Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku blocks online campus access to Debito.org. Just like Misawa Air Force Base.

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Hi Blog.  As a Sunday article, let me forward two collated emails that I received from a student at Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku.  He sent proof that his university blocks campus access to Debito.org.

Can’t imagine why.  Maybe they’re confusing my name with Adult Videos?  🙂

Anyway, it’s not the first time I’ve heard of Debito.org being too truthy for some places with internal attitudes to maintain.  Such as the American Air Force Base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture.  (I know for a fact they didn’t like me exposing both the “Japanese Only” signs right outside their base and the organized blind-eying both they and the City of Misawa gave it.)  So instead of dealing with the problem, they dealt with the messenger, by making sure that anyone on base cannot see what you’re seeing now.  It’s to them Non-Operational Information, I guess.  Or, as Momoyama seems to indicate, it might give students in Japan too much of an education.

Report from Momoyama student follows, along with his unsuccessful efforts to get it “unblocked”.  Arudou Debito, webmaster of the site just too hot for some institutions to handle.

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

January 20 and 28, 2010
Dear Debito San,

I was pretty surprised when I realized that my university blocks www.debito.org.  (Screen Capture dated January 27, 2010):

I tried to inquire upon that and got told that “gambling”, “adult” and “blogs” are blocked… they wanted to check if they can whitelist yours. all that happend is that they reported to the kokusai-center who told me that I can apply for temporary access.

a) why filter communication? “Fostering Students of the World” is written at this university’s entrance.

b) shouldn’t I not feel discriminated and humiliated when I ask a question at a certain department and the answer gets wired through other channels?

(break)

As promised some further information about the blocking of debito.org and a clean and hopefully more representative screenshot.

As I were able to find out, it is rather “collateral damage” caused by ignorance and incompetency… I do not want to explicitly extend the applicability of these impression for the rest of the administration and teaching at this university, but it would be surely wrong to avoid such implication. (please excuse the use of sarcasm)

I don’t know what would happen if a professor would request to put debito.org on the white-list… maybe I will try that, though my time here is almost over…

After three members of the computer-center “studied” your site for quite a while, while I was waiting, they told me that BBS are blocked because online crime is originating from them. They seem to combine all kinds of Web2.0-activity and other dynamic content like foren, blogs, etc. as BBS (which is a term derived from the old pre-internet mailbox-systems and seems to be out of use for ages anywhere else in the world…)

Upon my objection that debito.org is not really anything they call BBS they only came up the possibility to ask a professor to suggest this for the white-list…

I asked them if it ever happened that students committed crimes from withing this network, but those cases had never happened…

But, how another exchange-student got lectured the other day, “trust is important”. And I don’t want to enumerate all the cases they betrayed the exchange-students’ trust…

Thank you again!

—————————————————————–

Blocked Websites within the campus of 桃山学院大学

To evaluate the significance of the filter I conducted some experiments: I googled for a ranking of blogs, which took me to technorati.com/blogs/top100, and from those I tried to access the top 50. 7 out of 50, 14% obviously, are blocked. Looking at the top-10 the number of blocked sites is even 5 out of 10, even more obviously 50%. (list at the end of this mail)

I went to the computer center of that university and asked them about the background and criteria… the explanations were as follows: – a “smart filter” is in used. As a source they referred to a company they call “vertex link”. This company, as they say is an American company. A quick search reveals:

www.vertexlink.co.jp is in deed a Japanese company which promotes via their website www.j-smartfilter.com a filter-technology from www.securecomputing.com which belongs to McAfee since 2008 and is famous for its involvement for the NSA.

– The only customization done by the university is the selection of categories (www.j-smartfilter.com/catList.html) and sub-categories to be blocked. Under the category called “communication” are 5 sub-categories listed. The University decided to block three of them, one unblocked sub-category is “email”. Blogs and BBS are blocked. I asked for a copy of that list, a favor that was not granted.

– A white-list for websites is in use. The items of that list are not disclosed. But, as I were told, Professors are allowed to suggest sites to be put on that white-list, which might be put there after evaluation from the board of the computer-department…

– In the end they explained to me, that REAL PEOPLE check all filtered websites and assign the categories. Though had to admit, that they could not tell if those were part-time, students or regular employees.

First impression: They have only little or partial knowledge which is not even enough to understand the concepts they are dealing with. They cannot understand the difference between dynamic-filtering and static-lists… According to my experience, it is highly unlikely, to be quite kind, to rate and categorize the whole internet! At least when telling me that I would have expected a little more understanding or awareness for possible nonsense.

I went on and, out of curiosity, I tried other web-sites… Some were blocked to my surprise and other surprisingly not:

In brief:

Warez/Cracking/Hacking/Passwords…

Some blocked, some not…

E.g. the infamous thepiratebay.org is NOT blocked… furthermore Chinese warez-sites are not blocked but some middle-sized torrent-sites from western countries… Same situation applies for password/cracking-sites.

Adult/Porn…

Mostly blocked… at least the more well known like youporn.com…

Accidentally I stumbled upon a pop-up from a not blocked blog-site with adult-advertisement (pornoloadz.com) which was not blocked either…

This seems to rule out a URL-based filter since “porn” should be most likely filtered but does not trigger the filter in the second URL.

Gambling

At least official sites from casinos were not blocked but I would assume that this is rather about online-brokering/gambling… but I had no idea what to look for…

When I asked about the filter for the first time, the only mentioned categories were gambling, adult and blogs… that’s why I had that focus on my own brief research… plus the most obvious one, imho, warez… but since everything is different in Japan, I did not check winnie ( was it spelled this way?) 😉

A tendency of the university’s endeavor is obvious, though rather questionable…

While it is understandable that a university does not want to support illegal activities such as gambling or illegal porn, I cannot find any reasonable explanation to go against blogs and communication in general.

The explanation that I got from the computer center that BBS, a term I haven’t heard since the early 1990, are usually the source of online-crimes appears a little odd and short-sighted.

The tolerated collateral damage seems enormous to me. While I am one of the few inhabitants of this planet who would not suffer from inaccessibility of facebook, I certainly disapprove the blocking of a source like debito.org.

According to my observation I want to state that in this case people got their hands on a tool which they do not understand sufficiently enough to justify the outcome of their actions.

—————————————————————–
List of Blog-Ranking
According to:

http://technorati.com/blogs/top100
(here in ascending order from 1 to 50)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com
(blocked) http://www.gizmodo.com
(blocked) http://www.engadget.com
http://mashable.com
(blocked) http://www.techcrunch.com
(blocked) http://www.boingboing.net
http://www.tmz.com
http://corner.nationalreview.com
(blocked) http://www.gawker.com
http://www.thedailybeast.com

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com
http://hotair.com
http://politico.com/blogs/bensmith
http://www.readwriteweb.com
http://thinkprogress.org
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com
http://nymag.com/daily/intel
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com
http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com/

http://www.lifehacker.com
http://newsbusters.org/
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog
http://www.breitbart.tv
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch
(blocked) http://www.kotaku.com
http://michellemalkin.com
http://biggovernment.com
http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org
http://www.politicsdaily.com

http://gigaom.com
http://consumerist.com
(blocked) http://jezebel.com
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/
http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com
http://www.popeater.com
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com
http://www.thrfeed.com

http://www.redstate.com
http://www.gothamist.com
http://thisisnthappiness.com/
http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment
http://www.mediaite.com
http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com
http://www.dailykos.com
http://www.physorg.com
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com
http://www.businessinsider.com

—————————————————————–
several random tests (some of these not indicative of my personality or places I want to see; rather these are the sites that universities might have reason to block; I do not understand why, in light of these paradigms, Debito.org is blocked):

not blocked:
http://www.rlslog.net/
http://blog.iphone-dev.org/
http://ccc.de/
http://www.hoerbuch.in/blog.php
http://verycd.com/
http://uu.canna.to
https://www.blogger.com/start
http://wordpress.org/
http://www.heise.de/
http://www.heise.de/security/foren/
http://thepiratebay.org/
http://wikileaks.org/
http://nihongo-dekimasu.blogspot.com/
http://fosi.alphasys.nl/
http://www.elcomsoft.com/
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/default.aspx
http://www.pornoloadz.com/
http://blog.fefe.de/
http://www.torrentreactor.net/
http://www.ninjavideo.net/
http://www.sidereel.com/
http://www.youtube.com/
http://www.thegunsource.com/
http://www.weaponmasters.com/shopping/home.html
http://www.latex-weaponry.com/

Loan Forgiveness Program | How to, When & How Much Each Month


http://www.spielbank-hamburg.de/sbhh-main/

blocked:
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/
http://blog.twitter.com/
http://astalavista.box.sk/
http://torrents.sumotorrent.com/
http://isohunt.com/
http://www.torrentz.com/
http://www.serials.ws/index.php
http://fun.sdinet.de/

http://twitter.com/
http://forum.torrentreactor.net/
http://youporn.com/
http://www.xnxx.com/
http://freebigmovies.com/
http://xnews.blog2.fc2.com/blog-entry-1765.html

ENDS

Saturday Tangent: Historian Howard Zinn, author of “People’s History of US”, dies at 87

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Hi Blog. It is with great sadness that I write to you about the death of one of my personal heroes, Howard Zinn. A person who departed from historical orthodoxy to write history books from the minority point of view. His “People’s History of the United States” is a must-read.  Good man. Already missed. Obits below.

