Osaka Mayor Hashimoto vs Zaitokukai Sakurai: I say, bully for Hash for standing up to the bully boys

mytest

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Hi Blog. Making the news recently is this very unusual public smackdown in the halls of the Osaka government:

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Osaka mayor gets into shouting match with head of anti-Korean group
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES, OCT 21, 2014

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/21/national/social-issues/osaka-mayor-engages-shouting-match-head-anti-korean-group/

OSAKA – Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto met with the head of an anti-Korean group Monday as he considers cracking down on hate speech rallies in the city, but they ended up having a shouting match in which they more or less just insulted each other.

The meeting with Makoto Sakurai, who heads the group commonly known as Zaitokukai, at City Hall was tense from the beginning, with both men calling each other names.

Sitting 3 meters apart, the two came close to a scuffle at one point before people around them intervened. The meeting, which was open to the media, last just 10 minutes, far shorter than originally planned.

During the meeting, Hashimoto said: “Don’t make statements looking at ethnic groups and nationalities as if they are all the same. In Osaka, we don’t need guys like you who are racists.”

The meeting took place at the request of Zaitokukai, which describes itself as a group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for Korean residents of Japan.

In a ruling in July, the Osaka High Court determined that rallies staged by the group near a pro-Pyongyang Korean school amounted to racial discrimination.

Lee Sin Hae, a journalist and Korean resident of Japan, said after watching the face-off between Hashimoto and Sakurai that she didn’t want people to get the impression that there is no difference between the two just because they both resorted to using abusive language.

“Zaitokukai is still campaigning in the streets. I want the mayor to actually go to places to see that terrible things are happening,” said Lee, who is suing Zaitokukai over online abuse.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

I don’t think this article really captures the event well. See it for yourself on YouTube (courtesy MS):

FULL VERSION (which captures the flavor of Sakurai bullying and berating the press at the very beginning):
橋下市長 在特会・桜井誠会長と面談 2014-10-20 フルバージョン
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxL383jN484

SHORT VERSION (excellent for capturing the register of the language:  bully vs. bully):
橋下徹vs在特会・桜井誠 【全】10/20
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACRxHAC-tyg

SAKURAI’S FOLLOW-UP (also instructive for showing just how little substance he actually has behind his argumentation):
在特会桜井誠 橋下徹市長との対談後の感想
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dMHEpoMruA

COMMENT:  A journalist friend whom I highly respect had this to say about the event:

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

I’m sure some people will view this showdown between Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and Makoto Sakurai, leader of Japan’s hate speech movement, as high drama, but it struck me as pathetic. Sakurai struts in front of the media, telling NHK and the Mainichi that they “hate Japan”, then sits fanning himself waiting at what looks like a school desk for Hashimoto. They get into a shouting match at roughly the same level as my three-year-old. Hashimoto has been praised for facing down Sakurai but he made a mistake: he should never have sat in the same room as this pathetic schoolyard bully.

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

I think it’s more significant than mere high drama.  I think it is a very necessary smackdown of a person who has spent his whole life taking advantage of Japan’s weakness towards bullies, cringing before loud voices and verbal abuse.  A person like Sakurai should have been socked a few times in the schoolyard for this behavior long before he ever reached adulthood (looking at him, I doubt he’s ever really taken a punch, despite all his protestations about the lack of “manliness” in the Hashimoto exchange).  A dork like this, full of sociopathic hangups who goes through life this perpetually unchallenged, can grow this big.

Sakurai is a bully.  I was raised by a bully for a stepfather, and I personally have learned that you never show a bully any weakness during confrontation.  And you inevitably must stand up to them as I believe Hashimoto did.  People will be confused about what it all means (as the Kyodo article above certainly was), but I have to admit this is the second time (here is the first) that I have respected one of Hashimoto’s actions.  He was clearly telling this oaf that he should not generalize about a whole minority, and that his discriminatory actions are not welcome in his city.  And he did it in the same register as he was being addressed.  Good.  Fire with fire.

Bureaucrats who have spent their lives behind desks and never entered a fray like this have glass jaws in a verbal debate arena.  My experience watching the Foreign Ministry in 2007 unable to handle Right-Wing bullyboys during a human-rights hearing is a prime example.  It is time even public officials learned to use the register of fighting words, as Hashimoto did.  Otherwise the fighters will dominate the dialog by drowning everyone else out.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE OCTOBER 23, 2014:

Oh oh. Osaka Mayor Hashimoto has just come out, according to J-Cast.com, in favor of making the Regular and Special Permanent Residents into one unified category. Meaning he buys into the Zaitokukai’s core (surface) argument that the Zainichis should not have “special privileges” (as opposed to earned rights, thanks to their historical contributions to the Japanese Empire and their aberrational status as generational foreigners). Courtesy of MS.

Now it’s time for me to make some qualifications.  As others have said, I now agree that what Hashimoto did was a publicity stunt, to make himself look like the “softer side” of Japan’s exclusionary nationalism.  I will stand by my statement that his proclaiming that hate speech of the Zaitokukai ilk as wrong and unwelcome, and his demonstrating how and why hate speech should be fought against, are positive steps.  But this statement that the Zainichi should simply be made invisible, after all that has happened between Japan and Korea historically, is not positive.  As the headline below questions, would this make the hate speech disappear?  I say no.  People don’t hate certain foreigners because they have special privileges.  That’s just a ruse.  They hate foreigners because they are racist xenophobes.

橋下徹「在日の特別永住者制度を見直す」 これでヘイトスピーチも差別もなくなる?
2014/10/22 19:48 J-Cast News
http://www.j-cast.com/2014/10/22219051.html?p=all

在日韓国・朝鮮人らの特別永住者制度について、維新の党共同代表で大阪市長の橋下徹氏が、見直して一般永住者制度への一本化を目指す考えを示した。特別扱いしなくなれば、ヘイトスピーチも差別もなくなるのではないかというのだ。
「在日特権を許さない市民の会」会長との罵り合いになった面談で、橋下徹氏は、「文句があるなら、国会議員に言え」との発言を繰り返した。その国会議員を抱える政党代表を意識してか、橋下氏は、面談翌日の2014年10月21日、在特会の主張を受けたかのような発言をした。
「ほかの外国人と同じように制度を一本化していく必要がある」
在日韓国人らについて、「特別扱いすることは、かえって差別を生む」と記者団に答え、在特会のヘイトスピーチで標的の1つになっている特別永住者制度を問題視したのだ。報道によると、橋下氏は、ほかの外国人と同じように制度を一本化していく必要があるとの考えを示した。つまり、特別永住者制度を止めて、一般永住者制度だけにするということだ。

Rest of the article below in the Comments Section.

From hate speech to witch hunt: Mainichi Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters intolerable; Sakurai Yoshiko advocates GOJ historical revisionism overseas

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It’s the next natural step of Japan’s Extreme Right:  jingoism and terrorism.  They feel empowered enough in present-day Japanese society (especially in the wake of the Asahi retracting some articles on Japan’s “Comfort Women” wartime sexual slavery) to start making larger threats to bodily harm.  No longer are they satisfied with being bully boys during demonstrations (beating up Leftists with relative impunity, see here and here) — as seen in the article below they have to hound from livelihood those who oppose them using nail bombs.

The tactics behind the practitioners of hate speech have morphed into real power to conduct ideological witch hunts.  And it won’t stop there — the most powerful elements of the Extreme Right are gearing up like never before in the Postwar Era to rewrite history overseas too (see Yomiuri advert below).  The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize did not go to people advocating for the conservation of Article 9 in Japan’s “Peace Constitution” is more evidence that the outside world still hasn’t caught up with what’s really going on with Japan’s Right Wing Swing.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Editorial: Intimidation of universities employing ex-Asahi reporters cannot be tolerated
October 03, 2014, Mainichi Shinbun, courtesy of YX
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20141003p2a00m0na003000c.html

Two universities have received letters threatening to harm their students unless the institutions dismiss a pair of instructors, who as Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporters had written articles about the wartime comfort women issue.

The universities are Tezukayama Gakuin University in Osakasayama, Osaka Prefecture, and Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo. Osaka and Hokkaido prefectural police are investigating the respective incidents on suspicion of forcible obstruction of business.

One of the two teachers, a professor at Tezukayama Gakuin University, has stepped down following the incident.

The Tezukayama Gakuin professor was previously said to be the first journalist to report the late Seiji Yoshida’s testimony that he captured women on Jeju Island to work as “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers during World War II, when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. In its assessment of its coverage of the issue published in August, the Asahi Shimbun retracted the article about Yoshida’s claim after deeming it a fabrication. Moreover, the Asahi Shimbun later ran a correction saying that a reporter other than the professor wrote the story.

The part-time instructor at Hokusei Gakuen University was the first journalist to report a former comfort woman’s testimony. He was accused by some critics of receiving favors from his mother-in-law — a member of an organization supporting former comfort women’s lawsuits against Japan — in reporting the testimony, as well as covering up facts that would be disadvantageous to former comfort women. However, the Asahi’s assessment concluded that he never distorted facts relevant to the issue.

The Asahi Shimbun has been paying a high price for failing to correct its coverage of Yoshida’s fabricated stories for so many years. Asahi President Tadakazu Kimura held a news conference to offer an apology, and the company will commission a third-party panel to review its coverage of Yoshida and its impact on society. There are numerous things that the daily must clarify.

Still, this does not justify the culprits’ attempts to rid society of news reports and writers they do not like by threatening institutions irrelevant to the Asahi controversy. The intimidation has affected not only the universities, but also the instructors’ families, who have become targets for harassment after their private information was posted online.

Hokusei Gakuen University has received inquiries from the parents of many students about the instructor, prompting its president to post an explanation on the university’s website. Close attention should be focused on how the university, which is supposed to respect freedom of thought, will respond to the situation.

To ensure free discussions, police should apprehend suspects in these cases as soon as possible. Behind the incidents is an atmosphere of intolerance being spread by some magazines and on the Internet — in which dissenters are condemned out of hand as “anti-Japanese” and “traitors.” This is similar to the spread of racist hate speech campaigns across the country. The settlement of the comfort women issue would become increasingly remote if those who incite racial discrimination with violent language are ignored.

The simplistic branding people as “anti-Japan” could be the seedbed for similar incidents. Each and every member of the public should try to eliminate discriminatory words and deeds from their conduct to create an environment for calm discussions.

ENDS

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

Ad in September 16, 2014’s Yomiuri Shinbun taken out by Sakurai Yoshiko’s “Japan Institute for National Fundamentals”, courtesy http://en.jinf.jp/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The_Japan_News.pdf 

SakuraiYoshikoJINFYomiuriAd

Searchable text:

Time to hit back at international aspersions over ‘comfort women’

http://en.jinf.jp/news/archives/3224

“The Japanese military forcibly rounded up 200,000 Korean women and girls and forced them to become sex slaves.”
This fabricated story has become widely believed in the international community.

The evidence behind this story was the untrue statements of Seiji Yoshida, who was said to be the former head of the mobilization department of the Shimonoseki Branch of Romu Hokoku-kai, an organization in charge of recruiting laborers and claimed to have participated in forcible abductions. Thirty-two years after The Asahi Shimbun first reported these comments by Yoshida, a man it lionized as a “conscientious Japanese,” the daily admitted these stories were false and retracted them. During this time, Japan was insulted and shamed over the comfort women issue.

The Foreign Ministry bears an even heavier responsibility for this deplorable state of affairs. In August 1993, the Japanese government issued a statement through then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono (the Kono statement), which expressed the government’s “sincere apologies and remorse” to former comfort women. After the statement, the misperception that comfort women had been forcibly taken away spread around the world. Despite this, the Foreign Ministry has not presented a single clear counterargument to set the record straight, even to this day.

In 1996, Radhika Coomaraswamy, a U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission that accepted Yoshida’s remarks as fact, and jumped to the conclusion that comfort women had been “sexual slaves.” This report fueled groups seeking to erect statues dedicated to comfort women in several nations, and influenced the U.S. House of Representatives’ adoption of a resolution calling on Japan to apologize to comfort women.

Now, more than ever, Japan needs to tell the world the facts about this matter and dispel entrenched misperceptions about comfort women. Instead, the Foreign Ministry will build “Japan House” public relations hubs in major cities overseas to promote Japanese cuisine and anime as a pillar of the “strategic proliferation of information abroad.” Does the ministry have its priorities in the right order?

A task force charged with protecting Japan’s reputation and directly controlled by the prime minister should be set up, and a minister and dedicated secretariat placed in charge of handling this matter. A united effort by the whole government is required—urgently.

ENDS

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October 19, 2014, Sunday Mainichi 2-page article talking about how “Asahi Bashing” has morphed into nail bombs, presenting danger to Japan’s very democracy.  Courtesy of XY.

SundayMainichi1019141

SundayMainichi1019142

ENDS

Japan Times JBC 80 October 8, 2014: “Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents”, on MOFA propagandizing re Hague Treaty on Child Abductions

mytest

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justbecauseicon.jpg

Hi Blog. Thanks to readers once again for putting this article into the #1 spot at the Japan Times Online for two days!  Debito

“BIASED PAMPHLET BODES ILL FOR LEFT-BEHIND FOREIGN PARENTS OUTSIDE JAPAN
Pamphlet on Hague Treaty on Child Abductions displays slanted mindsets favoring the Japanese side of disputes
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito, Column 80 for Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE, October 8, 2014
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/10/08/issues/biased-pamphlet-bodes-ill-left-behind-foreign-parents-outside-japan/
p1
After years of pressure from foreign governments, and enormous efforts by “left-behind” parents to have access to children abducted to and from Japan after marital separation or divorce, the Japanese government became a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in April.

That is, of course, good news. Now the issue becomes one of enforcement. And to that end, this column has serious doubts that the Japanese government will honor this treaty in good faith.

These doubts are based on precedent. After all, Japan famously ignores human-rights treaties. For example, nearly 20 years after ratifying the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination, and nearly 30 since acceding to the U.N. Convention on Discrimination against Women, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, nor a statute guaranteeing workplace gender equality backed by enforceable criminal penalties.

We have also seen Japan caveat its way out of enforcing the Hague before signing. For example, as noted in previous JT articles (e.g., “Solving parental child abduction problem no piece of cake” by Colin P.A. Jones, March 1, 2011), the debate on custody has been muddied with ungrounded fears that returned children would, for example, face domestic violence (DV) from the foreign parent. DV in Japan is being redefined to include nontactile acts such as “yelling,” “angry looks” and “silent stares” (particularly from men).

It is within this context that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently issued a pamphlet titled “What is the Hague Convention?” Available in Japanese and English, it offers a 12-page manga in which a Japanese father carefully explains the Hague Convention to his Japanese-French son.

The pamphlet has sparked considerable controversy. After I blogged about it last month on Debito.org, many annoyed left-behind parents overseas said they would forward it to their national elected representatives. After a South China Morning Post article cited blog commenters calling it racist, Huffington Post Japan and Al Jazeera picked up the story, engendering predictable relativism about differing cultural interpretations.

For the record, I never wrote that the MOFA pamphlet was “racist.” That term, if not used carefully, tends to dull analysis, especially since the pamphlet is more subtle than that. In fact, it provides valuable insights into MOFA’s slanted mind-set towards the child abduction issue.

First, consider the visuals. In three cartoons (on the cover, and pages 4 and 10) we see a foreign-looking man (never a woman) being physically violent towards his child, with two of those showing the child longing to return to Japan and be with mother.

Violent Dads: First and 3rd illustration are used twice, so three.

MOFA1MOFA2

Reinforcing that in five more places (cover, pages 1, 7, and 9 (twice) — see C and D) are illustrations where the child expresses dismay at being abducted from Japan; only once (page 4) is there dismay at being abducted overseas. On the other hand, pages 2 and 7 show children displaying no dismay at being abducted to Japan, or instead showing shock (pages 2 (twice) and 3 — see E) at not being allowed to return to Japan. The clear inference: Japan is, on balance, the natural place for the child, regardless of factors such as primary language or time spent living abroad.

Dismay at being abducted from Japan. Cover and pg 9 repeat illustration twice, so five.

MOFA3 MOFA4 MOFA5

(text context clarifies that the third illustration above is an abduction from Japan)

Dismay at being abducted overseas (one image only):

MOFA6

No dismay at being abducted to Japan:

MOFA7 MOFA8

Dismay at not being allowed to return to Japan:

MOFA9 MOFA10

This implicit fear of the outside world is reinforced by images of uneasy children facing unfamiliar rules, customs and languages (pages 1, 4 and 5 (twice)). More subtle is the picture on the cover and page 1, where foreign (adults) surround, frown and stare at the nervous Japanese child as though she really doesn’t belong. (She’s sent back to her Japanese mother’s loving arms by the next panel — phew.) Only once (page 3) is there a happy child sent back to his foreign dad.

Uneasy children facing the unfamiliar:

MOFA11 MOFA17

 

MOFA12

Being stared at by adults:

MOFA13

Sole image of happy child being returned to NJ father (plus katakana-speaking father not in English version, referred to below):

MOFA14

Then consider the manga storyline. The Japanese father protagonist experiences a child abduction when the French mother abducts their son to France. Fortunately, according to the pamphlet, because Japan signed the Hague, Japan’s authorities can have French authorities track down the child, get mediation and (as the conflict resolution of this story) return the son (and the mother) to live happily ever after in Japan (page 6).

That is the central and tacit argument of the MOFA pamphlet: Japan signing the Hague isn’t about returning children to their habitual residence (whether it be Japan or overseas); it is about giving Japan greater leverage overseas to bring its children home to Japan. Where they belong.

Moreover, for some mysterious reason we spend the first page developing the relationship between the Japanese father and son protagonists, with father comically put off-balance by a barrage of questions from son, then negotiating with him to finish his dinner before answering. By page 3, the pamphlet mysteriously succumbs to another case of the cutes, as an anime figurine appears to praise the son’s intelligence (revealing father as an anime fetishist).

Irrelevant curlicues:

MOFA16 MOFA15

Why these irrelevant curlicues? Because by page 6, we learn why the French mother abducted the son: She accuses father of spending all his time watching anime and not paying attention to them. This is of course made dubious after all the space spent portraying the father’s caring, explaining, hugging, even cooking for his son. So clearly she’s just being hysterical. Of course, she returns to Japan with them after negotiations, so nothing fatal to the relationship.

On the other hand, when it’s a Japanese woman abducting, her reasons are more serious than hubby’s anime fetish. She has to deal with domestic violence, poverty (cover), unsympathetic or unpredictable foreign courts (pages 2, 3, 4, and 5), and even the unlikely scenario of begging frowning foreign strangers on the street to help her missing child overseas (page 2). Conclusion: The Japanese side is generally being victimized, while the foreign side is subtly depicted as violent and overreacting.

Other images referred to above. Frowning foreign strangers on the street:

MOFA18

This is where MOFA is most disingenuous: In no fewer than four places (pages 1, 2 (twice) and 5) are unsympathetic courts, “cultural differences,” “legal procedures” and “language barriers” cited as hurdles for the Japanese spouse overseas.

Japan’s unsympathetic courts, legal procedures and cultural presumptions allowing child abductions to happen here on a regular basis — even between Japanese couples — are never mentioned. Japan, remember, has no joint custody or guaranteed child visitations.

In fact, taking the issue to a court overseas may afford both parents more rights — as it did in the Savoie case, where, despite the pamphlet’s claims, a Tennessee court gave Noriko Savoie permission to leave the U.S. for Japan (whereupon she abducted Christopher Savoie’s children). This is where the pamphlet morphs from guide to screed.

No doubt some MOFA representatives will be reading this critique, so let me point out two more inaccuracies unbecoming of a government agency attempting an impartial review of the issue.

First, almost all of the international marriages in the pamphlet are portrayed as between (katakana-speaking, in the Japanese version) white men and Japanese women. In fact, most international marriages in Japan are between Japanese men and Asian women. That is where the pamphlet is an easy target for accusations of racism. Not all “foreignness,” especially in this case, is so visually identifiable.

Then there’s the biased terminology. It is inaccurate in the English version to frame child abductions as “children’s removal” — after all, this is not the Hague Convention on Child Removals. Just as inaccurate as the term it was translated from, tsuresari (literally, “accompanying and disappearing”), meant to semantically soften the act of kidnapping — especially when another appropriate word, rachi, is used for abductions of Japanese by North Koreans.

On the plus side, there have already been good outcomes from Japan’s joining the Hague. Left-behind parents including Christopher Savoie and U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Toland (who have successfully pushed for the Goldman Act, as well as several U.S. congressional resolutions decrying Japan’s status as a haven for child abductions) have recently had their Hague applications accepted by the Japanese government, which has promised to locate and provide access to the Americans’ children in Japan. In effect, this is official acknowledgment that their children were in fact abducted from their lawful custody. Two abducted children have also been returned to their habitual residences in Japan.

NB:  There are at least 3 US resolutions mentioning Japan Child Abduction: House Resolutions 125 and 1326 and Senate Resolution 552.  Savoie Case, letter from MOFA dated September 8, 2014, accepting his case as a Hague Case, meaning the GOJ recognizes his legal custody:

SavoieGOJletter090814

Very good. But will all this eventually result in Japan actually returning a child to a parent overseas — something which, according to activists, has never happened as a result of Japanese government or court action?

Let’s wait and see, of course. But at this juncture, I doubt Japan will enforce the Hague with much verve. Doing so, as Colin P.A. Jones has pointed out on these pages, would in fact give more rights to those in international marriages than it would domestic couples! If the Japanese government’s past behavior towards inconvenient international treaties is any guide, it will find caveats to ensure international divorce does not become another way for Japan’s depopulation to accelerate.

Thus, MOFA’s pamphlet is little more than subtle propagandizing meant to reassure the Japanese public that they haven’t lost the power to abduct by signing the Hague. In fact, MOFA is portraying the Hague as a means to bring more Japanese children back home. With that mind-set as strong as ever, I anticipate that foreign parents will continue to get a raw deal from the Japanese system.

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

Debito Arudou recommends that officials at MOFA and everyone else understand this issue better by watching “From The Shadows,” a documentary available at www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause usually appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

JT on hate speech and GOJ’s connections to organized crime: “Yakuza do what Abe Cabinet’s Yamatani can’t”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Drawing to a close this curlicue about the PM Abe Administration and hate speech in Japan, here’s an excellent article by Jake Adelstein in the Japan Times about Cabinet Member Yamatani Eriko’s inability to disavow the hate group Zaitokukai, and her lying to the FCCJ last month (discussed in our previous blog entry) about her awareness and connections to it. I am very pleased that how NJ are treated in Japan is being made into a major issue that shows the misguidance of ever putting Abe back in power. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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NATIONAL / MEDIA | DARK SIDE OF THE RISING SUN
Yakuza do what Abe Cabinet pick can’t (excerpt)
BY JAKE ADELSTEIN
THE JAPAN TIMES, OCT 4, 2014, courtesy of JDG
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/04/national/media-national/yakuza-abe-cabinet-pick-cant/

In most countries, police officers and criminals are supposed to be on opposite sides of the law, especially the higher up the chain of command you go, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe doesn’t appear to think this is necessary.

Last month, photographs surfaced showing several members of Abe’s new Cabinet socializing with members of an anti-Korean hate group known as Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (more commonly known as Zaitokukai). The appearance of such images raises some disturbing issues.

Founded circa 2006, Zaitokukai is an ultranationalistic, right-wing group that seeks to eliminate the “special privileges” extended to non-Japanese who have been granted Special Foreign Resident status. These people are predominantly ethnic Koreans, many of whom were conscripted and brought to Japan as slave labor in the 1930s and ’40s. Zaitokukai also hates other non-Japanese as well — it just has a special hatred for Koreans.

In July, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the government to crack down on the growing number of hate-speech incidents targeting non-Japanese. The committee made special mention of Zaitokukai in its report and called on Japan to introduce legislation that specifically punishes hate crimes. The U.S. State Department has also named Zaitokukai in its annual human rights white paper. However, Zaitokukai isn’t on a U.S. blacklist like, say, the Sumiyoshi-kai yakuza syndicate — or, at least, not yet.

The National Police Agency has even touched upon Zaitokukai-related issues. “In parts of Tokyo and Osaka heavily populated by Korean-Japanese, racist right-wing groups have engaged in radical demonstrations, drawing the attention of society to the hate-speech problem,” the agency wrote in its white paper on public safety.

And yet Eriko Yamatani, the newly appointed chairman of the National Public Safety Commission that oversees the National Police Agency, doesn’t seem to be aware of Zaitokukai’s existence nor does she seem to believe hate speech is a problem. When photographs of her posing alongside several Zaitokukai members were uncovered by the Shukan Bunshun weekly tabloid, she said that she didn’t know the name of the group, and didn’t know the former Kansai bureau chief of Zaitokukai who was standing in the same photo. The man in question, however, claims to have known her for more than a decade in a recent interview with the tabloid. What’s more, Yamatani has appeared in a newsletter he previously published (even penning a column in it) and worked with various Zaitokukai members at other political rallies.

At a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Sept. 25, Yamatani denied that the weekly’s article was true and alleged she had been misquoted. However, when she was asked to publicly repudiate Zaitokukai, she refused — three times.

Shukan Bunshun last week published a follow-up article and included an audio recording of its interview with her, suggesting Yamatani did indeed lie at her news conference. It also added a proverb to its coverage: “All thieves start as liars.”

But lying to the press is not a crime, nor is hate speech illegal in Japan. Hate crimes are not illegal either. That said, generating profit for organized crime is something else.

Zaitokukai has had a tight relationship with Nihonseinensha, a right-wing group that is part of the Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest yakuza syndicate in the country. In testimony in the Diet, the National Police Agency acknowledged that Nihonseinensha’s top adviser was also a senior figure in the Sumiyoshi-kai.

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/04/national/media-national/yakuza-abe-cabinet-pick-cant/

Asahi Editorial: PM Abe and his Cabinet picks must clarify stance on Zaitokukai, racism

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Continuing with the hate speech theme (and the perpetrators of it in Japan, e.g., Zaitokukai), here is an editorial from the Asahi decrying that support of this group (or at least the unwillingness to disavow or take measures against their spreading public hatred of minorities) appears to reside in the highest levels of government.  As the person being cited, Yamatani Eriko, is the nation’s top cop in the current PM Abe Cabinet, this information bodes ill for any legal measures or remedies against hate speech in Japan, something the UN recently advised Japan to adopt.

BTW, this is the same Yamatani Eriko who spoke out against a memorial against Japan’s wartime sexual slavery in Palisades Park, New Jersey (not the Glendale, California monument), including the following “explanation” in two languages on her blog of May 6, 2012 (courtesy of MS), with the requisite denialism:

http://www.yamatani-eriko.com/blog/inf/inf.cgi?cm=1&mode=detail&year=2012&no=741

Conclusion:  “Moreover, it cannot be tolerated that Japanese children are bullied and felt sorrowful due to a lie that Japan conducted the abduction of 200,000 girls which is not true at all, and that the lie has been spread throughout the world.”

事実でない「20万人少女拉致」や「性奴隷」を日本がしたこととされ、世界に嘘が広げられ、日本の子供たちがいじめられ、悲しい思いをすることは許されることではない。』

These are the people who currently lead Japan.  Is there any more doubt about the claim of Japan’s right-wing swing?  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

EDITORIAL: Abe and his picks must clarify stance on Zaitokukai, racism
The Asahi Shinbun, October 01, 2014, Courtesy of MS
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201410010040

Eriko Yamatani, chairwoman of the National Public Safety Commission, should get it into her head that saying she “did not know” just doesn’t cut it.

It came to light in September that a photograph taken in 2009 shows her with a senior member of a group called Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai, known more commonly as Zaitokukai, which objects to what it calls “privileges” given to ethnic Koreans in Japan.

Yamatani insisted she did not know the man was a Zaitokukai member. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said this was a nonissue.

But when Yamatani spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Sept. 25 on the subject of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents, the questions from the floor were almost entirely about her relationship with Zaitokukai.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/news-and-views/club-news-multimedia/583-state-minister-eriko-yamatani-north-korean-abductions-hate-speech-and-the-zaitoku-kai.html

Asked if she was opposed to the group’s policy, Yamatani replied, “Generally speaking, it is not appropriate for me to comment on various organizations.”

Further pressed to define what Zaitokukai refers to as “privileges” and whether she herself thinks that such privileges exist, Yamatani said, “These are not questions for me to answer.”

The National Public Safety Commission is the highest administrative organ of Japan’s law enforcement community. The fact that its chief is suspected of consorting with Zaitokukai, which is known for its strident “hate speech” and anti-Korea street demonstrations, is shameful in itself. Yet, instead of firmly expressing her disapproval of racism in any form, Yamatani typically characterized Japan platitudinously as “a country where harmony is valued and every person’s rights have always been respected.” She went on to say it is the common belief that “(hate speech) is bad indeed, and it disturbs me deeply.”

A trite comment such as this did absolutely nothing to clear the clouds of suspicion hanging over her.

In fact, it may well have aroused further suspicion that she tacitly approves Zaitokukai’s actions.

Overseas media have covered not only Yamatani’s case but also reported that Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi and ruling Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Tomomi Inada had their photos taken in 2011 with the head of an organization which seems to support the thinking of the Nazis.

The prevalent view abroad now is that this is indicative of the right-wing nature of the Shinzo Abe administration, not just a matter of personal idiosyncrasies of certain Cabinet members.

Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda brought up Yamatani’s case during the Sept. 30 questioning session in the Diet and demanded of Prime Minister Abe, “Lest we invite unwanted suspicions by the international community, please demonstrate your firm resolve to never condone racism or distorted nationalism.”

But all Abe said was: “It is extremely regrettable that some people’s words and actions indicate their attempt to exclude certain countries and races. This must not happen.”

Suspicions will only deepen unless something is done about the situation. Yamatani, Takaichi and Inada–and Abe, who appointed them to their respective posts–must all aver in their own words that they do not condone neo-Nazism and the sort of ethnic discrimination being instigated by Zaitokukai.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2014

ENDS

Blame Game #433: JT on “Rumors of Foreign Looters in Hiroshima Unfounded”, “Social Media Rehashes Historical Hate”, and Economist on unoptimistic outcomes re hate speech law

mytest

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Hi Blog. Continuing on with the theme of Japan’s Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don’t want to take responsibility for), we have here the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place — they’re usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them and dispel rumor.

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The Japan Times, NATIONAL / CRIME & LEGAL
Police say rumors of foreign looters in Hiroshima unfounded
BY ERIC JOHNSTON, STAFF WRITER, AUG 27, 2014
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/27/national/crime-legal/police-say-rumors-foreign-looters-hiroshima-unfounded/

OSAKA – The Hiroshima Prefectural Police said Wednesday they had no information to substantiate online rumors that foreigners were burglarizing houses in areas of the city hit hardest by last week’s deadly mudslides.

No suspects had been arrested on suspicion of burglarizing, as of Tuesday. However, the police said that due to the rumors, they were beefing up patrols in the affected areas.

Rumors about foreign burglars began circulating on Twitter and social media sites that espouse right-wing and often xenophobic views, soon after the heavy rains hit parts of the city on Aug. 20, leaving 70 people dead in mudslides and forcing about 1,300 people from their homes.

According to the prefectural police website, there has been at least one possible phone scam in which a mudslide victim received a call around last Friday from a person claiming to represent a local bank and asking for a donation for the victims. The caller hung up when asked for confirmation of his identity, police said.

On Monday, following reports of fake police and city officials visiting homes and asking for cash donations, police warned residents to be on guard and confirm the identity of anyone requesting donations.

On Saturday, Kyodo News reported that a 73-year-old man returned to his damaged home after a couple of days and discovered it had been vandalized.

Unfounded rumors on social media of a spike in foreign crime appeared following the March 2011 quake and tsunami in Tohoku, forcing police and other officials to warn against false reports. There were also false rumors of a wave of crime by foreigners in Kobe following the 1995 earthquake.

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This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese:

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1,200 burglaries at Fukushima evacuated areas
NHK — JUN 13, 2014, courtesy of KM
http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/108087.php (with videos)

Police have recorded a large number of burglaries in areas evacuated after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011.

Fukushima police arrested a 34-year-old man on Thursday on suspicion of stealing clothes from an empty apartment in the town of Tomioka. The town is south of the plant and is designated an evacuation zone due to nuclear fallout.

Police searched the man’s home in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture. They confiscated more than 3,000 stolen items, including precious metals.

Police say in the first five months of the year, 90 cases of burglary were reported in 8 municipalities surrounding the crippled plant.

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

And it’s not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters.  Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon:

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「外国人窃盗団」「雨当たれば被曝」被災地、広がるデマ
朝日新聞 2011年3月26日9時21分
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0325/TKY201103250527.html

「あらぬうわさが飛び交っています」と注意を呼びかけるビラが避難所で配られた=25日午後2時45分、仙台市宮城野区の岡田小学校、金川雄策撮影

東日本大震災の被災地で、流言が飛び交っている。「外国人の窃盗団がいる」「電気が10年来ない」……。根拠のないうわさは、口コミに加え、携帯メールでも広がる。宮城県警は25日、避難所でチラシを配り、冷静な対応を呼び掛けた。

「暴動が起きているといったあらぬうわさが飛び交っています。惑わされないよう気を付けて下さい」
宮城県警の竹内直人本部長は、この日、避難所となっている仙台市宮城野区の岡田小学校を訪れ、被災者に注意を呼びかけた。チラシを受け取った女性(43)は「犯罪はうわさほどではなかったんですね」と安心した様子を見せた。県警によると、110番通報は1日500〜1千件程度あるが、目撃者の思い違いも少なくないという。

しかし、被災地では数々のうわさが飛び交っている。「レイプが多発している」「外国人の窃盗団がいる」。仙台市の避難所に支援に来ていた男性(35)は、知人や妻から聞いた。真偽はわからないが、夜の活動はやめ、物資を寝袋に包んで警戒している。「港に来ていた外国人が残っていて悪さをするらしい」。仙台市のタクシー運転手はおびえた表情をみせた。

流言は「治安悪化」だけではない。「仮設住宅が近くに造られず、置き去りにされる」「電気の復旧は10年後らしい」。震災から1週間後、ライフラインが途絶えて孤立していた石巻市雄勝町では、復興をめぐる根拠のない情報に被災者が不安を募らせた。「もう雄勝では暮らせない」と町を出る人が出始め、14日に2800人いた避難者は19日に1761人に減った。

健康にかかわる情報も避難者の心を揺さぶる。石巻市の避難所にいる女性3人には18日夜、同じ内容のメールが届いた。福島原発の事故にふれ、「明日もし雨が降ったら絶対雨に当たるな。確実に被曝(ひばく)するから」「政府は混乱を避けまだ公表していないそうです」と記されていた。女性の1人は「避難所のみんなが心配しています」という。

過去の震災では、1923年の関東大震災で「朝鮮人が暴動を起こす」とのデマが流れ、多数の朝鮮人が虐殺された。95年の阪神大震災では、大地震の再発や仮設住宅の入居者選定をめぐる流言が広がった。

今回はネットでも情報が拡散する。「暴動は既に起きています。家も服も食べ物も水も電気もガスも無いから」「二、三件強盗殺人があったと聞いた」。こうした記載がある一方で「窃盗はあるけど、そこまで治安は悪くない」「全部伝聞で当事者を特定する書き込みはない」と注意を促す書き込みもある。

東京女子大学の広瀬弘忠教授(災害・リスク心理学)は「被災地で厳しい状況に置かれており、普段から抱いている不安や恐怖が流言として表れている。メールやインターネットの普及で流言が広域に拡大するようになった。行政は一つ一つの事実を伝えることが大切で、個人は情報の発信元を確かめ、不確実な情報を他人に流さないことが必要だ」と指摘する。(南出拓平、平井良和)

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

Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ, as noted above.

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

700 M. Yen Stolen from ATMs in 3 Prefs Hardest Hit by March Disaster
http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2011071500046

Tokyo, July 14 (Jiji Press)–Some 684.4 million yen in total was stolen from automated teller machines between March 11, the day of the major earthquake and tsunami, and the end of June in three prefectures hardest hit by the disaster, Japan’s National Police Agency reported Thursday.

The number of thefts targeting ATMs at financial institutions and convenience stores reached 56, while the number of attempted such thefts stood at seven in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the agency said.

Fukushima Prefecture accounted for 60 pct of the number of cases and the amount stolen, with the impact of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant being blamed for the high figure.

No similar cases were reported in March-June 2010. ATM thefts rose sharply after the disaster, but the situation in the prefecture is now under control, the police said.

Some 750 police officers are patrolling areas around the nuclear power plant.
(2011/07/15-05:01)

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Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic.  But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can’t say something nice about people, say it about foreigners.  And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on:

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

NATIONAL / MEDIA | MEDIA MIX
Social media aids rehashing of historical hate
BY PHILIP BRASOR, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES
SEP 13, 2014 (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/13/national/media-national/social-media-aids-rehashing-historical-hate/

After rain caused deadly mudslides in Hiroshima Prefecture last month, rumors spread over the Internet about burglaries of evacuated homes by “foreigners,” including Zainichi (ethnic Korean residents of Japan). Such rumors tend to accompany disasters, so Tokyo Shimbun talked directly to police in the area.

There were six break-ins between Aug. 20 and 31, but the police had no idea of the nationalities of the burglars and seemed reluctant to say much else. The reporter spoke with residents of the stricken area and none said they had heard anything about foreigners looting homes except on the Internet.

He then spoke to several local Korean residents of the region, and all felt anxious about the rumors. As one woman said, “It is getting easier for people to post discriminatory messages” on the Internet. An expert on disasters told the paper that crime actually goes down after a calamity, but because of the attendant atmosphere of desperation and fear many people think otherwise, and thus “poisonous hearsay” flourishes more readily — in 2000, then-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara told Japanese military personnel that foreigners could be expected to riot after a major earthquake. The expert added that these rumors reflect conventional thinking in the general population, and due to recent media coverage of anti-Korean sentiments the average person may believe them out of hand. It is thus important that authorities squelch such stories as soon as they emerge, something the police in Hiroshima did not do.

Tokyo Shimbun’s relatively extensive coverage of the issue was prompted by more than immediate events. The Hiroshima mudslides occurred just prior to the 91st anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake of Sept. 1, 1923. In the aftermath of that disaster, thousands were murdered after rumors spread that Koreans had poisoned wells and burned down houses. Some were killed by individuals, some by groups of vigilantes, some by civil or military police. Right-wing fringe groups deny there was a “genocide,” the term generally used to describe the killings, and there has never been a government investigation into the matter or an official expression of regret. It took place when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese control, so the ethnic Koreans targeted were de facto Japanese nationals. Even the South Korean government never demanded acknowledgement of these crimes until local advocacy groups pressured it to demand that Japan identify the victims and apologize.

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/13/national/media-national/social-media-aids-rehashing-historical-hate/

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To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan.   A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed:

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ヘイトスピーチ 15都道府県で確認
NHK NEWSWEB, 2014年9月23日 (excerpt)
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140923/k10014816511000.html

ヘイトスピーチと呼ばれる民族差別的な言動や行為が、少なくとも全国15の都道府県で確認されていることがNHKの調査で分かりました。

また、ヘイトスピーチは問題だと認識している自治体が9割以上に上る一方、規制については、必要とするところがおよそ4割、「国で慎重に検討されるべき」などとして、必要か分からないとするところがおよそ5割で、意見が分かれています。

ヘイトスピーチと呼ばれる民族差別的な言動や行為が問題となるなか、NHKは今月、全国の都道府県と政令指定都市、それに東京23区の合わせて90の自治体を対象に調査を行い、すべてから回答を得ました。

ヘイトスピーチについて、政府は「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」などと説明していて、これに当てはまる行為が去年からことしにかけてあったか聞きました。

その結果、「ある」と答えたのは、13の都府県と6つの政令指定都市、それに東京23区のうち6つの区で、少なくとも15の都道府県でヘイトスピーチが確認されていたことが分かりました。

また、ヘイトスピーチについて問題だと思うか聞いたところ、「問題だ」が94%、「分からない」が4%で、「問題ではない」と答えたところはありませんでした。

一方、ヘイトスピーチに対して、何らかの規制が必要だと思うか聞いたところ、「必要」が41%、「必要ではない」が2%、「分からない」が53%、「いずれにも当てはまらない」が3%でした。

Rest of the article at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140923/k10014816511000.html

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That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples):

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Hate speech in Japan
Spin and substance
A troubling rise in xenophobic vitriol
Sep 27th 2014 | TOKYO | From the print edition, courtesy of XY
http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21620252-troubling-rise-xenophobic-vitriol-spin-and-substance

IN OSAKA’s strongly Korean Tsuruhashi district, a 14-year-old Japanese girl went out into the streets last year calling through a loudspeaker for a massacre of Koreans. In Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo neighbourhood, home to one of the largest concentrations of Koreans in Japan, many people say the level of anti-foreigner vitriol—on the streets and on the internet—is without modern precedent. Racists chant slogans such as “Get out of our country”, and “Kill, kill, kill Koreans”.

Perhaps for the first time, this is becoming a problem for Japan’s politicians and spin doctors (to say nothing of the poor Koreans). The clock is counting down to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and lawmakers are coming under pressure to rein in the verbal abuse and outright hate speech directed at non-Japanese people, chiefly Koreans.

Japan has about 500,000 non-naturalised Koreans, some of whom have come in the past couple of decades but many of whose families were part of a diaspora that arrived during Japan’s imperial era in the first half of the 20th century. They have long been targets of hostility. After the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, Tokyo residents launched a pogrom against ethnic Koreans, claiming that they had poisoned the water supply.

So far the abuse has stopped short of violence. There have also been counter-demonstrations by Japanese citizens in defence of those attacked. But the police have been passive in the face of verbal assaults. And there is clearly a danger that one day the attacks will turn violent.

So the government is under pressure to act. In July, the UN’s human-rights committee demanded that Japan add hate speech to legislation banning racial discrimination. Tokyo’s governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, has pressed the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to pass a law well before the games.

The courts, too, are beginning to move. In July Osaka’s high court upheld an earlier ruling over racial discrimination that ordered Zaitokukai, an ultra-right group that leads hate-speech rallies across the country, to pay ¥12m ($111,000) for its tirades against a pro-North Korean elementary school in Kyoto. At least one right-wing group, Issuikai, which is anti-American and nostalgic for the imperial past, abhors the anti-Korean racism. Its founder, Kunio Suzuki, says he has never seen such anti-foreign sentiment.

