or penalizing such speech for fear that doing so would violate the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
The Justice Ministry has shown municipal governments examples of hate speech, including phrases that urge others to “kill people” of a certain nationality, “throw them into the ocean,” tell them to “return to their homeland” or describe them as “cockroaches.”
But Satoko Kitamura, a lawyer investigating hate speech rallies, told the Diet earlier this month that organizers have been “contriving ways so that (their demonstrations) will not be recognized as adopting hate speech.”
She said participants in demonstrations in Tokyo, Saitama and Fukuoka raised signs that said “Die Korea” or chanted a slogan that said, “Please enter the Sea of Japan.”
“The Justice Ministry is calling on municipal governments to take into consideration the contexts and meaning of the expressions. As long as there are people who feel they are targeted and offended, such language must also be considered hate speech,” Kitamura said.
Iruson Nakamura, a 47-year-old journalist whose mother is a Korean resident of Japan, said, “(Hate-motivated) demonstrations have continued and online speech that incites discrimination is uncontrolled. Prohibitive measures must be sought by amending the law or enacting ordinances.”
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Joe Kurosu MD, who runs a clinic in Shimokitazawa, adds to this discussion in a January 2010 series of opinion pieces in the Asahi Shinbun, by saying:
Asahi: “For reasons that are unclear, however, the indicated maximum dose is often significantly lower than that which is standard in other parts of the world. Difference in physical frame and incidents of side effects are some of the purported reasons, but a scientifically convincing basis is lacking.
“A significant number of resident foreign nationals currently receive health care through the Japanese national health insurance system, but are ill-served because of these dosage standards.
“The maximum daily doses indicated on package inserts of standard medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, for example, are one-quarter to one-half of the standard doses in other countries for the identical drug. […]
“In any case, if the government requires foreign nationals to join the [National Health Insurance] system, it must be willing to provide services appropriate to that population. If this is not possible, then buying in the system should be voluntary […] I urge the government and relevant authorities to return autonomy to the physicians so the medications can be prescribed appropriately for the patient, whether or foreign or Japanese, based on science and clinical judgment, rather than [mechanically applying the dosage levels indicated on the package inserts].”
Here are scans of Dr. Kurosu’s articles in English and Japanese, courtesy of Dr. Kurosu himself (pctclinic.com) and RJ.
Many thanks to everyone for helping make Debito.org a valuable resource and forum. Dr. Debito Arudou
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Hi Blog. My next Japan Times Just Be Cause column has just come out. Here’s the opening:
=================================== TIME TO ACT ON INSIGHTS FROM LANDMARK SURVEY OF JAPAN’S FOREIGN RESIDENTS
The Japan Times, JUST BE CAUSE Column 107, Thursday April 27, 2017, by Debito Arudou
As promised, in March the Justice Ministry released the results of a survey on Japan’s foreign residents (gaikokujin juumin chousa), conducted last year (see “Government, Survey Thyself,” JBC Mar. 5). Compiled by the “Center for Human Rights Education and Training” public-interest foundation (www.jinken.or.jp), it surveyed the types and degrees of discrimination that foreigners face here. (The report in Japanese is at http://www.moj.go.jp/content/001221782.pdf.)
And as promised, here’s JBC’s synopsis of those results:
The report opens with a statement of purpose, talking about the pressures to “live together” (kyousei) with foreigners due to internationalization and globalization, not to mention the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Record numbers of foreigners are crossing Japan’s borders, bringing with them different languages and customs, and “so-called” hate speech demos are also causing “numerous human rights problems.” So to lay the groundwork for human rights protections for foreigners, this survey would grasp the issues directly facing foreigners “staying” (zairyuu) in Japan… ===================================
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Some 29.8 percent of foreign residents of Japan have experienced discrimination in the past five years, according to Justice Ministry survey results released on March 31.
The survey was conducted in November and December last year on 18,500 mid-to-long-term foreign residents aged 18 or over, including ethnic Koreans with special permanent resident status. Responses were received from 4,252 people.
The survey was carried out with the cooperation of 37 municipal governments, including those of Tokyo’s Minato Ward and the cities of Sapporo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka. By nation of origin, the greatest number of respondents was from China, at 1,382 people, or 32.5 percent, followed by South Korea at 941 people, or 22.1 percent, and the Philippines, at 285 people, or 6.7 percent.
Of the respondents, 1,269 said they had been the target of discriminatory language. Some 53.3 percent of these respondents, or 676 people, said the offender had been “a stranger.”
In the last five years, 2,044 of the respondents, or 48.1 percent, had looked for a home, and 804, or 39.3 percent, had the experience of being denied a lease because they were a foreigner.
Regarding their exposure to hate speech, 1,826 people, or 42.9 percent of the respondents, said they had seen or heard reports about hate speech demonstrations targeting particular races or ethnic groups through media such as television, newspaper or magazines. Some 1,416, or 33.3 percent, said they had seen reports on hate speech on the internet.
Legal affairs bureaus around the nation have sections where people can seek help regarding human rights issues, but at least 80 percent of survey respondents did not know this. A Justice Ministry representative said, “We want to consider methods to spread awareness of help centers and make them easy for foreign residents to use.”
The survey was the central government’s first ever into discrimination against foreigners. The Justice Ministry plans to examine the results and apply them to its human rights policies.
About 40 percent of foreigners have experienced being turned down when looking for a place to live in Japan because they were not Japanese, the results of a Justice Ministry survey showed Friday.
Of the 2,044 respondents who said they had tried to find residential accommodation in Japan in the past five years, 40 percent said they had been rebuffed in their efforts because they were foreigners.
Around 27 percent said they had given up on a property after seeing a notice saying foreigners are not accepted.
The ministry conducted its first-ever survey to identify the forms of discrimination faced by foreigners in Japan in the run-up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. It randomly selected 500 foreigners aged 18 and older in each of 37 municipalities across Japan and 4,252 responded from among the 18,500 people surveyed. Multiple answers were allowed in the survey.
Chinese and South Korean nationals comprised more than half the survey participants, followed by Filipinos, Brazilians and Vietnamese.
Among 2,788 people who have either job-hunted or have worked in Japan, 25 percent said they were refused work for being a foreign national and about 20 percent said their wages were lower than Japanese employees engaged in the same work, even though most of the respondents were able to have a conversation in Japanese, the survey added.
In the survey, conducted between mid-November and early December last year, around 30 percent of all the respondents said they had been subjected to discriminatory remarks, while around 80 percent of 4,085 people who said they have either witnessed or heard hate speech developed negative feelings such as “discomfort” or “intolerance.”
Meanwhile, only around 11 percent of the total respondents said they had sought advice from an institution when faced with discrimination while only about 12 percent said they knew of consultation services offered at the Justice Ministry’s legal affairs bureaus across Japan.
And finally, The Japan Times’s take, complete with self-hating foreigner comments beneath, as usual:
Rent application denials, Japanese-only recruitment and racist taunts are among the most rampant forms of discrimination faced by foreign residents in Japan, according to the results of the country’s first nationwide survey on the issue, released Friday.
The unprecedented survey of 18,500 expats of varying nationalities at the end of last year paints a comprehensive picture of deeply rooted discrimination in Japan as the nation struggles to acclimate to a recent surge in foreign residents and braces for an even greater surge in tourists in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It also represents the latest in a series of fledgling steps taken by Japan to curb racism, following last year’s first-ever video analysis by the Justice Ministry of anti-Korea demonstrations and the enactment of a law to eradicate hate speech.
In carrying out the survey, the Justice Ministry commissioned the Center for Human Rights Education and Training, a public foundation, to mail questionnaires to non-Japanese residents in 37 municipalities nationwide. Of the 18,500, 4,252 men and women, or 23.0 percent, provided valid responses. Nationalities included Chinese, South Koreans, Filipinos, Brazilians, Vietnamese and Americans.
The study found that 39.3 percent of 2,044 respondents who applied to rent apartments over the past five years got dismissed because they are not Japanese.
In addition, 41.2 percent said they were turned down because they couldn’t secure a Japanese guarantor, while 26.8 percent said they quit their pursuit of a new domicile after being discouraged by a “Japanese-only” prerequisite.
Workplace discrimination appears rife, too.
Of the 4,252 respondents, 2,788 said they had either worked or sought employment in Japan over the past five years. Of them, 25.0 percent said they had experienced being brushed off by potential employers because they are non-Japanese, while 19.6 percent said they were paid lower than their Japanese co-workers.
In a separate question, 29.8 percent of those who responded to the survey said they either “frequently” or “occasionally” heard race-based insults being hurled at them, mostly from strangers (53.3 percent), bosses, co-workers and business partners (38.0 percent) and neighbors (19.3 percent).
Among other examples of unpleasantness mentioned by respondents were “getting weird stares from strangers (31.7 percent),” “being harassed because of poor Japanese-language proficiency (25.1 percent)” and “being avoided in public spaces such as buses, trains and shopping malls (14.9 percent).”
“We believe this survey will serve as key basic data for us to implement policies to protect human rights of foreign nationals in the future,” Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda told reporters Friday.
The implementation of the survey is the latest sign that Japan, after years of inaction, is inching toward tackling the problem of racism as the nation becomes increasingly diverse.
A Justice Ministry statistic released last September showed that the number of permanent as well as middle- and long-term foreign residents in the country hit a record 2.307 million in June, up about 135,000 from a year earlier.
Adding to this is the advent in recent years of jingoistic rallies staged by ultraconservative civic groups on the streets of ethnic Korean neighborhoods, such as Shin-Okubo in Tokyo and Kawasaki, calling for the “massacre” of Koreans they branded as “cockroaches.”
The Justice Ministry’s first probe into hate speech concluded in March last year that 1,152 such demonstrations took place from April 2012 to September 2015 across the nation.
In a related move, an unprecedented hate speech law was enacted last year, highlighting efforts by the central government and municipalities to take steps to eliminate such vitriolic language.
Kim Myungsoo, a professor of sociology at Kwansei Gakuin University, hailed the ministry’s latest survey, saying it shed light on the reality of racism inherent to Japan that effectively discredits this government stance.
“The survey publicly confirmed the reality of victimization caused by racism in Japan, which would prevent the government from sticking to its conventional assertion,” said Kim, who himself is an ethnic Korean resident. “I believe the government is ready to change its position.”
Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, said the government has much to learn from the results of this survey, noting an overwhelming 85.3 percent of the respondents said they were not aware of human rights consultation services made available by regional branches of the Justice Ministry.
But a sad irony, he pointed out, plagues these services in the first place, with foreign nationals effectively disqualified from becoming counselors there due to a law that makes having Japanese nationality a prerequisite for the post.
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As Submitter JK notes: “Of interest is Professor Kwak’s statement that “False rumors commonly surface in the event of a major earthquake, and it is no easy task to erase them. Rather, each person needs to acquire the ability to judge them”. Given the result of his survey in Shinjuku-ku, it’s obvious that people lack the critical reasoning skills needed to separate fact from fiction (especially when disaster strikes), so this leads to me believe that trying to erase false rumors post-ex-facto is a fool’s errand — the ‘rumor’ that *needs* to be spread is that foreigners, specifically Chinese, Koreans and people from Southeast Asia are *NOT* looters, thieves, damagers of corpses (whatever that is), or rapists. In other words, what needs to happen to get the headline to read “Only 20% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after quake”?”
SENDAI — Fake rumors of rampant crime by foreigners in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami six years ago were believed by over 80 percent of respondents here in a recent survey of people who said they had heard them, it has been learned.
Tohoku Gakuin University professor Kwak Kihwan, who specializes in co-existing society studies, conducted a survey on the rumors in September and October last year. He said the results show that a particular mindset can easily spread in an emergency, and is calling for people to choose their information carefully.
Kwak posted the survey to about 2,100 people of Japanese nationality between the ages of 20 and 69 living in the three Sendai wards of Aoba, Miyagino and Wakabayashi, which suffered extensive damage in the quake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Responses were received from 770 people, or 36.7 percent of the target group.
A total of 51.6 percent of respondents said they had heard rumors of crime by foreigners in the disaster areas. Of these, 86.2 percent responded that they had either “largely” or “somewhat” believed the rumors. When asked what crimes had been rumored, with multiple answers permitted, “looting and theft” took the top spot at 97 percent, followed by “damage to corpses” (24.4 percent), and “rape and assault” (19.1 percent). When asked who they thought had committed the crimes, again with multiple answers permitted, 63 percent said “Chinese,” 24.9 percent said “Koreans,” and 22.7 percent answered “people from Southeast Asia.”
Television footage taken in the wake of the disasters showed Japanese residents cooperating in an orderly fashion.
“It was probably convenient to have rumors that it was foreigners who were committing crimes so as not to conflict with the image that Japanese people act in an orderly way,” Kwak said. He added, “There also may have been people who spread rumors about crimes not out of malice but because they were worried about those around them. You can’t simply dismiss it as exclusivism. It’s a difficult issue.”
To provide a basis for comparison, Kwak conducted a similar survey in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward targeting 700 people, and received responses from 174 of them (a response rate of 24.9 percent). Just 70 respondents said they had heard rumors of crimes by foreigners. Of these, 60 people, or 85.7 percent, said they had believed the rumors — a result similar to that seen in the survey in Sendai.
“False rumors commonly surface in the event of a major earthquake, and it is no easy task to erase them. Rather, each person needs to acquire the ability to judge them,” Kwak said.
Miyagi Prefectural Police statistics show that of the 3,899 people that police exposed in connection with criminal offenses in the prefecture in 2011, the year of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a total of 57 (1.5 percent), were foreigners either visiting or residing permanently in Japan. The figure dropped to 53 (1.3 percent) in 2012, and rose to 67 (1.9 percent) in 2013 — indicating there was not a great deal of variation.
At the time of the disaster, prefectural police distributed fliers to evacuation shelters warning residents to be on their guard against rumors. Online, police stated that there had been four serious offences between March 12 and 21, 2011, not significantly different from the seven cases recorded during the same period the previous year.
Satoshi Konno of the prefectural police safety department commented, “During disasters, we want people to confirm information provided by news organizations and government organizations and act appropriately.”
False rumors have been seen following major disasters in the past. When the Great Kanto Earthquake struck in 1923, a false rumor that Koreans has been poisoning wells spread. Police and residents formed vigilante groups and Koreans and Chinese were killed in various areas.
Recently false rumors have spread on the internet. In the latest survey, respondents were asked where they had heard the rumors. The top answer, at 68 percent, was “from family members and locals,” followed by “on the internet,” at 42.9 percent.
The prevalence of smartphones following the disaster has provided more opportunities for people to share information through social networking services (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter. In the wake of the Kumamoto quakes in April last year, police arrested a man on suspicion of fraudulent obstruction of business over a fake photo and tweet indicating that a lion had escaped from Kumamoto City Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Kwak commented, “With the Kumamoto quakes, we saw fake rumors that had been posted on Twitter being dispelled by other posts. SNS can be effective if not used in the wrong way. Ways of handling the situation should be incorporated into disaster education programs.”
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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?”
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)
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
15 Debito.org’s archive of human rights issues in Japan celebrates its 20th Anniversary.
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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
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.
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“The thinking of those putting out hate speech and the (essential) content of what they say may not change, but at least on the surface we can see the effects of the countermeasures. It seems (for example) that the organizers are not allowing demonstrators who often say extremist things to have bullhorns.”
“Preventing hate marches through the law thus depends not on cracking down on such actions, but on government policies that put a stop to discrimination.”
Seems like the law is doing a decent job of treating the symptoms, but is obviously unable to deal with the underlying problem due to the absence of an anti-racial discrimination law on the books.
A protest banner reading “sever Japan and South Korean relations” and a counter “anti-racism” protest’s banner written in English are seen in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, on June 19, 2016. (Photo credit: Mainichi)
A citizen’s group that accuses the Osaka ordinance of “discriminating against Japanese” and was planning a demonstration in front of the Osaka Municipal Office on July 12 listed the following among its notices for its demonstrators: “Please don’t use placards with extreme content,” and “No flags with swastikas or other things that will invite misunderstanding.”
The demonstration was canceled due to rain, so what exactly was meant by “extreme content” is unknown, but it seems likely the group was trying to limit language that insults and rejects ethnic Koreans in Japan.
Mun Gong Hwi, an ethnic Korean, is head of the secretariat of “Hate Speech o Yurusanai! Osaka no Kai” (don’t allow hate speech! Osaka group), which has applied based on the Osaka ordinance for recognition as a target of hate speech. Mun says, “In a street demonstration by a hate group in April, there was a moment when one participant started to use blatantly offensive language to attack Koreans, and the organizers hurried to stop them. The number of hate demonstrations has also fallen greatly since around the time of the ordinance taking effect.”
Under the Osaka ordinance, if the mayor authorizes it, individuals or groups that have conducted hateful behavior toward others can have their names publicized, but so far this aspect of the ordinance has not been used. Mun adds, “The drop in (hate) demonstrations may just be because they are watching to see how things develop.”
In Ginza, Tokyo, where since around last year there has been a marked increase in hate demonstrations, there have also been changes since the new legal measures. During a demonstration on June 19, instead of banners insulting Koreans, protesters carried banners calling for severing relations between Japan and South Korea, apparently having chosen to avoid ethnically-charged language and instead place emphasis on their political argument.
Masayuki Watanabe, associate professor at Daito Bunka University, who has been urging Ginza commerce and industry associations and the ward assembly to take action against hate speech, says, “The thinking of those putting out hate speech and the (essential) content of what they say may not change, but at least on the surface we can see the effects of the countermeasures. It seems (for example) that the organizers are not allowing demonstrators who often say extremist things to have bullhorns.”
The response of police and the government administrations to hate marches has also changed. On June 5, just after the execution of the new law, the Kawasaki Municipal Government refused to give permission for a park to be used for a protest targeting the social welfare corporation “Seikyu-sha,” which gives support to the many ethnic Koreans living in the city’s Sakuramoto district. Additionally, the Kawasaki branch of the Yokohama District Court called the hate speech demonstrations “an illegal violation of human rights” and prohibited them from being held near the Seikyu-sha building.
Kanagawa Prefectural Police gave permission for the demonstration to be held in a different street location, but protesters staged a sit-in. The police urged the organizers to call off the demonstration for safety reasons, and it was canceled.
Tomohito Miura, the head of Seikyu-sha’s secretariat, says, “Before the anti-hate speech law was created, the police wouldn’t even tell us the routes planned for the demonstrations, and it was we who were treated like an illegal group. The police wouldn’t protect us from hate demonstrations in our neighborhoods, and government services would say, ‘There is only so much we can do under the current law.’ We were on the receiving end of these three layers of damage.” He was complimentary, however, toward the efforts of government organs, the judiciary, police and citizens since the passage of the law, saying, “It is a definite step forward that we were able to stop the demonstration.”
While vulgar insults from these hate marches may be disappearing from the streets, the question remains whether the new law will be effective in combatting discrimination. In deference to the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech, the law does not forbid anything or include any punishments, but it makes it the national government’s responsibility to set up help for victims of hate speech and to work to educate and provide awareness to the public to stop the speech from occurring. It also calls on municipal governments to work toward these goals. Preventing hate marches through the law thus depends not on cracking down on such actions, but on government policies that put a stop to discrimination.
The Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Bureau dispatched employees not only for the planned Kawasaki demonstration, but also for ones in the cities of Fukuoka and Osaka after the new law went into effect. Using tools such as videos and posters, they are trying to educate people about hate speech. However, the bureau emphasizes, “The law does not involve applying any kind of legal effect when there is a case of hate speech.”
Following the implementation of the new law, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology instructed prefectural boards of education to take “appropriate responses.” When asked what kind of education is an appropriate response to the law, the ministry’s Social Education Division said, “Efforts that are adapted to the circumstances, such as whether there are many foreigners in an area, are needed. However, we mustn’t stir up settled problems through this education.” While there is some truth to what the division says, it does seem they are still trying to find their footing on how to proceed.
Will other parts of Japan do the same as the Osaka Municipal Government and establish local ordinances against hate speech? When asked about specific future policies on hate speech, the human rights and gender-equality section of the Kawasaki Municipal Government was tight-lipped, saying its policy was being carried out “at the discretion of the mayor.” When pressed, a representative said, “Regarding things like refusing permission to allow use of the park (for the hate demonstration), I hear there is a movement to sue the municipal government for discriminating against Japanese people. We don’t want to reveal our plans.” Apparently, like the demonstrators, the government side is watching to see what the other does.
