Hello All. I’m far behind in my newsletters (I usually update the Debito.org blog once a day, scrunching this newsletter to about seven items), with a coupla weeks’ worth of stuff piling up. So this is a fat one, sorry.
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 20, 2007
1) BLACKLIST UPDATES: HOKKAI GAKUEN & CHUUGOKU U. ICU GREENLISTED
2) JAPAN TIMES: LABOR ABUSES AT AKITA INT’L UNIVERSITY
3) YOMIURI: MOJ BARS NIKKEI BRAZILIAN FROM VOLUNTEER POLICE WORK
4) J WEDDING FUNDS OFF-LIMITS TO FOREIGNERS, er, NON-FAMILY MEMBERS
5) JAPAN’S ODD TOURISM POLICY: YOKOSO JAPAN AND MONEY LAUNDERING
6) TPR ON KYUUMA, CUMINGS ON DPRK, TAWARA ON EDUCATION LAW
7) JAPAN FOCUS ON AMENDMENTS TO BASIC LAW OF EDUCATION
8) FOREIGN POLICY MAG ON GOJ AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
9) UPCOMING SPEECH AT TOKYO UNIVERSITY ON UNIV. BLACKLIST, MONDAY, JULY 30
By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Updates in real time at http://www.debito.org/index.php
1) BLACKLIST UPDATES: HOKKAI GAKUEN & CHUUGOKU U. ICU GREENLISTED
The Blacklist of Japanese Universities (http://www.debito.org/blacklist.html), where listed institutions have a history of offering unequal contracted work (not permanent “academic tenure”) to its full-time faculty (usually foreign faculty), has just been updated for the season.
Joining the 100 universities blacklisted are two new entrants, as follows (excerpts):
NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Hokkai Gakuen University (Private)
LOCATION: 4-1-40 Asahimachi, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo
EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Nonrenewable 3 year contract for “position for a full-time native speaker of instructor of EFL”. Required to teach 10 lessons per week Monday to Saturday 9am – 9pm. Classes may include content-based EFL as well as all levels of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Materials development and other program-related activities will also be included in the duties. (Basically, you are required to do everything they ask). They expect a MA or PhD and in return offer a dead-end position offering a mere 4.4 million yen salary per year (NB: the actual salary figure was then removed from the job advertisement after the university was blacklisted; as if nondisclosure made it all better). Yet they also offer a similar position in the same department in Japanese with permanent non-contracted tenure and without any requirement of a PhD. Which means they keep qualified foreigners disposable and tenure less-qualified Japanese. Sounds like a truly egalitarian place to work. Not.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION: JREC-IN website job advertisement (http://jrecin.jst.go.jp/seek/SeekTop?fn=1&ln=1,*DATA NUMBER : D107070218). Human Science Jobs – Advertised on July 7th 2007, then revised on July 17, 2007 (after this blacklisting) to dishonestly remove the actual salary figure.
All links to source materials above at
The more amazing thing about this already egregious Blacklist entry is that the coordinator at HGU for this position, a person by the name of B. Bricklin “Brick” Zeff, is a foreigner (even Program Chair for JALT Hokkaido). Toadies, or images of tigers eating their young, spring to mind. Comments to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Chugoku Gakuen University and Junior College (Private)
LOCATION: Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: “Chugoku Gakuen has discriminated against its native speaking English teachers for many years… Neither myself nor my two immediate predecessors were able to attain working conditions on a par with the Japanese faculty. Academic credentials, publications, experience, and student evaluations have had no bearing on our position… and now, after seven one-year contracts, have been presented with a terminal contract… I have been refused promotion from lecturer to assistant professor although most other faculty are promoted after three years and generally become associate professor after five. The most recent reason is that since my Japanese is weak I cannot be on committees. Strangely enough I have been on one committee for the past seven years. I was also told repeatedly that my Japanese skills or lack thereof was not a problem, and when I offered to attend classes if that would help my situation I was told directly by the president at the time that I would never change salary or position no matter what level Japanese proficiency I attained. This year I did receive a salary increase (roughly 2% per annum if factored over my period of employment), but this came with the terminal contract. It is worth stating that my two predecessors were capable Japanese speakers and faced the same barriers as myself. The school is now involved in an ongoing labor dispute with me and my union (EWA). The school has become a hotbed of cronyism since a new president entered the picture last year. To the disgruntlement and amazement of many faculty members, he has appointed a friend with almost no teaching experience and publications as a full professor. This is only one of the many positions filled without open competition or public posting of open positions…”
SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Richard “Cabby” Lemmer, faculty member at that institution.