That’s one less of the ideological lions out there who have made an impression on me, speaking up for the little guy as much as possible, and narrating against the grain with tireless activism no matter how ripe the age. Including Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Ralph Nader…

Arudou Debito in Sapporo
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HOWARD ZINN

FILE – This 2006 picture shows Howard Zinn in New York. Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist “A People’s History of the United States” sold millions of copies to become an alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. He was 87. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh) (Dima Gavrysh, AP / June 26, 2006)
HILLEL ITALIE AP National Writer
January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn, author of ‘People’s History’ and left-wing historian, dies at 87 in California

Howard Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist “A People’s History of the United States” sold a million copies and became an alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday. He was 87.

Zinn died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said. The historian was a resident of Auburndale, Mass.

Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, “A People’s History” was — fittingly — a people’s best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including “Voices of a People’s History,” a volume for young people and a graphic novel

At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, “A People’s History” told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

Even liberal historians were uneasy with Zinn. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once said: “I know he regards me as a dangerous reactionary. And I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.”

In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Zinn acknowledged he was not trying to write an objective history, or a complete one. He called his book a response to traditional works, the first chapter — not the last — of a new kind of history.

“There’s no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete,” Zinn said. “My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times.”

“A People’s History” had some famous admirers, including Matt Damon and Affleck. The two grew up near Zinn, were family friends and gave the book a plug in their Academy Award-winning screenplay for “Good Will Hunting.” When Affleck nearly married Jennifer Lopez, Zinn was on the guest list.

“He taught me how valuable — how necessary dissent was to democracy and to America itself,” Affleck said in a statement. “He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally and I will carry with me what I learned from him — and try to impart it to my own children — in his memory.”

Oliver Stone was a fan, as well as Springsteen, whose bleak “Nebraska” album was inspired in part by “A People’s History.” The book was the basis of a 2007 documentary, “Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind,” and even showed up on “The Sopranos,” in the hand of Tony’s son, A.J.

Zinn himself was an impressive-looking man, tall and rugged with wavy hair. An experienced public speaker, he was modest and engaging in person, more interested in persuasion than in confrontation.

Born in New York in 1922, Zinn was the son of Jewish immigrants who as a child lived in a rundown area in Brooklyn and responded strongly to the novels of Charles Dickens. At age 17, urged on by some young Communists in his neighborhood, he attended a political rally in Times Square.

“Suddenly, I heard the sirens sound, and I looked around and saw the policemen on horses galloping into the crowd and beating people. I couldn’t believe that,” he told the AP.

“And then I was hit. I turned around and I was knocked unconscious. I woke up sometime later in a doorway, with Times Square quiet again, eerie, dreamlike, as if nothing had transpired. I was ferociously indignant. … It was a very shocking lesson for me.”

War continued his education. Eager to help wipe out the Nazis, Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and even persuaded the local draft board to let him mail his own induction notice. He flew missions throughout Europe, receiving an Air Medal, but he found himself questioning what it all meant. Back home, he gathered his medals and papers, put them in a folder and wrote on top: “Never again.”

He attended New York University and Columbia University, where he received a doctorate in history. In 1956, he was offered the chairmanship of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, an all-black women’s school in then-segregated Atlanta.

During the civil rights movement, Zinn encouraged his students to request books from the segregated public libraries and helped coordinate sit-ins at downtown cafeterias. Zinn also published several articles, including a then-rare attack on the Kennedy administration for being too slow to protect blacks.

He was loved by students — among them a young Alice Walker, who later wrote “The Color Purple” — but not by administrators. In 1963, Spelman fired him for “insubordination.” (Zinn was a critic of the school’s non-participation in the civil rights movement.) His years at Boston University were marked by opposition to the Vietnam War and by feuds with the school’s president, John Silber.

Zinn retired in 1988, spending his last day of class on the picket line with students in support of an on-campus nurses’ strike. Over the years, he continued to lecture at schools and to appear at rallies and on picket lines.

Besides “A People’s History,” Zinn wrote several books, including “The Southern Mystique,” ”LaGuardia in Congress” and the memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn that Damon narrated. He also wrote three plays.

One of Zinn’s last public writings was a brief essay, published last week in The Nation, about the first year of the Obama administration.

“I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t disappointed because he never expected a lot from Obama.

“I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”

Zinn’s longtime wife and collaborator, Roslyn, died in 2008. They had two children, Myla and Jeff.
ENDS
=============================

Howard Zinn dies at 87; author of best-selling ‘People’s History of the United States’
Activist collapsed in Santa Monica, where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture.

By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-howard-zinn28-2010jan28,0,5610858.story

Howard Zinn, a professor, author and social activist who inspired a generation on the American left and whose book “A People’s History of the United States” sold more than 1 million copies and redefined the historical role of working-class people as agents of political change, died Wednesday. He was 87.

Zinn apparently had a heart attack in Santa Monica, where he was visiting friends and scheduled to speak, said his daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn. He lived in Auburndale, Mass.

Zinn’s political views were shaped, in part, by his experiences as a bombardier for the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.

“My father cared about so many important issues,” Kabat-Zinn said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I think the one he was really most eloquent about is that he thought there was no such thing as a just war.”

Indeed, in a 2001 opinion piece published in The Times, Zinn wrote about being horrified by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and equally horrified by the response of U.S. political leaders, who called for retaliation.

“They have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the 20th century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity,” he wrote.

“A People’s History” was published in 1980 and had an initial printing of 5,000 copies. But largely through word of mouth, the book attracted a major following and reached 1 million sales in 2003.

The work, which hails ordinary Americans such as farmers and union activists as heroes, accused Christopher Columbus of genocide and criticized early U.S. leaders as proponents of the status quo. “A People’s History” has been taught in high schools and colleges across the nation.

The book was the basis for a History Channel documentary called “The People Speak” that aired in the fall.

The executive producer was actor Matt Damon, who was raised in Boston near Zinn.

“From the moment we had any influence in this town, we’ve been trying to get this project off the ground,” Damon told reporters in July. “It demonstrates how everyday citizens have changed the course of history.”

Zinn was born in 1922 to a working-class family in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was one of four sons whose father worked as a waiter, window cleaner and pushcart peddler.

In his 1994 memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” Zinn recalled that his parents used discount coupons to buy the complete works of Charles Dickens. The novelist “aroused in me tumultuous emotions” about wealth, class and poverty, Zinn wrote.

Zinn received his doctorate from Columbia University.

He was a professor emeritus at Boston University, where he was a familiar speaker at Vietnam War protests. He also taught at a number of institutions, including Brooklyn College, the University of Paris and Spelman College in Atlanta in the late 1950s and early ’60s as the civil rights movement was taking hold in the South.

Former California state Sen. Tom Hayden recalled meeting Zinn while he was at Spelman, then an all-black women’s school.

“He was basically integrating himself into the world of black students,” Hayden said Wednesday.

Hayden said Zinn became actively involved in the movement as an advisor and leader. The two later protested the war in Vietnam and worked on other social justice issues, Hayden said.

“He had a profound influence on raising the significance of social movements as the real forces of social change in our country,” Hayden said. “He gave us our heritage and he gave us a pride in that heritage.”