If another hate demonstration is planned in Kawasaki, will the citizens have no choice but to stage a sit-in and wait for police intervention? Miura says, “The fact that police gave permission for the June demonstration to be held in the street shows the current limits (of the law). We can’t ask the police and government services to do everything. Next time, we will have to stop the demonstration in a different way. The work to overcome the limits of the law has just begun.”
Not limited to just fighting against hate speech, Miura says Seikyu-sha will work with the municipal government to advance effective ordinances and guidelines that promote the coexistence of different cultures.
Regarding the city of Osaka, which has its own anti-hate ordinance, Mun says, “We don’t yet know the extent of the effects of the anti-hate law or the ordinance. This is why we want to use the ordinance as much as possible and discover exactly what it can do and what it can’t. Based on that, if necessary, we want to pursue revision of the ordinance to restrict hate speech itself.” This position of wanting to observe what happens and then compensate for any deficiencies in the anti-hate legislation is one shared by Miura and the others at Seikyu-sha.
Always accompanying the hostile feelings of the hate demonstrations is the shadow of war. The targeting of the Sakuramoto area was triggered by a protest in September last year by elderly ethnic Koreans against the bills for the new security laws. Wearing traditional Korean garb, the protesters were based out of the “Fureai-kan,” a facility managed by Seikyu-sha.
“The hate demonstration was clearly in revenge for that,” says Miura.
One of the participants in the anti-security laws protest, first-generation Korean immigrant Kim Bang Ja, 85, is also a student of literacy at the Fureai-kan. She was about 5 when she came to Japan, following her father who worked in a coal mine in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Busy with looking after her younger sister and doing household chores, she says she was only able to go to school for about one year. When the anti-hate law was passed in May this year, she was sitting as an observer in the Diet. She wrote her impressions about the law in a composition in her literacy class.
After describing how she disliked being insulted with foul language, she wrote, “Let’s stop doing that kind of thing and get along.” Although overall the writing was inconsistent, for this part alone it was particularly large and strong.
“My hand was shaking because I was writing in ink,” says Kim, adding, “If people talk they can come to an understanding. We have to get along with each other and not hate others.”
Will these words get through to those who participate in the hate demonstrations? The first step to realizing the ideals put forward in the anti-hate law is surely having communication between the two sides.
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The plaintiffs argued that “carrying out surveillance of us on grounds of our religion amounts to discrimination and is a violation of the Constitution” in the lawsuit filed against the Tokyo metropolitan and the central government.
Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department had been keeping close tabs on Muslims solely because of their religion, reasoning it was pre-empting possible terrorism.
The tide changed in the United States after the leak in 2013 of global surveillance programs and classified information from the National Security Agency by U.S. computer expert Edward Snowden, said Ben Wizner, attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Snowden, a former CIA employee, revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had secretly collected personal information and communications from the Internet.
The leak revealed the extent of clandestine surveillance on the public by the government for the first time.
The leaked data showed that the documents were compiled in a style of a resume on each individual, along with a record of tailing them.
Compensation of 90 million yen ($874,000) was awarded to the plaintiffs by the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court, which ruled there was a “flaw in information management.”
However, the plaintiffs appealed because the courts stated “surveillance of Muslims” was “unavoidable” in order to uncover terror plots.
The top court sided with lower court rulings, declaring the surveillance was not unconstitutional. A Moroccan man, one of the 17, said he was upset by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I am disappointed with the Japanese judiciary,” said the man in his 40s.
He said he was terrified by the sarin gas attack of 1995 on the Tokyo subway system, which he himself experienced. The attack left 13 people dead and thousands injured.
“Has there been a terror attack by Muslims in Japan?” he said. “Surveillance is a breach of human rights.”
After the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, investigative authorities heightened their surveillance of Muslim communities.
But recent U.S. court rulings have seen the judiciary move against the trend.
Two lawsuits were filed in the state of New York and New Jersey after The Associated Press news agency in 2011 reported on the wide-ranging surveillance of Muslim communities in the two states by the New York Police Department.
Last October, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit handed down a decision in favor of the plaintiffs, sending the lawsuit in New Jersey back to the district court for further proceedings.
New York police reached a settlement with plaintiffs in January, banning investigations solely on the basis of religion.
In 2006, the German Constitutional Court delivered a ruling restricting surveillance.
Masanori Naito, a professor of modern Muslim regions at Doshisha University’s Graduate School in Kyoto, blasted the Supreme Court’s decision as a manifestation of its “sheer ignorance” of Islam.
Although Muslims account for more than 20 percent of the global population of 7.3 billion, only a fraction reside in Japan.
“As a result, Japanese tend to think that all Muslims are violent,” he said. “Conducting surveillance will only stir up a feeling of incredulity among Muslims and backfire. What police should do is to enhance their understanding of Muslim communities and make an effort to gather information.”
Debito: The obvious extension of this legitimization of racial profiling (defined as using a process of differentiation, othering, and subordination to target a people in Japan; it does not have to rely on phenotypical “looks”) is that for “national security reasons” the next step is to target and snoop on all foreign residents in Japan. Because they might be terrorists. The National Police Agency et al. have already been justifying the targeting of NJ as terrorists (not to mention as criminals, “illegal overstayers“, holders of “foreign DNA”, and carriers of contagious diseases). And Japan’s Supreme Court has now effectively given the green light to that too. The noose further tightens around NJ residents in Japan. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
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Now, according to the Japan Times below (in a woefully under-researched article), the bathhouse industry is reporting that they are in serious financial trouble (examples of this were apparent long ago: here’s one in Wakkanai, Hokkaido that refused “foreigners” until the day it went bankrupt). And now they want to attract foreign tourists. It’s a great metaphor for Japan’s lack of an immigration policy in general: Take their money (as tourists or temporary laborers), but don’t change the rules so that they are protected against wanton discrimination from the locals. It’s acceptance with a big, big asterisk.
Admittedly, this is another step in the right direction. But it’s one that should have been done decades ago (when we suggested that bathhouse rules simply be explained with multilingual signs; duh). But alas, there’s no outlawing the racists in Japan, so this is one consequence. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Japan’s public baths, known as sento, represent an institution with hundreds of years of history. They provided an important public service in the days before homes had their own hot-water bathtubs.
Sento can range in style from simple hot springs piped into a large tub to modern facilities resembling theme parks and offering a range of therapies.
In the Edo Period (1603-1868), sento were so popular that every town had on. They were important centers of the community.
Sento are on the decline both because homes now have fully fledged bathrooms and because retiring operators find it hard to find successors to take on their businesses. There are now around 630 establishments in Tokyo, down from 2,700 in 1968, a peak year for sento.
Faced with this trend, the Tokyo Sento Association is trying to tap demand from non-Japanese residents and tourists.
It has installed explanatory signs at each facility showing non-Japanese speakers how to use a sento in five languages. It also plans to create an app for people to search for sento in English.
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
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.
Baffled by a surge of e-mails snitching on resident Koreans as “illegal aliens,” the Immigration Bureau shut down its tipster program on people overstaying their visas and contacted the police for assistance.
“This is a highly regrettable situation,” said an official with the bureau’s general affairs division. “Sending e-mails to slander foreigners does not meet the purpose of the system to inform on illegal residents.”
The bureau, an arm of the Justice Ministry, said that since May it had received more than three times as many e-mails informing on supposed illegal residents than in fiscal 2014. It attributed the surge to misinformation that spread on the Internet claiming Korean nationals would become illegal aliens as of July 9.
The Immigration Bureau adopted the tipster system in 2004 to crack down on people overstaying their visas. It received 460 or so e-mails on a monthly average on the topic last fiscal year. But in May of this year, the figure jumped to 1,821, with 1,562 in June. The number of e-mails received in July through September is still being tallied, but could exceed 10,000, according to the official.
The bureau noted that there was a sharp increase in e-mails about Korean nationals based on false information, and signs that a lone individual was responsible for many of them.
Some online comments said people could claim a reward for ratting out a Korean.
This situation stemmed from a decision to issue special permanent resident certificates to ethnic Koreans and their descendants in place of municipality-issued alien registration cards following their loss of Japanese citizenship after the end of World War II. The deadline for approximately 150,000 Korean nationals to change their certificates was July 8.
Although failure to shift to the new system could eventually be subject to penalty, there are no provisions under Japanese law for deportation over non-compliance.
Citing concerns that the surge in e-mails could snarl up its service provider, the Immigration Bureau stopped accepting further e-mails at the end of October. In November, it asked the police to ascertain whether a criminal case could be made for business obstruction.
The bureau plans to resume accepting tips on people overstaying their visas after they come up with measures to eliminate bogus e-mails.
But there have been calls for the program to be scrapped because of its racist and judgmental overtones.
Information sent to the bureau can be submitted anonymously.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations submitted a memorandum to the justice minister in 2005, a year after the program started, asking for it to be abolished.
It stated: “The program has ordinary citizens essentially spying on people suspected of being illegal aliens, which serves only to advance prejudice and discrimination towards foreigners.”
The citizens group Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan submitted a similar complaint to the Justice Ministry in November, stating that the program “incites discrimination.”
Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University who is well-versed in human rights issues concerning foreign residents of Japan, said the Immigration Bureau should abolish, not suspend, the program advocating people to snitch on foreigners.
“With such a system in place, people who make hate speeches like ‘banish the Koreans’ would feel as if their actions are ‘given government approval,’” Tanaka said.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s deep adoration for the Ise Grand Shrine, the most sacred Shinto site in Japan, is no secret. He visits every New Year and reportedly even postponed a cabinet meeting in 2013 to attend a ceremony on its hallowed ground.
So when Mr. Abe announced this summer that the 2016 summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations would be held in the nearby resort city of Shima, Satoru Otowa wasn’t surprised.
“I believe it has something to do with his Shinto beliefs,” Mr. Otowa, a spokesman for the shrine, said while leading a tour there in August. “When the prime minister visited in January, everyone saw how passionately he prayed.”
The decision to host the G-7 summit near Ise underscores Abe’s devout Shinto faith. Yet his commitment to Japan’s indigenous religion has led to far more than symbolic gestures. He and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have pursued a wide range of Shinto-inspired policies – from more openly embracing Japan’s imperial heritage to reforming aspects of Japanese education and even re-evaluating the country’s wartime record – with the explicit goal of renewing what they say are traditional values.
As old perhaps as Japan itself, Shinto has no explicit creed or major religious texts. Its adherents pray to “kami,” spirits found in objects both living and inanimate, and believe in a complex body of folklore that emphasizes ancestor worship. But as Japan modernized in the late 19th century, officials made Shinto the state religion, and Japanese were taught to view the emperor as having divine stature. The religion became closely associated with Japanese militarism, leading to its separation from state institutions after World War II.
Shinto struggled for decades to find a place in postwar Japan, and given the religion’s history, some critics see the country’s newfound interest in it as a sign of simmering nationalism at best. At worst, they describe it as a reprise of the official State Shinto of imperial Japan.
But among conservatives it reflects a palpable fear that Japan has somehow gone adrift after two decades of economic stagnation, rampant materialism, and the rise of neighboring China. Many believe the time has come for the religion to regain its rightful place in the public sphere.
“Shinto is refusing to be restricted to the private and family life,” says Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “There is this sense that Japan needs to get back what it lost after World War II and that this will be good for the nation.”
Flying the flag One of Keiji Furuya’s most formative experiences was the three years he spent as an exchange student in New York as a young teenager. Mr. Furuya, who has since become one of Japan’s most conservative LDP lawmakers, recalls marveling at America’s unabashed displays of patriotism. He was astonished to see flags billowing from front porches and students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school.
Growing up in Japan, Furuya’s never saw such displays. The official Shinto ideology used to promote Japanese superiority and a presumed right to govern Asia was tucked away after Japan’s defeat in 1945. Emperor Hirohito renounced his divine status as a “living god” in early 1946 and the country’s new Constitution, drafted by US occupation forces, enshrined pacifism as national policy.
The Constitution also mandated the separation of state and religion. The US occupation not only ended Shinto’s official designation, it inaugurated a period when Shinto began to disappear from Japanese society altogether. Shinto, along with the nationalism it helped spawn, quickly became taboo.
“For people like me who went through the postwar education system in Japan, raising a flag was not a popular thing to do,” Furuya said in August during an interview in his office conference room. As if to make up for the loss, the room had been adorned with three flags. “But as time went by,” he added, “I came to believe that it was natural to have respect and pride in one’s own country.”
It’s a belief that has come to define much of Furuya’s political career. He was first elected to Japan’s lower house of parliament in 1990 and re-elected to an eighth term in 2012. He also serves in Abe’s cabinet. As a defender of what he calls “true conservatism,” he considers it his duty to protect Japanese traditional values. To do so, he says, “We need drastic reforms.”
Interest in such reform has been building for much of the past decade. Masahiko Fujiwara’s “Dignity of a Nation” sold 2 million copies in 2006 and revived the concept of “bushido,” the honor code of the samurai. The former ultranationalist governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, spoke of the Japan “that could say no” to the US. And the introduction of patriotic education in public schools was one of Abe’s top initiatives during his first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.
More recently, a new wave of conservatives – often compared to members of the tea party in the US – helped the LDP win a landslide victory in 2012 and put Abe back in power. Their support helped him pass a package of laws last month that allows Japan to send troops abroad in support of allies for the first time in its postwar era.
Shinto Association Furuya’s support for a wide range of initiatives that aim to revive pieces of prewar Japanese culture led him to join Shinto Seiji Renmei (the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership). Since its founding in 1969, Seiji Renmei has transformed into one of the most influential political lobbying groups in Japan. According to the most recent count, 302 parliament members are affiliated with the association, compared with 44 two decades ago. Abe and many of his top cabinet officials – including the deputy prime minister, defense minister, and justice minister – are longtime members.
Seiji Renmei’s mission is to reclaim the spiritual values that it says were lost under the US occupation. The association supports efforts to revise Japan’s pacifist Constitution, encourage patriotic and moral education, and promote the return of the emperor to a more prominent place in Japanese society. It also calls for restoring the special status of Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial memorial to Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II.
“After the war, there was an atmosphere that considered all aspects of the prewar era bad,” former Seiji Renmei director Yutaka Yuzawa told Reuters last December. “Policies were adopted weakening the relationship between the imperial household and the people,” he added, “and the most fundamental elements of Japanese history were not taught in the schools.”
Seiji Renmei declined multiple requests for an interview from The Christian Science Monitor.
Iwahashi Katsuji, a spokesman for the Association of Shinto Shrines, a closely linked organization that administers 80,000 shrines in Japan, says it’s time for the Japanese to re-evaluate their past.
“Even after the Meiji Restoration there are many good points,” he says, referring to Japan’s rapid transformation from a feudal farming society into an industrial power at the end of the 19th century. “Just saying that Japan lost the war and that Japan was bad and evil is not constructive.”
A growing influence? Inoue Nobutaka, a professor of Shinto studies at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, says it’s far from clear how much of the past Abe and his supporters want to revive. But he contends that organizations such as Seiji Renmei and Nippon Kaigi, a like-minded nationalist group, hold more sway over the Abe administration than they did over its predecessors.
“These groups have been politically active for a long time,” Dr. Nobutaka says. “Their influence has grown because Abe has turned to them for support.”
That support is starting to pay off. With the help of Furuya, who heads a group of conservative lawmakers that promotes the cultivation of patriotic values in schools, Seiji Renmei and its allies have gained some of the most ground in education.
The group argues that changes in the education system are essential to restoring Japanese pride, which they say has eroded over decades of teachers imparting “a masochistic view of history” on their students. Its members dispute the death toll of the 1937 massacre in Nanking that the Chinese government says stands at 300,000, and deny that the Japanese Army played a direct role in forcing so-called comfort women to provide sex to its soldiers in China and Korea.
The group launched a campaign this summer to encourage local education boards to adopt revised textbooks that eliminate negative depictions of Japan’s wartime activities. The strategy is gaining attention. Last month, 31 school districts in 14 prefectures had agreed to use the more conservative textbooks in their junior high schools, up from 23 districts in 11 prefectures four years ago.
Those achievements came after Abe pledged in January to fight what he called mistaken views about Japan’s wartime actions. Yet history is an unresolved subject in East Asia. In the eyes of China and South Korea, two victims of Japan’s early 20th-century aggression, Abe and his supporters are historical revisionists who want to whitewash the country’s wartime atrocities.
Abe’s critics warn the new textbooks could weaken an antiwar message they say has helped keep Japan peaceful for seven decades. But supporters like Furuya argue that they are needed to instill a new sense of patriotism among young people.
“That doesn’t mean we’re fostering nationalism,” Furuya says. “I believe it is natural to understand our country’s history correctly and to have respect for our country.”
The Ise mystique The Ise Grand Shrine is a sprawling, tree-covered complex located in Mie prefecture, about 200 miles southwest of Tokyo near the Pacific coast. The sun goddess Amaterasu, a major Shinto deity who is believed to be an ancestral god of the imperial family, is enshrined in its inner sanctum. Her story is a powerful legend that draws millions of Japanese every year to pray at the shrine. It’s one that Abe is eager to share with the world.
“I wanted to choose a place where world leaders could have a full taste and feel of Japan’s beautiful nature, bountiful culture, and traditions,” he told reporters after announcing the location of the G-7 summit.
Never mind that the governor of Mie prefecture hadn’t even submitted a bid to host the summit when the deadline came and went last August. At the time, Hiroshima and Sendai, a major city in the area ravaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, were widely considered the frontrunners.
But it soon became clear that the prime minister had other plans. That December his staff contacted the Mie governor to encourage him to enter the race, according to reports in Japanese media. On Jan. 21, just weeks after Abe visited Ise to celebrate the New Year, Shima’s candidacy was announced. He declared it the winner on June 5.
The summit will in fact be held on an island off the coast of Shima. Yet that hasn’t stopped Abe from calling the host city Ise-Shima in an apparent effort to draw more attention to his beloved shrine.
“Every country has its myths,” says Dr. Nobutaka of Kokugakuin University. “Myth has a special place in the heart of the Japanese, regardless of what happened in the past.”
Hi Blog. My next Japan Times JBC 92 crystal balls again about Japan’s future based upon the landmark security legislation passed last month. JBC has been quite right about a lot of future developments these past few years. Let’s see how we do with this one. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE
Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito Column 92 for The Japan Times Community Page Monday, October 5, 2015
That’s it then. The circle is complete. Japan is primed to march back to its pre-World War II systems of governance.
Now just to be clear: I don’t think there will be another world war based on this. However, I think in a generation or two (Japan’s militarists are patient – they’ve already waited two generations for this comeback), a re-armed (even quietly nuclear) Japan selling weapons and saber-rattling at neighbors will be quite normalized.
Hi Blog. What’s happening these days in Japan under PM Abe, i.e., the ramming of new security guidelines through the Diet, will have ripple effects for years, particularly in terms of Japan’s legislative practices and constitutional jurisprudence. Not since the days of Abe’s grandfather doing much the same thing, ramming through the US-Japan Security Treaty more than five decades ago (which also did remarkable damage to Japan as a civil society), have recent policy measures been given the potential to undermine the rule of law in Japan. And I say this with all the disappointment of a Japanese citizen, voter, and Japanophile. The Japanese Government has truly shamed itself as a proponent of its own civilization, and its short-sighted voting public has done too little too late to prevent a self-entitled single-minded person as awful as Abe being given a second crack at governance (this time with a majority in both parliamentary houses, no less).
Debito.org, with its focus on life and human rights in Japan as relates to NJ and Visible Minorities, isn’t really in a position to comment on this until it becomes clear how these policy outcomes will affect them. Right now, all can say is that I told you this would happen. Consider my record in real time in my previous Japan Times columns on the rise of Abe and Japan’s looming remilitarization (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Meanwhile, I’m not one to speculate further without more concrete evidence.
From “Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan”, by Jeff Kingston, Japan Times, May 16, 2015
JT: “[Government officials] have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” [US-based journalist Ayako Doi] says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.
Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”
“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.” […]
Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.