The backdrop to a sharp rise in hate-filled rallies is Japan’s strained relations with South Korea (over the wartime issue of Korean women forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese army) and North Korea (which abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s). But, says Mr Suzuki of Issuikai, the return of Mr Abe to office in 2012 also has something to do with it. The nationalist prime minister and his allies have been mealy-mouthed in condemning hate speech.

Even if Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) bows to the need to improve Japan’s image overseas, the message is likely to remain mixed. Earlier in September a photograph emerged of Eriko Yamatani, the new minister for national public safety and the overseer of Japan’s police, posing in 2009 for a photograph with members of Zaitokukai. The government says she did not know that the people she met were connected to the noxious group. Yet Ms Yamatani has form when it comes to disputing the historical basis of the practice of wartime sex slavery.

Many reasonable people worry that a new hate-speech law, improperly drafted, could harm freedom of expression. But one revisionist politician, Sanae Takaichi, said, shortly before she joined the cabinet in September, that if there were to be a hate-speech law, it should be used to stop those annoying people (invariably well-behaved and often elderly) demonstrating against the government outside the Diet: lawmakers, she added, needed to work “without any fear of criticism”. Ms Takaichi’s office has since been obliged to explain why, with Tomomi Inada, another of Mr Abe’s close allies, she appeared in photographs alongside a leading neo-Nazi. Some of the hate, it seems, may be inspired from the top.
ENDS

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

So what to do?  I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan.  Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu.  The Japanese government’s proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of  「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.)  is a decent one, and a good start.  Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan’s current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

SCMP (Hong Kong) on MOFA Hague Pamphlet: “‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists”, cites Debito.org (UPDATE: Also makes Huffington Post Japan in Japanese & Al Jazeera)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I am happy to say that our last Debito.org blog post generated another news article.  Thanks very much to Julian for drawing attention to the issue.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE, courtesy of Debito.org Reader Oliver:  The pamphlet can be found on the MOFA website, so it is genuine. PDF is here:

http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000033409.pdf
(link from this page: http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/gaiko/hague/index.html)

And there is even an English language version!

http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000034153.pdf
(link from this page: http://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/hr_ha/page22e_000249.html)

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

‘Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists
Pamphlet issued by Tokyo to Japan’s embassies in response to Hague convention is criticised for depicting a foreign man beating his child

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 1:44am
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong,), by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Courtesy http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1594102/racist-cartoon-issued-japanese-ministry-angers-rights-activists
p1
The cartoon showing a white man beating his child has drawn condemnation from human rights activists.

Human rights activists in Japan have reacted angrily to a new pamphlet released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they claim is racist and stereotypical for depicting Caucasian fathers beating their children.

The 11-page leaflet has been sent to Japanese embassies and consulates around the world in response to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction going into effect in Japan on April 1.

Tokyo dragged its feet on ratifying the treaty, which broadly stipulates that a child should be returned to his or her country of habitual residence when they have been taken out of that country by a parent but without the consent of the other parent.

But manga-style images of foreign fathers beating children and Japanese women portrayed as innocent victims have raised the hackles of campaigners, both those fighting discrimination against foreigners and non-Japanese who have been unable to see children who have been abducted by Japanese former spouses.

“It’s the same problem with any negotiations in which Japan looks like it has been beaten,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen who was born in the United States and has become a leading human rights activist.

“After being forced to give up a degree of power by signing the Hague treaty, they have to show that they have not lost face and they try to turn the narrative around,” he said. “It’s the same as in the debate over whaling.

“The Japanese always see themselves as the victims, and in this case, the narrative is that Japanese women are being abused and that the big, bad world is constantly trying to take advantage of them.”

Arudou is particularly incensed by the cover of the publication, which shows a blond-haired foreigner hitting a little girl, a foreign father taking a child from a sobbing Japanese mother and another Japanese female apparently ostracised by big-nosed foreign women.

“It is promoting the image that the outside world is against Japanese and the only place they will get a fair deal is in Japan,” said Arudou.

The rest of the pamphlet takes the form of a conversation between a cartoon character father and son, but with the storyline showing the difficulties of a Japanese woman living abroad with her half-Japanese son.

Arudou says the publication then “degenerates into the childish” with the appearance of an animated doll that is the father figure’s pride and joy, but also dispenses advice.

“As well as promoting all these stereotypes, why are they not talking about visitation issues for foreigners whose half-Japanese children have been abducted by their ex-wives?” asked Arudou.

Several foreigners who have been unable to see their children for years have already contacted Arudou to express their anger, with a number of US nationals saying they would pass the document onto lawmakers.

Arudou’s post on the issue on his website has also attracted attention, with commentators describing the pamphlet as “racist propaganda”.

“This is disgusting,” one commentator posted. “Pictures are powerful, more powerful than words. And the only time I’ve ever seen anything remotely like this is when I did a search for old anti-Japanese propaganda.

“Of course, that was disgusting too, but it was wartime!”

Another added, “What a pathetic advert for an ‘advanced’ country.

“As for the text – not wasting any more bandwidth on such utter racist, xenophobic, patronising, paranoid nonsense.”
ENDS

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

UPDATE SEPT. 19: THIS SCMP ARTICLE PRODUCED AN ARTICLE IN HUFFINGTON POST JAPAN:

外務省作成の「ハーグ条約」小冊子は人種差別 人権活動家が指摘
The Huffington Post
投稿日: 2014年09月17日 16時34分 JST 更新: 2014年09月19日 14時17分 JST PAMPHLET WHAT IS THE HAGUE CONVENTION
Courtesy http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2014/09/17/pamphlet-of-the-hague-convention-mof_n_5833674.html

国外に連れ出された子供の扱いを定めた「ハーグ条約」について、外務省が作成した小冊子に人権侵害にあたる内容が含まれているのではないか、という指摘が出ている。

指摘しているのは、人権活動家の有道出人(あるどう・でびと)さん。アメリカ出身の日本国籍取得者だ。有道さんは「ハーグ条約ってなんだろう?」という外務省が作成した小冊子について、子供や無実の日本女性に暴力をふるう外国人のイラストは、嫌悪感を抱かせる内容となっていると分析。日本人のかつての配偶者によって子供を連れ去られ、子供に会うことができないでいる外国人もいるとして、小冊子のあり方に疑問を呈しているという。香港の英字紙・サウス・チャイナ・モーニング・ポストが報じた。

有道さんは特に、小冊子の表紙のイラストに怒りを覚えるという。そこには、小さな女の子を叩いている外国人のイラストや、ブロンドヘアの外国人男性がすすり泣く日本人女性の母親から子供を連れ去るイラストなどが描かれている。有道さんは「このような内容は、日本だけが公正な話し合いができる場所で、世界は違うというようなイメージを植え付ける」と話す。(中略)

「これらの固定観念のイラストばかりでなく、なぜ、元妻に連れ去られた子供と会うための外国人の権利について書かないのか」と有道さんは指摘した。

(サウスチャイナ·モーニング·ポスト「’Racist’ cartoon issued by Japanese ministry angers rights activists」より 2014/09/16 23:14)
pamphlet what is the hague convention

ハーグ条約は夫婦のどちらかによって国外に連れ出された子供の扱いを定める多国間条約で、日本は2014年4月から条約加盟国となり、合わせて小冊子もつくられた。

日本はハーグ条約への加盟が遅く、海外から批判を浴びていた。特にアメリカからの圧力は強く、2010年にはアメリカ下院本会議が日本への連れ去りを「拉致」と非難する決議を採択した。ハーグ条約の適用を受けた2014年4月には、元配偶者らが日本に連れ帰った子供との面会を求める親が、アメリカでは少なくとも約200人に上ったという。

有道さんは自身のブログで、この小冊子の中に、外国人が子供にDVを行っているイラストが複数あることや、外国人が日本人に冷たいことを明示するイラストも使用されていると述べている。

pamphlet what is the hague convention

pamphlet what is the hague convention

pamphlet what is the hague convention

これらの有道さんの指摘について外務省領事局の担当者は、現在のところ外務省は同様の指摘を受けてはないとハフポスト日本版の電話取材に回答。また、「小冊子を見ていただければ分かると思うが、人種差別的な内容を意図して作成したものではない」として、画像の変更等を行う予定はないと述べた。

なお、この小冊子は日本語版だけでなく英語版もつくられているが、日本語版と同様のイラストや文章が使われている。
ENDS

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

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 30:  ALSO MAKES AL JAZEERA:

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201409181245-0024160

Al Jazeera.com, September 18, 2014

Japanese ministry’s child abduction pamphlet shows white father hitting child

Rights activists criticise cartoon from Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs after country signs child abduction convention.

Screenshot of Japanese Foreign Ministry publication. MOFA JAPAN.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry pamphlet depicting white fathers abusing children has drawn criticism from human rights activists who say it perpetuates(link is external) racist stereotypes.

The pamphlet(link is external) reportedly was sent to Japanese embassies and consulates to explain the implications of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The booklet features manga-style cartoons and is also available in English via the ministry’s website.
 
Japan’s years of refusal(link is external) to sign the Hague Convention drew significant pressure from critics in the US and Europe, who argued(link is external) that Japan had become a “safe haven” for parental child abductors…

Read the rest at http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201409181245-0024160

2014 MOFA pamphlet explaining Hague Treaty on Child Abductions to J citizens (full text with synopsis, including child-beating NJ father on cover & victimized J mothers throughout) UPDATE: With link to MOFA pdf and official E translation

mytest

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Hello Blog.  Japan, after years of pressure from overseas, is now a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, where children of international marriages are to be protected against psychologically-damaging abductions and severed contact with one parent after marriage dissolution and divorce.  Debito.org has covered this issue extensively in the past.  What matters now is how Japan intends to enforce the treaty.  Debito.org has argued that we are not hopeful about Japan following the spirit of the agreement in good faith.  It has been reinterpreting sections with caveats to give the Japanese side undue advantages in negotiations, indirectly portraying the Non Japanese (NJ) party as the suspicious interloper, redefining important issues such as domestic violence (DV) to include heated arguments and “silent stares” etc., refusing to see abductions by the Japanese parent as much more than a natural repatriation, and not being self-aware that in Japan, child abduction and severed contact with one parent is quite normal (due in part to the vagaries of the Family Registration System (koseki)), but not necessarily in the best interests of the child.  Japan has been, in short, a haven for international child abductions, and how the GOJ will interpret the Hague to its people is crucial for change in public mindsets and enforcement.

To that end, Debito.org is fortunate to have received a copy from a concerned reader of a 2014 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimushou) pamphlet explaining the Hague to the Japanese public.  Scanned below in full, within its discourse are troubling assumptions and presumptions that bear scrutiny and exposure, as they remain along the lines of the concerns expressed above.  If this is Japan’s official mindset towards international child abductions, then Debito.org remains pessimistic, if not cynical, about Japan’s intentions to enforce the Hague in good faith.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE, courtesy of Debito.org Reader Oliver:  The pamphlet can be found on the MOFA website, so it is genuine. PDF is here:

http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000033409.pdf
(link from this page: http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/gaiko/hague/index.html)

And there is even an English language version!

http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000034153.pdf
(link from this page: http://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/hr_ha/page22e_000249.html)

From the Japanese Consulate in Hong Kong, courtesy of XY.
(click on any image to expand in browser)
p1
This is the cover image, with a father about to explain the Hague to his curious son, and look what makes the first impressions:  The J mother sobbing as the NJ parent whisks their child from her grasp.  The child being stared at and not fitting in with her big-nosed NJ classmates (Japanese rarely have much of a nose in Japan’s international illustrations; it’s a style, but it makes it seem as if NJ are never Asian; never mind).  The J father being nabbed by the police regarding his kid.  The J mother short of money when thinking of her daughter.  And, of course, the obligatory drawing of the physically-abusive NJ parent with the child longing for her J mother.  The point is, the J mother is in most situations the one being victimized.

p2
The first page already has a case of the cutes (even though, since this book has no furigana over the kanji, it’s a manual directed towards adults, not children), with a J father explaining to his son suddenly overwhelming him with questions (after complimenting him on his interest in the news) about how, as of April 1 2014, Japan has to follow the Hague regarding the “tsuresari” (“accompanying and disappearing”, not the more hot-button term “rachi” used for “abductions” when it’s Japanese being abducted to North Korea) of children.  After making a deal with him to eat all his dinner before hearing more, we have a prototypical J=NJ union couched as between a Japanese and a Gaijin (even though most international marriages in Japan are overwhelmingly between Japanese and Asians): the NJ male makes off with the child, the child has trouble fitting in overseas due to language and environmental difficulties, and the child is happily returned to the J mother’s arms thanks to the glad hands of the Hague Treaty thinking of the best interests of the child.  By the end of the page, the son is already shuddering to think what it might be like to live in a foreign country, what with no friends in school and all that.

p3
Next page has more explanation about what will change under the Hague.  The first point is that Japan had no standing to have children returned if they were abducted.  The poor victimized J-mother had to find her child with no help (apparently by showing a photo to taller Gaijin strangers giving her the cold shoulder), and even had to go to court to ask for custody (in a place with different laws and culture!).  How terrible, the child notes, for the parent to suddenly have to go to a big country and look for a little child.  Of course, then the converse is depicted to be true (but without the sobbing child pining for his NJ dad as the J mom takes her back to Japan — in fact, more alarm from the child that he can’t return to Japan), with consequent difficulties in seeing their child (NB:  Nowhere mentioned is the fact that joint custody and visitation is guaranteed in some of these overseas places with the dreaded “different laws and cultures”, but not in Japan.)  And what about the case where the divorce takes place overseas and the J-mother wants to take the child back to Japan?  The courts will deny the mother the ability to leave!  (“What, you can’t go home to your country of birth??” proclaims the ever more-startled son at the end.  Even though that exit denial didn’t happen, for example, in the Christopher Savoie Case, which is why the abduction of his children occurred.)  Conclusion:  Already the issue is portrayed in a lopsided manner, with the J-mother being the more victimized party overseas.

p4
Next page succumbs to an even more silly case of the cutes, not only with the katakana-accented NJ begging a J court for his child back, but also with an animated doll appearing as an interlocutor because Papa happens to be an anime otaku fetishist (rather unbecoming of a serious issue in a serious pamphlet issued by a national government).  Carrying on…  This section talks about how signing the treaty makes it so that either side can have their child returned, meaning this will stop courts from hindering parents from returning to their countries at will, because if problems arise, there is an apparatus where courts can return the child if necessary.   (NB:  Not mentioned is that there has not been a single recorded case in Japanese court where a Japanese child has been returned to a NJ parent’s habitual residence overseas, meaning there is no precedent that the apparatus will work on the Japanese side.)  It also will probably act as a means to preempt abductions, says the pamphlet.

p5
Then the pamphlet turns to a case of one of Papa’s friends (a J mother married to a NJ father) who abducted their child to Japan.  It went before a Japanese court, with the child standing at the mercy of the gavel, fate uncertain.  But just to make sure there is a lingering scare, the son expresses doubt as to the justice of a child being repatriated to a physically-abusive (!!) NJ father (where did THAT presumption come from?). Once again, the NJ father is being portrayed as potentially abusive, even though, naturally, abusive J (mothers or fathers) exist in Japan.

p6
Next page allays the fears of injustice, with a list of reasons why a child would not be forcibly returned thanks to the Hague (bonus image of the loving mother embracing a heart and saying that she will prioritize the protection of the child).  But — horrors — at the suggestion by the child that Papa’s friend shouldn’t have abducted the child and should have perhaps gone to court in America, Papa immediately kiboshes that by mentioning how American courts have a different culture, procedures, language barriers, and might even award custody of the child to a third party! (Again, no mention of the possibility of joint custody or guaranteed visitation rights enforced overseas, neither of which are permitted in Japan due to the koseki Family Registry system, aka “different culture”).  The nuance of this section becomes “it’s oh so complicated, no wonder Papa’s friend abducted their child”.  Conclusion of this page:  It would be awful if one parent couldn’t see their child (which is disingenuous coming from the GOJ because, as mentioned above in the introduction, child abductions without joint custody or visitation rights even between Japanese parents in Japan are quite normal).

p7
Suddenly, a sad fate befalls even this family, what with Papa being revealed as married to a French woman named Marie (who speaks normal Japanese; DV and broken Japanese seem to be the lot of the Western NJ male) who has run off to France with their boy.  Fortunately, thanks to the Hague, the GOJ can intervene, contact the French government, ascertain where she and their child is, get the authorities over there to mediate, get Papa to abandon his anime fetish (good thing he’s not a physically-abusive man; it’s just a harmless fetish, so nothing to fault the J man overmuch for as any serious grounds for divorce, right?), and get them all to make up and fly into the sunset back to Japan for a happy life ever after.

p8
Next page outlines the Hague procedures in three basic steps.  Of course, it’s all NJ men and J women (three different couples).  Visually, note the nuance of the child once again being more distressed to be leaving Japan with her father than going back to Japan with her mother.

p9
Next page lists the countries that are signatories to the Hague and the key points of it in bullet form.

p10
Next page gives the key points in Q&A format, first with what happened before Japan thankfully signed the Hague (abductions with impunity!), second with what to do if an abduction from Japan to a signatory country takes place, third with how long the Hague is in effect (until the child is aged 16), and fourth with a warning not to go abroad and reabduct your child back (you’ll be arrested; get a lawyer).

p11
The penultimate page gives more Q&A, with the obligatory 5) what to do in cases of DV (paste in NJ dad child abuse image again), or even the possibility of DV in the past (ko ni aku’eikyou o ataeru you na bouryoku), with a special section on page 5 above just in case you should want to use Japan’s increasingly grey and loose definitions of DV to get your child back; 6) getting J diplomats to help you out overseas; 7) getting a better understanding of the laws and Alternative Dispute Resolution using public resources.

p12

The pamphlet ends with the boy saying how he understands it all now, and the dad saying how nice it would be if more countries signed the Hague.  Quite.  But not the way it’s being interpreted here.

ENDS

Quoted in BBC Brasil (original Portuguese & machine E translation): “Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Got quoted (and some of Debito.org’s “Japanese Only” signs posted) in BBC Brasil today (thanks Ewerthon for the link). I’ll paste the article below with the Google machine translation in English afterwards. Corrections welcome.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Japão recebe críticas da ONU após onda de xenofobia nas ruas
Ewerthon Tobace
De Tóquio para a BBC Brasil
Courtesy http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/noticias/2014/09/140908_discriminacao_etnica_japao_et_rm.shtml

Atualizado em 10 de setembro, 2014 – 07:44 (Brasília) 10:44 GMT
Placa contra estrangeiros no Japão / Crédito: Arquivo Pessoal

“Estrangeiros só poderão entrar se estiverem acompanhados de um japonês”, diz a placa
Uma recente onda de casos de xenofobia tem causado grande preocupação no Japão e levou a ONU a pedir que o governo do primeiro-ministro Shinzo Abe tomasse medidas concretas para lidar com o problema.

As principais vítimas nesse incidentes têm sido comunidades estrangeiras como a de coreanos e chineses, além de outras minorias chamadas de “inimigas do Japão”.

Um exemplo dos abusos é um vídeo que se tornou viral e circula pelas redes sociais. Mostra um grupo de homens da extrema-direita com megafones em frente a uma escola sul-coreana em Osaka.

Eles insultam os alunos e professores com palavrões, fazem piadas com a cultura do país vizinho e ameaçam de morte os que se atreverem a sair do prédio.

Um relatório do Comitê de Direitos Humanos da ONU encaminhado ao governo japonês, destaca a reação passiva dos policiais em manifestações deste tipo.

As autoridades têm sido criticadas por apenas observarem, sem tomarem nenhuma atitude efetiva para conter os abusos.

No final de agosto, o Comitê das Nações Unidas para a Eliminação da Discriminação Racial solicitou que o país “abordasse com firmeza as manifestações de ódio e racismo, bem como a incitação à violência racial e ódio durante manifestações públicas”.

Desde 2013, o Japão registrou mais de 360 casos de manifestações e discursos racistas.
A questão ganhou os holofotes da mídia e está sendo amplamente debatida pelo partido governista, o Liberal Democrático.

Um caso que está sendo visto como teste para a Justiça japonesa nesta área é a ação movida, no mês passado, por uma jornalista sul-coreana, Lee Sinhae, contra Makoto Sakurai, presidente do grupo de extrema-direita Zaitokukai, por danos morais.

Ela quer uma indenização depois de ser “humilhada” por textos discriminatórios na internet.
“O que me preocupa é que muitos destes discursos estão deixando o anonimato da internet e já chegaram às ruas”, disse Lee em uma coletiva de imprensa.

A jornalista alertou que várias crianças estão tendo contato com este tipo de pensamento e replicam no ambiente escolar, gerando casos de bullying.

Lei
No Japão, não há uma lei que proíba discursos difamatórios ou ofensivos. Para os opositores, banir os discursos de ódio pode acabar interferindo no direito das pessoas à liberdade de expressão.

Mas o país é signatário da Convenção Internacional sobre a Eliminação de Todas as Formas de Discriminação Racial, que entrou em vigor em 1969, e que reconhece expressões discriminatórias como crime.

Pela Convenção, os países seriam obrigados a rejeitar todas as formas de propaganda destinadas a justificar ou promover o ódio racial e a discriminação e tomar ações legais contra eles.

Segundo as Nações Unidas, o governo japonês ainda tem muito para fazer nesta área. O comitê da ONU insistiu para que o Japão implemente urgentemente “medidas adequadas para rever a sua legislação”, em particular o seu código penal, para regular o discurso de ódio.

Exclusão dos estrangeiros
Para o escritor, ativista e pesquisador norte-americano naturalizado japonês Arudou Debito, “(essas atitudes discriminatórias) têm se tornado cada vez mais evidentes, organizadas e consideradas ‘normais'”.

Debito coleciona, desde 1999, fotos de placas de lojas, bares, restaurantes, karaokês, muitas delas enviadas por leitores de todo o Japão, com frases em inglês – e até em português – proibindo a entrada de estrangeiros.

A coletânea virou livro, intitulado Somente japoneses: o caso das termas de Otaru e discriminação racial no Japão.
Debito se diz ainda preocupado que, com a divulgação cada vez maior dos pensamentos da extrema-direita, a causa ganhe cada vez mais “fãs”.

“No Japão ainda há a crença de que é pouco provável haver o extremismo em uma ‘sociedade tão pacífica'”, explicou.

“Eu não acredito que seja tão simples assim. Ignorar os problemas de ódio, intolerância e exclusivismo para com as minorias esperando que eles simplesmente desapareçam é um pensamento positivo demais e historicamente perigoso.”

Placa: “Somente japoneses” / Crédito: Arquivo Pessoal

Aviso em um hotel de águas termais alerta que estrangeiros não podem entrar 

Brasileiros

A comunidade brasileira no Japão também é alvo constante de atitudes discriminatórias. Quarto maior grupo entre os estrangeiros que vivem no país, os brasileiros estão constantemente reclamando de abusos gerados por discriminação racial e o tema é sempre levantado em discussões com autoridades locais.

O brasileiro Ricardo Yasunori Miyata, 37, é um dos que foi à Justiça depois que o irmão foi confundido com um ladrão em um supermercado de uma grande rede, na cidade de Hamamatsu, província de Shizuoka.

“O problema foi a abordagem. O segurança chegou gritando, como se ele fosse bandido e, mesmo depois de provado que tudo não passou de um engano, ele (o segurança) justificou que faz parte da índole do brasileiro roubar e que não poderíamos reclamar pois deveríamos estar acostumado com este tipo de coisa”, contou o rapaz, ainda indignado.

O caso aconteceu há quatro anos, mas até hoje Ricardo divulga a história para que outros não passem pelo mesmo constrangimento pelo qual ele e a família passaram.

“Acionamos a polícia, fizemos a reclamação na matriz da rede, procuramos um advogado e, por semanas, os gerentes do supermercado tentaram nos convencer a não entrar com processo”, lembra.

Depois de três meses, foi feito um acordo. “A rede trocou a empresa que faz a segurança local, pagou todas as despesas com advogados e exigimos ainda que os gerentes pedissem desculpas em público”, contou Ricardo.

Há 20 anos morando no Japão, o brasileiro lembra que antigamente a situação era bem pior. “Quando entrava brasileiro em supermercados, por exemplo, geralmente tocavam uma música brasileira. Era um sinal para avisar os funcionários de que havia estrangeiro na loja”, contou.

Ricardo já foi barrado em bares e também sofreu todo tipo agressão verbal. “Esse tipo de discriminação existe, é visível e constante. Enquanto as autoridades e a própria mídia não tomarem uma posição, esses abusos vão continuar acontecendo”, destacou.

ENDS.  MACHINE TRANSLATION FOLLOWS:
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Japan receives criticism from the UN after wave of xenophobia in the streets
By Ewerthon Tobace
Tokyo for the BBC Brazil
Updated on September 10, 2014 – 07:44 (GMT) 10:44 GMT
Courtesy https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=pt&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fportuguese%2Fnoticias%2F2014%2F09%2F140908_discriminacao_etnica_japao_et_rm.shtml&edit-text=

Plate against foreigners in Japan / Credit: Personal Archive
“Foreigners may only enter if accompanied by a Japanese,” says board

A recent spate of incidents of xenophobia has caused great concern in Japan and led the UN to ask the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take concrete measures to deal with the problem.

The main victims in this incident have been foreign communities such as Korean and Chinese, and other minorities called “enemy of Japan.”

An example of abuse is a video that went viral and circulates through social networks. Shows a group of men on the extreme right with megaphones in front of a South Korean school in Osaka.

They insult the students and teachers with profanity, make jokes with the culture of the neighboring country and threaten death to those who dare leave the building.

A report of the UN Human Rights Committee referred to the Japanese government, highlights the passive reaction of the police in demonstrations of this kind.

The authorities have been criticized for only observe, without taking any effective action to curb abuses.

In late August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the country “firmly approached the manifestations of hatred and racism and incitement to racial hatred and violence during public demonstrations.”

Since 2013, Japan has registered more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches.

The issue has gained the media spotlight and is being widely debated by the ruling party, the Liberal Democratic.

A case that is being seen as a test for the Japanese Justice in this area is the lawsuit filed last month by a South Korean journalist, Lee Sinhae against Makoto Sakurai, chairman of the far-right Zaitokukai for moral damage.

She wants compensation after being “humiliated” by discriminatory texts on the Internet.
“What worries me is that many of these speeches are leaving the anonymity of the internet and has already reached the streets,” Lee said in a press conference.

The journalist warned that several children are having contact with this type of thinking and replicate in the school environment, generating instances of bullying.

Law

In Japan, there is no law prohibiting defamatory or offensive speeches. To opponents, banning hate speech they can interfere in people’s right to freedom of expression.

But the country is a signatory of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which entered into force in 1969, and recognizes that discriminatory expressions as crime.

By the Convention, countries would be forced to reject all forms of propaganda designed to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination and to take legal actions against them.

According to the United Nations, the Japanese government still has much to do in this area. The UN committee insisted that Japan urgently implement “appropriate measures to review its legislation,” particularly its criminal code to regulate hate speech.

Exclusion of foreigners

For the writer, activist and American-born researcher naturalized Japanese Arudou Debito, “(such discriminatory attitudes) have become increasingly overt, organized, and normalized.”

Debito collects, since 1999, pictures of signs of shops, bars, restaurants, karaoke bars, many of them sent in by readers from all over Japan, with English phrases – and even in Portuguese – prohibiting the entry of foreigners.

The collection became a book entitled Japanese Only: The Otaru case of spa and racial discrimination in Japan. [NB:  Not quite right, but my clarification was ignored by editors.]

Debito is said still worried that with the increasing dissemination of the thoughts of the extreme right, the cause get more and more “fans”.

“Japan still has the belief that extremism is less likely to happen in its ‘peaceful society'”,” he explained.

“I do not think it’s that simple. Ignoring the problems of hatred, intolerance and exclusivism towards minorities hoping they simply disappear too is a positive and historically dangerous thought.”

Board: “Japanese Only” / Credit: Personal Archive
Notice in a hotel hot springs warning that foreigners can not enter

Brazilians

The Brazilian community in Japan is also a constant target of discriminatory attitudes. Fourth largest group among the foreigners living in the country, Brazilians are constantly complaining of abuses generated by racial discrimination and the issue is always raised in discussions with local authorities.

The Brazilian Ricardo Yasunori Miyata, 37, is one of those who went to court after brother was mistaken for a thief in a supermarket of a large network in the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

“The problem was the approach.’s Security came screaming, like he was crook and even after proven that it was all a mistake, he (the security guard) explained that part of the character of the Brazilian steal and we could not complain because we should be accustomed to this kind of thing, “said the boy, still indignant.

The case happened four years ago, but until today Ricardo discloses the story so that others do not go through the same embarrassment in which he and his family went through.

“Switch-police, made the claim in the network matrix, seek a lawyer, and for weeks, supermarket managers tried to convince us not to enter the process,” he recalls.

After three months, an agreement was made. “The network changed the company that makes local security, paid all the expenses of attorneys and even demand that managers asked apology in public,” said Ricardo.

20 years living in Japan, Brazil recalls that once the situation was much worse. “When I came in Brazilian supermarkets, for example, one usually played Brazilian music. Was a sign to warn employees that the store was abroad,” he said.

Ricardo has been barred in all bars and also suffered verbal aggression type. “This kind of discrimination exists, is visible and constant. Whilst the authorities and the media itself has not taken a position, these abuses will continue happening,” he said.

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 79, on Japan’s Visible Minorities, Sept. 4, 2014 (version with links to sources)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Thanks as always for reading, and for putting this column once again at #1 for two days at the Japan Times Online:

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

“VISIBLE MINORITIES” ARE BEING CAUGHT IN THE DRAGNET
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
Column 79 for the Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Community Page, September 4, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/09/03/issues/visible-minorities-caught-police-dragnet/
Version with links to sources, previous discussion on Debito.org about this issue here.

Around noon on Aug. 13, in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, a local apartment manager notified the police that a “suspicious foreigner” was hanging around the nearby JR train station.

Cops duly descended upon someone described by the Asahi as a “20-year-old male who came from the Philippines with a Japanese passport” (sic). [archived here if dead link]

When asked what he was doing, he said he was meeting friends. When asked his nationality, he mentioned his dual citizenship. Unfortunately, he carried no proof of that.

So far, nothing illegal here: Carrying ID at all times is not legally required for Japanese citizens.

But it is for foreigners. So the cops, convinced that he was really a foreigner, took him in for questioning — for five hours. Then they arrested him under the Immigration Control Act for, according to a Nikkei report, not carrying his passport, and interrogated him for another seven.

In the wee hours of Aug. 14, after ascertaining that his father is Japanese and mother foreign, he was released with verbal apologies. That hardly suffices. If any of you have ever undergone Japan’s “voluntary questioning” and/or 23 days of interrogation after arrest, you know how harrowing it can be.

And this isn’t the first instance.And this isn’t the first instance. On Feb. 25, 2006, a 28-year-old foreign-looking Japanese woman was arrested in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, for not carrying a foreign passport.

Grounds for suspicion? According to the Mainichi Shimbun, she was carrying an envelope with Portuguese writing on it. Unable to talk because she was reportedly “not good at speaking to strangers,” she was released when they finally contacted her family after more than a full day of interrogation.

Milder cases are more commonplace: The New York Times (July 8, 2010) featured the account of a Japanese writer-translator who had been pulled aside repeatedly by Tokyo police officers for being “too tall and dark-colored,” and had even been asked to show the contents of her purse.

I too have been stopped and asked the personal questions reserved only for criminal suspects (shokumu shitsumon) on numerous occasions, but fortunately talked my way out of getting arrested for being a Japanese without a “gaijin (alien registration) card.”

As The Japan Times has been chronicling for years, the people particularly vulnerable during Japan’s perennial mission to smoke out “illegal foreign visa overstayers” are those who “look foreign.” That leads us to the point of this piece: Japan desperately needs a new concept to account for Japanese who don’t look it. How about visible minorities?

This concept and term has gained currency in minority studies. For example, the Canadian government uses it when referring to the treatment of people who may not at first glance “look” like the majority population.

Of course, it’s tough to discuss minority issues in allegedly “homogeneous Japan.” Our government has long denied any domestic minorities exist (see www.debito.org/japanvsun.html) You still get the occasional politician doing so (such as a Sapporo city assemblyman on Aug. 11), despite Japan’s parliament formally recognizing the Ainu as one in 2008.

But that hasn’t deterred Japan scholars from studying the Ainu, as well as the Okinawans, the burakumin historical underclass, Zainichi Korean and Chinese generational foreigners, South American workers of Japanese descent, and the 2 million registered foreign residents.

Yet Japanese studies have generally overlooked how physical appearance plays a part in Japan’s racialization dynamics. Even recent work, such as Kyle Cleveland’s insightful chapter on ethnic minorities in the 2013 book “Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan,” does not mention physical appearance or skin color as an issue in discrimination. He describes minorities in Japan as “invisible.”

I disagree. And those detained for looking foreignly suspicious, singled out for bullying for being “half” or “gaijin” in schools, and denied entry to “Japanese only” establishments, might also.

Moreover, unlike other minorities, visible ones cannot “pass” as Japanese in terms of physical appearance, and thus face different forms of discrimination. Further, visible minorities also include Japanese citizens, bringing in issues of guaranteed equal protection under the law.

It also leads to the fundamental question of “What is a Japanese?” As my doctoral research demonstrated, “Japaneseness” is linked to physical appearance by Japan’s laws, law enforcement, public policy, jurisprudence and media messages. And as seen in the Ushiku, Tokyo, Sapporo and Saitama cases above, you have to “look Japanese” to be treated as such.

Overlooking the existence of Japan’s visible minorities must stop. Thousands of Japanese children have been born to international marriages. Thousands have naturalized. Nearly half of Japan’s entire registered non-Japanese population are permanent residents. Well over half of those again (the regular permanent residents, as opposed to the Zainichi) are people who came from overseas. There is enormous diversity that is being under-analyzed.

In fact, let’s go one step further: Permanent residents should claim their minority status themselves. After all, if you can stay here as a permanent part of a society, you can qualify as a minority. That includes the foreign scholars of minority issues, who despite decades living in and researching in Japan, don’t appear to consider themselves members of a minority.

That’s the big-picture stuff for this month. Now let’s turn to some concrete policy measures the government can take to reduce the chances of people getting wrongfully detained.

First, if the Japanese police must go gaijin hunting, then train them properly in immigration law.

Any Immigration Bureau official knows that: a) foreigners are not required to carry a passport at all times (that’s why gaijin cards exist) unless they are unregistered tourists; b) naturalized Japanese exist; and c) dual nationality is legally possible until the day you turn age 22 — and, in any case, it is not grounds for suspicion, detention or arrest.

The Ushiku police in particular should have known all this. Ushiku hosts one of Japan’s biggest foreigner prisons, the East Japan Immigration Control Center. Then again, conditions there are so harsh that detainees carried out hunger strikes and even committed suicide there in 2010. So maybe this is how Ushiku police are trained.

Law enforcement also needs to let go of the narrative that “foreigners are suspicious.” If some old crank busybody calls the cops on some kid waiting for his friends, officers should demand more grounds than just his or her “foreignness.”

But, above all, the authorities need to acknowledge Japan’s diversity by accepting the concept of visible minorities, and start making policies to protect the Japanese who cannot “pass.”

Once again, that means creating that Holy Grail of a racial discrimination law. However, we can start off small by officially depicting Japaneseness as a legal status, not a bloodline-determined mystical concept entwined with racial purity. Fat chance under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I know, but it must happen someday.

Ultimately, Japan’s visible minorities are the canary in the coal mine. How they are treated is a bellwether of how Japan will handle its inevitably increasing diversity. Otherwise, if you — or your kids — happen to be too tall, dark or scary, you had better start carrying your Japanese passport around.

==================================
Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon as an ebook. For more details, see www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause usually appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

UN: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan 2014: Little progress made

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Two posts ago I talked about the UN’s most recent report on Japan’s human rights record (and how there seems to have been almost no progress made).  Well, also interesting is the public record of the give-and-take between UN officials and Japan’s mission to the UN.  That’s below.  It offers a glimpse of the mindsets of Japan’s representatives, and how they will defend Japan’s status quo no matter what.  The parts that are germane to Debito.org are bolded up, so have a read.  This is probably a glimpse as to what courses the GOJ will (not) take regarding human rights issues in future.

BTW,  If you want to see how much has not changed (these UN reviews happen every two years), get a load of what happened last time Japan faced the music in the UN regarding its human rights record, back in 2010.  The GOJ even claimed Japan was taking “every conceivable measure” to eliminate racial discrimination back in 2008 (yeah, except for an actual law against racial discrimination, unrequited since 1996!).  Debito.org’s archives and analysis go back even farther, so click here.  And when everyone by now realizes that Japan’s human-rights efforts are a joke (seriously, back in 2013), the Japanese representative will angrily shout to the audience, “Why are you laughing?  SHUT UP!  SHUT UP!”  This is not a joke.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan
UN OHCHR 21 August 2014, courtesy of LK
http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14957&LangID=E

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today completed its consideration of the combined seventh to ninth periodic report of Japan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Presenting the report, Akira Kono, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Japan was actively working on measures to establish a comprehensive policy to ensure the respect of the human rights of the Ainu people, focusing on the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony. Refugee recognition procedures had been reformed, and Japan strictly practiced the principle of non-refoulement. A nationwide campaign called “Respect the rights of foreign nationals” sought to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against foreigners. In 2020 Japan would host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and in the spirit of the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination principles, Japan continued to work to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

During the discussion, issues raised by Committee Experts included the prevalence of racist hate speech in Japan and the lack of anti-discrimination legislation, the situation of Ainu indigenous people and recognition of the people of Okinawa, and remedies for the victims of sexual slavery during World War II (so-called ‘comfort women’). The exploitation of foreign technical interns, the withdrawal of funding for Korean schools in Japan and reports of systematic surveillance of Muslims in Japan were other issues raised.

In concluding remarks Anwar Kemal, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Japan, said Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech and should install a national human rights institution without delay. It also needed to improve its protection of the rights of Korean, Chinese and Muslim minority groups in the country.

Mr. Kono, in concluding remarks, said Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic, and would engage in further cooperation with the international community to that end.

The delegation of Japan included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Comprehensive Ainu Policy Office, Ministry of Justice, Human Rights Bureau, Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, National Police Agency and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin its review of the combined tenth and eleventh periodic report of Estonia.
Report

The Committee is reviewing the combined seventh to ninth periodic report of Japan: CERD/C/JPN/7-9.

Presentation of the Report

AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, explained some of the major steps that the Government of Japan had taken towards the implementation of the Convention. Japan was actively working on measures to establish a comprehensive policy to ensure the respect of the human rights of the Ainu people. The focus of the efforts was the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, the opening of which was timed to coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The space would be a symbol of Japan’s future as a society that respected harmony with diverse and rich cultures and different ethnic groups, while respecting the dignity of the Ainu people, who were indigenous to Japan, and dealing with the problems faced by Ainu culture.

Refugee recognition procedures were carried out in accordance with Japan’s refugee recognition system which took effect in January 1982, and a refugee examination counsellor system was established to enhance the system’s neutrality and fairness. Japan strictly practiced the principle of non-refoulement. The standard processing period for refugee applications was set at six months, and procedures were expedited by an increase in the number of refugee examination counsellors from 19 to 80. Pamphlets available in 14 languages offered guidance concerning procedures which were available at regional immigration bureaus and on the internet. User-friendly procedures for applications had been adopted, including the use of an interpreter in the desired language of the applicant.

Under its framework for resettlement of refugees Japan had accepted 63 Myanmarese refugees who had been sheltered at a refugee camp in Thailand, aiming to make an international contribution and provide humanitarian assistance. [NB:  These refugees refused to come to Japan.] Furthermore, Myanmarese refugees temporarily staying in Malaysia had been made eligible for acceptance, as well as family members of refugees Japan had accepted in the past who were currently in Thailand. The Government strove to support the steady acceptance and local integration of resettled refugees through measures, including guidance on daily life, Japanese language training and employment placement.

The Government emphasized the importance of human rights education and awareness-raising based on the concept of mutual respect for human rights with a correct understanding not only of one’s own human rights but of the rights of others, as well as awareness of the responsibilities that included the exercise of rights. There were awareness-raising activities nationwide, including lectures and distribution of literature under the slogan “Respect the rights of foreign nationals”, to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against that group. The Human Rights Organs of the Ministry of Justice had established Human Rights Counselling Offices for foreign nationals, which offered interpretation in English, Chinese and other languages. The organs could also investigate complaints of rights infringements and take the appropriate measures.

Japan would host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, which would be a festive occasion for the whole of Japan, from Hokkaido, where the Ainu people lived, all the way to Okinawa. The Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter stipulated that ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise was incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement’. In light of the spirit of the constitution of Japan and the Olympic Charter, Japan would continue to work tirelessly to improve its human rights situation and not permit any form of discrimination, including on the basis of race or ethnicity.

OSAMU YAMANAKA, Director, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, gave in-depth oral answers to the list of issues submitted by the Committee prior to today’s review. Mr. Yamanaka spoke about anti-discrimination related domestic laws, and confirmed that discrimination on the basis of race was prohibited in Article 14 of the constitution, as well as in relevant laws and regulations including in the fields of employment, education, medical care and transport. The dissemination and expression of racist thought could constitute a crime of defamation and other crimes under the Penal Code in certain cases, while a racially discriminatory act constituted a tort under the Civil Code. The Government was making efforts to implement the Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to Demand Disclosure of Identification Information of the Senders which limited the liability of a provider in cases, for example, where information on the Internet infringed the rights of others.

Mr. Yamanaka briefed the Committee on activities to promote human rights education, such as training programmes for teachers, judges, officials, probation officers and members of the police force, among others. He described efforts to eliminate discrimination against the Burakumin, as well as discrimination in the fields of employment, in the selection of tenants for rental housing and in social education.