Zinn was scheduled to speak Feb. 4 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art for an event titled “A Collection of Ideas . . . the People Speak.”

On its web page, the museum said that it was “deeply saddened” by Zinn’s death and that the event would go on as a tribute to Zinn’s life as a social activist.

Paramedics responded to a 911 call about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and took Zinn to Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, said Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Trisler.

Zinn was in a hotel when rescuers arrived, according to his daughter.

In addition to his daughter, Zinn is survived by his son, Jeff Zinn, and five grandchildren, according to his family. His wife Roslyn died in 2008.

robert.lopez@latimes.com

ENDS

Japan Today article on naturalized former-NJ politicians in Tsukuba, Inuyama, and Parliament

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Hi Blog.  On a happier note for a change, here’s an article from Japan Today on naturalized former NJ who have been elected to Japanese political bodies.  Well done them, and it’s nice to have a kind word for them (as opposed to racists like Dietmember Hiranuma Takeo, dissing former-NJ Dietmember Ren Ho recently for her foreign roots; I’ll be devoting my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to that nasty little incident, out next Tues Feb 2).  PS:  Jon Heese has commented to Debito.org before, twice, as has Tsurunen Marutei.  And of course, Anthony Bianchi has been prominently featured here as well.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Foreign-born politicians put new face on Japanese officialdom
By Jesse Veverka
Japan Today, downloaded January 22, 2010

http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/foreign-born-politicians-put-new-face-on-japanese-officialdom
TOKYO —
After spending an hour zipping through the outskirts of north Tokyo on the sleek Tsukuba Express, I find myself on the receiving end of a sales pitch from a local city councilor on the virtues of living in “Tsukuba Science City.” We walk through a shopping mall as he enthusiastically explains how the municipality was laid out to enhance technical research and scientific innovation. He waves a quick hello to a constituent on the escalator.

Perhaps it’s not so odd for a local politician to promote his turf, but what is unusual is that the guy I am talking to looks like he might be Bill Clinton’s younger brother. It’s clear he is a dedicated public official; it’s also clear he isn’t originally from Japan.

I have just met Jon Heese, a Saskatchewan native, Japanese citizen and Tsukuba city councilor. Heese is a member of a small but burgeoning group of foreign-born politicians whose experiences are a testament to Japan’s internationalization — and the success that comes with integration into a difficult-to-penetrate local culture.

Like many foreigners, Heese, 46, got his start in Japan as an English instructor. “I came in ’91 in the good old days, when teaching salaries were 400,000 yen a month with an apartment included,” he says, with a distinct note of nostalgia in his voice. He also tried his hand at acting, playing American presidents in independent Japanese flicks like “Nihon Igai Zenbu Chinbotsu” and “Girara no Gyakushu.”

But Heese wanted to connect with Japan more deeply. “All day long I was speaking English. My Japanese just wasn’t improving,” he recalls. “I wanted to put myself in a position where I had to speak Japanese, so I opened up a bar — it was pretty easy to get going, I was really surprised how cheap it was. The liquor companies basically gave me everything I needed on spec, so all I needed was the location. Getting the actual liquor license was unbelievably easy.”

Heese’s business initially met with overwhelming success, but as Japan’s inflated bubble economy went flat, his customer base began to dry up. Then, in 2002, the Japanese government enacted new drunk driving laws — a death sentence for his pub.

“At least 30% of my business came from 10 kilometers away. The cops sat outside my bar five nights a week, catching everybody — even if they had only drunk half a glass of beer, they were busted. I had never seen anything like it anywhere, how hardcore these cops were. We lost 70% of our business overnight.”

The venture soon collapsed under the weight of debt. Shell-shocked at how quickly decisions by national bureaucrats could affect his livelihood, Heese felt the need to act.

“I am not advocating drunk driving in any way,” he says. “However, in Canada, when they did the same thing — setting up checkpoints and busting people — and the bars started to lose business, what did the bars do? They organized and went to the town or city council to say, ‘Hey, we need help.’ The city council would start doing public service announcements to advocate having a designated driver, so people could still go out.”

Heese visited other bar owners and found out they were hurting, too. “I explained that we should organize—I even wanted to go demonstrate in front of the police station. People don’t realize what an asset a good nightlife is for a city. It means that young people want to live there, and if you have young people, you have a future. If you only have old people, your city dies.”

Despite getting sympathy from fellow pub owners, Heese realized that not many of them were willing to speak up.

“It’s like the one nail that sticks out — no one wanted to stand up and get knocked down. So I said, ‘I’m out of here,’ and closed up and sold the bar — with a lot of debt that I am still paying off.”

Yet this sour experience provided the impetus for Heese’s new and novel vocation. “When you get lemons, you make lemonade, and that was kind of my push. We had an election in 2004 and I thought, ‘I’ll give it a shot!’”

Need Japanese citizenship first

In order to become an elected official, foreign-born residents first have to apply for Japanese citizenship, a process that Heese recounts as tedious but not particularly difficult. In fact, just two years prior to Heese’s election to city council, Marutei Tsurunen, a former Finn, became the first foreign-born politician to serve in Japan’s national government.

A Lutheran missionary-turned-politician, Tsurunen made a name as the first naturalized citizen to serve on a town council, in Yugawara, Kanagawa, in 1992. Like many groundbreakers, however, success did not always come easy. In his bid for national office, Tsurunen, 69, suffered four defeats before making it into the House of Councilors — and then only when the elected Diet member decided to relinquish his seat and it automatically went to Tsurunen, his runner-up.

“Luckily, he quit after just five and a half months, so I got five and a half years for my first term” explains Tsurunen as I sip tea with him in his office in Nagatacho. Things went smoother in the next election, in 2007, when he was directly elected with 240,000 votes — more than enough to seal his legitimacy as Japan’s first blue-eyed Diet member.

At around the same time, another foreign-born political contender was making his debut. Brooklynite Anthony Bianchi had decided to make a go at life in Japan when a TV show he was working on in New York got cancelled. After starting off in the JET program, he got a job with the board of education in Inuyama City, outside of Nagoya, to develop a specialized English program using proprietary materials.

“I felt a responsibility to find good teachers, so the students could get a good education,” Bianchi, 51, says. “And I also felt a responsibility to those teachers to make sure they were treated well in the schools.”

It took years to get the program up and running and, like Heese, Bianchi became frustrated dealing with the Japanese bureaucracy. “I felt like I was just complaining about stuff, and I got tired of complaining and decided I should do something more positive for the community,” he says. “That’s when I started thinking about getting citizenship and running for office.”

Bianchi admits that he knew “zero about running a campaign” when he started out, but thanks to a platform based on greater transparency in government and empowering schools — not bureaucrats — to make decisions about education, his message resonated with voters. In 2003, he was elected as a city councilor in Inuyama with 3,300 votes — a record number.

Treated with fairness and respect

Despite Japan’s reputation as hostile to newcomers, all three foreign-born politicians say they’ve been treated with respect and fairness — to a point. “It’s hard to get here, but once you get in, there is a lot of acceptance,” Bianchi says.

“I am on a Japanese [right wingers’] ‘watch list’ and there are these guys in black vans,” Heese says. “But the Japanese are pretty open, and they have a long tradition of sending out people to bring back new ideas.”

“They can welcome me as a politician, but not as a leader,” says Tsurunen, who suggests that this may be the reason he has not been tapped for a ministerial post.

Indeed, most policy decisions in Japan are not made by politicians, but by the country’s murky and obstinate bureaucracy, as Heese learned shortly after getting elected. “I wanted to make one small change to the timing of a traffic light in the city, but I found out it’s not the council that decided such things, it’s the police, and they just said no,” he recalls.

“‘Kanryoshugi’ — Japanese officialdom — is running everything, but it is really the politicians’ fault,” Bianchi adds. “We let them take that power, and we need to take it back. No one voted for those guys. We have elections, and the people who are elected should be making the policies.”

On a municipal level, true administrative power lies not with the city councilors, but with the mayor — an office for which Bianchi ran unsuccessfully in 2008. Tsurunen says he would have been surprised if Bianchi had won. “Foreigners are welcome, but Japanese want to rule this country.”

Yet despite the concentration of power in the bureaucracy, elected officials are able to bring about gradual change through concerted effort. Tsurunen talks excitedly about a push by his Democratic Party of Japan to enact a dual-citizenship bill — as it stands now, Japan is the only G8 country that does not allow it.