“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”
Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”
I’m not sure you have a leg to stand on here, Greg. After all, isn’t discriminating against you a right for Japanese people?
I’ll let Debito.org Reader JDG conclude this blog entry:
JDG:Please spare a moment’s thought for the plight of Gregory Clark. Even though this has happened to him (and seriously, see how low an opinion of him is held in the article ‘Our Other Man in Japan’), I have to say that such intimidation and discrimination, EVEN against Gregory Clark, is deplorable (in fact, when you or I are discriminated, we get the whole apologist slapdown. When it happens to Clark, suddenly it’s ‘The Forces of Darkness’! I mean what is this? Lord of the Rings?). I just wish that he’d used all his years of access to policy makers to work to improve the lot of NJ in Japan, rather than for his own personal gain, and IMHO, vain pride and sense of self-entitlement.
Anyhow, starting with that time he got annoyed with the police because they didn’t care who he was, and therefore didn’t arrest some black guys for him, he seems to have just gone downhill. What’s next? Black vans outside his house, and bullets from the uyoku in the post?
Since I read in previous articles about Gregory that he was loaded and flush with cash from property deals and public speaking, I won’t be asking Debito.org readers to donate any money to get Gregory off the street, nor will I be asking any of you to ‘adopt an Australian’ for $5 a month (or anything like that).
Dear Greg, If you’re reading this, you always have a home here with us (maybe. I dunno, after all, it’s Dr. Debito’s page, and you’ve been kind of critical of him in the past. Just sayin’.). What I mean is, now that you’ve seen Japan ‘through the looking glass’ as it were, had your bubble burst, and have experienced the kind of discrimination that you always said didn’t exist for NJ in Japan, anytime you want to pitch in and lend a weighty hand in this struggle for human rights, we (well, I guess ‘I’, after all, I can’t speak for the others) would welcome you, and your past sins would be forgiven, as it were (again, that’s an ‘I’ statement).
Yours sincerely, JDG (the kind of NJ you wouldn’t have given the time of day to).
Hi Blog. I’m sorry for taking some time to get to this: I’ve been rather busy recently, and I was hoping that an English-langauge article would take this issue up and save me the need to carve out some time translating from the vernacular press. Found a couple references (a passing one here and a more elaborate contextualizing in the Japan Times here), but they’re missing a couple of important nuances, so here goes:
Translation of the article without footnotes follows, with full article in Japanese. Any errors are mine. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
(Foreigner Apartment Refusal) Ministry of Justice on “No Foreigners” apartments: not acknowledged as a violation of human rights. Student Union that introduced the apartment apologizes to student.
47News.jp, from Kyodo, March 30, 2015, provisional translation by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
A European exchange student in his twenties who wished to rent an apartment in Kyoto could not get a rental contract because the apartment was “No Foreigners”. He asked for recourse from the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Affairs Bureau in Kyoto for discrimination against foreigners, but the Legal Affairs Bureau refused, stating, “We cannot determine that the facts constitute a violation of human rights.”
The Student Union at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, who acted as the interlocutor to the realtor, apologized to the student, and has ceased introductions to places that refuse foreigners. The university has advised the Student Union to improve its services. The student’s supporters have voiced the need for seeing how the Legal Affairs handled the issue as a problem.
Lack of Transparency
The Ministry of Justice has called for the end of street demonstrations expressing discrimination against foreigners that may be called hate speech [sic]. On its online home page it introduces a case of “a barber who refused customers on the basis of them being foreigners” as a violation of human rights. As to this case of the refused student, the Ministry of Justice refused to explain further why this was not acknowledged as the same. The student criticized the situation, saying “the Legal Affairs Bureau’s handling lacks transparency.”
The student attempted to rent the apartment in Kyoto through the Student Union in January 2013, but was told at the Union that the landlord refused. In September 2014, the Bureau notified him that “We decided that it was unclear that there had been a violation”. “We admonished (keihatsu, or “enlightened”) the Student Union.” According to Ministry of Justice guidelines, even in cases where there has not been a violation of human rights, admonition can be carried out.
However, the exchange student raised the question, “Wouldn’t most Japanese think that this is discrimination? Would only admonishing without any legally-binding force actually stop this from happening again?” He repeated, “I had the chance to learn and grow from learning Japanese culture, but I was quite hurt by this problem.”
Easing the Unease
Ryuukoku’s Student Union leader Doumen Yuuko sees that this landlord’s refusal to rent to foreigners is but a “vague feeling of unease” (bakuzen to shita fuan). Thanks to this case, the Student Union no longer refers students to renters that have “no foreigners” policies. She said that recently the Union is politely explaining to landlords that the former will handle any troubles that result from unpaid rents and differences in lifestyles. Ms. Doumen added, “As a university, we accept many kinds of people. It’s important that we see diversity not only in regards to foreign exchange students.”
When contacted by Kyodo News for a comment, the representative for the Bureau, a Mr. Ohyama Kunio, responded, “We cannot comment on that case, or on whether we took up that case.” For the sake of preserving privacy, the Bureau does not publicly speak as a matter of principle on cases that have been raised for relief.
Ms. Moro-oka Yasuko, a lawyer that takes on cases of foreigner discrimination, suggested, “They probably are thinking that because the landlord refused the exchange student before it got to the contract stage, that’s why it didn’t become an explicit violation of human rights.”
The Japanese Government, a signatory to the UN Convention for the the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has the duty to forbid discrimination. However, Japan’s human rights organs have a deep-rooted image of having “insufficient enforcement power”. Ms Moro-oka charged, “As agreed to in the treaty, Japan must make a law to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.”
[…] Since the exercise in Fukui nearly a decade ago, more than 100 drills in response to some form of security threat have been conducted at prefectures throughout the country. Assumptions behind the threats the drills are based on range from unidentified armed groups landing on the Japan Sea coast and bombing hospitals and medical facilities to railway station bombings in major cities and a widespread chemical weapons attack in central Tokyo.
While the law has prodded various local and central government agencies to coordinate a response, the Aum threat and the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. began a process of rethinking about domestic security that first manifested itself at the 2002 World Cup and later in Hokkaido at the Group of Eight summit in 2008. In recent weeks, support for further measures picked up steam with the deaths of journalists Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa at the hands of the Islamic State group in the Middle East. The deaths of three Japanese tourists in Tunisia last week will simply accelerate what is already a fast-moving debate.
Suddenly, it seems, the domestic media, public and the political world are obsessed with threats, real and imagined, to the country’s security and to Japanese who venture abroad. Next year’s G-8 summit (sans Russia) will return to Japan, and seven cities — Hiroshima, Kobe, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Karuizawa, Niigata and Sendai — hope to host the world leaders of Japan, the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Germany and Italy.
The candidate cities have emphasized, in addition to their various cultural assets, their preparedness in the event of a security threat. Meanwhile, this year’s Tokyo Marathon saw an unprecedented level of police protection for the runners and those watching them, while security for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be some of the toughest ever seen. […]
Enemies of the State?
[…] However, former Aum members are not the [Public Security Intelligence Agency’s] only concern. Another four pages are devoted to the activities of groups trying to stop the construction of a replacement facility at Henoko for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, voicing support for keeping the 1995 Kono Statement regarding the “comfort women,” criticizing the government’s pro-nuclear energy policy, or protesting collective self-defense and the state secrets law that went into effect late last year.
In the case of the Henoko protesters, the Public Security Intelligence Agency says “Japan Communist Party … members and other anti-base activists from around the country are being dispatched to the Henoko area to engage in protests against the new facility.” The agency also says the Japan Communist Party mobilized supporters to assist two anti-base candidates in local elections last year: Susumu Inamine won the January 2014 Nago mayoral election, while Takashi Onaga won the November gubernatorial election running on anti-base platforms.
Over three pages, the Public Security Intelligence Agency claimed “extremist” groups were cooperating with overseas organizations to criticize the government’s position on the comfort women issue, and that the Japan Communist Party was involved in anti-nuclear demonstrations in Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, and in front of the Diet and the primeminister’s office. It further added that extremist groups were infiltrating anti-nuclear demonstrations and passing out flyers that called for all nuclear reactors to be decommissioned.
Two pages were devoted solely to the Japan Communist Party’s leadership and membership, and its criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government. The Public Security Intelligence Agency said the Japan Communist Party’s total membership is around 305,000, down from 410,000 back in 2010, while the average age of all members was 57 years old, up from 55.7 years old five years earlier.
By contrast, only 2½ of the report’s 75 pages were devoted to right-wing groups. The agency said right-wing groups had been involved in protests over the Senaku Islands, had called for the retraction of the Kono Statement on comfort women and had used the Asahi Shimbun’s apology in August over a story on wartime forced prostitutes as an opportunity to conduct protests at the newspaper’s branches nationwide.
There was no mention, by name, in the Public Security Intelligence Agency report of Zaitokukai, merely of a “right-wing-affiliated group” that made racist remarks. However, a separate report put out by the National Policy Agency earlier this month mentioned Zaitokukai by name and noted that 1,654 members of right-wing groups were charged with breaking the law in 2014. This included 291 people who were charged with extortion, although many charges were for traffic-related violations. […]
Among other things, the law attempts to promote increased police monitoring of whomever the government deems a potential threat by making secret materials or plans to prevent “designated harmful activities.” What’s a “designated harmful activity”? That’s the first of many questions as yet unanswered.
It’s the same with measures designed to prevent “terrorism,” an ill-defined legal concept, and critics of the law have warned that, under the pretext of “security,” Japan will see more police monitoring of any individual or group the state deems to be a threat.
In January 2014, Tokyo District Court ordered the metropolitan police to pay for violating the plaintiffs’ privacy by leaking personal data. However, the court also said police information gathering activities on Muslims in Japan constituted “necessary and inevitable measures for the prevention of international terrorism.”
The case is being appealed in the Tokyo High Court, but the initial ruling came down well before Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto were captured and executed by Islamic State militants earlier this year. Given the public shock and political reaction to those killings, extreme security measures of questionable legality are cause for worry, says Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University.
“Despite the fact that the police had no evidence of illegal activities, the record shows they engaged in religious profiling of the Muslim community,” Repeta says. “Now that this intrusive police surveillance has been approved by the court, we should expect it to continue in coming years, as Japan hosts international events like next year’s Group of Seven conference and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
[…] One bright spot was that, despite years of official bureaucratic and right-wing political warnings about the dangers of foreign crime, only 28 percent of respondents in 2012 cited this as a reason for what they felt was a worsening security environment. This is down from the 55 percent who cited it as a major reason for their unease in the 2006 survey.
As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the top 10 human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:
10) Warmonger Ishihara loses seat
This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012). All the while, we gritted our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship.
However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, Ishihara resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater.
About time. He admitted last month that he wanted “to fight a war with China and win” by attempting to buy three of the disputed Senkaku islets (and entangling the previous left-leaning government in the imbroglio). Fortunately the conflict hasn’t come to blows, but Ishihara has done more than anyone over the past 15 years to embolden Japan’s xenophobic right (by fashioning foreigner-bashing into viable political capital) and undo Japan’s postwar liberalism and pacifism.
Good riddance. May we never see your like again. Unfortunately, I doubt that.
Mori incurred significant international criticism for this, but there were no retractions or resignations. And it isn’t the first time the stigmatization of foreignness has surfaced in Mori’s milieu. Since 2005 he has headed the Japan Rugby Football Union, which after the 2011 Rugby World Cup criticized the underperforming Japan team for having “too many foreign-born players” (including naturalized Japanese citizens). The 2012 roster was then purged of most “foreigners.” Yet despite these shenanigans, Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup right before the Tokyo Olympics.
JBC said its requirements were far too strict when it was first announced, predicting it would fail (see last year’s top 10, and “Japan’s revolving door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” JBC, March 6, 2012). Policymakers arrogantly presumed that NJ are beating down the door to work in Japan under any circumstances (not likely, after Japan’s two economic “lost decades”), and gave few “points” to those who learned Japanese or attended Japanese universities. Fact is, they never really wanted people who “knew” Japan all that well.
But by now even those who do cursory research know greater opportunities lie elsewhere: Japan is a land of deflation and real falling wages, with little protection against discrimination, and real structural impediments to settling permanently and prospering in Japanese society.
In another landmark move by the Tokyo District Court, last January the National Police Agency was ordered to compensate several Muslim residents and their Japanese families, whom they had spied upon as suspected terrorists. Although this is good news (clearly noncitizens are entitled to the same right to privacy as citizens), the act of spying in itself was not penalized, but rather the police’s inability to manage their intelligence properly, letting the information leak to the public.
Also not ruled upon was the illegality of the investigation itself, and the latent discrimination behind it. Instead, the court called the spying unavoidable considering the need to prevent international terrorism — thus giving carte blanche to the police to engage in racial profiling.
5) ‘Japanese only’ saga
If this were my own personal top 10, this would top the list, as it marks a major shift in Japan’s narrative on racial discrimination (the subject of my Ph.D. last year). As described elsewhere (“J.League and media must show red card to racism,” JBC, March 12, 2014), the Japanese government and media seem to have an allergy when it comes to calling discrimination due to physical appearance “discrimination by race” (jinshu sabetsu), depicting it instead as discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, “descent,” etc. Racism happens in other countries, not here, the narrative goes, because Japan is so homogeneous that it has no race issues.
More importantly, Murai said that victims’ perception of the banner was more important than the perpetrators’ intent behind it. This opened the doors for debate about jinshu sabetsu more effectively than the entire decade of proceedings in the “Japanese only” Otaru onsen case that I was involved in (where behavior was ruled as “racial discrimination” by the judiciary as far back as 2002). All of this means that well into the 21st century, Japan finally has a precedent of domestic discourse on racism that cannot be ignored.
4) Signs Japan may enforce Hague
Last year’s top 10 noted that Japan would join an international pact that says international children abducted by a family member from their habitual country of residence after divorce should be repatriated. However, JBC doubted it would be properly enforced, in light of a propagandist Foreign Ministry pamphlet arguing that signing the Hague Convention was Japan’s means to force foreigners to send more Japanese children home (“Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents,” JBC, Oct. 8). Furthermore, with divorces between Japanese citizens commonly resulting in one parent losing all access to the children, what hope would foreigners have?
Fortunately, last year there were some positive steps, with some children abducted to Japan being returned overseas. Government-sponsored mediation resulted in a voluntary return, and a court ruling ordered a repatriation (the case is on appeal).
However, the Hague treaty requires involuntary court-ordered returns, and while Japan has received children under its new signatory status, it has not as yet sent any back. Further, filing for return and/or access in Japan under the Hague is arduous, with processes not required in other signatory countries.
Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, and JBC hopes that respect for habitual residence continues even after international media attention on Japan has waned.
3) Ruling on welfare confuses
Last July another court case mentioned in previous top 10s concluded, with an 82-year-old Zainichi Chinese who has spent her whole life in Japan being denied social-welfare benefits for low-income residents (seikatsu hogo). The Supreme Court overturned a Fukuoka High Court ruling that NJ had “quasi-rights” to assistance, saying that only nationals had a “guaranteed right” (kenri).
People were confused. Although the media portrayed this as a denial of welfare to NJ, labor union activist Louis Carlet called it a reaffirmation of the status quo — meaning there was no NJ ineligibility, just no automatic eligibility. Also, several bureaucratic agencies stated that NJ would qualify for assistance as before.
It didn’t matter. Japan’s xenophobic right soon capitalized on this phraseology, with Ishihara’s Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) in August announcing policies “based on the ruling” that explicitly denied welfare to NJ. In December, in another act of outright meanness, Jisedai made NJ welfare issues one of their party platforms. One of their advertisements featured an animated pig, representing the allegedly “taboo topic” of NJ (somehow) receiving “eight times the benefits of Japanese citizens,” being grotesquely sliced in half.
You read that right. But it makes sense when you consider how normalized hate speech has become in Japan.
Unfortunately, most protesters have taken the tack of crying “Don’t shame us Japanese” rather than the more empowering “NJ are our neighbors who have equal rights with us.” Sadly, the possibility of equality ever becoming a reality looked even further away as 2014 drew to a close:
1) Abe re-election and secrets law
With his third electoral victory in December, Abe got a renewed mandate to carry out his policies. These are ostensibly to revitalize the economy, but more importantly to enforce patriotism, revive Japan’s mysticism, sanitize Japan’s history and undo its peace Constitution to allow for remilitarization (“Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2013).
Most sinister of all his policies is the state secrets law, which took effect last month, with harsh criminal penalties in place for anyone “leaking” any of 460,000 potential state secrets. Given that the process for deciding what’s a secret is itself secret, this law will further intimidate a self-censoring Japanese media into double-guessing itself into even deeper silence.
These misgivings have been covered extensively elsewhere. But particularly germane for JBC is how, according to Kyodo (Dec. 8), the Abe Cabinet has warned government offices that Japanese who have studied or worked abroad are a higher leak risk. That means the government can now justifiably purge all “foreign” intellectual or social influences from the upper echelons of power.
How will this state-sponsored xenophobia, which now views anything “foreign” as a security threat, affect Japan’s policymakers, especially when so many Japanese bureaucrats and politicians (even Abe himself) have studied abroad? Dunno. But the state secrets law will certainly undermine Japan’s decades of “internationalization,” globalization and participation in the world community — in ways never seen in postwar Japan.
Hi Blog. As is by now tradition on Debito.org, we offer a briefing on the recent Japanese Lower House election in a way that is germane to our Readers — with analysis on angles affecting our lives in Japan that might not otherwise be covered. For the record, I do this as a college-degree holder in Political Science with decades of interest (and training) in Japanese political processes. I also have great interest in this field (especially in Hokkaido politics, because I know many of the politicians due to working with them from the Otaru Onsens Case onwards). I’ll skip the basics of how Japan’s political system is structured (you can get that from here) and go straight to the analysis:
The day after the election, we can say that yes, Abe won, but “big” is a bit of a relative term when you look at the numbers. (All figures, as always, are sourced from major Japanese sources such as the Asahi and the Yomiuri Shinbuns, as of Monday December 14, 2014, 6AM JST. All possible “spins” are mine.)
THE SUMMARY: LDP WINS, BUT NOT SURPRISINGLY
Let’s take a look at Asahi’s excellent electoral map and make some observations (click on image to expand in browser):
This map of Japan by prefecture shows a lot of blue seats (signifying the LDP/Koumeitou Souka Gakkai alliance), demonstrating that the LDP held most of its seats. (Notable exception: Okinawa, which said “none of the above”, refusing to elect a single LDP, Koumeitou (KMT), or Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) candidate, and putting a Communist at the top.)
However, the LDP did not increase its seats — according to the table under the bar chart, the LDP went from 293 to 291 seats, meaning it lost 2. The bigger winner was ally party KMT, which went from 31 to 35, thus increasing the ruling coalition’s hold over the Lower House by two seats to 326.
I suspect that this may be due to the postwar record low turnout this election, as KMT has an excellent “get-out-the-vote” mechanism within its Souka Gakkai religious followers. (KMT also tells its followers which people to vote for, so as to split their votes efficiently in multiple-seat constituencies; i.e., they don’t mostly vote for one and only get one candidate in instead of both). A lower voter turnout means a higher proportion of the total voting KMT in an election.
The other big winner was the Japan Communist Party, which went from 8 seats to 21. This was due I believe to the lack of a viable opposition Left and people wanting to put their protest vote somewhere in this election. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the ruling party from 2009 until 2012 when they were soundly dismissed from office in a landslide LDP victory, also picked up seats (73, up from 62). So there was a significant protest vote against Abe, but not nearly enough to stem any of Abe’s future plans. More on those in a minute.
In sum, the Far-Right (Jisedai) suffered most in this election, while the Far-Left (JCP) picked up more protest votes than the Center-Left (DPJ). My read is that disillusioned Japanese voters, if they bothered to vote at all, saw the LDP/KMT as possibly more centrist in contrast to the other far-right parties, and hedged their bets. With the doomsaying media awarding Abe the election well in advance, why would people waste their vote on a losing party unless they felt strongly enough about any non-issue being put up this election?
Last time I talked about this (in my Japan Times column last April), I noted how laws had changed with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law, but the ability for cops to arbitrarily stop NJ has actually continued unabated. In fact, it’s expanded to bag searches and frisking, with or without your permission (because, after all, NJ might be carrying knives or drugs, not just expired visas).