Regarding indigenous peoples, Mr. Yamanaka said the Government of Japan only recognized the Ainu people as indigenous, and that people living in Okinawa Prefecture or born in Okinawa were not subject to ‘racial discrimination’ as provided for in the Convention, but would discuss the issue further during the dialogue. Since Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese administration in May 1972 the Government had implemented various measures which had resulted in the gap with the mainland being reduced, especially in the field of social capital development.

Concerning the Ainu indigenous people, Mr. Yamanaka said the Government aimed to promote public understanding through education and awareness-raising, develop the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony, promote research concerning the Ainu people, promote Ainu culture including the Ainu language, promote the effective use of land and resources, and promote business as well as measures to improve livelihoods.

Turning to people of non-Japanese nationality, such as immigrants, Mr. Yamanaka also highlighted the ‘Respect the rights of foreign nationals’ campaign which aimed to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against foreign nationals. He also neither confirmed that refusing accommodation in a hotel solely on the grounds that the person was of a specific race or ethnicity was nor [sic] permitted under the Inns and Hotels Act. The Government supported efforts to increase the number of hotels and Japanese inns registered under that Act, so foreign tourists could stay with peace of mind.

Government actions to combat trafficking in persons were also described, as was the application procedure for asylum seekers, the treatment of detainees and the objection system regarding immigration procedures and deportation.

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said on a positive note Japan had many of the attributes of a great country with an ancient sophisticated culture. It had not hesitated to share its wealth and technical know-how with developing countries. Since the end of the Second World War, it had established a democratic constitution with a wide range of provisions to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. However, under the Convention State parties were required to enact legislation specifically to combat racial discrimination. Article 14 of the Japanese constitution prohibited racial discrimination but did not cover all five grounds for discrimination listed in the Convention. Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation was therefore needed.

Turning to other positive measures Mr. Kemal said the State party had made progress in several areas, for example it had consulted members of civil society for the report, albeit to a limited extent. More importantly, it had taken a number of measures to address the problems faced by the Ainu indigenous people and had taken special measures to uplift the standards of living of the people of the Ryukus. It had also provided training and orientation sessions to public officials to sensitize them about the problems faced by minorities in Japan.

The Committee was concerned about the continued incidence of explicit racist statements and actions against groups, including children attending Korean schools, and the harmful and racist expressions and attacks via the Internet, particularly against the Burakumin. Japan would be aware of the Committee’s latest general recommendation on racist hate speech, in which it made it clear that freedom of speech was not absolute and did not permit individuals or organizations licence to demonize vulnerable groups. Human Rights Council members had drawn attention to more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches in Japan since 2013. What actions was Japan taking to curb hate speech, including from public officials? Was victimization of vulnerable groups against Japanese culture? If so, firm action by the State party could be justified, said Mr. Kemal. In addressing acts of injustice it was sometimes necessary to confront and punish wrong-doers, and Japanese history had many such examples.

In 2010 the Committee requested Japan to ensure equal treatment between Japanese and non-Japanese in the rights of access to places and services intended for use by the general public, such as restaurants, bathhouses and hotels. However, the Human Rights Committee last month in Geneva concluded that Japanese and non-Japanese were not treated equally, and there were many signs displayed in such public facilities stating that access was only for the Japanese. Could the State party please comment?

The exploitation of interns, or apprentices from overseas countries under a Government programme was an issue raised by civil society. They were reportedly not taught any technical skills but were used as cheap manual labour, working long hours and being mistreated. Japan had negative growth ? its population was shrinking. Perhaps it would be better to have a proper immigration programme to get workers into the country, rather than using the ‘intern’ programme which was discriminatory, commented Mr. Kemal.

Outlining other areas of concern, Mr. Kemal said the Committee’s last set of concluding observations to the State party in 2010 referred to discrimination against the Burakumin. However, the State party omitted reference to the Baraku problem in its latest report. Civil society reported that although the living conditions of the Baraku had improved over recent years, thanks to special measures, the gap in the standard of living between Baraku and the majority remained wide, and social discrimination continued to be a troubling problem.

While Japan was maintaining its commitment to establish a national human rights institution compliant with the Paris Principles, progress was painfully slow, in particular since November 2013. All the treaty bodies, including this one, would be highly satisfied the day Japan enacted the appropriate legislation to meet this commitment.

In 2010 the Committee recommended that Japan adopt an approach where the identity of non-Japanese nationals seeking naturalization was respected, and that official application forms and publications dealing with the naturalization process refrain from using language that persuaded applicants to adopt Japanese names for fear of discrimination. The report was silent on that matter.

Mr. Kemal also asked what the State party was doing to address the phenomenon of double discrimination, in particular regarding women and children from vulnerable groups.

Japan had made limited progress towards implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and had also been urged to consider ratifying the International Labour Organization Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries. Mr. Kemal noted that UNESCO had recognized the number of Ryukyu languages as well as the Okinawans’ unique ethnicity, culture and traditions. Had Japan been engaging in consultations with Okinawan representatives?

Efforts made by the State party to facilitate education for minority groups were noted with appreciation by the Committee, yet still there was a lack of adequate opportunities for Ainu children or children of other national groups to receive instruction in their language. Similarly, complaints had been made that the State party had stopped funding Korean schools, despite it guaranteeing the right for children of Korean residents in Japan to learn their native language and culture.

Questions by the Experts

Japan tended to get a poor press in human rights battles due to films and stories about the Second World War, commented an Expert, but it was not forgotten that it was one of the most advanced philosophies and had inspired many peoples in Asia in the fight against colonialism. Japan obviously had an advanced infrastructure for the promotion and protection of human rights and had made good progress. Nevertheless, there was a streak of insularity in the Japanese nature and immigrant communities frequently faced discrimination.

Civil society representatives showed the Committee a very disturbing video about racist hate speech targeting Korean residents in Japan, said an Expert. He gathered the Prime Minister of Japan agreed, as per his statement last month that Japan must take measures to combat racist hate speech. To what extent had senior officials condemned the sort of racist hate speech seen in that video?

There was a serious problem of racial discrimination in Japan, said an Expert. Some extreme right organizations and individuals claimed they had Japanese superiority. Some even had deep-rooted colonial concepts, he said. They were xenophobic; they degraded, harassed and provoked foreigners wantonly and sometimes even perpetrated violent acts against them. They used the newspapers, internet, TV and other media to spread their racist hate speech. The extreme right groups held demonstrations, even flying Japanese military flags used during the Second World War in order to revive militarism. They went unpunished by the authorities, and so became increasingly wanton in their practices. Their victims had no access to justice, and the police ignored their complaints.

Some senior politicians, including cabinet ministers, had made racist statements which sought to mislead the people of Japan and distort history. They also spread the so-called ‘theory of China threat’. That was because Japan had no special law against discrimination and no national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.

The Ainu and seven other languages and dialects were threatened, said an Expert. Happily, measures had been taken to reinvigorate the Ainu language and now many people spoke it, but what had been done for the other languages? The Ainu were recognized as indigenous peoples and had access to their ancestral land, at least on Hokkaido. Could the delegation speak more about their land rights?

What about the repatriation of former Japanese emigrants back to Japan? An Expert asked about a case of Japanese people who moved to Brazil before moving back to Japan, and how they were welcomed and integrated back home.

The issue of sexual slavery, known as ‘comfort women’ dating back to World War II was an ongoing violation. Almost 90 per cent of the women ? who were mostly from minority groups ? had by now passed away, but the Government continued to deny they were sex slaves, rather asserting that they were wartime prostitutes. That caused untold agony for those women; they and their families deserved recognition of their victim status and reparations. The Expert also asked about discrimination against women, particularly women from minority groups, and whether Japan would consider taking affirmative action.

What was the State party’s understanding of race, as scientifically, races did not exist: all humans belonged to the same race, said an Expert. What was covered by Japan’s definition of race and was it only limited to citizens of Japan?

Exactly how many Koreans were resident in Japan, asked an Expert, commenting that the approximate half a million Koreans in Japan appeared to bear the brunt of racial discrimination. What were the reasons for the discriminatory treatment, he asked, was it due to differences in culture or in language? Many non-Japanese people felt they had to change their names into Japanese names in order to avoid discrimination. They were not treated equally to other Japanese, added an Expert, and were not allowed to hold public sector positions.

The ending of the waiver programme for Korean schools and subsidies for school fees was not only a major concern, in depriving many children from adequate education, but a symbol of wider discrimination. Furthermore, the restrictions on uniforms for Korean students, which hampered their self-identity, were another issue.

Response by the Delegation

On education, a delegate said children of foreign nationals could attend public schools in Japan for free, and the Government was making efforts to establish a system which guaranteed opportunities for children of Korean residents in Japan to learn their native language and culture and to promote international understanding among Japanese children. However, most Korean residents who did not wish to attend Japanese schools attended Korean schools established in Japan.

Regarding the withdrawal of tuition support of children attending Korean schools in Japan, a delegate explained that it had become apparent that the Korean schools did not meet the requirements to receive the tuition funding, therefore, the funding had been withdrawn. One reason was that the schools had a close relationship with an organization related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and as the schools could not prove their independence they no longer benefitted from the Public School Tuition Fee Support Fund. If the schools could demonstrate their independence or when diplomatic relations of Japan and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were restored then the Government would re-evaluate whether the schools could benefit from the Support Fund once again. Korean schools were recognized by prefectural governorates as “miscellaneous schools” as were other international schools, for example British or Chinese, and were not discriminated against.

On hate speech and incitement to racial discrimination, a delegate said any expression of hate ? insult, defamation, intimidation, and obstruction of justice ? was a crime that could be invoked under the Criminal Code of Japan. He referred to the video mentioned by Committee members as well as allegations that the police attended xenophobic demonstrations to protect the demonstrators from anti-racism campaigners. A delegate from the National Police Agency said they provided security at those demonstrations in an impartial way, not to protect the demonstrators but to protect public security in general.

In June this year Prime Minister Abe said hate speech was damaging Japan’s pride within the international community and that the issue should be and would be dealt with squarely. He called upon his party to deal with the issue, reported a delegate. Support was given to victims of hate speech and other human rights violations by the Japan Legal Support Centre which had offices throughout the country. The offices provided support programmes for financially distressed people such as free legal aid or temporary payments to lawyers.

The objective of “technical internships” for foreign nationals was to transfer the skills, techniques and knowledge of Japan to foreign nationals in order to contribute to the human resources development of developing countries. There had been instances of misconduct by the receiving organizations and reports of non-payment of wages and long working hours. Consequently in June 2014 Japan revised its strategy and started a ‘drastic inter-agency review’ of the system. Government agreements with sending nations were also reviewed. The ‘drastic review’ would be completed by the end of 2014, and in 2015 a new surveillance system and operational institution would be implemented.

Japan’s position on the ‘comfort women’ issue was that it did not meet the definition of racial discrimination defined in the Convention, and was not relevant to the Committee. Furthermore, Japan opposed the term ‘sexual slavery’ which it found inappropriate. However, the Government wished to sincerely and honestly respond to the Committee’s concern, said a delegate, and so it would explain measures taken for the ‘comfort women’.

In the past Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to many countries, particularly Asian women, said a delegate. The Government, squarely facing those historical facts, expressed its deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and feelings of sincere mourning for all victims of World War II, both at home and abroad. Prime Minister Abe had said publicly that he was deeply pained to think of the ‘comfort women’ who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering beyond description, as had previous Prime Ministers of Japan. The Prime Minister had also written letters of apology to the women (copies of the letter were shared with the Committee).

Compensation had been dealt with through the San Francisco Peace Treaty, bilateral agreements and other treaties, and legally speaking the settlement had clearly been made. However, recognizing that the ‘comfort women’ issue was a grave affront to the honour and dignity of a large number of women, the Government and people of Japan had established the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995, to extend atonement from the Japanese people to the former ‘comfort women’ in the form of money donated by the people of Japan, for women from the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, as identified by their Governments. Additionally, the Asian Women’s Fund paid for medical and psychological care, welfare support and even welfare projects such as those in the Netherlands for women who suffered incurable psychological or physical damage during World War II. The Asian Women’s Fund was disbanded in March 2007 but the Government continued to implement follow-up activities.

Regarding reports that foreign nationals were refused access into some hotels, a delegate said the Inns and Hotels Act prohibited the refusal of access to a foreign national solely on the grounds of their race or ethnicity. Additionally, the Development of Hotels for In-Bound Tourists Act served to improve hotel accommodation for tourists. Complaints about discrimination by hotels, and other public facilities such as restaurants, public areas or public transport could be made under the Act on the Optimization and Promotion of Public Facilities.

The Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy made policy recommendations to the Government in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Japan voted for. Japan believed the exercise of the indigenous Ainu’s rights in accordance with the Declaration should only be restrained when their rights impeded upon the rights and best interests of the wider Japanese public. Ainu representatives accounted for one-third or more of the members of the Advisory Council, the delegate added.

Regarding Ainu indigenous people who did not live on the island of Hokkaido, a delegate referred to a 2008 resolution adopted unanimously by the Parliament which demanded recognition of the Ainu people as indigenous. The declaration found that the Ainu people had lived mostly in the north of Japan’s archipelago, particularly on the island of Hokkaido, and had their own unique language of culture. Ainu people living in other areas were surveyed to learn about their living conditions, he added.

The Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony would open in 2020, to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Space would feature museums, traditional Ainu houses and handcraft studios where people could learn about the Ainu people’s world view, especially of the natural world. The space would serve as the National Centre for the Restoration of Ainu Culture. Efforts to promote Ainu language and culture across Japan were described by a delegate who also said although it was not envisaged to use Ainu in the classrooms of all schools, in many schools attended by Ainu students children did have the opportunity to study the language and culture of Ainu.

The value of the people of Okinawa was recognized and their rights were guaranteed. Their valuable culture and traditions were promoted and preserved within the law. Following the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in May 1937 the Okinawa Promotion Plan and related Act were adopted to guide measures to develop Okinawa’s social infrastructure. As a result, the gap between Okinawa and the mainland was narrowing and steady improvement was being seen.

The Government recognized trafficking in persons as a serious human rights infringement and treated it as such. In 2004 it launched the Action Plan of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and since then the number of victims had decreased annually to around 20 to 30 per year. Compensation was paid, with coordination from the International Organization of Migration, to support victims.

A delegate said it was a nationally accepted principle that public officials with national power to make public decisions had to have Japanese nationality. That was not unreasonable. There were many jobs in the civil service where persons without Japanese nationality were employed, such as laboratories and research institutions. Furthermore, other professions, such as nursing, were open to non-Japanese nationals.

Regarding refugees and asylum seekers, a delegate said they should not be sent back to their original countries if they faced any risk to their person on their return. The delegate spoke about the refugee application process, and said even if an applicant for refugee status did not receive it, they could still apply for residency in Japan even without humanitarian consideration. Although in some cases they would be deported, Japan did not return people to certain countries, as per the Refugee Convention and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

Concerning social welfare for foreign nationals, a delegate said Japan’s social welfare system had undergone several changes, including deletion of the requirement that foreign nationals in Japan had to meet the same requirements as Japanese nationals, for example to benefit from the national pension system. Today foreign nationals were covered by the pension scheme. The Revised National Pension Act of 2012 further reduced the qualifying period from 25 to 10 years, starting in October 2015. Reports that individuals undergoing naturalization were encouraged to adopt Japanese names and characters were not true, said a delegate.

If a foreign national spouse was divorced from their Japanese spouse then he or she lost their status as a Japanese resident. However, that did not mean the person was automatically deprived of their residency status. They had to apply to the Government with details of their background, life in Japan and reasons for the divorce ? or death of their spouse. If the person had a child who needed to stay in Japan then the person would usually be given long-term resident status to stay in Japan. According to nationality law a child who had a Japanese father or mother at the time of birth would obtain Japanese nationality by birth, a delegate confirmed.

Human rights education was provided at developmentally appropriate levels in schools. Authorities, based upon the guidelines, sought to particularly support youth who had difficulties, as well as widows. Mother and Child Family support funds helped vulnerable families with subsidised childcare. The Basic Plan for Gender Equality adopted in 2010 further had provisions to support women suffering from discrimination. A delegate also spoke about the establishment of Human Rights Counselling Offices under the Legal Affairs Bureau, which investigated cases of suspected human rights infringements and provided remedies. The Bureau also ran telephone hotlines for women and children to report violations.

Japan was seriously considering lifting its reservation to Article 14 of the Convention, which related to individual communications. There were international treaties yet to be ratified by Japan, including International Labour Organization Conventions 111 and 169, on Migrant Workers Rights and on Domestic Workers, as well as the Convention on Stateless Persons, the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and the Convention on Genocide. The Government recognized the ideals of those Conventions but had to carefully consider their consistency with Japanese law and the legislative efforts that would be required to accede to them.

Follow-Up Questions from the Experts

An Expert said a delegate had asserted that the Committee could raise questions about historical cases, even if they happened 100 years ago, if relevant to the Convention. The Expert believed the issues of ‘comfort women’ and land taken from indigenous peoples were relevant.

Was it correct that the Japanese Government did not recognize the existence of indigenous people on its island of Okinawa? What was being done to terminate or moderate the surveillance of Muslims, an Expert asked. An Expert said the Committee reserved its right to use the ‘sexual slavery’ terminology rather than ‘comfort women’, which was also used by the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Committee.

Response by the Delegation

A delegate responded to questions about alleged systematic monitoring of Muslims in Japan. He said if this was true, they were monitored not because of their religion but was simply as a matter of public security. A delegate from the National Police Agency added that details of information gathering activities to prevent future terrorism could not be disclosed, but noted that the police collected information according to the law.

Japan had its own view on Okinawa, said a delegate. Japan had many islands in its archipelago on many of which traditions with unique traits had been developed, as on Okinawa. Everybody in Japan had the right to enjoy their own culture, practice their own religion and speak their own language ? nobody was denied those rights. The Japanese recognized their rich culture and traditions and had a Plan of Action for the Promotion of Okinawa.

Statistically, in 2013 there were 3,349 people of Brazilian nationality entering Japan, and by the end of the year 181,268 of people with Brazilian nationality were living in Japan.

Concluding Remarks

ANWAR KEMAL, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Japan, said Japan was making progress in the implementation of the Convention. Japan had a democratic constitution and therefore should be able to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which would plug the gaps in the domestic legislation as recommended by the Committee five years ago. It should be able to tackle racist hate speech without impeding upon the right to free speech. It should install a national human rights institution without delay. And the State party should enact measures to bring the standard of living of the Ainu people, as well as the Ryukyu, up to that of the rest of the population without delay. Japan also needed to improve its protection of the rights of Korean, Chinese and Muslim minority groups in the country. He thanked the delegation for the productive dialogue.

AKIRA KONO, Ambassador to the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, thanked the Committee for the fruitful dialogue, for its comments and interest, and said the reviews were a valuable process that helped the Government improve its implementation of the Convention. Japan would continue to make tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation without permitting any form of discrimination, including racial or ethnic. The Government would engage in further cooperation with the international community to that end.

_______

For use of the information media; not an official record

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 78, August 14, 2014, “Past victimhood blinds Japan to present-day racial discrimination”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my August Japan Times column, bumped a week due to Colin Jones’s excellent column on the topic I open up with.

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Past victimhood blinds Japan to present-day racial discrimination
Like the abused who then go on to abuse, Japan is too psychologically scarred to see discrimination going on within its borders
BY DEBITO ARUDOU

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 78, August 14, 2014

Readers may be expecting this column to have something to say about the Supreme Court decision of July 18, which decreed that non-Japanese (NJ) residents are not guaranteed social welfare benefits.

But many have already expressed shock and outrage on these pages, pointing out the injustice of paying into a system that may choose to exclude them in their time of need. After all, no explicit law means no absolute guarantee of legal protection, no matter what court or bureaucratic precedents may have been established.

I’m more surprised by the lack of outrage at a similar legal regime running parallel to this: Japan’s lack of a law protecting against racial discrimination (RD). It affects people on a daily basis, yet is accepted as part of “normal” unequal treatment in Japan — and not just of noncitizens, either.

This brings me to an argument I wanted to round off from last month’s column, about how Japan has a hard time admitting RD ever happens here. Some argue it’s because RD does not befit Japan’s self-image as a “civilized” society. But I would go one step further (natch) and say: RD makes people go crazy.

First, let me establish the “hard time admitting it” bit. (Apologies for reprising some old ground.)

As covered in past columns, Japan’s government and media are seemingly allergic to calling discriminatory treatment based upon skin color or “foreign” appearance racial discrimination (specifically, jinshu sabetsu).

For example, take the Otaru onsen case (1993-2005), which revolved around “Japanese only” signs barring entry to hot springs in Otaru, Hokkaido, to anyone who didn’t “look Japanese” enough (including this writer). Only one major Japanese media source, out of hundreds that reported on it, referred to jinshu sabetsu as an objective fact of the case (rather than reporting it as one side’s claim) — even after both the Sapporo district and high courts unequivocally adjudged it as such.

Public discourse still shies away from the term. That is why the reaction to the “Japanese only” banner displayed at the Urawa Reds soccer game in March was such a landmark. After initial wavering (and the probable realization that the World Cup was approaching), the team’s management, the J. League and the media in general specifically called it out as jinshu sabetsu, then came down on it with unprecedented severity.

Bravo. Thank you. But so far, it’s the exception that proves the rule.

This see-no-evil attitude even affects scholarship on Japan, as I discovered during my doctoral dissertation literature review. Within the most-cited sources reviewing discrimination in Japan, not one listed “skin color” as among Japan’s discriminatory stigmata, or included RD as a factor (calling it instead discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, ingrained cultural practice, etc.). Indicatively, none of them (except some obscure law journal articles) mentioned the Otaru onsen ruling either.

Now peer into Japan’s education system. Jinshu sabetsu happens anywhere but Japan. The prototypical examples are the American South under segregation and apartheid-era South Africa. But homogeneous Japan, the argument runs, has no races, therefore it cannot logically practice racial discrimination. (Again, the Otaru onsen ruling disproves that. But, again, see no evil.)

So why can’t Japan own up? Because RD inflicts such deep psychological wounds that whole societies do irrational, paranoid and crazy things.

Consider this: Harvard University anthropologist Ayu Majima, whose chapter in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel’s 2013 book “Race and Racism in Modern East Asia” I cited last month, also discussed the aftermath of the United States’ Asian exclusion policy of 1924 — under which Japan, despite all its attempts to “Westernize” and “de-Asianize” itself, was subordinated as a “colored” nation.

Japan’s public reaction was (understandably) furious, and visceral. The Kokumin Shimbun called it “a national dishonor” and demanded that U.S.-Japan ties be severed. In the words of one liberal Japanese journalist at the time: “Discrimination from the United States was due to regarding the Japanese as a colored people. This is a disgrace to the most delicate matter of the Japanese ethnic pride.”

Public outcry morphed into mass hysteria, including countless letters to the government urging war on America. Several people even committed suicide outside the American Embassy!

Although these events subsided, Japan’s elites never let go of this slur. The Japanese ambassador wrote the U.S. secretary of state, saying that the issue was “whether Japan as a nation is or is not entitled to the proper respect” that forms “the basis of amicable international intercourse throughout the civilized world.” Emperor Hirohito later called the act “a remote cause of the Pacific War.” It has also been connected to Japan’s rejection of the West and invasion of Manchuria.

See how crazy RD makes people? Mass hysteria? Calls for war? Suicides? International isolation? Invading China?

RD also psychologically wounds people to the point that it can feed illogical exceptionalism, denialism and perpetual victim status.

It short-circuits the ability to run self-diagnostics and see the fundamental hypocrisy behind the idea that, for example, Japanese are perpetual victims of RD, but rarely, if ever, perpetrators of it — as if Japan is somehow an exception from the racialization processes that happen in every society.

Seriously. During Japan’s colonial era, when Japan was “liberating” and colonizing its neighbors under the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, officials argued that under Japan’s Pan-Asianism, where (unlike Western colonization) her new subjects were of the same skin color, Japan could not practice “racism” in the Western sense.

Source:  Oguma Eiji, A Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-Images, 2002, pg. 332-3.

But the historical record indicates that Japan’s colonized subalterns were subordinated and exploited like any racialized minority — something Japan’s similarly psychologically-wounded neighbors have never forgotten.

Then, in the postwar period, Japan’s national narrative mutated from “heterogeneous Asian colonizer” to “pure homogeneous society.” How did official illogic accommodate this shift? Again, with fallacious ideas such as “Japan has no races, therefore it cannot possibly practice racism.”

This claim is easily disproven by pointing to the country’s “Japanese only” signs. But then what happens? Relativism, denialism and counterattack.

Either deniers repeat that Japan has no RD (patently false; again, that pesky Otaru onsen case), or they argue that everyone else in the world is racist and Japanese have been victims of it (citing wartime examples such as the U.S. and Canadian Japanese internment camps, or the atomic bombings) — as if racism is just how the world naturally functions, and two wrongs make a right.

Then the focus turns on you. You face accusations of racism for overgeneralizing about Japan (e.g., with the counterargument that only a few places post “Japanese only” signs — just don’t point out the standard practice of denying NJ apartments . . .). Or you are charged with being remiss for not acknowledging the “positive discrimination” that “esteemed NJ” get (some, that is), and that positive discrimination somehow compensates for and justifies the negative. Then the debate gets tangled in red herrings.

But the point is that the reaction will be as swift, clear and visceral as it was way back when. The milder accusations will be of cultural insensitivity, Japan-bashing or Japan-hating. But as you get closer to the heart of the matter, and the incontrovertible evidence moves from anecdotal to statistical, you’ll be ostracized, slandered, harassed by Japan’s shadowy elements, stalked and issued death threats. Believe me, I know.

Again, racism is not seen as something that “civilized” countries like Japan would do. To call it out is to question Japan’s level of civilization. And it conjures up an irrational denialism wrapped within a historical narrative of racialized victimization.

Thus Japan’s constant self-victimization leads to paranoia and overreaction (justifying even more tangential craziness, such as defenses of whaling and dolphin culls, international child kidnappings after divorce, and historical amnesia) due in part to fears of being besmirched and discriminated against again. Like a jilted suitor heartbroken by an exotic lover, Japan thus takes extreme precautions to avoid ever being hurt again — by forever forsaking close, equal and potentially vulnerable relationships with anyone with a whiff of the exotic.

Until Japan gets over itself and accepts that racialization processes are intrinsic to every society, it will never resolve its constant and unwarranted exceptionalism. Bigots must be dealt with, not denied or justified. Like the abused who becomes the abuser, Japanese society is simply too psychologically damaged by RD to stop its RD.

This remains the fundamental hurdle Japanese society must overcome before it can empathize fully with outsiders as fellow equal human beings. As was evident in last month’s Supreme Court ruling.

There — now you have my comment on it.

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

Debito Arudou’s most recent publication is the Hokkaido and Tohoku Chapters in Fodor’s 2014 Japan travel guide. Twitter: @arudoudebito. An excerpt of Ayu Majima’s chapter can be read at www.debito.org/?p=12122, and more of Debito’s analysis of the Supreme Court ruling at www.debito.org/?p=12530. Just Be Cause usually appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

Colin Jones on NJ rights after the Supreme Court welfare verdict of July 2014: None but what MOJ bureaucrats grant you

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Hello Blog. In what is for me the best JT article of the year (and well worth bumping my JBC column to next week), Colin Jones lifts the lid off Japanese constitutional and legal history and shows definitively the evolution of rights for non-citizens (or lack thereof). Occasioned by the recent Japan Supreme Court verdict which states that NJ are not guaranteed social welfare, the article’s upshot is this:

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Think you’ve got rights as a foreigner in Japan? Well, it’s complicated
The Japan Times, August 6, 2014, BY COLIN P.A. JONES

Excerpt: This newspaper’s well-intentioned July 27 editorial declaring that the social safety net should be for all taxpayers is perfectly understandable — particularly given that the petitioner was an elderly Chinese who was born and spent her whole life here. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to equate feeding the maw of whatever tax-fueled Leviathan nation state you happen to live in with being entitled to anything from it in return. This is particularly true in Japan, where by law it is generally more important that one of your parents be Japanese than where you were born, raised or paid taxes. After all, being a dutiful taxpayer alone won’t get your visa renewed or keep you from getting kicked out of the country; why should it get you a welfare payment either?

Thus, if you live here on a foreign passport, you might want to snuggle up in a comfy chair and read through the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, since for most purposes, that is your constitution. Having its roots in an Occupation-era decree modeled after U.S. immigration laws then in effect (missing some important features, as will be discussed later), the ICRRA did not become a “law” until 1982, when it was amended in connection with Japan’s accession to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I say it is your constitution because in 1978, the Supreme Court acknowledged that most constitutional protections did extend to foreigners, but only within the framework of the immigration laws and regulations, including the broad administrative discretion granted by these to Ministry of Justice officials.

So, you can pay your taxes, participate in that anti-nuclear demonstration and maybe even have a run-in or two with the cops, but at the end of the day your ability to live in Japan may ultimately be at the discretion of a bureaucrat’s view of some of the very subjective standards set forth in the immigration laws and regulations, such as whether you have been “good” or “engaged in the activities related to your residence status.” In my experience bureaucrats are generally nice, and most of the time it is probably more work for them to kick you out than to let you stay, particularly if you have a Japanese spouse and/or children. But it is probably safer to assume that you do not have any right to be in Japan; that being the case, assumptions about rights to welfare or just about anything else would seem equally suspect.

It is worth bearing in mind that Japan’s Korean population was divested of its Japanese nationality by nothing more than a Ministry of Justice interpretation of the 1952 peace treaty — an interpretation that paid little heed to what effect that would have on the people effectively rendered stateless as a result. That was a different era, of course, but if push comes to shove in any dispute with the government, it is probably safe to expect that you will lose, and nothing in the Constitution will likely affect that outcome.

This should be obvious to anyone familiar with Japan’s system of immigration detention and deportation, which exists in an parallel dimension where due-process requirements and the constitutional protections against arrest, detention and punishment do not apply, because the deprivations of freedom and deportations are not punitive and the administrative process by which cases are resolved are not “trials.”

An Occupation-era ordinance that would have established a system of oversight through separate quasi-judicial commissions was never put into force, leaving the whole process comfortably within the control of the Ministry of Justice. In any case, by the logic of the Supreme Court decision mentioned above, those who are not in the country in accordance with the ICRRA may not be entitled to constitutional protections anyway.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/08/06/issues/think-youve-got-rights-foreigner-japan-well-complicated/
////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Well, this has been but one event in the death of the NJ communities by a thousand cuts (and the source of a number of smug comments by some saying “See, NJ really don’t belong in Japan, and if they want to, they should naturalize.”  As if it’s their fault for not doing so.  And as I’ve said before, that is no panacea; if you are a Visible Minority, you still will not receive equal treatment in Japanese society.)

But what I’d like to have clarified is Colin’s point about whether or not people (particularly non-citizen permanent residents) who pay taxes really have no rights to expect the benefits from The State.  Although Colin’s approach is strictly legalist (naturally), I would conjecture that they do (I have seen first-hand how foreigners are allowed to have much greater senses of entitlement here, for example, in the United States) or at least should.  But the relativists (who insist that Japan is no outlier in this regard; they so want to be right in their own minds that they will even support unequal treatment that affects them adversely) will not take Debito.org seriously even if I start citing laws from overseas.

So let me ask Debito.org Readers to assist me in doing a little research.  Let’s find some law journals and other academic research written by specialists that give comparative rights for non-citizen residents in an international light.  Here are two research questions, with research boundaries incorporated:

  • Are non-citizen residents (particularly permanent residents, as taxpayers) entitled to the same social welfare benefits (e.g., unemployment, child support, and other safety-net measures designed to  rescue citizens from destitution) in other developed countries?  (Let’s say the G8, or widen it out to the OECD if necessary.)  
  • Do guarantees of civil and human rights guaranteed in the national constitutions of developed countries also apply to “all people/residents”, including non-citizens, or are they strictly reserved for citizens, as they apparently are in Japan?

Note that we are not looking for absolute equality (that’s impossible, otherwise there would be no benefit to citizenship).  But simply put:  Do foreign residents receive the same guarantee against various social adversities elsewhere as a legally-enshrined human right, or not?

Please send us some links to some articles in the comments section, with pertinent excerpts/abstracts included.  Let’s spend some time researching this.  I’ll let this blog entry be the anchor site until next week, when my column comes out on how racial discrimination makes whole societies go crazy.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Yomiuri: TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020 for “foreign visitors” to Tokyo Olympics. Nice, but how about for NJ residents now?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s something a little less dramatic (but no less pesky and maybe even indicative of something unconscious) for a hot summer Sunday in Japan.  Article and comments courtesy of KM.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Hi Debito!  Here’s another indication that the government cares more about short-term visitors than about the foreigners who actually live here:

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

TV shows to get foreign-language subtitles by 2020
July 22, 2014, The Yomiuri Shimbun, courtesy of KM
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001439680

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry will develop a system to show Japanese TV programs with subtitles in foreign languages, including English and Chinese, to provide a more comfortable viewing experience for foreign visitors, according to sources.

In response to the increasing number of visitors from overseas, the envisaged system will be launched by 2020, the year in which the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held, the sources said.

Behind the ministry’s decision were requests from foreign visitors for more foreign-language subtitles for domestic TV programs. The envisaged system will be offered for news programs related to visitors’ safety and security during their stay, as well as variety shows.

A TV station broadcasts a program in the original Japanese, then the contents are automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles. Finally, the subtitles are sent to TV screens via the Internet.

The ministry will form a promotional organization comprising broadcasting stations, IT firms, electronics companies, research institutes and others by the year-end. The organization is expected to begin trials in fiscal 2015.

The ministry will encourage the communications and IT industries to take part in offering translation and subtitle distribution services for the system. The promotional organization will be tasked with studying how the cost of translation services and distributing the subtitles should be covered.

ENDS

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

KM:  I have a few thoughts about this:

  1. It probably would be nice to have more programing with English subtitles (and subtitles in other languages) but I’m a bit surprised that such a huge adjustment to daily programing in Japan would be made on behalf of those visiting short-term for the olympics. Of course, it would be open to anyone but the article (and a similar article in Japanese) makes it sound like the olympics and the comments of short-term visitors are primary motivations for the change.
  2. The article says that Japanese content will be “automatically translated by a system to produce the foreign-language subtitles.” Such subtitles might be intelligible for things like a weather forecast, but I can’t imagine them being of much use (except as something to laugh at — because of their poor quality) with variety programs.
  3. Instead of making a major adjustment like this to satisfy the whims of short-term visitors, perhaps the money to make this change could be spent to improve the quality of disaster information and disaster warning systems for people who actually live here.

 

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

Japanese:

テレビに外国語の字幕、五輪までに実現…総務省
2014年07月21日 読売新聞
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/it/20140721-OYT1T50025.html

総務省は、テレビのニュース番組などに英語や中国語など外国語の字幕が表示されるよう取り組む方針だ。

東京五輪・パラリンピックが開かれる2020年までに表示が始まるようにする。増加する訪日外国人が、より快適に過ごせる環境を整備する狙いだ。

日本を訪れた外国人から、テレビ番組に外国語の字幕を増やしてほしいとの声が出ており、滞在中の安心・安全にかかわるニュースのほか、バラエティー番組などで対応することにした。

字幕は、インターネットと接続するテレビに表示する。放送局が番組を電波で流し、自動翻訳システムで外国語に変換した字幕をネット経由で画面に映す仕組みを想定している。年内に放送局やIT企業、家電メーカー、研究機関などによる推進組織を設立し、15年度から実証実験を始める。

ENDS

JT: Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts and columnist Eric Johnston; why I doubt that will happen

mytest

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Hello Blog.  In the wake of last week’s shocking decision that NJ of any status have no automatic right to their paid-in social welfare benefits, here’s another push for increased protections for Japan’s minorities that looks unlikely in this current political climate to come to pass, despite both the court rulings and the gaiatsu pressure from overseas:

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

NATIONAL / SOCIAL ISSUES
Japan needs to get tough on hate speech: U.N. experts
Japan Times/JIJI JUL 16, 2014
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/16/national/social-issues/get-tough-hate-speech-u-n-experts/

Japan came under pressure at a U.N. meeting Tuesday to do more to help stop hate speech that promotes discrimination by race or nationality.

“According to information we received, there have been more than 360 cases of racist demonstrations and speeches in 2013, mainly in Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo,” Yuval Shany from Israel, one of the experts at the U.N. Human Rights Committee, said at the meeting in Geneva.

Shany asked Japan whether it is considering adopting legislation to address hate and racist speech.

Existing laws in Japan do not allow police to intervene to stop hate speech demonstrations, Shany said at the meeting held to review the civil and political rights situation in Japan.

“It seems almost nothing has been done by the government to react to Japanese-only signs which have been posted in a number of places,” Shany said.

Another committee member, Zonke Majodina from South Africa, asked if Japan has “plans to enact a national anti-discrimination law, for direct and indirect discrimination, applying to both public and private sectors, complying with international standards and ensuring equal protection to everyone.”

Elsewhere in the meeting, committee members questioned whether human rights are protected in Japan under the country’s capital punishment system, as well as its system designed to provide equal employment opportunities for men and women.

The review is scheduled to continue into Wednesday when it is expected to cover the issue of “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.

This is the committee’s first review of Japan in six years. The committee is set to announce recommendations for improvement on July 24.

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

NATIONAL | VIEW FROM OSAKA
Time for legislation to prevent spread of hate speech
BY ERIC JOHNSTON, JUL 19, 2014
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/19/national/time-for-legislation-to-prevent-spread-of-hate-speech/

On July 8, the Osaka High Court ruled that, yes, standing in front of a primary school while kids are in class, shouting through a megaphone that they and their parents are not human, and then vandalizing the school’s property, is legal discrimination.

The decision against the anti-Korean group Zaitokukai for its actions at a pro-North Korean school in Kyoto is welcomed by all civilized people and will likely (unless the notoriously conservative Supreme Court hears the case) end one of the more high-profile hate speech cases seen in Kansai or elsewhere in Japan.

However, the Kyoto incident is just one of many involving what some countries legally define, and ban, as hate speech. Yet Japan, citing freedom of expression, is reluctant to confront the issue.

Given the official silence and unofficial tolerance, it’s hardly surprising that hate speech is on the rise, especially in Kansai:

• In 2011, a Zaitokukai representative visited a Nara museum running a temporary exhibition on Japan’s occupation of Korea. He later showed up in front of the museum and hurled insults at people of “burakumin” (social outcast class) origin, since the museum also has a permanent exhibition on the buraku people. Thankfully, the man was forced to pay ¥1.5 million — not for making derogatory remarks against Koreans or buraku people, per se, but for “defamation of the museum.”

• In a particularly shocking case, a 14-year-old girl in Osaka’s traditional Korean district of Tsuruhashi participated in a February 2013 anti-Korean demonstration by shouting through a megaphone that she wanted to kill all of the Koreans in the area.

When comments by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto about Japan’s prewar “comfort women” system being necessary at the time were added to the mix a few months after the Tsuruhashi incident, Osaka found itself with a reputation both inside and outside of Japan as an intolerant city under mob rule, a place where misogynists, bigots and hate-mongers can say whatever they want without fear of social or legal reprisals.

The good news is that, finally, more and more people in Osaka and the Kansai region are fighting back against the haters.

Counter-demonstrations against Zaitokukai in particular are increasing. At the same time, there is a feeling among many here that, as Osaka and Korea have a deep ties, things will work themselves out.

But that’s the problem. What’s needed now is not “historical perspective,” “understanding” or “respect,” but legislation ensuring protection and punishment. This is precisely because perspective, understanding and respect alone will not stop hate speech — especially that directed at new groups or those who have not traditionally been as ostracized as ethnic minorities.

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/19/national/time-for-legislation-to-prevent-spread-of-hate-speech/

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

As Eric noted, there is the muscle (such as it is) of Japan’s judiciary recently supporting something like this:

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

NATIONAL / CRIME & LEGAL
Japanese high court upholds ruling against anti-Korean activists’ hate speech
KYODO, JUL 8, 2014

The Osaka High Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that branded as “discriminatory” demonstrations staged near a pro-Pyongyang Korean school by anti-Korean activists who used hate-speech slogans.

A three-judge high court panel turned down an appeal by the Zaitokukai group against the Kyoto District Court decision ordering that it pay about ¥12 million in damages to the school operator, Kyoto Chosen Gakuen.

The order also banned the group from staging demonstrations near the school in Minami Ward, Kyoto.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Mori said in the high court ruling that Zaitokukai members staged the demonstrations near the school with the intention of spreading anti-Korean sentiment among Japanese people.

Mori said Zaitokukai members’ activities were not intended to serve the public interest and that the group’s actions seriously damaged the school’s provision of ethnic education.

The ruling found that eight Zaitokukai activists staged anti-Korean demonstrations near the school three times between 2009 and 2010, using loudspeakers to denounce those inside.

They yelled slogans, accusing the students of being “children of North Korean agents” and demanding that all ethnic Koreans be kicked out of Japan.

The activists posted footage of their activities on the Internet.

In October 2013, the Kyoto District Court accepted a lawsuit by the school operator, ordering the nationalist group to pay damages and noting that Zaitokukai’s activities run counter to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which came into force in 1969. Japan ratified the convention in 1995.

During the high court hearings, Zaitokukai argued that their members exercised their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and argued that the damages were excessive.

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/08/national/crime-legal/japanese-high-court-upholds-ruling-anti-korean-activists-hate-speech/

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

For the record, here’s how people deal with it in other countries, such as, oh, the European Parliament and France:

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

WORLD / SOCIAL ISSUES
Polish MEP’s racial slur sparks anger
AFP-JIJI JUL 17, 2014

STRASBOURG, FRANCE – A far-right Polish MEP outraged lawmakers gathered in the European Parliament on Wednesday by comparing the continent’s unemployed youth to “niggers” in the U.S. South.

Janusz Korwin-Mikke, the outspoken leader of the royalist and libertarian Congress of the New Right party, delivered the remark during a speech to deputies decrying the existence of minimum wage laws.

Comparing job-seeking youth to black laborers in the American South during the 1960s, Korwin-Mikke said: “Four millions humans lost jobs. Well, it was four million niggers. But now we have 20 millions Europeans who are the Negroes of Europe.

“Yes, they are treated like Negroes!

“We must destroy the minimum wage and we must destroy the power of trade unions,” the 72-year-old added, before being shouted down in the parliament session.