But there is some good news, a diamond in the rough:
GREENLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES
NAME OF UNIVERSITY: International Christian University (Kokusai Kirisuto Kyou Daigaku) (Private)
LOCATION: Mitaka, near Tokyo
GOOD EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE: Has many tenured Non-Japanese faculty, and also a functional tenure review process for those full-timers on contracts to eventually become tenured faculty.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION: A personal on-site investigation by the Blacklist Moderator, Arudou Debito, who met with several ICU faculty and Dean William Steele in April 2007, who substantiated the above. NOTE: ICU was for many years on the Blacklist, but has become the first university in the decade-long history of the Blacklist to not only be Greenlisted, but be permanently removed from the Blacklist as well. Congratulations, and thanks for your cooperation.
Thanks ICU. But there are still people out there who climb and then pull up the ladder behind them.
2) JAPAN TIMES ON LABOR ABUSES AT AKITA INT’L UNIVERSITY
More labor abuses coming out at Gregory Clark’s Akita International University (he’s vice president, after all; see his nice welcoming message to the world at http://www.aiu.ac.jp/cms/index.php?id=61). AIU’s shenanigans on the BLACKLIST OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES:
NAME OF UNIVERSITY: Akita International University (Private)
LOCATION: 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Yuwa, Tsubakigawa, Akita-City, Akita
EMPLOYMENT ABUSE: Despite wanting PhDs (or the equivalent) for faculty, AIU offers 3-year contracted positions with no mention of any possibility of tenure, plus a heavy workload (10 to 15 hours per week, which means the latter amounts to 10 koma class periods), a four-month probationary period, no retirement pay, and job evaluations of allegedly questionable aims. In other words, conditions that are in no visible way different from any other gaijin-contracting “non-international university” in Japan. Except for the lack of retirement pay.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION: Job advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education, dated September 2, 2006…
In response to the blacklisting, Greg did his typical defense of the indefensible (his latest column even defends his friend, the late former PM Miyazawa, and his corruption in the Recruit Scandal: “…that nonscandal was simply an attempt by the Recruit company to make sure its issues of new shares went into the hands of responsible people it liked rather than the usual collection of gangsters, speculators and corrupt securities companies…”). Using his guaranteed bully pulpit in the Japan Times Letters Page, here’s how he defends AIU, even if it is tangential to the issue at hand:
Japan Times Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006
READERS IN COUNCIL: Zealots who attack their critics (excerpt)
By GREGORY CLARK, Vice President, Akita International University
A.E. Lamdon’s Dec. 3 letter, “As alike as they are different,” which is a response to my criticisms of Japan’s rightwingers, would be reasonable if Lamdon himself did not seek to defend a group here in Japan that goes to extreme lengths to criticize those, such as myself, who oppose its self-promoting efforts to harass and file antidiscrimination suits against small Japanese business proprietors in areas where badly behaved foreigners have caused serious business losses…
The group has recently sought to blacklist the university that employs me, claiming it discriminates against foreign teachers. Akita International University has the highest ratio of foreign to Japanese teachers of any university in Japan. Unlike any other university in Japan, it employs both foreigners and Japanese teachers on exactly the same contractual conditions leading to possible tenure. In the past the university rescued a large group of foreign teachers from unemployment when their former employer pulled out of Japan. And this is supposed to be antiforeigner discrimination? It is time someone stood up to zealots who use the banner of antidiscrimination to attack critics and to promote themselves.
Well, as they say, a zealot is someone who won’t change his mind. And won’t change the subject. Maybe even go so far as to fabricate information (http://www.debito.org/gregoryclarkfabricates.html) if necessary.