Pledged to pursue policies important to constituents

Like other politicians, these foreign-born officials have pledged to pursue policies that are of importance to their constituents. Bianchi has dedicated himself to reducing wasteful public spending, while Tsurunen and Heese support efforts to aid Japan’s farmers and increase domestic food production.

“In Tsukuba, we have 200,000 people and only 700 farmers, and only 200 of those farm full-time,” says Heese. “Farmers feed us all. We can pretend that there is enough food in China and the U.S. even if some big disaster happens, but that ain’t the truth. It really is important to support local farmers.”

Tsurunen, meanwhile, champions the idea of reducing imports of animal feed and using under-utilized farmland to increase domestic production.

Bianchi admits that farming is not his strong suit — “I am from Brooklyn, and there is not much agriculture, except grass growing through the cracks in the concrete,” he says, but he’s focused on his own projects, particularly a push to make local government operate in a leaner fashion. “I analyze the budget a lot and look for places where they are wasting money,” he says. “There is a lot of stupid spending.”

Heese points out that a politician’s job is not all about trying to amend policies or pass legislation. He strives to be an inspirational representative of Japan’s increasingly complex global community. “My dream is to see 30 to 40 of us foreign-born politicians out there,” he says. “I guarantee it will benefit Japan, because it will change people’s image of the country.”

He tells of a recent visit by American officials from Tsukuba’s sister city of Irvine, California. “They walked into the room and started shaking hands with all the Japanese, and when it came to me and I was introduced as a city councilor, all of a sudden it was like, ‘Wow!’ Their whole image of Tsukuba changed.”

The reaction has been much the same when delegations arrive from Tsukuba’s sister cities in Korea and China. “It really does change people’s perspective of what’s possible in Japan.”

Jon Heese: aishiterutsukuba.jp

Marutei Tsurunen: http://homepage2.nifty.com/yugatsuru/

Anthony Bianchi: www.bianchi-inuyama.com

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

Turning Japanese

So you’re thinking of becoming a naturalized Japanese citizen? Here’s what to do.

1. Be serious. Changing your citizenship is, obviously, a big decision. Japan doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, meaning by law you’ll have to renounce the nationality of your homeland. You will have to give up your old passport, and you may no longer be able to live freely, work, or in some cases, own property in your former country.

2. Get a job. As wonderful as it is to freelance, Japanese bureaucracy puts a heavy emphasis on traditional full-time employment, and you’ll need to show on your application how you make a living.

3. Establish residency. You must have been a resident of Japan for at least five years, as reckoned from the date of landing on your gaijin card. And don’t forget to get a re-entry permit if you leave; otherwise the counter will be reset.

4. Get married. The easiest way to expedite the process is to marry a Japanese national. You will have a much harder time becoming a Japanese citizen if you don’t.

5. Learn the language. You should anyway, but because you will be dealing with your immigration officer in Japanese and writing an essay about why you want to naturalize, you’ll need to have your speaking and (at least some) reading and writing in order.

6. Pay your taxes. You’ll need to prove that you have made your contribution to society.

7. Behave. Don’t get into any legal entanglements.

8. Get your papers in order. Among other documents, you’ll need copies of your tax and financial records, birth certificate, parents’ birth certificates, parents’ marriage license and your marriage license.

9. Pick a name. If you’ve always wanted a cool kanji name, this is your chance. In the old days, you had to pick from a limited group of standardized names, but now you can choose your own characters. You can even write your name with katakana if you prefer.

10. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Applying for citizenship is a trying process, designed to weed out applicants through attrition. You will need to meet multiple times with the immigration officer, so be ready to accommodate any extra requests.

ENDS

Taikibansei & Cabby on mixed experiences getting Permanent Residency depending on Immigration Office. What about other Debito.org readers?

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Hi Blog.  Today I’d like to ask Debito.org Readers about their experiences with various Immigration offices around Japan.  We had a discussion recently on the JALT PALE list about how they did on their Permanent Residency applications, and have concluded that how NJ are treated both interpersonally and applicationwise seems to depend on the Immigration office they apply at.

Two testimonials follow from Taikibansei and Cabby.  Immigration offices at Miyazaki, Morioka (and for me, Sapporo — story from 1996 here) seem to be very nice and liberal.  However, I’ve heard bad things about Tokyo (and Okayama below).  How about everyone else?   I think collecting information on Debito.org would be a good idea so people have some idea where to apply (stories about applying for the most important visa, PR, most welcome).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Taikibansei: Well, I went to Morioka Immigration for the first time yesterday to get my re-entry permit. Now, the building itself is a bit difficult to find–it’s in the parking lot behind several other, apparently more important (e.g., THEY have prominent signs…), buildings.

I stumbled up there (it’s on the second floor) at five minutes before 1 pm, walking right into the office — office hours begin at 1 pm. Now, in Fukui (at least 10-15 years ago), attempting to enter the immigration office early would have at best earned you a five-minute lecture from the cranky old guy that was in charge there; if you were from Thailand, the Philippines, etc., he would also have made you wait an extra hour or so as “punishment” (seen it happen).

The reaction in Morioka: BOTH guys jumped up with goofy grins and gave me a big “Irasshaimase!” This, quite frankly, threw me–I asked if this was indeed the immigration office, looking around for something to confirm. It was then that I noticed I was early. Bracing myself for the lecture (at least), I apologized profusely, telling them I would return in five minutes when they were officially open.

They would have nothing of it. “It’s only five minutes!” One told me that the day had been slow and that he was “chotto samishii” (they are pretty isolated there). He then asked, “What can we do for you? Do you want a visa-status change form? Do you want to apply for permanent residence?” Me: “Uh, no, I just need the form for multiple entry.” “Oh, only that.”

He gave me the form, then FOLLOWED me to the counter in back to HELP ME FILL IT OUT. Now, as I’m sure everyone here knows, the form is in Japanese and English–i.e., even if you don’t know Japanese, you can still fill out the form pretty easily. Well, the guy wouldn’t go away–worse, he started saying stuff like, “Do you like reimen? I know a great shop for reimen!” or, “Do you have cold like this in America? It gets really cold here at night” or, “You’re really tall, I bet you have many girlfriends!”

Despite his “help,” I finally managed to fill the darn thing out and give it to him. He processed it in five minutes, and I was gone–got a “Douzo mata irasshatte kudasaimase” as I was heading out the door. All and all, a bizarre experience–thought I’d stumbled into a snack bar!

I do think this is one of the best things about having access to an immigration office in a smaller town. Most immigration horror stories originate in big cities like Tokyo. Moreover, I’ve always wondered whether each office has the same limit (say, 100) on the number of permanent residencies they can process in a year. Tokyo, with its huge foreign population, would probably easily exceed that number by mid-year for most years. Miyazaki, on the other hand, would struggle most years to get to one third of that number.

This would explain the apparent difference in ease of getting PR. I mean, if there really is just one rule for everyone, then it should be just as difficult to get PR in Miyazaki as Tokyo. However, XXXX and his acquaintances apparently could not get PR there, while I know of nobody who has been rejected for PR in Miyazaki. (Know of three besides myself who applied while I was down there–including the husband in a foreigner-foreigner marriage–never a problem.) Heck, even shady characters such as myself got it!  Taikibansei

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Cabby:  Not sure if the this actually matters. My experiences with Immigration since 1988 have been very mixed. When I moved to Okayama from Osaka my 3-year spousal visa was about to expire. I went to the local and at the time very small Immigration office and told them that I would like to apply for permanent residency. The bozo bureaucrat behind the counter did everything he could to discourage me. I told him that I qualified and there would be no harm in trying. He went so far as to say that the 3-year spousal visa that I had did not count since it was issued in Osaka. That was when I about hit the ceiling. He then said it would take at least six months and perhaps a year to get the visa, if it were granted, adding that I would not be able to leave the country during that time. “Are any family members in the U.S. ill? You should consider this before applying.” Well, not one to be deterred by officialdom, I applied anyway. Three weeks later I got a card in the mail asking me to come to the Immigration office to get my new visa, a PR.

The point I am trying to make is that this fool in the local office really had little if anything to do with the decision. That was made in Hiroshima, the regional office. I suspect that this is the case in many small locales. The paperwork gets sent to a regional center where the decision is made. I must add that in the past few years all the local officers I have had to deal with were closer in demeanor to the one who helped Taikibansei than the one who attempted to discourage me.  Cabby.