Well, as if doubting the years of research that went into this article (and affirmed by Japanese Administrative Solicitor Higuchi Akira in our book HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), the JT put up a “featured comment” saying that my article was wrong and a source for misinformation:
MM333:I’m sorry, but the information in this article and on the website describing the powers of the police to stop foreigners and demand passports or residence cards for any reason ‘whenever’ is inaccurate. The law does not give the police in Japan arbitrary powers to conduct suspicionless questioning.
As specified in Article 23 of the ‘Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act’ (see below), a police officer may demand to see a passport or residence card if it is in the execution of his/her duties, in other words only when s/he is doing what s/he is empowered to do by the ‘Police Duties Execution Act’ or other relevant acts.
The main duties of the police are specified in the ‘The Police Duties Execution Act’ (see below). The duties of the police are of course very wide ranging but they are not unlimited. In a nutshell, the police may question someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime or the person may have information about a crime.
Also, the police must offer assistance if they believe that the person is a danger to themselves or others (this is why the police may stop someone when they are riding a bicycle without a light at night even though the police may have other motives for the stop).
They may also stop you if they believe you might be a victim of a crime (As when they stop you on your bicycle and ask if you have registered it in light of all the thefts in the area) or if your acts may endanger anyone with a view to preventing any crime from occurring. The police also have additional duties imposed on them by other laws. For example, executing warrants under the ‘Code of Criminal Procedure’ or issuing fines under the ‘Road Transportation Act’.
Therefore, the police in Japan are not legally permitted to randomly stop anyone whether Japanese or foreign and demand to see their passport or residence card. The reason for this is quite simple and obvious. If the police randomly stop someone, they cannot have reasonable grounds to suspect that any crime has been committed, whether that be overstaying a visa or any other crime.
There is no doubt that in practice police in every country may try to exceed their powers, but it is quite another thing to assert that the police actually have the right to do this. In may interest people to know that the laws imposed on the police in Japan with regards to questioning are actually more restrictive as compared with the US (ie. Stop and Frisk) or the UK (ie. CJPOA Section 60).
I would recommend that everyone read the law themselves and consult a Japanese attorney if they have questions about the law. I would also ask the Japan times to have this article reviewed by a Japanese attorney and corrections made where appropriate to avoid misinformation being spread.
Well, I’m not a lawyer (I can just read the laws; but naturally that doesn’t count in the face of an anonymous commenter of unknown credentials), so the JT was probably just thinking it should cover its glutes. However, eventually the JT DID consult a lawyer and ran the following article — where it’s even worse than I argued:
The lawyer is essentially suggesting that you had better cooperate with the police because the laws will not protect you — especially if you’re in a “foreigner zone” of Tokyo like Roppongi. Excerpt:
4) frisk them with or without consent. (This is not written in the act, but precedents have established this. Basically, the frisking is limited to patting down over their clothing.)
Legal precedents in these cases have tended to stress the importance of balancing the public’s right to privacy with the necessity and urgency of the specific investigation and the public interest in preventing the crime the individual stopped by the police was suspected of being involved in. […]
Regarding the profiling, considering it was in Roppongi, which has a bit of a reputation for crime involving foreigners, the police officials could probably come up with a number of explanations for why they stopped [a NJ named P], such as a suspicion that he was carrying or selling drugs. It is unlikely that any judge would rule that this was a case of profiling and that the questioning was illegal.
As for the frisking, it was legal for the officers to pat P down over his clothes and bag, even without his consent. However, it would be illegal if an officer searched inside P’s pockets or clothing without consent or intentionally touched his genital area, even over his clothes. […]
So, in conclusion, what can you do if you are approached and questioned by police officers? Cooperating may be the smartest option and the fastest way to get the whole ordeal over as quickly as possible, but if you don’t feel like being cooperative, you can try asking the police officers what crime they are investigating and attempt to explain that you are not doing anything illegal, clearly express the will to leave and then do just that. Don’t touch the police officers, don’t run and don’t stop walking — and don’t forget to turn on the recorder on your smartphone in front of the officers, thus making it clear that you have evidence of any untoward behavior.
You cannot be forced to turn the recorder off, no matter what the police officers yell at you. Best of luck!
=========================== Akira Ishizuka is an attorney with the Foreigners and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (www.t-pblo.jp/fiss; 03-6809-6200). FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMENT: You know there’s something seriously wrong with a system when legally all you have is luck (and a cell phone recorder) to protect you from official arbitrary questioning, search, seizure, and racial profiling by Japanese cops. Even a lawyer says so. So that’s definitive, right?
Now, then, JT, what misinformation was being spread here by my previous article? How about trusting people who give their actual names, and have legal experience and a verified research record (several times before in past JT articles)? And how about deleting that misinformative “featured comment” to my column?
In this decision, a Japanese court ruled for only the second time (the first being the Ana Bortz Case back in October 1999) that “Japanese Only” signs and rules were racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu).
It did not call it discrimination instead based on “ethnicity” (minzoku), “nationality” (kokuseki), outward appearance (gaiken), or some kind of “misunderstanding” (gokai), “ingrained cultural habit” or “necessary business practice” (shuukan no chigai, seikatsu shuukan, shakai tsuunen, shikatsu mondai etc.). All of these claims had merely been excuses made to ignore the elephant in the room — that more invidious racialized processes were involved.
But in the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Stadium Banner Case, the word jinshu sabetsu reappeared in the terms of debate, and we may in fact have witnessed a watershed moment in Japan’s race relations history.
BACKGROUND ON WHY THIS MATTERS: The following is something I wanted to get into in my last column, but I lacked the space:
So admitting to actual racial discrimination within Japan’s borders would undermine Japan’s claim to be “civilized”, as far as Japan’s elites and national-narrative setters are concerned. Hence the determined resistance to ever calling something “racial discrimination”. Further proof: In my extensive research of the Otaru Onsens Case, where I read and archived hundreds of Japanese media pieces, only ONE article (a Hokkaido Shinbun editorial after the Sapporo High Court Decision in September 2004) called it “jinshu sabetsu” as AS A FACT OF THE CASE (i.e., NOT merely the opinion of an expert or an activist, which meant for journalistic balance the “opinion” had to be offset with the opinions of the excluder — who always denied they were being racial, like the rest of Japanese society). It’s systematic. We even have prominent social scientists (such as Harumi Befu) and major book titles on discrimination in Japan that steadfastly call it only “minzoku sabetsu“, such as this one:
where I had to fight to get my chapter within it properly entitled “jinshu sabetsu“:
No matter how conscientious the scholar of minority issues in Japan was, it was never a matter of jinshu.
Until now. That has changed with the Urawa “Japanese Only” Stadium Banners Case.
“There are various ways of determining what constitutes discrimination. But what is important is not so much why discrimination occurs, but how the victim perceives it and in this case, the acts must be considered nothing short of discriminatory.
“Over the last several days through the media and on the Internet, these acts have had unexpected social repercussions both domestic and abroad, and it is clear that they have damaged the brand of not just the J-League but of the entire Japanese football community.
“With regards to Urawa Reds, they have had repeated trouble with their supporters in the past and the club have previously been sanctioned for racist behavior by their fans.”
“While these most recent acts were conducted by a small group of supporters, it is with utmost regret that Urawa Reds — who have been with the J-League since its founding year in 1993 and who ought to be an example for all of Japanese football — allowed an incident like this to happen.”
It’s the speech I would want to give. He cited a record both past and present to give the issue context. He said that stopping racist behavior was integral to the sport and its participants. And he acknowledged that it was the victims, not the perpetrators, who must be listened to. Well done.
The incentives are now very clear. Discriminate, and punishment will be public, swift, meaningful, and effective. And others will not rally to your defense — in fact, may even join in in decrying you in public. Excellent measures that all encourage zero tolerance of jinshu sabetsu.
However, keep in mind that this outcome was far from certain. Remember that initially, as in last Sunday and Monday, this issue was only reported in blurbs in the Japanese and some English-language media (without photos of the banner), with mincing and weasel words about whether or not this was in fact discrimination, and ludicrous attempts to explain it all away (e.g., Urawa investigators reporting that the bannerers didn’t INTEND to racially discriminate; oh, that’s okay then!) as some kind of performance art or fan over-exuberance. At this point, this issue was going the way it always does in these “Japanese Only” cases — as some kind of Japanese cultural practice. In other words, it was about to be covered up all over again.
This is not to diminish Murai’s impressive move. Bravo, man. You called it what it is, and dealt with it accordingly.
But I believe it would not have happened without exposure to the outside world: Gaiatsu (outside pressure).
After all these years studying this issue, I now firmly believe that appealing to moral character issues isn’t the way to deal with racism in Japan.
After all, check out this baby-talk discussion of this issue in Japan’s most prominent newspaper column, Tensei Jingo, of March 13, 2014:
Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward is starting a project called “A shopping district with people who understand and speak a little English.” I like the part that says “a little.” Shinagawa will be the venue for some of the events during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The ward came up with the idea as a way to welcome athletes and visitors from abroad.
Why “a little”? Few Japanese can confidently say they can speak English. Many more think they can perhaps speak “a little” English. According to Kiyoshi Terashima, the ward official in charge of the project, it is aimed at encouraging such people to positively try and communicate in English. The ward will ask foreigners to visit the stores so that attendants there can learn how to take orders and receive payments using English.
Writer Saiichi Maruya (1925-2012) vividly depicted the trend of 50 years ago when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics for the first time. Just because we are having the Olympics, “there is no need to stir up an atmosphere that all 100 million Japanese must turn into interpreters,” he wrote. The quote appears in “1964-Nen no Tokyo Orinpikku” (1964 Tokyo Olympics), compiled by Masami Ishii. I wonder if we can be a little more relaxed when Tokyo hosts the Olympics for the second time.
Warm smiles are considered good manners in welcoming guests. By contrast, I found the following development quite alarming: On March 8, a banner with the English words “Japanese Only” was put up at the entrance to a stand at Saitama Stadium during a soccer game.
Posting such a xenophobic message is utterly thoughtless to say the least. This is not the first time. In the past, an onsen bathhouse in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up a sign that said “no foreigners” and refused the entry of some people, including a U.S.-born naturalized Japanese man. The Sapporo District Court in 2002 ruled that the action was “racial discrimination” and ordered the bathhouse to pay damages to the plaintiffs for pain and suffering.
Hate speech against foreigners is another example. Hostility is becoming increasingly prevalent and Japanese society is losing its gentleness. Are we a society that denies and shuts its doors to people or one that welcomes and receives them? Which one is more comfortable to live in? Let us learn to be more tolerant toward each other; for starters, if only by just a little.
That’s the entire article. Asahi Shinbun, thanks for the mention of me, but what a twee piece of shit! It devotes half of the column space to irrelevant windup, then gives some necessary background, and summarily ends up with a grade-school-level “nakayoshi shimashou” (let’s all be nice to one another, shall we?) conclusion. The theme starts off with “a little” and ends up thinking “little” about the issue at hand. They just don’t get it. There’s no moral imperative here.
Contrast that to Murai’s very thoughtful consideration above of how the victims of discrimination feel, how racists must not be given any moral credibility or leniency from punishment, and how anti-racism measures are not merely an honor system of tolerance towards each other. Correctamundo! One must not be tolerant of intolerance. But after all this, even Japan’s most prominent leftish daily newspaper just resorts to the boilerplate — there is neither comprehension or explanation of how discrimination actually works!
When will we get beyond this dumbing down of the issue? When we actually have people being brave enough to call it “racial discrimination” and take a stand against it. As Murai did. And as other people, with their banners and comments on the media and other places, are doing. Finally.
CONCLUSION: IT AIN’T OVER UNTIL WE GET A LAW CRIMINALIZING THIS BEHAVIOR
I do not want to get people’s hopes up for this progress to be sustainable (after all, we haven’t seen the full force of a potential rightist backlash against Murai yet, and the Internet xenophobes are predictably saying that too much power has been given up to the Gaijin). We are still years if not decades away from an anti-RACIAL-discrimination law with enforceable criminal penalties (after all, it’s been nearly twenty years now since Japan’s signed the UN CERD treaty against racial discrimination, and any attempt to pass one has wound up with it being repealed due to pressure from alarmists and xenophobes!).
But at least one thing is clear — the typical hemmers and hawers (who initially criticized my claim that this is yet another example of racial discrimination) are not going to be able to claim any “cultural misunderstanding” anymore in this case. Because Urawa eventually went so far as to investigate and make public what mindset was behind the banner-hoisters:
Japan Times: “The supporters viewed the area behind the goal as their sacred ground, and they didn’t want anyone else coming in,” Urawa president Keizo Fuchita said Thursday as he explained how the banner came to be displayed in the stadium.
“If foreigners came in they wouldn’t be able to control them, and they didn’t like that.”
Wow, a fine cocktail of racism, mysticism, and power, all shaken not stirred, spray-painted into this banner. Which goes to show: In just about all its permutations, “Japanese Only” is a racialized discourse behind a xenophobic social movement in Japan. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… And if and only if people in authority will allow the quack to be properly heard and the quacker LABELED as a duck, then we’ll get some progress.
But chances are it won’t be, unless that quack is also heard outside of Japan. After waiting more then ten years for somebody to call the “Japanese Only” trope a matter of jinshu sabetsu again, finally this week the fact that jinshu sabetsu exists in Japan has been transmitted nationwide, with real potential to alter the national discourse on discrimination towards Visible Minorities. But it wouldn’t have happened unless it had leaked outside of Japan’s media.
Conclusion: Gaiatsu is basically the only way to make progress against racial discrimination in Japan. Remember that, and gear your advocacy accordingly. ARUDOU, Debito
Hi Blog. When looking through my “Draft” posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It’s another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or “See I Told You So”).
When the GOJ came out with its “Points System” in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that — in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn’t as attractive a labor market as Japan’s bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades. And yes, as the article below substantiates, the “Points System” has failed — less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.
After drawing too few applicants, a government-led initiative to attract “highly skilled foreigners” was overhauled Tuesday by the Justice Ministry.
Started in May 2012, the program is designed to shore up the thinning domestic labor force. Statistics from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research show the population will plunge to about 90 million by 2050 from 127 million at present.
Foreign applicants receive “points” based on such criteria as academic achievement, career background and annual income. More than 70 points earns access to a raft of visa perks, such as the right to work no matter the visa status, visas for parents and housekeepers to care for children, and a fast track to permanent residence. Examples of highly skilled professionals include researchers, university professors, corporate executives and engineers.
While the ministry believed 2,000 foreign residents in Japan a year would qualify, only 700 had applied as of September, immigration bureau official Nobuko Fukuhara said.
The system has been criticized as setting too high a bar for applicants. For example, those under 30 years of age had to earn at least ¥3.4 million annually to qualify, while those over 40 needed to exceed ¥6 million.
With the changes Tuesday, anyone earning over ¥3 million is eligible. The minimum income requirement will be scrapped altogether for academics, who are at a disadvantage due to their relatively lower income.
In another move to help academics, their scholarly achievements will be given more points.
Bonus points will also be added for applicants’ Japanese language skills and experience studying at Japanese schools.
“We’re fully aware just giving foreigners visa perks wouldn’t be such a big incentive for them to come to Japan,” said Fukuhara, who noted Japan needs to adopt more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries.
ONE MORE COMMENT FROM DEBITO: The Coda is maintained at the very end of the article, reinforcing the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money…
Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (came out a few days later than usual, since there was no paper on January 2, on January 7, 2014).
Thanks to everyone once again for putting it in the most-read article for the day, once again. Here’s a version with links to sources. Arudou Debito
Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:
The Fukushima debacle has been covered better elsewhere, and assessments of its dangers and probable outcomes are for others to debate. Incontrovertible, however, is that international assistance and expertise (despite this being an international problem) have been rejected due to official xenophobia.
Last January, The New York Times quoted Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the Environment Ministry and the man in charge of the cleanup, as saying that foreign technologies were somehow not applicable to Japan (“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example”), and that foreigners themselves were menacing (“If we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there”). Nishiyama resigned several months later, but Fukushima’s ongoing crisis continues to be divisively toxic both in fact and thought.
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
As the last holdout in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations yet to sign this important treaty governing the treatment of children after divorces, both houses of the Diet took the positive step in May and June (after years of formal nudging by a dozen countries, and a probable shove from U.S. President Barack Obama last February) of unanimously endorsing the convention, with ratification now possible in 2014.
As reported on previous Community pages, Japanese society condones (both in practice and by dint of its legal registration systems) single-parent families severing all contact with one parent after divorce. In the case of international divorces, add on linguistic and visa hurdles, as well as an unsympathetic family court system and a hostile domestic media (which frequently portrays abducting Japanese mothers as liberating themselves from violent foreign fathers).
Again, what’s missing in all this is, for example, any guarantee of a) equal protection under labor and civil law against discrimination, b) equal educational opportunities for their children, and c) an integration and settlement program ensuring that revolving-door visas and tenuous jobs do not continue forever. But the Abe administration has never made a formal immigration plan one of its policy “arrows”; and, with the bigger political priorities discussed below, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Meanwhile, people who discussed issues of discrimination in Japan constructively (such as American teacher Miki Dezaki, whose viral YouTube video on the subject cost him his job and resulted in him retreating to a Buddhist monastery for a year) were bullied and sent death threats, courtesy of Japan’s newly labeled legion of anonymous netto uyoku (Internet rightists).
This political camp, as JBC has argued in the past two annual Top 10 lists, is ascendant in Japan as the country swings further to the right. With impressive victories:
The state secrets law is an unfolding issue, but JBC shares the doomsayers’ view: It will underpin the effort to roll back Japan’s postwar democratic reforms and resurrect a prewar-style society governed by perpetual fear of reprisal, where people even in privileged positions will be forced to double-guess themselves into silence regarding substantiated criticism of The State (see the JT’s best article of the year, “The secret of keeping official secrets secret,” by Noriko Hama, Japanese Perspectives, Nov. 30).
After all, information is power, and whoever controls it can profoundly influence social outcomes. Moreover, this law expands “conspiracy” beyond act and into thought. Japan has a history of “thought police” (tokubetsu kōtō keisatsu) very effectively controlling the public in the name of “maintaining order.” This tradition will be resuscitated when the law comes into force in 2014.
In sum, 2013 saw the enfranchised elite consolidating their power further than has ever been seen in the postwar era, while Japan’s disenfranchised peoples, especially its NJ residents, slipped ever lower down the totem pole, becoming targets of suspicion, fear and loathing.
May this year be a healthy one for you and yours. ARUDOU, Debito
Hi Blog. You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that). It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China.
This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors. Arudou Debito
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. The law covers national security issues, and it includes espionage and terrorism.
Just before the passage of the law, the secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Shigeru Ishiba, likened those legally demonstrating against the state secrecy law to terrorists in his blog on Nov. 29. This callous disregard of freedom of speech greatly raised suspicion of what the Abe government really has in mind. The Japanese public clearly seems to fear that the law will infringe on press freedom and personal liberties. In a public opinion poll conducted by the Kyodo News Agency, 82 percent of respondents said that the law should be repealed or revised.
Mr. Abe is, however, arrogantly dismissive of the public’s concerns. “The law does not threaten ordinary life,” he said after the law’s passage. Showing an alarming ignorance of democracy, Gen Nakatani, a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party, stated that “the affairs of government are distinct from the affairs of the people.”
The law is an integral part of Mr. Abe’s crusade to remake Japan into a “beautiful country,” which envisions expanded government power over the people and reduced protection for individual rights — a strong state supported by a patriotic people. His stated goal is to rewrite the nation’s Constitution, which was imposed by the United States Army during occupation seven decades ago.
The Liberal Democratic Party’s draft constitution, made public in April last year, deletes the existing article on the guarantee of fundamental human rights. It adds that the people must respect the national flag and national anthem. It states, “The people shall be aware that duties and obligations accompany freedoms and rights and shall never violate the public order and public interest.” It also says that the prime minister will have the power to declare a state of emergency and suspend ordinary law.
Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.
PS: I am loath to quote this source, but even Fox News on New Years Eve turned on its ally: “Yet the visit to the [Yasukuni] Shrine makes many Americans think twice — wherein lies the real danger point in the Pacific — the crazy kid running North Korea, Chinese adventurism or a resurgence of the kind of nationalism that led Japan into war and conquest?”