The Socialist coalition immediately called on Korwen-Mikke to apologize or resign over what it called the “worst insult of racist discrimination and humiliation.”

“What Mr. Korwin-Mikke has preached did not only offend those that have a different skin color, but everyone who is inspired by the European values of dignity and equality,” said Italian Socialist Cecile Kyenge, who is of Congolese origin.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/17/world/social-issues-world/polish-meps-racial-slur-remark-sparks-anger/

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

Front National politician sentenced to jail for ape slur
Anne-Sophie Leclere handed nine-month prison term for comparing French justice minister to chimpanzee
Agence France-Presse in Cayenne
The Guardian, Wednesday 16 July 2014 13.20 EDT
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/french-national-front-politician-sentenced-to-jail-monkey-slur-christiane-taubira

A former local election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) in France has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s justice minister, who is black, to an ape.

Anne-Sophie Leclere provoked a storm last year when she compared Christiane Taubira to an ape on French television and posted a photomontage on Facebook that showed the justice minister, who is from French Guiana, alongside a baby chimpanzee. The caption under the baby ape said “At 18 months”, and the one below Taubira’s photograph read “Now”.

Leclere was an FN candidate in Rethel, in the eastern Ardennes region, for the 2014 local elections, but the FN soon dropped her and went on to do well in the March polls.

On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne, French Guiana’s capital, sentenced her to nine months in jail, banned her from standing for election for five years, and imposed a €50,000 (£39,500) fine. French Guiana is an overseas département of France and is inside the European Union. It also handed the FN a €30,000 fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party, founded by Taubira.

The court went well beyond the demands of prosecutors, who had asked for a four-month jail sentence and a €5,000 fine.

Leclere, who was not present in the court, said that she would appeal. The FN said it would also appeal, denouncing the sentences as “appalling” and criticising the trial as a “trap”, as the party was unable to find a lawyer in Cayenne to defend it.

In a television appearance last year, Leclere said she would prefer to see Taubira “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government”.

“She is wild,” Leclere said, adding: “I have black friends and it doesn’t mean I call them monkeys.”

Leclere has since defended her comments, saying that while clumsy, they were not racist. She said the photo montage was a joke, and added: “The photo was posted on my Facebook page and I took it off a few days later. I was not the creator of this photograph.”

Taubira has been on the receiving end of several racial slurs over the past year. Not long after Leclere’s comments, the far-right weekly newspaper Minute published a cover featuring a picture of Taubira and headlines that read: “Crafty as a monkey” and “Taubira gets her banana back”.

In French, getting your banana back is roughly the equivalent of recovering the spring in your step.

Joel Pied, of Walwari, said Tuesday’s court decision was “historic and beneficial”. He said: “A prominent institution of the republic recognises that the Front National is punishable by law and that it’s a racist party. We hope this decision will mark a milestone.”

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

Thanks for the reference to our work, United Nations.  So there is precedent, example, template, and international embarrassment.  Will this result in a law in Japan against hate speech (ken’o hatsugen)?  I say again: not in the foreseeable future, sadly.  As noted on Debito.org many times, we have had all four of these pressures in Japan for decades now (not to mention an international treaty signed in specific), yet we still can’t get a law against racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu) in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

In a stunning decision, Japan’s Supreme Court overturns Fukuoka High Court, rules that NJ Permanent Residents (etc.) not automatically eligible for social welfare benefits

mytest

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Hi Blog. There has already been an enormous outpouring of outrage at Friday’s Supreme Court decision in Japan’s NJ communities, so Debito.org will echo those sentiments and provide a forum for them to also be expressed here.

In an event sure to make my year-end top ten most important human rights issues of 2014, Japan’s highest court just overturned the Fukuoka High Court’s 2011 decision, ruling that an octogenarian granny who, despite being born in Japan, living her life here as a Zainichi Special Permanent Resident, and contributing to Japan’s social welfare systems, has no right to the benefits of her contributions because she’s foreign (i.e., not “kokumin”).  More comment after the articles:

/////////////////////////////////////////
NATIONAL / SOCIAL ISSUES
Foreign residents can’t claim welfare benefits: Supreme Court
Japan Times/KYODO JUL 18, 2014, Courtesy lots of people
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/18/national/social-issues/top-court-rules-non-japanese-residents-ineligible-welfare-benefits/

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that foreigners with permanent residency status are ineligible for welfare benefits, overturning a decision by the Fukuoka High Court that had acknowledged their eligibility under the public assistance law.

The decision by the top court’s Second Petit Bench concerned a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency who was born and grew up in Japan.

The woman applied for welfare benefits with the Oita municipal office in Oita Prefecture in December 2008 but was denied the benefits on the grounds she had some savings.

The woman then filed a suit demanding that the city’s decision be repealed. She is now receiving the benefits because the municipality accepted her welfare application in October 2011.

While the recipients of welfare benefits are limited to Japanese nationals by law, the government issued a notice in 1954 saying foreigners should be treated in accordance with the public assistance law.

Since the government limited recipients to Japanese nationals and foreigners with permanent residency in 1990, municipalities have exercised their discretion in doling out the benefits.

In October 2010, the Oita District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit, saying that denying the public assistance law to foreigners was within the discretion of a municipal government.

In November 2011, however, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that foreigners with permanent residency have been protected under the public assistance law.
/////////////////////////////////////////

最高裁が初判断「外国人は生活保護法の対象外」
NHK 7月18日 17時49分, Courtesy PKU
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140718/k10013123601000.html

日本に住む外国人が生活に困窮した場合、法的に生活保護の対象になるかどうかが争われた裁判で、最高裁判所は「法律が保護の対象とする『国民』に外国人は含まれない」とする初めての判断を示しました。

生活に困窮した外国人への生活保護費の支給は、永住資格を持つ人や難民認定された人などを対象に、人道上の観点から自治体の裁量で行われています。
これについて、永住資格を持つ大分市の中国国籍の女性が起こした裁判で、外国人が法的にも保護の対象になるかどうかが争いになり、2審の福岡高等裁判所が「法的な保護の対象だ」と判断したため、国が上告していました。
18日の判決で最高裁判所第2小法廷の千葉勝美裁判長は「生活保護法が保護の対象とする『国民』に外国人は含まれない」とする初めての判断を示しました。
そのうえで「法的保護の対象を拡大するような法改正もされておらず、外国人は自治体の裁量による事実上の保護の対象にとどまる」と指摘して、2審の判決を取り消しました。
今回の最高裁判決はあくまで法律の解釈を示したもので、自治体が裁量で行っている外国人への生活保護には直ちに影響を及ぼさないものとみられます。

原告弁護士が判決を批判
判決について、原告の弁護士は会見で「法律の中の『国民』ということばだけを見て、実態に踏み込んでいない形式的な判断だ。外国人に生活保護を受給させるかどうかは行政の自由裁量だと最高裁がお墨付きを与えるもので問題だ」と批判しました。
さらに「外国人は日本で生活してはいけないと言っているのと同じで、安倍内閣は成長戦略の一環として外国人の受け入れを拡大するとしながら、一方でセーフティネットは認めないというのなら日本にこようとする外国人はいないだろう。なんらかの形で外国人の受給について法律の改正をしなければならない」と指摘しました。

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

COMMENT:  The implications of this are pretty obvious:  NJ can be taxed and exploited at will, but if there’s ever a question of the local government not thinking that NJ deserve social welfare benefits, too bad, because they’re not guaranteed.  We’ll just take your money and deprive you of any guarantee that you’ll ever any equal benefit from it.

I’ve written about this case numerous times before.  Excerpts:

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Kyodo: Court overrules Oita Pref who tried to deny a 78-year-old NJ welfare benefits

Kyodo: A Japanese court repealed on Thursday a decision by Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan not to examine a request from a 78-year-old Chinese woman to look into a decision by Oita City that rejected her application for welfare benefits.

A three-judge panel at the Oita District Court acted on a suit filed by the woman, who has obtained permanent residency status in Japan, against the Oita prefectural government decision that turned away the woman’s request, filed in February last year, to examine the Oita municipal government decision not to provide welfare benefits to her.

The prefectural government dismissed the woman’s request without examining it, saying she was not eligible to seek benefits because she does not have Japanese nationality.

In Thursday’s ruling, the district court said the prefectural government must review the municipal government decision in line with the woman’s request, and decide whether she should be given benefits.

Presiding Judge Kenji Kanamitsu brushed aside the prefectural government’s argument that the city’s decision not to provide her with benefits was a ”unilateral administrative action” against a foreigner who has no right to seek welfare benefits, and not an ”administrative decision” as she claimed, whose appropriateness can be reviewed under the administrative appeal law.

Judge Kanamitsu said the woman is ”obviously” eligible to ask the prefectural government to review the municipal government decision.

”An application for welfare benefits has been rejected, and it means the same to the applicants, regardless of their nationalities,” the judge said…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7563

BUT

17) Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.

After a half-month interlude of light and reason (as in September 30 to October 18), where it actually looked like a Japanese courtroom was actually going to be nice to somebody and rule against The State, another court has come along and put things back to normal:

Mainichi: The Oita District Court ruled on Oct. 18 that foreigners with the right to permanent residence but without Japanese citizenship are not entitled to welfare benefits, rejecting the claims of a 78-year-old Chinese woman who sued after being denied benefits by the Oita city government…

According to the ruling, the woman has Chinese nationality but was born in Japan and holds the right to permanent residence. In December 2008, the woman applied to the welfare office in Oita city for welfare payments, but was turned down with the reason that she had “a comfortable amount of money” in her savings.

The main issues of the trial became whether the woman held the right as a foreigner to receive welfare payments and whether her financial status justified her receiving aid…”

COMMENT: Gee, that was quick by Japanese judicial standards! I guess they know the value of putting the kibosh on something before the floodgates open: Can’t have all the goddamn foreigners expecting to have rights to something like our social welfare benefits, especially at an advanced age.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7639

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

Then, as the clock continues to run out for this superannuated NJ, we now have another flip, fortunately in the more inclusive direction:

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

Court rules noncitizens are eligible for welfare

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 17, 2011), courtesy of lots of people
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111116006297.htm

FUKUOKA–The Fukuoka High Court ruled Tuesday that permanent residents in in Japan with foreign nationalities are eligible to receive public welfare assistance, overturning a lower court ruling.

The high court accepted an appeal by a 79-year-old woman who is a permanent resident in Japan with Chinese nationality. She filed the lawsuit, claiming that the Oita city government illegally rejected her request for public welfare assistance.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Koga said in the ruling, “Foreign citizens with permanent residency [in Japan] are legally guaranteed the same status as Japanese citizens who receive the same treatment.”

The high court overturned the Oita District Court’s ruling and nullified the Oita city government’s decision not to grant the woman public welfare benefits.

According to a lawyer for the plaintiff, it is the nation’s first court ruling to present a legal basis for foreign permanent residents in Japan to receive public welfare benefits.

According to the ruling, the woman applied for the public welfare at the Oita city government in December 2008, but the city government rejected her request.

The point at issue in the lawsuit was whether the Daily Life Protection Law can be applied to noncitizens.

Full blog entry at http://www.debito.org/?p=9658

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And as I wrote in my Japan Times column of January 3, 2012, where I was ranking the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2012 for NJ in Japan:

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

6.  Oita denial of benefits overturned

News photo

In 2008, Oita Prefecture heartlessly rejected a welfare application from a 78-year-old Chinese (a permanent resident born in Japan) because she is somehow still a foreigner. Then, in a shocking ruling on the case two years later, the Oita District Court decreed that NJ are not automatically eligible for social welfare. Finally, in November, this stubborn NJ, in her 80th year, won a reversal at the Fukuoka High Court — on the grounds that international law and treaty created obligations for “refugees (sic) (to be accorded) treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals.”

What caused the confusion was that in 1981, the Diet decided that revising the public welfare law to eliminate nationality requirements was unnecessary, since practical application already provided NJ with benefits. Three decades later, Oita Prefecture and its district court still hadn’t gotten the memo.

Bravo for this NJ for staying alive long enough to prize her case away from xenophobic local bureaucrats and set congruent legal precedents for all NJ.

Full article at http://www.debito.org/?p=9837

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And now the pendulum has swung again, with a great big Bronx Cheer for all NJ in Japan.

My final thought on this for now is how the online commenters (who consistently blame NJ for anything bad that happens to them) spin this one against the plaintiff?  It’s a challenge:  She’s an 82-year-old granny Zainichi living her entire life in Japan trying to get her tax benefits back, for heaven’s sake.  Still, the reflexes are kicking in.  We’ve already had one person commenting at the Japan Times about how this ruling was a means to deal with “illegal immigrants” somehow (the JT immediately spotted this as trolling and deleted it; wish they would be more proactive with my columns, as trolls keep derailing any meaningful debate).  Any more gems out there, go ahead and quote them in the Comments section below.  A ruling this egregiously anti-NJ becomes an interesting psychological experiment to see how far the self-hating gaijin will go to deny they have any rights to anything whatsoever in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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UPDATE JULY 25, 2014: THIS VERY BLOG ENTRY GETS CITED IN THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST.  THANKS!

Anger erupts over court denial of welfare to foreign permanent residents of Japan
Japanese Supreme Court rules that a Chinese permanent resident is not entitled to payouts even though she has paid taxes all her life
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST : Monday, 21 July, 2014,
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1557063/anger-erupts-over-court-denial-welfare-foreign-permanent-residents-japan

Activists, analysts and foreign residents of Japan have reacted with dismay to a decision by the Supreme Court that foreigners with permanent residency are not entitled to welfare benefits.

Friday’s ruling by the highest court means that even foreign nationals born in Japan, who have spent all their lives in the country and paid their taxes, national insurance premiums and state pension requirements are still not guaranteed to receive financial support when they need it.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturned an earlier ruling by the Fukuoka high court that granted welfare to an 82-year-old Chinese woman who was born and raised in Japan.

The woman had applied for assistance to the municipal office in Oita prefecture in December 2008, but her request was refused because she had savings. The woman launched a legal case demanding that the decision be reversed on the grounds that she had paid taxes to the national and prefectural governments throughout her life.

In the first ruling of its kind, the Supreme Court stated that, from a legal standpoint, permanent foreign residents do not qualify for public assistance because they are not Japanese.

The ruling apparently gives local authorities across Japan the legal right to halt financial assistance to non-Japanese residents. The fact that many municipalities across the country are facing economic hardship may increase the risk of city governments seeking to exercise that right.

“It’s shameful,” said Eric Fior, a French national who owns a language school in Yokohama and who has lived in Japan for more than a decade.

“It’s bad enough that foreign residents do not have the right to vote at any level in Japan, but when you pay your taxes and contribute to the pension scheme, it’s something of an insult to be told that you have no right to get some of that money back when you need it,” he said.

“I imagine that many foreign residents will be asking themselves why they have to pay their taxes.”

The Oita case has been followed closely by Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is “foreign”.

“The implications of this are pretty obvious,” Arudou wrote in his most recent blog posting. “Non-Japanese can be taxed and exploited at will, but if there’s ever a question of the local government thinking that nonJapanese deserve social welfare benefits, too bad because they’re not guaranteed,” he wrote.

“We’ll just take your money and deprive you of any guarantee that you’ll ever get any equal benefit from it.”

The post has generated heated comment. One person wrote: “The sheer pettiness and nastiness of the court’s decision just disgusts me.”

Other posters said the decision would have an impact on the government’s campaign to attract skilled foreign nationals to work in Japan in an effort to combat the dramatically shrinking population.

Conservatives have applauded the court’s decision.

“The state cannot provide benefits to all the poor people who come to Japan,” said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University.

“The problem in this particular case is that the woman chose not to take Japanese nationality and chose to remain Chinese,” he said. “If Japan allowed all foreign residents unlimited access to welfare, then the country would go bust.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Foreigners riled over welfare ruling
ENDS

JDriver on J Driver License renewals and questionable legality of residency/Gaijin Card checks to ferret out “illegal overstayers”

mytest

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Hi Blog. We’ve discussed on Debito.org before the rigmarole of NJ drivers in Japan getting J Driver Licenses, being subjected to extra intrusive procedures that are of questionable legality. Well, a Debito.org Reader decided to do his civic duty and ask for some reasons why. And this is what he found out. Read on and feel free to contribute your own experiences. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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July 13, 2014
Hi Debito, I’m a long time reader, but rarely have time to comment. I’ve had a pretty disheartening, if not entirely surprising, experience recently when I went to renew my drivers license and thought I’d share it with you and perhaps your readers if you find it worthwhile to share.

As you might know, residents of foreign citizenship (外国籍の方 in the bureaucratic parlance) are required to show their residence cards or in other way demonstrate their status of residence when getting or renewing their drivers license. Obedient citizen as I am, of course I went along with it and presented it when asked, but I did make clear I would like to be clarified on the legal basis for such a request. I didn’t expect that the person doing the registration would know something like this off the top of their head, but I was intended on talking to someone eventually who could point to this and that paragraph of this or that law that governs these circumstances.

So after all the procedure was finished and I got my license, I went to the window I was told I’d get my questions answered. The first person could only, after quite a while, produce the Immigration law article 23, which only says that you are in general required to present the passport or the residence card when the police and other authorities ask for it “in the execution of their duties.” So I asked for a specific law or ordinance that shows that in this concrete case it is indeed their duty to ask for the card. I got sent to her boss, who again only wasted my time with the same answer (Immigration law) and got irritated and dismissed me, but not before arranging for me to see the final boss of bosses, who should be able to answer my, I thought very simple, question i.e. what is the legal basis for what you’re doing?

Neither the last guy could legitimize the demand in legal terms, so we agreed that he will research it and call me later to let me know. He did call later the same day, only to tell me that after all, the legal basis would have to be in the Immigration law, because he couldn’t find any other! He said it is all done to prevent the “illegal overstayers” from getting drivers license, as if that, or any other goal, would justify working outside of legal framework.

I was flabbergasted that apparently no one in the whole Koto drivers center (江東試験場) knew the legal basis of their actions. I understand the receptionists, but I went four stages up their hierarchy and still nobody could justify their demands in legal terms. I’ve read the law on traffic before I went there and knew it did not specify this (道路交通法 http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S35/S35HO105.html) but I revisited it again afterwards. Neither it, nor the other major traffic law (道路法 http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S27/S27HO180.html) even mention status of residence or residence cards at all, and most certainly not when specifying the circumstances in which the authorities can refuse to issue you the license (physically unfit, alcoholism etc) It actually specifically states that they must issue you the permit if these do not apply, and you’ve passed the test (Article 90
公安委員会は、前条第一項の運転免許試験に合格した者(当該運転免許試験に係る適性試験を受けた日から起算して、第一種免許又は第二種免許にあつては一年を、仮免許にあつては三月を経過していない者に限る。)に対し、免許を与えなければならない。)

So I am now faced with an inevitable conclusion that they asking for residence cards is likely ILLEGAL. Of course, this is a condition which only applies to foreign residents, so it is unlikely to cause a national uproar, but it is nevertheless very unsettling, and not only for NJ, which might be the primary target at present. My biggest problem in all this is that they seemed genuinely baffled that someone is asking for a legal basis for their conduct, and the inability of the whole place to come up with a justification. It seems to me the bureaucracy is very much used to acting outside the legal framework, or at the very least, do not think of their daily work as something done only on the firm basis of law.

I would be very much interested to hear your and your readers thoughts and perhaps similar experiences. I am seriously considering refusing to show the card next time, but bring the printed letter of the law which says they are obliged to issue me with a permit.

Sincerely, JDriver

Japan Times JBC 77 July 3, 2014,”Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world”, modified version with links to sources

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks for putting my column once again in the Top 10 read articles for two days!  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito:

justbecauseicon.jpg

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COMPLEXES CONTINUE TO COLOR JAPAN’S AMBIVALENT TIES TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD

JAPAN TIMES JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 77
Published July 3, 2014, amended version from unanticipated edits with links to sources.

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/07/02/issues/complexes-continue-color-japans-ambivalent-ties-outside-world/

Hang around Japan long enough and you’re bound to hear the refrain that the Japanese have an inferiority complex (rettōkan) towards “Westerners” (ōbeijin).

You’ll hear, for example, that Japanese feel a sense of akogare (adoration) towards them, wishing Japanese too had longer legs, deeper noses, lighter and rounder eyes, lighter skin, etc. You’ll see this reflected in Japan’s advertising angles, beauty and whitening products, and cosmetic surgery. [Endnote 1]

This can be quite ingratiating and disarming to the (white) foreigners being flattered, who have doubtless heard complementary refrains in Western media about how the short, humble, stoic Japanese are so shy, self-deprecating and appreciative.

But people don’t seem to realize that inferiority complexes have a dark side: They justify all kinds of crazy beliefs and behavior.

For example, Japan’s pundits have already begun arguing that Japan’s disappointing performance in the World Cup in Brazil was partly down to the fallacy that Japanese bodies are smaller and weaker than those of foreigners. Japan’s sports leagues have long used this belief to justify limiting foreign players on teams — as if it somehow “equalizes” things.

This “equalization” is not limited to the infamous examples of baseball and sumo. The National Sports Festival (kokutai),[2] Japan’s largest amateur athletic meeting, bans almost all foreigners. Japan’s popular Ekiden footrace bans all foreigners from the first leg of the marathon, and from 2007 has capped foreign participants on teams at two (the logic being that the Ekiden would become “dull” (kyōzame) without a Japanese winning).[3]

Who is a “foreigner”? It’s not just a matter of citizenship: The Japan Sumo Association decided to count even naturalized Japanese citizens as “foreign” in 2010, in clear violation of the Nationality Law. (Somebody, please sue!)

These limitations also apply to intellectual contests. Until 2006, Japan’s national Takamado English Speech Contests barred all people (including Japanese) with “foreign ancestry”. This included non-English-speaking countries, the argument being that any foreign blood somehow injects an unfair linguistic advantage. (After 2006, Takamado provided a list of English-speaking countries whose descendants would continue to be ineligible.)

This is atrocious reasoning. But it is so hegemonic because of Japan’s long history of race-based superiority studies.

In 1875, Yukichi Fukuzawa (the man gracing our ¥10,000 note) wrote an influential treatise called “An Outline of a Theory of Civilization.” Borrowing from Western eugenics, he reordered the world to correlate levels of civilization with skin color.[4]

White-hued people were at the top, dark-skinned people at the bottom. Naturally for Fukuzawa, Asians were ranked just below whites. And, naturally, Japanese were the most “civilized” of the Asians.

The West has largely moved on from this dangerous bunkum, thanks to the “master race” excesses of World War II and Nazi Germany’s Final Solution. However, Japan’s social sciences still largely ascribe to century-old social stratification systems that see race as a biological construct, and bloodlines and blood types as determinants of behavior.

So far, so Japanese Society 101. But the point I want to stress here is that inferiority complexes are counterintuitively counterproductive.

I say counterintuitive because they foster feelings not of humility towards people they admire, but of anger. Yes, anger.

Harvard University anthropologist Ayu Majima discusses this in her 2013 essay “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan.” She talks about how the elites of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) (who would set Japan’s nascent national narratives) felt a sense of “distance, inferiority and disjuncture towards the West.”[5]

Distance was a big theme back then. Although Japan is of course geographically Asian, with deep historical connections to China, Fukuzawa and other Meiji Era elites advocated that Japan “quit Asia and enter Europe” (datsu-a nyū-ō).

So that’s what happened. Over several decades, Japan industrialized, militarized, colonized and adopted the fashions and trappings of “Western civilization.” Japan sought recognition and acceptance from the West not as an inferior, but as a fellow world power. Japan wanted the sense of distance to disappear.

But that didn’t happen. Japan’s elites were shocked when the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) refused to include in its 1919 Covenant an anti-racial discrimination clause that Japan (yes!) had demanded. More shocking was when Japan was treated like a “colored,” “uncivilized” nation under America’s Asian Exclusion Act of 1924.[6]

This is where the psychology of inferiority complexes is generally misunderstood. When people try this hard for validation and don’t get it, it doesn’t engender the passive humility and must-try-harder attitudes so often gushed about in the Western media regarding Japan.

Majima argues, “While an inferiority complex is generally regarded as a sense of inferiority towards oneself, it should rather be regarded as a sense of indignity and anger towards the lack of recognition of one’s worth . . . for not being recognized, approved or admitted by the important ‘other.’ “

So instead you get isolation, loneliness, anxiety and scant sense of belonging. (I’m sure you long-termers who feel unrecognized for all your efforts to “fit in to Japan” can relate to this.)

How did Japan react to being rebuffed? Policymakers declared that Japan neither belonged to the East nor the West. It isolated itself.

Worse, according to Majima, “Japan sought to identify itself through the unstable ‘distance’ between self and others as ‘tradition.’ “

Ah, tradition. Lovely thing, that. It turns this angry mindset from a phase in Japan’s history into part of its permanent self-image.

This feeling of isolation gave rise to Japan’s “cult of uniqueness,” and it dominates Japan’s self-image today, constantly vacillating between superiority and inferiority when dealing with foreigners. This “tradition” of ranking oneself in comparison with others, particularly in terms of degrees of civilization, has become ingrained as cultural habit and reflex.

And that’s why inferiority complexes are counterproductive for Japan’s relationship to the outside world: They make it more difficult for “foreigners” to be seen and treated as individuals. Instead, they get thrust into the impossible role of national or cultural representative of a whole society.

They also make it more difficult for Japanese to be neutral towards foreigners. Rather, the default reflex is to see them in terms of comparative national development and civilization.

These complexes also interfere with constructive conversations. For if acceptance, recognition and superlative praise of Japan as a safe, peaceful, developed country are not forthcoming from the outsider, insult and anger almost inevitably ensue. After all, criticism of Japan besmirches its self-image as a civilized society.

This is especially true when it comes to issues of racial discrimination in Japan. Japanese society is loath to admit it ever happens here — because racial discrimination is not what “civilized” societies do. I will discuss this in a future column.

============================
Debito Arudou received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDNOTES:

[1] Ashikari, Mikiko. 2005. “Cultivating Japanese Whiteness: The ‘Whitening’ Cosmetics Boom and the Japanese Identity.” Journal of Material Culture 10(1): 73-91.

[2] References includeArudou Debito, “A level playing field? National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit.” Japan Times, September 30, 2003; “Sumo shutout in Fukushima.” Japan Times, September 30, 2003; “Top court upholds foreigner ban.” Japan Times, June 12, 2004. See also Douglas Shukert’s testimonial about his case at www.debito.org/TheCommunity/kokutaiproject.html. Also, JASA’s information on the Kokutai is at www.japan-sports.or.jp/kokutai/, in English at www.japan-sports.or.jp/english (which makes no mention of nationality requirements for participants).

[3] Sources include “Foreign students can’t start ekiden.” Asahi Shinbun, May 24, 2007; “Let’s be fair, let Japanese win.” Deutsche Press-Agentur, October 4, 2007. The official site for the High School Ekiden is at www.koukouekiden.jp. Restrictions on “foreign exchange students” are at www.koukouekiden.jp/summary/point.html (items 5 and 6), and prior race results are at www39.atwiki.jp/highschoolekiden.

[4] Dilworth, David A. et al. trans. 2009. Yukichi Fukuzawa: An Outline of a Theory of Civilization. New York: Columbia University Press.

[5] Majima, Ayu. 2013. “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan: Male Elites’ Racial Experiences Abroad, 1880s-1950s.” In Kowner, Rotem, and Walter Demel, eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

[6] Cf. Lauren 1988; Kearney 1998; Dikötter 2006.  Even then, as Russell (in Weiner, ed. 2009:  99) notes, “[Japan’s] rhetoric of racial equality left much to be desired, for not only did Japan’s racial equality clause not question the right of League members to possess colonies (at the time Japan was also seeking [a new colony in China]) but its demand for ‘fair and equal treatment’ applied only to ‘civilized nations’ (bunmei koku) and League member states – not to their colonies and subject peoples.  Japan’s ruling elites were less interested in securing equality for non-whites than in ensuring that Japan, as a sovereign nation and member of the League, would be afforded the same privileges as Western nations…”

ENDS

Japan’s population tally in media still excludes NJ residents; plus J political misogyny and appeals to gaiatsu

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader JK offers the following links and commentary about two important subjects: 1) The unwillingness of Japan’s media to count NJ as “residents” in official population tallies (despite NJ inclusion on the juumin kihon daichou Resident Registry since 2012), and 2) the widespread misogyny in Japan’s policymaking arenas that has no recourse but to appeal to pressure from the outside world (gaiatsu) for assistance (as NJ minorities clearly also must do).

Speaking to the first point in particular (since it is more within Debito.org’s purview):  Before we even touch upon the lousy demographic science, how insulting for NJ once again to simply “not count” as part of Japan’s population.

Some J-articles have minced words by qualifying the ethnically-cleansed statistic as “the population of Japanese people” (nihonjin no jinkou).  But others (see the Nikkei below) simply render it as “Japan’s population” (nihon no jinkou).  When they eventually get around to mentioning that NJ are also here, they render them as “nihon ni taizai suru gaikokujin” (NJ “staying” in Japan, as opposed to zaijuu “residing”).  How immensely arrogant and unappreciative of all that NJ residents do for Japan!  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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JK:  Hi Debito.  Passing along some links regarding Japan’s ongoing population decline.  I’ll comment afterwards.

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Population drops for fifth year as migration to cities continues
Yomiuri Shinbun, June 25, 2014
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001380919

Jiji Press:  Japan’s population on Jan. 1 of this year was down 0.19 percent from a year before at 126,434,964, falling for the fifth straight year, the internal affairs ministry said Wednesday.

The figure was calculated based on Japan’s resident registry network system and does not include foreign residents.

While the number of births in 2013 edged up 955 from the previous year to 1,030,388, the number of deaths reached a record high of 1,267,838.

As a result, the natural population decline, or the number by which deaths exceed births, stood at 237,450, the highest on record. Japan’s population marked a natural decline for the seventh consecutive year.

The number of foreign residents in Japan stood at 2,003,384 as of Jan. 1 this year, down 0.12 percent from a year earlier. Since July 2012, the resident registry network system has also handled foreign resident registration.

The population in Japan including foreign residents came to 128,438,348.

Of the total Japanese population, people aged under 15 accounted for 13.04 percent, down 0.09 percentage point, while the productive-age population, or people aged 15-64, was 61.98 percent, down 0.49 point.

The proportion of people aged 65 or over rose 0.58 point to 24.98 percent, reflecting the aging of the society.

The Japanese population in the three major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya and Kansai increased 44,276 to a record high of 64,394,619, demonstrating a tendency of the population concentrate in big cities, especially Tokyo.

Of Japan’s 47 prefectures, 39 saw their populations decline. The drop was especially steep in Akita, at 1.23 percent, Aomori, at 1.02 percent, and Yamagata, at 0.96 percent.

Fukushima Prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, saw its population fall at a slower pace of 0.72 percent. An official from the internal affairs ministry said the slowdown suggests that the impact of the nuclear accident has softened.

Eight prefectures experienced population growth, including Tokyo, at 0.53 percent, Okinawa, at 0.42 percent, and Aichi, at 0.16 percent.

Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan saw a 0.06 percent increase apparently due to a rise in the number of people moving to the prefecture to take part in reconstruction work following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The average number of members per household for the whole of Japan stood at a record low of 2.30. The average was the lowest in Tokyo, at 1.97.

Japan’s population declines for 5th straight year
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140626p2g00m0dm027000c.html

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s population stood at 126,434,964 on a resident register basis as of Jan. 1, down 243,684 from a year earlier and declining for the fifth straight year, amid a falling birthrate and a growing proportion of elderly people, government data showed Wednesday.

The number of deaths last year hit a record high of 1,267,838, while the number of births increased slightly to 1,030,388, according to the data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The number of the people aged 65 or older stood at 31,582,754 — the highest figure since 1994 when comparable data became available. The number of children aged 14 or younger stood at 16,489,385, the lowest figure since 1994.

Of the country’s 47 prefectures, 39 saw a decline in population. The population declined by 29,639 in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, followed by Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast and by Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan. Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan saw the largest rate of decline at 1.23 percent.

Miyagi, Saitama, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Shiga, Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures saw population increases, with Tokyo’s population growing 67,539, or 0.53 percent, the biggest increase among the eight prefectures.

Elderly people accounted for 24.98 percent of Japan’s population. By prefecture, the proportion was highest in Akita Prefecture at 31.23 percent and lowest in Okinawa Prefecture at 18.1 percent.

The number of foreign residents declined by 2,347 to 2,003,384, the data showed.

The population of Japanese and non-Japanese residents totaled 128,438,348.

June 26, 2014 (Mainichi Japan)

JK comments:  What is the reason the population figure does not include NJ even though the resident registry network system has been able to account for NJ registration since 2012?

How it’s rendered in Japanese:

日本の人口、5年連続減 労働力の都市部集中強まる
日本経済新聞 2014/6/25 21:16
http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXNASFS25015_V20C14A6MM8000/

総務省が25日発表した住民基本台帳に基づく1月1日時点の人口動態調査によると、日本人の総人口は1億2643万4964人で5年連続の減少となった。15~64歳の生産年齢人口は調査開始以来の最少を更新し、成長の押し下げ要因になる。人手不足の都市部に、景気回復の遅れが指摘される地方から働く世代が向かう傾向が強まり、地方では自治体の行政運営が難しさを増している。

調査期日は年度末移動の影響を避けるため3月末から1月に変更、増減は昨年1月と比べた。

日本人の総人口は前年より24万人減った。出生数はやや持ち直したが、死亡者数の増加が止まらず、自然減は7年連続。生産年齢人口は7836万人で総人口に占める割合は61.98%、65歳以上の老年人口は3158万人(同24.98%)だった。

三大都市圏に住む人は全人口の半数を超えて増え続けており、首都圏(東京、神奈川、千葉、埼玉)の人口は今年初めて3500万人を超えた。働き手が流入する首都圏は生産年齢人口の割合がなお高いが、65歳以上の割合も22.69%と前年3月末より0.55ポイント上昇、高齢化の足音が近づく。

人口が減ったのは39道府県で、秋田県と青森両県は減少率が1%を超えた。両県は増田寛也元総務相らが試算した「消滅の可能性がある」市町村の割合でも1、2位。増田氏は「東京の景気が先行して良くなると地方から人口が流出する。地方の景気回復が課題だ」と指摘する。

地方で人口減が続けば行政サービスの維持が難しくなる。秋田県は40年に今より30万人余り少ない70万人になるとの推計に基づき、地域や行政のあり方の再検討に着手。市町村とは電算システムや上下水道の維持管理の話し合いを始めた。青森県は3億円かけ結婚支援など27の人口減対策を進める。

市町村で人口減少率が高い市町村は6%を超える宮城県女川町、奈良県野迫川村、山梨県小菅村など全国に広がる。4番目に高い高知県大豊町は平均年齢が60歳を超え、年間の出生数は十数人。「集落の維持が難しい」として住民が担っていた道路の草刈りや側溝の掃除は町が臨時職員を雇って代行している。

日本人と3カ月を超えて日本に滞在する外国人を合わせた総人口は1億2843万8348人。そのうち外国人は200万人で、前年よりやや減少した。

In other news, have a look here:

Victim of sexist jeers tells foreign media more than one person responsible

Mainichi Shinbun June 25, 2014
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140625p2a00m0na009000c.html

PHOTO CAPTION:  Ayaka Shiomura meets reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on June 24. (Mainichi)

A Tokyo metropolitan assemblywoman, who was subjected to sexist jeers during a recent assembly meeting, stressed that the heckling came from more than one person as she spoke at a news conference for the foreign media.

Over 100 reporters and workers with the foreign media gathered at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on June 24 as Tokyo metropolitan assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura, 35, held a news conference over the sexist heckling during the June 18 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly meeting. She stressed once again that the heckling came from not just Akihiro Suzuki, an assembly member who has admitted to sexist jeering, but from other colleagues in the assembly. She said, “I want those who are responsible to step forward.”

At the beginning of the conference, Shiomura told reporters how the incident took place and her feelings about it.

A female Associated Press correspondent congratulated Shiomura for continuing with her speech in the assembly meeting under such circumstances, and asked her what it is like for women to be working in local assemblies and the general attitude of men in the political world. Shiomura said, “I cannot deny that it is not easy for women to work in the political scene, and I do feel that politics is built around men’s standards.”

Reporter Thomas Hoy Davidsen, from a Danish newspaper, expressed disappointment, saying, “The incident has caused deep embarrassment to Japan which is preparing to host the Olympics.”

Tokyo assembly votes down resolution calling for identifying hecklers

Mainichi Shinbun June 26, 2014
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140626p2g00m0dm028000c.html

PHOTO CAPTION:  Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member Akihiro Suzuki is seen after a press conference where he apologized for sexist heckling, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building on June 23. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Tokyo metropolitan assembly voted down on Wednesday a resolution that called for identifying assembly members who heckled an assemblywoman last week with sexist remarks, with disapproval by the Liberal Democratic Party delegation, the biggest group in the assembly.

Among a suspected few hecklers, only 51-year-old Akihiro Suzuki, who quit the LDP delegation amid the scandal, was identified as he came forward later to admit to having made one of the remarks — “You should get married first.”

The Communist Party submitted another resolution urging Suzuki to resign but the assembly voted it down.

The assembly passed another resolution submitted by five assembly groups which calls for assembly members to make efforts to restore voters’ confidence in the assembly and to prevent recurrence of a similar incident.

At the opening of the day’s plenary session, the chairman of the 127-seat assembly, Toshiaki Yoshino, urged all members to maintain order and dignity.

Last week, Ayaka Shiomura, a 35-year-old female assembly member from Your Party, was heckled during the plenary session while she was asking questions on maternity support measures.

She was heckled with such remarks as, “You should get married first,” and, “Can’t you have babies?”

On Monday, Suzuki admitted to having made the first remark and apologized to Shiomura. But he denied making the second remark.

Shiomura told reporters that one of the hecklers said, “You should have babies first.”

Last Friday, Shiomura filed a written request with the assembly chairman seeking identification of the hecklers. But Yoshino, an LDP member, refused to accept the request.

JK comments:  The quote I’d like to focus on is this: “The incident has caused deep embarrassment to Japan which is preparing to host the Olympics.”

Soo…. seeing as how the political option got voted down twice, it looks to me like the only option Shiomura has to effect change in the gikai is via pulling the shame lever in form of a Kisha Club press conference. My take is that this move is intended to generate attention with gaiatsu as a real and possible side effect.

Assuming this is case, can your conclusion to the Urawa “Japanese Only” Soccer Banner Case (i.e. Gaiatsu is basically the only way to make progress against racial discrimination in Japan) be generalized to include political misogyny as well?

ENDS

Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

mytest

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Hi Blog. Making an enormous impact was this Reuters expose that came out a little over a week ago exposing the corruption and exploitation of Japan’s deadly foreign “Trainee” System, in place since 1993.

Debito.org has talked at length about this deadly system many times before, start here. But Reuters collates the issues in a very accessible manner in its article below. A PDF with even more information and graphics, entitled “Sweatshops in Disguise”, is available at http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/14/06/JAPAN-LABOR.pdf (archived just in case on Debito.org at ReutersTraineesJapansSweatshopsinDisguise061214).

Once comment on the Reuters website that resonated with me was, “Japan is in this regard no more than a clean Third-World country.”  This horrible system should have been the shame of Japan and stopped long ago.  Instead, as it approaches its 25th anniversary, it’s gearing up for an expansion under the Abe Administration.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

 

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

Special Report: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage
BY ALEXANDRA HARNEY AND ANTONI SLODKOWSKI
HAKUSAN, Japan/HAIMEN, China, June 12 Thu Jun 12, 2014 
Courtesy: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/06/12/us-japan-labour-special-report-idUKKBN0EN06G20140612

Labor-short Japan expanding foreign trainee program

(Reuters) – Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 was a regular work day at Kameda, a family-owned apparel factory housed in rusting corrugated metal buildings in the western Japanese city of Hakusan. For three Chinese women, it was a day of escape.

At about 6:30 that morning, Ichiro Takahara, a Japanese union organizer, rolled up outside the dormitory where the women lived. Lu Xindi, Qian Juan and Jiang Cheng were waiting – they had been secretly plotting this move for months. Takahara drove them to a convenience store and then to the local labor standards office.

The story behind their flight began three years earlier and more than 900 miles (1,440 km) away in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. There, they signed up with a labor export company to work in Japan’s “foreign technical intern” program, which Tokyo insists is designed to help workers from developing countries learn advanced technical skills.

In a lawsuit filed in a Japanese court, Lu, Qian and Jiang claim that rather than training them, Kameda forced them to work excessive hours at below minimum wage. In 2011, their busiest year, the women were working 16 hours a day, six days a week, with 15 minutes for lunch, according to the lawsuit and work records. For that, they were paid around $4 per hour, according to records reviewed by Reuters.

Other former interns have made similar allegations in dozens of lawsuits filed in Japan. Their case stands out because during the time Lu, Qian and Jiang were working there, Kameda was putting pleats in Burberry BRBY.L clothes.

Japan is a key market for the British luxury brand, generating 12.8 percent of Burberry’s pre-tax profit, or around 55 million pounds ($92.5 million), in the year to March 31, 2013.

The profits came from licensing arrangements, some of which date back decades. Today, Burberry maintains licensing arrangements with four Japanese companies. The largest of these is with apparel manufacturer and retailer Sanyo Shokai, a relationship that began in 1970. Though most of what Burberry produces in Japan is sold there, factories in Japan also supply two stores in Hong Kong that sell the Burberry Blue and Burberry Black lines. Kameda was putting pleats in shirts and skirts sold by Sanyo Shokai under the Burberry Black line.

Burberry declined to allow Reuters to speak to any executives directly about the Kameda case. Through a public relations agency, it issued a statement saying Burberry had asked Sanyo Shokai to terminate its relationship with Kameda in late 2012 because Kameda was not complying with Burberry’s ethical standards.

Among Kameda’s other clients at this time were some of Japan’s largest trading houses: Itochu 8001.T and Mitsui Bussan Inter-Fashion (MIF), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsui & Co 8031.T. Mitsui said it was unaware of the lawsuit until Reuters contacted the company for comment; MIF said it would monitor the lawsuit and then decide about the company’s relationship with Kameda. Itochu said it was not aware that Kameda employed foreign technical interns.

