Debito.org Poll on most important human rights advancement in 2008

mytest

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Here is a good poll to round out the end of the year.  

What do you think is the most significant human rights advancement in Japan in 2008? (all issues on this blog)

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  • Vote at the blue right-hand corner of this blog page (i.e. not directly above–the click bubbles are purely cosmetic).  Do a keyword search within the Debito.org Blog if you want to know more about each issue (they’re all discussed).  

    If you think I’ve left something out, please add something in the Comments Section below…

    Finally, check out my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column due out January 6 (Jan 7 outside the metropolises) when I rank them in order of importance.  

    Yoi otoshi o, everyone, and thanks for reading and supporting Debito.org in 2008.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Bloggers Gathering Jan 17 Tokyo (RSVP by Jan 8)

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog. Forwarding from TPR. I was invited too but sadly I’m not in the Tokyo area that long (only Jan 1 to 8). Ah well. Attend if you like. Debito back in Sapporo

    A gathering for bloggers and blog enthusiasts is being planned in Tokyo for the evening of January 17, and we would like to extend the invitation to any and all visitors who may wish to come. Bloggers from Observing Japan, Shisaku, Global Talk 21, Mutant Frog, Coming Anarchy, Trans-Pacific Radio and more will be amongst the crowd.

    All of us are hoping to meet with other bloggers and readers for an evening of food an drink. If you would like to attend, please send an email to transpacificradio@gmail.com before January 8th. Please let us know how many folks you would like to bring along with you. Although we have a place in mind for the get-together, we will wait to see what the final numbers are like before confirming. We expect that the gathering will be held in either Shibuya or Shinjuku. After we have confirmed the numbers and location, we will send you an email letting you know exactly where and when (probably about 6pm) we will be meeting up on the 17th.

    We hope to see you all on the 17th of January!

    Japan Times on future J housing markets, tax regimes, and why J houses are built so crappily

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Here’s another excellent article from Philip Brasor of the Japan Times, regarding future Japan housing markets and taxation laws (and why houses in Japan aren’t built to last, or be resaleable). Should cause a twinge or two in the homeowners out there, myself included. Arudou Debito in a lovely, durable, but largely unappraisable house in Monbetsu.

     
     
     

     
     
     
     

    MEDIA MIX

    The Japanese art of useless homes

    The Japan Times: Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008
    By PHILIP BRASOR

    Last spring, when the effects of the American sub-prime loan disaster were being felt but the world economy was still relatively OK, there was an article in the Asahi Shimbun written by one of the paper’s financial reporters who recalled several years earlier a visit from a friend living in the United States.

    The friend worked for a real-estate company and he told the writer just before he returned to America that he and his colleagues appreciated the Japanese people, because they were investing in U.S. mortgages as securities, and therefore helping poorer Americans borrow money at low rates so that they could buy better houses.

    The writer mentioned this episode to point out the irony of the situation, since it was the failure of those securitized mortgages that led to the burst of the U.S. real-estate bubble and the current worldwide recession. However, there’s a deeper irony to the story: The Japanese people, whose housing is, for the most part, inferior in quality to that of American housing, were making it possible for Americans to purchase nice homes. But who is helping the Japanese buy nice homes?

    The Japanese government would like everybody to think that they are. Last week, they announced new tax deductions for people who take out housing loans. It’s the biggest-ever tax cut for homeowners and encourages the construction of “long-life” structures that will supposedly improve the housing market. This latter idea, which is being called the “200-year housing plan,” has been around since May 2007, when it was formulated by a research panel set up by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and headed by Yasuo Fukuda, who would become prime minister later that year.

    At the time, Fukuda explained something everybody knew at least intuitively: Japanese homes were not made to last. After the war, the government promoted affordable housing so that everyone could own a home, with the result being “cheap, poor quality” structures that had to be replaced after 30 years. Since the houses themselves lost value quickly, people only invested in land, which invariably became over-valued. With the price of land so high, people couldn’t afford better quality homes, and cheap, poor quality structures became the norm.

    What Fukuda didn’t mention is that the housing industry was addicted to this cycle, which is referred to as “scrap and build.” The average new house loses its value completely 15 years after it’s occupied. Consequently, Japanese people only want new houses and condominiums, because they believe that previously owned ones are junk. In order to change this mind-set, the Fukuda panel came up with the idea of promoting the construction of homes meant to last a long time, so that the structures themselves can be worthwhile investments.

    But it wasn’t until these latest tax cuts were announced that the plan moved toward realization. According to current tax rules, a person who borrows money to buy a home can deduct up to ¥1.6 million of the loan from his or her taxes over a 10-year period after moving in. The new rules, which go into effect Jan. 1, increase the maximum tax deduction to ¥6 million over 10 years. And people who buy homes that qualify as long-life structures can deduct up to ¥1 million more from their taxes.

    These figures are maximum amounts. The majority of home-buyers will receive lower tax cuts, because they are based on the balance of the loan, and every few years the ceiling for the maximum balance allowed for the deduction drops. Moreover, many homeowners pay relatively low taxes because of their income and other deductions, and regardless of the balance left on their loan, they can’t deduct more than they actually pay in income tax.

    The cuts are being touted as a benefit to citizens, but just like the scrap-and-build strategy, they mainly benefit the housing industry, which is stuck with a huge inventory of unsold new homes that grows larger every day. And this new long-life housing rule also applies to condominiums, so don’t be surprised if, in the spring, the government announces the criteria for long-life housing and all those new, expensive and very vacant high-rise “mansions” looming over Tokyo’s waterfront qualify.

    There’s less largess for people who already own homes, almost half of which were built before earthquake standards were introduced in the 1980s. The new tax cuts don’t apply to them. If they want to add energy-saving or “barrier-free” features, 10 percent of the construction costs can be deducted, but they don’t get deductions for home-improvement loans. In 1988, the government set “durable housing” standards to evaluate homes for resale, but almost no one takes advantage of them. According to the Asahi, right now only 543 houses and 1,063 condos on the market have been evaluated.

    The long-life housing scheme will probably have a minimum effect, because only the rich will be able to afford such homes. The plan could hold promise over time if the yet-to-be-determined criteria optimize people’s desires. The reason homes in the West keep their value longer is that most were conceived as places to live, not consumer goods, which is what they represent in Japan. Designs for affordable housing in Japan are determined by the developer’s potential profit margins rather than the potential customer’s comfort: Just think of the boxy, impractical layouts of most condominiums, which allow developers to squeeze more units into a limited space.

    In the long run, these policies will make little difference. According to the Population Research Center, if the current birthrate persists, 100 years from now there will be 45 million people in Japan, which is fewer persons than there are houses right now. It’s impossible to say whether the quality of those houses in 2108 will be good or bad, but they sure will be cheap.

    The Japan Times: Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008
     

    Japan Times Zeit Gist on Chinese/Japanese bilingual education in Japan

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Further festive good news:  A rupo in the Japan Times Community Page from a member of the Chinese Diaspora in Japan, on the Chinese Diaspora in Japan.  And how some are being educated to believe that they are bicultural, bilingual, and binational.  Good.  Debito in Monbetsu

     
     
     
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    THE ZEIT GIST

    School bridges China-Japan gap
    Historic Yokohama institute seeks to nurture Chinese values, equip pupils for life in Japan
    By EMILY CHO
    Special to The Japan Times

    At first glance it seems to be a typical lunch break at a local Japanese school: Boys rambunctiously chasing one another and yanking at each other’s white polo shirts, little girls twirling so hard in their pleated gray skirts that they fall down with squeals of glee.

    News photo
    Bilingual, trilingual: Classes at Yokohama Yamate Chinese School are taught in both Mandarin and Japanese. Students learn English from fifth grade.EMILY CHO PHOTO

    But look closer and you notice that although the signs on the wall are familiar, the Chinese characters are written in simplified form, unlike Japanese “kanji.” A group of lanky adolescent boys in navy blazers start kicking around a fuchsia-feathered shuttlecock, or “jianzi,” instead of a soccer ball.

    “Ne ne, ore ne, hao chi de bing gan aru yo ne!” a little boy shouts, holding some biscuits up like a prize as he switches fluidly back and forth between Mandarin and Japanese.

    Welcome to the Yokohama Yamate Chinese School, which boasts a more-than-century-old cultural tapestry steeped in Chinese values deeply interwoven with Japanese influences.

    The Yokohama Chinese School was established in 1898 by Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, during his exile from the mainland. The school aimed to assuage the worries of parents that their children might lose their Chinese identity growing up in Japan.

    In 1952 the school split into two factions due to the political tensions between mainland China and Taiwan. The supporters of Communist China broke off to form the Yokohama Yamate Chinese School at another site, while the supporters of Taiwan stayed behind at what became the Yokohama Overseas Chinese School. Both schools claim to be the first Chinese school in Japan. Of the five Chinese schools in the country, only the Yokohama Yamate Chinese School and the Kobe Chinese School are oriented toward the mainland.

    One of the main differences between the two types of schools is that simplified Chinese is taught instead of traditional Chinese in pro-mainland China schools. They also teach Pinyin, a romanization system for standard Chinese, while the Taiwan-oriented schools teach Zhuyin, which uses phonetic symbols. However, the Taiwan-oriented schools are starting to teach simplified Chinese and Pinyin to offer a more well-rounded education.

    Of the Yamate school’s 413 students, 30 percent are Chinese nationals, with the rest having Japanese citizenship. Ten percent of the student body is ethnically Japanese.

    “Chinese people feel the need to be infused with the Chinese culture, logic and ideology,” Principal Pan Minsheng explains. “The Japanese people enroll because they realize what a big and powerful force China is. China and Japan are also closely intertwined in many aspects of life, politics and culture. It is therefore beneficial for them to learn more about the Chinese culture.”

    Although separated only by a narrow strip of water, war and occupation have left China and Japan divided by a wider gulf, exacerbated by ongoing political, historical and territorial tensions. However, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and great efforts are being made in both countries to build on growing ties. Perhaps both sides are finally heeding the wisdom of the Chinese proverb that says, “A good neighbor is a found treasure.”

    During his state visit to Japan in May — the first by a Chinese president in a decade — Hu Jintao set aside time for the school, perhaps recognizing that the students may come to play a critical role in bridging the gap of understanding between Japan and China.

    At the end of a worn-out hallway decorated with hand-painted artworks, Pan pulls open a sliding door to reveal a class of children reading out loud with perfect pronunciation from Chinese textbooks. Shutting the door behind him, Pan then pulls open another sliding panel; in this class the students are bantering with their teacher and each other in fluent Japanese.

    In the school’s kindergarten, children are mainly taught in Japanese, while primary and secondary-level classes are taught in Japanese or Chinese depending on the subject. English is also taught from the fifth grade. Chinese schools also encourage student-initiated learning, where the children learn as much from themselves and fellow classmates as from teachers and textbooks.

    “As you can see, in this class they are all learning Japanese,” explains Pan. “The students are proactive and discuss among themselves. They are learning when communicating with each other.”

    He points to the nearest table, where two students are quietly eavesdropping on our conversation. “Hey! Discuss!” he barks good-naturedly, getting giggles in response.

    The Yamate school only teaches up to junior-high level, but according to Pan all students go on to pass entrance exams for high-level Japanese senior high schools and transition easily into the Japanese school system.

    Unlike other international schools in Japan, which tend to focus on readying students for life outside Japan, Chinese schools like Yokohama Yamate aim to prepare their students for Japanese society, while keeping their Chinese cultural identity intact. In effect, the school aims to teach each its students how to be both Chinese and Japanese.

    When asked where they were from, a crowd of fourth-graders eagerly shared their varied answers.

    “I’m Japanese, and Chinese,” said a serious-looking boy named Bozhi, a first-generation Japanese-born Chinese.

    “We’re from China!” proclaimed two girls, Zhenxin and Chongmei, and another boy named Fangwei. All three were born in China and are being raised in Japan.

    Mandarin and Japanese poured forth in a strangely comfortable cadence among the boisterous bunch, and there was no preference for either language. But the younger students tended to favor one language over the other, depending on which is spoken at home.

    “I’m Japanese. I like Japanese class the best because it’s easy. I got 99 on my last test,” confided Akiyama, a shy 6-year-old who speaks Japanese at home to her Japanese father and Chinese mother.

    A cheeky boy runs up to the principal and tugs his sleeve insistently. “He hit me, he hit me!” he hollers. The principal ruffles the boy’s hair. “This little boy can speak Cantonese too. He speaks three languages!” he says proudly.

    The Yokohama Yamate school, like all other Chinese schools, encourages a tightknit community environment. The atmosphere in the school seems to be almost familial between faculty and students.

    In the courtyard, a young teenage boy is seen playing down his basketball abilities with the eager primary students. All over the school, similar interactions suggest a close bond between the students.

    “All the students clean their classrooms on their own,” says Pan. “But for the first-graders, the older students cleans the classroom for them.”

    Mrs. Ogawa, a Japanese mother who sent her two daughters to the school, appreciates the strong bonds it fosters. Her husband worked in China for a brief stint, and upon his return the couple formed friendships with Chinese people.

    “We thought that if it was possible, we should let our child mix with Chinese people from a young age and let them know that there are all sorts of people in the world, not just Japanese,” she explains. “It will make them more flexible and open-minded.”

    Despite the fact that the majority of the parents are Chinese, Ogawa says she has never felt out of place. She even picked up basic Mandarin so she could pronounce the names of her daughters’ Chinese friends and teachers.

    Looking at the sea of enthusiastic young faces, it is as impossible to pick out which student is Japanese or Chinese as it is irrelevant. Within the walls of the school there is no differentiation between the two ethnicities, only the celebration of both.

    “In the school, we are all parents — we have the same worries and the same happiness. Japanese people have to mingle with the Chinese to truly understand them,” says Ogawa. “It is important to form opinions from interpersonal relationships, not just from what you see on television. At the end of the day, we aren’t that different after all.”

    Send comments on this issue and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp
    The Japan Times: Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008
     

    History tangent: Japan Times FYI on Hokkaido development

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog. I’m on the road for a couple of days (we’ve been whalloped with snow, and I anticipate a long drive to the Okhotsk Sea Coast tomorrow), so let me send you a little something interesting.  A nice concise history of Hokkaido from the Japan Times.  Fills in quite a few blanks about how and why we up in Japan’s Great White North got here in the first place.  Arudou Debito traversing this spine of Hokkaido to Monbetsu

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    FYI

    HOKKAIDO HISTORY

    Japan’s last frontier took time to tame, cultivate image

    Staff writer
    Japan Times Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    Hokkaido, where the Group of Eight summit is taking place in Toyako, is known for its hot springs, ski resorts, seafood and magnificent scenery.

    News photo
    Dual roles: A family of “tondenhei” farmer-soldiers pose in front of their house in Akkeshi, Hokkaido, in the late 1880s. COURTESY OF HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY LIBRARY PHOTO
     

    Only 140 years ago, when Japan jumped on the modernization bandwagon, the prefecture was the new frontier.

    Following are some questions and answers about the history of Hokkaido:

    When did the development of Hokkaido begin?

    The Meiji government started promoting cultivation in Hokkaido in 1868, when it took over power from the Tokugawa shogunate. Cultivation was deemed necessary as part of the government effort to modernize all of Japan and amid awareness that Russia appeared to have designs on the territory, large areas of which had not yet been explored.

    The government allocated 4 percent to 5 percent of the national budget for developing Hokkaido over 10 years starting in 1872, according to “Hokkaido no Rekishi” (“The History of Hokkaido”), published in 2000.

    What was the situation in Hokkaido before the Meiji Restoration of 1868?

    Hokkaido had been inhabited by the Ainu for centuries. They had a separate culture from the Japanese, and lived by fishing, hunting and trading.

    The region had been called Ezochi, meaning “the land for people who did not obey the government,” until the name was changed into Hokkaido (“northern sea route”) in 1869.

    During the Kamakura shogunate (1185-1333), a penal colony was established at the southern part of the Oshima Peninsula and samurai warriors were stationed there to oversee the prisoners.

    During the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Matsumae domain ruled the southern area, and the shogunate officially entitled them to monopolize trade with the Ainu. In the late Edo Period, ordinary Japanese, some from the Tohoku region, started moving to coastal areas outside the Matsumae-regulated area to fish for herring.

    When the shogunate ended its 220-year closed-door policy in 1854, under pressure from Britain, France, the Netherlands, the United States and Russia, Hakodate became one of the first two ports to open to the West.

    The port was also spotlighted when Tokugawa rule ended in 1868. Some 2,800 people faithful to the shogun, led by naval officer Takeaki Enomoto, arrived at the port with eight ships from Edo, now Tokyo. After occupying Goryokaku fortress in Hakodate, he declared Hokkaido an independent country, but the rebels were defeated by Meiji government forces in 1869.

    How did the Meiji government develop Hokkaido in the 19th century?

    The government promoted immigration there from Honshu to farm land.

    It also created industries, building beer breweries and plants to make miso, soy sauce and silk. Coal mining also started in Horonai, now the city of Mikasa, in 1881. Railways were also built to transport coal to ports, including Otaru.

    To promote agriculture and other industries, dozens of Western engineers and researchers were invited to teach advanced technologies and educate young Japanese.

    One notable foreigner was William S. Clark, president of Massachusetts Agricultural College, who was invited in 1876 to be vice president of Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University.

    Many of the foreigners were Americans, probably because Japan tried to learn from the U.S. about developing its frontier, experts say.

    Ainu were forced to work as farmers and abandon their culture and lifestyles for assimilation by Japanese society, further increasing the discrimination against them.

    How many people moved to Hokkaido?

    The first group of 500 settlers arrived there in September 1869 from Tokyo, followed by thousands of people, including farmers, samurai descendants and gentry.

    About 1.9 million people moved to Hokkaido between 1890 and 1936, according to the prefectural government. Many were from the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions.

    How did the early Japanese settlers fare on the island?

    Nearly half engaged in farming vegetables, including potatoes, and buckwheat for “soba” noodles, and soy beans.

    But farming in the cold forested north was not easy. People had to clear the land by logging. It sometimes took several years to harvest sufficient crops to make a living.

    Rice planting began to spread in the 1880s after strains were improved to grow in the local soil.

    There were 7,337 households, or 39,901 people who migrated as “tondenhei,” who worked as farmer-soldiers, or their family members, from 1875 and 1899 under a government system established in 1873.

    Housing, food and farm implements were provided. The tondenhei also underwent military training and were deployed to various places to maintain order and prepare for a Russian invasion.

    Other immigrants engaged in fishing, trading and other industries.

    What major postwar events occurred in Hokkaido?

    After Japan’s surrender, some 17,000 Japanese who lived on small islands off Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islets — were expelled after the islands were seized by Soviet forces.

    Tokyo still claims the Russian-held islands as part of Japan, and the territorial row still tops its diplomatic agenda with Moscow. The dispute has prevented the two nations from concluding a peace treaty to end the war.

    After the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s, Hokkaido saw tough times.

    The failure of Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in November 1997 hit the local economy hard. The regional bank, which was founded in 1900, went under mainly because it extended loans to ailing companies recklessly during the bubble economy between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Last year, the Yubari Municipal Government was designated by the government as officially bankrupt. This ended its autonomy and the central government is now managing its rehabilitation efforts.

    Yubari has a population of 13,000, which is roughly one-tenth of its peak when it prospered as a coal mining town. The city is also known for its film festival and pricey melons.

    It was the first time in 15 years the government declared a municipality bankrupt.

    However, with the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, in which Japan won gold, silver and bronze in the 70-meter jump, Hokkaido became a tourist draw.

    In July 2005, a 70,000-plus-hectare area straddling the towns of Shari and Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula was designated as a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Asahiyama Zoo drawn many tourists from around the nation, thanks to its unique animal displays.

    Ski resorts and hot springs in Hokakido have become popular attractions for foreign tourists from Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia.

    The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays (Wednesday in some areas). Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to National News Desk

    ENDS

    Xmas List: Ten things Japan does best

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Merry Christmas.

    As another distraction (hey, even The Economist Newsmagazine has a special Christmas Issue every year with all manner of off-topic articles), here’s my Xmas present to readers:  Ten things that I think Japan does best.  

    (Please feel free to comment if you think I’ve left anything out.  My personal Ground Rules: Skip over things like cars and semiconductors and consumer electronics and steel, because they are obvious even to those who have never set foot in Japan, moreover are not very interesting to write about.  Stick to things that require extensive experience and knowledge of Japan — that way we get a more interesting set of opinions.  Hey, it’s the blogosphere.)

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    TOP TEN THINGS JAPAN DOES BEST, OR WORLD-CLASS (in ascending order):

    TEN) SEAFOOD.  As you know, food in Japan is high quality just about everywhere (even school cafeterias offer more than just edible fare).  But good food is not unique to Japan — there are many world cuisines (Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian, French…).  Where Japan particularly excels is in seafood — both in preparation and in training on how to eat it.  