Anyway, the Japan Times Community Page ran an expose on the situation at an unnamed (guess why) university last week. I have been advised by the author that I can (and should) indicate that the uni is AIU. Here’s an excerpt:
A few years ago I was given a pay cut at my last university for political reasons. I had asked the university president, in a one-page private letter, to consider replacing the Hinomaru Japanese flag flying in front of the university with an Earth flag, partly because the university was always squawking about how international they are, and partly because faculty were invited to share any ideas and concerns with our “open-minded” president. So when he told me the reasons for a 10-percent pay cut included my opposition to the Iraq war, and the “flag letter,” and ended my evaluation meeting wagging his finger saying, “You should love the Japanese flag,” I was shocked, but didn’t know where to turn. Suing seemed a long shot.
Two years later this same president made a dramatic declaration to the faculty, informing us that none of our renewable contracts would be renewed. Instead, we would have to reapply and fight for our jobs via open recruitment. However, what we didn’t know then was that the directors and several favored faculty members had been “blown kisses”–promised jobs and told to keep the fact secret. When the dust settled, 12 faculty members had just reason to seek compensation for breach of contract, out of whom 10 banded together–all nonunion foreigners–to speak with a local union rep….
Thus, in this era of short term contracts, temporary jobs, and political shifts to the right, workers, foreign or otherwise, should remember they have rights and their employer has responsibilities. Unions, which only exist due to the support of their members, can point workers the way to “assen” mediation, a special labor disputes court, and, if those time and money saving options fail, can provide a union lawyer and sue the most unscrupulous of employers.
Article also includes some lessons about what you can do about employers of this ilk.
Suggest you stay away from these places if you are looking for a job.
Meanwhile, other jobs remain closed to foreigners:
3) YOMIURI: MOJ BARS NIKKEI BRAZILIAN FROM VOLUNTEER POLICE WORK
Justice Ministry exercising its typical administrative guidance–in this case making sure foreigners never exercise any power over Japanese. That includes NJ helping police their own, I guess. Just can’t trust NJ, no longer how long they’ve been here (below, the person denied a volunteer job has been in Japan sixteen years). Excerpt follows:
MINISTRY: BRAZILIAN CAN’T BE PROBATION OFFICER
Yomiuri Shimbun July 8, 2007
SHIZUOKA The Shizuoka Probation Office has given up its bid to appoint a second-generation Brazilian of Japanese descent as a probation officer after it received a Justice Ministry opinion indicating that foreigners may not be commissioned to exercise public authority…
Probation officers are part-time, unpaid central government officials entrusted by the justice minister. The ministry said it is “problematic” to commission foreign residents as probation officers because some of their responsibilities involve exercising public authority.
About 50,000 Brazilian of Japanese descent live in Shizuoka Prefecture… Among the cities in the prefecture, Hamamatsu is home to 20,000 Brazilians of Japanese descent–the nation’s largest number–and delinquency by Brazilian youth has become a problem. Language barriers pose a hurdle when it comes to support the rehabilitation of delinquent young Brazilians.
In an attempt to tackle the problem, the Shizuoka Probation Office in April asked karate school operator Tetsuyoshi Kodama, a second-generation Brazilian of Japanese descent who is experienced in dealing with non-Japanese youths, to become a probation officer… But when the probation office contacted the Justice Ministry’s Rehabilitation Bureau to get approval for Kodama’s appointment, the ministry rejected the idea…
According to the ministry’s Rehabilitation Bureau, it provided the opinion based on the opinion of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau in which Japanese citizenship is required for public servants who exercise public authority and make decisions that affect the public…
Masataka Inomata, head of the Shizuoka Federation of Volunteer Probation Officers Associations, said: “Besides myself, there’s only one other probation officer who can speak Portuguese in the prefecture. It’s difficult to build trust with youths through a third party.”
Case refers to the Nationality Clause and the Chong Hyang Gyun Lawsuit defeat. Even though many local governments are now abolishing their Nationality Clause requirements. Just goes to show how closed-minded the MOJ is determined to be, even if it means they remove one means to deal with NJ/youth crime (which it has no problems citing as a scourge).