Kameda’s website lists department store Isetan 3099.T as a client. A spokesman for the retailer, now known as Mitsukoshi Isetan, said that it has only been buying women’s apparel from Kameda since January.

The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.

Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave.

Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.

TRAINEES, NOT WORKERS

Lu, Qian and Jiang arrived in Osaka by boat on Nov. 19, 2009. Lu was 30, Qian 28, and Jiang just 19.

The women had signed up to work in Japan with a labor export company in the city of Haimen, not far from Shanghai, called Haimen Corporation for Foreign Economic & Technical Cooperation.

A woman at the company’s office who gave her name as Chen confirmed that the company sent workers to Japan to work in apparel factories. But she declined to discuss the Kameda case, or even confirm that the company had sent Lu, Qian and Jiang to Japan.

The Haimen firm then signed an agreement with Shanghai SFECO International Business Service, a subsidiary of state-owned company China SFECO Group, according to Guan Xiaojun, head of the Japan trainee department. Shanghai SFECO signed a contract with the Ishikawa Apparel Association and sent Lu, Qian and Jiang to Japan.

Guan said Lu, Qian and Jiang probably paid about RMB30,000, or more than $4,800, in “service fees”, as well as a separate fee of RMB4,550 that would be returned to the women after three years as long as they did not violate Japanese law. Asked about the accusations in the lawsuit, Guan said her company had only dispatched the workers. “Labor disputes have nothing to do with us,” she said.

The rules of the program specified that Lu, Qian and Jiang’s first year in Japan was to be devoted to training. Japanese law bars employing foreigners as unskilled laborers. But quietly, the country has been bringing in foreigners since at least the 1980s, originally to train staff of companies with operations overseas. The practice was formalized as the technical intern program in 1993.

The women received 18 days of Japanese language training in Osaka. Then, the Ishikawa Apparel Association put them on a bus for the drive to Kameda, said their lawyer, Shingo Moro.

Kameda specializes in making pleats. It had relied on foreign interns for about a decade because it couldn’t find enough workers in Japan, Yoshihiko Kameda, its president, told Reuters.

The conditions the lawsuit describes are a world apart from the clean, efficient image Japan projects to the world, and a far cry from the quintessentially British reputation on which Burberry trades.

Not long after their arrival, the apparel association took the women’s passports and passed them to Kameda in violation of Japanese law protecting interns’ freedom of movement, according to the lawsuit. An Ishikawa Apparel Association spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said the group does not conduct inappropriate supervision and training, but declined further comment citing the lawsuit.

At the factory, Lu, Qian and Jiang’s overtime stretched to more than 100 hours a month, the lawsuit says. A timesheet prepared with data supplied by Kameda to the Japanese labor standards bureau shows Lu logged an average of 208 hours a month doing overtime and “homework” during her second year in Japan. That is equivalent to almost 16 hours a day, six days a week. Japanese labor policy considers 80 hours of overtime a month the “death by overwork” threshold.

For this, Lu earned about 400 yen, about $4, an hour at Kameda, the timesheet shows. The local minimum wage at the time was 691 yen an hour, and Japanese law requires a premium of as much as 50 percent of the base wage for overtime.

In addition, during lunch breaks and after work, the women were asked to do “homework”. For this, they were paid by the piece, rather than by the hour.

At night, Lu, Qian and Jiang slept in an old factory building, their lawyer says. To catch rats, Kameda brought in a cat, which brought fleas. Lu and Qian suffered so many flea bites they developed skin conditions, the lawsuit says. Evidence compiled for the lawsuit shows the women’s legs covered in bites.

REHEARSING THE INSPECTION

Like Lu, Qian and Jiang, most interns come through a program supported by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), a foundation funded by the Japanese government and member groups. JITCO is also tasked with ensuring its members’ internship programs are properly run.

Kameda’s factory is in Hakusan, an industrial town of about 100,000 people on Japan’s west coast, a center for Japan’s once booming apparel industry. That industry has largely been reduced to family-run factories, such as Kameda’s, which mostly do small orders with quick turnarounds at low margins. Around the Kameda factory are several others that employ foreign trainees from China and Southeast Asia.

In November 2011, Kameda told the interns the plant was going to be inspected by JITCO, according to testimony the women gave Takahara’s activist group. The inspection came after four Chinese interns at a nearby apparel factory – also a member of the Ishikawa Apparel Association – fled to Takahara’s shelter and filed a complaint about labor issues.

Kameda, who lives in a large house with a manicured Japanese garden opposite the factory where he used to house the women, tried to hide their working conditions from JITCO inspectors. Kameda threatened to send them back to China if they didn’t do as they were told, according to their testimony.

The day before the inspector arrived, Kameda gave Lu, Qian and Jiang fake payslips, according to their testimony. Together with an interpreter and a representative from the apparel association, Kameda told them how to respond to questions from the inspector. They rehearsed their answers twice. The next day, when the inspector asked them if they still had their passports, the women knew to say that they did.

JITCO declined to comment on the Kameda case.

Asked about alleged abuses in the program, JITCO said in a statement that it will continue to provide legal protection for interns. JITCO will also help supervising organizations adhere to immigration and labor laws and regulations “by providing all kinds of advice, and through public relations such as seminars and teaching materials”.

In the interview with Reuters, Kameda said the interns approached him about how they should respond to the JITCO inspection several times. He denied coaching or threatening to send them home if they did not answer as instructed. But he acknowledged telling Lu, Qian and Jiang that they might be sent home, as workers at the nearby factory had been.

He also recalled telling the workers their overtime – which he said exceeded 100 hours a month at that time – might be a problem for the JITCO inspector. In fact, JITCO even warned him the interns were working too much overtime, Kameda said. Asked about this inspection, JITCO said it would not comment on individual cases.

Kameda acknowledged keeping some of his workers’ passports, but said it was at their request. He said the women sometimes worked 100 hours of overtime a month and may have put in as many as 173 hours.

Kameda also said he initially paid them less than the legal wage. But he insisted the underpayment was the result of an administrative error. The additional hours and homework, he said, were provided at the women’s behest. Kameda warned the workers that the hours they were working were longer than Japanese labor law allowed, but the workers expressed a “strong desire” to continue working long hours, he told Reuters.

No one from the Ishikawa Apparel Association visited Kameda prior to a JITCO inspection, the apparel group’s spokeswoman said. She said she was not aware of any use of falsified payslips, or of any coaching of Kameda interns. She confirmed that the interns had complained to the association about their housing. The association, she said, asked Kameda to respond to the interns’ concerns.

Lu, Qian and Jiang, who have since returned to China, declined requests for an interview. Interns who have sued their former Japanese employers can face difficulties upon returning home, including intimidation, lawsuits and penalties from the Chinese companies who sent them to Japan – and also pressure from family members ashamed of their problems overseas.

THE UNDOING

The women complained several times to Kameda about their living conditions, labor organizer Takahara says, but nothing changed until they complained to the Ishikawa Apparel Association. After the group passed on this complaint, Kameda moved the women into temporary housing while he cleaned the converted factory where they slept. It was two months before they could move back into the factory, according to Takahara.

Around August 2012, the workers reached out to Takahara’s group. Could he help the workers negotiate a settlement like the one the Chinese interns received at the nearby apparel factory? Through a colleague who spoke Chinese, Takahara told them they would not be able to continue to work after they filed their complaint. He advised the interns to keep working and collect evidence. Over the next few months, Takahara and his colleagues worked out a plan with the Kameda interns.

Takahara, now 62, had been involved in brokering settlements for foreign workers for more than a decade in western Japan. Over the years, Takahara, who also works as a gardener, had worked out a script that he followed several times a year with foreign interns with grievances.

Because workers who complain have been forcibly deported, Takahara and other union representatives encourage interns to fulfill their contracts. They are meticulous in their documentation: keeping time cards, sending faxes from convenience stores so there is a dated record of the communication, alerting local labor inspectors before bringing in interns to report alleged violations to make sure staff are on hand.

The morning of their escape, Takahara drove the women from Kameda to a convenience store. There, they sent a fax to the factory requesting paid holiday until Nov. 19, the day their contract expired. Takahara then took them to the local labor standards office to testify about their experience at the factory. The inspectors were expecting them.

In late 2012, Kameda agreed to pay 1.3 million yen each to Lu, Qian and Jiang. In addition, the labor standards bureau ordered Kameda to pay 260,000 yen collectively to the three women for the “homework” they had been required to do on a piece rate. In the end, the women each received about 1.4 million yen, or nearly $14,000 at current exchange rates, Takahara says.

Kameda told Reuters he paid the full amount the labor standards bureau demanded and did everything asked of him. He blames Takahara’s group for stirring up resentment among the workers. “They were completely happy until they left and sued us,” Kameda said.

Moro, the women’s lawyer, says Kameda only paid what he owed the women for the second and third year of their time at his factory, and the homework settlement was not based on an accurate calculation of the hours the women worked.

On October 9, 2013, Moro filed suit on behalf of the three Chinese interns in a court in Kanazawa, naming Kameda and the Ishikawa Apparel Association as defendants. The suit asks for unpaid wages, expenses and damages for pain and suffering amounting to about 11.2 million yen, or about $109,000.

EXPANDING THE PROGRAM

It wasn’t until late 2012, after Lu, Qian and Jiang had left the factory and their complaints reported in the Mainichi newspaper, that a Burberry executive visited Kameda. Burberry asked Sanyo Shokai to terminate the relationship with Kameda “due to non-compliance and a lack of cooperation in the implementation of Burberry’s ethical standards,” Burberry said in its statement.

Burberry’s code of conduct, which covers licensees such as Sanyo Shokai, prohibits homework and bans the use of bonded labor and the payment of “deposits” to employers. It requires factories to pay at least the national legal minimum wage and provide safe, clean accommodation for workers. Workers should not be required to work more than 48 hours a week or 11 hours a day, the code says. Overtime should be both voluntary and no more than 12 hours a week; it should not be demanded on a regular basis. Burberry also requires all factories to make sure workers keep their “passports, ID cards, bank cards and similar documents to facilitate their unhindered freedom of movement”.

The luxury brand only began auditing Japanese suppliers for ethical compliance in 2009, the year Lu, Qian and Jiang arrived. Burberry’s two auditors started, according to a person familiar with the company’s activities, with the largest factories and those that produced finished goods.

Burberry’s current licensing arrangement with Sanyo Shokai and Mitsui will expire in June 2015. Under the terms of a new license agreement, the Burberry Blue and Black labels will continue as Blue Label and Black Label, dropping the Burberry name. Burberry will continue to audit the supply chain.

Today, about 37 of the approximately 270 factories that supply Burberry branded items to licensees in Japan use foreign interns supported by JITCO. These factories employ around 307 JITCO interns. Burberry now offers training and access to a hotline in Chinese.

“Burberry takes the welfare of workers in all areas of its supply chain extremely seriously,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. “In the case of foreign contract workers in particular, we are very focused on ensuring that they operate in conditions that adhere to the Burberry Ethical Trading Code of Conduct.”

Japan strengthened protection for interns in 2010, putting them under Japanese labor laws for all three years of their internship. But the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which represents more than 30,000 attorneys, argues the intern program should be scrapped on human rights grounds.

Kameda says his factory no longer employs foreign interns. He thinks Japan should drop the pretense of internships and allow foreigners to work as laborers. “Regardless of the women’s requests, I regret that I didn’t do things properly,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions from Reuters. He intends to counsel partner factories that employ interns “so what Kameda is experiencing won’t happen again.”

(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, James Topham and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo, and the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
ENDS

J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets

mytest

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Hi Blog. Any good organization wanting public approval (or in this case, approval from its geopolitical “friends”) does outreach. And this very professional online magazine issued yesterday from the Abe Administration, called “We are Tomodachi”, is worth an introduction to Debito.org Readers.  It offers fascinating insights into what the PM Abe Administration is thinking (or trying to convince you it is thinking — something few branches of Japan’s governmental organs do in any convincing detail even for its citizens).

As The Economist (London) recently noted, Abe is “Japan’s most purposeful prime minister for many years“, and many of Abe’s purposes are herein clearly argued in well-proofed English, albeit in all their stiff transparency.

I mean “transparent” in the sense that the aim of the propaganda is pretty obvious. But I also mean “stiff”.  For example, check this picture out:

tomodachisprsum2014

Surely they could have chosen a better picture.  The message one gets is of a very stiff and uncomfortable Abe plonked amidst Japan’s little African brothers (okay, sisters) who have little idea who he is and practically no enthusiasm for him being there.

Yet this is the cover photo of the magazine!

Moving on, here’s the email promo I got last night:

////////////////////////////////////////
From: We are ‘Tomodachi’ by Japan Gov. <tomodachi@cas.go.jp>
Date: June 8, 2014
Subject: “Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol.4

==========================================================
This e-mail has been sent to people who consented
to receive the “Tomodachi” newsletter.
==========================================================

Greetings from the staff of the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan

“We Are Tomodachi” is an e-book published with the aim of further deepening people’s understanding of the initiatives of the Government of Japan and the charms of Japan. With the recent events that have taken place, including the visit to Japan by the U.S. President and the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to European countries from late April to early May, on May 31, we released the spring/summer edition, which is a revised version of the spring edition. The link is as follows.

 http://japan.kantei.go.jp/letters/index.html

*Clicking on the E-BOOK icon at the center of the screen will allow you to view the e-book in browsing mode.
The PDF version is available for download by clicking on the PDF icon.

We very much hope you will read this for a deeper understanding about Japan.

The summer edition will be released in mid-July.
We are preparing a broad range of topics, including an introduction to colorful fireworks that light up the evening sky and a feature on women who play an active role in society. Please stay tuned!

=========================================================
The Staff of the Office of Global Communications,
Prime Minister’s Office of Japan

public.relations@cas.go.jp
=========================================================

*You can visit the URL below to terminate your subscription to this newsletter or change the address at which you receive it:
 https://www.mmz.kantei.go.jp/tomodachi/unsubscribe.php
////////////////////////////////////////

The inside of the 80-page magazine is, again, fascinating in its prioritizing of subjects, including:

  • Abe in Fukushima
  • The aims for the Abe Administration (depicted as “kokorozashi”, complete with large kanji; I wish we had a shakuhachi soundtrack)
  • A photo essay of Abe hobnobbing internationally this Spring
  • Abe’s speeches
  • A photo essay of Abe hobnobbing internationally over the past year
  • “Abenomics is Progressing!  Making the impossible possible” (complete with a graphic with — you guessed it — three arrows!  Plus another one of him “drilling” through vested interests; yeah, sure.)
  • Abe “actively engages” in dialogue
  • The Road to Revival
  • Fukushima’s contaminated water problem
  • Japan’s Proactive Contribution to Peace (with lengthy explanations of how Japan’s new National Security Council and Act on the Protection of Specially-Designated Secrets is similar to if not milder than Official Secrets Acts elsewhere)
  • International Contributions of Japan’s Self Defense Forces
  • The Senkaku Islands:  3 Commonly Held Misconceptions
  • A bit on the North Korean kidnappings of Japanese, making it into an international issue by including abductees from Thailand, Romania, Lebanon, and China (but if that’s the tack you want to take, why no mention of South Korean abductees?).
  • Japan’s contributions to international attempts to decrease maternal mortality rates in Cambodia
  • Empowering Farmers as Mainstream Economic Actors (in Africa)
  • Japan’s Global-Leading Medical Services
  • Useful information for traveling in Japan
  • Travel times from Narita to downtown Tokyo — “How Fast It Has Become!”
  • Free Wi-Fi Expands (for foreigners!)
  • Related Websites and Publications
  • Flower Festivals in Summer
  • “Friends of Japan” (with profiles of Kendo Master Alexander Bennett, Heritage Preserver Alex Kerr, and Tea Ceremony and “Heart of Japanese Hospitality” Master Randy Channell Soei)
  • What Surprises Foreigners About Japan (with a survey of — count them — a whole 50 foreigners, the majority of whom had their lost belongings returned!  My, those honest Japanese!  Good thing they weren’t talking about umbrellas or bicycles — or that theft is by far the largest crime in Japan)
  • Japanese Customs (and come to Japan and be a JET teacher!)

And more.  Part travel guide, part geopolitical gaijin handling, part cultural screed (cue those shakuhachis!), this is a great read to deconstruct how the Abe Administration is trying to march the Post-Bubble discourse on Japan back into the first-generation Postwar discourse.  Ah, those were the days, when Japan’s elites had near-total control over Japan’s image in the world, and so few outsiders had any understanding (or or had experienced Japan in great depth) that they would ever be taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t a “real Japanese” (moreover, the handful of NJ who did know something could be co-opted as anointed cultural emissaries; they’re still trying to do it within this very magazine).

No, since then millions of people have since experienced Japan beyond the GOJ boilerplate, have lived and invested their lives in Japan, and have learned the Japanese language.  So the dialogue is not so easily controlled by the elites anymore.  (PM Abe’s Gaijin Handlers:  If you’re dropping in on Debito.org again, Yokoso and enjoy our Omotenashi!)

So, Gaijin Handlers, here’s a lesson on what to avoid next time:  What irritates people like us who know better is your cultivated mysticism in elite conversations about anything cultural in Japan.  Consider this example of bogus social science (depicted as a “secret”) from page 72:

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

“The Japanese have a reputation for being taciturn and hard to communicate with.  Probably the most difficult part of Japanese communication for people from other countries is the way people here converse wordlessly.  When people are standing silently at some natural attraction, they’re using their five senses to feel nature and commune with it.  So if you notice some quiet Japanese in such a spot, you might try joining them in their silence, taking in everything around you with all your senses:  light, wind, sky, clouds, sounds, smells.  Because even when nobody is talking, there is plenty of communication going on in Japan.”

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

This is a juicy claim for deconstruction under a number of genres of social science.  The biggest confusion you’re going to cause in NJ tourists and newbies will come when they confront the amount of noise at many a tourist trap (especially from those trying to “nigiyaka” the place up with their megaphoned music), and wonder how they’re supposed to use all their five senses like the mystical Japanese apparently do.  Logically, this also means the purported J-silence around awkward conversations could be due to the inscrutably “shy” Japanese trying to take NJ in with all their five senses too (I wonder what happens when they get to “Smell”, “Touch”, or “Taste”?).  What rubbishy analytical tools.  And it’s one reason why so many people (Japanese and NJ) go nuts in Japan, because they’re constantly told one thing yet experience another.

Anyway, there’s a lot there, so I’ll let Debito.org Readers go through this magazine and have some fun.  For as sophisticated as Japan’s bureaucrats can be, they’re pretty clumsy when it comes to social science.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014, with links to sources

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks as always for putting my article in the Top Ten most read on the JT Online once again!
justbecauseicon.jpg
========================================
Humanize the dry debate about immigration
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 76 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES
June 5, 2014, courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/06/04/issues/humanize-dry-debate-immigration/
Version with links to sources.

Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.

However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace (also here) — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!

And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.

Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work. After all, we have that time-sensitive 2020 Tokyo Olympics infrastructure to build — oh, and a Tohoku to reconstruct someday. And no self-respecting white-collar Taro wants those 3K (kitsui, kitanai and kiken — difficult, dirty and dangerous) jobs. Never mind that policymakers have rarely cared about the NJ already here investing their lives in Japan, long discouraged from settling via revolving-door visa regimes, and even bribed to leave in 2009.

So, come back! All is forgiven!

Predictably, the Shinzo Abe administration recently announced the expansion of the “trainee” program. You know, that exploitative, abusive and unmonitored system that has imported NJ since 1990, free from the protections of labor law? The one that causes dozens of NJ deaths from overwork and other “unknown causes” every year, and keeps many in conditions of virtual slavery? Despite a decade of criticisms from human-rights groups, parliamentarians and the United Nations, these three-year visas have been lengthened by two more so we can exploit them longer.

And then, a previously taboo word entered the discussion: imin (immigration). It made such an impact that prominent debate magazine Sapio made it June’s cover story.

Sapio_June.Cover

Michael Hoffman reviewed this spread in the JT in his Big In Japan column on May 24, “Will Japan be a country that welcomes all?”

Great. But I’ll answer Michael’s question right now: no — and not just for an obvious reason like Japan’s innate mistrust of outsiders. We also have a structural problem with how the concept of imin is being framed. It goes beyond constant othering and alienation: NJ aren’t even being seen as people.

Last time this debate came up, I lambasted the government for shutting NJ long-termers out of the deliberation councils drafting policies affecting them. I also mentioned how policymakers avoided the word imin.

So now imin has been formally broached — albeit while being stigmatized: The person in charge of the Immigration Bureau, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, immediately said NJ would present “adverse effects on security.” (Note to ad agencies: Don’t hire Tanigaki to sell your product.)

But imin has also been dehumanized. Look up “immigrant” in an English-Japanese dictionary and you get words such as ijūmin, ijūsha, imin rōdōsha and, oddly, mitsunyūkokusha and fuhō nyūkokusha (illegal immigrant). But these aren’t immigrants: These are migrants, here temporarily, as properly translated by domestic NGOs looking out for NJ interests, such as the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Iju Rodosha to Rentai Suru Network).

The word for “immigration,” meaning something permanent, is imin — denoted on the Denshi Jisho dictionary site as a “sensitive” word (of course; that’s why the government avoided using it for so long).

But we still have no word for an immigrant as an individual person, such as iminsha, with its own honorific sha — in the same vein as ijūsha (migrant), rōdōsha (laborer), teijūsha (settler, usually a Nikkei South American), zairyūsha (temporary resident), eijūsha (permanent resident) and even (in a few government documents) kikasha (naturalized citizen).

It’s just the clipped imin. That means nobody gets to claim “I am an immigrant” in Japan. (Try it: “Watashi wa imin desu” sounds funny.) And this in turn means immigration remains a strictly statistical animal. Lost in this narrative is the idea that when we import labor, we import people. With lives. And needs. And voices to be heard.

This kind of framing damages the debate by taking away the immigrant’s voice. Take that Sapio special: From the very cover, you’ll notice that not one visible minority is featured among the talking heads.

Sapio_June.Cover

Almost all those speechifying inside are elite Japanese (including former Tokyo governor and professional bigot Shintaro Ishihara, which already signals where things are headed): the same old pundits defending their ideological camps with no real new ideas.

But more indicative of the framing of the debate is the main photo on Sapio’s cover: a hate-speech rally showing anti-Korean demonstrators vs. anti-racism counterdemonstrators. (A smaller inset photo shows South Americans at a labor-union rally. Their faces are visible, unlike those in the larger photo, which were blurred out to protect people’s privacy. More evidence of powerlessness: Apparently NJ aren’t people with privacy concerns.)

Hang on: An anti-Korean rally is not an issue of immigration; it’s got more to do with Japan’s unresolved historical issues with its neighbors.

If you define “immigrants” as NJ who have moved to Japan and made a life here as long-term residents (if not regular permanent residents, or ippan eijūsha) — i.e., the “Newcomers” — that’s a different group than the one being demonstrated against.

Being targeted instead are the “Oldcomers” — the Zainichi Korean and Chinese special permanent residents (tokubetsu eijūsha), descendants of former citizens of empire who have been living in and contributing to Japan for generations. The Oldcomers are not the “immigrants” in question — and from this blind spot, the debate goes askew.

Sapio’s editorial on discrimination towards NJ (pages 20-21) not only neglects to mention any examples of discrimination against Japan’s Newcomers; it also crosses its analytical wires by citing the Urawa Reds “Japanese only” exclusionary banner at Saitama Stadium last March as hate speech against the Oldcomers.

Hang on again: That “Japanese only” banner would not have affected the Zainichis. “Japanese only” is a narrative targeting Japan’s visible minorities, i.e., those who don’t “look Japanese” enough to pass an exclusionary manager’s scrutiny. Naturally, after several generations here, Zainichi can quietly enter a “Japanese only” zone without drawing hairy eyeballs. And while the historical wrongs done to the Zainichi in Japan are very worthy of discussion, they should not suck the oxygen out of the debate on immigrants.

But I believe this is by design: By entangling the debate in the same old Zainichi issues, the xenophobes can derail it with the same old paranoid fears about granting rights to potentially subversive North Korean and Chinese residents. This makes the true iminsha not only voiceless but invisible.

That’s exactly what the xenophobes want. A common theme in rightist writings is “more foreigners means less Japan,” and admitting more visible minorities (which inevitably happens when you import people) will always bring forth that tension. Best to just argue as if they don’t exist.

So what to do? Be Gandalf and say “That shall not pass!” Just as the Urawa Reds fans’ “Japanese only” banner forced the domestic media in March to finally admit that racial discrimination happens in Japan, we must force the nation’s elites to reframe the concept of immigration and humanize the immigrants behind the statistics. Allow the public to see a way to welcome Newcomers not only as individuals, but also as long-termers, immigrants and, ultimately, as citizens with the same rights and obligations as every other Japanese.

The elites will resist this, because the economic incentives are clear: The more powerless and invisible you keep NJ, the easier it is to exploit them.

So, if you want to finally address one of Japan’s structural problems, start by popularizing the word iminsha. Let regular folk with regular lives attach that term to an NJ neighbor they know. Then give them a voice.

Otherwise, it’s same old debate, same old (and getting older) Japan.
========================================

Debito Arudou received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

Asahi & Kyodo: Japan’s soccer leagues taking anti-discrimination courses, meting out punishments for racism

mytest

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Hi Blog. Some good news:

The Urawa Reds’ fans “Japanese Only” banner last March (which, as Debito.org reported, could have been as usual swept under the carpet of cultural relativism) has occasioned much debate (see here and here) and even proactive and remedial measures. Witness this:

AS20140427001051SaitamaJapaneseonly

///////////////////////////////////////////
“J.League players to take anti-discrimination classes after racist banner
The Asahi Shinbun, May 30, 2014, courtesy of Yokohama John
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201405300045

J.League’s players and team officials will be forced to take mandatory anti-discrimination classes as fallout from a fan’s banner that said “Japanese Only” and was not removed from a stadium during a league game in March.

Officials with the Justice Ministry’s legal affairs bureaus and local volunteer human rights advocates commissioned by the agency, in agreement with the league, will visit all 51 teams in the J1, J2 and J3 divisions from June onward to give the classes.

“Team players and spectators sometimes commit discriminatory acts without realizing the significance,” said a public relations official with the J.League.

“We will equip the players and staff members with the proper knowledge through the training course.”

The decision came in response to a discriminatory incident that occurred on March 8 when the banner appeared in a concourse over an entrance gate to seating at the Urawa Red Diamonds’ stadium in a game against Sagan Tosu.

Urawa Reds employees failed to remove the banner even after the game, prompting criticism of the team’s handling of the incident. The Reds were forced to play their next home game in an empty stadium as punishment by the J.League.

Similar well-publicized incidents have occurred in other countries during professional league soccer games, including one where a player made a discriminatory remark during a match and another where a spectator threw a banana at a black defender.

The class instructors will expound on what acts constitute discrimination and use specific incidents, such as when a foreigner was denied admission to a “sento” (public bath), to demonstrate discriminatory acts. They will also discuss ways to improve interactions with foreigners, sources said.”
///////////////////////////////////////////

Well, good. I’m not going to nit-pick this well-intentioned and positive move. It’s long overdue, and Debito.org welcomes it.

(Well, okay, one thing:  It’s funny how the lore on our Otaru Onsens Case (i.e., the “sento” denying entry to “a foreigner”) has boiled down to one “foreigner” (which I was not, and it was more people denied than just me) going to just one sento (there were at least three with “Japanese Only” signs up at the time in Otaru). Somehow it’s still a case of “discrimination against foreigners”, which is the wrong lesson to take from this case, since the discrimination also targeted Japanese people.)

Now witness this:

///////////////////////////////////////////
J3 player handed three-game ban for racist comments
KYODO NEWS MAY 30, 2014 Courtesy of Yokohama John
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2014/05/30/soccer/j-league/j3-player-handed-three-game-ban-for-racist-comments/

Defender Sunao Hozaki, who plays for Kanazawa Zweigen in the J. League’s lower-tier J3 division, will be suspended for three games due to racist comments he made to an opposing player in a match against FC Machida last Saturday in Ishikawa Prefecture, his club announced Friday.

Kanazawa said in consideration of the opposing player’s rights, they have not made public the comments used against him. They also have not mentioned him by name. Hozaki will be suspended for matches on June 1, June 8 and June 14.

The Japan Football Association’s disciplinary standard for a player who commits acts of racism is suspension of at least five games and a fine of ¥100,000 or more. However, Hozaki’s punishment was lightened, taking into consideration that he apologized directly to the player following the match.
///////////////////////////////////////////

Good too, on the face of it. But I will nit-pick this a little: It would have been nice to know what was said, and what constitutes “racist” in this context. But the fact that tolerance for this sort of behavior has gone way down, and is not being dismissed as mere “misunderstandings”, is a positive step.

Perhaps the Urawa Reds Case is in fact a watershed moment.  I just hope the lore doesn’t bleach out as many important facts of the case as it has the Otaru Onsens Case.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Significant news:  In addition to the bars, bathhouses, internet cafes, stores, restaurants, apartment rental agencies, schools, and even hospitals, etc. that have “Japanese Only” policies in Japan, the media has now publicized a longstanding case of a tertiary education institution doing the same.  A place called Konsho Gakuen (aka “Saitama Cooking College”, “Saitama Confectionary College” in brochures featured on NHK) in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, offering instruction in cooking, nutrition, and confections, has since it opened in 1976 never accepted NJ into their student body.  This exclusion was even written in their recruitment material as a “policy” (houshin):

konshogakuenJapaneseOnlyhoushin

People knew about this.  A Peruvian student denied entry complained to the authorities in 2012.  But after some perfunctory scolding from Saitama Prefecture, everyone realized that nothing could be done about it.  Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan.  Nobody could be penalized, and it was unclear if anyone could lose a license as an educational institution.

So finally it hits the media.  And after some defiance by the school (claiming to NHK below inter alia that they don’t want to be responsible for NJ getting jobs in Japan; how conscientious), they caved in after about a week and said that the policy would be reversed (suck on the excuses they offered the media for why they had been doing it up to now — including the standard, “we didn’t know it was wrong” and “it’s no big deal”).

Debito.org would normally cheer for this.  But the school is just taking their sign down.  Whether they will actually ALLOW foreigners to join their student body is something that remains to be seen (and the J-media is remarkably untenacious when it comes to following up on stories of racial discrimination).  When we see enrollments that are beyond token acceptances (or happen at all, actually) over the course of a few years, then we’ll cheer.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

‘No foreigners allowed’ cooking school backtracks, will accept foreign applicants
May 23, 2014 Mainichi Japan, Courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140523p2a00m0na018000c.html

A private vocational school in Saitama Prefecture which had barred foreigners from enrollment has reversed course and will begin allowing foreign applicants for the 2015 academic year, the Mainichi has learned.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported in its May 23 morning edition that the Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture-based Konsho Gakuen states explicitly in its student recruitment material that “foreigners cannot enroll. This is school policy. Please be aware that this school does not accept foreigners.” Konsho Gakuen, established in 1976, operates three schools, one each for cooking, nutrition and confections.

A school representative told the Mainichi that it was “not accepting press inquiries,” and that the school’s policy “is exactly what it says (in the pamphlet). Foreigners had better go somewhere else.” According to a source related to the education sector in the prefecture, the school was “worried there would be trouble if it had many students staying in Japan illegally.”

Meanwhile, the prefectural educational affairs department said that the same “no foreigners” passage was included in Konsho Gakuen’s materials for both academic 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, the prefecture had formally requested in January and August last year that the school “select students for admission fairly, based on ability and aptitude,” but that Konsho Gakuen had not responded.

At about 11 a.m. on May 23, after the story had appeared in that morning’s edition of the Mainichi Shimbun, Konsho Gakuen board chairman Akio Imai called the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare — which overseas cooking schools — to apologize, according to ministry sources.

Imai was quoted as saying, “Starting from this academic year’s entrance exams, we will begin accepting foreign applicants.” He also apparently said the no-foreigners passage in Konsho Gakuen’s student recruitment materials would be deleted.
ENDS

Original Japanese article:

埼玉の専門学校:外国人入学を拒否「開設以来の方針」
毎日新聞 2014年05月23日 07時45分, Courtesy of MS
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20140523k0000m040129000c.html

来年4月の入学者向けに作られた埼玉県製菓専門学校の募集要項
調理師や栄養士を養成する埼玉県熊谷市の私立専門学校が、生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ない」と明記していることが分かった。県が公正な選抜をするよう依頼したが、運営法人は「開設以来の学校の方針」として応じなかった。行政側に指導権限がないことから、差別的な取り扱いが是正されない状態が続いている。【奥山はるな】

外国人の受け入れを拒否しているのは、学校法人今昌学園(今井明巨理事長)が運営する埼玉県調理師専門学校と同栄養専門学校、同製菓専門学校の3校。書類選考と面接で入学者を決めているが、来年4月の入学者向け募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ません。これは本校の方針です」と明記している。

今春や昨春入学分の要項も同様で、連絡を受けた県学事課は昨年1月と8月、法人に「本人の能力や適性をもって公正に選抜してほしい」と依頼したが応じなかった。

取材に対し、今井理事長は「(取材は)受けられない。理由はない」「募集要項にある通りだ。別の学校に行けばよい」と話したが、県内の教育関係者によると「不法滞在の学生が増えたら困る」と理由を説明しているという。

県学事課は「私学なので県が法的根拠をもって指導するのは難しいが、他校でこのような事例は聞いたことがない。誠に遺憾」と法人を非難。調理師などの養成機関として指定している厚生労働省関東信越厚生局は「外国人の入学について法令上の定めはなく、はっきり改善を求められない」とした。

文部科学省専修学校教育振興室は「教育基本法が定める教育の機会均等は外国人にも可能な限り適用されるべきだというのが通説で、不当な差別は望ましくない」とする一方で、「背景や事情があるのかもしれず個別具体的には判断できない」としている。

法人は1976年設立。県によると、3専門学校の在学者(5月1日現在)は調理師156人▽栄養140人▽製菓83人−−の計379人。

国籍による差別を巡っては、試合会場でサポーターが「JAPANESE ONLY」と書いた横断幕を掲げた問題で、3月にサッカーJリーグ1部の浦和レッズがリーグから処分を受けた

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

THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 23, 2014, NATIONAL
School axes policy of barring foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI STAFF WRITER
(excerpt of the bottom half of the article, full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/23/national/school-axes-policy-of-barring-foreigners/

[…] When contacted by The Japan Times, Imai said he had decided to ditch the policy and said all three schools would start accepting applications from foreign students from the next academic year.

The decision came only a few months after an incident at a J. League soccer game fueled a nationwide debate about racial discrimination. At the game, fans of the Urawa Reds hung a banner above the stadium entrance declaring, in English, “Japanese Only.” The J. League punished the team for failing to remove the banner by forcing it to play its next home game in an empty stadium.

“I acknowledge that the (‘no-foreigner’ part) of our admission policy was terribly misleading,” Imai said without elaborating.

Imai said the remote location of his cooking schools in Kumagaya kept them somewhat isolated from the trends of globalization, making the mere thought of taking in foreign students “inconceivable.”

“I also acknowledge that we’ve had this fear about what would happen if we accepted foreigners. We’ve been afraid that there will be unpredictable consequence if we do,” Imai said without elaborating.

As for the no-foreigner policy, Imai said he never thought it would be considered discriminatory or xenophobic, despite warnings from the prefectural government, which has no authority to order a change in the private school’s policy.

“I thought other schools were doing the same, too,” he said.

After media pressure built, however, he spoke with the schools’ principals and decided Friday that he should make the admission policy “fairer” and bring it “up to date.”
ENDS

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

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
NHK 5月23日 12時14分, Courtesy of MS
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140523/k10014668071000.html (with video)

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
調理師などを養成する埼玉県熊谷市にある専門学校が生徒の募集要項に、「外国人の入学はできません」と記載して入学を断っていたことが分かり、埼玉県は運営する学校法人に改善を指導しましたが、これまでに応じていないということです。

この専門学校は、埼玉県熊谷市にある学校法人「今昌学園」が運営する調理師や栄養士などの専門学校3校です。

埼玉県によりますと、おととし11月、これらの専門学校の生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学はできません」と記載されていると外部から指摘があり、県が調べたところ外国人の入学を断っていることが分かりました。

埼玉県は外国人の入学を認めないのは不適切だとして、学校法人に対し、能力や適性に基づいた公正な入学試験を行うよう口頭や文書で繰り返し改善を指導したということです。

これに対し、学校法人は「設立以来の学校の方針だ」として指導に応じていないということです。
「今昌学園」の役員はNHKの取材に対し、「外国人を受け入れないのは就職まで面倒をみることができないためで、昭和47年の設立以来受け入れていない」と話しています。

厚生労働相「調査し適切に対応」

この専門学校を調理師免許を取るための養成施設として指定している田村厚生労働大臣は、「差別的な扱いがあるとすれば望ましくない。どうして拒否しているか背景をしっかり調査したうえで、適切に対応したい」と述べ、学校関係者から聞き取り調査を行い、指導を行うかどうか検討する方針を示しました。

文部科学相「拒否は大変遺憾」

下村文部科学大臣は「外国人であることで差別があってはならない。意欲や能力、志がある人に対しては日本人、外国人を問わずチャンスを提供するべきで外国人という理由で入学を拒否することは大変遺憾だ。埼玉県に適切に指導してもらいたい」と話しました。
ENDS

SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role

mytest

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Hi Blog. As noted in the Japan Today article cited below, SAPIO debate magazine (June 2014) devoted an issue specifically to the issue of immigration (imin) to Japan (what with the Abe Administration’s renewed plan to import 200,000 NJ per year).

Good. But then it fumbles the issue with all manner of narratives that microaggress the NJ immigrant back into a position of being powerless and voiceless.  First, let’s start with SAPIO’s cover, courtesy of MS:

Sapio_June.Cover

COMMENT:  Notice anything funny?  Start with the sub-headline in yellow talking about having a vigorous debate from “each world” (kyaku kai).  Each?  Look at the debaters being featured in the bubbles.  See any Visible Minorities there?  Nope, they’re left out of the debate once again.  All we get are the typical powerful pundits (probably all Wajin, with “Papa Bear” Wajin Ishihara second in line). , Where is the voice of the immigrant?

And by “immigrant”, I mean people who have immigrated to Japan as NJ and made a life here as long-term resident if not actual Permanent-Residency holder.  The people who have indefinite leave to remain.  The “Newcomers“, who work in Japan and work for Japan.  As depicted in the picture of the labor-union demonstrators in the inset photo in the top right.

Now look at the larger photo.  It’s a xenophobic demo about issues between Japan and Korea (and no doubt China).  That’s not a debate about immigration.  It’s a hate rally airing historical grievances between Japan and it’s neighbors, gussied up as a jerry-rigged issue about “Zainichis having special privileges as NJ” (the very root complaint of the Zaitokukai group, which, even if those “special privileges” were meaningfully true, ought to happen anyway what with all the contributions the Zainichi have made to Japanese society both as prewar citizens of empire and postwar disenfranchised residents for generations; but I digress).  Anyway, the point is that the cover does not convey the issue of “immigration in Japan” accurately.  Zainichi issues dominate.

Finally, note how all the Wajin demonstrators have their faces blocked out in the photo.  Clearly Wajin have privacies to protect.  Not so the NJ protesting in the photo inset.  Hence NJ once again have fewer rights to privacy in the Japanese media.  Just like this photo from the racist Gaijin Hanzai Magazine of yore (remember that?  more information here). Comparative powerlessness in visual form.

gaijinhanzaipg11

Next up, check out the Japan Today writeup on the SAPIO special:

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

Consultant urges ‘one-of-a-kind’ immigration policy for Japan
JAPAN TODAY KUCHIKOMI MAY. 12, 2014 – TOKYO —
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/consultant-urges-one-of-a-kind-immigration-policy-for-japan, courtesy lots of people

In its cover story for June, Sapio devotes 14 articles—including a contribution by former Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara—and 23 pages to wide-ranging discussions on the subject of immigration. It looks like substantial changes are coming, and coming soon. What form should immigration take? What are the merits and demerits?

Management consultant Kenichi Ohmae is, if anything, a pragmatic person. He also expresses his ideas logically and persuasively, and he has devoted a lot of thinking to the issue of immigration, which he suggests be adopted as a policy in three successive stages.

First of all, the demographics don’t lie: by 2050 the largest age segment in Japan’s population pyramid, both for males and females will be those in their late 70s, with fewer and fewer younger people. If this course is maintained, people in their productive ages will decline rapidly. Ohmae says he pointed this out more than 20 years ago. During his past four decades as a business consultant, he has observed that in general, introduction of foreign workers in Japanese businesses has been carried out in five-year increments, during which time problems and challenges are resolved through a trial-and-error basis.

When one looks back 25 to 30 years, to the economic “bubble,” Japan found itself with a labor shortage, particularly in construction and manufacturing. It began bringing in “Nikkeijin” (people of Japanese ancestry) from Latin America, along with Pakistanis, Iranians and others. Since there was no visa status for manual laborers, they entered on tourist or student visas, and the government feigned disinterest when they took blue-collar jobs.

Then the bubble collapsed, and these workers were summarily dismissed. The number of illegal foreign workers declined, and Japan was soundly criticized for its lack of interest in the workers’ welfare.

The current Abe government appears inclined to issue guidelines that will expand entry by foreign workers in such fields as construction, nursing care, agriculture and household domestics. On the other hand, it’s proceeding with measures to ensure that the entry of such foreigners not be mistakenly construed as “immigration policies.” In other words, time limits will be imposed on those workers’ stays. Inevitably, this will result in a repeat of the mistakes and troubles that happened after the collapse of the bubble.

Considering that the Japanese babies being born now will take from 15 to 30 years before they start contributing to Japan’s economy, it’s clear that immigration offers Japan’s only hope to preserve its economic vitality. And, Ohmae emphasizes, now is probably its last chance to take meaningful action.

The three stages Ohmae proposes are: First, Japan should emulate Silicon Valley in attracting 1,000 skilled people a year from such countries as Israel, India, Taiwan, Russia and East European countries. But these people should not be limited only to the field of Information Technology. They would be concentrated in six “clusters” around the country, mostly in large urban areas where they and their families would be made to feel at home with access to churches, schools and so on.