Hello Blog. Some very significant things have happened in the two weeks since Debito.org got zapped and taken offline, and for the record we should cover them now since they warrant discussion.
My conclusions first: If you really want to “look on the bright side” of recent events, we could say “we live in interesting times”. Given the normally glacial pace of reforms in Japan, the Abe Administration is proceeding with incredible speed — which he can do, given LDP control over both houses of Parliament. It’s a pity that things are heading in the Rightist direction, dismantling the Postwar order of governance and the safeguards against Prewar fascism faster than the public or media can keep up.
Next up, as Debito.org Reader JJS sent me this morning:
///////////////////////////////////// Hi Debito. Glad to see you got control of your website back, though there may be lots still to do to secure it and prevent any further attacks. When you’re ready to start posting again, here are some juicy tidbits to chew on. With the passage of the Special State Secrets Bill, the Abe Administration is wasting no time making sure to A) start talking up Japan’s image as the “safest country in the world” while B) making sure to utilize the newly passed bill to start covering up any unsightly information from getting out about such things like nuclear powerplants, nuclear energy, etc. Finally, what will “cyber-terror” actually mean to this far right wing administration? Maybe your site may be included?? The next seven years leading up to the Olympics will be frightening to say the least.
Hi Blog. An attempted panacea to Japan’s lack of formal immigration policy floated many moons ago (and discussed here and here) was a “Points System” visa, here to bring “higher-skilled” workers (koudo jinzai). I critiqued it for its probable failure in the Japan Times here.
The failure has officially happened. Even the Justice Ministry admits below that the visa regime has attracted few people, and that, as Debito.org has reported before, is because its requirements are too strict.
But to me it’s no wonder it failed. It’s not merely (as alluded below) an issue of criteria, but rather institutionalized treatment of immigrants. We saw attitudes towards immigration last summer when ministries debated how immigrants should be treated, and cross-ministerial officials only weakly offered the same old hackneyed conclusions and lessons unlearned: Privilege granted to Nikkei with the right bloodlines, more attention devoted to how to police NJ than how to make them into Japanese citizens (with their civil and human rights protected), insufficient concern given for assimilation and assistance once NJ come to Japan, and almost no consultation with the NJ who are already in Japan making a life as to what assistance they might need.
A points-based preferential immigration system expected to attract 2,000 highly skilled foreign professionals to Japan annually accepted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months, a dismal result that has prompted the government to review the criteria experts have blamed for the low number, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The system was adopted by the government last May to encourage skilled foreigners to take up residence in Japan and help boost Japanese economic growth. It gives these specialists privileges such as a shorter minimum-required period of stay for obtaining permanent residence.
Foreigners doing research at universities and other institutions, those with professional skills and corporate managers are eligible to use the system. They are given points in accordance with such criteria as academic credentials, professional and scholastic achievements and promised annual income.
For instance, a researcher with a doctorate who will work at an academic institution is awarded 30 points, while one with a master’s degree gets 20 points. Applicants who get at least 70 points in total are recognized as “highly skilled professionals” and can receive preferential immigration treatment including the right to acquire permanent residence within five years instead of the normal 10; permission for a spouse to work here; and permission to bring a parent to Japan to help look after the professional’s children.
However, only 17 foreigners were admitted to Japan under the point system between May 2012 and early April this year. This number rose to 434 when foreigners who were already in Japan and successfully applied for the system are added. The total includes 246 from China, 32 from the United States, 19 from India and 16 from South Korea.
In April and May, an expert panel at the Justice Ministry discussed reports that the current criteria were too strict.
One criticism was that the yearly income guideline was based on the salary of company workers, making it difficult for researchers at universities with lower yearly incomes to gain high points. Another was that only applicants with a yearly income of at least 10 million yen are allowed to have a parent accompany them to Japan.
After hearing these reports, the goverment began considering the easing of the criteria. Some possibilities include raising the points given for research papers submitted or patents obtained from the current ceiling of 15 points, shortening the minimum-required period of stay from five years to three for applying for permanent residence, and allowing foreigners on lower yearly incomes to bring an accompanying parent.
These issues will be worked out among the Justice, Foreign and Health, Labor and Welfare ministries, with the government planning to amend the system by year-end.
The government’s policy of increasing the number of foreigners to be admitted into Japan via the points system was specified in its growth strategy compiled in June.
“To help our country win in the global competition for excellent manpower, we’ll review the system and call on universities and companies to make better use of it,” said a senior official at the Justice Ministry, which is in charge of immigration control.
Hi Blog. It’s as predicted (if not encouraged) by Japan’s media: The rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), along with its coalition partner “Buddhist Party” Kōmeitō (KMT), won an outright majority in Japan’s Upper House.
Background for those who need it: Japan’s Diet (Parliament) is a bicameral legislature, with a more-powerful Lower House (House of Representatiaves) and a more rubber-stamping Upper House (House of Councillors) that can block Lower House legislation. The Upper House holds elections every three years (Councillors have 6-year terms, and half the Upper House — 121 seats — goes up for election at a time), and yesterday was the Upper House’s most recent election.
How enormous a victory was last December’s Lower-House election for Japan’s Right? It put 3/4 of all Lower House seats in the hands of ultraconservative parties — ones who were openly stating they favored the reinstatement of a Japanese military (not just the “Self Defense Forces”), a revision of Japan’s Constitution to remove Postwar sensibilities regarding individual rights, and a very ahistorical accounting for Japan’s Wartime responsibilities; they were also quite nakedly playing up external threats to sovereignty by niggling over disputed ocean specks with China and South Korea (see here and here). These trends were enough to cause alarm in even dispassionate scholars of Japan, but no matter — the DPJ was voted out.
These results are from Japan’s mainstream media, so there is nothing particularly specialist in these analyses. I will take screen captures from the Asahi Shinbun’s website at Asahi.com, dated Monday July 22, 2013, 2:15 AM JST, with all seats reporting in:
Here’s the makeup of how the seats went by prefectural electoral district:
EXPLANATION: Each box is a prefecture. Inside each box is a colored kanji representing one seat and, depending on the color, to which party it went. The navy blue ones are the LDP, the sky blue ones the coalition KMT. Red is the center-left DPJ, and within the fringe parties of note, the light green is the ultrarightist JRP and the orange is all-over-the-map-politically Your Party (Minna no Tō).
COMMENT: As you can see, almost every prefecture went LDP. Japan’s rightward shift is especially clear when you compare it to the distribution in the 2010 Upper House election:
and the 2007 Upper House election, which was quite decisively DPJ:
Now let’s look at how the Upper House looks in terms of seat distribution and assembly majority.
EXPLANATION: The uppermost grouping is the LDP/KMT coalition, denoting a total of 135 seats in the 242-seat Upper House. That gives them an absolute majority, as half the seats (visible in the horizontal bar chart) is 121. The 10 are unaffiliated and fringe parties, the 11 are the Japan Communist Party, and at 59 is the DPJ.
In the smaller greyer horizontal bar chart below the larger one, you can see the distribution of assembly seats before the election. Below that is a chart showing the seats distribution with this election (e.g., 65 for the LDP), plus the seats that were not up for election this time (e.g., 50 for the LDP), totaling the political power of 115 seats below that.
COMMENT: As denoted in the larger horizontal bar chart above, a 2/3 majority has been reached in the Upper House if one coalitions the JRP (at 9) and the Minna no Tō (at 18). This means a reform of Japan’s Constitution is now very possible if not probable.
Next, to see how much of a rout this election was for the DPJ, consider this bar chart for this election alone, not including seats that were not up for election this time:
EXPLANATION: The biggest seat getters were the LDP/KMT coalition at 76. They had 44 before this election. The other fringe parties, Minna no Tō (politically wild-card) went from 3 to 8, JRP (ultra rightist) went from 2 to 8, and JCP (leftist communist) went from 3 to 8. Clearly the biggest loser was the DPJ, which dropped from 44 to 17.
COMMENT: The Right is now clearly in control of the Upper House.
Next, Japan has a funny election system seen in other parliamentary democracies where the electorate votes for an individual candidate in a prefectural seat (senkyo-ku), and then votes for a second time for a political party (called hirei-ku, or Proportional Representation). So of the 121 seats up for grabs this time, 73 are for prefectural seats largely apportioned by local population numbers (i.e., larger population = more seats), while 48 are reserved for people who get votes on behalf of their party. So if people preferred an individual candidate but didn’t like their party, they could vote for the person and then a second time for a different political party. Here’s how those turned out:
At the top is the LDP again, which got 47 seats in electoral districts, and 18 seats from PR votes, total 65 seats of the 121 up for grabs, increasing their total seats in the Upper House from 84 to 115. You can do the same math for the other parties, which are, respectively, LDP coalition party KMT (sky blue, center-rightist), DPJ (red, center-leftist), Minna no Tō (orange, wild card), JRP (green, ultra-rightist), JCP (purple, leftist-communist), and other fringe parties in grey Seikatsu no Tō (political despoiler Ozawa Ichiro’s latest incarnation), Shamintō (leftist), Midori no Kaze (green leftist), Kaikaku (unknown leanings; did not field a candidate), Taichi (Suzuki Muneo’s demagogic party), the rest of the fringes, and the unaffiliateds.
COMMENT: Once again, the biggest winners were the LDP, the biggest losers the DPJ (which got as many as KMT and just one more than the ultrarightist JRP!)
1) XENOPHOBE SUZUKI NOBUYUKI GETS MORE THAN 1% OF TOKYO ELECTORATE
In the end, Suzuki came in tenth (out of twenty candidates), which is not too shabby considering how extremely nasty he is. As of this writing, 74,083 people in Tokyo voted for him. I find that decidedly scary.
2) TSURUNEN LOSES HIS SEAT. NOT EVEN CLOSE
Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, the human chameleon who got his Diet seat for two terms, did little of import with it, and then promised to change even the color of his eyes, decisively lost in the PR vote.
For the DPJ, he came in thirteenth, gaining only 81,856 votes (not all that many more than Suzuki, and this is a nationwide vote!). This is below the threshold allowed for the total votes cast for the DPJ, which gave only seven candidates (those denoted by red roses) a seat.
CONCLUSION: I think Abe will now see this as vindication of his mandate, and we’ll see even more pushing of his rightest agenda to undo as many Postwar reforms as possible. Those will become very visible in the coming weeks. Vigilance.
Alright, that’s the bare bones of this election. Let’s open this up to Comments. Thanks for reading. Arudou Debito
With this comes the likelihood of first changes in the Postwar Constitution. Legal scholar Colin P.A. Jones of Doshisha University has already come out with articles in the Japan Times discussing the LDP’s proposed changes (see here and here). What I will do in this blog entry is scan and paste in the lecture notes (ten pages) from another legal scholar, Lawrence Repeta of Meiji University, who gave his analysis in a lecture at Temple University in Tokyo on May 23, 2013. It is less accessible than Colin’s newspaper articles but no less authoritative, so here it is, courtesy of CP (notes in the margins probably also by CP). Repeta similarly holds that we will see a shift in focus towards strengthening The State in the name of “public order”, and prioritizing the duties and obligations of the Japanese public rather than guaranteeing their rights as individuals.
In sum (I argue), we are seeing the return of Japanese as Imperial subjects rather than citizens, where rights and duties are granted from above rather than secured and guaranteed from below.
This is what’s coming, folks. Be prepared. Arudou Debito
Also enclosed in CP’s mailing was this curious note from senior Japan scholar Ronald Dore, which fixates on one particular debate held more than 20 years ago (along with snide asides at Japan’s Left), and even gets the former Tokyo Governor’s name wrong:
Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications. As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high.
Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit. Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”.
A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned.
In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced.
The program covers the following fields: research, engineering and management. Points are awarded on the basis of a person’s experience and capabilities.
An individual who receives a certain number of points can, for example, bring his or her parents to live in Japan or gain permission for a spouse to work, something that few foreign workers had been able to do until a year ago.
According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.
Foreign applicants have complained to immigration offices about the strict conditions, particularly one pertaining to income levels.
Shao Huaiyu, a renewable energy researcher at Kyushu University, applied at the recommendation of school officials soon after the system was introduced last May.
He was certified as highly competent after receiving 100 points out of a maximum 140 in the researcher division based on his doctor’s and patented inventions.
Shao planned to ask his parents to come from China and help raise two daughters, aged 2 and under 1 year old.
But his application was refused because of an additional condition that called for an annual income of 10 million yen ($106,000) or more.
“It is almost impossible for a university researcher in his or her 30s to earn 10 million yen,” Shao said. “By the time I can earn that much, my children will have grown up.”
The Justice Ministry plans to review the system. An Immigration Bureau official said the system has not been widely publicized overseas due to limited budgets.
Junichi Goto, a professor of labor economics at Keio University, is opposed to the planned review, saying looser conditions could jeopardize a ban on unskilled laborers.
He has also expressed concern that some foreigners could abuse the system by bringing their parents over simply to get advanced medical treatment under the nation’s universal health insurance system.
A similar point system has been introduced in Canada, New Zealand and other countries eager to accept skilled immigrants.
According to the Canadian Embassy, 90,000 to 110,000 engineers and their families enter the country each year.
Even among industrialized countries, Japan is regarded as exercising very strict control over immigration.
The Japanese program is intended to attract only those whose skills are needed in Japan, rather than increasing the number of foreign nationals working in this country by loosening the immigration control law.
Hi Blog. Here’s my latest publication, which came out last Sunday, elaborating more on the historical arc of Japan’s rightward swing I have already talked about journalistically in three recent Japan Times columns:
Here is how I see the build up to what came to fruition with PM Abe and his cadre’s reinstatement to power last December. Excerpt follows. Arudou Debito
////////////////////////////////////////////// The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013. Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance 日本の右傾化と鳥取県人権条例
By Arudou Debito
ABSTRACT Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.
This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.
Keywords: Japan, human rights, Tottori, racial discrimination, suffrage, minorities, Japanese politics, elections, xenophobia, right wing
As has been written elsewhere (cf. Arudou 2005; 2006a; 2006b et al.), Japan has no law in its Civil or Criminal Code specifically outlawing or punishing racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu). With respect to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which Japan adopted in 1996), Japan has explicitly stated to the United Nations that it does not need such a law: “We do not recognize that the present situation of Japan is one in which discriminative acts cannot be effectively restrained by the existing legal system and in which explicit racial discriminative acts, which cannot be restrained by measures other than legislation, are conducted. Therefore, penalization of these acts is not considered necessary.” (MOFA 2001: 5.1)
However, in 2005, a regional government, Tottori Prefecture northwest of Ōsaka, did pass a local ordinance (jōrei) explicitly punishing inter alia discrimination by race. What happened to that law shortly afterwards provides a cautionary tale, demonstrating how public fear of granting any power to Non-Japanese occasioned the ordinance to be rescinded shortly afterwards. This article describes the defeat of a similar bill on a national scale, the public reaction to Tottori’s ordinance and the series of events that led to its withdrawal. The aftermath led to the stigmatization of any liberalization favoring more rights for Non-Japanese.
Prelude: The Protection of Human Rights Bill debates of the mid-2000s
Throughout the 2000s, there was a movement to enforce the exclusionary parameters of Japanese citizenship by further reinforcing the status quo disenfranchising non-citizens. For example, one proposal that would have enfranchised non-citizens by giving them more rights was the Protection of Human Rights Bill (jinken yōgo hōan). It was an amalgamation of several proposals (including the Foreign Residents’ Basic Law (gaikokujin jūmin kihon hō)) that would have protected the rights of residents regardless of nationality, ethnic status, or social origin.
Hi Blog. I received this two days ago and am reposting (as is) with permission. The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games. In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly. Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.
SITYS. This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe. And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination. Wake up, IOC. Arudou Debito
Date: 2013/3/3Dear Sir/Madam,
I am … an activist against racism. I hope you to know about racism against resident Koreans, especially emergent crisis of Korean ethnic schools by the central and local governments’ oppression in Japan, even though the governments would invite the Olympic Games 2020 to Tokyo.
I’ve attached a letter to you below.
The International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission arrived in Tokyo on last Friday and it is going to inspect Tokyo from 4th to 7th March.
It would be great honour if you handle this issue. All the best, [redacted]
Japan Network for the Institutionalization of Schools for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities
Tokyo – a city which discriminates against Korean children January 2013
We hope to inform you that Tokyo is not an appropriate city for the Olympic Games based on the Fundamental Principals of the Olympics, especially that of anti-discrimination. The main reason for this is that the central and Tokyo governments officially discriminate against Korean children who attend Korean schools, which are key to maintaining the Korean communities in Japan.
Koreans in Japan are an ethnic minority who were forced to come to Japan under the Japanese colonial rule of Korea and settle there even after WWII. Throughout their enforced stay here they have faced various difficulties. After the liberation from the Japanese colonial rule, Koreans in Japan established their own ethnic schools in various places in Japan in order to maintain their own language and culture that had been deprived from them under the Japanese colonial rule.
Although the Japanese government has not recognized Korean schools as regular and official schools and has been imposing institutional discrimination upon them such as exclusion from a financial support scheme of the central government, the Korean community has been sustaining their schools on their own for more than 60 years. The total number of Korean schools in Japan is approximately 70, including kindergarten, primary to high schools, and university. Nearly 10,000 Korean children whose nationality is South Korean, North Korean and Japan are learning in those schools today, even though 80-90 % of Korean children attend Japanese schools.
The new Democratic Party administration proposed the plan of a so-called “Free High School Tuition” system in October 2009 as soon as it was established. The then plan intended not to collect tuition fees from students of public high schools in Japan and to supply students of private schools and minority schools authorized by local governments as “vocational school” including Korean schools with a subsidy of the amount equivalent to the tuition fee of public high schools.
In March 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the approach of some politicians who had suggested the exclusion of Korean schools from the bill of “Free High School Tuition” due to the diplomatic issues between Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The reason for this concern was the discriminatory effects of such a policy. However, the policy was instigated in April 2010 and since then the central government has been discriminating against Korean school students. They have been excluded from this system for nearly three years, although students of 37 minority high schools including International schools, Chinese schools and Brazilian schools have been supplied with subsidies through this system.
On the other hand, all 27 prefectural governments where Korean schools are located accepted them as “vocational schools” and have been providing subsidies to Korean schools for decades, even though the central government requested prefectural governments to not accept them as any kind of schools in 1965.
However, the decision of the central government to exclude Korean schools from “Free High School Tuition” has led to the new discriminative situation in which five prefectural governments including Tokyo have stopped their subsidies to Korean schools. Tokyo had supplied financial aid to Korean schools for at least over 15 years. In 2009, it provided about 27,000,000Yen (190,000 Pound); however, Tokyo has stopped its subsidies to Korean schools since 2010 without providing a clear rationale.
In addition, the then Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro officially said that he would reconsider the accreditation of Korean schools in Tokyo as “vocational schools” in March 2012. If the accreditation of “vocational school” is revoked, it will cause extensive damages to Korean schools. For instance, Korean schools will become completely exempt from the “Free High School Tuition” system and there will be no possibility to receive any financial support from local governments. Furthermore, Korean schools will be forced to pay consumption tax for tuition fee.
In December 2012, as soon as the Liberal Democratic Party won the General Election and established its new government, it declared it would revise an ordinance in order to exclude Korean schools due to political tensions between Japan and North Korea, primarily the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
In January 2013, Korean schools and school children in Osaka and Aichi prefecture brought a lawsuit before the court, and Korean school children in Tokyo are preparing lawsuit concerning these discrimination.
Racism in Japan is generally increasing, encouraged by the racial discrimination by the central government. The number of demonstrations repeating hate speech against Non Japanese nationals, especially Korean, communities has been increasing in Japan (Annex1). The police are just gazing at the demos without restricting them because there is no anti-discrimination law nor hate speech legislation in Japan so that the demos has been unchecked.