ENDS

Tidy free FCCJ Scholarship up for grabs, deadline Feb 15

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Hi all. This here’s a free scholarship from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan for people who are interested in journalism and who are undergraduate or graduate students. If any of your students (or you, if you qualify) are interested in applying, details are below, courtesy of Eric Johnston. Spread the word. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Each year, the FCCJ Scholarship Committee awards up to one million yen in scholarship funds to university students who have demonstrated a serious interest in journalism. The fund was originally established by former FCCJ member Swadish DeRoy and is now supported through generous donations from individuals and businesses dedicated to excellence in journalism. Our Committee also conducts student workshops in Tokyo and Kansai that have drawn hundreds of students seeking to understand the basics of our profession.

But the Scholarship Fund is the heart of our committee work and we are anxious to reach as many applicants for this year’s fund as possible. We would thus like to request that you let as many possible applicants as possible know about the fund. Students do not have to be journalism majors. They merely need to be currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate students who have shown a serious interest in pursuing journalism as a career. Both Japanese and non-Japanese may apply.

Details about the fund can be found on the FCCJ website at
http://www.fccj.or.jp/scholarship

But hurry. The deadline for entries is February 15.

If there are any questions, please feel free to contact either myself at
eric.johnston@japantimes.co.jp or Hitoshi Kubo at: kubo@fccj.or.jp or at
03-3211-3161.

Please help us make this year’s Scholarship Awards the best ever.

Sincerely Yours,
Eric Johnston
Co-Chair
FCCJ Scholarship Committee

—————————————————–
ENDS

Japan Times Colin Jones on anachronistic Koseki System, how lack of family laws affect J divorces

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Hi Blog.  In a breathtakingly excellent article that only the Japan Times can give us (where else are you going to find these avenues for academic research in journalistic format; not from the vanity sanitized English press of the Yomiuri, or the skeleton-staff of the IHT/Asahi offering scant domestic news), we have Colin P.A. Jones once again offering eye-opening historical research and commentary on how family law in Japan (or lack thereof) has been created so much on the fly that few accommodations are made for modern circumstances.  In fact, Colin claims below, many circumstances (such as birth registries in complicated circumstances, or joint custody after divorces) are so inconceivable to this anachronistic system that people’s lives are forced to conform to it for its convenience, not the other way around.  It’s so bad that even the Koreans wised up and abolished theirs recently.  So should Japan.  Read excerpt below.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

The Japan Times Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010

THE ZEIT GIST

Judges fill the gaps in Japan’s family law

By COLIN P. A. JONES
First in a two-part series (excerpt)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100126zg.html

Last year was an important one for child custody issues in Japan, with growing international pressure on Japan to sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, and the dramatic arrest of Christopher Savoie in September for supposedly “kidnapping” his own kids in Fukuoka.

I was actually interviewed for a segment on MSNBC’s “Today Show” in connection with the Savoie case. Since the program quite rightly focused on an interview with Mr. Savoie, the footage used of me was quite brief: mostly a clip of me saying it was shocking how easily parental rights are terminated in Japan. But watching my (literally) 14 seconds of fame afterwards, I realized immediately that I had mis-spoken. What is shocking is not how easily parental rights are terminated, but how few parental rights there are to begin with.

While it is common to refer to divorce, custody and visitation as matters of “family law,” strictly speaking Japan does not have such a thing. The principal body of what is generally considered family law is contained in Part IV of the Japanese Civil Code, which is actually titled “Relatives.” In substance, it is concerned mainly with how family relationships are created, modified and terminated, and includes not just the rules by which marriages are formed and terminated, but also those governing the widespread practice of adoption (adult adoption remaining a common practice for households that wish to continue the family name, traditions or business but have no male children to do so).

The code also explains some of the duties of individuals within these relationships, but contains almost no provisions laying down rights, particularly after a relationship has been terminated. Thus, the code is silent on post-divorce child support, visitation and alimony (as distinct from division of marital property). Such relief as is awarded in these areas has effectively been manufactured by the courts according to their own unofficial rules and standards…

Rest of the article at:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100126zg.html

Asahi: Nagoya to withdraw from Juki Net system, while dogs (not NJ) get juuminhyou

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Hi Blog.  Two interesting developments in the weird system for registering people in Japan.

We all know that Japanese (by definition, unless they’re royals) are listed on Family Registries (koseki), and if they have an established address are listed on Residency Certificates (juuminhyou).  We also know that NJ are not listed on either, and that has created problems for them not just logistically but also logically (how dare people who pay residency taxes (juuminzei) not be treated as residents?)  There’s talk of fixing that, but anyhoo…

Adding insult to more insult is the fact the government keeps issuing juuminhyou residency documents to things that can’t actually reside anywhere, such as Tama-Chan the sealion in Yokohama (2003),Tetsuwan Atomu in Niiza (2003),  Crayon Shin-chan in Kusakabe  (2004)Lucky Star in Washinomiya (2008), and most recently a photogenic sea otter named Ku-chan in Kushiro, Hokkaido (2009) (who quickly swam to Nemuro and then points beyond; check your fishing nets).

Now Kyodo reports that the animals or fictitious creatures don’t even have to be famous anymore to become residents.  It can be your favorite pet.  Read on.

Wags (pardon the pun) on Debito.org wondered what happened if your pet happened to be born overseas — would they get this juuminhyou anyway?

Finally, one more idiotic thing about registration is the double standard when it comes to carrying ID.  In Japan, there is no standardized identification card which all citizens have to carry (drivers licenses are fine, but not everyone drives; health insurance cards work but they’re not photo ID; nobody carries passports except tourists (except me, in case I get stopped by cops).  NJ, of course, have to carry their Gaijin Cards at all times under threat of arrest and criminal prosecution.)  Japan’s proposed answer to that was the Juuki-Netto System early last decade, and it came under fire quickly for “privacy concerns” (well, fancy that).  It was even declared unconstitutional in 2006 by the Osaka High Court (the judge ruling in that case soon afterwards committed suicide).

But Juuki-Netto has been a complete flop.  Only 3%, the Asahi says below, of Japanese nationwide applied for their cards.  (I didn’t either.)  Now Nagoya is even withdrawing from it.  Read on.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Nagoya to withdraw from Juki Net
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/01/20

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201001190465.html

Nagoya plans to withdraw from the nationwide online residency registry network known as Juki Net, Mayor Takashi Kawamura said Tuesday.

Kawamura told internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi he will reach his decision after he discusses the issue with city residents.

He also told Haraguchi the system should be abolished.

Only 3 percent of residents nationwide have applied for a card that allows them to access the Juki Net system, due in part to privacy concerns.

The city of Kunitachi in Tokyo and the town of Yamatsuri in Fukushima Prefecture have not joined the system.
ENDS

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

The Japan Times Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010
Ward to give dogs resident cards
Kyodo News, Courtesy of Yokohama John

Member of the community: A residency card for canines lists a dog’s “personal” details along with its photo. KYODO PHOTO

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100123f3.html
Itabashi Ward in Tokyo will start issuing residential cards for dogs on Monday in a bid to encourage more pet owners to officially register the animals, according to ward officials.

For registered dogs only, the cards will be issued free of charge at public health centers in the ward. The postcard-size residential card will bear the dog’s name, picture, address, birth date and other information such as inoculation records, the officials said.

“Issuing residential cards for dogs is rare in Japan,” said an official, adding that the move is aimed at encouraging dog owners to register their dogs and have them inoculation for rabies.

ENDS

Japan Times on proposal to convert Itami Airport into “International Campus Freedom City”

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Hi Blog. Young-Turk Osaka Governor Hashimoto has been suggesting some interesting reforms recently, one of them, according to the Japan Times, is to close down Osaka Itami Airport (relocating all flights to KIX), and to use the land for creating an international campus, where international schools and universities would be located and the lingua franca English.