The second stage is to find a way to attract 100,000 professionals a year in the category of work titles with the “shi” suffix (such as “kangoshi” or nurse), trained care providers, attorneys, firemen, etc), all of which are currently in short supply.

The third stage is to accept blue-collar workers, of whom at least 300,000 per year will be needed to keep Japan’s economic engine purring. Ohmae suggests the Japanese government set up and fund preparatory schools in countries likely to supply labor, where students can learn the basics of the Japanese language, laws, customs, and so on before they arrive. And passing an examination will entitle them to a Japanese-style “green card,” permanent residence and the right to work. Such a system is likely to help avoid concentration of unskilled foreigners who would gravitate to the slums that have created social problems in other countries.

When considering the future of immigration, Ohmae also urges the importance of avoiding its politicization among Japanese, so that when people debate its pros and cons, this can be done dispassionately, without tarring one another with “right wing” or “left wing” labels.

ENDS

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

COMMENT:  Although unusually well-intentioned (check out his paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes about Burmese and Aung San Suu Kyi in 1997’s SAPIO), Ohmae, despite his verbal distancing from Japan’s perpetual “Revolving Door” visa regimes, fundamentally recycles the same old ideas about bringing in brainy NJ (unscientifically linking job skills with thoroughbred nationalities/ethnicities and sequestering them in their own enclaves, once again), with no apparent suggestion about making these immigrants into Japanese citizens.  Well, we don’t want to give them too much power to actually have any say over their own lives here.  NJ can come here to work so that we Wajin can stay economically afloat, but that’s all.  They shouldn’t expect much more than the privilege to work and stay in our rich country for as long as they’re needed.

I’ll leave the readers to parse out all the unconscious “othering NJ” microaggressions for themselves, but, ultimately, the question remains:  Where is the specialist commenting on “immigration” (there are people well-studied in that science; try the United Nations) who will lend a specifically-trained viewpoint to the debate, instead of the same old, hoary Wajin pundits defending their ideologies?

Finally, consider the opening editorial article in SAPIO below, which explores the issue of discrimination in general in Japan.  Despite the title (which rightfully talks about hate speech towards Zainichi Koreans and Chinese as shameful for a first-world country), it opens with some soul-searching about the Urawa Reds fans’ “JAPANESE ONLY” banner in Saitama Stadium as an example of Japan’s discriminatory attitudes.  Fine.  But then the article is hijacked once again by the (very important, but not complete) issues of domestic discrimination towards the Zainichi.

Remember, this is an issue also devoted to IMMIGRATION.   The numbers of the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese (i.e., the “Oldcomers”) have been dropping for many years now.  They are not the immigrants of note.  The immigrants, as I defined above, are the NEWCOMERS.  And once again, their voice is not represented within the debate on discrimination or assimilation in Japan.  Those minorities, particularly the Visible Minorities, are silenced.

What’s particularly ironic in the citation of the Urawa Reds’ “Japanese Only” banner is that IT WOULD NOT HAVE AFFECTED THE ZAINICHIS.  “Japanese Only” as a narrative very specifically affects those who do not “look Japanese“.  Thus any Zainichi in Saitama Stadium that day would have “passed” as “Japanese” on sight identification, and could have chosen to sit in those exclusionary stands.  Thus SAPIO, like just about all Japanese media I’ve ever seen, once again crosses its analytical wires, and with these narratives riddled with blind spots and microaggressions, Japan’s “immigration” issue will not be resolved.

That said, I think PM Abe knows this.  That’s why his administration is going back to bribing Wajin to have more babies.  More on that here courtesy of JK.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Sapio_June1 Sapio_June2

 

ENDS

 

Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

mytest

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Hi Blog.  When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009.  The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation; don’t they have autopsies in Japan to fix that? Oh wait, not always.). Kyodo News back then lazily (or rather, ignorantly) observed how problematic the system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then:  Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle“, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month.  (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

Now sit down for this news:  The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it.  As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020.  And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists.   But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers?  They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right?  So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative.  And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Japan moves to expand controversial foreign worker scheme
BY ANTONI SLODKOWSKI
REUTERSAPR 2, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/02/national/japan-moves-to-expand-controversial-foreign-worker-scheme/

Japan is considering expanding a controversial program that now offers workers from China and elsewhere permits to work for up to three years, as the world’s fastest-aging nation scrambles to plug gaps in a rapidly shrinking workforce.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday submitted a proposal to let workers to stay for up to five years, relax hiring rules for employers and boost the number of jobs open to them.

“We will strengthen the governance of the program,” LDP lawmaker Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who authored the proposal, told reporters. “We are aware of the concerns and we allowed people who had objections to voice their objections.”

Shiozaki said the LDP wanted to see harsher penalties for companies that abused foreign workers and would use external inspectors and local governments to monitor compliance.

The program, started in 1993, sponsors around 150,000 workers, mostly Chinese, for jobs in areas such as the garment industry and farms.

In theory, the foreign workers come to Japan as trainees to acquire technical expertise, but lawyers and labor activists say many face abuse, from illegally low wages to the confiscation of their passports.

Such conditions “may well amount to slavery,” the United Nations said in 2010, and called on Tokyo to scrap the program.

But Japan is desperate for more workers, especially in industries such as construction and farming. With just under half its population expected to be aged 65 or older by 2060, Japan faces a severe labor shortage that promises to hamper Abe’s ambitious economic revival plans.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer who has represented foreign workers based in Tokyo, said the proposed safeguards would not go far enough and urged the government to abolish, rather than expand, the program.

“The workers can’t freely choose their workplace after coming to Japan. They are refused the right to sign and cancel contracts, so they have no freedom as laborers,” said Ibusuki.

“If you don’t fix this structural problem, it doesn’t matter how much you tighten regulations, it won’t go away,” he said.

Nearly 200 companies were found to have mistreated trainees in 2012, a jump of 21 percent from two years earlier, government data show. There were 90 cases of failure to pay legal wages and more than 170 cases of violations of labor regulations.

The shortage of workers is most acute in the construction industry, whose workforce has shrunk by a third from 1997, when public works peaked. By 2010, about a fifth of all construction workers were older than 60.

The lack of workers has left construction companies struggling to meet demand for new projects tied to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and reconstruction work in areas destroyed by the 2011 tsunami.

Shiozaki said two government panels reporting to Abe will discuss the proposal and consider it as part of a growth strategy to be announced in June.

Foreign-born workers make up less than 1.3 percent of the workforce, according to the 2010 census.

ENDS

Scholar Majima Ayu on how the racial discrimination inherent in America’s Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 caused all manner of Japanese craziness

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Today’s post is a history lesson, about a very different Japan that took racial discrimination very seriously.  Especially when Japanese were the victims of it overseas.  Let me type in a section from Majima Ayu, “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan”, in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel, Eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013, pp. 398-401.  Quick comment from me follows (skip to it if you think this text is a little too academic for your tastes).

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

Pathos of the Glorious “Colored”

Japan’s Racial Equality Clause was denied by the Western powers, and racial discrimination such as the Japanese exclusion in California still remains, which is enough insult to raise the wrath among the Japanese. — Emperor Showa, 1946.

Although Japanese exclusion was largely caused by racial discrimination, some elites tried to deny this by replacing the issue with class issues, similar to the interpretation of physical grooming. According to the minister of war, Terauchi Masatake (1852-1919), the Anti-Japanese movement arose because Japan had sent “bottom-class workers” who looked like “monkeys in the zoos” to the United States. In fact, the Japanese government encouraged workers from farming villages to emigrate because these villages were so impoverished and their population continued to grow. Terauchi’s view towards the Japanese immigrants to the United States was shared among elites since racial issues originally emerged as labor issues. However, the Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 did not support the Japanese elites’ interpretation of existing class issues but made obvious the racial distinction between Japan and the United States.

As cited, the Emperor Showa (1901-1989) saw the Exclusion Act as “a remote cause of the Pacific War” (Terasaki & Miller 1995: 24). When President Woodrow Wilson met Ambassador Chinda Sutemi (1857-1929) in 1913, he was shocked by Chinda’s grave reaction to the Law, and knew then that war was more than a possibility. As a letter on 8 February 1924 from Secretary of State Charles E. Hugues to Chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization Albert Johnson stated, “The Japanese are a sensitive people, and unquestionably would regard such a legislative enactment as fixing a stigma upon them.” It also aptly used the term stigma used before by Taguchi. In fact, opinions against the Japanese Exclusion Act were an immediate reason for public outcry in Japan. The population had become exasperated by the weak-kneed diplomacy that brought national dishonor amidst the emotional bashing from the mass media. This manifested in extremely emotional and near mass-hysteric situations, such as the suicides near the American Embassy on May 31, the follow-up suicides, the events for consoling the spirits of the deceased, and the countless letters sent to the Naval Department calling for war against the United States (Matsuzawa 1980: 363-4).

While the situation heated up rapidly, it quickly subsided. However, the elites’ reaction against the Act remained strong. On the 15th of January 1924, Hanihara Masano, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, stated in a memorandum that to “to preserve the self-respect” of Japan, “the sole desire of the Japanese Government was to relieve the United States Government of the painful embarrassment of giving offense to the just national pride of a friendly nation”. Three months later on April 10th, Hanihara sent another letter to Secretary of State Hughes:

To Japan the question is not one of expediency, but of principle. To her the mere fact that a few hundreds or thousands of her nationals will or will not be admitted into the domains of other countries is immaterial, so long as no question of national susceptibilities is involved. The important question is whether Japan as a nation is or is not entitled to the proper respect and consideration of other nations. In other words, the Japanese Government asks of the United States Government simply that proper consideration ordinarily given by one nation to the self-respect of another, which after all forms the basis of amicable international intercourse throughout the civilized world.

Some criticized Japan’s contradiction in terms of its pressure on Asia, but their anger only focused on Japan’s national dishonor and on the insults to its reputation. According to Hanihara’s correspondence with Secretary of State Hughes, the Exclusion Act “would naturally wound the national susceptibilities of the Japanese people.” It would also bring the “possible unfortunate necessity of offending the national pride of a friendly nation… stigmatizing them as unworthy and undesirable in the eyes of the American people” and “seriously offend the just pride of a friendly nation.”

Even Kiyosawa Kiyoshi (1890-1945), known as a liberal journalist, also took a critical stance of this. “Discrimination from the United States,” he wrote, “was due to regarding the Japanese as colored people. This is a disgrace to the most delicate matter of the Japanese ethnic pride.” On the 2nd of July at the Kokumin Shinbun, Tokutomi Sohou designated the 1st of July 1924 — the day the Anti-Japanese Immigration Law had passed — as the “Day of National Dishonor”. He explained the significance of the day to be one of “cutting ties with the United States”, and embracing their Asian brothers.” Tokutomi explained that the Anti-Japanese Law had caused “the Japanese to suffer unprecedented insult.” He also stated, “The immigrant issue is not simply a matter of US-Japan relations, it is the issue [lying] between the United States and the colored races” In the meantime, Nitobe Inazo (1862-1933) wrote in his 1931 correspondence on the night before the Manchurian Incident that the Exclusion Act was “a severe shock which came completely out of the blue… my heart was deeply wounded and I felt strongly insulted as if we Japaense were suddenly pushed down from our respected status to being the wretched of the earth.”

American’s racial categorization aggravated Japan’s anger, which turned to anxiety as a result of Japan’s diminishing sense of belonging in the world; “the world being limited to the Western powers,” as Tokutomi cited earlier, even if Japan earned a status equal to that of the Western powers, there would still be a great “distance” between them, namely one of racial and religious differences, and the whole difference between the East and West. The sentiment of being a “solitary wanderer” rejected by the West contradicts the manner in which Japan brought about its own isolation. Tokutomi also asserted that the express “Asian” had no other meaning beyond the geographical, and thus Japan’s self-perceptions and identity no longer belonged to Asia. The sense of isolation was actually based on the denial of “Asia”, and it came from Japan’s own identification built upon the idea of “Quit Asia and Join Europe”. It could be said that Japan’s contradictory identification came to reveal Japan’s inability to identify with either the East or the West, a situation that came about through the emergence of a consciousness of the racial distance, especially from 1919 to 1924.

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

COMMENT:  There is a lot here to parse and analyze, and I’ll leave space for Debito.org Readers to tell us their reads.  But mine on the most topical level is this:

Look at how crazy racial discrimination makes people.  Mass hysteria?  Suicides?  Rumors of war?  Feeling rejected by the West after the elites had taken a risk and turned the national narrative away from the East?  Thereby laying the groundwork for Postwar Japan’s narrative of uniqueness and exceptionalism that fuels much of the irrational and hypocritical behavior one sees in Japan today (especially vis-a-vis racial discrimination towards anyone NOT “Japanese”).  Yet during Prewar Japan (when Japan was colonizing), the GOJ denied that it could even ideologically PRACTICE racial discrimination, since it was liberating fellow members of the Asian race (Oguma Eiji 2002:  332-3); and now we get denials that it exists in Japan, or that Japanese even understand the concept of racial discrimination because Japanese society allegedly has no races.  After all, racial discrimination is something done to us Japanese by less civilized societies.  It couldn’t happen in Japan.  Yet it does.  And when that is pointed out, then the denialism comes roaring back intertwined, as the above passage demonstrates, with the historical baggage of victimization.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 75, May 1, 2014: “Tackling Japan’s ‘Empathy Deficit’ Towards Outsiders”

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this in the Top Ten Trending at the JT Online once again this month!  Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

==============================================
TACKLING JAPAN’S “EMPATHY DEFICIT” TOWARDS OUTSIDERS
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 75 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES
May 1, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/04/30/issues/tackling-the-empathy-deficit-toward-non-japanese/
Version with links to sources follows:

In 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama gave a speech about people’s “empathy deficit.” He described empathy as “the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.”

“When you think like this,” he continued, “when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”

I agree. Enormous social problems arise when people don’t understand (or rather, don’t try to understand) what’s going on in other people’s minds. I was mindful of that during my Ph.D. fieldwork, when I interviewed dozens of “Japanese Only” businesses. I always asked for (and got, often in great detail) the reasoning behind their exclusionism. I never agreed with their stopgap solutions (shutting out people they thought were “foreign” because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough), but I gained some sympathy for what they were going through.

But sympathy is not the same as empathy, and that is one reason why discrimination against foreigners and minorities is so hard to combat in Japan. Japanese society is good at sympathy, but empathy? Less so…

Of course, Japanese people have great sympathy for human suffering worldwide. Look through the media (particularly material from human-rights NGOs) and you’ll see plenty of pictures of starving or impoverished people abroad. The government has also been extremely generous with overseas development assistance, and is one of UNICEF’s biggest donors and promoters.

But “sympathy” has for hundreds of years meant a feeling of sorrow or pity for others. That’s very different from the ability to understand and share another’s feelings — empathy, which only evolved into a widely understood concept during the 20th century. That is not to say that empathetic behavior is anything new, of course: Many societies have a long history of axioms and examples (“walk a mile in his shoes,” “do unto others,” Buddha and Christ surrendering their worldly possessions for a higher calling, etc.) encouraging altruistic behavior. In his best-seller “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Steven Pinker devoted a whole chapter to how empathy has recently fostered human-rights revolutions worldwide.

However, there remains a marked lack of empathy in Japan towards outsiders, especially minorities and foreigners. Why? I would argue it’s because few Japanese ever leave their carefully constructed comfort zones to become minorities or foreigners themselves.

If you think about it, concerns about security, safety and comfort basically dominate all levels of Japanese existence — especially if it involves leaving the Japanese existence entirely. Even though going overseas is the only way Japanese will ever walk in the shoes of a foreigner, many still spend their short jaunts within group buses on package tours, experiencing a foreign land from a controlled environment geared to Japanese comfort levels.
SEE ENDNOTE FOR SOURCES

I do sympathize. Why would anyone pay all that money for a quickie trip and suffer the discomfort of unpredictability? Being a member of a rich, developed country with a high expectation of quality, service and social order should have taken care of all that.

Who wants to deal with all those scary foreign languages and potential criminal behaviors lurking beyond the hotel stoop, anyway? It could spoil a stress-free vacation.

But there’s a deeper disconnect going on here. I’ve written before about Japanese society’s overwhelming conceit with social power maintenance, and power plays a part in this discussion too.

You see, sympathy is in fact about power. People worthy of sorrow or pity have to appeal to people in a position to give that sympathy. Sympathizers have the power to decide to be charitable or merciful.

On the other hand, empathizers have to give up their power. They have to live situations like somebody else, feel their discomforts and disadvantages, walk in their shoes.

But we won’t. We’re rich. We’ve earned the right to stay in our own shoes.

So never mind empathy. Sympathy’s simpler, for if anyone needs our help, we’ll send money — if they’re within our ambit of concern. It’ll still have no real impact on our lives — or, more importantly, no real impact on our perceptions of their lives.

Now let’s seal off the attitudinal loop from foreigners in particular: Hey, if you don’t like living in Japan as a disadvantaged foreigner, you shouldn’t have come here in the first place. We don’t go to your country as a guest and tell you what to do in your house, do we?

And now let’s close it further with selective empathy: Ever wondered why many Japanese get so het up when their compatriots get discriminated against overseas? Such as in 1962, when Japan successfully lobbied apartheid South Africa to make Japanese into “honorary whites”? Or in 2010, when the British government threatened to put caps on special visas for Japanese (and other non-EU nationalities), and Japanese firms threatened an investment boycott? Or when even normally stoic Emperor Hirohito in 1946 expressed rare public outrage at racism towards Japanese in California?

Probably not, because one can understand the feelings of fellow Japanese in this situation. Empathy, however, generally doesn’t go outside the tribe: Japan can discriminate against foreigners, but woe betide the foreigners if they do it to Japanese!

Again, I do sympathize, since a lack of empathy is by design. The government has long portrayed foreigners as Japan’s opponents — agents of crime, terrorism, disease and land grabs.

The end result is that even the most well-intentioned people in Japan, who do protest clear examples of racial discrimination (e.g., the “Japanese only” signs at businesses, the racist street demos saying “Kill all Koreans,” the “Japanese only” banner by Urawa Reds soccer fans), use a different subtext.

They denounce racism as “Nihon no haji,” decrying the shame (haji) that xenophobia brings upon Japan on the international stage: It makes Japan, and by extension themselves as Japanese, look bad.

Shame is a very effective message — thank you for it — but the more empathetic tack would be to argue that foreigners are people too; that they live in Japan just like any Japanese; that they deserve to live in Japan as residents, patronize bathhouses and restaurants as customers, attend soccer matches as fans, like anyone else; that foreigners deserve exactly the same human rights and access to public goods as any other Japanese.

But equal treatment is rarely part of the debate. Instead people argue, “If they want to be treated the same, they should naturalize,” as if that fixes everything. Trust me, it doesn’t.

Again, empathy is key. If more people had it, they would advocate for Japanese society to “do unto foreigners,” because they would understand how foreigners feel, as Obama argued, and wouldn’t wish that treatment upon anyone.

Japan, let’s work on that empathy deficit. Less dōjō (sympathy), more kyōkan (empathy). Broaden your ambit beyond the tribe and you just might realize that power is not “zero-sum,” i.e., that giving more power to foreigners in Japan does not mean less power for you. In fact, it makes things better for everyone, as it gives more people more opportunity to fulfill their lifetime potential in society.

Now, who wouldn’t empathize with that?

===============================
Debito Arudou, who has just received his Ph.D. in International Studies from Meiji Gakuin University, is editing his dissertation on racial discrimination in Japan into a book. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

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

ENDNOTE
I have gone through several databases, including ProQuest, and searched through the full archives of about ten academic peer-reviewed journals on tourism, and there really isn’t much related rigorous sociological/anthropological in recent years on this, it would seem. What I could track down published within the past five or so years:

From: Generalized pattern in competition among tourism destinations
Dawes, John; Romaniuk, Jenni; Mansfield, Annabel. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research3.1 (2009): 33-53.

Establishes that Japanese tourists take shorter holidays and more picky about their destinations of the four groups selected:
“This suggests Japanese tourists travel to a smaller range of destinations than USA, UK and Singaporean Tourists. This result might be due to greater loyalty to single destinations or due to taking fewer holidays overall.”

Cross-cultural tourist behaviour: a replication and extension involving Hofstede’s uncertainty avoidance dimension
Litvin, Stephen W; Crotts, John C; Hefner, Frank L. The International Journal of Tourism Research6.1 (Jan/Feb 2004): 29-37.

This one tells what we already know about Japanese avoidance of uncertainty and risk, replicates older results:
ABSTRACT: Hofstede’s five cross-cultural dimensions have been broadly applied in the literature. Money and Crotts recently applied the dimension of uncertainty avoidance to a matched sample comprised of low uncertainty avoidance German and high uncertainty avoidance Japanese tourists, finding their behaviors consistent with those behaviors predicted by Hofstede. This study both replicates and extends their research across a representative sample of first time leisure visitors to the USA representing 58 nations. It was found that visitors from high uncertainty avoidance cultures exhibited behaviors consistent with those of the Japanese in the Money and Crotts research, whereas visitors from low-uncertainty avoidance cultures behaved similarly to their German subjects. Such findings, across a broad sample population, validate the original research through a more rigorous test of its propositions, provide increased confidence regarding their generalizability, and further contribute to our understanding of the influence of national culture on tourist behavior. http://marketing-to-japan.com/the-japanese-tourist.html

ALSO
(sourced from www.visitbritain.com, date unknown)
Package tours 48.2%
Individually arranged 37.1% (increasing)
Group travel 6.2%

http://books.google.com/books?id=LC4c7i3WrPgC&pg=PA214&lpg=PA214&dq=are+japanese+tourists+more+likely+to+tour+in+groups+than+other+nationalities?&source=bl&ots=gXuRHVKInI&sig=xLud0YIHdySfGG7ue2xlItv9oms&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gGxZU47CD-Xg2QXc3IDYDA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=are%20japanese%20tourists%20more%20likely%20to%20tour%20in%20groups%20than%20other%20nationalities%3F&f=false
“In the past they liked to travel in relatively large groups, but by the mid-1990s the young were increasingly traveling in smaller groups or on their own and had come to resemble Western tourists. Individual Japanese tourists became less interested in purchasing pre-arranged tours…” (2008)

http://books.google.com/books?id=_Jz4ZJsoaMgC&pg=PA327&lpg=PA327&dq=are+japanese+tourists+more+likely+to+tour+in+groups+than+other+nationalities?&source=bl&ots=-QHjToQ_40&sig=c6H_eqttasGJvdUoq-xo_breAsk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gGxZU47CD-Xg2QXc3IDYDA&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=are%20japanese%20tourists%20more%20likely%20to%20tour%20in%20groups%20than%20other%20nationalities%3F&f=false
“Japanese tourists are the most distinctive…”
“Koreans and Japanese are the least active and reserved in social situations (probably due to their collectivistic and high-uncertainty-avoidance characteristics)… Japanese are the most adventurous in food preferences, and they plan their trips rigidly and meticulously, but choose short trips.” (1997)
endnote ends

Mainichi: Discrimination against NJ in housing rentals highlighted in Tokyo Govt survey; like “Tokyo Sharehouse” with its new Tokyo-wide system of Japanese-Only rentals?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  A number of people sent me this article about the Tokyo Metropolitan government surveying NJ discrimination levels (I guess it takes an Olympics before people start caring about foreigners; watch this best behavior dry up afterwards).  It is indeed good to see people acknowledging that discrimination towards NJ exists, and that the media is covering it.  And that the most common answer by respondents chosen (since it is probably the most normalized and systemic NJ discrimination) is in residence rentals (not to mention the rise in awareness of hate speech; hurrah).  I’ll return to the subject of realtors again right after the articles.

But one just has to love the methodology when it comes to the “how to improve things” section part of the survey:  The leading questions assuming that Japanese and foreigners are “different”.  After all, Japan is unique, therefore anyone who is not a Japanese is not a member of the unique J-culture club, therefore foreigners must be different because they aren’t, er, unique like us Japanese (as opposed to everyone being treated like a human being with similar interests and needs, such as, er, shelter and equal access to housing?).  And those “differences” must be explained (as opposed to legislated away with anti-discrimination laws?) to them and us, no matter how long that takes, and regardless of how vague a concept these “cultural differences” are.  Such a convenient patsy for differential treatment is “culture”, yes sir.

Anyway, here is the article in E and J.  Further comment follows:

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

Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments highlighted in survey
April 10, 2014 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140410p2a00m0na005000c.html

Discrimination against foreigners in renting apartments or other residences was given as an ongoing violation of their human rights by almost half of respondents to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The survey was conducted in November and December last year with preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games in mind. The survey was offered to 3,000 randomly chosen Tokyo residents, with responses gathered from 1,573 people.

A representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s human rights division said, “Violations of foreigners’ human rights continue, and we’d like to improve awareness of the issue within six years from now (when the Olympics are scheduled.)”

In a multiple-answer question on human rights violations against foreigners, “the difficulty of renting apartments or other residences” was the most common answer chosen, with 45.6 percent of respondents selecting it. Next was “receiving disadvantageous treatment at work or during job hunting” at 34.5 percent, followed by “insufficient acceptance in community activities and places of communication” at 21.9 percent and “bullying or harassment at work or school” at 21.1 percent. With the repeated instances of hate speech directed at foreigners going on around the country, 19.9 percent of respondents chose “discriminatory speech and actions.”

Regarding what is necessary to get along with foreigners, 60.1 percent answered “inform foreigners of the differences between traditions and habits in their country and Japan,” 44.3 percent answered, “create more opportunities for communication such as by encouraging participation in local society,” 41.1 percent replied, “inform Japanese of the differences between traditions and habits in Japan and foreigners’ countries,” and 24.3 percent responded, “improve foreign language support at help organizations.”
ENDS

Original Japanese:

都民人権世論調査:外国人への人権侵害、「アパート入居困難」半数近く 「差別的な表現や言動ある」は2割 /東京
毎日新聞 2014年04月10日 地方版
http://mainichi.jp/area/tokyo/news/20140410ddlk13040128000c.html

都は、2020年東京五輪の開催決定を受け、都民の人権意識に関する調査を行い、その結果を公表した。外国人に対してどのような人権侵害が起きているかという質問に、半数近くが「アパートなど住宅への入居が困難なこと」と回答した。都人権部の担当者は「外国人への人権侵害は依然として残っており、(五輪が開かれる)6年後を目標に人権意識を高める啓発を強めたい」としている。

調査は昨年11〜12月、住民基本台帳から無作為に抽出した3000人の都民を対象に行い、1573人から回答を得た。

「外国人への人権侵害」は、複数回答で「アパートなど住宅への入居が困難なこと」が最多の45・6%。「就職・職場で不利な扱いを受ける」34・5%▽「地域社会の活動や交流の場での受け入れが十分でない」21・9%▽「職場・学校等で嫌がらせやいじめを受ける」21・1%−−と続いた。また、ヘイトスピーチ(憎悪表現)が各地で相次いでいることなどを受け、19・9%が「差別的な表現や言動が行われること」を挙げた。

また、外国人と共存するために必要と思う取り組みは、「外国人に日本の風習や習慣の違いを周知する」60・1%▽「地域社会の活動に参加を促すなど交流の機会を増やす」44・3%▽「日本人に外国の風習や習慣の違いを周知する」41・1%▽「各種の相談機関で外国語対応を充実させる」24・3%−−となった。【和田浩幸】

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

COMMENT:  Now consider this recent email from John F.:

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

April 10, 2014
Dear Debito, First of all, I would like to thank you for your tireless efforts in fighting discrimination in Japan. I especially appreciate how you choose to try and educate those who engage in discrimination rather than simply expressing condemnation. As an American living in Tokyo, my personal experiences with discrimination have fortunately been few and far between. From time to time, though, I have felt as if my human dignity was violated. I wish I were more courageous in rationally approaching such incidents of discrimination rather than keeping my feelings bottled up.

I would like to share with you a few specific examples of housing discrimination in Tokyo concerning share houses, and how a certain popular website advertises share house properties on the Internet. The link to the website I am referring to is tokyosharehouse.com

I had a rather unfortunate experience visiting a property advertised on that website last August. The property is called ‘Share Vie Mizue’, located in the Edogawa Ward of Tokyo. Here is the link to the property’s description: http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/470/

I discovered the property’s website while reading a review of it on Gaijinpot. As the property is advertised in English, I was very enthusiastic about checking it out. Naturally, I supposed it would be very welcoming towards international residents. To make a long story short, the representative who showed me the property reluctantly informed me that the owners did not welcome international residents. He did his best to dissuade me from attempting to rent a room there, and tried to offer me a place at another location. It seemed as if he was personally embarrassed that the owner of this particular property would discriminate against international guests. I wasn’t angry with him, but I was extremely upset that I took the time to visit the property on the assumption that I would be welcome due to the website being advertised in English. The website made no indication that international guests were not welcome at this property. Perhaps, hopefully, they have changed their policies since. However, the website still makes no indication that international guests are not welcome at that particular property.

Having recently returned to Tokyo from five months back in New York, I am again searching for a share house to live in. I have come across tokyosharehouse.com again, and what I discovered while browsing other properties on their website still disturbs me.

Please have a look at this link: http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1324/

tokyosharehouselafeliceikejiri041414

Now I am not female, but I find it rather painful to see the requirements for the ‘La Felice Ikejiri’ property. The requirements for renting a room are listed as ‘Female / Foreigner_x’.

tokyosharehouselafeliceikejiricrop041414

At first I was a bit confused as to what this means. Is it a ‘Foreigner Only’ house for females? If you scroll down further to ‘Move-in Conditions and Managing Style’ section, you’ll notice that there is no category of requirements for foreigners. The description of the property is accompanied by a side bar on the right describing whom I assume to be the property owners, ‘Tokyo Sanku Monogatari Co., Ltd.’ or ‘Many Smile Co.’

I am sorry to write you such a long email, but coming across these listings really makes my blood boil, especially after the personal experience I had. Although language is not specifically a problem, I find it rather unusual that a real estate website would choose to advertise properties in English where non-Japanese renters are not welcome. There are other properties on the site with similar discriminatory policies. This website has been advertised on Gaijinpot in the past as well. The owners of this website should be ashamed of themselves for advertising such properties, especially when they sheepishly use euphemistic descriptions like ‘Foreigner_x’ rather than what they really mean – ‘No Foreigners Allowed’.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. As share houses become more mainstream, I am afraid more and more non-Japanese apartment seekers on low budgets will be met with housing discrimination. Thank you for taking the time to read my email, and thank you for helping to restore dignity to those who have been victimized by discrimination.  Best regards, John F

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

COMMENT CONTINUES:  Y’know, that’s funny.  Why would this company go through all the trouble to put up a website in English and then use it to refuse NJ?  So they’d look international?  Or so they’d look exclusionary to an international audience?  Especially since there’s no room for misunderstanding (not to mention, no room, har har) when you look at the Japanese version of these websites:

tokyosharehouselafeliceikejirijcrop041414
(Complete tangent, but it’s also funny how the “foreigner” image is somehow redolent of Saturn…)

Yep, that’s “Gaikokujin Taiou Fuka“.  Foreigners will not receive service.  Japanese Only.  No cutesy “Foreigner_x”.  Whole page, for context:

tokyosharehouselafeliceikejirij041414

Other places within this rental system with “No Foreigners” rules (gotta love how they pretentiously put the names in faux French, yet won’t take French people):

  1. Claris Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1325/ (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1325/
  2. Domondo Sangenjaya (English) http://tokyosharehouse.com/eng/house/detail/1095/, (Japanese) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1095/
  3. Aviril Shibuya (Japanese Only in both meanings):  http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/1431/
  4. Pleades Sakura Shin-machi  (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/847/
  5. La Vita Komazawa  (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/500/
  6. La Levre Sakura Shin-machi (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/846/
  7. Leviair Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/506/
  8. Flora Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/502/
  9. La Famille (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/503/
  10. Pechka Shimo-Kitazawa (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/507/
  11. Amitie Naka-Meguro (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/508/
  12. Cerisier Sakura Shin-machi  (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/504/
  13. Stella Naka-Meguro  (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/501/
  14. Solare Meguro  (Japanese Only in both meanings) http://tokyosharehouse.com/jpn/house/detail/509/

So, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, thanks for those surveys saying how sad it is that NJ are being discriminated against in housing.  But what are they for, exactly?  Mere omphaloskepsis?  How about doing something to stop these bigots from discriminating?  ARUDOU, Debito

UPDATE APRIL 26, 2014: HERE’S ANOTHER TOKYO EXAMPLE SUBMITTED BY DEBITO.ORG READER XY: NOTE HOW FOREIGNERS (HELPFULLY REFUSED IN ENGLISH) AND CATS ARE BANNED (BUT SMALL PETS ARE ALLOWED). MAYBE IF NJ ANNOYINGLY YIPPED A LITTLE MORE LIKE POMERANIANS OR OTHER PURSE DOGS…?
rentalhaihoumuTokyoJapaneseOnly042614

Suraj Case: Tokyo District Court finds “illegal” excessive force, orders GOJ restitution to family of NJ killed during deportation (contrast with UK case)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Some moderately good news also came down the pipeline a few days ago, when the Suraj Case of police brutality and death in detention was drawn to a conclusion in Civil Court.  The Tokyo District Court faulted the GOJ with “illegal” excessive force, and doled out restitution of a paltry sum of about USD $50,000 for a man’s life.  Hokay.  For many (unless there is an appeal), that means case closed.

It’s good that somebody was found fault with.  Up until now, Japan’s Immigration Bureau got away with a clear case of cold-blooded murder of a NJ being manhandled by overzealous authorities.  However, this was a decision that took place in CIVIL Court, not Criminal, meaning no criminal penalty has been applied to Suraj’s killers.

Contrast this with a very similar murder case that just came down in the UK:  The Mubenga Case.  Same time line (an excruciatingly slow four years), same class of human being as far as the developed countries see it (a dark African man from Ghana/Angola), and same killing while in official custody.  Except in the UK case, you get arrests, a charge of manslaughter, and killers’ names made public.  In other words, the System in the latter case is less likely to protect individuals for their excesses, which is the much better deterrent for them to do this brutal act again.  Thus we’re more likely to see Surajs happen than Mubengas, since Japan’s criminal prosecutors decided not to pursue Suraj’s case at all.  And so the Suraj Case remains Japan’s shame, and should be a deterrent for future immigrants to come to Japan:  In Japan’s overall criminal system of “hostage justice”, an overstayed visa may become a capital offense.  Arudou, Debito

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Officials faulted in death of Ghanian
Court rules immigration used ‘Illegal’ force on deportee
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, STAFF WRITER
THE JAPAN TIMES, MAR 19, 2014

In a landmark verdict, the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday ruled that immigration officials were responsible for the death of a Ghanaian man they were forcibly deporting in 2010.

Finding that the officials “illegally” used excessive force to subdue Abubakar Awudu Suraj aboard a plane, the court ordered the government to pay about ¥5 million to his Japanese wife and his mother, who lives in Ghana.

The pair had sought more than ¥130 million in damages, arguing that Suraj, who was 45 at the time, suffocated while being subjected to abuse.

It’s the first time a court has ordered immigration officials to pay damages for the death of a foreigner they mistreated.

Caught overstaying his visa in 2006, Suraj was ordered deported. In March 2010, accompanied by a group of immigration officials, he was taken aboard a private jet at Narita airport.

Prior to takeoff, officials bound his arms and legs, stuffed a towel in his mouth and bent him forcibly forward, cutting off his air supply. They said later they were concerned Suraj might put up a violent struggle.

“Their effort to restrain him crossed the line to such an extent it can never be defended as necessary and reasonable,” presiding Judge Hisaki Kobayashi said, slamming their act as “dangerous” and “illegal.”

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/19/national/officials-faulted-in-death-of-ghanian/

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

Contrast this with what happened on about the same time line line with an incident in the UK:

Jimmy Mubenga: three G4s guards to be charged with manslaughter
CPS says Stuart Tribelnig, Terry Hughes and Colin Kaler will be charged over 2010 death of Mubenga at Heathrow airport
theguardian.com, Thursday 20 March 2014 08.26 EDT, courtesy of SendaiBen
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/20/jimmy-mubenga-death-three-g4s-guards-charged-manslaughter

Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained by the three guards on board a plane at Heathrow airport in October 2010.
Three G4S guards are being charged with manslaughter following the death of a man as he was being deported from the UK.

Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died after being restrained by the three on board a plane at Heathrow airport in October 2010.

On Thursday the Crown Prosecution Service said the guards, Stuart Tribelnig, 38, Terry Hughes, 53, and Colin Kaler, 51, would be charged with manslaughter.

Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of CPS special crime, said: “There is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute Colin Kaler, Terrence Hughes and Stuart Tribelnig.”

Mubenga’s wife, Adrienne Makenda Kambana, said: “My children and I have waited a long time for this decision. We hope the CPS will now move this case forward quickly. We feel like we are another step closer to getting justice for Jimmy.”

The three guards were arrested following Mubenga’s death but in 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any charges against them.

That decision was reviewed following an inquest into Mubenga’s death last year in which a jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing following an eight-week hearing.

McHaffie said: “We have completed a fresh review of all of the evidence relating to the death of Jimmy Mubenga, including the new evidence arising from the inquest, and decided that three men should be prosecuted for manslaughter.”

The CPS said it had decided not to prosecute G4S for corporate manslaughter.

“We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute G4S for either offence and, due to the fact that related proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” it said in a statement.

Mubenga and his wife came to the UK in 1994. His family says that as a student leader in Angola he had fallen foul of the regime and was forced to flee. After a protracted legal battle he was granted exceptional leave to remain and he and Kambana moved to Ilford in Essex, where they set up home with their five children.

In 2006 Mubenga was convicted of actual bodily harm and sentenced to two years in prison following a brawl in a nightclub.

After serving his sentence he was transferred to an immigration detention centre and the process to deport him began.

On Thursday the family’s solicitor, Mark Scott, welcomed the CPS’s decision to prosecute the guards, adding: “It has been a three-and-a-half year struggle for the family to get to this point and they hope to get on with their lives once this final challenge is met.”

The three guards are due to appear at Westminster magistrates court on 7 April.

Solicitors for the three said they would be vigorously denying the charges. A statement on behalf of Hughes, Kaler and Tribelnig said: “My clients are very disappointed with the CPS’s decision, having previously been told after a very lengthy police investigation that no charges would be brought against them. They will be vigorously denying these charges in court.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of the Inquest campaign group, which has supported Mubenga’s family, said the CPS’s decision “reiterates the importance of legal aid for families to be represented at inquests”.

“It is legal aid that ensured a robust examination of all the evidence, which has ultimately resulted in today’s welcome decision. The cuts to legal aid mean that cases like this in the future may well not receive this kind of scrutiny.”
ENDS

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More press:

Court slams ‘illegal’ restraint in death of Ghanaian deportee, orders compensation

AJW/Asahi Shimbun, March 19, 2014

By TSUYOSHI TAMURA/ Staff Writer

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201403190089

The Tokyo District Court blasted the “illegal” restraint methods used by immigration officials that led to the death of a Ghanaian national who was being deported four years ago and ordered the central government to pay about 5 million yen ($49,000) in compensation to his family.

Abubakar Awudu Sraj, 45, died on March 22, 2010, aboard an aircraft at Narita Airport.

His 52-year-old Japanese wife sued the central government, demanding 130 million yen in compensation.

On March 19, the Tokyo District Court declared that Sraj’s death was due to suffocation caused by illegal methods of restraint used by immigration security guards and ordered the payment of compensation.

Hiroshi Komai, professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba specializing in international sociology, said the verdict highlighted the lack of human rights awareness in the Immigration Bureau.

“The Justice Ministry should seriously accept the verdict and make every effort to prevent a recurrence,” Komai said. “The whole world will be watching to see what it does.”

Sraj’s widow felt a sense of vindication.

“I believe that my husband, in exchange for his life, brought to light an issue for Japanese society,” she said.

The Tokyo District Court verdict said immigration officials used restraints on a man who was putting up very little resistance.

“The (act of restraining) was illegal because the possible danger far outweighed the need and appropriateness for such restraint,” Presiding Judge Hisaki Kobayashi said in the verdict.

The restraints used violated internal regulations at the Justice Ministry.

According to a report compiled by the Justice Ministry, Sraj’s hands and ankles were cuffed, and he was gagged with a towel as several security guards carried him onto the aircraft. Those guards then pushed Sraj’s back, forcing him to hunch forward in his seat.

Both of his wrists were further bound to his belt with a plastic band.

The district court accepted that version of events, and said that while Sraj showed indications that he did not want to be deported before he was placed on the plane, once aboard he showed little resistance.

“Breathing restrictions due to the gag and the limitations on movement of the chest and diaphragm caused by being forced into a posture of having his face near his knees led to breathing difficulties that caused death by suffocation,” the verdict said.

The court rejected the central government’s argument that Sraj died due to heart problems, and that the method of restraint had no causal relationship with his death.

At the same time, the district court also recognized that Sraj repeatedly said he did not want to board the plane while he was being taken to it. The court said such remarks led to the judgment that Sraj was partly responsible for having to be forcibly restrained.

For that reason, the court decided that the central government only had to pay half the damages incurred by Sraj’s death.

The Ghanaian first arrived in Japan in 1988 on a short-stay permit. After working in factories, he was arrested in 2006 for immigration law violations.

Following his death, the Chiba prefectural police sent papers to prosecutors for 10 security guards on suspicion of causing death through violent acts by government workers. However, in July 2012, the Chiba district public prosecutors office decided not to indict any of the 10 individuals.

Sraj’s bereaved family members are considering asking the prosecution inquest committee to take up the matter.

An official with the Immigration Bureau at the Justice Ministry said, “We will decide on what steps to take after sufficiently considering the contents of the verdict.”

The verdict comes almost four years to the day of Sraj’s sudden death. His widow still has not come to terms with the senseless way in which he was taken from her.

“My husband was not treated as a human,” she said.

During the trial, lawyers for the central government argued that Sraj put up fierce resistance as he was being deported.

However, the video shown by officials of the Chiba district public prosecutors office to his family showed a calm Sraj walking on his own two feet. Security guards carried him onto the plane.

“The primary goal of the guards was to carry out the deportation, so they likely did not think they were dealing with another human,” Sraj’s widow said.