List of Annexs
1, The images of demonstration by anti-Korean racists in Korean Town of Tokyo
2, The Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy
3, The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun (23 February, 2013)
４, The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan
Annex 1: The Images of Demonstration by Anti-Korean Racists
Annex2: Statement of President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations objecting to exclusion of Korean Schools from applying Free High School tuition policy
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced a proposed amendment to ministerial ordinance on December 28th, 2012, which amends a part of enforcement regulations regarding free tuition for public high schools and subsidies for private high schools. As for the high schools where foreign students are enrolled such as international schools and ethnic schools, the current enforcement regulations define the subject for the policy as either high schools that are confirmed through its embassy to have curriculum equivalent to that of high schools in its native state, or high schools that are certified by international evaluation body, while the rest of the schools that are evaluated as having curriculum equivalent to that of Japanese high schools can be the recipient of the subsidies, whether or not Japan has diplomatic relations with its native state, after the minister of the MEXT designates each school individually. The proposed amendment is to delete the grounds for the individual designation.
Regarding the purpose of this revision, the minister of MEXT, Hakubun Shimomura, stated at the press conference on December 28th, 2012, that the proposed amendment is aimed at deleting the grounds for designating Korean schools because there is no progress to resolve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) abduction of Japanese citizens, which makes it clear that this proposed amendment is aimed at excluding Korean Schools from applying the Free High School tuition policy.
As we stated in the “Statement on Subject High Schools of the Free Tuition Bill” on March 5th, 2010, the main purpose of this bill is “to contribute to the creation of equal educational opportunities by alleviating the financial burdens of high school education”, which is also demanded by Article 28 of Convention on the Rights of the Child. Considering the fact that Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as International Bill of Human Rights (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) guarantee the right to receive education with ethnic identity being maintained, the current ministerial ordinance which would include international schools and ethnic schools is in a right direction. Furthermore, it is revealed through the process of the deliberation on the bill that, as the Government’s collective view, the designation of high schools for foreign students should not be judged by diplomatic concern but should be judged objectively through educational perspective.
On contrary to that, this proposed amendment is to refuse to provide subsidies based on the grounds that there being no diplomatic relations between Japan and DPRK or no progress to resolve the DPRK’s abduction issue, either of which has nothing to do with the right of the child to receive education. It is a discriminative treatment which is prohibited by Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan.
Korean Schools in Japan completed applying for the designation based on the current bill legitimately by the end of November, 2011, this upcoming amendment is to extinguish the regulations considered as the grounds for applying and refuse the Korean Schools’ application retroactively after more than two years from the application, which poses serious doubt on its procedure.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations strongly urges that the proposed amendment be withdrawn whilst the review of the application from Korean schools be concluded promptly based on the current law and screening standard.
February 1st, 2013
Kenji Yamagishi, President
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
Annex3: The Article of The Mainichi Shimbun
Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered
Honorary Professor at Hitotsubashi University
24 February, 2013
Since the host city for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games will be determined in September, the Governor of Tokyo Metropolitan, Naoki Inose, has started Bids for Olympics in earnest. Under such circumstances, would it be right for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japanese Government to continue discriminating Korean Schools in Japan?
At the time of Nagoya bid for the 1988 Summer Olympics, Nagoya City had “Nationality Clause” for the employment of teachers at public school which has been open to foreigners in Tokyo or Osaka, thus preventing foreigners from applying. A nongovernment human right committee in Nagoya sent an English letter to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), urging IOC to consider the serious issue on human rights of Nagoya City and to be sufficiently concerned about the improvement of moral qualification in the Olympic Movement to determine the host city. It was Seoul that was chosen as the host city in September, 1981. Though it is uncertain whether or not the letter had anything to do with the decision, it must be remembered that discrimination is unforgivable matter in the international community.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had previously been providing subsidies worth of 15,000 yen per a student to each of 27 schools for foreign students. However, the Metropolitan Government has stopped providing subsidies to Korean Schools alone since 2010 and not on the budget next year either. There has been no illegal act on the Korean Schools side. The education of the child should not be confounded with international affair.
So called “Free High School tuition law” was implemented in the same year 2010, which was applied not only to Japanese high schools but to vocational schools and high schools for foreign students as well. Students from each of 39 high schools, such as Brazilian Schools, Chinese Schools, (South) Korean Schools and International Schools were provided with subsidies equivalent to the tuition for the public high school.
Nevertheless, the decision over whether or not (North) Korean Schools would be applicable to the policy still remains unmade and students at Korean Schools have already graduated without ever receiving subsidies over the last two years.
Following the birth of Abe Cabinet, the Minster of the Ministry of Education, Culture, sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Hakubun Shimomura (aka Hirohumi Shimomura) amended the enforcement regulations of Free High School tuition law with the purpose of excluding Korean Schools alone from the policy because there is no progress to resolve Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens. The law’s main purpose is “alleviating the financial burdens of high school education” and “to contribute to the creation of equal education opportunities”. Doesn’t this amendment to the enforcement regulations go beyond the limitation of a delegated order?
UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed its concern about the exclusion of Korean Schools from Free High School tuition policy in the Concluding Observation in March, 2010, after reviewing the report submitted by Japanese Government and recommended Japan to consider acceding to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (adopted in 1960, 100 signatories). The concern of CERD became realized by Abe Cabinet.
The report from Japanese Government to the UN Committee on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights is to be reviewed in coming April. List of Issues from the Committee says “Please provide information on the impact of the measures taken to address the persistent discrimination against children belonging to ethnic minorities and migrant families, in particular children of Korean origin”. Female students at Korean Schools used to go to school wearing chima jeogori, the traditional Korean form of dress. It’s been a long time since it became unseen in order to avoid harassment and assaults by heartless Japanese citizens.
Olympic Charter states “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” Discrimination against Korean School is incompatible with Olympics.
Discrimination against Korean Schools need be reconsidered.
Annex4: The situation of the cut of the subsidies to Korean schools from local governments in Japan ( 2009 – 2013 )
(start date of subsidy)
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Total amount of subsidy
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Cut from the budget
Based on a survey by The Association of Korean Human Rights in Japan
All the currency unit is Japanese yen ( 1 euro≒123 yen, 1 dollar≒93 yen [as of 22 Feb 2013] )
Hi Blog. As part of a continuing series of how the Post-Fukushima Debacles have laid bare just how irredeemably broken Japan’s system is (see related articles here (item #2), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the NYT has just reported the latest on the Fukushima radiation cleanup effort. Within, we can witness a wonderful fusion of corruption, xenophobia, and unaccountable bureaucratic culture that have been symptomatic of why Japan as a society cannot not fix itself (see items #1-3). And this time, it’s a wonderful capsule summary of why foreign technology and assistance will lose out to featherbedded domestic interests (the Kensetsu Zoku, who are making a right mess of things). And how there’s no hope of it getting better since the corrupt corporatists who facilitated this system in the first place (LDP under Abe and co.) are back in power as of December with a fresh mandate. A choice excerpt from the NYT, very, very germane to the purview of Debito.org, follows:
NYT: Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.
“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”
(UPDATE: Original Japanese question and answer, courtesy of Hiroko Tabuchi (thanks!):
(Here’s a picture of Nishiyama Hidehiko to burn into your memory cells, courtesy of Reuters:)
This is an incredibly racist insult to all the NJ who were both there and who went up there to help the victims of the disasters at great time, expense, and risk to their health — without scaring people. I have two articles below the NYT from the WSJ which outline what a horrible little fellow this Nishiyama is, and how he keeps bouncing right back into power despite scandal within Japan’s unaccountable bureaucracy.
After that, I have some links to previous comments on this article. I originally put this up yesterday as an addendum to a previous blog entry, but the comments there (see most of them in context here) are worth archiving here because they express the appropriate amount of outrage. About a system that is, in the end, betraying everyone. Kudos to NYT reporter Hiroko Tabuchi for uncovering this. Arudou Debito
NARAHA, Japan — The decontamination crews at a deserted elementary school here are at the forefront of what Japan says is the most ambitious radiological cleanup the world has seen, one that promised to draw on cutting-edge technology from across the globe.
But much of the work at the Naraha-Minami Elementary School, about 12 miles away from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tells another story. For eight hours a day, construction workers blast buildings with water, cut grass and shovel dirt and foliage into big black plastic bags — which, with nowhere to go, dot Naraha’s landscape like funeral mounds.
More than a year and a half since the nuclear crisis, much of Japan’s post-Fukushima cleanup remains primitive, slapdash and bereft of the cleanup methods lauded by government scientists as effective in removing harmful radioactive cesium from the environment.
Local businesses that responded to a government call to research and develop decontamination methods have found themselves largely left out. American and other foreign companies with proven expertise in environmental remediation, invited to Japan in June to show off their technologies, have similarly found little scope to participate.
Recent reports in the local media of cleanup crews dumping contaminated soil and leaves into rivers has focused attention on the sloppiness of the cleanup.
“What’s happening on the ground is a disgrace,” said Masafumi Shiga, president of Shiga Toso, a refurbishing company based in Iwaki, Fukushima. The company developed a more effective and safer way to remove cesium from concrete without using water, which could repollute the environment. “We’ve been ready to help for ages, but they say they’ve got their own way of cleaning up,” he said.
Shiga Toso’s technology was tested and identified by government scientists as “fit to deploy immediately,” but it has been used only at two small locations, including a concrete drain at the Naraha-Minami school.
Instead, both the central and local governments have handed over much of the 1 trillion yen decontamination effort to Japan’s largest construction companies. The politically connected companies have little radiological cleanup expertise and critics say they have cut corners to employ primitive — even potentially hazardous — techniques.
The construction companies have the great advantage of available manpower. Here in Naraha, about 1,500 cleanup workers are deployed every day to power-spray buildings, scrape soil off fields, and remove fallen leaves and undergrowth from forests and mountains, according to an official at the Maeda Corporation, which is in charge of the cleanup.
That number, the official said, will soon rise to 2,000, a large deployment rarely seen on even large-sale projects like dams and bridges.
The construction companies suggest new technologies may work, but are not necessarily cost-effective.
“In such a big undertaking, cost-effectiveness becomes very important,” said Takeshi Nishikawa, an executive based in Fukushima for the Kashima Corporation, Japan’s largest construction company. The company is in charge of the cleanup in the city of Tamura, a part of which lies within the 12-mile exclusion zone. “We bring skills and expertise to the project,” Mr. Nishikawa said.
Kashima also built the reactor buildings for all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading some critics to question why control of the cleanup effort has been left to companies with deep ties to the nuclear industry.
Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.
At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.
In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.
The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.
“This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”
In some of the more heavily contaminated parts of Fukushima, which covers about 100 square miles, the central government aims to reduce radiation exposure levels to below 20 millisieverts a year by 2014, a level the government says is safe for the general public. But experts doubt whether this is achievable, especially with current cleanup methods.
After some recent bad press, the central government has promised to step up checks of the decontamination work. “We will not betray the trust of the local communities,” Shinji Inoue, the environment vice minister, said Monday.
There had been high hopes about the government’s disaster reconstruction plan. It was announced four months after the March 2011 disaster, which declared Japan would draw on the most advanced decontamination know-how possible.
But confusion over who would conduct and pay for the cleanup slowed the government response. It took nine months for the central government to decide that it would take charge of decontamination work in 11 of the heaviest-contaminated towns and cities in Fukushima, leaving the rest for local governments to handle.
In October, the state-backed research organization, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, announced that it was soliciting new decontamination technology from across the country.
By early November, the agency had identified 25 technologies that its own tests showed removed harmful cesium from the environment.
A new system to trap, filter and recycle contaminated runoff, developed by the local machinery maker Fukushima Komatsu Forklift, was one of technologies. But since then, the company has not been called on to participate in the state-led cleanup.
“For the big general contractors, it’s all about the bottom line,” said Masao Sakai, an executive at the company. “New technology is available to prevent harmful runoff, but they stick to the same old methods.”
The Japanese government also made an initial effort to contact foreign companies for decontamination support. It invited 32 companies from the United States that specialize in remediation technologies like strip-painting and waste minimization, to show off their expertise to Japanese government officials, experts and companies involved in the cleanup.
Opinions on the trip’s effectiveness vary among participants, but in the six months since, not a single foreign company has been employed in Japan’s cleanup, according to the trip’s participants and Japan’s Environment Ministry.
“Japan has a rich history in nuclear energy, but as you know, the U.S. has a much more diverse experience in dealing with the cleanup of very complicated nuclear processing facilities. We’ve been cleaning it up since World War II,” said Casey Bunker, a director at RJ Lee, a scientific consulting company based in Pennsylvania that took part in the visit.
“There was a little of, ‘Hey, bring your tools over and show us how it works.’ But they ultimately wanted to do it themselves, to fix things themselves,” Mr. Bunker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in a consultative relationship moving forward.”
Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.
“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”
Some local residents are losing faith in the decontamination effort.
“I thought Japan was a technologically advanced country. I thought we’d be able to clean up better than this,” said Yoshiko Suganami, a legal worker who was forced to abandon her home and office over two miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”
Most of the clients at Ms. Suganami’s new practice in Fukushima city are also nuclear refugees who have lost their jobs and homes and are trying to avert bankruptcy. She said few expect to ever return.
In Japan Rarity, Nuclear Spokesman Replaced After Affair Allegations
By Yuka Hayashi
Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2011, courtesy of JE
Over the past few months, the world has been rocked by revelations of powerful men caught in sex scandals: Arnold and Anthony Weiner, to name a few. Now Japan has its own version, which this week claimed the scalp of Hidehiko Nishiyama, Tokyo’s former chief nuclear spokesman.
Hidehiko Nishiyama was demoted from his role as the government’s chief nuclear spokesman on June 29 after rumors about an alleged affair with a young female employee unfurled.
Unlike the U.S., where online flirting costs politicians their jobs, the public in Japan is generally forgiving of powerful men involved in sex scandals. But not this time.
Mr. Nishiyama, a successful career bureaucrat at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, was abruptly pushed out of his role Wednesday, less than a week after a news magazine reported an alleged affair between him and a younger female staffer at the ministry. While Mr. Nishiyama, 54, denied having a sexual relationship with the woman through a ministry spokesman, the colorful details reported in the article became a source of incessant gossip among the city’s elites.
Extra-marital affairs of politicians and business leaders are often viewed in Japan as they are in France – personal matters that should be left alone as long as they don’t interfere with their work — or dramatically offend people’s sensitivities. Some even consider such scandals as something the men should be proud of, as a sign of their power and personal charm.
Take Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In 1998, a news magazine reported his affair with a newscaster. He was called “You idiot!” by his wife, as he himself admitted, but suffered no lasting damage to his career. Paparazzi captured Goshi Hosono, a rising star of Mr. Kan’s ruling party, in a moment of passion with a TV reporter in 2006, but the 39-year-old married politician quickly put his career back on track; he just got appointed as Japan’s new nuclear minister on Monday.
Until recently, Mr. Nishiyama, who is married with two children, was known as a rising star within the ministry, but that hardly made him a public figure. That changed a few days after the March 11 disaster, when he was tapped to moderate the ministry’s daily briefings on the accident. With his articulate answers and knowledge of the power industry gained through his previous assignments, he became a familiar face on national television.
Mr. Nishiyama will now return to his pre-March 11 job in the ministry’s trade bureau, where his primary responsibility is to move Japan toward participating in a controversial regional trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“I apologize if (the report) gave the impression or invited concerns that I was not fully committed to my job” Mr. Nishiyama said last week. Yukio Edano, chief government spokesman, said Wednesday Mr. Nishiyama was relieved of his responsibility due to “concerns that (the scandal) would interfere with his duties.”
As the minister also overseeing the cleanup of the nuclear crisis, Mr. Hosono said the insensitive behavior exhibited by his staff ultimately falls on his shoulders. (He will continue to collect his Y1.3 million monthly income as a member of parliament).
Penalties were also imposed on the environment vice ministers, who will face a 20% pay cut for two months. Others involved have been transferred to other positions and given stern warnings.
The penalties come the day after Mr. Hosono revealed that an environment ministry employee threw soil with trace amounts of radiation away in a vacant lot near his home last week. The soil was sent to the ministry from a Fukushima resident, who had asked the ministry to get rid of the soil. Tests of the soil detected radiation of about 0.18 microsieverts per hour – a low level deemed safe.
Looking ever more haggard since becoming the central government’s captain in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi accident soon after March 11, Mr. Hosono said at a press conference Friday: “What is behind this is the feeling among Fukushima residents that the government has not been implementing its responsibility for handling contaminated soil and should be doing more. I do not think I will be able to gain understanding of people in Fukushima with something like this,” according to state broadcaster NHK.
Separately, the environment ministry has taken in a familiar face to help oversee the soil decontamination effort. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a former government nuclear spokesman disgraced by a sex scandal, has been named deputy chief of a special team for decontamination of Fukushima, set up within the ministry of environment, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday.
Mr. Nishiyama still remains an employee of the METI but will now be on lease to the environment ministry. The 54-year-old elite bureaucrat joined the ministry in 1980 after graduating from Tokyo University. Mr. Nishiyama wasn’t available for comment.
AB: Like the classic “gaijin skis won’t work on Japanese snow” absurdity van Wolferen (?) wrote about 20 years ago. Unbelievable this crappola is still going on. Only gonna get worse with LDP back in the saddle. To paraphrase de Tocqueville “a people gets the government it deserves”
CD: i wonder the extent to which this statement is a convenient misdirection. it’s much easier to spew out some xenophobic nonsense than to publicly admit that fukushima has been written off. i mean, the place was written off the moment they built the plants. but what japanese politician or bureaucrat is going to admit to that? much easier to say grandma and grandpa might get scared by gaijin.
AB: No one — at least no one IN JAPAN — is EVER going to admit this (even though it’s true). It’s like the same-old same-old — everyone afraid of being tarred with the “Hikokumin brush” and being called “defeatist” or a “dream-destroyer” (yume wo kowasu hito).
Same dynamic that kept everyone with half a brain enough to see what was going on otherwise silent as Imperial Japan lurched toward — then plunged into — a suicidal war in 1941.
EF: This is private life, [Nishiyama] does with his tin-tin whenever he wants. What concerns us is his racist profile and he attacking foreigners this way again after all foreigners have done for the victims in Fukushima because, at the time of the hard cleaning up, many foreigners were there removing the corpses along with the Japanese and no one seemed scared by our presence.
GH: [Nishiyama’s] comments are already noted on his Wikipedia page under 日本人論的・差別的発言.
IJ: Pathological racism. Just like how they couldn’t use the U.S. military’s rescue helicopters in Kobe. The Japanese air is different so the pilots might not have been able to fly in Japanese airspace… and the U.S. and French doctors might have scared the earthquake victims to death. But it was really the swiss search dogs that would have been the biggest problem. Japanese dog food is so different. LOL … What a frigging mess Japan is in. Gladder and gladder I voted with my feet years ago.
KL: So the local victims have to suffer because of the racism of the authorities?! But I guess the little people don’t matter…
MN: I know the real reason foreign companies were not invited to take part. I have a relative who works for a major general contractor (maybe even one mentioned in the article). He tells me that ALL (not some, ALL) of their business is carried out in cash for the single purpose of ensuring bribes go smoothly. Foreign companies are not above this. They just don’t know how to play the game.
JDG: Yet another microcosm for all that is wrong with Japan. If the J-public (especially the victims of the disaster) are going to persist in taking it lying down (and unlubricated!), then I can’t see much hope for the future.
GP: Instead, there are now armies of cheap laborers washing down buildings with water and scraping topsoil off schoolyards and dumping it in local rivers – simply spreading the contamination even further while they toil to line the coffers of companies with the juicy cleanup contracts – companies that just conveniently are linked to the nuclear industry. And this is a first world country?
The final comment from the environment ministry really said it all though. This almost reads like a sarcastic joke referencing the “Japan has different snow” tactics of yester-year, with a fine dash of xenophobia thrown in for good measure. Can’t have any nasty furriners scaring the oldies!! (Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that hundreds of foreigners if not thousands have already given their time, money and labor to cleanup and rebuild in Tohoku, and by all accounts their assistance was warmly welcomed).
JDG: ATTENTION APOLOGISTS!
Since you obsessively check this site, please read Debito’s post #23 and explain to me;
How this is simply one small isolated case of government and business collusion in corruption, and does by no means indicate that ‘Japan Inc.’ is broken?
How does this prove that the Fukushima situation is fully safe and under control, and being managed in a transparent fashion?
How does the following statement;’“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”’, prove that rather than racism being endemic in the heart of the Japanese state, I am simply an over sensitive moaner who can’t understand Japan’s unique culture?