Speaking of other obstacles to integrating into Japan, here’s a novel one:
4) J WEDDING FUNDS OFF-LIMITS TO FOREIGNERS, er, NON-FAMILY MEMBERS:
This just in the other day from a friend, who is about to get married. Then he hit a major snag:
The couple had everything ready to go–working through a major wedding planner in Tokyo (“Take and Give Needs”) and sending out invites to hundreds of guests–and were ready to take out a loan from an affiliated finance company (“Life Angel”). When up came the brick wall:
For any loan over 100 man yen, Life Angel required three Guarantors (hoshounin). In much the same way that you would if you were, say, renting an apartment. Fine. He secured three Guarantors, all Japanese, all stable income earners and upstanding members of society. Would be no problem for a housing loan or rental.
But then Life Angel suddenly threw up another barrier midway: Those Guarantors must be family members, within “three levels of relatives” (sanshintou inai no shinseki).
My friend is not a Japanese–he’s a Western immigrant. Which means he has no family here. But his fiance has Japanese citizenship. Unfortunately, she’s an immigrant too, a naturalized former Chinese citizen. Which means she has no family here either.
So now with a month and change to go before the big day, and investments in time and invites already made, their wedding went into underfunded limbo.
According to my friend, Life Angel loan company has justified this policy by arguing that weddings are family affairs. Therefore securing family members as Guarantors is not odd.
Disagree. Here’s what’s odd:
It not only excludes the growing number of Immigrants into Japanese society (who can’t always transplants successful families over here as well), but also excludes those Japanese who don’t have families in Japan either.
How about orphans, or people marrying later in life whose older, more established relatives have passed on? How about those who don’t get along with their families, and otherwise aren’t in a position to ask them to be Guarantors?
Look, confining Guarantors to family members isn’t necessary for life’s other big financial decisions, such as mortgages, auto loans, or rental agreements. If it did, we’d have a lot more homeless and carless people. So why a wedding?
It seems even more arbitrary when you realize that a marriage in Japan does not even require that families legally witness the act. The Kon’in Todoke only requires two adult Witnesses (shounin) sign on. They can be anybody, as long as they’re adults.
So what’s with Life Angel’s rules? Especially so far into the game for my friend, who can’t switch tracks to another wedding chapel now? So much for Life Angel’s “100% wedding ceremony” slogan. Suggest you don’t tie the knot through them.
Substantiation and documentation at
Life Angel KK reachable at:
Tokyo to Minato-ku Nishi Azabu 4-12-24, Kouwa Nishi Azabu Bldg. 4F
0120-69-8515, 03-5469-8515, Fax: 03-5469-8658
My friend has since secured a loan through his bank (the one which granted him his mortgage). But he shouldn’t have had to. Speaking of other silly rules:
5) JAPAN’S ODD TOURISM POLICY: YOKOSO JAPAN AND MONEY LAUNDERING
First, Terrie’s Take’s fascinating look at Japan’s tourism industry:
TERRIE’S TAKE by Terrie Lloyd
General Edition Sunday, June 17, 2007 Issue No. 425 (http://www.terrie.com)
…The government department in charge of increasing tourism was the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, which came up with the Yokoso Japan campaign. We fired arrows in Terrie’s Take at the campaign when it was first announced, not least of which because “Yokoso” means nothing to anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese–i.e., 95% of tourists. The bureaucrats had a field day telling the Japanese public how they had this great plan, but then the reality was that they allocated a trifling amount, we heard a budget of just JPY350m, for marketing and chose Dentsu over a number of better qualified foreign firms to conduct the campaign. As a result, most of the Yokoso campaign has been little more than local ads, in Japanese! Compare the piffling JPY350m with Hawaii’s tourism marketing budget of US$38m (JPY4.5bn) a year, and you start to realize that the Japanese government has no idea how to go about the task of increasing visitor numbers.