    One of the things about being surrounded by coast in teeming waters and not much meat (animal husbandry here has only been around for a century or so) is that you HAVE to eat what’s on offer in the ocean.  You make do.  Fortunately, Japan doesn’t just “make do” — it has discovered how to eat just about anything from the sea — even algae — deliciously!  Once you get used to it (which doesn’t take long), you start lobbing things in your gob without holding your nose.   Sure, I still order fish and chips whenever I go into an Irish pub in Japan.  But that’s a heavy-salt and malt-vinegar soul-food break from the seafood I’m eating on a near-daily basis anyway.  Because it’s so good in Japan.  

    And Japanese, justifiably, eat more seafood than anyone else.

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    NINE) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.  Japan has its own problems with moving people around (to wit:  overcrowding on subways, chikan molestation, and, er… that’s about all the downsides I can come up with).  But even in Hokkaido, I can find a way, be it bus, train, and finally taxi if necessary, to get somewhere, including the boonies, if I have enough time.  In other countries, I keep running into, “How are you going to get there if you don’t have a car?” situations.  There’s often no other option there.  Besides, even with the problems mentioned above, how many other cities the size of Tokyo can move this many people around on a daily basis (okay, London, and perhaps Mexico City)?  Yet do it on such a clean (oops, that’s New York City out), reasonably comprehensible (oops, that’s Paris out) and cheap (oops, that’s Taipei out) basis?  And extend it essentially across the country (okay, that’s Greater London and beyond out) so safely (oops, that’s India out)?  Not many.  I drive, but I’m increasingly realizing that I probably don’t need to (and I definitely wouldn’t if I lived in Tokyo).  It’s a matter of time and convenience, and Japan has made a very good effort to make transit times approach and excel car ownership, probably as much as anywhere else in the world.

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    EIGHT) ONOMATOPOEIA.  Where to start on this one.  No matter how many words I learn (and it helps if I have the kanji to get the root meaning), I am absolutely blind to the feeling of gitaigo and giseigo/giongo, Japanese onomatopoeic expressions.  We all know guttari and gussuri and bon’yari and gakkari.  But how the hell will I ever hear pori pori when I scratch the inside of my nose or rero rero when licking something, or gabiin when agape, or bosun when something, well, ejaculates?  As inflexible as I find Japanese words, given how highly-contexualized the language seems to be (just hunting for that magic word to open the veto gate in any bureaucratic negotiation is a memory-taxing nightmare), there is incredible expressiveness in just a couple of repeated kana that I doubt I will ever master.  My loss.  Japanese is a language rich in expressiveness, and onomatopoeia is a huge part of it.

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    SEVEN) PACKAGING.  We hear about the Japanese department stores (Mitsukoshi first comes to mind) that essentially cocoon your purchase in more paper and plastic than is necessary (I too have to refuse half the plastics when just getting fast food and convenience store goods).  That’s the downside.  The upside is that when you really DO need cushioning for transportation, Japan really comes through.  

    Walk into any regular post office:  You can buy a box and find tape and other packaging goods going for cheap or free.  Go to a 100 yen shop and you’ll find spare newspapers lying about for you to package your just-purchased glass goods for the journey home.  And then there’s Mitsukoshi…

    Allow me to illustrate with another example:  In September I came home from the US (having tried to send through the USPS some bulk items home in advance:  talk about a rip-off; everything cost quite a bit and took its time getting here) and was glad to arrive in Narita (for a change!).  Because the trucking delivery companies (Yamato, Pelican, etc) were just poised for me to fill one of their boxes (they had a selection) with goods I didn’t want to shlep around Japan during my September two-week book tour.  In less than 30 minutes, Yamato had helped me pack, bubble wrap, and send off for a very reasonable price a bunch of sundries back north.  If you don’t know how to pack, leave it to the experts.  Over here, it’s part of the service.  Because if it’s not boxed properly, it’s not presentable.

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

    SIX) CALLIGRAPHY GOODS.  Here’s something I bet many haven’t considered:  Germany and Japan are two otaku countries that are just plain nuts about how to write things with style.  I’m used to crappy American Bic ballpoint pens that seize up in the same groove (and inexplicably ONLY in that groove, no matter how many times you go back and rewrite) or just decide to quit mid-cartridge.  Plus I’m not used to fountain pens (I clench the pen too far down the neck and get ink on my hands), and I cannot see the use of spending a few dozen dollars or so (or even much more — there seems to be a Rolex league for pens out there) for something I might leave in a pocket or on a table somewhere or lend to somebody, whatever.

    The attitude is diametric in Japan, where I have friends who specifically prowl stationery stores just to find a particular model (with special buttons to advance the pencil lead, or twirl cartridges that give you up to six different colors or pen/pencil combinations, or ink that comes out in multicolors like Aquafresh toothpaste) that they’ve seen advertised in some stationery magazine (yes, magazines devoted to bunbougu!).  Poohie to those who think pens should be disposable.  I too find myself prowling my students during writing assignments to see what they’re twirling (rather gracefully) while thinking.  You’re just not going to get this much attention to fine-point durable pens in many other countries, when you consider how precisely people have to write (what with the finesse of kanji), plus this rich a society with near-unbelievable attention to detail.  Germany, perhaps.  But definitely Japan.

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

    FIVE) GROUP PROJECTS AND ATO KATAZUKE.  Sure, we hear the downside of how working in groups makes situations inflexible and slow.  But the good news is that when things work here, they really work, especially when the division of labor becomes automatic when faced with a project.  Two examples come to mind:

    One is whenever I was involved in setting up speeches and getting politically active in my former hometown of Nanporo (three essays on this herehere, and here).  We’d rent a room at the local kumin center for a speech or town meeting, and a couple of friends on their own volition would always up early to help set up chairs and tables.  Then when the proceedings were done, just about everyone would lend a hand in putting everything back exactly as they had found it before going home.  I’ve done presentations overseas and found this phenomenon less frequent, if not nonexistent.  “Hey, we paid an entry fee — you take care of the chairs.  That’s what we paid you for,” is more the attitude.  Sucks.

    But my favorite example is when I was cycling between Sapporo and Abashiri via Wakkanai (yes, look at the map, it’s quite a ways) a few years ago.  Here I was, soaking away in Japan’s northernmost onsen (Doumu), having accomplished the marathon cycle to Wakkanai (the last 68 kms between Teshio and Wakkanai is dry, so pack your own water — and pray for a tailwind).  Suddenly, all the other cyclists (all half my age) and I had struck up a conversation about all the trials we went through getting up here too.  An hour later, they were asking me where I was staying, and I pointed to the grassy knoll over yonder that looked like public space where I had set up my tent.  They asked if they could join me (who was I to refuse?) and within minutes we had a tent city, and a bunch of kids who were perfect strangers not an hour ago deciding who was to make the fire, who would make the hot water, who would go on a beer run, who would collect the money for bento.  etc etc.  I couldn’t stay awake for the full project (I have a strict regimen:  in bed by 8PM, up by 5AM when cycling; I’m old.), but this is the magic of people who automatically slot into roles when groups form, especially when those people are determined to have fun. 

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

    FOUR) PUBLIC TOILETS.  One of the first things I miss about Japan whenever I go abroad are the public lavatories.  Sure, they exist overseas; but they are frequently hard to find (I think shoppers overseas must have enormous bladders), and the free ones usually look like they’ve been been through Lebanon or Somalia.  Japan, however, is uncanny at its ability to keep its toilets clean and unstinky.  And free (take that, you French!).  Sure, I hate it when I’m turtle-heading and can only find Japan’s squatter-types.  But I also hate being trapped behind a door where chance entrants can see my trousers dangling around my ankles and peep through the cracks in the toilet-stall partition; I pucker.  Besides, whenever I’m on the road for several weeks in Japan and need a time-out, I just head for the nearest handicapped toilet, steer in my Monolith suitcase, and camp for fifteen minutes.  Ah, a room to myself; it’s like a love hotel for my tuckus.  With the added bonus of: 

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

    THREE) TOILET CULTURE IN GENERAL.  The Western flush toilet has survived remarkably unchanged since the days of Thomas Crapper.  Like musket innovations in the 1600s, it took the Japanese to innovate toilets to include washlets (a quantum leap for those who tend to swaddle toilet paper until the bog chokes), with those lovely heated seats (overseas the flash-frozen toilet seats, not a shower or a cup of coffee, shocked me awake every morning) and hand-wash spouts on top of the tank.  

    Hey, when you’re not ashamed of your poop (it’s fair-game dinner-table conversation in Japan’s Working Class), you get creative.  Japan, remember, is the place that shamelessly produced female urinals (which I cannot imagine anyone using; this is a nation where women waste immense amounts of water flushing while peeing to cover up the noise of their discharge; so add another innovation:  flush-sounding noisemakers in their stead.  But I digress…)  

    Anyway, shut the door, enjoy complete privacy (except for the grunting person next door; Japanese quack scientists claim that Japanese have the most fibrous turds in the world, therefore the lavatory lobby argues we cannot import toilets from overseas; no comment).  And if somebody knocks to see if it’s occupied, just knock back twice; no voice needed (which helps when I do dumps at my university near students I’ll be teaching in a few minutes).  Just be thankful if you skipped those traumatic years in Japanese grade school, when crapping is associated with smelliness, and kids wind up constipated just because they don’t want to make a stink.

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

    TWO) SEXUALITY.  Here’s where I’m going to get into trouble, but I’ll say it:  Japan in terms of sexuality is surprisingly liberal.  I’m not just talking about the love hotels (not sleazy or embarrassing, and privacy is at a high standard, notwithstanding the hidden cameras behind some mirrors).  Nor am I just talking about the porn or near-porn (artists here love the female form and know how to depict it perfectly in line, see below) one sees on a daily basis.  I’m talking about attitude.  People keep sexual liaisons here quite quiet, as long as it’s not a matter of celebrity (which means it’s fair game, like just about anywhere in the world anyway).

    Case in point:  People don’t “take it upon themselves” to tell others “for their own good” that their boyfriend/girlfriend is sleeping with others (in fact, multiple partners here seem to be a national sport, especially when people are not married.  Actually, I take that back…)  Sex is a private thing, and the sore lack of sex education here notwithstanding (the learning curve here is pretty steep, and seems to inch younger every year), it’s between consenting people and only between them.  Kubi o tsukomanai koto.

    Sex is also something that people engage in, without requirement of marriage or love (whatever that means), or fear of birth control or abortion, etc. — all those things that force people into making irrational and life-changing decisions that they’ll regret later.  In modern Japan, where average marriage ages just keep getting older, sex is just sex.  As long as people are informed about possible outcomes (AIDS, STDs, etc) and precautions, I think that’s the attitude that one should have.  And Japan has it, and provides safe, clean, and often informed outlets for it.  

    And if you think this is only a recent thing, compare the US with Japan in The United States vs. One Package of Japanese Pessaries [as in contraceptive diaphragms] (1936), where Japan could develop this form of contraception but the US couldn’t, due in part to the Comstock Act.  Other countries have liberal attitudes too, of course (Scandinavia and Holland come to mind).  But I’m here, and I see it.  Like it or not (more for the NJ male of either sexual orientation, less the NJ female, admittedly), Japan a very sexy country.

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

    ONE)  ANIME. I’ve long admired Japanimation and comic art. Even though I never went all that deep; I still subscribe to 2000 AD and JUDGE DREDD THE MEGAZINE (British comics, think equal-opportunity former DANDY and BEANO reader too), as I have since both comics started, the former back in 1977, where I picked up the inaugural copy of 2000 AD from a London newsagent at age 12. But there’s just no resisting Japan’s clean lines, its sense of space and forcefulness, and its storyboard style of storytelling.

    I knew for a long time that Japan’s Manga were underrated and deserved more attention overseas. Nowadays, Manga and Anime seem to be one of Japan’s largest cultural exports (the words have even entered the English language), with knockoffs surfacing all over Cartoon Network (I’ll admit it: I’m a big fan of POWERPUFF GIRLSSAMURAI JACK, and just about anything by Genndy Tartakovsky).  Resistance is futile.

    But one of the knock-on effects of a society so consumed by comic art is that the general standards for line and face in the Japanese public are very high.  I come from a society where the standard deviation for drawing talent is very high:  you either get Pat Oliphants or stick figures, excellence or hopelessness.  In Japan, however, consider this example:

    I once gave a final exam where I had drawn a room on the answer sheet, and to test their spacial vocabulary skills, I said, “Under the table, draw Doraemon.”  There were about 100 students.  But EVERY student, save two, drew a clearly-recognizable Doraemon, many complete with spinner and collar bell and philtrum and whiskers.  Some drew him airborne bumping his head on the table.  Others had him can-canning, or waving his wand.  I was overjoyed.  The creativity (okay, cookie-cutter standardization for you cynical readers) within a set style was common to 98% of the students.  Try getting people overseas to draw a recognizable Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, even just Felix the Cat, and you’ll see how comparatively low and underpracticed drawing skills tend to be.

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

    …AND JUST ONE MORE:

    ZERO) SILLY CUTE.  Nobody quite combines silly and cute quite like Japan does.  Yes, Alex Kerr lamented how the culture of cute was paving over genuine time-tested Japanese culture in his book LOST JAPAN (this is how bluenose Kyoto rubs off on people).  But if you allow yourself not to get too curmudgeonly about it, there are lots of giggles and laughs to be had.  

    Where else are you going to get Marimokkori (they’re algae balls, for crissakes, with capes and endowments of a nonfinancial nature!)?  Try resisting the Hello Kitty goods when she’s adopting regional clothes (love Pirika Kitty and the super-tacky Susukino Kitty) or dining habits.  Lots more characters and amusing crap in Japan, just look around.  And they’re even finding markets overseas.  

    The reverse isn’t as true.  Disney notwithstanding (and even that has gotten ironic in recent decades to broaden its audience), the West just can’t do cute or silly without sarcasm seeping in.  Even those who shoot for it:  France’s Barbapappa just comes off as “easy to draw”, not cute.  Finland’s oddly-shaped Moomin even has that evil-looking Myy character (Finland is just plain weird anyway).  Even the BBC’s Teletubbies (which will give you a hernia if you argue their cuteness; they’re apparently good to watch while stoned) had a short shelf life.  They would have lasted longer if they’d gotten a J-makeover and a firm J-market.

    The way I see it:  Camp is imbued with a sense of irony.   Tacky and Kitsch both come off as cheap.  And all eventually become tiresome.  But Japan just keeps up the cute and silly and manages to (thanks to a lack of sarcasm here) remain unironic, with a straight face throughout.  Hey, it’s cute, what’s not to like?  As long as you keep the permutations coming, you never quite get sick of it.  Because it’s tacky, kitschy, and campy all at the same time, but only we non-natives seem to realize it.

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

    That’s the ten best.  Merry Christmas, Debito.org readers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    German movie SOUR STRAWBERRIES preview, with Debito interview

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  I’ve been interviewed for a couple of documentary movies in the past.  The first one came out in Germany a few months ago.  Entitled SOUR STRAWBERRIES, about labor migration (“Japan’s hidden ‘guest workers'”) and human rights in Japan, one of the directors, Tilman Koenig, has this to say (in excerpt):

    We had a German version of the documentary already done in September, and showed it in some cinemas arround here and had some very good reviews in newspapers. At this time we are working on the English and especially the Japanese version. Daniel [one of the other directors] will come to Japan in March 2009, so we are planning to show the documentary several times in March. The documentary is 58 Minutes long (45h of raw material) in the actual version…

    The five-minute coming attractions reel is here, in English and Japanese:

    http://www.vimeo.com/2276295

    I’m thrilled to report that the interview with me was even in the coming attractions (watch to the end from the link above), which featured a little visit to Kabukichou where we uncovered some of the JAPANESE ONLY signs.  Apparently a little tete-a-tete I had with one of the exclusionary shopkeeps was also included in full in the final cut.

    If I hear word of where those screenings will be in March, I’ll let readers of Debito.org know.  Happy Xmas Eve, everyone.  Debito

    Humor: Cracked Mag Online on unappetizing restaurants

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Morning Blog.  More humor for a national holiday:  Some restaurants (according to Cracked Magazine, which I thought was a poor second cousin to Mad Magazine, until I started reading the cutting online version) that defeat their purpose by offering food in very unappetizing ways:

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/9-restaurants-designed-to-ruin-your-appetite/

    Now I don’t believe for a second that there is a place in Roppongi that allows you to diddle your meal before you eat it (in fact, I found this site due to a trackback to Debito.org exposing the source as the deep-sixed Mainichi Waiwai).  But it’s still a good read, and I love the (what seems to be verified) idea of airborne meals even if it is a hoax.  The entire idea is like the scene in the Bunuel movie “The Phantom of Liberty” switching meals and toilets (in fact, one of the featured restaurants specifically plays on that theme).  It makes you think about something you do, often without really thinking about it, three times a day.

    By the way, foreshadowing:  The end of the year is a good time for reflection, and lists.  I’m working on the top ten best and worst of Japan, as well as ten things that changed my world this year.  I’ll have them out between Xmas and New Years.  And my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (due out January 6) will be on Japan’s top ten most important human rights advances in 2008.  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Humor: Robin Williams stand-up comedy on Obama’s election

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog. More festivities for the end of days. Here’s a very funny stand-up piece by Robin Williams (introduced by an oddly wheelchair-bound former Minister of Silly Walks) regarding Obama’s election and the outgoing Bush Administration. Courtesy again of Dave Spector. Enjoy. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    http://politicalirony.com/2008/11/30/robin-williams-on-obamas-election/

    All registered NJ will in fact now get the 12,000 “economic stimulus” bribe

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Good news.  After dallying with thoughts of excluding NJ taxpayers, then allowing only those NJ with Permanent Residency and Japanese spouses, the GOJ has just announced that all registered NJ will get the 12,000 yen-plus economic stimulus bribe.  Seasons Greetings.  

    This is probably the first time NJ have ever been treated equally positively with citizens (save for, perhaps, access to Hello Work unemployment agency) with a voter stimulus package.  See, it pays to complain.  Articles courtesy of Wes and Sendaiben.  Debito in Sapporo

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

    Gov’t to extend cash handouts to 2 mil registered foreign residents
    Kyodo News Sunday 21st December, 07:00 AM JST

    http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/govt-to-extend-cash-handouts-to-2-mil-registered-foreign-residents

    TOKYO — The government said Saturday it has decided to recognize 2 million foreigners registered as residents with local governments as of next Feb 1 as eligible for cash benefits it will hand out next year as a fiscal measure to spur private consumption.

    The government will recognize foreigners registered as residents on the foreign registry as of Feb 1, 2009 as qualified recipients of the cash handout under the 2 trillion yen program, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

    Among the 2 million recipients are permanent foreign residents, such as North and South Korean residents in Japan, as well as foreign workers of Japanese ancestry who have residential permits as migrant workers, the ministry said.

    Foreigners studying at Japanese schools as well as foreigners accepted as trainees by Japanese companies are also recognized as qualified recipients.

    Foreign tourists, foreigners overstaying their visas and other illegal aliens will not be recognized as legitimate recipients, the ministry said.

    The administration of Prime Minister Taro Aso approved on Saturday a second supplementary budget that includes the handouts as its main pillar.

    The ministry said Feb 1 is the set date for deciding on eligibility for the handouts for both Japanese citizens and registered foreigners. The number of recipients, including foreigners, will total 129 million.

    Japanese citizens and foreigners will basically be given 12,000 yen per person, but an extra 8,000 yen will be given to recipients up to and including 18 years old as of the standard date, as well as to recipients 65 years old or older.

    Local government officials will check on such recipients’ ages when the cash handouts are disbursed. This means that those receiving additional payouts must be young people born on Feb 2, 1990, or later and elderly people born on Feb 2, 1944, or before.

    Feb 2 became the defining date because Japanese law adds one more year to a person’s legal age at midnight on the day before he or she is born, the ministry said.

    Consequently, people whose 65th birthday falls on next Feb 2 are counted among qualified recipients of the cash.

    The older qualified recipients will total 28 million, while young recipients up to and including 18 years old will number 22 million persons.

    But babies who will be born exactly on next Feb 2 or after will not be recognized as qualified recipients, because the government is designating Feb 1 as the defining date for eligibility, it said.

    The cash will be handed out through the offices of the local governments at which Japanese citizens or foreigners are registered as residents.

    The payments assume that the second extra budget and other relevant bills will pass the Diet. They also assume that local assemblies will pass budgetary bills to cover expenses for administering the payments.

    It is not yet known, therefore, whether the government will be able to hand out the cash benefits prior to next March 31 because deliberations on these bills may drag on.