How does this article prove that all Japan reporting is shoddy in nature, and biased unfairly against Japan?
How does this statement by a displaced Fukushima resident; ‘“It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”’ clearly reek of unfair and scientifically unsound anti-nuclear lobby alarmism?
By all means, please take this opportunity to show us all where we have being getting it so wrong for all these years in our criticism of Japan.
December 17, 2012 Re: Advice regarding discrimination at a hospital
Dear Sir, My name is Hilary. I am originally from Canada and I’ve been employed by the Town of Shikaoi in Tokachi, Hokkaido as an Assistant Language Teacher for the past four years.
Today, I was experiencing a problem with my foot; I thought I broke a toe over the weekend. I spoke with a Japanese Teacher of English with whom I work with and she offered to call a clinic in neighbouring Shintoku and accompany me to the clinic after school for treatment. She made the telephone call in Japanese and was advised of their location and hours of business and took down their information. Once we arrived there, she spoke with reception and a man (presumably a doctor) motioned to me, making the “batsu” gesture and said (in Japanese) that the clinic’s system doesn’t allow for the treatment of foreigners because of our inability to understand Japanese. I looked at my colleague for confirmation on what I heard and she looked completely dumbstruck.
She turned to me and asked if I understood what they said. I said yes and repeated what the man said back to her in English. Her mouth just hung open and she said “I’ve never heard of such a policy”. The man leaned into my colleague and asked her if I understood Japanese, to which I replied, yes I do. He then said that he would check with the attending physician but doubted that I could receive treatment.
As he went to talk with the attending physician, a receptionist said to my colleague that she (the receptionist) explained the clinic’s policy to my colleague over the phone. My colleague started to tear up as the man returned and said that I could not receive treatment from this clinic due to the reasons he already stated. At that time, the receptionist told the man that she did explain that to my colleague over the phone. My colleague asked the man what we should do and he gave us the telephone number of another hospital in a different town and advised us to go there. I gripped my colleague by the arm and simply said “let’s go”. As we walked out of the clinic, my colleague was very distraught and she said to me “they never told me that on the phone”. I said to her “of course they didn’t. The receptionist was lying”.
We returned to our hometown and went to our local hospital. I received very good care from an English speaking doctor who told us not to worry about the other hospital. However, I was advised by an independent friend that you would be the best person to contact over such a situation.
If needed, this is the clinic’s information:
Keira Orthopaedic Surgery (Seikei Geka Iin) けいら整形外科医院 13 Jominami 5 Chome Shintoku, Kamikawa District Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan 0156-69-5151
If you could advise me as to what, if anything, I should do, I would appreciate that very much. Best regards, Hilary
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I called Keira Seikei Geika Iin first thing in the morning JST on December 18, 2012, and talked to a man who did not give his name. He apologetically confirmed that his institution does not take foreigners. The reason given was a language barrier, and that it might cause “inconvenience” (meiwaku). When asked if this did not constitute discrimination, the answer given was a mere repeat of the meiwaku excuse and apology. When asked about having an interpreter along to resolve any alleged language barrier, the answer became a mantra. I thanked him for his time and that was the end of the conversation.
Postscript: Hillary fortunately did not have a broken toe. It was chilblains. Wishing her a speedy recovery. Arudou Debito
Postpostscript: The information site for this clinic has links to a METI-sponsored organization for international medical tourism, through a banner saying, “We support foreign patients who wish to receive medical treatments in Japan.” Click here for more info.
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Hi Blog. It’s been said that people get the democracy that they deserve. Although unduly harsh, that rings true today, as the results of 2012’s election have absolutely routed the DPJ and placed the old-school LDP/Koumeitou alliance and the even older-school Ishihara Party, pardon, Japan Restoration Party (JRP) with a greater than 3/4 majority (LDP/KMT at 324, JRP 54) as a total in the 480-seat Lower House. (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This is well over the 320 votes necessary to override the Upper House’s vetoes, and essentially makes Japan’s bicameral legislature unicameral. This new parliamentary composition could very well squeeze out a revision to the Self-Defense Forces (calling it what it really is: a standing military that should be unconstitutional) as well as force a “revision of the pacifist American-made Japanese Constitution” out of this. More on this below.
The DPJ, for its part, was completely and utterly routed. It went from 230 seats in the Lower House to, as of this writing, a mere 57. Even in my home area of Hokkaido, a bellwether DPJ stronghold, the DPJ lost *ALL* their seats in their 12-district electoral system (with only two DPJ, including long-standing career politician Yokomichi — as a legacy vote due to his status as current Speaker of the Lower House and former Hokkaido Governor — squeaking by on the Proportional Representation vote). (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This meant that eight Cabinet members lost their seats (two of them, Public Safety’s Kodaira and Health and Welfare’s Mitsui, from Hokkaido), which is by far a Postwar record (the previous record was only three in the 1983 Nakasone Cabinet). (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12).
If one must search for the silver lining out of this election, it is that the far-right JRP didn’t pick up as many seats as was initially projected (100-150), but that was always just an optimistic guesstimate. And since both leaders of the LDP and the JRP have inchoate urges to mold a “beautiful Japan” in their image (read: more willful ignorance of history and nationalistic excess in the name of a more xenophobic nation-state), the real silver lining is that they have to come to grips with the unelected bureaucrats that are even more powerful and less accountable than they are.
What’s next? Here’s what the Japan Times says:
=================================== Both the LDP and the Japan Restoration Party are known for their hawkish attitude on constitutional issues. They call for revising the Constitution, including revision of the war-renouncing Article 9, and for exercising the right to collective self-defense.
The government’s traditional interpretation is that the Constitution prohibits Japan from exercising that right. If the right to collective self-defense is allowed to be exercised, Japan would be legally able to take military action to defend a nation with close ties with Japan if that nation is militarily attacked by a third party.
Attention must be paid to the fact that while a constitutional revision requires the support of two-thirds of the Diet members to initiate a national referendum on such a revision, changing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution related to the right to collective self-defense does not require such a procedure.
The LDP and other parties calling for the exercise of that right can enact a bill that will change the government’s traditional interpretation. Exercising the right to collective self-defense could open the way for putting Japanese nationals in harm’s way by involving Japan in military conflict not directly affecting it. This would violate Japan’s defense-only defense policy. Such a bill would completely gut the no-war principle of the Constitution.
The LDP calls for revising Article 9 to create a National Defense Force. Its draft revision states that the proposed NDF, under a specific law, can take part in international cooperative activities to help maintain peace and security in the international community — a concept that can be used to justify Japan’s participation in virtually any type of military mission abroad.
Even without revising the Constitution, the LDP may try to enact a bill to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ activities overseas. Given Japan’s military aggression in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s and ’40s, the LDP’s posture would arouse suspicions about Japan’s true intentions among neighboring and other countries, thus destroying the international community’s trust in Japan. It could also lead to a fierce arms race and destabilization of relations in East Asia, endangering Japan’s security.
Fine words. But who’s listening anymore? Certainly not Japan’s voters at this time. Keep an eye on what happens from now, folks, because I think that once the sake cups have been drained and hangovers recovered from, these people are going to get to work with a vengeance. Because for this generation of old-schoolers (such as Ishihara), there’s not much time left for the Wartime Generation to undo all the Postwar liberalizations of Japan that have helped make Japan rich without overt remilitarization and aggression. For these fans of a martial Japan, who only value, respect, and covet a world in terms of power and hierarchy, revenge will be sweet. For as I have written before (Japan Times Oct. 2, quoting Dr. M.G. Sheftall):
“As a historian, it’s discomfiting having anything smacking of wartime ideology making a comeback while men who committed atrocities for the Imperial Japanese military still live. While they deserve some sympathy for what they endured under an ideology they were unable to resist or reject, I don’t they deserve the satisfaction of leaving this mortal coil feeling that Japan’s war has been historically vindicated.”
I think that is what this election has been all about. It’s just a pity that so many bad things had to happen to the Japanese public over the past three years to cause them to overlook this hidden agenda. Arudou Debito
(As an aside, I have been told by at least one legal expert that spot checks are apparently no longer legally permitted, since the Foreign Registry Law has been abolished, but never mind — it’s still happening. In fact, I just heard word the other day that somebody who got zapped for a Gaijin Card check in Tokyo wasn’t carrying it, had to be escorted home for proof of valid visa, and after showing it was still slapped with a 200,000 yen fine. Waiting for final confirmation on that…)
Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”. If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?
“Green Card” Faraday Envelope:
Global Entry Card Faraday Envelope:
Do you think the GOJ will ever issue a Faraday Envelope to NJ with their ZRKs? Nosiree. That would defeat the point of inserting the IC Chip in the first place. (For the record, taking off the tinfoil hat and wrapping it around your card protects your privacy — until you get remotely racially profiled, of course…)
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Hi Blog. This story has hit a lot of newspapers worldwide. I’ll just blog the first article I saw, and other Debito.org Readers who find articles that cover points not mentioned here can add them to the Comments Section.
And more Japanese elites, as I am hearing through as-yet inconclusively-researched channels, are moving overseas to set up transplant Japanese communities away from this strangler-fig bureaucracy. More on that later if we get something conclusive. Arudou Debito
About a quarter of the US$148 billion budget for reconstruction after Japan’s March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster has been spent on unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory and research whaling.
The findings of a government audit buttress complaints over shortcomings and delays in the reconstruction effort. More than half the budget is yet to be disbursed, stalled by indecision and bureaucracy, while nearly all of the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone remain uncertain whether, when and how they will ever resettle.
Many of the non-reconstruction-related projects loaded into the 11.7 trillion yen budget were included on the pretext they might contribute to Japan’s economic revival, a strategy that the government now acknowledges was a mistake.
“It is true that the government has not done enough and has not done it adequately. We must listen to those who say the reconstruction should be the first priority,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in a speech to parliament on Monday.
He vowed that unrelated projects will be “strictly wrung out” of the budget.
But ensuring that funds go to their intended purpose might require an explicit change in the reconstruction spending law, which authorizes spending on such ambiguous purposes as creating eco-towns and supporting “employment measures.”
Among the unrelated projects benefiting from the reconstruction budgets are: road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling, ostensibly for research, according to data from the government audit released last week.
A list of budget items and spending shows some 30 million yen went to promoting the Tokyo Sky Tree, a transmission tower that is the world’s tallest freestanding broadcast structure. Another 2.8 billion yen was requested by the Justice Ministry for a publicity campaign to “reassure the public” about the risks of big disasters.
Masahiro Matsumura, a politics professor at St. Andrews University in Osaka, Japan, said justifying such misuse by suggesting the benefits would “trickle down” to the disaster zone is typical of the political dysfunction that has hindered Japan’s efforts to break out of two decades of debilitating economic slump.
“This is a manifestation of government indifference to rehabilitation. They are very good at making excuses,” Matsumura told The Associated Press.
Near the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which suffered the additional blow from the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, recovery work has barely begun.
More than 325,000 of the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone or forced to flee the areas around the nuclear plant after the March 11, 2011, disaster remain homeless or away from their homes, according to the most recent figures available.
In Rikuzentakata, a fishing enclave where 1,800 people were killed or went missing as the tsunami scoured the harbor, rebuilding has yet to begin in earnest, says Takashi Kubota, who left a government job in Tokyo in May 2011 to become the town’s deputy mayor.
The tsunami destroyed 3,800 of Rikuzentakata’s 9,000 homes. The first priority, he says, has been finding land for rebuilding homes on higher ground. For now, most evacuees are housed, generally unhappily, in temporary shelters in school playgrounds and sports fields.
“I can sum it up in two words speed and flexibility that are lacking,” Kubota said. Showing a photo of the now non-existent downtown area, he said, “In 19 months, there have basically been no major changes. There is not one single new building yet.”
The government has pledged to spend 23 trillion yen over this decade on reconstruction and disaster prevention, 19 trillion yen of it within five years.
But more than half the reconstruction budget remains unspent, according to the government’s audit report.
The dithering is preventing the government, whose debt is already twice the size of the country’s GDP, from getting the most bang for every buck.
“You’ve got economic malaise and political as well. That’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Matthew Circosta, an economist with Moody’s Analytics in Sydney.
Part of the problem is the central government’s strategy of managing the reconstruction from Tokyo instead of delegating it to provincial governments. At the same time, the local governments lack the staff and expertise for such major rebuilding.
The government “thinks it has to be in the driver’s seat,” Jun Iio, a government adviser and professor at Tokyo University told a conference in Sendai. “Unfortunately the reconstruction process is long and only if the local residents can agree on a plan will they move ahead on reconstruction.”
“It is in this stage that creativity is needed for rebuilding,” he said.
Even Sendai, a regional capital of over 1 million people much better equipped than most coastal communities to deal with the disaster, still has mountains of rubble. Much of it is piled amid the bare foundations, barren fields and broken buildings of its oceanside suburb of Arahama.
Sendai quickly restored disrupted power, gas and water supplies and its tsunami-swamped airport. The area’s crumbled expressways and heavily damaged railway lines were repaired within weeks.
But farther north and south, ravaged coastal towns remain largely unoccupied.
More than 240 ports remain unbuilt; in many cases their harbors are treacherous with tsunami debris.
Like many working on the disaster, Yoshiaki Kawata of Kansai University worries that the slow progress on reconstruction will leave the region, traditionally one of Japan’s poorest, without a viable economy.
“There is almost no one on the streets,” he said in the tiny fishing hamlet of Ryoishi, where the sea rose 17 metres. “Building a new town will take many years.”
Even communities remain divided over how to rebuild. Moving residential areas to higher ground involves cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and complicated ownership issues. Each day of delay, meanwhile, raises the likelihood that residents will leave and that local businesses will fail to recover, says Itsunori Onodera, a lawmaker from the port town of Kesennuma, which lost more than 1,400 people in the disaster.
“Speed,” he says, is the thing most needed to get the region back on its feet. -AP
TOKYO — The utility behind Japan’s nuclear disaster acknowledged for the first time Friday that it could have avoided the crisis.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said in a statement that it had known safety improvements were needed before last year’s tsunami triggered three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but it had feared the political, economic and legal consequences of implementing them.
“When looking back on the accident, the problem was that preparations were not made in advance,” TEPCO’s internal reform task force, led by company President Naomi Hirose, said in the statement. “Could necessary measures have been taken with previous tsunami evaluations? It was possible to take action” by adopting more extensive safety measures, the task force said.
The task force said TEPCO had feared efforts to better protect nuclear facilities from severe accidents such as tsunamis would trigger anti-nuclear sentiment, interfere with operations or increase litigation risks. TEPCO could have mitigated the impact of the accident if it had diversified power and cooling systems by paying closer attention to international standards and recommendations, the statement said. TEPCO also should have trained employees with practical crisis management skills rather than conduct obligatory drills as a formality, it said.
The admissions mark a major reversal for the utility, which had defended its preparedness and crisis management since the March 2011 tsunami. The disaster knocked out power to the Fukushima plant, leading to the meltdowns, which forced massive evacuations and will take decades to clean up.
The statement was released after TEPCO held its first internal reform committee meeting, led by former U.S. nuclear regulatory chief Dale Klein. His five-member committee oversees the task force’s reform plans.
“It’s very important for TEPCO to recognize the needs to reform and the committee is very anxious to facilitate the reform necessary for TEPCO to become a world-class company,” Klein told a news conference. “The committee’s goal is to ensure that TEPCO develops practices and procedures so an accident like this will never happen again.”
The reform plans aim to use the lessons learned at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in northern Japan. The cash-strapped utility wants to restart that plant, but TEPCO officials denied the reform plans are aimed at improving public image to gain support for the plant’s resumption.
“The reforms are intended to improve our safety culture, and we have no intention to link it to a possibility of resuming the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) plant,” said Takafumi Anegawa, the TEPCO official in charge of nuclear asset management. “We don’t have any preconditions for our reforms.”
The Fukushima Daiichi plant has been substantially stabilized but is still running on makeshift equipment as workers continue their work to decommission the four damaged reactors, which could take several decades.
Additional safety measures have been installed at nuclear power plants nationwide since the accident under the government’s instructions, including enhancing seawalls, adding backup power and cooling water sources, and developing better crisis management training. But plant operators will be required to take further steps as a new nuclear regulatory authority launched in September steps up safety requirements.
Investigative reports compiled by the government and the parliament panels said collusion between the company and government regulators allowed lax supervision and allowed TEPCO to continue lagging behind in safety steps.
Despite records indicating a major tsunami had once hit off Japan’s northern coast, TEPCO took the most optimistic view of the risk and insisted that its 5.7-meter-high seawall was good enough. The tsunami that struck Fukushima Dai-ichi was more than twice that height.
The company had said in its own accident probe report in June that the tsunami could not be anticipated and that the company did the best it could to bring the critically damaged plant under control, although there were shortfalls that they had to review. TEPCO bitterly criticized what it said was excessive interference from the government and the prime minister’s office.
TEPCO’s Anegawa said the task force plans to compile by the end of the year recommendations “that would have saved us from the accident if we turn the clock back.”
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Hi Blog. While I still want to reserve the summer for cycling and outdoor non-blog stuff, one thing has to be said: Fukushima is a mess, just like we suspected it would be. More than five months later, the Japanese public still has insufficient information about what’s going on down there, and people are being slowly poisoned as radiation percolates through the food chain and begins to be picked up overseas. As I’ve said before, this is Japan’s long-burning tyreyard fire, and there is still no end to the crisis in sight.
But one other thing also has to be said. Back in March, when Debito.org merely had the audacity to raise some questions about the situation and the information we were getting, we were roundly criticized for being “alarmist”, “ignorant”, “wrong”, “reputation-damaging”, and even “racist”. One even said, “The greatest health effects of all nuclear incidents have been due to the anxiety that people like you are doing their best to ramp up. Thanks a lot for contributing to the problem.” That’s pretty bold — as if we were trying to instigate a panic and damage people’s health just because we wanted to know more information (which the nuclear industry worldwide keeps a lid on, down to the very science, to keep the public in the dark about their shenanigans and corruption).
Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.
The Fukushima Crisis has exposed the inability of the GOJ (whether you mean politician or bureaucrat) to respond in a timely or safe manner, to follow the rules and safety standards (even changing safe radiation levels to suit political exigency), to show proper leadership or even adequate concern for its citizens in harm’s way, to release facts of the case so that people could make an informed decision, or to acknowledge there had even been a meltdown (something other observers knew based upon reasoned analysis of reactors’ output, but the GOJ would not admit), for months! The political culture which enables people in power in Japan to evade responsibility is now slowly poisoning Japanese society, if not eventually parts of the world, and that has to be addressed in the arena of public opinion.
Back in March, we at Debito.org did try to err on the side of caution and give some benefiting of the doubt (even shutting ourselves up when we had insufficient information). We wanted to wait and see how the cards fell. They clearly fell in favor of our original assertions that we were not being told the full story, and that things were far worse than was being let on. Now, critics, let’s have some honest capitulation on your part. You know who you are. It’s so easy to be a critic, but much harder to admit you’re wrong. Have the cojones to do that, especially about something as serious and society-changing as this.
Some referential articles follow, showing 1) the slow poisoning of children by Fukushima (NHK World), 2) how deep the institutional rot runs (NY Times), 3) more on the science of radioactivity and how seriously matters are not being taken (Japan Focus), and 4) the new attempts at spin-doctoring the situation, for starters. Knee-jerk defensive comments that do not reflect a careful reading of these references will not be approved. I think we’ve had quite enough knee-jerk-ism regarding this subject here already. Arudou Debito
(Debito.org Readers who wish to post more articles in the Comments Section, please do so with date, link, and pertinent excerpt if not entire article.)
More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands
NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST) http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html Courtesy BCH A survey shows that a small amount of radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroid glands of hundreds of children in Fukushima Prefecture.
The result was reported to a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo on Saturday.
A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.
Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.
Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril
By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER Published: August 8, 2011
FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate.
Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice.
The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that.
But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.
“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”
The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”
In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.
Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.
“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”
In an interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, dismissed accusations that political considerations had delayed the release of the early Speedi data. He said that they were not disclosed because they were incomplete and inaccurate, and that he was presented with the data for the first time only on March 23.