Despite the government’s cheapskate efforts to focus marketing on countries they think tourists should come from: mainly the USA, UK, and other western nations, the number of visitors has in fact surprisingly been rising –but from countries receiving very little attention (with the possible exception of Korea)–Japan’s nearest neighbors…
Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=468
Meanwhile, dovetailing with this issue:
ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING MEASURES SNAG TOURISTS WITH TRAVELLER’S CHECKS
Debito.org’s been cc-ed in correspondence from complete strangers (all blogged at http://www.debito.org/?p=482), with more phooey on Japan’s vaunted YOKOSO JAPAN campaign:
According to the University of Kentucky’s Professor Stradford, tourists who need to cover a midsize a sum as USD 1000 in costs are suspected of being money launderers (meaning Japanese banks will sell them large denominations of travellers’ checks, but then will not cash them unless you have a permanent address in Japan).
Long history of this. I’ve been snagged as far back as 2003 for suspicion of money laundering–for receiving as little as 5000 yen (as a donation) from overseas. Friend Olaf (a Permanent Resident) has been told to display his passport (not required of Japanese) for wanting to change a small sum of leftover USD to JPY.
More on the Mission Impossible of getting better service from Japanese banks as a NJ at
The good news is that Japanese tourist authorities actually responded (and in a timely manner) to Professor Stradford’s inquiries, and with some good advice about 7-Eleven ATMs just opening. Good. Not sure if it resolves the situation any (travellers’ checks of that denomination are still just as useless), but at least someone tried to help.
You see, it can pay to speak out. That’s why I keep talking about these things. And gathering evidence over time to make a case. Some foundational research:
6) TPR ON KYUUMA, CUMINGS ON DPRK, TAWARA ON EDUCATION LAW
Not necessarily NJ-rights related, but here are three recent podcasts I got a heckuva lot out of, and I think you might too.
Online media Trans Pacific Radio’s Garrett DiOrio gave an editorial on the former Defense Minister Kyuuma’s remark about the atomic bombing at the closing of WWII (which led to his resignation). A remark, it might surprise you, I actually agree with.
So does Garrett. But it’s rare when I agree 100% with somebody’s writing, as I did Garrett’s editorial. At times I felt as if Garrett had put a tape recorder under my bed and listened to me talk in my sleep about this issue. An excerpt:
Victimhood, though, is central to the denial argument. Claiming that the War was terrible and all who lived through it were victims together and that they should just try to move on is the only way the fact that it was the government of Japan that was primarily responsible for all of that suffering can be pushed into the background.
This Japan-as-victim mantra is so often repeated that it is as firmly a part of the canon of political correctness as more legitimate things such as the unacceptability of nuclear war and racism.
Back when much to-do was made over Minister Yanagisawa’s unfortunate “birth-giving machines” remark, I should have seen this dark side of political correctness rearing up its ugly head in Japan. Had people called for his resignation over his being part of a Cabinet with a deep disconnect with and disregard for the people of this nation, it would have made sense, but that wasn’t what happened. He said the wrong thing and it could have been sexist. That’s unforgivable.
Fumio Kyuma said something reasonable, if disagreeable. It could have been insensitive, though. More important, it violated the Japan-as-victim image Abe and other Diet members had worked so hard to maintain. After all, if the atomic bombs were unavoidable, that means something led up to them, which means the fact that those bombings were preceded by over thirteen years of war, in which Japan was the aggressor, would be dragged up all over again. That is not what the kantei wants, especially in the run-up to an important election.
This makes so much sense it’s scary. Listen to, or read, the entire editorial at
Another talk I got a lot out of is a February 11, 2004 talk by Bruce Cumings, a scholar of Korean history, entitled
“INVENTING THE AXIS OF EVIL: THE TRUTH ABOUT NORTH KOREA, IRAN, AND SYRIA”. An excerpt:
…as the Iraq war was unfolding. One of the curiosities of the commentary about the occupation of Iraq is that the [Bush] Administration wanted to compare what was going on to our occupations of Japan and West Germany. Democracy was going to flower in Iraq just as it did in Japan and West Germany. The opponents of the war constantly referred back to the quagmire that was the war in Viet Nam, and with the exception of a couple of editorials that I wrote, I saw nobody ever refer to the occupation of South Korea. Many Americans don’t realize that well before the Korean War, the United States set up a military government in South Korea, and ran it from 1945 to 1948. It had a very deep impact on Postwar Korean history. There are many things about the Iraq Occupation that are directly comparable to our occupation of Korea..