On the surface of it (regardless of the efficacy of essentially creating a Dejima for ideas and culture, nestled right next to Osaka proper), it’s an intriguing idea with great potential, and not one that in principle Debito.org can oppose (what could a move like this hurt if successful, except the natural insular order of things, which does deserve some change).  It’s already incurring a lot of opposition from entrenched interests (read full article at JT site).  What do other Debito.org Readers think?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Airport wars roil Kansai region
Osaka, Hyogo leaders clash over hub plans
The Japan Times Friday, Jan. 15, 2010

By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100115f2.html
(pertinent excerpt)

Under [Osaka Gov] Hashimoto’s plan, Itami [Airport]’s 400 hectares would be turned into what he calls the International Campus Freedom City. Up to 20,000 people, including many foreigners, would live in the area, which would be home to international schools and universities. The common language would be English.

“To turn out talented workers of international stature, all elementary, junior high and high schools in the international free city will be instructed in English,” the plan reads.

“Along with international schools and universities, home-stays with resident foreigners will provide practical education to students and all signs in the city will be in English. Young people from around Japan who want to improve their English will gather, and it will become a tourist spot, with shops and tourist facilities reminding people of overseas,”

The governor envisions an influx of highly skilled foreign workers in certain sectors who would serve as language tutors to interested Japanese students.

“Along with attracting highly skilled foreigners who specialize in biotechnology, new energy and other strategic industries like cutting edge medicine, incentives such as reducing income and residency taxes for foreigners who offer home-stays to Japanese wishing to learn a foreign language in a native linguistic environment could be given,” the plan reads.

Ido also sees an international future for Itami, but one where foreigners arrive and go elsewhere, not live, work or serve as language tutors and tourist attractions…
EXCERPT ENDS
Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100115f2.html

Sunday Tangent: Economist (London) passim on “Global Creativity Index”, which ranks Japan over USA in terms of creativity

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Hi Blog. In their bumper Xmas Issue last year, The Economist had a number of (as usual) interesting articles. Here’s another, about what makes America attractive as a destination for immigration.

The part that I’ll excerpt from concerns how countries attract talent and creativity, citing an odd survey called the “Global Creativity Index” created by a Richard Florida.  The Economist notes, “The index combines measures of talent, technology and tolerance. America comes fourth, behind Sweden, Japan and Finland,”, then picks apart the methodology that would put Japan as more tolerant to people from elsewhere than the US (and Finland, which also has a very low percentage of foreigners).  Given the revolving-door labor market (here and here) and the trouble NJ in Japanese universities have getting favorable study conditions and domestic employment afterwards (here and here), one wonders if this celebrity researcher has ever lived or worked overseas much. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Going to America

A Ponzi scheme that works

Dec 17th 2009 | ANNANDALE, VIRGINIA AND DALLAS, TEXAS
From The Economist print edition

The greatest strength of America is that people want to live there

http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108634
(pertinent excerpt)

Mr Florida and Irene Tinagli of Carnegie Mellon University compiled a “Global Creativity Index”, which tries to capture countries’ ability to harness talent for “innovation…and long-run prosperity”. The index combines measures of talent, technology and tolerance. America comes fourth, behind Sweden, Japan and Finland. You could quarrel with the methodology. America comes top on certain measures, such as patents per head and college degrees, but it is deemed less tolerant than other countries in the top ten. This is because the index rewards “modern, secular” values and penalises Americans for being religious and nationalistic.

This is a mistake. Some religious countries are indeed intolerant, but America is not one of them, as Ms Hirsi Ali attests. And for many talented people, such as Mr Lee, America’s vibrant and varied religious scene makes the country more attractive, not less.

Michael Fix of the Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank, observes that religion has a strong effect on who comes to America. For example, although Muslims slightly outnumber Christians in Nigeria, Nigerian immigrants to America are 92% Christian and only 5% Muslim. Christians are about a quarter of the South Korean population, but four-fifths of Korean immigrants in America are Christian. Migrants from the Middle East and North Africa are mostly Muslim, but a hefty 28% are Christian and 10% are Jewish.

Christians and Jews are drawn to America in part because they know it is an easy place to be Christian or Jewish. They don’t face persecution, as they might in the Middle East. Nor do they face derision, as they might in more aggressively secular parts of Europe. Also, churches create networks. Migrants typically go where they already know people, and often make contact through a church.

It is also a mistake to rate Americans as less tolerant because they are nationalistic. Americans may have an annoyingly high opinion of their country, but theirs is an inclusive nationalism. Most believe that anyone can become American. Almost nobody in Japan thinks that anyone can become Japanese, yet Japan is rated more “tolerant” than America. This is absurd.

Rest of the Economist article at
http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108634

ENDS

Saturday Tangent: Gallup Poll says 700 million desire to migrate permanently

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Hi Blog.  As a Saturday Tangent, let’s take a peek at at flows of international migration.  According to a Gallup Poll (details below), these are the countries that people most want to immigrate to:

And these are the countries that people most want to emigrate from:

No real surprises to me here.  Just that, as Gallup says below, “Gallup finds about 16% of the world’s adults would like to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. This translates to roughly 700 million worldwide — more than the entire adult population of North and South America combined,” that’s quite a figure.  Seems people ought to get used to the fact that migration of peoples is no longer just a domestic thing, or even all that unusual anymore.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Gallup.com November 2, 2009
700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently
U.S. tops desired destination countries
by Neli Esipova and Julie Ray

http://www.gallup.com/poll/124028/700-million-worldwide-desire-migrate-permanently.aspx

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Every day, migrants leave their homelands behind for new lives in other countries. Reflecting this desire, rather than the reality of the numbers that actually migrate, Gallup finds about 16% of the world’s adults would like to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. This translates to roughly 700 million worldwide — more than the entire adult population of North and South America combined.

From its surveys in 135 countries between 2007 and 2009, Gallup finds residents of sub-Saharan African countries are most likely to express a desire to move abroad permanently. Thirty-eight percent of the adult population in the region — or an estimated 165 million — say they would like to do this if the opportunity arises. Residents in Asian countries are the least likely to say they would like to move — with 10% of the adult population, or roughly 250 million, expressing a desire to migrate permanently.

United States Tops Desired Destination Countries

The United States is the top desired destination country for the 700 million adults who would like to relocate permanently to another country. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of these respondents, which translates to more than 165 million adults worldwide, name the United States as their desired future residence. With an additional estimated 45 million saying they would like to move to Canada, Northern America is one of the two most desired regions.

The rest of the top desired destination countries (those where an estimated 25 million or more adults would like to go) are predominantly European. Forty-five million adults who would like to move name the United Kingdom or France as their desired destination, while 35 million would like to go to Spain and 25 million would like to relocate to Germany. Thirty million name Saudi Arabia and 25 million name Australia.

Roughly 210 million adults around the world would like to move to a country in the European Union, which is similar to the estimated number who would like to move to Northern America. However, about half of the estimated 80 million adults who live in the EU and would like to move permanently to another country would like to move to another country within the EU — the highest desired intra-regional migration rate in the world.

Most of the world’s international immigrants, according to the 2009 United Nations’ Human Development Report, move from one developing country to another developing country or between developed countries. Gallup’s data would suggest then that the countries people desire to migrate to permanently do not necessarily reflect reality — especially in regard to developing countries. Eighty percent of those in developing countries who would like to move permanently to another country would like to move to a developed country, while 13% of respondents in developed countries would like to move to a developing country.

Rest of article at
http://www.gallup.com/poll/124028/700-million-worldwide-desire-migrate-permanently.aspx
ENDS

Why we fight: Media on J birth rate decrease and population decline acceleration

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  What follows are two articles that show that Japan’s aging society is growing ever more so.  The population decrease is accelerating, and fewer people than ever want to have children.  Again, time for a policy towards immigration.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Either you do it now while we still have some vitality.  Or immigrants will come anyway later to fill an enfeebled and empty island instead.  Slow or quick, it’s going to happen.  It’s a mathematical certainty.

That’s why we’re fighting for our rights — to make things better for the people who will be replacing all of us. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

JAPAN TIMES EDITORIAL (excerpt)
January 15, 2010
Population decline worsening

The population dynamics estimate of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry indicates that Japan’s population decline is accelerating. The report, based on birth and death registers submitted from January 2009 to October 2009, estimates the number of births in Japan in that year at 1,069,000, or 22,000 less than in 2008, and the number of deaths in 2009 at 1,144,000, or 2,000 more than in 2008. The death figure is the highest since 1947 and represents the ninth straight yearly increase…

Rest at:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20100115a2.html

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

42.8% of Japanese see no need to have children: survey
Japan Today Sunday 06th December 2009, 06:42 AM JST, Courtesy of MMT
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/428-of-japanese-see-no-need-to-have-children-survey

TOKYO — A record high 42.8% of Japanese people do not feel the need to have children after marriage, with more than 60% of women in their 20s and 30s saying so, a government survey showed Saturday. The headline figure was up 6.0 percentage points from the previous poll in August 2007, the Cabinet Office said in the latest survey, which also showed 68.2% of women in their 20s and 61.4% of those in their 30s did not see having children as essential to their marriage.