    ENDS

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

    定額給付金:支給基準日は来年2月1日 総務省

    毎日新聞 2008年12月20日 18時39分(最終更新 12月21日 1時53分)

    http://mainichi.jp/select/seiji/news/20081221k0000m010020000c.html

     総務省は20日、定額給付金の支給基準日を来年2月1日にすると発表した。市区町村は2月1日時点の住民基本台帳を支給の基礎とする。基準日は来年1月1日か2月1日のいずれかで調整していたが、引っ越したにもかかわらず転居を市区町村に届けていない場合などを想定し、混乱を避けるには一定の期間が必要と判断した。

     定額給付金は1人1万2000円で、65歳以上の高齢者と18歳以下の子供に対しては8000円加算される。

     2月1日が基準日になったことにより、2月1日までに生まれた子供は支給対象になるが、2日以降では受け取れない。出生届の提出は2日以降であっても、受け取りに問題は生じない。支給をめぐっては、基準日に死亡するケースなども考えられるが、詳細な扱いはさらに検討する。

     加算に関しては、年齢計算に関する法律などの関係から「65歳以上」には1944(昭和19)年2月2日以前生まれの人が該当し、「18歳以下」は90年2月2日以降に生まれた人が対象になる。

     また外国人は、観光などの短期滞在や不法滞在者を除き、原則全員(約2000万人)が支給対象になる。永住外国人や日本人の配偶者に加え、就労や留学目的で滞在する在留資格を持つ外国人なども受け取れる。外国人登録原票に基づき支給され、世帯主ではなくそれぞれが申請することになる。

     政府は08年度第2次補正予算案として、給付金関係として事務経費825億円を含む総額2兆395億円を計上した。【石川貴教】

     ■基準日にかかわるポイント

     ▽支給窓口は来年2月1日現在で住民登録している市区町村

     ▽支給対象に含まれるのは来年2月1日生まれまで

     ▽8000円加算の対象は(1)1944年2月2日以前生まれの高齢者(65歳以上)(2)90年2月2日以降生まれの子供(18歳未満)

    ends

    Humor: “Beware of the Doghouse”: For you men with thoughtless gifts

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  First off-topic festive humor entry, particularly for hetero men readers out there:

    What follows is a link to the “Beware of the Doghouse” website, something well worth looking at because it’s a smart, funny, and well-produced five-minute mini-movie about men who don’t think deeply enough about what sort of gift to give their wife/female partner.

    http://bewareofthedoghouse.com/

    Click on the movie projector at the site and let things spool away.  I watched the video three times in succession, it was so good.  Thanks to Dave Spector for sending me the link.

    You’d also never guess who created it.  I won’t spoil the surprise, but afterwards you just might realize how effective a marketing tool the Internet is becoming (this is too long and edgy for most TV, for example, and would cost too much to put anywhere else but online).  

    Just be careful about watching it with a woman.  She will definitely relate to the female characters.  And if you’re not careful, she might even add your name and picture to The Doghouse.  (Yes, she can, you know.)

    Enjoy!  Debito in Sapporo

    Start of Holiday Season: blog becomes less frequent and more festive

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Morning Blog.  With the holidays coming up (I bet many people are taking Monday off too and getting ready to travel), I’m sure you have better things to do than read socially-conscious stuff on a blog.  Eat, drink, and be merry, and I’ll do the same (in more moderation; I’m already fat).  I’ll try not to do daily updates, and will put up more amusing, off-topic, stuff between Xmas and New Years.  Enjoy yourselves and we’ll get back to business in January.  Happy holidays, everyone!  Arudou Debito (stuck in Sapporo; Hokkaido economics don’t help one get out for Xmas)

    Kyodo: NJ to be registered as family members (residents?) by 2012

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Good news if this actually comes to fruition: The ludicrous system of registering NJ separately from J in residency certificates (juuminhyou) may be coming to an end. According a Kyodo article (that is too deficient in detail — Japan Times, do another article in depth, please!), we’ll start seeing NJ registered with their families in three years. And hopefully as real, bonafide residents too (even though this is still not clear thanks to Kyodo blurbing). At least we’ll see the end of the ridiculous gaikokujin touroku zumi shoumeisho and the invisible NJ husbands and wives. More on why the current registry situation is problematic here, including NJ being left out for tax-rebates, and not being included in official local government tallies of population. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    The Japan Times, Friday, Dec. 19, 2008

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081219a4.html

    New registry rules for foreigners proposed

    Kyodo News, courtesy of AW and Sendaiben
    A government panel Thursday recommended creating a new system by 2012 to register foreign residents on a household basis, replacing the current individual-basis system, to better oversee their living conditions.

    Japanese nationals are registered on a household basis.

    In a report, the panel of experts under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications also recommended scrapping the current two-tier system in which the Justice Ministry handles immigration and stay permits, while local governments handle registrations of foreign residents, and called for a unified control system.

    Based on the recommendation report, the internal affairs ministry will submit a bill for the envisaged foreigner registry system to an ordinary Diet session next year, ministry officials said.

    The proposed steps are expected to help improve the welfare, education and other public services for foreign residents, but critics warn it could lead to increased surveillance.

    The number of non-Japanese residents has topped 2 million, more than doubling in the past 20 years.

    Under the current system, non-Japanese residents are registered with local governments on an individual basis. The new system is designed to register them on a household basis and the information will be shared by local governments across Japan.

    An advisory panel to the justice minister recommended in March that local governments abolish the issuance of foreign registration certificates.

    ENDS

    Mainichi: USA to require visitors to register online before boarding planes

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. This is only tangentally related to Debito.org (it’s about traffic going from Japan to the US), but as the Americans do policywise, so often does the Japanese Government. Here we have the last gasps of the Bush Administration trying to stick it to foreign visitors (fingerprinting and photography weren’t enough; the GOJ then copied it and went even farther), what with requiring people now to register online before they visit, or even get a boarding pass. As Japanese officials mildly protesteth (see Japan Times article below), the USG didn’t even bother with much of a publicity campaign for their program, leaving the burden on the airlines and the airports to deal with it. Let’s hope 1) this really puts off people travelling to the US, and 2) the GOJ doesn’t feel the itch to copy. Three articles follow — the Mainichi in English and Japanese, then the Japan Times with even better information. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Travelers to U.S. required to register online prior to boarding under new system

    (Mainichi Japan) December 17, 2008, Courtesy of Jeff K

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20081217p2a00m0na002000c.html

    Visitors traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program will be required to register online prior to boarding from next January under the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

    Due to concerns that passengers unaware of the system will be unable to board their flights — largely due to a lack of proactive action by the Japanese government — the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan (SAAJ) will be launching a new PR campaign to inform passengers about the system at Narita Airport on Thursday.

    Currently, visitors are required to complete a visa exemption form while en route to declare any drugs possessed or criminal convictions. The ESTA — which will come into operation from Jan. 12 — will require prospective travelers to complete a survey of 20 or so similar questions online at least 72 hours prior to boarding. Carriers will then check each passport by its passport number to ensure the holder has permission to travel to the U.S. Those without authorization will be refused a boarding pass.

    Once issued, the holder is allowed to travel to the U.S. for two years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.

    There are already computer terminals allowing Internet access at Narita Airport; however, there are no plans to have any more installed prior to the introduction of ESTA. And while Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have carried an explanation of the new system on their Web sites since July, fears over late applications or ignorance of the new system have prompted SAAJ to launch a campaign of leaflets and announcements at Narita Airport on Thursday.

    ENDS

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

    米入国審査:ネットで事前申請 忘れると搭乗不可--来月12日から

    ◇関係団体、PR

    毎日新聞 2008年12月16日 東京夕刊

    http://mainichi.jp/enta/travel/archive/news/2008/12/16/20081216dde001040039000c.html

    米国にビザを持たず短期滞在(90日以内)で入国する場合、来年1月12日から、一部を事前にインターネットで申請して承認を受ける制度が導入さ れる。しかし、この事前手続きが旅行者らにあまり知られていないため、空港に来て旅客機に搭乗できないなどのトラブルが続出することが懸念されている。国 も積極的に広報しておらず、国内航空会社でつくる「定期航空協会」は18日、成田空港でPR活動を行う。【窪田弘由記】

    ◇空港混乱の恐れ

    現在は薬物所持や逮捕歴などについての質問が書かれた「査証免除用フォーム」と呼ばれる紙に機内などで回答し、入国審査の際に手渡している。

    米国は、来年1月12日からテロリストらの入国を防止するため「米国電子渡航認証システム」(ESTA)を導入。こうした犯罪歴などにかかわる質問の一部について、事前にインターネットのサイトで回答し、米当局から承認を受ける手続きが必要になった。

    具体的な申請方法は、米国土安全保障省の専用サイト(https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov)=日本語版もあり=にアクセスし、パスポート番号や過去の逮捕歴など約20項目の質問について入力する。パスポートが有効期限内なら、承認は2年間有効。

    米当局は搭乗の72時間(3日)前までに手続きするよう求めている。航空各社は搭乗手続きの際、承認されているかをパスポートからチェックし、出 発時間までに承認がない客は搭乗させない方針。成田空港にはインターネットに接続できる端末が一部には用意されてはいるが、航空各社は現時点では事前申請 のために新たな端末は置かない方針。

    出発直前の申請では認められないケースも出るといい、「空港で客とトラブルになる可能性もある」と懸念する。日本航空と全日空は7月から順次、自 社のホームページでシステムの説明をしている。しかし、旅行客らの反応は鈍く、制度の浸透に不安があることから、定期航空協会は18日午前9時、成田空港 第1ターミナルで客室乗務員らがリーフレットを配って呼びかける。

    ◇「9・11」で義務化

    米国電子渡航認証システムの導入は、01年9月の米同時多発テロを受けて制定された「9・11委員会勧告実施法」に基づき義務づけられた。米国土 安全保障省は概要を今年6月に発表。チャートフ長官は「渡航者が脅威をもたらすかどうかを、航空機に搭乗する前あるいは船舶が入港する前に審査すること で、我が国と旅行者の安全を強化する」と説明。義務化を前に、8月からは自主的な申請も受け付けている。米国の駐日大使館も、大使館のサイトで概要説明し ている。【花岡洋二】

    ends

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

    New U.S. travel authorization plan has airlines on edge before launch
    By ALEX MARTIN, Staff writer

    The Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081218a1.htmlA new border control system the United States will start using to screen short-term foreign travelers in January remains relatively unknown less than a month before launch, and people in the airline and tourism industries are worried the lack of awareness will wreak havoc at airports nationwide.

    The new Electronic System for Travel Authorization requires travelers from Visa Waiver Countries who wish to stay in the U.S. for 90 days or less to use the Internet to apply for permission to enter the country three days before departure. Travelers with visas are not affected.

    Those who come to the airport without ESTA authorization are likely to be forced to reschedule their flights or cancel, which is causing growing concern among airlines and travel agencies.

    The system takes effect Jan. 12 and will replace the written application process used by those seeking visa-free stays. It will be valid for two years or until the applicant’s passport expires.

    Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security initially announced plans for the ESTA system in June, public awareness still appears low, airlines and travel agencies said Wednesday.

    “Airlines have been conducting PR activities through their Web sites and in-flight magazines, but it still seems little known to most people,” said Toshiya Shimada of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan.

    The application is about 20 questions long and asks applicants if they have a criminal record or a history of drug abuse, and requests other basic biographical information. It must be submitted no later than 72 hours prior to departure

    Shimada said the airline group, which includes Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co., will distribute leaflets Thursday at Narita airport to boost awareness of the new system because the U.S. government doesn’t appear to be doing much to get the word out.

    “We’d have appreciated it if the American Embassy had conducted a large-scale publicity campaign, but that doesn’t seem to be happening,” Shimada said, emphasizing that airlines stand to be the hardest hit by any confusion arising from ESTA.

    The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it has held briefings, two press conferences and several TV interviews in Japan to explain ESTA to the Japanese media and the travel agencies. It also said it has seen a noticeable bounce in advance applications and is encouraging travelers to prepare in advance.

    Naoko Shimura of travel agency H.I.S. Co. agreed with Shimada and said the ESTA Web site itself threatens to pose difficulties for travelers with little computer skills.

    “Since the online authorization involves personal information, we generally have our customers fill it out by themselves,” she said, noting the elderly and those unaccustomed to the Internet may find the process difficult.

    According to the U.S. Embassy’s Web site, ESTA approval will be almost instantaneous in most cases. But in cases where applications are left pending, travelers will have to check the ESTA Web site for updates on their applications for the next 72 hours.

    If an application is denied, it will prohibit the passenger from traveling under the VWP but will not affect one’s visa eligibility.

    In the case of last-minute applications, Narita International Airport employee Eiichiro Takasu said Internet access is available through the airport’s wireless LAN network, provided that travelers have computers and a valid Internet service provider.

    “JAL and ANA said they would provide their own PCs, although I’m unaware of the situation with other airlines,” he said.
    ENDS

    Tokyo High Court overrules lower court regarding murder of Lucie Blackman: Obara Joji now guilty of “dismemberment and abandonment of a body”

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Serial rapist and sexual predator Obara Joji yesterday had his “innocent on the grounds of lack of evidence” lower court decision overturned by the Tokyo High Court, with Lucie Blackman’s rape and murder now added to his long list of crimes against women. A hair was split between actual murder and just doing nasty things to her corpse, but for people outraged about the rather odd consideration of evidence in this case (which I in the past have indicated might have something to do with a J crime against a NJ, as opposed to the opposite), this is a victory of sorts. Given that Obara got away with a heckuva lot before he was finally nailed (including some pretty hapless police investigation), I wonder if the outcome of his cases will be much of a deterrent to other sociopathic predators out there. Anyway, this verdict is better than upholding the previous one, of course. Two articles follow. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Guilty verdict ends Blackman family’s fight for justice
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/guilty-verdict-ends-blackman-familys-fight-for-justice-1192828.html
    By David McNeill in Tokyo
    The Independent. Wednesday, 17 December 2008

    A Japanese businessman has been convicted of abducting Lucie Blackman and mutilating her body, ending an eight-year campaign by her family.

    The millionaire property developer Joji Obara was cleared last year of raping and killing the 21-year-old British bar hostess in Japan in 2000. Yesterday the High Court in Tokyo agreed that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on these charges but ruled that Obara dismembered and abandoned her body.

    Ms Blackman’s family said they were “delighted” by the higher court’s judgment but added that they were left with a bitter taste in the mouth after their long fight for justice through Japan’s drawn-out legal system.

    Her mother, Jane Steare, sat weeping yards from Obara in court as the verdict was read out, an experience she called “very, very harrowing”. It was her first sighting of the man who used a chainsaw to mutilate her daughter’s body, which he then dumped in a cave south-west of Tokyo. On a previous court appearance, Obara had failed to show up.

    After the verdict, she said: “At last we have two guilty verdicts and a life sentence for the crimes Obara committed against my wonderful Lucie. He’s got a life sentence and I think justice has been done.”

    Her father, Tim Blackman, who lives on the Isle of Wight, said: “Although the result is not the absolute decision we had hoped for, it is still an obvious recognition of guilt. After such a long time it is clear that it was necessary for this protracted process to get any degree of result and some form of justice for Lucie, but it still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.”

    Ms Blackman’s sister, Sophie, 26, said: “It is not important exactly what he was charged with – what matters is that he is finally taking responsibility after all this time. I’m delighted.”

    Ms Blackman, a former flight attendant, went to Japan in May 2000 and found a job as a hostess at a Tokyo nightclub. She vanished in July that year after telephoning her flatmate to say she was going out for the afternoon with a man. Her remains were found in a cave near Obara’s beachside condominium in February 2001 following an extensive search.

    In April last year Tokyo District Court acquitted Obara of involvement in Ms Blackman’s death. But he was ordered to spend life in prison for a string of rapes and causing the death of an Australian woman. Tokyo High Court also upheld this sentence yesterday. Judge Hiroshi Kadono held that Obara’s actions left no room for leniency and said: “His action of damaging and abandoning her body was ruthless and did not even give the slightest consideration to her dignity.”

    Police found hundreds of home-made videos in the businessman’s flat, showing him having sex with unconscious women, many of whom he met while cruising the Tokyo entertainment district where Ms Blackman worked.

    However, although strong circumstantial evidence, including proof that he bought the chainsaw, apparently linked him to the death of the former air stewardess, there was no video recording of her rape.

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

    The Japan Times, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008
    High court: Obara buried Blackman
    Serial rapist’s life term is upheld; abduction added to convictions
    By SETSUKO KAMIYA Staff writer

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081217a1.html

    The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday sentenced serial rapist Joji Obara to life in prison for kidnapping Briton Lucie Blackman and mutilating her corpse eight years ago, after a lower court acquitted him of the charges.

    The high court also upheld the Tokyo District Court’s life sentence for Obara, 56, for nine other rape cases, including that of an Australian woman who died from an overdose of sleeping drugs Obara slipped her before the assault.

    Dressed in a dark suit and brown-framed glasses, Obara nervously wiped his face with a blue handkerchief before the judge read out the 1 1/2-hour decision. As the ruling was being announced, Obara stared at the floor and remained motionless.

    Obara was charged with six cases of rape, two cases of rape resulting in bodily injury, and rape resulting in the death of Australian hostess Carita Ridgway.

    In the Blackman case, he was charged with kidnapping with intent to rape, attempted rape, and damaging and disposing of a body. He was not charged with murder or manslaughter, however, due to lack of evidence.

    Prosecutors demanded a life term.

    Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kadono said that while the court couldn’t find direct evidence that Obara raped Blackman, there was enough circumstantial evidence to conclude he abducted the 21-year-old from her residence in Shibuya Ward with the intention of drugging and raping her in July 2000.

    The court also said that there was enough evidence to believe that Blackman died for some reason after Obara drugged her in his condominium in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and that he dismembered her with a chain saw and buried her body parts in a cave near another condo he owned on the Miura coastline.

    But the court said it was unable to determine exactly where Obara dismembered her corpse, except that it was in the vicinity of his condo.

    The court also rejected Obara’s appeal in the Ridgway case and determined her death was caused by the chloroform Obara forced her to inhale, which caused her to die from fulminant hepatitis in 1992.

    Afterward, Ridgway’s family issued a statement saying they welcomed the ruling.

    “It is hoped that this finally brings an end to a process that began over eight years ago. The process has been prolonged because Obara refused to accept his guilt and has had access to significant financial resources which he used to fund his attempts to escape justice,” they said.

    In April 2007, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Obara to life in prison for a string of nine rapes between 1992 and 2000, including Ridgway’s.

    But the court acquitted him of all charges in the Blackman case, ruling that the circumstantial evidence linking him to her dismemberment and burial was not convincing enough to link him directly to her death.

    Although the evidence included some 200 videotapes showing Obara engaging in sexual acts with his victims, Blackman was not among them, and the court said other evidence could not prove Obara was involved in any way with Blackman.

    During appeal sessions that began in March, prosecutors said there was sufficient evidence showing Obara was involved in the Briton’s death.

    Blackman’s dismembered corpse was found in February 2001 in a Miura cave near one of his condos. The prosecution argued that Obara raped her at his Zushi condo several kilometers away.

    Prosecutors said he bought a chain saw shortly after the ex-British Airways flight attendant vanished in July 2000.

    ENDS

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 16, 2008

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 16, 2008
    Table of Contents:
    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    THINK OF THE CHILDREN…
    1) Terrie’s Take on how NJ workers are the first to go in adverse economic conditions
    2) Mainichi: Brazilian ethnic school closing due to NJ job cuts
    3) Jason’s blog on next employment steps in Japan for NJ
    4) Japan Times: Eric Johnston on Gunma NGO stopping ijime towards NJ students
    5) AP: US court rules Japan has jurisdiction in child joint custody case
    6) Sydney Morning Herald: Little Hope for Japan’s Abandoned Fathers

    OTHER THINKS:
    7) Grauniad: Japan comes down hard on Greenpeace whaling activists
    8) Thoughts on seeing the Dalai Lama at the FCCJ Nov 3, 2008
    9) Economist.com: Bilateral agreements to give US servicemen immunity from Japanese criminal procedure

    … and finally…
    10) Travelling around Japan in New Years’ and March. Want me to come speak?
    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    By Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
    www.debito.org, debito@debito.org
    Freely Forwardable

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

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN….

    1) Terrie’s Take on how NJ workers are the first to go in adverse economic conditions

    Terrie’s Take November 3, 2008:

    First to go have been the foreign workers in overseas plants. Two weeks ago, Nissan announced that it would cut its workforce by 1,680 people at its Barcelona assembly plant one of two major plants the company has in Europe. This is almost 1/3 of all the people working at that facility and represents the halting of one of the 3 production shifts. Sales of vehicles in Spain have plunged 24% in the last 9 months, and when the numbers finally come out at the end of the year, we expect that sales for this current quarter might be almost non-existent. Indeed, Peugeot has said that it expects a 17% fall in auto sales in Q4 in Western Europe. We think the final numbers will be worse and Japanese firms will share blood shed.

    Certainly Toyota knows this, and so the company is laying off another category of “outsiders” non-permanent workers at its factories here in Japan. Apparently the company employs 6,800 contract workers, also known as fixed-term workers, a number which is 2,000 down from March and 4,000 down from the peak of 10,800 employed in 2004. Back then, non-permanents accounted for 30% of the company’s total workforce. The thing about these contract workers is that so long as they are employed for less than 36 months, then the company can flexibility lay them off in times of hardship as will many other companies around the country now that Toyota has set the pace.