It goes on to talk about how things went very, very wrong on the Korean Peninsula, the emergence of the DPRK, and how and why things to this day are pretty sour in the region (with some interesting KimJongilogy within).
This issue matters to Debito.org greatly, as the GOJ uses the spectre of the DPRK on practically a daily basis to among other things justify its mistrust of the NJ community, denying the Zainichis the regular rights of multigenerational residency in Japan (such as voting in local elections).
You can download it from the U Chicago CHIASMOS website at:
The final podcast I’d like to point out to you is another CHIASMOS one: Tawara Yoshifumi, author and Japan Left commentator, on “Japan’s Education and Society in Crisis”, delivered May 17, 2007. As Secretary General of the Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, Tawara delivers an excellent first half (the second half gets a bit bogged down in leftist boilerplate and education minutia) on what the Abe Administration is angling for with the LDP’s educational reforms: the resurgence of a militarized Japan, able to fight wars and project hard power onto the international scene.
Great food for thought, and there was even a question from the audience on the school grading of patriotism even for Japan’s ethnic minorities (which the questioner unfortunately assumed would only mean Koreans); the answer was, everyone who attends Japanese primary and secondary schools enforcing patriotic guidelines will get graded on love of Japan regardless of nationality or ethnicity; Tawara mentions to a case of a Zainichi Korean getting graded down. An excerpt:
A source document of Mr Abe’s education reform is a report put out in December of 2000 by the National Alliance, of which the head is a Nobel Laureate in Physics, Ezaki Reona. And what Professor Ezaki says is that the question of schoolchildren’s abilities is a question of innate ability. It’s determined already for each child at the time of birth. It is something transmitted genetically. Consequently, a rational school policy would have all children’s blood tested upon their entry at school. And those who show genes which predispose them to learning effectively should be given the appropriate elite education. And the other children should be given an education that will promote their sincere attitude towards life…
In Japanese with excellent consecutive English translation as always from Professor Norma Field. Download from:
Related to Mr Tawara’s speech:
7) JAPAN FOCUS ON AMENDMENTS TO BASIC LAW OF EDUCATION
Japan Focus.com online academic site has just put up (July 9) an excellent analysis of PM Abe’s “teach primary students patriotism and love of Japan” reforms to the Fundamental Law of Education, passed December 2006.
Entitled, “Hammering Down the Educational Nail: Abe Revises the Fundamental Law of Education”, by Adam Lebowitz and David McNeill, the conclusion of the article is the most excerptable part:
CHANGES TO THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF EDUCATION: FROM CITIZENS TO NATIONAL SUBJECTS?
Much criticism of the amended education law has focused on statements clearly privileging the state over the individual; that is, statements affirming civil liberties still appear, often unchanged, from the original version, but are often undercut and diluted by new language. Perhaps more importantly, however, what makes the amended version of the law appear less a legal document than an expression of authoritarian will is not so much what is said, but how it is said. That is, the language of mystique and belief makes the very notion of individual rights seem anachronistic at best. For this reason the amended version is not a reflection of a democratic and constitutionally law-driven society but resembles in content and in intent the Edict, a product of a wartime regime.
The article contains an unofficial translation of the changes to the Fundamental Law of Education, side-by-side with the original 1947 document, at
Not mentioned of course is how Japan’s children of international roots–including both the children of immigrant workers and the children of international marriages–will be affected by these revisions.
Even from the change in the word “we” (meaning Japan’s residents/citizens–still not completely overlapping), I see great problems in interpretation and exclusion. Excerpting again:
AMENDED: Wareware Nihon Kokumin [We the Countrymen of Japan]
COMMENT: Warera is a non-partisan and generalized grammatical subject written phonetically. The new form in kanji is long and bombastic, and most notably conceptualizes “Japan” in an essentialist manner eliding a legalistic framework. The Constitution is not mentioned until the third paragraph. In short, the “we” of the old law were citizens of a constitutionally based body politic; now, “we” are in effect national subjects.