According to the survey, 46.5% of women and 38.7% of men do not see having kids after marriage as essential.

For men, 56.6% of those in their 20s and 56.3% of those in their 30s gave an affirmative answer to the question ‘‘Do you think it is not always necessary to have children after you get married?’‘

The Cabinet Office also asked whether women should continue working after they have children and a record 45.9% of respondents, up 2.5 points, agreed, followed by 31.3% who said women should return to work after their children have grown up.

The results showed a growing recognition in Japan that marriage should not limit women’s work opportunities, but also revealed that government support continues to fall short because 63.3% called for government support to enable women to work even when they need to take care of their kids or elderly relatives, up 7.6 points from the previous poll.

In the survey, 70% of respondents said marriage is a personal choice, the third highest level ever, while 55.1% opposed the conventional idea that husbands should work and wives should stay home to take care of the family, up 3.0 points from the previous survey.

The government conducted the nationwide survey covering 5,000 people aged 20 or older in October.
========================
ENDS

Asahi: MOJ & MEXT crafting “point system” for immigration policy

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Hi Blog.  In a move that may be heralding the fundamentals of an actual Japanese immigration policy (something I was told back in November the DPJ was not considering), the primary ministries in charge of bringing in, registering, and policing NJ (traditionally MOJ, MEXT, and MHLW) are apparently beavering away at a “points system” for allowing in people with a skill set, modeled on other countries’ immigration policies.  On the other hand, people who have gotten preferential visa treatment in the past (by dint of having Japanese blood and not necessarily much else) are going to see their opportunities narrow (they’ll have higher hurdles and be tested on their acculturation).

I might say this is good news or a step in the right direction (if you want an immigration policy, it’s good to say what kind of immigrants you want), but it’s too early to tell for two reasons:  1) We have to see how realistic this “points list” is (if it’s even made public at all; not a given in Japan’s control-freak secretive ministries) when it materializes.  2) There still is no accommodation for assimilation of peoples (I don’t see any Japanese language courses, assistance with credit and housing, faster tracks to naturalization, and heaven forbid anything outlawing NJ discrimination!).  Just a longer tenure for you to make your own ends meet without being booted out after three or so years.

Given the GOJ’s record at designing policies that make Japan’s labor market pretty hermetic (including ludicrous requirements for Permanent Residency, unreasonable “up-or-out” hurdles for NJ such as health-care workers, and bribes to send unwanted workers “home”), at this stage I don’t see how this is necessarily anything different from the “revolving door” labor market pretty much already in place, except with higher value-added workers this time.

Maybe I’m just getting too cynical.  But let’s wait and see.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

“Point system planned for immigration policy”
Asahi Shinbun Jan 20, 2010
, Courtesy of Yokohama John
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201001200284.html

To prepare for the expected population decline, the Justice Ministry plans to welcome highly educated professional foreign workers, but it will make entry tougher for descendants of Japanese.

The planned new immigration policy, based on a point system, is intended to maintain Japan’s future economic growth by taking in more skilled foreigners, such as researchers, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

These measures were featured in a report submitted Tuesday to Justice Minister Keiko Chiba by an advisory group on immigration control policy. The group, the fifth of its kind, is chaired by Tsutomu Kimura, an adviser at the education ministry.

The Justice Ministry is expected to review the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law and related laws and ordinances, and submit a revision bill to the Diet as early as next year.

A point system for skilled workers has already been introduced in countries like Britain and Canada.

By grading would-be workers in Japan based on their education levels, professional skills, qualifications, work experience, incomes and other criteria, the Justice Ministry will recognize those above a certain level as highly skilled workers.

Those recognized will receive preferential treatment, such as longer periods of stay in Japan, as well as permanent residency status after five years of living in Japan, instead of the usual 10.

But the ministry plans to establish more rigorous entry requirements for foreign nationals of Japanese descent.

At the request of the business community in need of labor, the immigration control law was revised in 1990 to grant residence status–without employment restrictions–to second- and third-generation Japanese. That led to a steady inflow of unskilled workers, mainly from Brazil and Peru.

But now, unemployment has become a serious problem among these nikkeijin, as manufacturers have closed factories amid dwindling demand in the struggling economy.

In admitting foreign citizens of Japanese descent, the Justice Ministry plans to require “an ability to make a living in Japan on their own” by, for example, having secured employment beforehand.

The ministry later intends to demand of the nikkeijin “a certain level of proficiency in the Japanese language” through a certification exam or other measures.
ENDS
Original Japanese follows:
////////////////////////////////////////////////

外国人受け入れにポイント制、専門技術者ら優遇 法務省
2010年1月20日3時16分
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0120/TKY201001190542.html

法務省は19日、新たな出入国管理政策として、専門知識や技術を持つ外国人に資格や年収に応じた点数をつけ、高得点者を入国や永住許可で優遇する「ポイント制」を導入する方針を固めた。将来の人口減を見据え、研究者や医師といった専門家の受け入れを進めて経済成長力を維持するのが目的だ。

一方で、最近の景気悪化で失業や生活苦が問題になっている出稼ぎ目的の日系人については、入国要件を厳しくする方向で制度を改める。

法相の私的懇談会「第5次出入国管理政策懇談会」(座長=木村孟・文部科学省顧問)が19日、千葉景子法相に報告書を提出。これを受け、同省が出入国管理法や政令の見直しの検討に入った。早ければ来年の通常国会に入管法改正案を提出する。

外国人のポイント制は英国、カナダ、オーストラリアなどが導入している。日本が対象として想定しているのは研究者や医師のほか、弁護士、技術者、企業経営者など。学歴や資格、職歴、年収などに応じて点数をつけ、一定水準を超えた人を「高度人材」と認定。在留期間を通常より長く認めたり、原則として滞在10年で認める永住許可を5年で認めるなどの優遇措置を与える。

日系人の入国、在留許可にあたっては、就職先が確保されているなどの「独立して生計を営む能力」を要件とする方向。また、将来的には検定試験などを整備した上で「一定の日本語能力」も課す方針だ。日系人の入国は1990年の入管法改正で急増し、現在はブラジル人とペルー人を合わせて約36万人が滞在している。(延与光貞)

ENDS

Japan Times Amy Chavez comes unglued with weird “Japan Lite” column: “How about a gaijin circus in gazelle land?”

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. One column I’ve always skipped in the Japan Times has been Amy Chavez’s “Japan Lite”. I have never found it interesting, and its attempts at humor are at best cloying if not corn-pone ignorant.   Kinda reminds me of the old “Beetle Bailey” or “Hagar the Horrible” cartoons published in my local newspaper that hadn’t been funny for years; I always wondered why they kept printing them. Force of habit, I guess.

But last week’s Chavez column, submitted by alert Debito.org Reader LW, had both LW and me scratching our heads as to what Chavez was smoking when she wrote it.   As LW wrote, “I know it’s meant to be taken with a grain of salt, but there are a few underlying preconceptions there that just made me feel uncomfortable.”

I too know it’s supposed to be a “Lite” column (more filler, and no taste!), but even leaving aside its repeated use of a racial epithet in the name of childish play, I’m not sure I understand the premise of this meandering column just in terms of logic.  Where gaijin (yes, anyone not Japanese) are descendants of “cavemen” while Japanese come from, er, “gazelles”??  And then we somehow develop that into a metaphor of a “gaijin circus”?  Not kidding. Read on.

Seems like living in Japan has somehow broken Chavez’s brain. Then again, I’ve seen it happen before, many times. Doesn’t mean the Japan Times has to print it, however. Force of habit, I guess. But I reckon they could trim this fat from the paper and it would hardly be missed.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

////////////////////////////////////////
JAPAN LITE
How about a gaijin circus in gazelle land? (excerpt)
By AMY CHAVEZ
The Japan Times: Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010, Courtesy of LW

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100116cz.html

The other day, my husband bought a shirt at Uniqlo. “Wow, the sleeves are long enough!” he marveled. Clothes in Japan are getting bigger and even now foreigners can almost wear them. But there was still a problem. The arms of the shirt were too tight. This confirms a suspicion I have long had about the Japanese people — they are descendants of gazelles.