    In addition, in Q2, June-August this year, Toyota laid off an extra 8,000 temporary workers for a total of around 10,000 redundancies so far this year. Are you seeing these numbers in the major newspapers? Not really. This is probably because Japan’s number one advertiser is sitting on an estimated JPY4trn (US$40bn) of cash reserves (not including other assets) which make it difficult for the company to defend its actions in the Japanese context of being needed to be seen to be looking after your own. In this respect, the message clearly is that you need to be a full-time employee to be considered “one of the Toyota family”. Otherwise you’re just a squatter

    So, given that there are at least 755,000 foreigners (as of 2006) working here in Japan, and probably another 350,000 or so working illegally, you can bet that this group will be another at-risk segment to lose their jobs. The AP article says that the government HELLO WORK centers used to get about 700 foreigners looking for jobs each month, but in August due to the massive layoffs by auto manufacturers, the numbers of foreign newly jobless people doubled to 1,500 a month. Local officials note that the number of Japanese applicants has not changed appreciably (yet) so clearly Toyota, Honda, and Yamaha are dumping on their Brazilian-Japanese and Chinese workers first.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2084

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

    2) Mainichi: Brazilian ethnic school closing due to NJ job cuts

    Terrie Lloyd mentioned above about how the NJ workers are the first to go in any wave of job cuts (no wonder very few NJ ever get promotion beyond “temp”-style contract labor, despite working for years at full-time jobs). Now here’s an article in the Mainichi about how that’s having a negative impact on the NJ community, particularly the education of their children. Ethnic schools are starting to close as tuition dries up. What next for the NJ communities, always contributing yet kept as a mere appendage to the “real members” of this society?

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2086

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

    3) Jason’s blog on next employment steps in Japan for NJ

    A blog called “Jason’s Random Thoughts” has a thoughtful post for those NJ facing restructuring in Japan. Since it’s a recent theme on Debito.org, I thought I’d post an excerpt and a link here. I’ve posted (a bit irreverently) before on what sort of jobs are available for NJ, particularly those of the former Eikaiwa ilk. Link to that here. As for those of you seriously facing a job loss and a reassessment of your life in Japan with the economic downturn, Jason’s blog post is food for thought. Excerpt:

    For almost two years we have heard how companies are shutting down all over the world in response to a slowing economy. Whether this is the ultimate result of corporate greed, globalization, out-sourcing, or something that can be understood only by leading economists, one thing is clear: our current employment is no guarantee of future security. Of course, facing the prospect of unemployment is scary for everyone, but it’s particularly painful when living in a foreign country

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2090

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

    4) Japan Times: Eric Johnston on Gunma NGO stopping ijime towards NJ students

    Japan Times on bullying of NJ schoolchildren and an NGO’s effort to stop it:

    Nationwide, there are more than 25,000 foreign children in schools. The majority are believed to be Brazilians, followed by Chinese. Truancy among foreign children, who are often bullied because they are different or don’t speak Japanese, has become a concern in recent years, especially in prefectures like Gunma and in the Chubu region where large numbers of foreigners reside.

    Local governments and the central government both say more needs to be done to integrate foreign children into Japanese schools. But they are often at odds over what exactly should be done and who should take the lead. The central government has long urged local governments to do more, while cash-strapped local governments say there is little more they can do unless Tokyo formulates a national policy and provides funds for assistance.

    Human rights activists note a fundamental reason for truancy among foreign children is that they are not required by law to attend public school, which means those who drop out due to bullying or other reasons are not legally obliged to return. The education ministry’s position is that while public schools cannot turn away foreign children, they don’t have to make sure they’re in class.

    “Revising the Compulsory Education Law to insure foreign children are covered is a top priority for Japan,” NGO leader McMahill said…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2092

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

    5) AP: US court rules Japan has jurisdiction in child joint custody case

    AP: The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s courts have no jurisdiction over a custody dispute involving a 6-year-old boy, leaving the issue to a Japanese court.

    In the ruling issued Friday, the court said a Douglas County district judge had no authority to grant joint custody of the boy to his divorced parents, even though the boy was born in Nebraska and had lived here while in the U.S.

    The court determined that under custody law, the child’s residence is considered to be in Japan.

    COMMENT: We should hope the Japanese courts would be so impartial. But they aren’t. Contrast with the Murray Wood Case, where international children kidnapped from British Columbia (whose courts granted the Canadian father custody) were deemed unremovable from Japan. And are American courts so ignorant to not know (or was Mr Carter’s legal defense so inept to not point out) that Japan does not recognize joint custody, full stop? Mr Carter will not get a fair trial in Japan. No child kidnapped to Japan as of yet has been returned to the NJ parent by a Japanese court. He’s lost his kid. Full stop.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2081

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

    6) Sydney Morning Herald: Little Hope for Japan’s Abandoned Fathers

    The story about Japan as a safe haven for internationally abducted kids spreads from Canada to the US to Australia, this time in the Sydney Morning Herald. And this time, the crank lawyer, a Mr Onuki, who claimed that “90 per cent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse”, finally gets a response (which the Mainichi printed without counter, thanks). Meanwhile, the GOJ just keeps on dithering on the Hague Convention. It’s one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets. But not for long at this rate. Keep on exposing.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2095

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

    OTHER THINKS…

    7) Grauniad: Japan comes down hard on Greenpeace whaling activists

    Grauniad on how the GOJ will treat activists it wants to make an example of: Subject them to the full force of the NPA:

    Two Greenpeace activists who face years in prison for investigating corruption in Japan’s whaling industry have condemned their arrests as politically motivated on the eve of an unprecedented campaign to end the country’s whale hunts.

    Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were arrested in June, two months after intercepting 23kg of whale meat at a warehouse in northern Japan that they said had been stolen by crew members from the Japanese whaling fleet’s mother ship for sale on the black market.

    They are now waiting to stand trial early next year, and if convicted face up to 10 years in prison.

    “At the time I was arrested I wasn’t too concerned as I was focusing on our investigation,” Sato, 31, told the Guardian yesterday at the Tokyo offices of his legal team.

    “But if we are convicted, then of course I will be worried about my wife and child. It would also raise serious questions about Japan’s commitment to human rights. We have already been detained for 26 days, which is very unusual for someone facing first-time charges of theft.”

    The ferocity with which prosecutors have made their case against Sato and Suzuki has astonished Greenpeace officials and human rights activists.

    During their time in police custody, the men say they were strapped to chairs and interrogated for up to 12 hours a day. No lawyers were present and the interviews were not recorded…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2087

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

    8) Thoughts on seeing the Dalai Lama at the FCCJ Nov 3, 2008

    Some thoughts about seeing one of the world’s masters of activism: The Dalai Lama at the FCCJ on November 3, 2008. How he’s able to be an activist yet retain a largely positive image, and be listened to worldwide despite the antipathetic media from the world’s most populous country. And I add some subsidiary thoughts on the media’s role, however unintentional, in bleaching the message’s effectiveness.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2091

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

    9) Economist.com: Bilateral agreements to give US servicemen immunity from Japanese criminal procedure

    Economist.com: In Jane’s view, the first rape went unpunished: Mr Deans remains at large. So she turned her attention to the “second rape”. She sued the Kanagawa police for a bungled investigation that denied her proper justice. In December 2007 the court ruled against her, stating that the police had fulfilled their responsibilities. She appealed the decision.

    Jane’s ordeal underscores the clumsiness of Japan’s police force. In several recent high-profile cases, the police have coerced confessions from suspects. It also highlights the lack of a tradition of individual rights in the country, and the often thinly reasoned rulings of Japanese courts. And it fits the pattern that in many crimes by American servicemen, the Japanese authorities fail to press charges.

    But the reason why cases like Jane’s are not prosecuted may have less to do with incompetent police and more because of a secret agreement between America and Japan in 1953 that has recently come to light.

    In September 2008, Shoji Niihara, a researcher on Japanese-American relations, uncovered previously classified documents in the U.S. National Archives. They show that in 1953, soon after Dwight Eisenhower assumed the presidency, John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state, embarked on a massive programme to get countries to waive their jurisdiction in cases of crimes by American servicemen.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2089

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

    … and finally…

    10) Travelling around Japan in New Years’ and March. Want me to come speak? Join me for beers?

    I’m planning a winter schedule. So far, I have two definite dates for speeches:

    ===================================
    UPCOMING SPEECHES 2009

    Tues March 17, 2009, evening speech in Tokyo at Amnesty International AITEN group (TBD)
    Thurs March 19, 2009, 1PM to 3PM, Shiga University, annual guest speaker at their Japanese popular culture course for exchange students. (CONFIRMED)

    ===================================
    http://www.debito.org/?page_id=1672

    Once I get a couple of firm dates, I usually cast the net about to see if anyone is interested in having me speak on a topic of their choice (see what’s been done at http://www.debito.org/publications.html#SPEECHES ) on surrounding dates. This way, people can save on travel expenses (it’s not cheap getting out of Hokkaido).

    Interested? Please drop me a line at debito@debito.org.

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

    That should do it for this Newsletter. We’ll probably get one more out as a holiday special before the end of the year. Thanks for reading!
    Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
    debito@debito.org
    www.debito.org
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 16, 2008 ENDS

    Sydney Morning Herald: Little hope for Japan’s Abandoned Fathers

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. The story about Japan as a safe haven for internationally abducted kids spreads from Canada to the US to Australia, this time in the Sydney Morning Herald. And this time, the crank lawyer, a Mr Onuki, who claimed that “90 per cent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse”, finally gets a response (the Mainichi printed it without counter, the rotters). Meanwhile, the GOJ just keeps on dithering on the Hague Convention.  It’s one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets.  But not for long at this rate.  Keep on exposing.  Courtesy of Paul Wong. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Little hope for Japan’s forsaken fathers

    • Abandoned … George Obiso, at his Gold Coast home, has held onto the books and videos his children left behind when their mother abducted them.

    Abandoned … George Obiso, at his Gold Coast home, has held onto the books and videos his children left behind when their mother abducted them.
    Photo: Steve Holland

    Denial of child abduction as a crime is hurting those left behind, writes Justin Norrie in Tokyo.

    FOUR years ago George Obiso’s former wife took his two young sons on a six-week holiday to Japan and never came back.Mr Obiso, 42, still recalls anxiously watching the clock in his Gold Coast home as he waited for their mother, Sachi Shimada, to return them on the designated day.

    “I waited and waited. I kept listening out for their voices at the door, but they never came. Sachi had no intention of ever bringing them back,” says Mr Obiso, of Southport, who had split from his Japanese wife the previous year after she became depressed and withdrawn.

    “Her family moved out of their Yokohama home, disconnected the phone and disappeared somewhere into Japan, so I couldn’t find them or even talk to my sons.

    “It’s been four years. I’ve missed a large part of their childhood and I’m starting to doubt I’ll ever see them again. It’s been a horrible, horrible nightmare.”

    Even if he found Anthony, now 12, and Jorge jnr, 8, Mr Obiso would be unlikely to get much sympathy from Japan’s family law courts. For almost 30 years, Japan has resisted pressure from other Group of Seven nations to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; as such its judiciary does not recognise parental child abduction as a crime.

    Mr Obiso is one of hundreds of “left-behind” parents from international marriages whose children have been abducted by a spouse who in effect enjoys immunity in Japan from prosecution by local authorities.

    The Hague convention, which has been signed by every other developed country, requires the “prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence”. Since it took effect, foreign parents have spent millions of dollars working their way through Japan’s bureaucratic court system in an effort to see their children again and take them home. No court has ever ruled in their favour.

    Many more Japanese parents have been affected. There is no tradition of dual access, so when parents separate, one gets custody while the other typically never sees the children again.

    Colin Jones, a professor at Doshisha University Law School in Kyoto, believes that Japan is essentially “a haven for parental child abduction”. This is largely because Japanese courts are entrenched in a national bureaucracy whose goal is to ratify “the status quo, particularly in child custody and visitation cases, where courts have few, if any, powers to enforce change”.

    Because there is no substantive law defining the best interests of the child in cases of parental separation, ratifying the status quo invariably means deciding in favour of the parent who already has custody.

    The problem is compounded in cases where there are allegations of abuse, as Paul Wong can attest. After the death of his Japanese wife, Akemi, from cancer in 2005, the US lawyer, 42, left his daughter Kaya, now 5, with her maternal grandparents in Kyoto and made fortnightly visits from Hong Kong, where he was working, while he looked for a job in Tokyo.

    “I promised my wife before she died I would make sure Kaya knew her Japanese cultural heritage and her grandparents, so I decided to honour that and live with her in Japan,” he says. “Just as I was about to move to Tokyo, Akemi’s parents hit me with a lawsuit alleging I had sexually assaulted my own daughter. The lawsuit was full of so many crazy, disgusting lies. Akemi’s friends told me they blamed me for her death, and that’s why they wanted to take Kaya away.”

    The court found the claims could not be substantiated by evidence, but ruled that custody should be given to the grandparents anyway.

    “This has done irreparable harm not just to me, but to a sweet, innocent child,” says Mr Wong. “It’s gut-wrenching, but I simply can’t give up hope.”

    Japanese family lawyers say allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence are common in parental child abduction cases. In a recent article in Mainichi Shimbun, a prominent family lawyer, Kensuke Onuki, said he opposed Japan signing the convention because “in more than 90 per cent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse”. Whereas women can’t easily provide evidence of the abuse, he says, the men rarely have trouble drumming up attention in the media.

    For fathers like Mr Wong, this claim “is insulting. It simply doesn’t make sense. If it’s the voices of foreign fathers that get heard, then why is it that not one foreigner has had his child returned to him? Not one – ever.”

    “A lot of people are getting fed up with the way Japan is running around the world lobbying for diplomatic support over the few Japanese abductees to North Korea, when the country is permitting hundreds of its own citizens to do the same thing to foreign parents in broad daylight.”

    In September, after a newspaper report claimed Japan would sign the convention as soon as 2010, the Australian embassy in Tokyo sent a “formal government-to-government communication … commending them and offering assistance,” an embassy official said.

    But Japan’s Foreign Ministry subsequently distanced itself from the report. A spokesman said the Government was still considering signing the convention but had not made a decision.

    ENDS

    Oyako-Net Candlelight vigil for abducted children to Japan after divorce Dec 18 7PM Shinjuku

    mytest

    Oyako-Net’s World Wide Candle Light Vigil in Tokyo
    Let’s get together and send our love to our estranged children!

    When: Dec 18, 2008 7:00pm to 8:00pm
    Where: In front of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku
    http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/TMG/map..htm

    (If you have a trouble in finding us, please contact Mashito-san 090-6139-8609.)
    Please bring a search light and a picture of your child..

    The police will not allow neither to use candles nor to organize a public assembly with more than a few people in the park.

    No freedom of speech, nor freedom of assembly.

    We cannot enjoy basic human rights in this country.
    (Today, Dec 10, is the World Human Rights Day when the Universal
    Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed 60 years ago.)

    We will keep fighting until the day when children will enjoy their rights to be loved by both parents.

    Please join us & Please spread the word!
    Ayumi Temlock

    Pet peeve: How media casting choices based upon ethnicity contribute to cultural ignorance.

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. I thought I’d write today about one of my pet peeves: people substituting ethnicity for skills, and adding to the general public’s ignorance about Japan.

    What pulled my chain this time: I watched an hourlong Discovery Channel program early last Sunday morning at midnight (a show called “Japan Revealed” in a series entitled “Discovery Atlas”), and on it they had a show full of stereotypes. From where I started watching, we went for a dive amongst some underwater ruins off Yonaguni Island which are purportedly older than the Egyptian Pyramids. Then suddenly we were jerked across the archipelago to attend a series about robots fighting (along with some hooey about how Japanese religion sees souls in everything, therefore Japanese like robots more). Then next we veered into a segment about Ama pearl divers and their dying tradition, and then careened into a bit about some fisherman trying to catch his once-or-twice-a-year big tuna “by tradition” (including “traditional” radar fish tracking, of course; with little time devoted to the majority of thousands of tuna actually brought to Tsukiji by “less traditional methods” — like imports). Then we coasted into a tattoo artist’s parlor for a lowdown on how radical one master artist has become by defying tradition — mixing seasons on his Yakuza body canvasses. At this point, I said, “What’s next? Geisha?” Yup. We skimmed a few stones over a fan dance, and then concluded how Japan’s special appreciation for nature and tradition and modernity makes it a special place (oh, brother).

    I wish they’d just stuck with the underwater ruins off Yonaguni (which the show claimed could “rewrite world history”), and stopped retreading the same old hackneyed (and, crucially, unrevealing) images about Japan.

    But what really got me revved up were the production values. Every time they had somebody talking in Japanese, the English voiceover came across as Hollywoodesque Ah-so-istic (think Mr Moto, Mr Miyagi, Grasshopper, or a few notches below Tokyo Rose in skill level). Moreover, who was the narrator? Masi Oka, one star of TV show “Heroes“, who showed his inability to speak Japanese reflecting even a rudimentary knowledge of Japan (saying words like “YaKUUza” and “Two-ki-ji”). He was hired not only for star power, but also ethnicity. Only Asians can talk about Asia, I guess.

    You might be able to justify this kind of casting for comedy or satire, I suppose. Hire a token Asian and you can get away with poking more fun at Asia. But there are limits. People like Gedde Watanabe and Sab Shimono narrated the famous Simpsons’ “Mr Sparkle” episode (where Hokkaido soap factories, natch, were prominently featured 😉 ). Fine. But their Japanese was terrible, and I mean lousy (not even “Kitchen-Japanese” level). At least King of the Hill hired native speaker Matsuda Seiko (albeit to say one word: “Dansu!”) for their controversial (and, I have to admit, very funny) “Returning Japanese” Tokyo Trip episode. And even taboo-humor South Park shows a lot of moxie (and surprising depth: obviously they were coached both in terms of content and vocals by a native, I think Trey Parker’s boyfriend) in their episodes about video games and the marketing of Pokemon (“chinpoko-mon“: Love it).

    But the Discovery Channel should be held to higher standards, especially if they’re doing a documentary to help people somehow “discover” a country in an hour. Instead, the program rankled, as though I was watching a condensed version of equally-irritating “Karate Kid” (indicatively retitled “Besuto Kiddo” for the Japanese market), or, put in a different light, (British) Robin Hood being played by (a very American) Kevin Costner (which caused no end of consternation in the UK). Let’s at least have less poetic license in nonfiction, please.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll give one more inside reason why this irks me: In 1991, as I was about to graduate from grad school, I did a lot of job interviews for American companies (particularly the kitchen-sink importers around San Diego, since at the time that was where I wanted to stay, not work in Los Angeles, Chicago, or the East Coast). Since I was trained in doing business in Japan, and spoke Japanese, I was hopeful that I would be on an equal footing with other job candidates. However, the Nikkei Americans in my classes, some of whom spoke no better (or, in some cases, worse) Japanese than I did, were making the case in their interviews and cover letters that their Asian roots were an asset. “Asians don’t like negotiating with foreign faces. Wouldn’t you prefer to hire a person with the right face for the job?” wrote one in paraphrase. The (non-Asian) employers bought into it. And I lost out to the Nikkei. So for the record: Japan has no monopoly on racism; it’s just a shame that the Americans couldn’t see beyond theirs when their “culturally-relativistic” weak spots got manipulated thusly.

    I wound up coming back to Japan and getting much better employment in the end, so all’s well in retrospect. But I still dislike seeing casters with high public exposure choosing people not according to skill or knowledge level, instead rather whether or not they “look Asian”. Ethnicity should not be seen as a skill, or viewed as some kind of ideological conveyer belt into “The Ethnic Mind”. It’s not. Especially when those people haven’t even bothered to learn “The Ethnic Language”. That’s a personality quirk I have which comes out every now and again, when I see just how much this dynamic contributes to further stereotyping and ignorance towards Japan, videlicet this deeply-flawed Discovery Channel documentary.

    Let’s have better-informed commentary about cultural issues, shall we, by choosing properly-qualified people? End of rant. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    PS: “Japan Revealed”‘s official website at http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/atlas/japan/japan.html

    Japan Times: Eric Johnston on Gunma NGO stopping ijime towards NJ students

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  Here’s an article from the JT regarding bullying of NJ schoolchildren, and grassroots efforts to ameliorate it.  Yet another helpful bit of journalism from the Japan Times, well done.  Get in touch with these people if you’re having a problem in school.  Debito in Sapporo

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

    An NGO reaches out to bullied foreign kids

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081128f2.html

    By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
    The Japan Times Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

    KYOTO — Bullying is widely recognized as a problem affecting Japanese children. But non-Japanese kids and their parents who are also harassed can have a particularly hard time finding either sympathy or practical advice in their native language.

    Now, the Gunma Prefecture-based nongovernmental organization Multilingual Education Research Institute is reaching out to non-Japanese parents and students throughout Japan, as well as to concerned Japanese who want to stop the bullying of foreign children.

    The Ijime (Bullying) Zero campaign provides a number of services, including a telephone hotline and a Web page with advice in English, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

    “No one in Japanese education is talking about the xenophobic aspects of bullying. There is a need to train people to be aware and to do something,” said Cheiron McMahill, president of the International Community School in Tamamura, Gunma Prefecture, and head of the institute.

    McMahill noted that while the government assists Japanese victims of bullying, there are fewer resources for foreign children in their native language. To fill the void, the institute is using its Ijime Zero campaign to offer three kinds of assistance.

    First is a multilingual forum where foreign children and their families can disclose their concerns and help each other. Second, educators nationwide, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, who have foreign students can get information and assistance on dealing with bullies. Third, anybody who wishes may borrow, for the price of return postage, multilingual literature and DVDs on dealing with bullies. About 3,000 items are available for lending, McMahill said.