She first met Sraj in 1988, and they began living together the following year. They married in 2006. The Tokyo District Court rescinded a deportation order for Sraj in 2008 on the grounds the couple was legally married.

However, the Tokyo High Court the following year overturned the lower court ruling on the grounds that because the couple had no children and because the wife worked, there was no pressing need for her to have a husband.

Sraj said at that time that foreigners could not win in Japan.

The restraints used against Sraj were widely criticized. The Ghanaian Embassy filed a protest with the government. The British magazine Economist said Japanese society was avoiding the issue.

In its annual report on the human rights situation in nations around the world, the U.S. State Department called the restraining methods used in Japan cruel and inhumane.

The Justice Ministry regulations said that only handcuffs and rope could be used to bind individuals. While ankle cuffs were not allowed, Sraj was cuffed on both his hands and ankles. The plastic band used on Sraj’s hands was also prohibited and towels were not allowed to be used as gags.

However, when the Immigration Bureau released the results of its investigation into the case in 2012, it said Sraj was a “special case” that permitted the use of such devices.

Despite defending the methods used, the Immigration Bureau subsequently revised its internal regulations. Those now clearly state that ankle cuffs are prohibited. New regulations also call for videotaping as much as possible when deporting individuals to allow for a visual record.

After Sraj’s death, the Immigration Bureau stopped deporting individuals against their will.

However, from July 2013, the bureau began chartering planes for forced deportations of individuals in groups, a major change from the past practice of deporting individuals one at a time on commercial flights.

Human rights groups have criticized the resumption of deportations without consent on the grounds the life and the will of the deportees are being ignored.

ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 73, “J.League and Media Must Show Red Card to Racism” on Saitama Stadium “Japanese Only” Urawa Reds soccer fans, Mar 13, 2014

mytest

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Hi Blog and JT Readers.  Thanks again for putting this article top of the JT Online for two straight days again! ARUDOU Debito

ISSUES| JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
J.LEAGUE AND MEDIA MUST SHOW RED CARD TO RACISM 
JBC Column 73 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published March 13, 2014
By ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/03/12/issues/j-league-and-media-must-show-red-card-to-racism/
Version with links to sources

Urawajapaneseonlysideview030814

On Saturday, during their J. League match against Sagan Tosu at Saitama Stadium, some Urawa Reds fans hung a “Japanese only” banner over an entrance to the stands.

It went viral. Several sports sections in Japanese newspapers and blogs, as well as overseas English media, covered the story. The banner was reportedly soon taken down, and both the football club and players expressed regret that it had ever appeared. Urawa investigated, and at the time of going to press Wednesday, reports were suggesting that the club had decided that the banner was discriminatory, reversing a previous finding that the fans behind the incident had “no discriminatory intent.”

So case closed? Not so fast. There is something important that the major media is overlooking — nay, abetting: the implicit racism that would spawn such a sign.

None of the initial reports called out the incident for what it was: racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu). News outlets such as Kyodo, Asahi, Mainichi, Yomiuri, AP, AFP, Al-Jazeera — even The Japan Times — muted their coverage by saying the banner “could apparently be considered/construed/seen as racist.” (Well, how else could it be construed? Were they trying to say that “only the Japanese language is spoken here”?) Few ran pictures of the banner to give context or impact.

Japanese media appended the standard hand-wringing excuses, including the cryptic “I think the meaning behind it is for Japanese to pump up the J. League,” and even a reverse-engineered claim of performance art: “I think it was just tongue-in-cheek because the club is not bolstering the team with foreign players.” (Oh, and that’s not prejudiced?)

The Internet buzzed with speculation about the banner’s intent. Was it referring to the fact that Urawa was allegedly fielding a Japanese-only team for a change (notwithstanding their Serbian coach)? Or were the bleachers to be kept foreigner-free?

Doesn’t matter. “Japanese only” has long been the exclusionary trope for Japan’s xenophobes. The phrase came to prominence in 1999 in the Otaru onsen case, which revolved around several public bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, that refused entry to all “foreigners” based on their physical appearance (including this author, a naturalized Japanese). Later, exclusionary businesses nationwide copycatted and put up “Japanese only” signs of their own. “Japanese only” is in fact part of a social movement.

The upshot is, if you don’t “look Japanese,” you are not welcome. That’s where the racism comes in. Why should the Urawa banner be “construed” any differently?

The better question is: Why does this language keep popping up in public places? I’ll tell you why. Because Japan keeps getting a free pass from the outside world.

Just look at Japan’s sports leagues and you’ll find a long history of outright racism — excluding, handicapping and bashing foreigners (even the naturalized “foreigners”) in, for example, sumo, baseball, hockey, rugby, figure skating, the Kokutai national sports festivals and the Ekiden long-distance races. So much for a sporting chance on a level playing field.

Nevertheless, Japan keeps getting rewarded with major international events, such as the FIFA World Cup in 2002, the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and the Olympics in 2020. So be as racist as you like: There’s no penalty.

Anyplace else and soccer governing body FIFA would probably take swift action to investigate and penalize offenders in line with its policy of zero tolerance for racism, as has been done in the past, most recently in China. In January, the Hong Kong Football Association got fined for shirking its responsibility to stop racial discrimination against Filipino supporters by Hong Kong national team fans during a “friendly” match.

The Urawa Reds incident is still fresh. I await FIFA’s reaction (if any) with anticipation. But after more than two decades of watching this stuff — and even doing a doctoral dissertation on it — I’m not hopeful.

After all, Japan is not China. The developed world sees Japan as their bulwark of democracy in Asia, and is willing to overlook one very inconvenient truth: that a racialized narrative in Japan is so commonplace and unchallenged that it has become embedded in the discourse of race relations. Foreigners are simply not to be treated the same as Japanese.

People often blame this phenomenon on legal issues (foreigners are not treated exactly the same as citizens anywhere else either, right?) but the pachyderm in the parlor is that the practical definition of “foreigner” is racial, i.e., identified by sight. Anyone “looking foreign” who defied that Urawa banner and entered that stadium section would have gotten — at the very least — the stink-eye from those (still-unnamed) xenophobes who put it up. What other purpose could the banner possibly serve? In any case, it has no place under official FIFA rules.

Make no mistake: “Japanese only” underscores a racialized discourse, and the media should stop making things worse by kid-gloving it as some kind of cultural misunderstanding. It does nobody any favors, least of all Japanese society.

Consider this: As Japan’s rightward swing continues, overt xenophobia (some of it even advocating murder and war) is getting more vociferous and normalized. Not to mention organized: The Asahi Shimbun reported that in Tokyo’s recent gubernatorial election, about a quarter of the 611,000 people who voted for extreme-right candidate Toshio Tamogami, an overtly xenophobic historical revisionist, were young men in their 20s — a demographic also over-represented at soccer games.

Giving their attitudes a free pass with milquetoast criticism (J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai said that he will act if the banner was proven to be “discriminatory” — meaning he could possibly find otherwise?) only encourages discriminatory behavior: Be as racist as you like; there’s no penalty.

Point is, the only way to ensure Japan keeps its international promises (such as by creating a law against racial discrimination, after signing the U.N. Convention on Racial Discrimination nearly 20 years ago!) is to call a spade a spade. As scholar Ayu Majima notes, Japan has a fundamental “perception of itself as a civilized nation,” an illusion that would be undermined by claims of domestic racism. Remember: Racism happens in other countries, not here.

(Source:  Ayu Majima, “Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan.”  In Kowner and Demel, Eds., RACE AND RACISM IN MODERN EAST ASIA.  Brill, 2013, p. 409.)

By always denying racism’s existence, Japan preserves its self-image of civilization and modernity, and that’s why calling out this behavior for what it is — racial discrimination — is such a necessary reality check. FIFA and media watchdogs need to do their jobs, so I don’t have to keep writing these columns stating the obvious. Stop abetting this scourge and show some red cards.

Arudou Debito is the author of the “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” (www.debito.org/handbook.html) Twitter: @arudoudebito. Comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
==============================

UPDATE:  A lot happened soon after this article came out; I believe some of it because.  You can read comments below for some updates, and see my separate blog entry for the conclusions and lessons I learned from it — that essentially you’re not going to get any progress on the human rights front by appealing to moral arguments, because Japan’s elites and national narrative-setters don’t really care about that.  What they really DO care about is Japan’s image abroad as a “civilized” country, and that is the only pressure point NJ have.

Immigration Bureau: Points System visa and visual images of who might be qualified to apply

mytest

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Hi Blog. Got this from KM a short time ago, regarding Japan’s “Points System” visa:

=================================
February 23, 2014
Hi Debito! Don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill but the illustration at the top of this page interests me:

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/index.html

Almost all of the “highly-skilled” people have non-Asian looking noses. The only people that look like they might be from Korea or China are a family and the father is dressed as a factory worker. Like I say, I don’t want to read too much into this illustration but it does seem to be indicative of a tendency to want to exclude people from neighboring countries from the “preferred” group of foreigners.
=================================

Here’s the image:
pointssystemimageimmigration

What do you think? Is there mountaining out of molehills here? ARUDOU, Debito

Bloomberg column: “A rebuke to Japanese nationalism”, gets it about right

mytest

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Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog. Although I have been commenting at length at Japan’s right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn’t quite my specialty. That said, I’m happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant “victim” narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border.  These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ’s behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally.  ARUDOU, Debito

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A Rebuke to Japanese Nationalism
By The Editors Bloomberg News, Feb 16, 2014
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-16/a-rebuke-to-japanese-nationalism.html?cmpid=yhoo.view
Courtesy of Baudrillard

A series of recent blunt statements from U.S. officials have left no doubt that Washington blames China’s maritime expansionism for rising tensions in Asia. Now, America’s main ally in the region needs to hear a similarly forthright message.

Japan had been clamoring for the U.S. to speak out more forcefully after China imposed an “air-defense identification zone” over a set of islands claimed by both countries. Officials in Tokyo have warned that any hint of daylight between Americans and Japanese only encourages further bullying from the mainland. For that same reason, U.S. officials have tempered their criticism of statements and actions by Japanese leaders that irk China, not to mention other victims of Japanese aggression during World War II.

This circumspection is becoming counterproductive. Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.

Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.

Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone.

The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual. President Obama’s trip to Asia in April is an opportunity for the White House not only to reaffirm its disapproval of Chinese adventurism but also to make clear that Abe’s provocations are threatening stability in the region, and damaging the U.S.-Japan alliance.

This won’t change many minds inside Abe’s inner circle, of course. But most Japanese are acutely sensitive to any hint of U.S. displeasure. (Nearly 70 percent of respondents to one poll called on Abe to heed the negative reaction to his Yasukuni visit, which included a mild expression of “disappointment” from U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.) Voters threw out Abe once before when he let nationalist obsessions distract him from minding the economy. Sustained domestic pressure is needed to rein him in again.

Abe is not necessarily wrong to want to make Japan a more muscular nation — to rejuvenate its economy, open up its society and normalize its self-defense forces. A more robust Japanese military could play a bigger role in promoting global and regional stability — whether through anti-piracy patrols or peacekeeping missions — and come to the defense of its allies. Inflaming Chinese and Korean sensitivities helps achieve none of those goals.

All it does is raise the likelihood of conflict in the region. That Abe’s recent actions and comments may be less dangerous than China’s adventurism is beside the point. He’s eroding the international goodwill that Japan has built up over decades as a responsible democracy — all for no good reason. If he can’t see that for himself, perhaps the U.S. — and his own citizens — can help him.
ENDS

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NATIONAL / POLITICS & DIPLOMACY
Abe put Japan on back foot in global PR war with China
BY LINDA SIEG AND BEN BLANCHARD
REUTERS, FEB 17, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/17/national/abe-put-japan-on-back-foot-in-global-pr-war-with-china

Japan risks losing a global PR battle with China after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a controversial shrine for war dead and comments by other prominent figures on the wartime past helped Beijing try to paint Tokyo as the villain of Asia.

Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by territorial rows, regional rivalry and disputes stemming from China’s bitter memories of Japan’s occupation of parts of the country before and during World War II.

Relations chilled markedly after a feud over disputed East China Sea isles flared in 2012.

Beijing, however, has stepped up its campaign to sway international public opinion since Abe’s Dec. 26 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honors leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals with millions of war dead.

That strategy has helped China shift some of the debate away from its growing military assertiveness in Asia, including double-digit defense spending increases and the recent creation of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea that was condemned by Tokyo and Washington, experts said.

“Right now, this is a real war,” said Shin Tanaka, president of the FleishmanHillard Japan Group in Tokyo, a communications consultancy.

“Japan and China are using missiles called ‘messages’ and the reality is that a lot of damage is already happening in both countries,” he added, warning of a mutual backlash of nationalist emotions and potential harm to business ties.

Abe has repeatedly said he did not visit the shrine to honor war criminals but to pay his respects to those who died for their country and pledge Japan would never again go to war.

Getting that message across is not easy, communications and political experts said. Abe’s Yasukuni visit “gave China the opportunity . . . to attack Japan and send the message that China is the good guy and Japan is the bad guy,” Tanaka said.

Some Japanese diplomats and officials dismissed any suggestion they were worried, saying Tokyo’s rebuttals and the country’s postwar record of peace would win the day.

“Their Goebbelsian PR binge — repeat it 100 times then it becomes true, ungrounded or not — shows all the symptoms of a Leninist regime still remaining in the 21st century,” Tomohiko Taniguchi, a councilor in the Cabinet secretariat of the prime minister’s office, said in an email.

He was referring to Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda from 1933 to 1945.

“Yes we feel annoyed, but the next moment we relax for we have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Still, experts said Abe’s shrine visit had made it easier for Beijing to try to link Abe’s plans to bolster the military and loosen limits on the pacifist Constitution to Japan’s militarist past.

“The most fundamental thing they say is to assert that Japan is going on a path of militarism a la the 1930s. That’s just nonsense,” said Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. “But the problem is the Chinese are able to blur a lot of this stuff because of what Abe did.”

Recent remarks about Japan’s wartime past by the chairman of NHK and members of its board of governors have added grist to China’s PR mill.

Among those remarks were comments by new NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, who told a news conference last month that the “comfort women” — a euphemism for the vast number of females forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels — had counterparts in every country at war at that time. He later apologized.

NHK’s chief is selected by a board of governors that includes four Abe appointees.

Since the start of the year, Chinese ambassadors and other officials have targeted Japan 69 times in media around the world, the Foreign Ministry said in Tokyo. The campaign includes interviews, written commentaries and news conferences.

As of Feb. 10, Japan had issued rebuttals in 67 cases with the other two under review, Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said.

Asked if China had won over international opinion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said countries such as South Korea — where memories of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule run deep — had also criticized Tokyo.

“The mistaken ways of the Japanese leader have incurred the strong opposition of the international community,” Hua told reporters. “China is willing to work with other victims of the war and the international community to uphold historical justice.”

The verbal jousting has spanned the globe from capitals such as London and Washington to remote Fiji and South Sudan.

The best known exchanges are the “Voldemort attacks” in which China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, last month compared Japan to the villain in the Harry Potter children’s book series. In reply, Japan’s envoy, Keiichi Hayashi, said China risked becoming “Asia’s Voldemort.”

“We try to explain that Japan faces its history squarely and has expressed remorse . . . (and that) Japan will continue to pursue the path of a peace-loving country,” Sato said.

“Sometimes they try to link the visit to the shrine to security policy. That is a totally unrelated matter.”

Still, some in Japan fear that China’s PR blitz is having an impact on world opinion.

“A lie is repeated so that people are brainwashed and start to believe it,” Akira Sato, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s panel on defense policy, told Reuters.

Echoed a Western diplomat in Beijing: “China is being successful at getting its message across while Japan keeps saying stupid things like questioning the existence of comfort women. I think (China) has changed opinions.”

Tokyo’s mostly reactive approach, some PR experts said, was not enough to sway international public opinion, a worry some Japanese diplomats share privately.

“Japan is very worried that China is winning this propaganda war,” said an Asian diplomat based in Beijing. “Their diplomats have been asking how they can better put their side of the story and win people over in the West.”

That could be tough if Abe declines to say whether he will visit Yasukuni again or other prominent Japanese figures make contentious comments on wartime history, experts said.

Other matters, such as revisionist changes to Japanese textbooks to promote patriotism, could add fuel to the fire.

“Even if he doesn’t go to Yasukuni again, there are plenty of issues on their (the Japanese government’s) agenda,” Sneider said.

ENDS

Fun facts #18: More than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, will be nearly a quarter by 2028

mytest

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Hi Blog.  With some media outlets forecasting a rise in rents due to an alleged economic recovery Abenomics (somehow seeing rising fixed costs for businesses and people as a harbinger of something good), here’s an article stating that Japan’s depopulation (except in Tokyo, where any real opportunity for economic upward mobility is clustering) is probably going to render that moot.  Japan’s housing (as you longer-termers probably know, it’s already pretty crappy and not built to last) is also depopulating, as this fascinating article from the Japan Times excerpted below demonstrates.  Already more than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, and in less than a generation it will be nearly a quarter.  And yet there are forecasts for rents (okay, office rents) to rise again.  I smell another real estate bubble in the works, although media-driven instead of demand-pulled.  Should be some bargains out there for those who can find the realtors and renters who aren’t “Japanese Only.”

I put this under “Fun Facts” because these stats are surprisingly insightful statements on the way things are, or will be, in Japanese society. Those of you more in the know about Japan’s property market (I’ll ask Terrie Lloyd and see if he’ll comment), please feel free to prognosticate.  ARUDOU, Debito

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

NATIONAL
Land tax loophole ensures unused, dilapidated firetraps stay standing, till they fall
Abandoned homes a growing menace
BY TOMOKO OTAKE
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 7, 2014

As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, run-down, uninhabited properties like this are becoming more common. As of 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 7.57 million vacant homes, or 13.1 percent of all houses in Japan, up from 3.94 million in 1988 and 5.76 million in 1998, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The rate is expected to rise to 23.7 percent in 2028.

While these figures include second homes and properties waiting to be rented out or sold, more than a third of the 7.57 million vacant homes in 2008 were categorized as properties left unattended by owners or whose owners have died and are not taken care of at all. Many of these properties are now causing problems in their communities, experts say. As the structures age, the risk of collapse and fire increases. Some have leaked wastewater, damaging neighboring properties. They are also a magnet for criminal behavior, such as arson. 

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/07/national/abandoned-homes-a-growing-menace/

SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots

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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.

Sorry for the delay in postings these days (I have a monster project that I have to finish up, so blogging has to go on the back burner). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4), and I’ll put something different up tomorrow for discussion. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////
NATIONAL
Initiative fails to lure high-skilled foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI
The Japan Times, DEC 24, 2013
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/24/national/initiative-fails-to-lure-high-skilled-foreigners/

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.
ENDS

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

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…

Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Just got this interesting note from Debito.org Reader JDG:

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

Food for thought…

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

NATIONAL
Foreign workers in Japan hit record 717,504
JIJI, JAN 31, 2014, reprinted in The Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/31/national/foreign-workers-in-japan-hit-record-717504/

The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.

The increase reflected an improvement in the employment situation amid the economic recovery and Japanese companies’ growing moves to hire foreigners with special skills, according to the ministry.

The number of Chinese workers was the highest, at 303,886, or 42.4 percent of the total, followed by Brazilians at 95,505, or 13.3 percent, Filipinos at 80,170, or 11.2 percent, and Vietnamese at 37,537, or 5.2 percent.

The number of Chinese workers rose 2.5 percent. Filipino and Vietnamese workers increased 10.0 percent and 39.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilian workers fell 6.3 percent.

Of all foreign workers, 27.3 percent were in Tokyo, followed by 10.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture, 5.9 percent in Kanagawa Prefecture, 5.3 percent in Osaka Prefecture and 5.2 percent in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The government is considering accepting more foreign workers under its growth strategy and reviewing on-the-job training programs for foreigners.
ENDS
///////////////////////////////////////////////

JDG comments: The number of NJ workers in Japan has hit record levels, apparently.

Now, when I saw this, I expected to read lots of stern warnings about the danger of NJ *infiltration* into Japan, but the article claims that this increase is due to the J-gov’s amazing efforts to attract NJ with ‘special skills’ (and, of course, because *our great leader’s* economic policy is a godsend).

But hang on! I thought that the scheme to attract 2000 ‘elite gaijin’ a year was pronounced a failure?

Upon further reading it seems that most of these ‘gaijin with special skills’ are from asia (mainly China) leading me to suspect that their ‘special skill’ is their preparedness to work for minimum wage. Also,the biggest number is in Tokyo. So I suspect that rather than Tokyo being over-run with Chinese millionaire stock-brokers, it could be more accurate to deduce that these Nj are doing all the KKK jobs that the Japanese think they are too good for- combini’s and waitressing.

Interestingly, because this is being touted as a symptom (sorry, I meant ‘result’) of Abe’s economic policy, it will now be difficult for the NPA to announce the next ‘gaijin crime-wave’. I predict that when Abe throws a sickie, such an announcement will come. JDG
==========================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに93万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.

ekonomisuto011508cover

I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as JDG notes. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years. If those new MOJ stats are out, somebody please feel free to track them down and repost (awfully busy at the moment). Thanks. ARUDOU, Debito

ENDS

NHK World: Tokyo Court orders Tokyo Metro Govt to compensate Muslim NJ for breach of privacy after NPA document online leaks

mytest

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Hi Blog. In what I consider to be good and very significant news, the Tokyo District Court ruled that NJ who had their privacy violated, due to National Police Agency leaks of personal information, were entitled to compensation.

This is good news because the government rarely loses in court. Considering past lawsuits covered by Debito.org, the police/GOJ can get away with negligence (Otaru Onsens Case), grievous bodily harm (Valentine Case), and even murder (Suraj Case).

But not privacy violations. Interesting set of priorities. But at least sometimes they can protect NJ too.

Note also what is not being ruled problematic. As mentioned below, it’s not an issue of the NPA sending out moles to spy on NJ and collecting private information on them just because they happen to be Muslim (therefore possible terrorists). It’s an issue of the NPA losing CONTROL of that information. In other words, the privacy breach was not what’s being done by The State, but rather what’s being done by letting it go public. That’s also an interesting set of priorities.

But anyway, somebody was forced to take responsibility for it.  Good news for the Muslim community in Japan.  More background from the Debito.org Archives on what the NPA was doing to Japan’s Muslim residents (inadequately covered by the article below), and the scandal it caused in 2000, here, here, and here.  Arudou Debito

UPDATE JAN 17:  I was convinced by a comment to the Japan Times yesterday to remove this entry from the “Good News” category.  I now believe that the court approval of official racial profiling of Muslims has made the bad news outweigh the good.  That comment below the article.  

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

Tokyo ordered to pay police leak compensation
NHK World, January 15, 2014, courtesy of JK
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140115_36.html

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been ordered to pay compensation of more than 90 million yen, or about 860,000 dollars, for breach of privacy resulting from a leak of police documents.

The case involves 114 documents related to international terrorism that were leaked online in 2010. They contained the names, addresses and photos of Japanese people and foreigners who provided information to police investigators.

About 2 months after the documents were leaked, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department acknowledged the documents as their own, and pledged protection and support for those whose identities have been revealed.

But the police were never able to identify who was responsible for leaking the documents, which was done with special software that made the leak untraceable. The statute of limitations on the case expired in October.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo District Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by 17 Muslims who claimed that their privacy had been violated.

Presiding judge Masamitsu Shiseki acknowledged that the police created the documents and called intelligence-gathering by investigators an unavoidable measure to prevent international terrorism.

But the judge said the documents were probably leaked by Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department personnel, and held the Superintendent-General responsible for failing to properly manage their intelligence.

One of the plaintiffs told reporters that he felt a bit relieved that the court acknowledged the responsibility of the police. But he said that what he and others really wanted the court to acknowledge was that the police investigation was discriminatory and illegal. He said he was sorry that the court did not find the investigation illegal.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department says it is regrettable that the court did not accept its claims. It also said it will decide whether to appeal the ruling after studying the content of the decision.

ENDS

COMMENT FROM STEVE JACKMAN AT THE JAPAN TIMES (see full comment here):

So, the Japanese court has legally sanctioned the government to racially profile its Japanese citizens and residents, by giving the Japanese government its official approval and permission to racially profile them based on their religious beliefs. This smacks of the early days of the rise of Nazism, when the Nazis racially profiled Germany’s Jewish population based solely on their religious beliefs.

The Japanese court has ruled that the police can gather information on Japanese citizens and residents, based solely on the reason that they are Muslim. It cited that terrorist attacks had been carried out by Islamic radicals around the world, and the ruling stated that, “There is a sufficient danger that such acts could also occur in Japan”. Never mind, that these muslim citizens and residents have committed no crimes, have nothing to do with terrorism, and that until now Japan has only experienced home grown terrorism, which has nothing to do with its muslim population.

After the court’s verdict, the lawyer for the muslim plaintiffs stated, “The ruling allowed the gathering of information just because an individual happened to be a Muslim”. He further raised concerns about the effects of the court’s ruling in light of the recent enactment in Japan of the state secrets protection law, which defines information related to terrorism as being subject to classification as a state secret. “The gathering of information itself will become a secret and there would be no brakes applied on investigations conducted by those in public security,” he said.[…]

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources

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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
justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
The empire strikes back: the top issues for non-Japanese in 2013
BY ARUDOU Debito
JANUARY 7, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/01/06/issues/the-empire-strikes-back-the-top-issues-for-non-japanese-in-2013/

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:

11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat (see “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ,” JBC, Aug. 5).

10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.

9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.

8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability (“By opening up the debate to the real experts, Hashimoto did history a favor,” JBC, June 4).

7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests (see “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right,” JBC, Sept. 1).

6. Xenophobia taints No. 1 cleanup

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).

The Hague treaty seeks to codify and level the playing field for negotiation, settlement and visitation. However, Japanese legal scholars and grass-roots organizations are trying to un-level things by, among other things, fiddling with definitions of “domestic violence” to include acts that don’t involve physical contact, such as heated arguments (bōgen, or violent language) and even glaring at your partner (nirami). Put simply: Lose your temper (or not; just seethe) and you lose your kids. Thus, the treaty will probably end up as yet another international agreement caveated until it is unenforceable in Japan.

4. Visa regimes get a rethink

Two years ago, domestic bureaucrats and experts held a summit to hammer out some policies towards foreign labor. JBC pointed out flaws in their mindsets then (see “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese,” July 3, 2012), and last year they ate some crow for getting it wrong.

First, a highly touted “points system” for attracting highly skilled workers with visa perks (which JBC argued was unrealistically strict; see “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” March 6, 2012) had as of September only had 700 applicants; the government had hoped for 2,000. Last month, the Justice Ministry announced it would relax some requirements. It added, though, that more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries, were also necessary — once again falling for the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money.

In an even bigger U-turn, in October the government lifted its ban on South American NJ of Japanese descent “returning” to Japan. Those who had taken the repatriation bribes of 2009 (see “Golden parachutes for Nikkei mark failure of race-based policy,” JBC, April 7, 2009), giving up their accumulated welfare benefits and Japanese pensions for an airfare home, were now welcome to return to work — as long as they secured stable employment (as in, a one-year contract) before arrival. Good luck with that.

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.

3. Hate speech turns murderous

This was also the year that the genteel mask of “polite, peace-loving Japan” slipped a bit, with a number of demonstrations across the nation advocating outright hatred and violence towards NJ. “Good Koreans or bad, kill them all,” proclaimed one placard, while another speaker was recorded on video encouraging a “massacre” in a Korean neighborhood of Osaka. An Asahi Shimbun reporter tweeted that anti-Korean goods were being sold on Diet grounds, while xenophobic invective (even rumors of war with China) became normalized within Japan’s salacious tabloids (see here and here).

It got so bad that the otherwise languid silent majority — who generally respond to xenophobia by ignoring it — started attending counterdemonstrations. Even Japan’s courts, loath to take strong stands on issues that might “curb freedom of speech,” formally recognized “hate speech” as an illegal form of racial discrimination in October, and ordered restitution for victims in one case (a Zainichi Korean school) and a year of actual jail time in another (for harassing a company that had used a Korean actress in its advertising).

However, leading politicians offered only lukewarm condemnations of the hatred (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “dishonorable,” months after the fact) and no countermeasures. In fact, in April, Tokyo’s then-governor, Naoki Inose, slagged off fellow Olympic candidate city Istanbul by denigrating Islam — yet Tokyo still got the games.

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:

2. LDP holds both Diet chambers

In July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party accomplished its primary goal by chalking up a landslide victory in the Upper House to complement its equally decisive win in the Lower House in December 2012. Then, with virtually no opposition from the left, it got cocky in its deceptiveness.

Shortly after the election, Deputy PM Taro Aso enthused aloud about Nazi Germany’s policymaking tactics, advocating similar stealth for radical constitutional reforms before Japan’s public realizes it. Later it became clear that LDP reform proposals (excising, for example, “Western” conceits of individuality, human rights and a demystified head of state, and replacing them with the duty to “respect” national symbols, the “public interest” and “public order”) might be too difficult to accomplish if laws were actually followed. So off went Abe’s gaijin-handlers on overseas missions (see “Japan brings out the big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6) to announce that reinterpretations of the Constitution’s current wording would resolve pesky postwar restrictions.

Meanwhile, Abe was being rebranded for foreign consumption as a peace-loving “ethnic nationalist” instead of (in JBC’s view) a radical historical revisionist and regional destabilizing force. Not only was his recent visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine repackaged as a mere pilgrimage to Japan’s version of Arlington National Cemetery, but Japan’s remilitarization was also portrayed as a means to assist America and the world in more effective peacekeeping operations, as seen in Abe’s “human security” and “proactive peace policy” neologisms.

As always, a liberal slathering of “peace” talk helps the munitions go down. Just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. For curtains are precisely what are being drawn with the passage of:

1. The state secrets law

In a country where most reforms proceed at a glacial pace, the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets took everyone by surprise, moving from the public-debate back burner to established law in mere weeks. We still don’t know what will be designated as a “secret,” although official statements have made it clear it would include information about Fukushima, and could be used to curtail “loud” public rallies by protesters LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened to “terrorists.”

We do know that the punishments for leakers, including journalists, will be severe: up to 10 years’ jail for leaking something the government says it doesn’t want leaked, and five for “conspiracy” for attempting to get information even if the investigating party didn’t know it was “secret.” It’s so vague that you can get punished for allegedly “planning” the leak — even before the leak has happened or concrete plans have been made to leak. Although resoundingly condemned by Japan’s media, grass roots and the United Nations, it was too little, too late: Stealth won.

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

NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime”

mytest

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Thanks for your support!

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 NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL
Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism
Published: December 16, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/16/opinion/japans-dangerous-anachronism.html

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.

ENDS

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

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?”

Post-passage of State Secrets Bill, watch as Abe further dismantles Japan’s postwar anti-fascism safeguards

mytest

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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.

As discussed here before Debito.org got tackled, both inside and outside observers (including the UN) were alarmed at the contents of the State Secrets Protection Law (himitsu hogo hou), the one that leaves vague what a “government secret” is exactly (for better public non-transparency), and offers criminal penalties of up to ten years’ incarceration for violators, including journalists.  The tone of this law is pretty clear:  Anyone who gets in the way (and according to LDP Secretary General and defense policy wonk Ishiba Shigeru, “noisy” protestors will be labeled “terrorists”; I’m waiting for Ishiba to say the same thing about the perennially noisy, intimidating, and sometimes violent right-wing sound trucks) will be dealt with accordingly.

Debito.org said that the protests in any case were too little, too late, and it would make no difference.  It didn’t (except in Abe’s approval ratings, which dipped below 50% for the first time for this administration; never mind — a few more saber rattlings with the Chinese bogeyman will remedy that), and the bill was rammed through both the Lower and Upper Houses and is now law.  SITYS.

This after, as also noted on Debito.org previously, Abe’s Gaijin Handlers were sent off on a mission to placate the one country that might get them to avert this course:  The United States.  Top Abe advisor Kitaoka Shin’ichi recently visited Hawaii and points mainland to sell Japan’s remilitarization as a means to help America’s security exploits abroad, saying it would be possible by a mere circumvention of the Constitution by reinterpretation.  Who needs to go through that laborious process of actual Constitutional revision when you can just ignore it?  And it seems the Americans have signed off on it.  And on Japan’s new protection measures of “state secrets”.  And on a creation of a National Security Council that reports to Abe, modeled on the USG’s NSC, so who could object?  Checkmate.

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.

NHK)「世界一安全な日本」戦略決定
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20131210/k10013709951000.html
12月10日 12時49分

「世界一安全な日本」戦略決定
政府は10日の閣議で、2020年の東京オリンピック・パラリンピックに向けて、テロ対策やサイバー犯罪への対処を強化するなどとした治安対策の新たな指針、「世界一安全な日本」創造戦略を決定しました。

「世界一安全な日本」創造戦略は、安倍総理大臣とすべての閣僚でつくる犯罪対策閣僚会議が、2020年の東京オリンピック・パラリンピックの開催を視野に、今後7年間の治安対策の新たな指針としてまとめ、10日の閣議で決定されました。

それによりますと、良好な治安を確保することが、東京オリンピック・パラリンピックの成功の前提だとしたうえで、原子力発電所に対するテロ対策の強化や、海上や沿岸警備の強化など水際対策の徹底、それに、在外公館を通じた情報収集活動の強化に取り組むとしています。

また、「世界最高水準の安全なサイバー空間の構築」にも取り組み、サイバー犯罪の取り締まりの徹底や、サイバー犯罪対策を手がけるアメリカの産学官の団体を参考にした新たな組織の創設などを進めるとしています。

安倍総理大臣は、閣議に先立って開かれた犯罪対策閣僚会議で、「総合的な犯罪対策を政府一体となって推進し、国民が誇りとする世界一安全な国、日本を創り上げるため、全力で取り組んでほしい」と指示しました。

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

日経)サイバー犯罪対策で官民組織 政府、東京五輪に向け戦略
http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXNASDG1000Z_Q3A211C1CR0000/
2013/12/10 11:24

保存印刷リプリントこの記事をtwitterでつぶやくこの記事をフェイスブックに追加共有
政府は10日の閣議で、2020年の東京五輪開催に向けて取り組む治安向上策をまとめた「『世界一安全な日本』創造戦略」を決定した。脅威が増すサイバー犯罪やテロへの対策強化が柱。暴力団排除をはじめとする組織犯罪への対処や人材育成、再犯防止策の推進も盛り込んだ。

閣議に先立つ犯罪対策閣僚会議で、安倍晋三首相は五輪開催に向け「安心して感動を共有できる大会にするには安全の確保が必須の前提で、わが国の国際的な使命だ」と指摘。「戦略に基づき、総合的な犯罪対策を政府一体となって推進してほしい」と呼びかけた。

近年、重大な脅威が表面化しているサイバー犯罪への対処としては、優れた知見を持つ民間事業者や海外の捜査機関との協力強化を明記。米国でサイバー犯罪の手口やウイルス情報の集約・分析を手がける非営利団体「NCFTA」をモデルとした官民の新組織の創設も掲げた。

テロ対策では、原子力発電所など重要施設の警備に力を入れる。警察にある特殊急襲部隊(SAT)の装備充実や自衛隊などとの共同訓練の推進を列挙。臨時国会で成立した特定秘密保護法を的確に運用し、諸外国からの情報収集・分析を強化することも盛った。

ストーカーや配偶者間暴力(DV)、薬物、振り込め詐欺など身近な犯罪への対応も強化する。
===============================

産経)東京五輪へ、「世界一安全な日本」を 犯罪対策閣僚会議が新計画
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/politics/news/131210/plc13121012170015-n1.htm
2013.12.10 11:14

2020年東京五輪に向けて、政府の全閣僚をメンバーとする犯罪対策閣僚会議は10日、テロに強い社会構築などを目指した「『世界一安全な日本』創造戦略」を策定した。平成15年と20年にまとめた「犯罪に強い社会の実現のための行動計画」の最新版。五輪招致成功の要因として治安の良さが評価されたことを受け、名称を変え、今後7年間取り組んでいく。

「原子力発電所に対するテロ対策の強化」を挙げ、警察・自衛隊など関係機関の実践的な共同訓練を進め緊急事態への対応能力を高める。また、海上や沿岸警備の強化などを柱とする水際対策の徹底、テロの兆候に関する情報を確実に得られるよう外国情報機関と連携し、情報収集や分析機能の向上を図る。

「世界最高水準の安全なサイバー空間の構築」にも取り組む。増加するサイバー犯罪・攻撃の取り締まりを強化し、民間事業者と協力して未然防止に努める。組織犯罪対策など、各種犯罪全般について具体的に取り組む施策を列挙した。
===============================

読売)世界一安全な国へ…サイバー犯罪・テロに対策
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/news/20131210-OYT1T00638.htm?from=navr

政府は10日午前の閣議で、2020年開催の東京五輪・パラリンピックを見据え、治安をさらに良くして「世界一安全な国、日本」を創り上げるための戦略を決定した。

地域の絆や連帯の強化を図る一方、サイバー攻撃や国際テロなどの新たな脅威への対策を講じるとし、「五輪成功の前提として絶対に成し遂げなければならない」と強調した。

戦略では、サイバー犯罪対策として、民間業者と連携して捜査技能の向上を図ることや、犯人の追跡を容易にするためインターネットの通信履歴(ログ)の保存などを検討していくとした。テロ防止では、アルジェリアの人質事件を教訓に、在外公館に警察出身者や防衛駐在官を増員するなど、情報収集と分析を強化するとしている。

(2013年12月10日19時55分 読売新聞)
===============================

官邸公式)『世界一安全な日本』創造戦略(pdf 63ページ)
http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/hanzai/kettei/131210/kakugi.pdf
/////////////////////////////////////

Thanks JJS.

Look, some people might be surprised by all this, but I’m not.  Debito.org saw this coming more than ten years ago, and watched it play out since 2000 as innate fears of outsiders in general were made into public policy that portrayed foreigners as criminals, then terrorists etc.  Now, it’s Chinese foreigners in specific (what with the two-plus “Lost Decades” of stagnant to negative growth causing Japan to be eclipsed by China as the largest economy in the region).  I’ve charted the arc of this public debate in a paper for Japan Focus, showing how officially-sponsored xenophobia was used to undermine, then decimate, Japan’s Left.  And with no opposition Left, there’s nothing to stop a dedicated silver-spoon elite like Abe, who has known no war (and accepts no responsibility for Japan’s historical role in it), for swinging the pendulum the furthest Right it has been in the Postwar Era.  Provided his health holds up, he’s got three years to do it.  Just watch him do it as quickly as possible.  Arudou Debito

DVB News: Japan’s lack of transparency threatens Burma’s development (as PM Abe seeks to contain China)

mytest

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Hi Blog. A bit of a tangent today. The author of this article asked me for some input some months back, and I steered him towards some resources that talked about Japan’s historical involvement with Burma (and deep ties between the ruling junta and Japan’s WWII government — to the point of using the Imperial Army’s public order maintenance style over its colonies as a template to repress domestic dissent). Even with recent changes in Burma’s government, Japan’s engagement style is reportedly not changing — it’s still up to its old nontransparent policymaking tricks.  I put up this article on Debito.org because it relates to the Abe Administration’s perpetual use of China not only as a bugbear to stir up nationalism and remilitarization, but also something to encircle and contain, as Abe visits more Asian countries in his first year in office than any other PM (without, notably, visiting China). Nothing quite like getting Japan’s neighbors to forget Japan’s wartime past (and, more importantly, Japan’s treatment of them as a colonizer and invader) than by offering them swagbags of largesse mixed with a message of seeing China instead as the actual threat to regional stability.  Result:  Who will agitate for the offsetting of Japan’s historical amnesia if the descendants of their victims (or their governments, lapping up the largesse) will not?  These are the “arrows” Abe is quietly loosing, and this time outside Japan in support of his revisionism.  Arudou Debito

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

Japan’s lack of transparency threatens Burma’s development
Demographic Voice of Burma News, October 31, 2013, By Jacob Robinson,courtesy of the author
http://www.dvb.no/analysis/japans-lack-of-transparency-threatens-burmas-development-myanmar/34024
Excepted below

Japan’s traditional approach to diplomacy – characterised by “quiet dialogue” – is becoming a threat to Burma’s fragile reform process. In recent weeks, the Japanese government has demonstrated an alarming lack of transparency regarding both its role in Burma’s peace process and land grabbing problems at Thilawa, Japan’s flagship development project near Rangoon. Eleven News also reported on Tuesday that a Burmese parliament member demanded greater transparency about how Japanese financial aid is distributed to Burma’s health sector.

Perhaps of greatest concern is Japan’s abysmal response to land grabbing problems at Thilawa. When landgrabbing reports first surfaced in January 2013, a Japanese company developing Thilawa responded to media inquiries by saying that land issues were the sole responsibility of Burma’s government. The following month, a spokesman for Japan’s embassy in Burma took the same position, saying that Thilawa land issues were “very complicated” and that Burma’s government was solely responsible for land grabbing issues.

This kind of detached and dismissive response from Japan was nothing less than a public relations disaster. It also set off alarm bells among members of the international community who were hoping that Japan would play a responsible role in Burma. It wasn’t until this October – over 10 months after the initial land grabbing report – that Japan’s government finally decided to take some responsibility for land grabbing by holding a meeting with Thilawa landowners. Not surprisingly, The Irrawaddy reported that the meeting was off-limits to the media and held behind closed doors.

Japan’s secretive approach to such an important issue is an ominous sign that Japan is stubbornly clinging to its “quiet dialogue” approach to diplomacy, whereby Japanese officials “gently encourage” foreigners to capitulate in stuffy private meetings that are tightly controlled and choreographed by Japan. Japanese officials just don’t seem comfortable doing business any other way. But being uncomfortable isn’t an excuse. There’s a good reason why transparency has become a rallying cry for Burma’s opposition, and Japan will need to adapt. A lack of transparency breeds corruption, and corruption stifles development. So if Japan really wants to foster sustainable development in Burma it simply has to change its ways…

In other words, Japan is starting to destroy an amazing opportunity that practically fell into its lap when Burma’s military decided to give Japan a prominent role in developing the “new and improved” Burma. One reason why Japan has been so favoured lately is because it’s viewed as a “friendly” alternative to China. But if people start to equate Japan’s tactics with those of China, the whole game changes and Burma will be less willing to grant Japan special privileges.