“And on that day, we made them public,” said Mr. Hosono, who was one of the prime minister’s closest advisers in the early days of the crisis before being named nuclear disaster minister. “As for before that, I myself am not sure. In the days before that, which were a matter of life and death for Japan as a nation, I wasn’t taking part in what was happening with Speedi.”
The computer forecasts were among many pieces of information the authorities initially withheld from the public.
Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.
The timing of many admissions — coming around late May and early June, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Japan and before Japan was scheduled to deliver a report on the accident at an I.A.E.A. conference — suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident. On July 4, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”
The group added that the authorities had yet to disclose information like the water level and temperature inside reactor pressure vessels that would yield a fuller picture of the damage. Other experts have said the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, have yet to reveal plant data that could shed light on whether the reactors’ cooling systems were actually knocked out solely by the 45-foot-tall tsunami, as officials have maintained, or whether damage from the earthquake also played a role, a finding that could raise doubts about the safety of other nuclear plants in a nation as seismically active as Japan.
Government officials insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public.
“As a principle, the government has never acted in such a way as to sacrifice the public’s health or safety,” said Mr. Hosono, the nuclear disaster minister.
Here in the prefecture’s capital and elsewhere, workers are removing the surface soil from schoolyards contaminated with radioactive particles from the nuclear plant. Tens of thousands of children are being kept inside school buildings this hot summer, where some wear masks even though the windows are kept shut. Many will soon be wearing individual dosimeters to track their exposure to radiation.
At Elementary School No. 4 here, sixth graders were recently playing shogi and go, traditional board games, inside. Nao Miyabashi, 11, whose family fled here from Namie, said she was afraid of radiation. She tried not to get caught in the rain. She gargled and washed her hands as soon as she got home.
“I want to play outside,” she said.
About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a recent announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination. Many experts both in and outside Japan are questioning the government’s assessment, pointing out that in Chernobyl, most of those who went on to suffer from thyroid cancer were children living near that plant at the time of the accident.
Critics inside and outside the Kan administration argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.
On the evening of March 15, Mr. Kan called Mr. Soramoto, who used to design nuclear plants for Toshiba, to ask for his help in managing the escalating crisis. Mr. Soramoto formed an impromptu advisory group, which included his former professor at the University of Tokyo, Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement.
Mr. Kosako, who studied the Soviet response to the Chernobyl crisis, said he was stunned at how little the leaders in the prime minister’s office knew about the resources available to them. He quickly advised the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, to use Speedi, which used measurements of radioactive releases, as well as weather and topographical data, to predict where radioactive materials could travel after being released into the atmosphere.
Speedi had been designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal that, according to the prime minister’s office’s own nuclear disaster manuals, were supposed to be made available at least to local officials and rescue workers in order to guide evacuees away from radioactive plumes.
And indeed, Speedi had been churning out maps and other data hourly since the first hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. But the Education Ministry had not provided the data to the prime minister’s office because, it said, the information was incomplete. The tsunami had knocked out sensors at the plant: without measurements of how much radiation was actually being released by the plant, they said, it was impossible to measure how far the radioactive plume was stretching.
“Without knowing the strength of the releases, there was no way we could take responsibility if evacuations were ordered,” said Keiji Miyamoto of the Education Ministry’s nuclear safety division, which administers Speedi.
The government had initially resorted to drawing rings around the plant, evacuating everyone within a radius of first 1.9 miles, then 6.2 miles and then 12.4 miles, widening the rings as the scale of the disaster became clearer.
But even with incomplete data, Mr. Kosako said he urged the government to use Speedi by making educated guesses as to the levels of radiation release, which would have still yielded usable maps to guide evacuation plans. In fact, the ministry had done precisely that, running simulations on Speedi’s computers of radiation releases. Some of the maps clearly showed a plume of nuclear contamination extending to the northwest of the plant, beyond the areas that were initially evacuated.
However, Mr. Kosako said, the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.
A wider evacuation zone would have meant uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and finding places for them to live in an already crowded country. Particularly in the early days after the earthquake, roads were blocked and trains were not running. These considerations made the government desperate to limit evacuations beyond the 80,000 people already moved from areas around the plant, as well as to avoid compensation payments to still more evacuees, according to current and former officials interviewed.
Mr. Kosako said the top advisers to the prime minister repeatedly ignored his frantic requests to make the Speedi maps public, and he resigned in April over fears that children were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.
Some advisers to the prime minister argue that the system was not that useful in predicting the radiation plume’s direction. Shunsuke Kondo, who heads the Atomic Energy Commission, an advisory body in the Cabinet Office, said that the maps Speedi produced in the first days were inconsistent, and changed several times a day depending on wind direction.
“Why release something if it was not useful?” said Mr. Kondo, also a retired professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo. “Someone on the ground in Fukushima, looking at which way the wind was blowing, would have known just as much.”
Mr. Kosako and others, however, say the Speedi maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data. He said the Speedi readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.
In interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for Speedi. The head of the commission declined to be interviewed.
Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”
Evacuees now staying in temporary prefabricated homes in Nihonmatsu said that, believing they were safe in Tsushima, they took few precautions. Yoko Nozawa, 70, said that because of the lack of toilets, they resorted to pits in the ground, where doses of radiation were most likely higher.
“We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”
A neighbor, Hiroyuki Oto, 31, said he was working at the plant for a Tepco subcontractor at the time of the earthquake and was now in temporary lodging with his wife and three young children, after also staying in Tsushima. “The effects might emerge only years from now,” he said of the exposure to radiation. “I’m worried about my kids.”
Seeds of Mistrust
Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.” In an interview, Mr. Hosono — who now holds nearly daily news conferences with Tepco officials and nuclear regulators — said that the government had “changed its thinking” and was trying to release information as fast as possible.
Critics, as well as the increasingly skeptical public, seem unconvinced. They compare the response to the Minamata case in the 1950s, a national scandal in which bureaucrats and industry officials colluded to protect economic growth by hiding the fact that a chemical factory was releasing mercury into Minamata Bay in western Japan. The mercury led to neurological illnesses in thousands of people living in the region and was captured in wrenching photographs of stricken victims.
“If they wanted to protect people, they had to release information immediately,” said Reiko Seki, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and an expert on the cover-up of the Minamata case. “Despite the experience with Minamata, they didn’t release Speedi.”
In Koriyama, a city about 40 miles west of the nuclear plant, a group of parents said they had stopped believing in government reassurances and recently did something unthinkable in a conservative, rural area: they sued. Though their suit seeks to force Koriyama to relocate their children to a safer area, their real aim is to challenge the nation’s handling of evacuations and the public health crisis.
After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard. The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said the authorities were withholding information to deflect attention from the nuclear accident’s health consequences, which will become clear only years later.
“Because the effects don’t emerge immediately, they can claim later on that cigarettes or coffee caused the cancer,” he said.
The Japanese government is considering monitoring the long-term health of Fukushima residents and taking appropriate measures in the future, said Yasuhiro Sonoda, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office. The mayor of Koriyama, Masao Hara, said he did not believe that the government’s radiation standards were unsafe. He said it was “unrealistic” to evacuate the city’s 33,000 elementary and junior high school students.
But Koriyama went further than the government’s mandates, removing the surface soil from its schools before national directives and imposing tougher inspection standards than those set by the country’s education officials.
“The Japanese people, after all, have a high level of knowledge,” the mayor said, “so I think information should be disclosed correctly and quickly so that the people can make judgments, especially the people here in Fukushima.”
Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima
Kodama TatsuhikoProfessor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo Head, Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo
Talk at the July 27, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives
…In that case, the total dose is not much of an issue; rather, the density of radiation in each individual is the focus. However, following the recent accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, 5 μSv within 100 kilometers and 0.5 μSv within 200 kilometers from the complex were recorded. And as all of you know now, radiation reached further beyond to affect Ashigara and Shizuoka tea leaves.When we examine radiation poisoning, we look at the entire amount. TEPCO and the government have never clearly reported on the total amount of radiation doses resulting from the Fukushima nuclear accident. When we calculate on the basis of the knowledge available at our Radioisotope Center, in terms of the quantity of heat, the equivalent of 29.6 Hiroshima a-bombs leaked. Converted to uranium, an amount equivalent to 20 Hiroshima a-bombs is estimated to have leaked.
What is further dreadful is that, according to what we know so far, when we compare the amount of radiation that remained after the a-bomb and that of radiation from the nuclear plant, that of the former goes down to one-thousandth after one year whereas radioactive contaminants of the latter are reduced to only one-tenth.
In other words, in thinking about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the first premise is that, as in the case of Chernobyl, an amount of radiation equivalent to tens of a-bombs was released and far greater contamination remains afterward compared with the a-bomb…
Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid
Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011, Examiner.com, courtesy BCH (excerpt)
After “off-scale” radiation contamination at Fukushima was reported in early August, this weekend extremely excessive radiation contamination around Fukushima reported by the Ministry of Science and Education is forcing the Japanese government toward what New York Timestermed “long-term depopulation” with an announcement making the area officially uninhabitable for decades, as Japanese people, including radiation refugees, plead for global help to survive human right to health violations experienced since March when Japan’s ever worsening nuclear power plant catastrophe began.
The government is expected to make a formal announcement telling many of the radiation refugees that they will be prohibited from returning to their homes indefinitely according to several Japanese news reports over the weekend reported theNew York Times on Monday.
“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”
Fukushima area being uninhabited for decades is no surprise to many independent nuclear experts or lay persons aware that has been case for areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after its 1986 catastrophic accident. Today, an estimated five million people in the Ukraine suffer Chernobyl radiation deformities and cancer, many of whom were not born when that catastrophe began, according to a recent Australia CBS report. (See: “Fukushima now radiating everyone: ‘Unspeakable’ reality,” Dupré, August 16, 2011)
Examiner colleague, Alfred Lambremont reported in early July that, “Leuren Moret [MA, PhD (ABT)] released her court statement as expert witness in a lawsuit brought to force government officials to evacuate more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area where they are being forcibly exposed by the government to lethal doses of radiation.”
The anticipated Japanese government relocation announcement would be the “first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant” reported The New York Times.
This forced depopulation issue is one that “scientists and some officials have been warning about for months” and criticized the government for not doing sooner. New York Times reports that:
“… evacuations have been a sensitive topic for the government, which has been criticized for being slow to admit the extent of the disaster and trying to limit the size of the areas affected, despite possible risks to public health. Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year, when workers are expected to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged nuclear reactors.”
U.S. involvement in nuclear genocide abroad and at home has been recorded by Leuren Moret who wrote in her Court statement:
“Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like U.S. govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the U.S. government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US.”
Radiation deniers foster nuclear industry
There have been Japanese government televised programs espousing Plutonium is good for humans.
After the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe began, the nuclear industry urgently redoubled efforts to convince the world that nuclear radiation is safe and even more, “they are trying to say that radiation is actually good for us” according to Noel Wauchope.
“The whole idea of radiation is good for you is not new,” said Nuclear News editor Christina MacPherson in an email to Dupré. “It was pushed a few years back by Frenchman Bruno Comby with his ‘environmentalists for nuclear power’ campaign.”
Hi Blog. After a very nasty discussion on Debito.org last month, regarding the validity of a story by Brian Hedge that a 74-year-old tourist was incarcerated for more than a week just for holding a pocket knife, the Japan Times has come through (The only media to bother — subscribe to the paper, everyone! Who else you gonna call?) and confirmed that it actually did happen.
It sure would be nice for the anonymous nasties who raked people over the coals to capitulate now. How ’bout it? Arudou Debito in Sapporo
It all started when an American tourist asked a police officer for directions to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.
The Californian, 74, could never have imagined the officer would reply to his question with: “Do you have a knife?”
He could never have dreamed, either, that his possession of a pocketknife, which he calls a “customary personal item,” would be illegal in Japan and lead to 10 nights in detention, the man told The Japan Times during a recent interview.
“It was unpleasant and disappointing,” he said.
The actions by police, including asking the man if he was carrying a knife, are questionable, lawyers said.
In particular, they say 10 days in detention is problematic — although unfortunately in Japan not uncommon.
“I seriously doubt the man needed to be detained at all,” said lawyer Kazuharu Suga, who has been assigned to defend the American.
“Police should have confiscated the knife and released him after getting answers for why he came to Japan, where and how long he plans to stay in Japan and how he got the knife,” Suga said.
“Unfortunately, in cases like this, 10 days of detention is not unusual,” he said, adding that a foreigner could be held longer if police have linguistic trouble communicating with the suspect…
The Japan Times Community Page ran a series of responses on Tuesday from readers, many outraged, by this treatment. Here they are:
============================ One pocket knife, nine days’ lockup
Following are a selection of readers’ responses to the July 28 Hotline to Nagatacho column headlined “Pocket knife lands tourist, 74, in lockup.”
The Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009
As a followup, here are some responses and links to germane articles from cyberspace, pointing out how my prognostications may in fact be grounded in reality. Along with a critique at the very bottom from friend Jon Heese, Tsukuba City Assemblyman, of that controversial article. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Saw these two articles and thought I’d pass them along so that you’re up to date with what nonsense the DHS is up to these days:
As a college student I frequently didn’t go to class when I overslept, when I didn’t feel like it, or heck, when it was Friday. I’m imagining that Japanese students are the same. That’s why Aoyama Gakuin University‘s new plan to keep its students in line is pretty freakin’ clever—possibly even bordering on devious.
Reuters, this June all of the university’s 550 students, and some staff in one unnamed department, will receive a free iPhone 3G. Instead of teachers taking attendance, students are asked to input their ID number into an iPhone app—and to discourage fraud, this app apparently has GPS location data and monitors which Internet router students use.
Of course, knowing the lengths students will go to in order to avoid attending class, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find they’d discovered a way around the system. If only they devoted that much time to their schoolwork.
Further the university apparently is going to also be providing video podcasts of lectures, something American universities have been doing for years. No word yet on if they’re going to be making AGU’s material available on iTunes U.
Debito, feel free to use this in the comments section or just for yourself. As you please. -jon heese
Quoting Debito’s controversial article three weeks ago:
Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.
It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?
God, Debito, you sure do go on. There are plenty of products available to block remote scanning. Googling “rfid protection” got me the link below.
Personally, I’m rather pissed at the lemming-like acceptance of very dodgy tech in a normally tech-savvy country. There is a company in California which makes a RFID card which has a break in the circuit between the chip and the antenna. Pressing a small bubble in the corner of the card completes the circuit but only when you want the info to be read.
Some Canadian provinces have put their implementation of chips on drivers licenses on hold until the privacy issues are properly dealt with. Why are the provinces even trying to force their citizenry to accept RFID’s in their driving licenses? Why goodness, it’s because the US of F-ing A is forcing them to! So if yer gonna clamp on your tinfoil hat, direct your ire towards the source of the problem, not the Japanese who have been cajoled into this by big brother. And BTW, my new drivers license also has a chip. So it’s not just the poor NJ’s who are being put at risk. This is a much bigger issue than a few foreigners getting screwed over.
RFID’s are small potatoes. As far as tracking, though, you are not gripping your hat tight enough. I would point out that your cell phone is actually much better to track you than a chip. An RFID reader is only really useful within 10 feet. Cell phones know where you are at all times. Anyone with the right access can pinpoint you anywhere in the world.
I would also point out that it’s also a great remote listening device. The NSA may have the ability to turn on your microphone without you even knowing it and broadcast anything being said. And turning your phone off may not be enough. Not even taking out the battery! Phones already have built in batteries which normally only provide juice to preserve your data, like the clock and address book, etc. However, there is no reason to not believe that such internal batteries could just as easily power the microphone for short periods. So grab your foil hat tight and wrap your curls in triple layers for extra protection.
Come again? Pass the law, and then we’ll decide law enforcement procedures? This blind faith is precisely what leads to human rights abuses.
I’m with you on this one. However when it comes to abuses, Japan is still a tamago. Just listen to a few NPR podcasts to get a feel of what it’s like “out there.” 怖いよ！
Still, did you expect the leopard to change its spots? Put immigration policy in the hands of the police and they will do just that police, under a far-removed centralized regime trained to see people as potential criminals.
Though the police have a central control, most cops are of the prefectural variety. Not nearly as ominous as you make out.
Why stop at bugging the gaijin? Why not just sew gold stars on their lapels and be done with it?
This is over the top. Shame on you! Besides, it’s not like us Pilsbury dough boys even need stars to be spotted in a crowd.
Fortunately, a policy this egregious has fomented its own protest, even within a general public that usually cares little about the livelihoods of foreigners. Major newspapers are covering the issue, for a change. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants the bill watered down, vowing to block it until after the next general election.
Japan just gets curiouser and curiouser. I am so looking forward to voting in this coming election. But don’t expect the RFID issue to go away. The USA won’t let them.
The Justice Ministry will begin research on how other countries employ satellite-based global positioning systems to locate people released from prison and to see if the systems work at discouraging repeat offenders.
Officials said they will not set the development of a similar system for Japan as the goal of the research, but said the move is likely to spark criticism among those who believe such surveillance violates human rights.
Countries including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada already use GPS-based monitoring systems to track some former prisoners, and the ministry is planning to learn by the end of fiscal 2010, or March 31, 2011, why they did so, the purpose of their use, who is being targeted, what devices are used, and how the systems operate.
Some countries use GPS to prevent sex offenders visiting specific locations, while others use the technology to ease overcrowding in prisons by releasing offenders tagged with the devices.
The use of GPS was included as an item for study in an action plan finalized at a meeting of Cabinet ministers concerning crime prevention in December.
Hi Blog. SITYS. See I told you so. As far back as 2000 (when this whole thing started, really–Check out Chapter Three of my book JAPANESE ONLY), I was saying that foreign crime was being artificially generated by policymakers in order to justify more budgetary outlay. Well, here’s an article on it from the Mainichi Daily News. Courtesy of Ben at The Community (thanks). Debito in Sapporo
=========================== Author dismisses government’s fear mongering myth of crime wave by foreigners
For years, people like Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara have been up in
arms about rising crime rates among foreigners and juveniles in Japan,
but one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s public safety experts
has come out to say the claims are groundless, according to Sunday
Ishihara and his ilk have long laid the blame on foreigners for a
perceived worsening of public safety standards that has allowed the
powers that be to strengthen and crack down on non-Japanese and teens.
But Hiroshi Kubo, the former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan
Government’s Emergency Public Safety Task Force, says they’ve got it
“Put simply, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s public safety policy
involves telling people that public safety standards have worsened and
police groups need strengthening to protect the capital’s residents,”
Kubo tells Sunday Mainichi. “But I’ve realized there’s something
unnatural about this ‘worsening.'”
In his newly released book, Kubo goes through the statistical data
being used to justify taking a hard line on foreigners and kids and
argues that maybe it’s not quite all there. For instance, the growing
crime rate in Tokyo is based on reported crimes, not actual crime
cases. This means the count includes cases where people who have been
scared into believing their safety is under such a threat they contact
the police for any trifling matter only to be sent away with no action
And taking a look back over the past 40 years shows that violent
crimes by juveniles has actually declined. Current worries about how
youths are becoming more criminally inclined — and at a younger age
— sound like a recording of similar cries dating back to the ’60s.
Crimes by foreigners have long been highlighted, but there’s little to
suggest that Tokyo or Japan is in the midst of a violent crime spree.
In 2002, there were 102 non-Japanese arrested in Tokyo for violent
crimes including murder, armed robbery, arson and rape. The following
year, that number jumped to 156, fell back to 117 in 2004 and was just
84 in 2005. And the number of violent crimes foreigners are committing
in Tokyo is not a patch on the Japanese, who account for about 1,000
cases a year.
Kubo says authorities are merely fear mongering, taking statistics
that work in their favor and molding them to suit their purposes.
National Police Agency data is used the same way as authorities are
doing in Tokyo, spreading fear nationwide.
“There’s an underlying current of anxiety throughout society. People
have no idea what’s going to happen in the future, they’re worried
about employment and pay and declining living standards and somebody
who’s going to openly talk about the reason for their anxieties is
going to attract their interest,” the public safety expert tells
Sunday Mainichi. “Say somebody comes out and says ‘foreigners’ violent
crimes are all to blame’ then anxious people are going to go along
with that. And the national government, prefectural governments,
police and the media all jump on the bandwagon and believe what’s
being said.” (By Ryann Connell)