    Nationwide, there are more than 25,000 foreign children in schools. The majority are believed to be Brazilians, followed by Chinese. Truancy among foreign children, who are often bullied because they are different or don’t speak Japanese, has become a concern in recent years, especially in prefectures like Gunma and in the Chubu region where large numbers of foreigners reside.

    Local governments and the central government both say more needs to be done to integrate foreign children into Japanese schools. But they are often at odds over what exactly should be done and who should take the lead. The central government has long urged local governments to do more, while cash-strapped local governments say there is little more they can do unless Tokyo formulates a national policy and provides funds for assistance.

    Human rights activists note a fundamental reason for truancy among foreign children is that they are not required by law to attend public school, which means those who drop out due to bullying or other reasons are not legally obliged to return. The education ministry’s position is that while public schools cannot turn away foreign children, they don’t have to make sure they’re in class.

    “Revising the Compulsory Education Law to insure foreign children are covered is a top priority for Japan,” McMahill said.

    Last year, a government survey revealed that at least 1 percent of foreign children living in Japan did not attend school, but because the whereabouts of 17.5 percent of children in Japan registered as foreigners was unknown, the real truancy figure is probably much higher.

    “The different languages that foreign children speak need to be seen as a resource for Japanese society as a whole, not as a problem to be solved. Having foreign children in the classroom helps Japanese children become more multicultural, and that will pay benefits for all when they grow up and go out into the world,” McMahill said.

    For more information on the Ijime Zero campaign and the kinds of assistance available to international parents and children, visit the Multilingual Education Research Institute’s Web site atwww.ijimezero.org

    ENDS

    Thoughts on seeing the Dalai Lama at the FCCJ Nov 3, 2008

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  I meant to write down a few thoughts earlier, but today’s a light day, so I might as well use it productively, and get to something I’ve been meaning to write about for some time now:  learning activism from the experts.

    I attended the Dalai Lama’s speech at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan on November 3, 2008.  As a person who loves public speaking and presentations, I thought I’d just offer what I gleaned from a world-famous speaker and public figure:

    In his two-hour speech with Q&A, he demonstrated many of the hallmarks of an effective activist:  Optimistic, poignant, informed with the points he wanted to get across that day, yet self-effacing, making jokes (and laughing at them if necessary), moreover avuncular and retiring (something the more elderly activists have in their favor).  He was sure to deny his divinity (this was what some members of a skeptical Western audience I believe expected), even have his given name included as part of the FCCJ’s program.  While making a number of subsidiary points, even aiming for a few laughs, he still got his main (and important) points across.  See them from an article in the Japan Times here.

    But that’s the thing about activism:  how tied our hands are when trying to get our message across to a worldwide audience.  There is no substitute for seeing people do their thing live and in full.  I’ve noticed time and time again the difference between “live and Memorex”, or, rather, live vs. filtered through the media.  

    I first noticed that when PM Koizumi gave his first Diet speech after September 11, 2001, in which he first announced his anti-terrorism plans in the Upper House on September 28.  I was there in the Gallery listening live.  It was a rousing speech, delivered with panache and conviction.  And although I am very unhappy with what eventually came out of this anti-terrorism putsch (particularly because it singled out NJ as terrorists), I was also discomfited with how his speech was chopped up and served to the public by the media.  

    Almost always what reaches the public is a pale imitation of what was said and, often more importantly, how it was said:  Quotes lifted out of context or without surrounding disclaimers and qualifiers.  Editorial constraints or bents bleaching out the humanity of the speaker (or even, sometimes, the accuracy of the speech itself).  It’s the Telephone Game, where the more steps removed the speaker and the end-listener are, the more distortion enters the message.

    It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault.  In a busy world where we cannot be everywhere at once, it’s generally impossible to get information directly through the source unfiltered and unscathed.  This is probably not the media’s intention, but we as listeners have to be skeptical of media, or at least of getting our information entirely from one source.

    I experienced that firsthand and repeatedly in how we and our arguments were portrayed in the media in the Otaru Onsens Case (that’s why we have a website for people to have direct access).  We were winning the debate, then losing (thanks to government undercurrents and policies targeting NJ for political and budgetary reasons), then we ultimately won — both in court and largely in the court of public opinion.  But not handily enough for us to make sure it never happened again — by getting that law we wanted against racial discrimination.  An anti-discrimination law with enforcement mechanisms is truly the Brass Ring.  I’m just not equal to the task.

    But somebody like the Dalai Lama is.  I’m trying to learn from the best, and the Dalai Lama is clearly doing better than average.  He’s got a pretty good image worldwide despite an entire antipathetic newsagency speaking to a fifth of the world’s population.  In sum, as I saw at the FCCJ, The Dalai Lama a master of controlling his Truth Octane.  He’s active while avuncular, critical yet not alienating — and he gives his information with the right amount of sugar-coating.  In other words, he makes activism fun, yet still gets his message across.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    PS:  For another wonderful example of how disarming the Dalai Lama is, check out Pio D’Emilia’s report on him for Sky24, Italian TV last Nov 2.  Never mind about it being in Italian:  The trick is to make yourself more accessible despite language barriers.  That happens, as you’ll see in the opening segment.

    http://tg24.sky.it/tg24/mondo/2008/11/02/Dalai_Lama_a_SKY_TG24_Deluso_per_i_rapporti_con_la_Cina.html

    ends

    Jason’s blog on next employment steps in Japan for NJ

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. A blog called “Jason’s Random Thoughts” has a thoughtful post for those NJ facing restructuring in Japan. Since it’s a recent theme on Debito.org, I thought I’d post an excerpt and a link here.

    I’ve posted (a bit irreverently) before on what sort of jobs are available for NJ, particularly those of the former Eikaiwa ilk. Read that here. As for those of you seriously facing a job loss and a reassessment of your life in Japan with the economic downturn, Jason’s blog post is food for thought. Props to Sendaiben.

    Excerpt:

    For almost two years we have heard how companies are shutting down all over the world in response to a slowing economy. Whether this is the ultimate result of corporate greed, globalization, out-sourcing, or something that can be understood only by leading economists, one thing is clear: our current employment is no guarantee of future security. Of course, facing the prospect of unemployment is scary for everyone, but it’s particularly painful when living in a foreign country.

    Here in Japan, a number of private language schools have shut down due to this slowing economy, and others are struggling. The larger companies are starting to offer discounts as high as 40%, and language instructors are beginning to lower their private lesson rates in a bid to stave off their own financial troubles. But how long can a person do this before it’s no longer realistically viable?

    This aside; hundreds of thousands of foreigners will be forced to ask one or both of the following questions:

    • Is it time to go back?
    • Am I prepared to take “living in Japan” to the next level if the current job disappears?

    I’ve been thinking about the second question far more than the first, as I have no intentions on leaving Japan. Reiko and I are quite happy here, and we hope to stay for at least another quarter century before considering relocating. But many colleagues and acquaintances have been leaving the country in droves since the fall of Nova. Not only has it become more difficult to find work as a language instructor, but it has become next to impossible for many to secure a nice contract position that offers a healthy completion bonus.

    So what options do foreign workers have if they wish to continue to live and work in Japan?

    Assessing Our Strengths

    Rest at http://www.j2fi.net/2008/12/10/unemployed-gaijin/

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Economist.com: Bilateral agreements to give US servicemen immunity from Japanese criminal procedure

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. I’ve covered this case on Debito.org before, but here’s something with a little more depth from The Economist Newsmagazine. Seems that some perpetrators are more privileged than others. Greenpeace activists get zapped while American servicemen, according to the article below, get off lightly in Japanese police work and jurisprudence. By bilateral geopolitical agreement. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Dec 10th 2008
    From Economist.com, Courtesy AW

    http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displayStory.cfm?story_id=12756824

    Crime without punishment in Japan

    THIS story is of no material importance to Japan. It is the story of Jane. And it is a story of a very small, dark sliver of 20th century geopolitics that festers still.

    Jane is an attractive, blonde 40-something Australian, resident for many years in Japan and a mother of three boys. She is also the victim of a rape. Jane is not her real name.

    She is actually the victim of two violations. The physical one was committed on April 6th 2002 near the American naval base at Yokosuka by Bloke T. Deans, an American serviceman. He violently raped her in her car.

    What Jane refers to as her “second rape” happened afterwards, when she reported the crime to the Kanagawa prefectural police. There, she alleges that she was interrogated for hours by six policemen, who mocked her. At a later meeting, they laughed and made crude sexual comments. She was initially denied medical treatment, water and food. Jane was denied a receptacle to keep a urine sample—key forensic evidence in a rape. After four hours, all she could do was relieve herself on a cold police toilet and cry. The police made no attempt to preserve sperm or DNA on her body.

    Her torment at the hands of the police so amplified the trauma of the evening that she actually tried to dial emergency services to report that she was being held against her will at the station, but an officer ripped the phone from her hand. Ultimately she was kept in custody for some 12 hours following the crime, before having to drive herself home.

    The police located the assailant, Mr Deans, of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, but for reasons that remained unclear, no charges were filed against him.

    Jane, however, filed and won a civil case against him: a Tokyo court ordered him to pay ¥3m (around $30,000) in November 2004. But unbeknownst to Jane or the court, soon after the suit was filed, the American navy had quietly discharged Mr Deans, who returned to America and disappeared. Later, she received compensation from Japan’s Ministry of Defence, out of a discreet fund for civilian victims of crimes by American military personnel.

    In Jane’s view, the first rape went unpunished: Mr Deans remains at large. So she turned her attention to the “second rape”. She sued the Kanagawa police for a bungled investigation that denied her proper justice. In December 2007 the court ruled against her, stating that the police had fulfilled their responsibilities. She appealed the decision.

    Jane’s ordeal underscores the clumsiness of Japan’s police force. In several recent high-profile cases, the police have coerced confessions from suspects. It also highlights the lack of a tradition of individual rights in the country, and the often thinly reasoned rulings of Japanese courts. And it fits the pattern that in many crimes by American servicemen, the Japanese authorities fail to press charges.

    But the reason why cases like Jane’s are not prosecuted may have less to do with incompetent police and more because of a secret agreement between America and Japan in 1953 that has recently come to light.

    In September 2008, Shoji Niihara, a researcher on Japanese-American relations, uncovered previously classified documents in the U.S. National Archives. They show that in 1953, soon after Dwight Eisenhower assumed the presidency, John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state, embarked on a massive programme to get countries to waive their jurisdiction in cases of crimes by American servicemen.

    On October 28th 1953, a Japanese official, Minoru Tsuda, made a formal declaration to the United States (not intended for public disclosure), stating, “The Japanese authorities do not normally intend to exercise the primary right of jurisdiction over members of the United States Armed Forces, the civilian component, or their dependents subject to the military law of the United States, other than in cases considered to be of material importance to Japan.”

    In other words, Japan agreed to ignore almost all crimes by American servicemen, under the hope that the military itself would prosecute such offences—but with no means of redress if it did not.

    This helps explain the perplexing, toothless approach of the Japanese police and prosecutors even today in cases of crimes by American military personnel. When Mr Niihara first made the documents public in October, a senior Japanese official denied any such agreement, but in words so mealy-mouthed that it raised suspicion.

    Japan’s landmark accord with the United States over troops stationed in the country, called the Status of Forces Agreement, was signed in 1960. Article XVII.1b states: “The authorities of Japan shall have jurisdiction over the members of the United States armed forces, the civilian component, and their dependents with respect to offences committed within the territory of Japan and punishable by the law of Japan.”

    But in practice the Japanese do not exercise their authority. Jane’s case was just one of many in which the Japanese authorities opted to look the other way. This has nothing to do with the specifics of her case; it stems from an intergovernmental security protocol negotiated a half-century earlier.

    Why did America fight so hard in 1953 to maintain control of criminal cases involving its boys? The documents do not say, but provide a clue: in numerous settings, American officials express unease that American servicemen commit roughly 30 serious crimes each month. Having 350 soldiers sent to Japanese jails each year would have been bad for America’s image. According to a separate document, America struck similar, secret agreements with the governments of Canada, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

    When Jane talks to reporters, she wears stylish, bug-eyed, mirrored sunglasses that seem more shields than fashion statement. It is futile protection—a tangible symbol of her quest for anonymity, akin to her pseudonymity.

    On December 10th 2008, the Tokyo High Court ruled on Jane’s appeal in the suit against the Kanagawa police. Judge Toshifumi Minami entered the court, told her “You lost. And the financial burden of the case lies with you,” and then left. A 20-page ruling, considered short, sheds little insight into how the court reached its decision. Jane plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. “I lost—but they lost too,” she said.

    Jane will always bear indelible, invisible scars. But this is of no material importance to Japan. Or America.
    ENDS

    NUGW’s Louis Carlet on recent labor union moves

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. I don’t usually post these notifications (which come near daily from one of Japan’s most active labor unions, the National Union of General Workers) here. But this one is meaty and timely enough to warrant everyone’s attention. Have a look and see if there’s anything here you’d like to check out. I fully support Louis Carlet and labor unions in Japan, and if you’re not in one, you’re not going to have your employment rights protected in Japan protected, full stop. More on why I can say that with such conviction here.

    Over to Louis. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    From: nugw DOT carlet AT ezweb.ne.jp
    Subject: [Nambu FWC] Berlitz Sues Union Execs
    Date: December 9, 2008 4:52:57 PM JST
    To: action AT nambufwc DOT org

    Sisters and Brothers

    Three weeks after we sued Berlitz for illegal strike-breaking, management has sued two Nambu executives and all five Begunto execs for damages caused by what Berlitz claims is an illegal strike.
    Execs received subpoenas today to appear before court. Management prefers to pursue frivolous litigation rather than settle 2008 shunto demands for a 4.6% base-pay hike and a one-month bonus.

    Management hopes to intimidate and divide us, but we will stand together to fight these suits and protect our right to strike. Email me and ask what you can do to help our Begunto brothers and sisters.

    Meanwhile come to the following events.

    1 Little Garden Labor Commission Talks
    Friday Dec. 12 at 10:00am at Tokyo Labor Commission

    Take Oedo Line to Tochomae Station, Exit 3A, up two escalators, pass parsport office, up Elevator Bank H to 34th floor. Check bulletin board for Life Communications Corp and “roh” for room number.

    The union has Little Garden on the ropes. Not only has management agreed to reinstate Joyce and pay partial back wages, they have also agreed to help with her visa, pay a penalty if she doesn’t get the visa, to deduct her monthly dues from wages, to give us a union-only bulletin board and even to let the union hold annual recruiting orientations at Little Garden.
    Come and support Joyce during what may be final resolution talks. There has been a surprising new development in this case as well.

    2 Govt Talks on Foreigners’ Rights

    Monday, Dec. 15, 9am to 5:30pm. Upper House Bldg – Sangi-in Kaikan. Take Marunouchi Line to Kokkai-Gijidomae Station. Free simultaneous interpreting with machines provided.

    Ever want to speak your mind to the government? Now’s our chance. We will talk tough directly with the various ministries (actually mid-level bureaucrats) regarding abuse of the foreign trainee/intern system as well as fingerprinting, teacher’s labor rights, and many other issues that affect foreign residents.

    3 [Anonymous teacher’s] Second Court Date

    Thursday Dec. 18 at 10am. Tokyo District Court – Take Marunouchi Line to Kasumigaseki Station, Exit A1. TDC is right there. Go to 13th floor. Room number to be announced.

    As many of you know Anonymous Teacher’s first court date was anti-climactic because St. Mary’s management didn’t show up. They are unlikely to make that mistake again so come out and show AT your support.

    4 Berlitz Labor Commission

    Dec. 22 at 3:45pm at South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station

    AND

    Same day at 4:45pm at Tokyo Labor Commission

    Take Oedo Line to Tochomae Station, Exit 3A, up two escalators, pass parsport office, up Elevator Bank H to 34th floor. Check bulletin board for Berlitz Japan and “roh” for room number.

    Come on down to the first hearing in the now-famous Union vs. Berlitz strike-busting case.

    Berlitz claims our historic strike is illegal. We say Berlitz strike-busting is illegal … AND unconstitutional.

    Come support our heroic, striking sisters and brothers at Berlitz and watch the sparks fly (albeit in a subdued, orderly and courtroom like manner).
    The hearing at the commission starts just before 5pm but we may have an action near Shinjuku Station just prior so come to both.

    See You All There!

    Louis Carlet
    NUGW Tokyo Nambu

    ========================
    Nambu 2008 Bonenkai/Oyster Bar
    2000 yen, Nambu HQ Shimbashi
    Thursday December 18 6:30pm-

    NUGW Tokyo Nambu – Nambu FWC
    http://nambufwc.org

    Grauniad: Japan comes down hard on Greenpeace whaling activists

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  I haven’t really gotten into the whaling issue on this blog (my take in essence is that regardless of numbers it’s not a farmable species, so don’t treat it as one).  But let me bring up this article as an example of how Japan can treat activists it wants to make an example of:  the GOJ sics the NPA on them and lets them “prosecute” (or, rather, interrogate and incriminate) them to the fullest extent of the law.  Such as it is.  Have a read.  Courtesy of TK.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Greenpeace launches major anti-whaling campaign in Japan

    Two activists who face years in prison say their arrests were politically motivated

  • The Manchester Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008 00.01 GMT
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/09/japan-whale-hunting
  • Greenpeace activist Junichi Sato 

    Greenpeace activist Junichi Sato holds a piece of whale meat during a news conference in Tokyo May 15, 2008 Photograph: Kyodo/ /Reuters

    Two Greenpeace activists who face years in prison for investigating corruption in Japan‘s whaling industry have condemned their arrests as politically motivated on the eve of an unprecedented campaign to end the country’s whale hunts.

    Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were arrested in June, two months after intercepting 23kg of whale meat at a warehouse in northern Japan that they said had been stolen by crew members from the Japanese whaling fleet’s mother ship for sale on the black market.

    They are now waiting to stand trial early next year, and if convicted face up to 10 years in prison.

    “At the time I was arrested I wasn’t too concerned as I was focusing on our investigation,” Sato, 31, told the Guardian yesterday at the Tokyo offices of his legal team.

    “But if we are convicted, then of course I will be worried about my wife and child. It would also raise serious questions about Japan’s commitment to human rights. We have already been detained for 26 days, which is very unusual for someone facing first-time charges of theft.”

    The ferocity with which prosecutors have made their case against Sato and Suzuki has astonished Greenpeace officials and human rights activists.

    During their time in police custody, the men say they were strapped to chairs and interrogated for up to 12 hours a day. No lawyers were present and the interviews were not recorded.

    Under their bail terms they are not allowed to be in the same room and can only talk to fellow activists in the presence of their lawyers. One of the men says that he and his family were watched by plain-clothes police officers while dining out at a restaurant.

    In May, after a four-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Silver Bullet, Greenpeace said it had evidence to prove that at least 23 Nisshin Maru crew members had smuggled more than 90 boxes of salted whale meat from the vessel, disguising its as “personal baggage”.

    The intercepted consignment, they said, was proof that the whaling crew was defrauding the Japanese taxpayer with the full knowledge of Kyodo Senpaku, which operates the fleet.

    Kyodo Senpaku, however, insisted that the packages were simply “gifts” for crewmen who had spent months at sea in freezing conditions.

    When Sato displayed the meat, worth up to 350,000 yen, at a press conference in June he was convinced he had delivered a decisive blow to Japan’s whaling industry, which receives at least 5 billion yen a year in government subsidies.

    Instead, he and Suzuki were arrested in early-morning raids on their homes on the same day that prosecutors decided not to pursue their embezzlement claims.

    In a separate interview yesterday, Suzuki recalled his ordeal at the hands of police in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan, where his alleged crime took place.

    He said: “They asked me the same questions over and over again and even compared me with the Aum Supreme Truth,” the doomsday cult that carried out a deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

    “I was expecting the police to investigate our embezzlement allegations, but looking back I was being optimistic. I was so angry when I heard the case against the whalers had been dropped.”

    Suzuki, 41, whose wife is expecting their second child in May, responded by going on hunger strike for nine days and refusing to talk to his interrogators for four more. “By the end I could see that they were worried I might die,” he said.

    Sato describes himself as a “political prisoner”, the victim of authorities who he says routinely denounce Greenpeace and the more radical marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd, as terrorists.

    “By exaggerating the danger we pose they will get support from the Japanese public, who don’t know the truth about whaling but support so-called anti-terrorist measures,” he said.

    Senior Greenpeace officials now suspect the Tokyo metropolitan government, led by rightwing governor Shintaro Ishihara, will attempt to remove its non-profit status, effectively closing down its Japan operations.

    Both men support Greenpeace’s decision not to pursue Japan’s whaling fleet across the freezing waters of the Southern ocean this year as it attempts to cull around 1,000 whales in the name of scientific research.

    “We need international pressure, but that’s not enough,” Sato said. “We also need people inside Japan to speak out against whaling.

    “The media here doesn’t report the truth, so the Japanese people have no idea about the negative impact it’s having on our diplomatic relations with countries like Australia and New Zealand.”