People are taking notice of this development overseas:
8) FOREIGN POLICY MAG ETC. ON GOJ AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
May seem unrelated to Debito.org, but Constitutional Reform (and the processes thereof) underpins everything, particularly the processes through which we work in Japan’s civil society, we try to get done here.
Constitutional reform has since gotten bogged down in the whole pensions scandals, and Abe’s decreasing popularity affecting late-July elections, so sawaranu kami. But if the Abe Administration continues, we should see more of what’s described in full in these excerpted articles at
JAPAN’S REVOLUTION IS FAR TOO QUIET
2007 June 1, Foreign Policy Magazine
By Bruce Ackerman, Norikazu Kawagishi, Posted May 2007
Japan is on the cusp of a constitutional revolution. To an overstretched West, a newly muscular Tokyo promises stability in a rapidly shifting region. Yet, in its rush to overturn six decades of official pacifism, the Japanese government is stifling the serious national debate required in a modern democracy. Is anyone paying attention?…
The new law, pushed by the inexperienced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, allows the government to hold a national referendum on proposed constitutional amendments. Rammed through parliament on a party-line vote, the Abe initiative has serious flaws.
Most importantly, it imposes drastic restrictions on freedom of speech. No political advertising will be permitted on radio or television during the two-week run-up to the referendum on proposed amendments. Worse yet, the law bans the nation’s schoolteachers from speaking out on the matter–as if a little learning were a dangerous thing when the nation contemplates its constitutional future. These restrictions have no place in a system based on the rule of the people.
But the government may have something else in mind. The new law fails to require a minimum turnout before any constitutional referendum becomes valid. By tolerating massive political passivity and imposing silence on broad sectors of civil society, the law sets the stage for a parody of democratic politics. The Constitution should not be amended by minorities marching to the polls under the guidance of entrenched political elites.
THE RISE OF JAPAN’S THOUGHT POLICE
By Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
The Washington Post August 27, 2006
Anywhere else, it might have played out as just another low-stakes battle between policy wonks. But in Japan, a country struggling to find a brand of nationalism that it can embrace, a recent war of words between a flamboyant newspaper editorialist and an editor at a premier foreign-policy think tank was something far more alarming: the latest assault in a campaign of right-wing intimidation of public figures that is squelching free speech and threatening to roll back civil society…
There are many more cases of intimidation. I have spoken to dozens of Japan’s top academics, journalists and government civil servants in the past few days; many of them pleaded with me not to disclose this or that incident because they feared violence and harassment from the right. One top political commentator in Japan wrote to me: “I know the right-wingers are monitoring what I write and waiting to give me further trouble. I simply don’t want to waste my time or energy for these people.”
Japan needs nationalism. But it needs a healthy nationalism–not the hawkish, strident variety that is lately forcing many of the country’s best lights to dim their views.
9) UPCOMING SPEECH AT TOKYO U RE UNIVERSITY BLACKLIST MONDAY, JULY 30
Getting back to the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, people are truly taking notice of it nowadays, after ten years of its existence. It’s constantly within the top 15 of all the thousands of websites up at Debito.org, and now I’ve been invited down south by Tohoku, Hitotsubashi, and Tokyo Universities to give a speech on the whats and whys. Details as follows:
DATE: JULY 30, 2007, 6:30 TO 9PM
PLACE: Tokyo University Shakai Kagaku Kenkyujo
SPEAKER: ARUDOU Debito, Associate Professor, Hokkaido Information University
TOPIC: How to make Japanese university employment more attractive internationally
(Focus on the University Greenlist and Blacklist, its origins, and suggestions on what is necessary to make Japanese unis more attractive to NJ faculty and students.)
LANGUAGE: Speech will be in Japanese, with reference materials in English by request of the hosts.
DISCUSSANT: Ohta Hiroshi, Associate Professor, Hitotsubashi University
I’ve been waiting for a long time to do a speech like this. Hope it goes well. I’ve got a very limited amount of time (and final exams all over the schedule) before it happens, so not sure if I can do enough for this dream opportunity.
All for today. Thanks for reading!
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 20, 2007 ENDS