Japan also made a huge mistake by asking Yohei Sasakawa to serve as Japan’s official peace ambassador in Burma. Sasakawa is a member of Japan’s far-right historical revisionist movement which still somehow thinks Japan was the victim rather than the aggressor of World War II. Sasakawa also cultivated personal ties with Burma’s former military dictatorship, and not surprisingly Sasakawa has yet to disavow his father’s controversial support for fascism.

In his blog, Sasakawa even sings high praises for former junta leader Than Shwe, an outrageous position which immediately puts him at odds with millions of Burmese citizens. As a personal friend and apologist of Than Shwe, it’s clear that Sasakawa should have been disqualified from the peace process from the beginning…

Full article at http://www.dvb.no/analysis/japans-lack-of-transparency-threatens-burmas-development-myanmar/34024
ENDS

UN News: “Independent UN experts seriously concerned about Japan’s Special Secrets Bill” Fine, but too late.

mytest

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Hi Blog. First the news, then commentary:

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

INDEPENDENT UN EXPERTS SERIOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT JAPAN’S SPECIAL SECRETS BILL
UN News, New York, Nov 22 2013  1:00PM
Two independent United Nations human rights experts today expressed serious concern about a Government-sponsored draft bill in Japan that would decide what constitutes a State secret.

The Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the right to health requested further information from the Japanese authorities on the draft law and voiced their concerns regarding its compliance with human rights standards.

“Transparency is a core requirement for democratic governance,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, <“http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14017&LangID=E“>said.

He stressed that secrecy in public affairs is only acceptable where there is a demonstrable risk of substantial harm and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information kept confidential.

“The draft bill not only appears to establish very broad and vague grounds for secrecy but also include serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets.”

According to reports, information related to defence, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism will all be classified as a state secret, while ministers could decide what information to keep from the public.

Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, who visited Japan last year and studied the response to the disaster in Fukushima, underlined the need for to always ensure full transparency in emergency contexts: “Particularly in calamities, it is essential to ensure that the public is provided with consistent and timely information enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their health.”

“Most democracies, including Japan, clearly recognize the right to access information. As much as the protection of national security might require confidentiality in exceptional circumstances, human rights standards establish that the principle of maximum disclosure must always guide the conduct of public officials,” concluded the rapporteurs.

The bill in question establishes the grounds and procedures for classification of information held by the Government of Japan.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
________________
For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan has issued a protest of their own, in pdf format, at http://www.fccj.or.jp/images/FCCJ-State-Secrets-Protest-eng.pdf

However, my comment is pretty straightforward:  The snowball is rolling and a version of this legislation, even if “watered down” (or perhaps not), will probably be rammed through into law, since both houses of Parliament are in the hands of ultraconservative parties without a viable opposition party anymore.

Why wasn’t this seen coming down the pike in the first place before it got to this stage?  The warning signs were all there from last December’s election (before that, even, if you read PM Abe’s manifestoes about his “beautiful country“) about Japan’s rightward swing.  This consolidation of information control has always been part and parcel of state control — no surprises, especially in Japan.  So this public reaction of both naiatsu and gaiatsu is too little, too late.  Get ready for the politicized criminalization of public disclosure.  Arudou Debito

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 69, Nov 7 2013: “Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.” about PM Abe’s charm offensive through Gaijin Handler Kitaoka Shin’ichi

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Hello Blog. This month sees my 69th Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column, and I’m happy to report that even after nearly six years of monthly articles (and nearly 12 years of semimonthly reports), I don’t feel like I’m losing my stride. In fact, this month’s entry is one that I’m particularly proud of, as it helped crystallize a feeling I’ve had for quite some time now about the rightist shift in Japan’s politics — and how it inevitably leads (in Japan’s case) to militarism. It spent a couple of days in the JT Online Top Ten, thanks everyone!

justbecauseicon.jpg

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JAPAN BRINGS OUT BIG GUNS TO SELL REMILITARIZATION IN U.S.
By Arudou Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 69 for the Japan Times Community Pages
The Japan Times, November 7, 2013
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/11/06/issues/japan-brings-out-the-big-guns-to-sell-remilitarization-in-u-s/
Version follows with links to sources

Last month in Hawaii I attended a speech titled “Japan’s new National Security Strategy in the Making” by a Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka. A scholar and university president, Dr. Kitaoka is deputy chairman of the “Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security” within the Shinzo Abe administration.

I sat in because I wanted to see how a representative of Japan’s government would explain away Abe’s militaristic views to an American audience.

Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint. He was smooth. In impeccable English, to a packed room including numerous members of Hawaii’s military brass, he sold a vision of a remilitarizing Japan without a return to a prewar militarized Japan. (You can see the entire speech at http://www.vimeo.com/77183187.)

He laid out how Japan would get around its ban on having a military beyond a “self-defense force,” i.e., one that could project power beyond its borders. It would be the same way Japan got around its constitutional ban on having any standing military at all: Japan would once again reinterpret the wording of the Constitution.

His logic: If Japan has a sovereign right to “individual self-defense” (i.e., the right to attack back if attacked), it also has an inherent sovereign right to “collective self-defense” (i.e., the right to support Japan’s allies if they are attacked). A reinterpretation must happen because, inconveniently, it is too difficult to reform the Constitution itself.

That legal legerdemain to undermine a national constitution should have raised eyebrows. But Kitaoka was culturally sensitive to what his American audience wanted to hear: that the ends justify the means. He immediately couched Japan’s freer hand as a way to better engage in the U.S.-Japan security alliance, as well as participate more equally and effectively in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Japan could now assist the world in “human security” through a “proactive peace policy.”

As further reassurance, he gave five reasons why Japan could not return to 1930s-style fascism. Back then, 1) Japan needed more territory, resources and markets, which were being denied them by economic blocs formed during the Great Depression (conveniently omitting the entire “liberating Asians from white imperialism” narrative that underpinned Japan’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”); 2) there was hubris on the part of Japan’s military, convinced that neighboring territories were weak and easy targets; 3) the international community had little economic integration or punitive sanctioning power; 4) the military was not under civilian control; and 5) Japan lacked freedom of speech.

Then his rhetoric entered what I call “perpetual wolf-at-the-door territory,” reflecting the typical ideological polarization of a trained geopolitical security analyst. They see the world only in terms of power, potential threats and allies vs. enemies. (That’s why I stopped studying security issues as an undergrad at Cornell.)

Kitaoka sold China as the polar opposite of Japan. Japan is a “peace-loving” society with a “peace Constitution” and capped military expenditure, while China is a nuclear power with an enormous and expanding military budget. Japan has, if anything, “too much” freedom of speech, unlike China, where dissidents are jailed. Japan has no territorial designs abroad (not even the constant threat of invasion from the Korean Peninsula is worrisome anymore — the U.S. has it covered), while China is claiming islands and expanding into markets as far away as Africa! If Japan steps out of line, it would be hurt by international sanctions, as it is fully integrated into and dependent on the world economy, while China . . . isn’t. China is safeguarding its national security and enhancing its prestige through a nationalism that is “obsessed with national glory” while Japan . . . isn’t.

In fact, Kitaoka managed to trace just about every problem in his speech back to China. His conclusion in a Yomiuri Shimbun column on Sept. 22 was stark: “We should now take the place of the (prewar) Republic of China, which was invaded by Japan, and think about how to defend ourselves from unjustified aggression, and consider what should be done to defend ourselves more aggressively.” History, to Kitaoka, has come full circle.

So, in order to maintain regional security and balance of power, Kitaoka announced that Japan would adopt two measures by the end of 2013: 1) A comprehensive “national security strategy,” the first in Japan’s history, integrating foreign and defense policy; and 2) a new “outline of defense planning” through the establishment of an official “National Security Council.”

This would be led by a PM Abe unfettered by the “cancer of sectionalism” between “pro-Western” and “pro-Socialist” camps in Japan’s bureaucracy. Abe’s strong executive leadership would break the hold of Japan’s leftists (whom Kitaoka dismissed as “vocal minorities”) and give the “majority” their proper hand in policymaking.

Then Kitaoka felt he was in a position to make guarantees to the audience. He told them not to worry, for there was “zero possibility” of Japan intervening in the Koreas, including over the Takeshima/Dokdo disputed rocks, “without a request from you.” Japan would also not go nuclear, because nukes are unnecessary in a land so “narrow and densely populated” with no place to put them!

What about Japan’s ability to project power at sea? Despite the recent unveiling of the Izumo (one of three SDF “helicopter-carrying destroyers”; see “Watching Japan and China square off in East China Sea,” BBC News, Nov. 12, 2012), Kitaoka says Japan has “no use” for them. After all, the whole archipelago is full of “unsinkable aircraft carriers” — the Japanese islands themselves. So pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

My favorite part of Kitaoka’s speech (other than when he defied his doctorate training by calling Koreans an “emotional people,” and dismissed several counter-opinions as “stupid”) was when he blamed the putative ineffectiveness of the U.N. Security Council on a struggle between democratic and undemocratic member states, with China and Russia getting in the way. The U.N. would be more effective if more democratic countries were allowed into the UNSC — India, Germany, Brazil and . . . Japan, naturally.

Nice segue. Told you he was smooth.

This is why I am devoting a whole column to this event: The Abe administration is clearly on a charm offensive, sending out an articulate “gaijin handler” with an elite pedigree (Kitaoka is president of the International University of Japan, professor emeritus at Tokyo University, a former ambassador and U.N. representative, and a member of several major think tanks) on a whistle-stop U.S. tour to reassure American power brokers that they can relax their grip over Japan’s security.

After all, that seems to be what the U.S. wants. The schizophrenic U.S.-Japan security relationship has demanded for decades that Japan make more contributions to the geopolitical order, while making sure U.S. bases underpin Japan’s regional security and stop regional worries about a resurgent militarist Japan. As Maj. Gen. Henry Stackpole, former commander of the U.S. Marines in Japan, put it in 1990, the U.S. is the “cork in the bottle.” Thus, Kitaoka is softening up the crowd for Abe to uncork Japan’s military potential.

Now it all makes sense. This is why Abe is making so much noise recently in places like the Wall Street Journal and domestic media about Chinese aggression and regional security.

Abe has a timetable to meet. His national security council is due this month. The defense planning outline is due in December. It’s time to rile up the Japanese public once again about the Chinese wolf at the door, and get them ready to sign off on Japan’s remilitarization.

Look, when Japan’s gross domestic product fell behind China’s in 2011, we all knew there would be blowback in terms of Japan’s national pride. But so much so quickly? Who would have thought that a troublemaking Tokyo governor could create such geopolitical mayhem by threatening to buy some specks in the ocean outside his prefecture, throw Japan’s left-leaning government into chaos and get Japan’s most right-leaning government in generations elected by the end of 2012?

Then again, it’s not so surprising. Watching Kitaoka’s speech, I realized again just how smooth Japan’s elites are. They know whose hands to shake, whose ears to bend, and how to behave as public campaigners in the diplomatic community. Hey, that’s how they somehow got the 2020 Olympics! They know how to say what people want to hear. That is the training of a lifetime of tatemae (pretenses masking true intentions).

Sit back, folks. We’re going to get an official and resurgent Japanese military. With a probable nod and a wink from the Americans, there’s not a lot we can do but watch Abe’s military machinations march to fruition. In 10 years, let’s see how many of Kitaoka’s public promises about a peaceful, internationally cooperative Japan hold.

=====================================
More discussion of the Kitaoka speech at www.debito.org/?p=11896. Debito Arudou’s updated “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” is now available as a downloadable e-book on Amazon. See www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday Community page of the month. Send your comments on these issues and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

ENDS

Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago:

NJstarephoto

Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers.  The slogan rimming above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing.  Like this one, snapped in Tamagawa last September:

TheEyeNPAstarephoto
(which says, “We won’t overlook crime!  If you see anyone suspicious, call the cops!”)

JF comments:  “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here).

JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally:
http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/chian/gaikokujin/24manual.pdf

Here’s the cover:

gaikokujinhiringmanualcover

Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/TokyotoGaikokujinHiringManual2013.pdf.

It opens reasonably well, with the first sentence in the preface (page 1) stating that illegal overstaying foreign workers aren’t just a cause of the worsening of public safety (yes, that old chestnut again), but they also have human rights, and influence the economic competitiveness of Japan.  It talks about the five-year goal of halving the number of illegal overstayers starting from 2003, and how that did indeed succeed, but there are still about 70,000 illegal foreigners still extant, with about 70% of them entering the country with the goal of working illegally (I don’t know how they determined that without installing a “mental goal detector” at the airport, but anyway…).  It also talks about the change in policy sloganing away from “strengthening policy against illegal foreign labor” in 2003 to the promotion of “proper employment of foreign workers” in 2009 and 2010; okay, that’s a bit better.

The manual defines “illegal labor” on page 3, and the new immigration procedures of 2012 on page 2 — with very clear outlines of what employers should check to make sure everything is legal (the Zairyuu Kaado (ZRK), the replacement for the old Gaitousho), and what criminal fines and penalties might happen if they don’t.  Page 4 describes what is on the ZRK, who gets it and who doesn’t, and what types of visas in particular should be checked for work status.  Page 5 tells the employer how to read official documents and stamps, and page 6 elaborates on how to spot forgeries.  There’s even a GOJ website the employer can use to verify details on said NJ employee, with a surprising amount of technical detail on how the ZRK is coded (see here and here) discussed on page 7.  The manual continues on in that vein for a couple more pages, essentially telling the employer how to read a ZRK (or old remaining Gaitousho) and visa stamps like an Immigration official.  Pages 12 and 13 talk about visa regimes and what times of work fall into each, and 14-15 offer more warnings to employers about not following the rules.  The book concludes with how to treat longer-term NJ, and offers contact numbers for questions.

COMMENT:  I welcome more thoughtful comments from other Debito.org Readers, but I think this manual (overlooking the “Staring Big Brother” stickers; albeit that may just be a cultural conceit of mine) is a good thing.  For one reason, it’s inevitable:  Employers have to be told the rules clearly and the punishments for not following them (as opposed to the NJ alone getting punished for overstaying, with little to no penalty for the employer — who often wants or forces NJ to overstay in order to put them in a weaker wage bargaining position); let’s hope employer punishments are “properly” enforced in future.  For another, the illustrations are less racialized than usual, to the point where it is unclear who is “Japanese” and who is “foreign” on page 16.  Good.  Definitely progress, compared to this.

My only misgiving is that this feels like a training manual for how to operate a complicated piece of consumer electronics, and for that reason is dehumanizing.  It also might deter people from hiring NJ if things are this potentially mendoukusai.   That said, I’m not sure in what other way that information could have been transmitted; links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome in the Comment Section.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito

AFP: Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at J detention center while doctor at lunch

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another long-standing issue within Japan’s criminal justice system — the two-tiered system of incarceration for foreigners only.  When one is being detained for a violation of Japan’s criminal code, you have prison for those convicted and the daiyou kangoku interrogation centers for those awaiting conviction (and almost everyone (95%) who is indicted under this system confesses to a crime, thanks to the unsupervised and harsh interrogation techniques).  Almost everyone who confesses to a crime (the most-cited figure is >99%) gets convicted and probably goes to prison.  Don’t get arrested in Japan or else this will happen to you.

But then there are the detention centers for foreigners with visa issues who can be incarcerated indefinitely.  This is unlike Japan’s prison system where 1) there are international standards for incarceration, and 2) there is a maximum limit — as in a prison sentence — to the duration for inmates.  Not so Japan’s foreigners.  And not so, as you can see below, Japan’s asylum seekers, where yet another NJ has died in custody due to, the article notes below, lax oversight over the health of their detainees.

I bring this up because this case will no doubt soon be forgotten.  Like the other issues of violenceunsanitary food leading to hunger strikes and suicidesImmigration brutality leading to an uncharged murder of a detainee, and more.  No wonder some people would prefer an overseas refugee camp than come to Japan to languish and perhaps die in a Gaijin Tank.  Best to archive it here as yet another brick in the wall.  Arudou Debito

SEE ALSO:  Johnson, The Japanese Way of Justice (2002), pg. 243.

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Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at detention center while doctor at lunch
By Harumi Ozawa. AFP/Japan Today NATIONAL OCT. 25, 2013, courtesy of JK

http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/asylum-seeker-dies-at-detention-center-while-doctor-at-lunch

See also http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/27/national/asylum-seeker-dies-in-japan-so-doctor-can-have-lunch-ngo/

An asylum-seeker collapsed and died after staff at a Japanese immigration center failed to call for a medic, allegedly because the doctor was having lunch, a pressure group said Thursday.

Anwar Hussin, a member of Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic group, fell ill shortly after he was detained on Oct 9, according to People’s Forum on Burma, a Japan-based NGO headed by a Japanese lawyer.

Citing the 57-year-old’s cousin, the group said Hussin had been complaining of a headache all morning and fell unconscious as he began eating lunch in his cell.

Fellow detainees—seven people of different nationalities—called for help because he was vomiting and having spasms, the NGO said.

Detention center staff rejected their requests that a doctor be called, saying Hussin was just “having a seizure” and that the duty medic was on his lunch break, the group said, citing detainees who had spoken to the dead man’s cousin.

A doctor was summoned 51 minutes after Hussin’s collapse, according to a timeline given to his cousin by the center.

Staff made an emergency call four minutes after the doctor’s arrival and 55 minutes after being made aware of the problem, the timeline showed.

Hussin died in hospital on Oct 14, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Tokyo Immigration Bureau said a man in his 50s from Myanmar died of subarachnoid haemorrhage—a stroke—after collapsing in the detention center, confirming the dates given by the pressure group.

But she declined to confirm or deny the claims made by the NGO over how long it took for the doctor to be called.

“We refrain from disclosing details because it concerns private matters,” said the spokeswoman.

“We are aware that some people have complained the man was neglected for some time,” she said, adding the bureau believes staff handled the case appropriately. She said officials had explained the situation to the man’s surviving family in Japan.

The People’s Forum on Burma, which supports democratization of Myanmar and aids refugees from the country when they arrive in Japan, disputes this.

“The bureau did not inform the family of (Hussin’s) hospitalization. It was learnt from other detainees,” said a spokeswoman.

Immigration officials gave few details until two days after Hussin’s death, the spokeswoman said, and then only when his cousin repeatedly pressed them.

Hussin came to Japan in 2006 and made two applications for asylum, both of which were rejected, according to the group, which said he was waiting for the result of his second appeal when he was detained.

The Rohingya—described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities—face travel restrictions, forced labor and limited access to health care and education in Myanmar, rights groups say.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Muslim Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the NGO’s claims over Hussin’s death.

But Shogo Watanabe, the lawyer who leads the NGO, said detention centers were frequently slower than they should be in emergency medical situations.

“This is the result when the country has failed to protect people who need to be protected,” he told AFP.

Hiroka Shoji, of Amnesty International Japan, said it was worrying that immigration staff apparently had power of veto over whether or not a sick detainee should see a doctor.

Japan tightly restricts the number of immigrants and asylum-seekers it accepts.

According to Justice Ministry figures for 2012, 2,545 people applied for asylum, of whom 368 were from Myanmar—the second largest nationality group after the Turkish.

Japan accepted 18 refugees during the year.

Human rights activists, lawyers and migrant communities in Japan have complained for years about harsh treatment by immigration officials and about conditions at detention centers.

A Ghanaian died in 2010 while he was being restrained allegedly by up to 10 immigration officials as they tried to deport him.

Rights activists have claimed he was gagged with a towel, recalling a similar but non-fatal case in 2004 when a female Vietnamese deportee was handcuffed, had her mouth sealed with tape and was rolled up in blankets.

(c) 2013 AFP

Come back Brazilian Nikkei, all is forgiven!, in a policy U-turn after GOJ Repatriation Bribes of 2009

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Hi Blog.  In an apparent policy U-turn, the GOJ decided last week to lift the ban on certain South Americans of Japanese descent (Nikkei) from re-entering Japan.  This after bribing them to leave in 2009 so that they would not become an inconvenient unemployment statistic (not to mention that it was cheaper to pay their airfare than to pay them their social welfare that they had invested in over the decades, or pay them their pensions in future when reaching retirement age).

The reasons for this U-turn are being discussed in a recent Japan Times article, excerpted below.  The article speculates that a couple of embarrassing lawsuits and visa-denials might have tipped the GOJ’s hand (I for one doubt it; Japan’s visa regimes, as can be seen for example in its perennial stance towards refugees, are generally impervious to public exposure and international pressure).  I believe it was more an issue of the GOJ facing reality (as happened more than one year ago at the highest policymaking levels, where even the GOJ still maintained the stance that if immigration was an inevitability, they had better bring back people with Japanese blood; after all, the only ones in attendance were all Wajin and one token Nikkei).

Debito.org has spoken out quite hot-tonguedly about how ludicrous the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe was, not the least because of its inherently racialized paradigms (because they only applied to Nikkei — people who were also in even more dire financial straits due to the economic downturn, such as the Chinese and Muslim factory workers laboring in conditions of indentured servitude, were left to fend for themselves because they lacked the requisite Japanese blood).

So as a matter of course Debito.org cheers for the lifting of the ban.  But the Bribe and the Ban should never have happened in the first place.  So the GOJ can also take its lumps even if they are ultimately making the right decision.

Does this mean that the numbers of registered NJ residents of Japan will start to increase again?  I will say it could happen.  I stress: could, not will happen.  But if it did, that statistic, not any asset bubbles and transient stock-market numbers that people keep championing as the putative fruits of “Abenomics”, will be the real indicator of Japan’s recovery.   That is to say, if Japan ever regains its sheen as an attractive place to work for international labor, then an increase in Japan’s NJ population will cause and signal a true leavening of Japan’s economic clout and prowess.  But I remain skeptical at this juncture — as I’ve said before, the jig is up, and outsiders generally know that Japan has no intention or enforceable laws to treat immigrants as equals, no matter how much of their lives and taxes they invest.

At this time, I believe international migrant labor will continue to vote with their feet and work elsewhere.  So good luck with significant numbers coming to Japan even with this ban lifted.  Arudou Debito

==========================
Referential article:

Ban lifted on ‘nikkei’ who got axed, airfare
But Japanese-Brazilians must have work contract before coming back
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, The Japan Times OCT 15, 2013
EXCERPT:
In what could be a significant change in policy affecting “nikkei” migrant workers from Brazil, the government Tuesday lifted a ban on the return of Japanese-Brazilians who received financial help in 2009 to fly home when they were thrown out of work during the global financial crisis.

Ostensibly an attempt to help the unemployed and cash-strapped Latin American migrants of Japanese ethnic origin escape the economic woes here, the 2009 initiative offered each an average of ¥300,000 to be used as airfare. It eventually resulted in an exodus of around 20,000 people, including 5,805 from Aichi Prefecture and 4,641 from Shizuoka Prefecture.

Although some of the migrants were genuinely thankful for the chance to get out of struggling Japan and find jobs back home, others were insulted because accepting the deal also meant they couldn’t come back to Japan at least “for the next three years” under “the same legal status.” This was seen as an outrageous move by the government to “get rid of” foreign workers as demand for their services fizzled out.

The migrants were initially banned from re-entering Japan for an unspecified period of time, but after a storm of both domestic and international condemnation, the government eventually said it might green-light their return after three years, depending on the economy.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/15/national/ban-lifted-on-nikkei-who-got-axed-airfare/
ENDS

Good news: Japan Times Community Pages expanding from two-page Tuesdays to four days a week

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Hi Blog.  Good news.  With an imminent tie-up between The Japan Times and The New York Times, the Community Pages (which I have written for since 2002) will expand from its present two pages on Tuesday to four days a week.  The JT explains in more detail below.  Proud to be part of this writing crew.  We are the only English-language newspaper that is covering issues in this degree of depth in ways that matter to the English-reading NJ communities, and now we’re getting even more space.  Bravo.  Thank you to everyone for reading and encouraging this to happen.  — Arudou Debito, JUST BE CAUSE Columnist, The Japan Times

communityauthorsOct2013

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Growing Community: the JT’s most talked-about section is about to get larger

From Thursday, Oct. 17, the Community pages will be expanding to four days a week from the present double-page spread on Tuesday and single Saturday page in the print edition. Here’s a taste of what to expect from mid-October:

Monday

Recognizing that a huge number of our readers work in the education sector, Monday’s main feature, Learning Curve, will focus on aspects of the teaching profession in Japan, from eikaiwa to JET and higher education.

Louise George Kittaka will continue to answer readers’ questions for Lifelines, with lawyers from the Tokyo Public Law Office’s Foreigners and International Service Section addressing legal issues on the second Monday of the month.

Learning-related listings and letters will also run Mondays.

Tuesday

Writers including David McNeill, Jon Mitchell and Simon Scott will continue to tackle the big issues for The Foreign Element.

Opinion pieces that in the past would have been published here will shift to Thursday’s page.

Views From The Street will be staying put, tapping the views of people around the country about everything under the rising sun.

Free listings related to causes and campaigns will feature on Tuesdays, as will feedback about the previous week’s columns.

Thursday

Debito Arudou’s Just Be Cause will appear on the first Thursday of the month, with Hifumi Okunuki’s Labor Pains on week two.

Oct. 17 will see the debut of Law Of The Land, a new column by legal expert Colin P.A. Jones.

Fourth (and fifth) Thursdays will offer an open space for opinion, to be called Foreign Agenda.

Readers will still have a forum to vent in Hotline to Nagata-cho.

Listings related to shared pursuits — from discussion groups to sports clubs — will run on Thursdays.

Saturday

Japan Times stalwarts Amy Chavez (Japan Lite) and Thomas Dillon (When East Marries West) will alternate week by week, offering their wry observations about life in Japan from the wilds of the Seto Inland Sea and Tokyo, respectively.

Saturday will continue to be the place to find out more about the diverse range of individuals that make up the foreign community of Japan, with personality profiles, reports on events and organizations, and the occasional embassy profile in Our Man/Woman In Tokyo.

Mixed Matches will focus on multicultural relationships, while Saturday’s listings will cover social and religious events.

ENDS

Dr. Kitaoka Shinichi, Chair of Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, speaks at UH EWC Oct 11, 2013 on Japan’s need to remilitarize

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Hi Blog.  Yesterday I attended the following speech:

KitaokaShinichiEWCflyer

I attended because I wanted to see what was making one of PM Abe’s leading advisors tick.  Dr. Kitaoka did not disappoint.

He spoke in excellent English, and came off as a very articulate, passionate, and fluent advocate of his cause, which is essentially to make Japan strong enough militarily to deter China.  He did not feel a need to be restrained by a diplomat’s training, calling various schools of thought “totally wrong” and “stupid”, nor an academic’s subtlety that should come with a doctorate, where he said with firm certainty at various stages that “no Japanese” wants things like expansion of Japan’s borders (he also called Koreans an “emotional people”).  Almost all of the geopolitical problems he referred to in his talk were traced back to China, and he made a strong, reasoned plea for Japan’s inherent sovereign right for collective self defense in order to “contribute to peace and stability” by being empowered to assist Japan’s friends and allies (particularly, naturally, the Americans).

Dr. Kitaoka was very smooth.  He pushed all the right rhetorical buttons with an American audience (this one at the EWC quite full of American military brass; the audience was quite emotive), contrasting rich, democratic, non-nuclear, and “peace-loving” Japan with richening, undemocratic, nuclear and unfree China, which is increasing its defense budget every year and seeking territorial expansion (he even mentioned China’s dealings in Africa in that context).  He also smoothed feathers to head off the “Genie in the Bottle” argument (which is one image the US military uses to justify its continued presence in Japan — to stop Japan from remilitarizing) by pointing out five conditions why today’s Japan is different.  (See them well elaborated in his Yomiuri article scanned below.)

So to this end, Japan would need its first National Security Council, which would hopefully be established by November 2013.

There were a couple more surprises in Dr. Kitaoka’s talk.  One was that he was arguing that Japan is essentially in the same position today as China was in the early 20th century, where Japan is the one now who should think about how to defend itself from unjustified aggression from China!  The other surprise was his reasoning about why the world should not worry about Japan’s potential renewed territorial expansion abroad — because treaty agreements between the US and South Korea would preclude Japan’s need to invade the Korean Peninsula for defensive reasons (now that’s a novel take on Japan’s colonial history!).

Oh, and that it would be an impossibility for Japan to go nuclear again, because Japan as a huge developed economy integrated into world markets is particularly vulnerable to international sanctions.  But China, you see, is a member of the UN Security Council, unlike Japan, and they make UN sanctions more “ineffective”.  Less democratic countries, such as China and Russia, have more power in the UN than the democratic countries such as Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil… (and that was a very neat way to allude to Japan’s need for a UNSC seat — told you he was smooth).

The Q&A was done by people passing papers to the front to be sorted, vetted, and read by EWC staff.

In the end, Dr. Kitaoka talked like I would expect one of Japan’s elites to talk — seeing the world only in terms of power, and how Japan needs more of it because its neighbors are security threats.  That’s what any security analyst will say, of course (that’s how they’re trained), but Dr. Kitaoka spoke like a trained Gaijin Handler representing PM Abe’s political agenda, not a scholar.  Fascinating in that light, but scary, since these are the people who have been voted right back into power and want to dramatically alter Japan’s future policy.

Through him we can see PM Abe’s remilitarizing machinations and goals.  And next month, here they come.  Arudou Debito

NB:  LLK sends links to his full speech (with Q&A) available on vimeo.com. Here’s the link:

http://vimeo.com/77183187

Japan’s New National Security Strategy in the Making from East-West Center on Vimeo.

Here are the handouts that were presented to the audience for Dr. Kitaoka’s talk:

(click on image to expand in browser)

KitaokaShinichiYomiuri

KitaokaShinichihandout1KitaokaShinichihandout2
ENDS

TheDiplomat.com: “In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?”, on the debate about Japan’s increasing diversity

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Hi Blog. I was contacted recently for a few quotes on this subject (an important debate, given the increasing diversity within the Japanese citizenry thanks to international marriage), and I put the reporter in touch with others with more authoritative voices on the subject. I will excerpt the article below. What do you think, especially those readers who have Japanese children or are “half Japanese” (man, how I find that concept distasteful in Japan’s lexicographical context) themselves? Me, I think it’s a helluva lot more sensitive than this example of pap (succumbing to the temptation to zoologize people) passing as journalism about “haafu” that appeared in the J-media about a year ago. Arudou Debito

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In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?
Mixed-race individuals and their families seek acceptance in a homogeneous Japan.
The Diplomat.com, October 03, 2013
By J.T. Quigley (excerpt), courtesy of the author
Entire article with photos at http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

“Spain! Spain!” the boys shouted at her and her brother, day in and day out at a summer camp in Chiba prefecture. The incessant chanting eventually turned into pushing and hitting. One morning, she even discovered that her backpack full of clothes had been left outside in the rain.

“It was the worst two weeks of our lives,” recalls Lara Perez Takagi, who was six years old at the time. She was born in Tokyo to a Spanish father and Japanese mother.

“When our parents came to pick us up at the station, we cried for the whole day. I remember not ever wanting to do any activities that involved Japanese kids and lost interest in learning the language for a long time, until I reached maturity and gained my interest in Japan once again.”

By the year 2050, 40 percent of the Japanese population will be age 65 or older. With Japanese couples having fewer children than ever before, Japan is facing a population decline of epic proportions. However, one demographic continues to grow: Japanese and non-Japanese mixed-race couples. But in one of the world’s most homogeneousous countries, is Japan ready to accept their offspring?

Biracial Japanese nationals like Takagi are an increasingly common sight in Japan. The latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare indicate that one out of every 50 babies born in 2012 had one non-Japanese parent. Additionally, 3.5 percent of all domestic marriages performed last year were between Japanese and foreigners. To put those numbers into perspective, the earliest reliable census data that includes both mixed race births and marriages shows that fewer than one out of 150 babies born in 1987 were biracial and only 2.1 percent of marriages that year were between Japanese and non-Japanese.

Takagi is one of a growing number of hafu – or half Japanese – who have grown up between two cultures. The term itself, which is derived from the English word “half,” is divisive in Japan. Hafu is the most commonly used word for describing people who are of mixed Japanese and non-Japanese ethnicity. The word is so pervasive that even nontraditional-looking Japanese may be asked if they are hafu.

Rather than calling someone mixed-race or biracial, some believe that the term hafu insinuates that only the Japanese side is of any significance. That could reveal volumes about the national attitude toward foreigners, or perhaps it’s just the word that happened to stick in a country where mixed-race celebrities are increasingly fixtures on television.

No Entry

Olaf Karthaus, a professor in the Faculty of Photonics Science and Technology at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, is the father of five “hafu” children. Far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, he raised them in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, which makes up 20 percent of Japan’s total land mass, yet houses only five percent of the population.

In 1999, Karthaus visited an onsen (hot spring) with a group of international friends, all married to Japanese spouses. The onsen had decided to deny entry to foreigners after some negative experiences with Russian sailors, hanging signs that read “Japanese Only” and refusing entry to all foreigners.

The Caucasian members of his group were flatly denied access to the bathhouse based on their foreign appearance. When management was asked if their children – who were born and raised in Japan and full Japanese citizens – would be allowed to bathe, the negative attitude toward anyone who appeared to be non-Japanese became shockingly clear.

“Asian-looking kids can come in. But we will have to refuse foreign-looking ones,” was the onsen’s answer. Negative sentiment had trickled down from a group of rowdy sailors to defenseless toddlers.

Karthaus, along with co-defendants Ken Sutherland and Debito Arudou – an equal rights activist who was born in the U.S. but became a naturalized Japanese citizen – sued the onsen for racial discrimination. The plaintiffs won, and the onsen was forced to pay them one million yen ($10,000) each in damages. The case made international headlines and shed light on issues of race and acceptance in Japan.

Regardless of Karthaus’ negative experience, he expresses a deep fondness for Japan and says that none of his children have been direct victims of racism.

“My son got called a gaijin (a Japanese term that literally means outsider – as opposed to the more formal gaikokujin, which means foreigner) once, in the third grade. But there was no discrimination otherwise for my other kids,” Karthaus tells The Diplomat. “My eldest daughter actually dyed her hair to look more foreign.”

Legal Complexity

Many observers see a loosening of immigration policy as a potential remedy to the birth-rate issue, but Japan, which along with the Koreas topped the list in a Harvard Institute study of the most racially homogeneous countries, is largely unwilling to accept an influx of foreigners.

“Although the government cannot prevent media hyperbole, the Justice Ministry could do much more with its crime statistics, which belie the common perception that immigrants are to blame for increases in petty crime and drug abuse,” writes Bloomberg.

For those foreigners who have made a home in Japan, the law for any biracial children they have is complex. While children can enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship, the government doesn’t allow hafu to retain their dual nationality after age 22. According to the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, this decision is based on concerns over what would happen in the event of international friction or military action between a dual-citizen’s other country and Japan.

“It’s not just a matter of ‘but what if we declare war on your other country – which side will you choose?’” says Arudou, who changed his name from David Aldwinckle after obtaining Japanese citizenship in 2000. He renounced his U.S. citizenship two years later, in accordance with the strict rules against being a dual national.

“There have been debates on revising to allow dual [citizenship], due to Nobel Prize winners who naturalized overseas, but they failed because, again, people worried about loyalty and hidden foreigners,” Arudou adds.

The denial of dual citizenship beyond age 22 was actually put in place quite recently, in a 1984 amendment to the Japanese Nationality Act. Japan is a jus sanguinis country, meaning that citizenship is based on blood, not location of birth. With an increase in the number of mixed-race couples giving birth to children with dual citizenship, the government decided that restrictions were necessary to preserve national sovereignty.

Rest of the article at:
http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 68 Oct 1 2013: “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right”

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Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 68 Oct 1 2013:
“Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right”
BY ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/09/30/issues/triumph-of-tokyo-olympic-bid-sends-wrong-signal-to-japans-resurgent-right/
Version with links to sources

Blame news cycles, but I’m coming in late to the discussion on Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. Sorry. The most poignant stuff has already been said, but I would add these thoughts.

Probably unsurprisingly, I was not a supporter of Tokyo’s candidacy. Part of it is because I have a hard time enjoying events where individuals are reduced to national representatives, saddled with the pressure to prove an apparent geopolitical superiority through gold medal tallies. Guess I’m just grouchy about international sports.

That said, this time around, the wheeling and dealing at the International Olympic Committee has been particularly distasteful. Unlike the IOC, I can’t forget Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose’s denigration of fellow candidate city Istanbul for being “Islamic” (conveniently playing on widespread Western fears of a religion and linking it to social instability). This was especially ironic given rising xenophobia in Japan, where attendees at right-wing rallies have even called for the killing of ethnic Koreans who have lived in and contributed to Japan for generations.

Nor can I pretend to ignore the risk of exposing people to an ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. Even if you think the science is still unclear on the health effects of radiation in Tohoku, what’s not in doubt is that there will be incredible amounts of pork sunk into white-elephant projects in Japan’s metropole while thousands of people still languish in northern Japan, homeless and dispossessed. When so much work is incomplete elsewhere, this is neither the time nor place for bread and circuses.

All of this has been said elsewhere, and more eloquently. But for JBC, the most important reason why the Olympics should not come to Japan is because, as I have argued before, Japan as a government or society is not mature enough to handle huge international events.

I know, Japan has held three Olympics before (in Tokyo, Sapporo and Nagano), as well as numerous international events (such as the G-8 Summits in Nago and Toyako) and one FIFA World Cup. But with each major event it holds, Japan keeps setting precedents that hemorrhage cash and make life miserable for residents. Especially those who don’t “look Japanese” — Japan’s visible minorities.

Media memories tend to be short, so some refreshers: More money was spent on “security” at Nago’s G-8 Summit in 1998 than at any previous such powwow — by a factor of five (“Summit wicked this way comes,” Zeit Gist, Apr. 22, 2008). Then Toyako in 2008 spent even more than Nago.

When you devote this much time and energy to policing, consider the effects on those being policed. As reported on these pages before (I have gone as far as to call Japan a “mild police state”), Japan’s police forces have inordinate powers of search, seizure, and detention even at the most mundane of times.

Now, bring in the eyes of the world for an international event, and Japan’s general bunker mentality produces a control-freak guest/host relationship, where nothing is left to chance, and nobody will be allowed to spoil the party.

That means Japan’s authorities get a freer hand to smoosh not only alleged threats to social order, but also dissenters in general. Because our media generally ignores contrarians and naysayers for the sake of putting the best face on Japan for guests, they forget their own duty to act as a check and balance against official over-enforcement and paranoia.

But paranoia tends to peak when there are “foreigners” gadding about. Remember the 2002 World Cup, when politicians, bureaucrats and the media declared open season on “foreigners” (popularizing the word “hooligan” among Japanese), justifying enormous budgets and infrastructure to subdue their international guests if necessary? (It wasn’t.)

Years later, Toyako slingshot off that precedent, with “foreigners” equated with “terrorists,” further normalizing the act of subjecting any foreign face to extra scrutiny and racial profiling.

Plus, you might recall, Japan still has no law against racial discrimination, so treating foreigners like crap can happen anytime, anywhere, by any vigilante who can scribble “Japanese Only” on a storefront window.

But wait — there’s something more sinister afoot. In terms of domestic politics, this was in fact the worst possible time to award Japan the Olympics.

Over the past year, this column has charted the re-ascendance of Japan’s right wing into power, and its rout of the more liberal elements who tried to rein in Japan’s endemic corporatism and bigotry.

Now we have government once again run by and for Japan’s ruling class — i.e., the political families, entrenched bureaucrats, corporate conglomerate heads and hereditary elites.

These types can only see the world in terms of power. Their forebears cheered loudest when, for example, Japan triumphed in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It showed both them and the rest of the world that Japan had become mighty enough to defeat a world power!

This victory transformed Japan into a colonial empire, cocksure that it was on the right track because it could beat white people. This hubris led to enormous suffering worldwide, as the elites led Japanese society to a destiny of total war and utter defeat.

Three generations later, these elites still have not learned their lesson. The biggest reason why Japan’s ruling class respected and once emulated America is because they lost a war to them. Now that postwar Japan has rebuilt and re-enriched itself, they believe it’s nigh time to re-militarize, restore Japan to its rightful place in the geopolitical hierarchy and rally Japanese society behind repeating a glorious (yet ultimately tragic) history.

If you read the subtext of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposals for constitutional reform closely, you’ll realize that this is precisely what Japan’s ruling politicians are calling for. From that will flow the restored trappings of a prewar-ordered Japanese society.

And now, these jingoists have had their mind-sets rewarded with an Olympics. What a windfall! Even if Abe were to step down tomorrow (he won’t — he’s got a good three years left to machinate if his health holds up), he will be remembered positively for bagging the 2020 Games. But now he and his ilk can leverage this victory into convincing the general public that Japan is still somehow on the right track.

Even when it’s not. For the fallout still remains: Abe lied about how “safe” and “under control” Japan’s nuclear industry is. And Japan’s already massive public debt will balloon further out of control. And once again, the invisible slush monies available to fund elite projects will remain unaccountable.

After all, Japan won its last Olympics, according to Time magazine (“Japan’s sullied bid,” Feb. 1, 1999), through blatant corruption and bribery of IOC officials. How much corruption? We don’t know, because Japan burned all of the Nagano Olympics financial records!

Slush clearly didn’t bother the IOC this time either, as they seated themselves at the trough. I guess we can’t expect corrupt bedfellows to police each other. So anyone who outspends, outbids and outdoes their rivals, even to the detriment of their respective societies, gets rewarded for it — precisely the wrong geopolitical incentives for societies in flux.

In Japan’s case, the damage will be political as well as economic: Everyone must get behind the Olympic effort or else. Then, when the party’s over, remember those who got steamrollered: The people living outside of greedy Tokyo; our non-Japanese residents, who will once again be targeted as a destabilizing force; and the rest of Japanese society, who will have to live under illiberal regimes where individual rights will be further subordinated to the maintenance of social order.

In sum, international events undermine Japan’s democracy. Shame on you, IOC, for being a party to it.

ENDS

Arudou Debito’s updated “Guidebook for Relocation and Assimilation into Japan” is now available as a downloadable e-book on Amazon. See www.debito.org/handbook.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community pages of the month. Send your comments on these issues and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.