    Japan is permitted to catch whales for “lethal research” into their breeding, migratory and other habits, thanks to a contentious provision in the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

    During its recent scientific hunt, which ended in April, Japan’s fleet had hoped to catch 850 minke whales but returned with only 551 after being frustrated by activists from Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

    Greenpeace’s new campaign comes as pressure mounts on Japan to drop the charges against Suzuki and Sato.

    Amnesty International has condemned the arrests, the pair’s case has been raised in the House of Commons and almost 300,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that the charges against them be dropped.

    Today, senior Greenpeace officials will present a protest letter to Taro Aso, the Japanese prime minister, before protesting in front of parliament. In the coming days demonstrations will be held outside Japanese embassies in 20 countries.

    Sato and Suzuki are forbidden from playing any part in the protests, but despite the growing uncertainty about their future, they are unrepentant.

    “Since my arrest I have not lied once about what I did,” Suzuki said. “But the whalers have had to make up one story after another. Their lies will come back to haunt them soon.”

    ENDS

    Mainichi: Brazilian ethnic school closing due to NJ job cuts

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Spent the afternoon asleep, feeling a bit better, thanks. Not used to being sick (only have gege illnesses once every few years or so), so it was a bit of a shock. Anyway, let me get to the article I meant to blog today:

    I mentioned yesterday about how the NJ workers are the first to go in any wave of job cuts (no wonder — very few NJ ever get promotion beyond “temp”-style contract labor, despite working for years at full-time jobs). Now here’s an article in the Mainichi about how that’s having a negative impact on the NJ community, particularly the education of their children.  Ethnic schools are starting to close as tuition dries up.  What next for the NJ communities, always contributing yet kept as a mere appendage to the “real members” of this society?  Courtesy of Silvio M.

    Arudou Debito convalescing.

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

    Japan’s economic woes force Brazilian school to drop out
    Mainichi Daily News, December 5, 2008

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/archive/news/2008/12/05/20081205p2a00m0na006000c.html

    Students at Escola Prof Benedito in Naka-ku, Hamamatsu. (Mainichi)

    Students at Escola Prof Benedito in Naka-ku, Hamamatsu. (Mainichi)

    HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka — A Brazilian school in Hamamatsu, a city with a large population of foreign laborers, will be closing its doors at the end of this month. Escola Prof Benedito fell into financial crisis as the sharp decline in the economy forced many of its students’ parents out of factory jobs, leaving them unable to pay tuition.

    As of Thursday, Escola Prof Benedito had 30 students between the ages of four and 15. Like most Brazilian schools in Japan, it is unaccredited and receives no public funding from local and national governments, operating on a monthly tuition of approximately 26,000 yen that it collects from each student.

    Unpaid tuition began to increase in September when a growing number of parents started experiencing layoffs, and by October, the school had fallen into a serious financial rut. At the end of that month, the school found that 15 of its students — or half the student population — were planning to move back to Brazil or transfer to a less costly public school next year.

    Principal Benedito Vilela Garcia, 55, says about his decision to close the school, “I’ve determined that the situation will be worse next year. Closing the school at the end of December, the same time the Brazilian school year ends, will cause the least trouble for students under the circumstances.”

    Garcia started the school in his apartment in Hamamatsu in 1996. At its peak in 2002, the school had around 180 students. In 2006, the school purchased and relocated to the five-story building it currently occupies.

    “It makes me sad when the children ask me why we’re closing.” The principal himself is planning to sell the building and return to Brazil with his family next January.

    ENDS

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

    ブラジル人学校:年内で閉鎖…親が失業、月謝払えず 浜松
    毎日新聞 2008年12月5日
    http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20081205k0000m040154000c.html

     外国人労働者が多い浜松市で12年の歴史を持つブラジル人学校「エスコーラ・プロフ・ベネジット」が、12月末で閉鎖する。急速な景気悪化で、工場の派遣労働者などとして働く保護者の多くが職を失い、経営難に陥った。【平林由梨】

     4日現在、同校には4歳から15歳の児童・生徒30人が通う。ほとんどのブラジル人学校と同じく無認可で、国や自治体からの公的支援は受けておらず、生徒1人あたり約2万6000円の月謝で運営している。

     解雇される保護者が増えた9月ごろから月謝の滞納が多くなり、10月は深刻な赤字になった。10月下旬、保護者に来年の予定を聞いたところ、半数の15人がブラジルに帰国予定か、学費が安い公立学校への転入を考えていることが分かった。

     ベネジット・ビレラ・ガルシア校長(55)は「来年はもっと悪くなると予想できた。(ブラジルの)学年末を迎える12月末で学校を閉めるのが子供たちに一番迷惑がかからない」と閉鎖を決断した。

     ガルシア校長は96年、浜松市の自宅アパートで学校を始めた。ピークの02年には約180人の児童・生徒を抱えた。06年には、現在地に5階建てビルを買って移転した。

     「子供たちに『なぜやめるの』と聞かれると、悲しくなる」。肩を落とす校長自身も来年1月、ビルを売って家族とブラジルへ帰国するという。
    ends
     

    Terrie’s Take on how NJ workers are the first to go in adverse economic conditions

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  I’ve been sitting on this information for over a month, sorry, but here’s another article from the ever-informative Terrie’s Take, regarding how the economic downturn is influencing Japanese companies’ employment decisions.

    As might be expected, at the first sign of any trouble, the first to be fired are the NJ workers.  Those brought in under a questionable visa regime from 1990 to save Japanese industry from “hollowing out”, turns out the cost-cutting long-hour NJ workers have the least job security.  People might argue that laying off foreigners first happens anywhere, but Japan has stricter glass ceilings by nationality.  Employers in Japan have issues with letting foreigners (except maybe a few token high-profile bosses) actually graduate out of contract labor (as can be seen most effectively in Japan university system) into becoming “real employees”; heaven forbid if NJ in Japanese companies actually got managerial roles over fellow Japanese co-workers.  Even the Japanese Supreme Court has ruled that that kind of discrimination is legal.  Anyway, Terrie focusses upon the restructuring numbers below.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    From: terrie@mailman.japaninc.com
    Subject: Terrie’s Take 492 — Job Cuts in Full Swing, ebiz news from Japan
    Date: November 3, 2008 12:49:14 AM JST

    * * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
    A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
    (http://www.terrie.com)

    General Edition Sunday, November 2, 2008 Issue No. 492

    SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:
    http://mailman.japaninc.com/mailman/listinfo/terrie

    The global nature of the financial meltdown over the last 4 weeks has meant three sure outcomes for major businesses here in Japan: 1) there is no market in which to seek safe haven, 2) even the healthiest of large companies is having to batten down the hatches for a rough 2009 — this is of course what is killing the stock market, and 3), a lot of people are going to lose their jobs.

    The job-cutting aspect has already started in a number of Japanese manufacturers, but looking at the employment figures put out by the government, you wouldn’t know it. This is because, we suspect, Japanese firms are cutting the easiest-to-trim sections of their workforces first, and thus the numbers won’t become apparent until the cuts go deeper into their core full-timer workforces early next year.

    According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the nation’s jobless rate actually fell, from 4.2% in August to 4% in September — with about 2.71m people out of work. This means that the workforce currently numbers around 63.95m people.

    As with most things, the USA is much quicker to reflect the reality of the current turmoil, and there the unemployment is already at around 6.1% of the workforce, with about 479,000 new jobless registering last month. This is significantly up from the 332,000 who were unemployed a year ago, although less than the peak 499,000 registering after hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit several months back. Apparently U.S. companies have already cut 760,000 jobs in the last 9 months.

    So is unemployment really down in Japan? Or is this the calm before the storm?

    Experts in the USA are predicting that the unemployment rate there for next year will rise to 8% or more, a surge of 30% over the current rate. Now, 400,000 newly unemployed is already considered a recessionary environment in the U.S., so with even more people set to lose their jobs, fear will increase and consumer spending will drop even further. Most Japanese exporters either make products for global consumers, or tools for companies that do, and either way they’re going to be hit by the downturn. Although the delay in layoffs may be longer, because Japanese firms are reluctant to take the PR hit that comes with layoffs, the fact is that there is already a precedent for letting people go in an acceptable manner — being set by Matsushita and others back in the late 1990’s. So we believe that the job cuts are not long in coming.

    Or, more correctly, perhaps we should say that the job cuts are already happening, but the local media is downplaying the trend…

    First to go have been the foreign workers in overseas plants. Two weeks ago, Nissan announced that it would cut its workforce by 1,680 people at its Barcelona assembly plant — one of two major plants the company has in Europe. This is almost 1/3 of all the people working at that facility and represents the halting of one of the 3 production shifts. Sales of vehicles in Spain have plunged 24% in the last 9 months, and when the numbers finally come out at the end of the year, we expect that sales for this current quarter might be almost non-existent. Indeed, Peugot has said that it expects a 17% fall in auto sales in Q4 in Western Europe. We think the final numbers will be worse and Japanese firms will share blood shed.

    Certainly Toyota knows this, and so the company is laying off another category of “outsiders” — non-permanent workers at its factories here in Japan. Apparently the company employs 6,800 contract workers, also known as fixed-term workers, a number which is 2,000 down from March and 4,000 down from the peak of 10,800 employed in 2004. Back then, non-permanents accounted for 30% of the company’s total workforce. The thing about these contract workers is that so long as they are employed for less than 36 months, then the company can flexibility lay them off in times of hardship — as will many other companies around the country now that Toyota has set the pace.

    In addition, in Q2, June-August this year, Toyota laid off an extra 8,000 temporary workers — for a total of around 10,000 redundancies so far this year. Are you seeing these numbers in the major newspapers? Not really. This is probably because Japan’s number one advertiser is sitting on an estimated JPY4trn (US$40bn) of cash reserves (not including other assets) which make it difficult for the company to defend its actions in the Japanese context of being needed to be seen to be looking after your own. In this respect, the message clearly is that you need to be a full-time employee to be considered “one of the Toyota family”. Otherwise you’re just a squatter.

    Now that Toyota, a core company in the Japanese industrial complex, has been able to lay off so many people and yet has drawn no protests from the politicians, bureaucrats, or press, this portends badly for a large number of Japanese working in other companies and who are also not full-time employees. Some readers may recall that out of 64m (approx.) workers in Japan, a full 33.5% (as of 2007) are now part-timers, contract employees, temps, freeters, or otherwise non-permanent workers. For these people, the on-going downturn represents a high likelihood that many of them will be handed termination notices over the next 3-6 months.

    However, they can’t afford to not work. According to a recent Reuters article, there are now more than 10m “working poor” in Japan. The term apparently refers to those earning less than JPY2m (US$20,000) a year.

    Lastly, it surprised us to learn in an AP article that the government does NOT track the number of jobless foreigners. Surprising if only because we’re all paying taxes and unemployment benefits. Maybe these aren’t counted either?

    So, given that there are at least 755,000 foreigners (as of 2006) working here in Japan, and probably another 350,000 or so working illegally, you can bet that this group will be another at-risk segment to lose their jobs. The AP article says that the government HELLO WORK centers used to get about 700 foreigners looking for jobs each month, but in August due to the massive layoffs by auto manufacturers, the numbers of foreign newly jobless people doubled to 1,500 a month. Local officials note that the number of Japanese applicants has not changed appreciably (yet) — so clearly Toyota, Honda, and Yamaha are dumping on their Brazilian-Japanese and Chinese workers first.

    Could be a bleak Christmas for many people.

    ends

    Letters to the Japan Times regarding Otaru Onsens Case article

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  The Japan Times Zeit Gist Community Page recently featured an article critical of the plaintiffs (okay, well, of one plaintiff:  me) in the Otaru Onsens Case.  I’ve blogged that article (and comments from readers) here.  Letters to the Editor on it were recently published in the Japan Times.  I’ll blog those below for discussion.  Thanks to everyone for their concern and energies to this issue.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    (presented in the order they appeared in the JT, December 7, 2008)

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

    Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008
    JAPAN TIMES READERS IN COUNCIL
    By LANCE BRAMAN, Sano, Tochigi
    See Tepido Lance Braman’s response, which essentially asserts that since we are in Japan (not America or Europe) by our own choice, then it is incumbent upon us to assimilate and follow Japanese rules, at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/rc20081207a4.html
    ENDS
    ===================================

    Accountability must be narrowed

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/rc20081207a5.html
    By JOE JONES, Tokyo

    Every mountain has more than one slippery slope. While Paul de Vries (”Back to the baths: Otaru revisited”) is concerned with the worrying precedent of Debito Arudou’s onsen lawsuit, de Vries sets an equally worrying precedent by implying that restrictions on “group accountability as a social conditioner” are inherently harmful. Group accountability can be employed fairly when it is narrow and rational.

    If the problem is drunken foreigners unaware of bathing rules, the rational solution is to ban drunks and those unable to follow the rules. It is not to ban people associated with the problem group by virtue of some immutable characteristic like ethnicity. Indeed, Arudou has pressed public businesses to change from a “No Foreigners” policy to a “No Troublemakers,” or even “Must Understand Japanese” policy, and many have happily obliged.

    Even women-only train carriages — a broad solution to a broad problem — have been limited in number and placed at one end of the train so as to cause minimal inconvenience to most male passengers. A man can simply walk a few meters and board the next carriage. It is hard to compare this to one’s exclusion from a public business that has few convenient alternatives.

    The other slippery slope — that of group accountability as an unchecked excuse — has led to some of the greatest atrocities in human history. De Vries and, for that matter, the Japanese government would be well advised to keep this snowball from falling down either slope. Narrow and rational accountability is the only sustainable way to maintain both liberty and security.

    ends

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

    A notion dangerous at the core

    By JEFFREY SNOW
    San Diego, Calif.

    Paul de Vries‘ attempt to defend group accountability behavior is rather bleak and ridiculous. Perhaps de Vries did not read The Japan Times enough, as he surely would’ve seen that quite a few men, both foreign and domestic, ridicule the women-only train cars. I also stand against the policy, as it hardly equates to the need for men-women restrooms.

    It was because of group accountability that hundreds of thousands of Japanese were ripped from their homes and sent to camps in the United States during World War II. These individuals had done nothing but be Japanese, yet they were punished. Insistence on group accountability, at its core, is largely seen as leading to horrible experiences, but apparently not if the group in question are foreigners in Japan today.

    Well, then, why don’t we take things a step further? Since Japan attacked the U.S. on U.S. soil, why don’t we just remove all Japanese currently living in the U.S. and ban Japanese citizens from entering the U.S. — to guard against another possible attack in the future? Rather ridiculous, I’d say, but this is how dangerous the notion of group accountability can be.

    ends

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

    Arguments aren’t good enough

    By OLAF KARTHAUS
    Sapporo

    I am afraid Paul de Vries has not done his homework; furthermore, he is comparing apples and oranges. For instance, you can’t label women-only cars as a form of acceptable discrimination in an argument about whether xenophobic actions are justified.

    Molesting a woman is a crime. Given the number of available police officers and the number of trains and commuters each day, one can see that it is impossible to protect most women from gropers in packed mixed cars. The more vulnerable need to be protected, so roughly half of the commuters need to be slightly inconvenienced. It’s not as if men are being punished by not being allowed to board the trains!

    Police are nearby and can always be called if there’s trouble at an onsen. While gropers on trains know that they have committed a crime, unruly bathers simply may not know the customs. They need to be told, not banned.

    De Vries’ biggest blunder is to endorse punishing people of a group for what other members did. There is good reason that this is banned by the Geneva Conventions in war situations. Even in the pretense of preventing crime — as with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s past suggestion that some foreigners be detained after a big earthquake in Tokyo — it is questionable.

    Although de Vries may find arguments to support his case, he cannot explain why a Japanese-speaking German university professor like myself, with a Japanese wife and kids, should be grouped together with Russian sailors when we want to use an onsen. We have nothing in common but face color. With that, refusals of entry to an onsen remain as they are: racism.

    ends
    ==================================
    Finally, my response, not sent to the Japan Times or published anywhere but here.  Blogged last night amidst all the comments during the discussion of the original article.  Reprinting here for the sake of completeness:
    ==================================

    Hi Blog. Sorry to keep you waiting. A few opinions in addition to the analysis offered above (thanks to everyone for commenting):

    I’ll start with my conclusion. Look, as Ken said above, this article is basically incoherent. We have a flawed academic theory (which somehow groups people into two rigid ideological categories — 2.5 categories if you slice this into “American standards” as well) regarding social sanction and control, and proceeds on faith that this pseudo-dichotomy actually exists. As evidence, we have citations of women-only train carriages and border fingerprinting — both fundamentally dissimilar in content, origin, and enforcement to the onsens case. And presto, the conclusion is we must maintain this dichotomy (and condemn the Japanese judiciary for chipping away at it) for the sake of Japan’s safety and social cohesion.

    Get it? Sorry, I don’t. That’s why I’m not going to do a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on what is essentially ideological nonsense.

    But I will mention some glaring errors and omissions in the article:

    1) “Pushed to the brink of ruin… by the behavior of Russian sailors”. Not quite. Earth Cure KK’s original sauna did go bankrupt (shortly after it opened Yunohana in 1998), but it’s not as if the Russian sailors descended on the former. The sauna in fact courted Russian business, and according to sources in Otaru offered information to them at portside. The sauna’s location was, quite simply, bad, being on the higher floor of a bar district, and went bankrupt like plenty of other decrepit bathhouses are around Japan. And as other bathhouses around Otaru noted, “Why did Yunohana [which never let in any foreigners and thus never, despite the claims of the article, suffered any damage] feel so special as to need signs up? We didn’t put up signs and still stayed in business.” Because it’s easier to blame the foreigner for one’s own business problems; as was the fashion for some at the time.

    Proof in hindsight: Now the signs are down, Yunohana as a franchise has profited enough to open three more branches around this part of Hokkaido, so nuts to the idea the company was ever in any danger of going bankrupt due to rampaging NJ. There are simply some people who do not like foreigners in this world, and some of them just happen to be running businesses. That’s why other developed countries have actual laws to stop them, unlike Japan. It had nothing to do with grandiloquent theories like “group accountability”.

    2) This theory assumes the “group” being held accountable has clearly-defined dichotomous borders that are easily enforced. The article neglects to make clear that other members of the “group”, as in Japanese citizens, were also being turned away from places like Yunohana — and I’m not referring only to myself. I’m referring to other Japanese children (and not just one of mine). Hence given the overlap of internationalization, the theory, even if possibly correct, is in practice unenforceable.

    3) And it is moot anyway. There is no mention of international treaty (the ICERD) which Japan effected in 1996, where it promised to enforce standard UN-sanctioned international norms and rules to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. These are not “American” standards, as the article claims. These are world standards that the GOJ has acknowledged as the rules of play in this situation. The end.

    4) The court decisions (there were in fact two, plus a Supreme Court dismissal) in any case does a) admit there was racial discrimination, but b) that RD was not the illegal activity. It was c) “unrational discrimination” based upon the judges’ interpretation of Japanese Civil Law, not the ICERD per se. Thus the standards being applied are in fact Japanese. Read the court documents. Everything is online. And in book form. In two languages.

    There are more errors, but never mind. If the writer were to do a bit more homework about the facts of the case at hand, instead of trying to squash a landmark legal case into his own ideological framework, I think we might have had a more interesting discussion. But working backwards from a conclusion (especially when it’s a dogma) rarely results in good science, alas. Maybe his advertised book will offer something with better analytical power.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ends

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 6 2008

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 6 2008
    JAPAN’S HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK EDITION

    Table of Contents:
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    1) GOJ Human Rights Week commemorative pamphlet includes NJ issues of discrimination

    YET
    2) Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month
    3) Kyodo: MOJ announces it snagged 846 NJ since reinstituting fingerprinting
    4) Mainichi: NJ now eligible for GOJ “economic stimulus” bribe. But not all NJ residents.
    5) Poll on how yon 12,000 yen econ stimulus bribe sits with Debito.org readers
    6) The killer of Scott Tucker, choked to death by a DJ in a Tokyo bar, gets suspended sentence.

    PLUS
    7) More on nationality law and children born out of wedlock: Conservatives causing policy balk
    8) JALT TLT: James McCrostie on NJ job insecurity at Japan’s universities
    9) Japan Times Zeit Gist column on Otaru Onsens Case (not by me)

    … and finally…
    10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Dec 3 2008 on Obama election and Bush II presidency (Director’s Cut)
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
    debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org (updated daily)
    December 6, 2008 Freely Forwardable

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

    1) GOJ Human Rights Week commemorative pamphlet includes NJ issues of discrimination

    Good news, of sorts. Today starts Japan’s official “Human Rights Week” (Jinken Shuukan), when the GOJ spends money (and claims to the UN national campaigns of awareness raising) to promote issues of human rights.

    The Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu), the window-dressing department within the Ministry of Justice entrusted to spend tax money but not actually enforce any human rights mandate, usually glosses over discrimination against NJ (heaven forfend they actually use the breathtaking word “racial discrimination”!) as a matter of cultural misunderstandings (a wonderful way to reduce the issue down to next to nothing), and holds it low regard in comparison to issues of actual discrimination against Burakumin, Ainu, the handicapped, etc. This has been reflected in GOJ human rights surveys and past “awareness-raising” campaigns in previous Human Rights Weeks.

    So it comes as a welcome surprise that this year the GOJ has issued a commemorative pamphlet including discrimination against NJ as a real issue. Of course, the old bone about “cultural issues” is still there to dilute the Truth Octane. But it’s a start.

    Well, actually, looking over information from last year, it’s not that much of a change. Except that the BOHR site now actually includes on its official website a new video game for its cartoon characters, called “The Grand Adventure in Human Rights Land”! Have a play! Hey, it’s your taxes, might as well use them.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2078

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

    2) Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month

    Tsukiji is enforcing an outright ban for a month on all visitors to Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. The Mainichi says the Tokyo Govt claims it’s due to NJ tourists and their bad manners (or so the Japanese headline says below the English headline just says they’re too numerous; thanks, Mainichi, for sweetening your translations, again). And the fish market itself claims they cannot communicate the rules with Johnny Foreigner in their foreign tongues (nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?). Anyway, I wonder if this issue is so simply a matter of NJ manners?

    Anyway, this isn’t the first time Tsukiji Market has threatened to do this, but this is the first I’ve heard of an outright ban. Moreover, using a purported language barrier as a real barrier to entry and service is becoming the catch-all excuse, as we are increasingly seeing in Japanese businesses, such as banks and insurance agencies. Beats actually making more efforts to cater to the customer, in this case the tourists eating the fish around the marketplace after the marketing, I guess.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2080

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

    3) Kyodo: MOJ announces it snagged 846 NJ since reinstituting fingerprinting

    One thing I’ll give the GOJ: They’re predictable when under pressure. After one year of fingerprinting NJ at the border in the name of anti-terrorism and anti-crime, the MOJ decided to announce the number of NJ they netted, no doubt to claim that all the effort and money was somehow worth it. Problem is, as Sendaiben pointed out when submitting this link, that there is no comparison with how many people get snagged on an annual basis even BEFORE fingerprinting was reinstituted.

    To me that’s another predictability: you just know if the information was in the GOJ’s favor, they would have released it as well. But this glaring omission I bet means there’s not much statistical difference. Besides, the GOJ similarly congratulated themselves last year when announced their catch the first day after fingerprinting was instituted, even though the fine print revealed those NJ were snagged for funny passports, not fingerprints. And we’ll throw in data about visa overstayers (even though that’s unrelated to the fingerprinting, since fingerprinting is a border activity, and overstaying is something that happens after you cross the border) just because the media will swallow it and help the public make a mental association.

    Likewise, there is no ultracentrifuging of the data below to see how many were done for passports or fingerprints again. And of course, predictably, the J media is not asking analytical questions of their own. The closest we get is the admission that the GOJ is collecting these fingerprints to submit to other governments. Which is probably the real intention of this, Japan’s “contribution to the war on terror”. What a crock.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2072

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

    4) Mainichi: NJ now eligible for GOJ “economic stimulus” bribe. But not all NJ residents.

    The GOJ has finally made it clear, after overmuch deliberation, that the “economic stimulus” cum political bribe to voters package will also be disbursable to non-voting taxpayers, i.e. NJ. However, not all. Only those with Permanent Residency or marriage with a Japanese. So too bad you taxpaying residents who don’t marry or haven’t been by the grace of Immigration been granted permanent leave to remain. You don’t get a sou for your contributions. It’s better than nothing, and indeed is a sign of progress, but why the lines are drawn there are still mysterious. Anyone with an address in Japan who is paying taxes should be eligible for the rebate. But no.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2074

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

    5) Poll on how yon 12,000 yen econ stimulus bribe sits with Debito.org readers

    Looks like some NJ will get the 12,000 yen PM Aso “economic stimulus” dividend after all. How’s that sit with you? (multiple answers OK)

    Great! I qualify. Show me the money! (27%, 35 Votes)
    Not happy that NJ who are not Permanent Residents or married to Japanese don’t qualify. (41%, 52 Votes)
    Nuts. That small payout doesn’t affect my bottom line positively. (15%, 19 Votes)
    I don’t qualify. Bronx cheer to Aso. (9%, 12 Votes)
    It’s a waste of tax money and won’t really stimulate the economy. (55%, 71 Votes)
    Why should NJ qualify anyway? They can’t vote, so who cares what they think? (8%, 10 Votes)
    PM Aso should give Japan a month holiday from 5% Consumption Tax instead. (23%, 29 Votes)
    Don’t know / Can’t say / Don’t care etc. (0%, 0 Votes)

    Total Voters: 128 (as of this evening)

    Feel free to vote on any page on Debito.org

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

    6) The killer of Scott Tucker, choked to death by a DJ in a Tokyo bar, gets suspended sentence.

    I made the case some months ago, in a special DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER on criminal justice and policing of NJ, that NJ get special (as in negative) treatment by courts and cops. An article I included from the Japan Times mentioned that a case of a NJ man killed in a bar “was likely to draw leniency” in criminal court. It did. The killer essentially got off last September. Here’s an article about it, from Charleston, WV:

    Charleston Gazette: Prosecutors in Japan have decided not appeal the sentence in the murder conviction of a man placed on five years’ probation for murdering Charleston native and West Virginia University graduate Scott Tucker.

    “Prosecutors decided not to even present the appeal,” said Kenneth Tucker II, Scott Tucker’s brother. “They said the witness’s testimony was strong enough not to appeal.”

    Tucker’s wife and family had hoped prosecutors would appeal the sentencing in an attempt to get the man jail time. But prosecutors said Thursday they would not pursue an appeal before the two-week window to file ends on Monday.

    On Sept. 8, Atsushi Watanabe, 29, was sentenced to three years in prison or five years’ probation for killing Scott Tucker. Under Japanese law, probation in murder cases can begin immediately so Watanabe will serve five years probation rather than three years in prison, David Yoshida, who attended the trial with Tucker’s wife, Yumiko Yamakazi, said previously.

    Yamakazi is weighing her options in pursuing a civil case against Watanabe, Kenneth Tucker said…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2060

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

    7) More on nationality law and children born out of wedlock: Conservatives causing policy balk

    More on the debate on recognizing paternity and plugging loopholes in the nationality law — and how the conservatives are throwing up roadblocks in between houses of parliament… and blaming a “constituency” of blog messages for it:

    Japan Times: With the revised Nationality Law expected to clear the Diet soon, some ruling party lawmakers are at the last minute claiming the amendment may spark problems, such as possibly creating a “black market” in false paternal recognition.

    However, it seems too late in the day for them to block passage, because the revised bill cleared the Lower House last week and the Upper House Justice Committee is entering the last stage of deliberations and is expected to vote as early as next week.

    The amendment will allow children born out of wedlock to Japanese men and foreign women to obtain Japanese nationality if the father acknowledges paternity after the birth

    “If a law like this is misused, what will happen to the Japanese identity?” asked Takeo Hiranuma, a former trade minister widely considered a hardcore hawk, at an emergency meeting with 13 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers last week to discuss issues arising from the revision

    One reason that made them act at this late stage was what they claim is the public questioning the amendment. Some lawmakers said there have been hundreds of comments written in their blogs, mostly warning of the potential problems the revision may bring.

    “The comments will keep increasing and would go crazy if the revision clears the Diet,” said LDP Lower House member Toru Toida, who has been getting hundreds of comments in his blog.

    If the revision clears the Diet, then “people would claim that the Diet is not doing a proper job,” Toida said.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2073

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

    8) JALT TLT: James McCrostie on NJ job insecurity at Japan’s universities

    Behind the Music: An explanation of the university shuffle

    James McCrostie

    Behind the Music: An explanation of the university shuffle
    James McCrostie
    Published in the April 2007 issue of JALT’s The Language Teacher
    in the Job Info Center column (p. 45 – 46).

    Working at Japanese universities resembles musical chairs. Every year the music starts and instructors with expiring contracts run around looking for a new job. Most universities hiring foreigners full-time offer one-year contracts, renewable three or four times. Contrary to popular belief, universities don’t cap renewals at three or four because if a teacher works long enough they can’t be fired. Schools remain safe as long as they state the number of renewals and a few have contracts renewable up to ten years.

    To most thinking people, forcing instructors to leave every few years appears short sighted. Yet, university and government officials have their own reasons for preferring term-limits.

    Keeping costs down is one reason…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2070

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

    9) Japan Times Zeit Gist column on Otaru Onsens Case (not by me)

    Japan Times article critical of the Otaru Onsens Case: The problem is that the case was fought and won on the issue of racial discrimination when the policy being employed by the Yunohana onsen could more accurately be described as the racial application of “group accountability.”…

    America is a truly wonderful country with some particularly obvious virtues, but these do not include its level of safety and social cohesion. While the rights of the individual are certainly more strongly upheld in America than in Japan, the presence of rogue individuals within America is disproportionately high. America is unquestionably a more dangerous place than Japan.

    And this brings us to the point that Arudou ignores or simply fails to see. Group accountability is not employed in Japan simply for the sake of pushing people around. It is employed for the purpose of making Japan cohesive and safe. It is a major reason why Japan, unlike the U.S., is a nation in which the fear of random violence is relatively low. If Arudou succeeds in his quest, Japan will become one more nation in which the individual is to be feared. That is an outrageously high price to pay for the occasional racial, national, generational or gender-driven slight.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2076

    I commented this evening:

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

    DEBITO: I’ll start with my conclusion. Look, this article is basically incoherent. We have a flawed academic theory (which somehow groups people into two rigid ideological categories 2.5 categories if you slice this into “American standards” as well) regarding social sanction and control, and proceeds on faith that this pseudo-dichotomy actually exists. As evidence, we have citations of women-only train carriages and border fingerprinting both fundamentally dissimilar in content, origin, and enforcement to the onsens case. And presto, the conclusion is we must maintain this dichotomy (and condemn the Japanese judiciary for chipping away at it) for the sake of Japan’s safety and social cohesion.

    Get it? Sorry, I don’t. That’s why I’m not going to do a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on what is essentially ideological nonsense.

    But I will mention some glaring errors and omissions in the article:

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

    Continued at http://www.debito.org/?p=2076#comment-171979
    (Page down to Comment #32)

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

    10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Dec 3 2008 on Obama election and Bush II presidency (Director’s Cut)

    I had 700 words on some stray thoughts regarding Obama’s election published in the Japan Times yesterday. I cut 200 words of what I considered to be a stray but original-sounding point, regarding popular culture’s legitimization of an African-American in the presidency, but in retrospect the published version is more consistent without it. I’ll reprint it all below as a “Director’s Cut”:

    =======================
    THOUGHTS ON OBAMA’S ELECTION
    By Arudou Debito
    Column 10 for the JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times Zeit Gist page.
    December 2, 2008. DRAFT SEVENTEEN

    Published version at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20081202ad.html

    Regarding Obama’s election as American president, I welcome the groundswell of hope about “change”. It’s about time. The past eight years have been, well, awkward for Americans overseas.

    The Bush II Administration undermined America’s image abroad. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, surveying worldwide attitudes towards the U.S. this decade, reported in 2007 that “Anti-Americanism is worldwide. This is not just a rift with our European allies or hatred of America in the Middle East. It is a global slide.”
    http://pewglobal.org/commentary/display.php?AnalysisID=1019

    There’s plenty to be ashamed of: Election oddities culminating in the 2000 Supreme Court d’etat. Opting out of the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. The Orwellian Department of Homeland Security. “Preemptive war” as a superpower prerogative. Circumventing the United Nations with a “coalition of the willing”. Lack of policy oversight in a one-party Congress. A vice president with a bunker mentality and extreme notions of executive privilege. Wars in two countries grounded on lies about weapons of mass destruction. Unwarranted wiretapping. Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. Signing Statements. Renditioning. Torture memos and waterboarding. Forthcoming presidential pardons for connected felons. Need I go on? Even Bush’s own party made “change” a platform plank.

    America’s actions affect Japan profoundly because of the closeness of our relationship. America gave us MacArthur, a constitution, a democracy, a postwar era without forced restitutions, a market for our reconstruction, and a collective security agreement. We gave America a Pacific bulwark against communism and a market for their military. We are in a tango with America taking the lead.

    It wasn’t seen as a bad thing. When I first got here twenty years ago, many Japanese saw America as “the society with freedoms and opportunities we lack here”, “the country we’d most like to emulate”. We had the “Ron-Yasu” relationship. Compulsory education in American English. More people watching Hollywood than domestic movies. “Top Gun” on TV more than once a year you get the idea. The word most associated with America was “akogare”, akin to adoration. America was a template.

    Nowadays it’s more complicated. Although security and business relationships are largely intact, we are looking more towards a future with China (as is everyone), while “big brother” America seems more of a bully. America demands we refuel ships for free in the Indian Ocean, and we do something about Article 9 interfering with Japan’s contribution to the “war on terror”. Tangoing with America even raises fears about terrorist blowback.

    In terms of human rights, the American Template cuts the wrong way. For example, last year Japan reinstated fingerprinting for most Non-Japanese based upon the US-VISIT program. We even bought American fingerprint machines. Officialdom’s most common excuse for depriving NJ residents of rights? Anti-terrorism. So we assist in America’s wars, then use them to treat foreigners like potential criminals. Hora, America’s doing it, so can we.

    America is hardly something activists can point to as a paragon of human rights. Pass a law against discrimination by race or nationality? Hey, America now denies habeas corpus to its foreigners. Respect criminal procedure and due process of law? Phooey, America abuses people in their extralegal prisons too. Refer to U.S. State Department reports on Japan’s human rights record? That’s rich coming from a country whose soldiers aren’t accountable in international criminal court; the State Department doesn’t even survey America’s own human rights record.

    People talk about America less in terms of justice, more in terms of “superpower realpolitik”, especially after it dropped North Korea from the terrorism watch list. Then we hark back to the Bubble-Era heyday, when Japan’s future was bright, rich, and flying in formation with the U.S. Sadly, that was then, this is now. For the past eight years.

    Fortunately, with Obama’s election, American politics became a renewable resource, a fount of “change”. Obama is even inspiring opposition parties here to call for “change” in Japan’s government.

    Well, maybe. And maybe America can become a template for good deeds again. That is, if Bush hasn’t made America unredeemable, and if America can learn to say “no” to its own excessive powers.

    Obama has a hard act to follow, but if he succeeds, human rights activists in Japan will also enjoy the turn of the tide.
    700 WORDS

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

    THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR, from draft six:

    Unfortunately, this degree of “change” is not in Japan’s zeitgeist yet, much less in its popular culture. In America, people got used to a major shift of gears even before Obama appeared as an alternative. Here comes a really stray thought:

    If Reagan-Era America’s iconic image was the movie “Rambo”, then the Bush II Era’s iconic image has been the TV show “24, with a tabehoudai of ticking time bombs and tortured extremists.

    However, like Rambo (which during Iran-Contra became a symbol for excessive militancy) there were seeds for change sowed within “24 too.

    I’m talking about President Palmer. America’s first African-American president, portrayed as a rock amidst the chaos, and later succeeded by his brother, also African-American. Both were accepted with no suspension of disbelief or sense of irony.

    America is a country, remember, where forty years ago a black woman and white man couldn’t kiss on “Star Trek”, nor vice versa in the movie “Pelican Brief” just fifteen years ago. In 2008, however, America has been softened up enough by popular culture to elect a black man president.

    ENDS
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, as always!
    Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
    debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 6 2008 ENDS

    AP: US court rules Japan has jurisdiction in child joint custody case

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  Here’s a bit of astounding news.  Comment follows article.  

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

    Nebraska court rules Japan has jurisdiction in child custody case

    OMAHA — The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s courts have no jurisdiction over a custody dispute involving a 6-year-old boy, leaving the issue to a Japanese court.

    In the ruling issued Friday, the court said a Douglas County district judge had no authority to grant joint custody of the boy to his divorced parents, even though the boy was born in Nebraska and had lived here while in the U.S.

    The court determined that under custody law, the child’s residence is considered to be in Japan.

    The boy’s father, Stuart Carter, was stationed with the U.S. Navy in Yokosuka in October 2002, when the boy was about 10 weeks old. When his assignment ended in May 2005, Carter left his wife and took the child back to Nebraska.

    According to court documents, Carter did not tell his wife, Nahoko Hata Carter, that he was going back to the U.S. or that he was taking the boy with him. Within days of arriving in Nebraska, he filed for legal separation and custody of his son.

    Nahoko Hata Carter holds U.S. and Japanese citizenship.

    Her attorney, Susan Koenig, said Friday that Nahoko Hata Carter, who has been living in Nebraska so she can see her son, plans to file a custody petition in Japan. Ideally, Koenig said, the mother would like to move back there with the boy.

    A message left Friday for Stuart Carter’s attorney was not immediately returned.

    The couple married Nov 11, 1994, after Stuart Carter was stationed in Japan. Because of his military duty, they later lived in California, Kansas and Nebraska, where their son was born.

    Koenig said that because they moved back to Japan, the boy’s first language was Japanese and that he had close contact with his mother’s relatives.

    “His whole culture, his whole life has been in Japan, until he was brought (back) here,” she said.

    Koenig said that’s why custody should be determined by a Japanese court. She explained that the boy’s day-care provider, doctors and close family members—all of whom would likely testify at a custody hearing—are there.

    “All the evidence is in Japan,” she said.

    ENDS

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    COMMENT:  We should hope the Japanese courts would be so impartial. But they aren’t. Contrast with the Murray Wood Case, where international children kidnapped from British Columbia (whose courts granted the Canadian father custody) were deemed unremovable from Japan. And are American courts so ignorant to not know (or was Mr Carter’s legal defense so inept to not point out) that Japan does not recognize joint custody, full stop? Mr Carter will not get a fair trial in Japan. No child kidnapped to Japan as of yet has been returned to the NJ parent by a Japanese court.  He’s lost his kid. Full stop.  Debito in Sapporo

    Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog. Tsukiji is enforcing an outright ban for a month on all visitors to Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. The Mainichi says the Tokyo Govt claims it’s due to NJ tourists and their bad manners (or so the Japanese headline says below — the English headline just says they’re too numerous; thanks, Mainichi, for sweetening your translations, again). And the fish market itself claims they cannot communicate the rules with Johnny Foreigner in their foreign tongues (nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?). Anyway, I wonder if this issue is so simply a matter of NJ manners?

    Anyway, this isn’t the first time Tsukiji Market has threatened to do this, but this is the first I’ve heard of an outright ban. Moreover, using a purported language barrier as a real barrier to entry and service is becoming the catch-all excuse, as we are increasingly seeing in Japanese businesses, such as banks and insurance agencies. Beats actually making more efforts to cater to the customer, in this case the tourists eating the fish around the marketplace after the marketing, I guess.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo, where the fish is also good.

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

    Too many foreigners forces ban on tourists to Tsukiji fish market
    (Mainichi Japan) December 3, 2008

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20081203p2a00m0na015000c.html?inb=rs

    Courtesy of several submitters

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced a month-long ban on visitors to the famous fish auctions in Tsukiji from mid-December, blaming large numbers of foreign tourists for obstructing business.

    The metropolitan government has sent out a notice of the ban to embassies, hotels, travel companies and other businesses across the capital.

    The Tuna Markets, as they are known, are one of the three most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, alongside Akihabara and Asakusa. During early morning hours there were nearly 500 visitors on some days; but many working at the markets have complained of visitors’ showing a lack of courtesy to staff.

    According to a tuna wholesalers’ association, the rush in foreign visitors started with the “sushi boom” 10 or so years ago, and has grown especially severe over the past five to six years, following news of the market’s planned closure.

    While the auctions are technically off-limits to spectators, auctioneers have informally allowed people to watch from a designated area of the auction hall. With many taking flash photography or touching the produce, however, auctioneers and market workers alike have often been disturbed by visitors: “They can’t understand the language, so we can’t even warn them,” complained one.

    As a result, the metropolitan government has informed various tourism-related organizations of their decision to ban spectators at the morning auctions from Dec. 15 to Jan. 17.

    “It’s not a bad thing for Tsukiji to gain attention, but with the risk of injury to visitors, and the potential to affect business during the busy Year End and New Year season, it’s unavoidable,” said a metropolitan official. But it’s likely to take time for the news to filter round through signboards and leaflets, as there are many foreigners who visit the auctions individually after learning about the place by word of mouth.

    One Tokyo hotel said: “We’ve explained you can’t enter the auction area before, but if you are asked for directions to Tsukiji, you have no choice but to tell them. All we can do is leave it to the judgment of our guests.”

    ends

    ================================
    Original Japanese story
    築地市場:競り見学中止 外国人観光客マナー悪い
    毎日新聞 2008年12月3日 15時00分(最終更新 12月3日 16時55分)
    http://mainichi.jp/select/today/news/20081203k0000e040078000c.html

     東京都中央卸売市場(築地市場、中央区築地5)のマグロの競り場に、外国人観光客が多数押し掛け業務に支障が出ているとして、都は各国大使館やホテル、旅行会社に、12月中旬から約1カ月間、競り場の見学中止を通知した。築地のマグロ競りは外国人の間でも「ツナ・マーケット」と呼ばれ、秋葉原、浅草と並ぶ3大人気スポット。早朝から500人近くが訪れる日もあるが、マナーを守らない人もいて関係者から不満の声が出ていた。

     マグロを扱う仲卸業者の団体によると、見学者はほとんどが外国人で、すしブームに伴って十数年前から増え始めた。取り上げる観光ガイドブックも多く、築地市場が数年後に閉鎖されることも知られ、ここ5、6年は特に目立つという。

     競り場は基本的に見学者の立ち入りは禁止だが、外国人観光客が多いため市場側がスペースを設けて黙認してきた。しかし、競り場に入ってフラッシュをたいたり、マグロに触ったりして、競りの仕事を妨げるマナー違反者も多い。仲卸業者の野末誠さん(72)は「言葉が通じず注意もできない」と話す。

     このため都は、12月15日から来年1月17日までは早朝の競り場の見学中止を決め、関係団体に通知した。市場担当者は「築地が注目されるのは悪いことではないが、年末年始の繁忙期に業務に支障が出たり、観光客がけがをされても困るのでやむをえない」と話す。今後、看板やチラシで周知するが、口コミで個人的に訪れる外国人観光客も多く、周知徹底には時間がかかりそうだ。

     都内のあるホテルは「以前から競り場への立ち入りはできないと説明しているが、築地への行き方を聞かれれば教えないわけにはいかない。お客様の判断に任せるしかない」と困惑している。【合田月美】
    ends

    GOJ Human Rights Week commemorative pamphlet includes NJ issues of discrimination

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  Good news, of sorts.  Today starts Japan’s official “Human Rights Week” (Jinken Shuukan), when the GOJ spends money (and claims to the UN national campaigns of awareness raising) to promote issues of human rights.

    The Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu), the window-dressing department within the Ministry of Justice entrusted to spend tax money but not actually enforce any human rights mandate, usually glosses over discrimination against NJ (heaven forfend they actually use the breathtaking word “racial discrimination”, or actually call for a law against it!) as a matter of cultural misunderstandings (a wonderful way to reduce the issue down to next to nothing), and holds it low regard in comparison to other (worthy) issues of discrimination against Burakumin, Ainu, the handicapped, AIDs patients, etc.  This has been reflected in dismissive GOJ human rights surveys and past “awareness-raising” campaigns in previous Human Rights Weeks.

    So it comes as a welcome surprise that this year the GOJ has issued a commemorative pamphlet including discrimination against NJ as a real issue.  Of course, the old bone about “cultural issues” is still there to dilute the Truth Octane.  But it’s a start.  Here’s my translation:

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

    RESPECT THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF FOREIGNERS

    Reflecting the era of internationalization in recent years, the number of foreigners making a living in our country has increased dramatically, but there have been various cases of human rights problems including being refused entry to public baths, discrimination in the workplace, and being refused apartments, due to differences in languages, religion, lifestyle customs etc.  Human rights has no borders.  It is desirable in future for us as a member of the international community to show respect and acceptance to foreigners who have different cultures and diversity.

    ======================== 

    Well, actually, looking over information from last year archived on Debito.org, it’s not that much of a change.  Except that the BOHR site now actually includes on its official website a new video game for its cartoon characters, called “The Grand Adventure in Human Rights Land”!  Have a play!  Hey, it’s your taxes, might as well use them.

    Here’s a scan of the pamphlet, courtesy of KGD.  As the submitter notes: “It comments that ‘there are no national boundaries to human rights’ and notes that foreigners have been refused entry to public baths in Japan.  While the pamphlet won’t get anyone the Nobel Prize, it does indicate that your message is reaching some bureaucrats in the central government.”

    Well, good, I guess.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ENDS

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Dec 3 2008 on Obama election and Bush II presidency (Director’s Cut)

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  I had 700 words on some stray thoughts regarding Obama’s election published in the Japan Times yesterday.  I cut 200 words of what I considered to be a stray but original-sounding point, regarding popular culture’s legitimization of an African-American in the presidency, but in retrospect the published version is more consistent without it.  I’ll reprint it all below as a “Director’s Cut”; that’s what blogs are for, right?  Have a read.  Debito back in Sapporo

    justbecauseicon.jpg
    THOUGHTS ON OBAMA’S ELECTION
    By Arudou Debito
    Column 10 for the JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times Zeit Gist page.

    December 2, 2008. DRAFT SEVENTEEN

    Published version at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20081202ad.html

    Regarding Obama’s election as American president, I welcome the groundswell of hope about “change”. It’s about time. The past eight years have been, well, awkward for Americans overseas.

    The Bush II Administration undermined America’s image abroad. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, surveying worldwide attitudes towards the U.S. this decade, reported in 2007 that “Anti-Americanism… is worldwide. This is not just a rift with our European allies or hatred of America in the Middle East. It is a global slide.”
    http://pewglobal.org/commentary/display.php?AnalysisID=1019

    There’s plenty to be ashamed of: Election oddities culminating in the 2000 Supreme Court d’etat. Opting out of the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. The Orwellian Department of Homeland Security. “Preemptive war” as a superpower prerogative. Circumventing the United Nations with a “coalition of the willing”. Lack of policy oversight in a one-party Congress. A vice president with a bunker mentality and extreme notions of executive privilege. Wars in two countries grounded on lies about weapons of mass destruction. Unwarranted wiretapping. Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. Signing Statements. Renditioning. Torture memos and waterboarding. Forthcoming presidential pardons for connected felons. Need I go on? Even Bush’s own party made “change” a platform plank.

    America’s actions affect Japan profoundly because of the closeness of our relationship. America gave us MacArthur, a constitution, a democracy, a postwar era without forced restitutions, a market for our reconstruction, and a collective security agreement. We gave America a Pacific bulwark against communism and a market for their military. We are in a tango with America taking the lead.

    It wasn’t seen as a bad thing. When I first got here twenty years ago, many Japanese saw America as “the society with freedoms and opportunities we lack here”, “the country we’d most like to emulate”. We had the “Ron-Yasu” relationship. Compulsory education in American English. More people watching Hollywood than domestic movies. “Top Gun” on TV more than once a year… you get the idea. The word most associated with America was “akogare”, akin to adoration. America was a template.

    Nowadays it’s more complicated. Although security and business relationships are largely intact, we are looking more towards a future with China (as is everyone), while “big brother” America seems more of a bully. America demands we refuel ships for free in the Indian Ocean, and we do something about Article 9 interfering with Japan’s contribution to the “war on terror”. Tangoing with America even raises fears about terrorist blowback.

    In terms of human rights, the American Template cuts the wrong way. For example, last year Japan reinstated fingerprinting for most Non-Japanese based upon the US-VISIT program. We even bought American fingerprint machines. Officialdom’s most common excuse for depriving NJ residents of rights? Anti-terrorism. So we assist in America’s wars, then use them to treat foreigners like potential criminals. Hora, America’s doing it, so can we.

    America is hardly something activists can point to as a paragon of human rights. Pass a law against discrimination by race or nationality? Hey, America now denies habeas corpus to its foreigners. Respect criminal procedure and due process of law? Phooey, America abuses people in their extralegal prisons too. Refer to U.S. State Department reports on Japan’s human rights record? That’s rich coming from a country whose soldiers aren’t accountable in international criminal court; the State Department doesn’t even survey America’s own human rights record.

    People talk about America less in terms of justice, more in terms of “superpower realpolitik”, especially after it dropped North Korea from the terrorism watch list. Then we hark back to the Bubble-Era heyday, when Japan’s future was bright, rich, and flying in formation with the U.S. Sadly, that was then, this is now. For the past eight years.

    Fortunately, with Obama’s election, American politics became a renewable resource, a fount of “change”. Obama is even inspiring opposition parties here to call for “change” in Japan’s government.

    Well, maybe. And maybe America can become a template for good deeds again. That is, if Bush hasn’t made America unredeemable, and if America can learn to say “no” to its own excessive powers.

    Obama has a hard act to follow, but if he succeeds, human rights activists in Japan will also enjoy the turn of the tide.
    700 WORDS

    Arudou Debito is co-author of Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan.
    =========================

    THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR, from draft six:

    Unfortunately, this degree of “change” is not in Japan’s zeitgeist yet, much less in its popular culture. In America, people got used to a major shift of gears even before Obama appeared as an alternative. Here comes a really stray thought:

    If Reagan-Era America’s iconic image was the movie “Rambo”, then the Bush II Era’s iconic image has been the TV show “24”, with a tabehoudai of ticking time bombs and tortured extremists.

    However, like Rambo (which during Iran-Contra became a symbol for excessive militancy) there were seeds for change sowed within “24” too.

    I’m talking about President Palmer. America’s first African-American president, portrayed as a rock amidst the chaos, and later succeeded by his brother, also African-American. Both were accepted with no suspension of disbelief or sense of irony.

    America is a country, remember, where forty years ago a black woman and white man couldn’t kiss on “Star Trek”, nor vice versa in the movie “Pelican Brief” just fifteen years ago. In 2008, however, America has been softened up enough by popular culture to elect a black man president.

    ENDS

    Japan Times Zeit Gist column on Otaru Onsens Case (not by me) (Now UPDATED with comment)

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog. Here’s an article that came out in the Japan Times this morning about the Otaru Onsens Case, critical of what happened. I’ll refrain from comment (readers, go first), as I’m in transit. What do you think? Arudou Debito, returning from Iwate
    (UPDATE: See my commentary in Comment #32 below)
    =======================================

    News photo
    CHRIS MacKENZIE ILLUSTRATION

    Back to the baths: Otaru revisited

    Paul de Vries sees worrying precedent for Japan in 2002 landmark court ruling

    By PAUL DE VRIES
    The Japan Times Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

    The story is familiar to regular readers of Zeit Gist. Debito Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from America, was living in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and had heard of the Yunohana public bath’s policy of denying entry to foreigners. In 1999, media in tow, he decided to put that onsen’s policy to the test. Sure enough, entry was denied, with the accompanying explanation that foreigners often “cause trouble” and, as such, the regulars “dislike sharing the facilities with them.”

    The origin of this controversy is the behavior of Russian sailors. The Yunohana “onsen” is located in Otaru, the main port between Japan and the Russian Far East. Otaru attracts over a thousand Russian vessels and more than 25,000 sailors a year on stays of varying lengths. In the mid-1990s, Russian sailors were frequently showing up drunk at the city’s various onsen and jumping into the tubs with soap on their bodies, thus rendering the facilities unusable.

    Prior to taking on the Yunohana onsen, Earth Cure, the management company against whom Arudou’s court action was taken, was running one of the city’s other onsen facilities. It had been pushed to the brink of ruin after its regular clientele had been driven away by the behavior of Russian sailors. When that problem reappeared at Yunohana, Earth Cure opted for an uncompromising stance: Anyone who did not immediately appear to be Japanese was turned away at the door.

    To give Arudou his due, he didn’t rush to the courts. In accordance with the accepted customs of his adopted Japan, he attempted to reach an accord by working with Otaru city officials, and through consultations with the Yunohana onsen and a couple of other like-minded facilities. These efforts were successful with all but Yunohana, and it was that particular onsen against which Arudou and two other plaintiffs made a claim for ¥6 million for the “mental distress” that the self-inflicted ordeal had put them through. The case was won in November 2002 with a judgment awarding the plaintiffs half of what they had sought.

    A responsible individual was barred from a facility to which the general public is entitled to enter upon presentation of an entry fee. His rights were upheld by the courts. The facility was forced to back down. So what’s the problem with that? The problem is that the case was fought and won on the issue of racial discrimination when the policy being employed by the Yunohana onsen could more accurately be described as the racial application of “group accountability.”

    Group accountability is a process within which all of the members of a group are punished for the indiscretion of one of that group’s members. It is a process that seeks to take the onus of policing away from law enforcement professionals and place it in the hands of society at large. The upside of group accountability is high levels of public safety and the scarcity of rogue individuals. A downside occurs when the innocent are prejudiced or punished for behavior and deeds they did not commit.

    There is nothing particularly Japanese about this process. It is commonly used in the West by parents and in schools, and is most notably employed in the battle against soccer hooliganism. In “adult” Western society, however, group accountability is incompatible with the cherished Western ideal of individual rights. Officially, in the West, group accountability is not to be employed. But is it?

    In the West, are people prejudged by the actions of others from the same race, color, neighborhood or region? In the West, are preconceptions based on a history of behavior of others from the same sex or religion? The answer to both of these questions is an emphatic “Yes.” The reality for the West is that it gets the worst of both worlds: Individuals are still prejudged on the basis of group association, yet society does not benefit from the restraining force that peer pressure can provide.

    While the most controversial applications of group accountability for foreigners within Japan are those that are based on race, it is a mistake to think that group accountability is not applied by the Japanese with an even hand. Consider, for example, the designation of women-only train carriages.

    The women-only carriage initiative was first carried out on certain commuter lines during 2002, but was confined to late-night services. The stated rationale was to provide protection against lewd behavior by drunken male passengers — a rationale against which few could object. The ante was upped in 2005 when the service was extended to morning commuter trains, thus effectively conceding for the first time that “chikan” (gropers) and not alcohol was the primary cause of the problem.

    In the weeks after the women-only carriages were introduced on morning services, there was a certain amount of guttural male rumbling, yet the measure has been widely accepted. This is clear proof that the Japanese are not above applying group-based discrimination within their own ranks.

    It is also quite notable that the foreign male population of Japan does not appear to be particularly upset about being excluded from these train carriages. There has been no mention of any discontent in columns such as Zeit Gist, not a single word from Debito Arudou, and the silence in Readers in Council from non-Japanese has been deafening.

    A subject on which the foreign (but most vociferously, Western) population did manage to find its voice was the regimen of photographic registering and fingerprinting that was introduced in November 2007. Under the justification of countering terrorism, the Japanese government decided to require that visitors to its shores be photographed and have their fingerprints scanned at immigration — a policy with both precedent and reasonable justification in that it was also being carried out by the U.S. and was in the process of being set up in Britain. But what a reaction followed! Online petitions, protests, letter after letter to The Japan Times, U.N.-sponsored seminars. It was unbelievable!

    Women-only train carriages and fingerprinting/photographing are both applications of group accountability. On both of these issues, a section of society (men and foreigners) is being asked to undergo a measure of inconvenience in order to counter a threat that comes from within their ranks (chikan and al-Qaida). The attitude of the Japanese toward these two issues is consistent. The attitude of the Western population is not. The Western population of Japan clearly draws a distinction between racial and nonracial applications of group accountability. Or perhaps more accurately, between applications that are primarily directed toward Westerners and those that are not.

    The use of group accountability as an instrument of social control in Japan has not historically been racial in application.

    It became an accepted societal tool during a time when this nation was — for all practical purposes — a mono-racial society. It has therefore been traditionally applied on a basis of criteria other than race.

    This contrasts sharply with the history of group-based discrimination in Arudou’s America. “White America” has always been racial to the core, with “the other” always being a member of another race (the same being largely true for Australia, New Zealand, Canada or any of the other landmasses that “whites” succeeded in colonizing). As such, group accountability is a far touchier subject in the West than it is in Japan and much of Asia.

    But surely that’s the West’s problem. Why should the social benefits of group accountability be denied to the Japanese simply because of the history of entrenched Western racism, especially given that the Japanese employ it with an even hand? The concept enjoys a broad level of acceptance within Asia as a whole, and the majority of non-Japanese residing on Japanese shores are Asian nationals. It makes little sense for the Western attitude to prevail.

    It is more than appropriate that Debito Arudou ultimately got to take his bath at the Yunohana facility, but the ruling that was handed down was misguided. In truth, the case should not have even gone to court. At a pre-trial hearing the judge should have addressed Earth Cure with something like the following:

    “Look, I understand your concerns. You have clearly suffered from the behavior of Russian customers, and as you were driven out of business at a former facility, it is not unnatural that you are the final remaining holdout. But enough is enough! Considerable efforts have been made in good faith to resolve this problem at a multitude of levels. It is time for you to give some ground.”

    And if that didn’t work, the judge should have either asked Arudou to come to him with something other than a racial discrimination claim, or have issued a judgment that addressed the issue of group accountability directly. But that was not to be. The judgment that was made placed negligible weight on the preamble to the claim, thereby laying the legal groundwork for the demise of group accountability as a social conditioner within Japan.

    Debito Arudou has embraced the precedent set in the Yunohana onsen case and sought to make the “right of entry” something of an “inalienable human right.” Precedent in hand, he has spent much of the past few years confronting unwelcoming Japanese “businesses” — the vast majority of which no self-respecting person should want to be seen anywhere near. This crusade is essentially geared toward having Japan conform with American (as distinct from Western) standards.

    I am no regular rider on the anti-American bandwagon. America is a truly wonderful country with some particularly obvious virtues, but these do not include its level of safety and social cohesion. While the rights of the individual are certainly more strongly upheld in America than in Japan, the presence of rogue individuals within America is disproportionately high. America is unquestionably a more dangerous place than Japan.

    And this brings us to the point that Arudou ignores or simply fails to see. Group accountability is not employed in Japan simply for the sake of pushing people around. It is employed for the purpose of making Japan cohesive and safe. It is a major reason why Japan, unlike the U.S., is a nation in which the fear of random violence is relatively low. If Arudou succeeds in his quest, Japan will become one more nation in which the individual is to be feared. That is an outrageously high price to pay for the occasional racial, national, generational or gender-driven slight.

    Paul de Vries is putting the finishing touches to a book about what the world can learn from Japan. Send comments on this issue and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

    Get Japan Times Tues Dec 2 for new JUST BE CAUSE column, on Obama’s election

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  Just a quick word to tell you that my tenth Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column will be coming out tomorrow, Tues Dec 2 (Weds in print in the provinces).  Topic this time:  700 words on the Obama victory and why his election will, given the shameful excesses of the Bush II Presidency, be a welcome respite for human rights activists in Japan.  Get a copy!  Arudou Debito in Iwate

    Mainichi: NJ now eligible for GOJ “economic stimulus” bribe. But not all NJ residents.

    mytest

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    Hi Blog.  The GOJ has finally made it clear, after overmuch deliberation, that the “economic stimulus” cum political bribe to voters package will also be disbursable to non-voting taxpayers, i.e. NJ.  However, not all.  Only those with Permanent Residency or marriage with a Japanese.  So too bad you taxpaying residents who don’t marry or haven’t been by the grace of Immigration been granted permanent leave to remain.  You don’t get a sou for your contributions.  It’s better than nothing, and indeed is a sign of progress, but why the lines are drawn there are still mysterious.  Anyone with an address in Japan who is paying taxes should be eligible for the rebate.  But no.  Debito in Iwate.

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

    Individuals to receive 12,000 yen under outline for cash handouts

    (Mainichi Japan) November 28, 2008

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20081128p2a00m0na017000c.html

    Courtesy JYLO

    Individuals will receive a minimum of 12,000 yen each under an outline on the distribution of 2 trillion yen in cash disbursements to the majority of households across Japan that was drafted on Friday, government officials said.

    Discretion on distributing the financial handouts will be left to local governments, as the number of recipients could be limited based on their income.

    The plan is part of the government’s stimulus package amid the economic slowdown triggered by the global financial crisis.

    According to the draft plan, the cash will be doled out to households by transferring the money to individual accounts at financial institutions after the head of each household files an application by postal mail to local governments.

    The draft says it is desirable to start supplying the cash to households before the end of fiscal 2008, but the actual starting date will be decided by each municipal government. The deadline for applications is still being debated and will be either within three months or six months.

    While the government and the ruling coalition had earlier pledged to finish distributing the cash to all households before the end of this fiscal year, it has emerged that it will be unfeasible.

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Friday held a meeting in Tokyo to explain the draft outline of the cash disbursements to officials of prefectural governments and municipal governments of major cities across the nation.

    Under the draft plan, each municipal government will send application forms to the heads of households, who will be expected to return them with their bank account details. Municipal governments will confirm the identity of recipients by requiring them to send copies of their bankbooks and driver’s licenses together with their application. The officials may also transfer the cash to accounts already on record for use in withdrawing utility fees.

    If an individual cannot file an application through postal mail, the head of a household can visit the municipal government office and go through procedures to have the cash transferred to their account. Supplying the money through municipal government offices is also an option, but for safety reasons, it will be limited to cases where bank transfers are difficult.

    The amount of cash to be doled out will be 12,000 yen per person, and additional 8,000 yen will be paid to those aged over 65 or under 18. The base date for determining a person’s age will be either Jan. 1 or Feb. 1 next year.

    The cash will be provided by municipal governments where recipients have their residency registered as of the base date. As for foreigners, the cash allowance will be distributed to permanent foreign residents and the foreign spouses of Japanese nationals.

    Municipal governments that opt to limit the number of recipients based on their income can decline to pay a cash allowance to those who earned at least 18 million yen in 2009. Municipal authorities will try to obtain consent from recipients to use their tax information to confirm their income before deciding on whether they are eligible for the cash allowance. If recipients refuse to allow use of the information, municipal officials can withhold from paying cash to them.

    Many municipal governments are apprehensive toward the plan because it will bring about complex clerical work such as confirming recipients’ incomes. The ministry will work out further details of the plan while hearing opinions from municipal government officials.

    All expenses that arise for the cash disbursements will be covered by the central government, except for expenses to purchase equipment.

    ENDS