Now, this may be contrary to what you have heard, that the original Japanese people were descended from heaven. Hell no.

Consider that gazelles and the Japanese share some striking similarities: They are both fine boned and graceful and the females have pretty little feet with high heels, making them look like they are tip-toeing along. Now, put a cow next to the gazelle and you have us gaijin.

A crowd of Japanese people looks tidy but a crowd of beefy foreigners looks like a stampede. The Japanese, with their long, elegant limbs and quiet demeanor cannot possibly be descendants of the caveman.

Upon some careful research on the habits of gazelles, I found that mountain gazelles eat easily digestible plants and leaves. It’s no wonder that these are the same things you’ll find at a traditional Japanese restaurant: kuwai (arrowhead buds), ginko nuts, mitsuba leaves, shiso leaves, and even chrysanthemum leaves.

But wait, you protest, gazelles are from Africa! Well, why do you think it’s called the Japanese “race”? Because they raced here from Africa during the Jomon Period to escape the hot, dry conditions of the African continent. Once here, they adapted and became mountain dwellers.

Sometimes it seems that we foreigners, descendants of the caveman, are a species unto ourselves. Living in Japan for us can sometimes feel like a circus, with all the attention and curiosity given to our movements…

Rest at

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100116cz.html

Racist statements from Xenophobe Dietmember Hiranuma re naturalized J Dietmember

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Here we go again. Pet Xenophobe Dietmember Hiranuma Takeo (who is so far out there he won’t, or can’t, run under the LDP banner) has once again said something nasty about foreigners. Or at least people he still considers to be “foreigners”. Read on, comment from me follows the Japanese Sankei article:

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

◆Ex-minister Hiranuma says lawmaker Renho is ‘not originally Japanese’
OKAYAMA, Japan, Jan. 18 2010 KYODO NEWS

http://home.kyodo.co.jp/modules/fstStory/index.php?storyid=480954
and http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2010/01/18/4576412.htm

OKAYAMA, Japan, Jan. 18_(Kyodo) _ Former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Sunday criticized remarks made by House of Councillors member Renho in November in trying to slash budget allocations for the supercomputer development by pointing to the fact that the politician, who goes by a single name, is a naturalized Japanese.

“I don’t want to say this, but she is not originally Japanese,” said the former Liberal Democratic Party member during a speech before his supporters in Okayama City. “She was naturalized, became a Diet member, and said something like that,” the independent House of Representatives member continued.

Hiranuma was referring to the high-profile remarks made by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan member, who asked during a debate with bureaucrats, “Why must (Japan) aim to (develop) the world’s No. 1 (supercomputer)? What’s wrong with being the world’s No. 2?” The remarks have been broadcast repeatedly on TV as a symbolic image of the DPJ-led government’s efforts to cut wasteful spending.

The remarks were “not appropriate for a politician,” Hiranuma said, adding that Japan, as a country aiming to be a science technology power, “must have the budget for (developing) the world’s No. 1 (supercomputer).” He later told reporters he did not intend to say anything discriminatory and what he meant was that politicians should not engage in “sensational politics that ring the bell with TV broadcasters.” According to Renho’s website, she was born in 1967 as the child of a Taiwanese father and a Japanese mother, and switched her citizenship from Taiwanese to Japanese in 1985.

Renho’s office told Kyodo News on Monday that the lawmaker would not make any comment on Hiranuma’s remarks because she did not hear them directly.

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

「もともと日本人じゃない」 平沼氏が蓮舫氏を批判
2010.1.18  産經新聞 Courtesy of AS
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/politics/situation/100118/stt1001181234002-n1.htm
平沼赳夫元経済産業相(衆院岡山3区)が岡山市で17日に開かれた後援会パーティーのあいさつで、政府の事業仕分けで注目された民主党の蓮舫参院議員について「言いたくないけれども、もともと日本人じゃない。帰化して国会議員になって事業仕分けでそんなことを言っている」などと発言した。
蓮舫議員の事務所は18日、取材に「内容を確認してから判断したい」としている。ホームページによると、蓮舫議員は昭和60年に日本国籍を取得している。
平沼氏は次世代スーパーコンピューター開発事業の仕分けで、蓮舫議員が「世界1位でなければ駄目なのか」と発言したことを「政治家として不謹慎だ」と指摘。「科学技術立国の予算は世界1位じゃなきゃいけない。つけを払わされるのは有権者だ」と強調した。
パーティー終了後、平沼氏は記者団に「差別と取ってもらっては困る。テレビ受けするセンセーショナルな政治は駄目だ」と説明した。

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

平沼赳夫氏:蓮舫議員の仕分け批判「元々日本人じゃない」

毎日新聞 2010年1月17日

http://mainichi.jp/select/seiji/news/20100118k0000m010058000c.html

平沼赳夫元経済産業相(岡山3区)は17日、岡山市内で開いた政治資金パーティーのあいさつで政府の事業仕分けを批判し、仕分け人を務めた民主党の蓮舫参院議員について「元々日本人じゃない」と発言した。

平沼氏はあいさつの中で、次世代スーパーコンピューター開発費の仕分けで蓮舫議員が「世界一になる理由があるのか。2位では駄目なのか」と質問したことは「政治家として不謹慎だ」とし、「言いたくないが、言った本人は元々日本人じゃない」と発言。「キャンペーンガールだった女性が帰化して日本の国会議員になって、事業仕分けでそんなことを言っている。そんな政治でいいのか」と続けた。

平沼氏はパーティー終了後の取材に対し、「差別と取ってもらうと困る。日本の科学技術立国に対し、テレビ受けするセンセーショナルな政治は駄目だということ。彼女は日本国籍を取っており人種差別ではない」と説明した。

蓮舫議員のウェブサイトによると、蓮舫議員は67年、台湾人の父と日本人の母の間に生まれた。当時は父親が日本人の場合にしか日本国籍を取得できなかったが、改正国籍法施行後の85年に日本国籍を取得した。【石川勝義】

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

COMMENT:  Well, people will stoop to anything to delegitimize a person’s opinion, won’t they?  Even question their ability to put their country’s needs first if they have NJ roots?  Well, as a fellow naturalized Japanese, I say:  Fuck you very much, Takeo.  Given your family history as an adopted son of the family name, I question your ability to represent Japan’s Blue-Blooded Elites as you claim to do.

There’s a reason for my intemperance.  This is not the first time Hiranuma has resorted to bigotry and ignorance to take cheap shots at an internationalizing Japan.

Consider Hiranuma’s rallying with the alarmists to try and deny Permanent Residents from getting local suffrage in 2009.  (Bonus points for irony:  It’s his camp which usually says that PRs should naturalize if they want suffrage.  Then he says the above; clearly naturalization is irrelevant to him.)

Consider Hiranuma’s opposition in 2008 to a bill plugging paternity loopholes in Japan’s Nationality Laws (which he fortunately could not stop) because it would dilute “Japan’s identity”.

Consider Hiranuma’s alarmism rallying against passing a Human Rights Bill in 2006 since it would lead to “totalitarianism of the developed countries” (which his camp unfortunately probably did manage to stop).

And consider Hiranuma’s belief that a female Empress might let a NJ in to sully The Royal Womb:

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

The Japan Times Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006
Female on throne could marry foreigner, Hiranuma warns
The Associated Press

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060202a2.html
Dozens of conservative lawmakers and their supporters Wednesday attacked a proposal to let females and their descendents ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, warning the move threatens a centuries-old tradition — and could even allow foreign blood into the Imperial line.

The lawmakers, led by former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma, are fighting a bill being drafted by the government to avert a succession crisis in the Imperial family by allowing reigning empresses and their descendents.

Females have been barred from the throne since the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and a 1947 law further restricted ascension to males from the male line. No woman has reigned in more than 200 years.

The Imperial family has not produced a male heir since the 1960s and public support has been growing for a change in the law to allow Princess Aiko, the only child Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, to ascend to the throne.

Hiranuma, however, warned the reform could corrupt the Imperial line, which he said has been the supreme symbol of Japanese national and ethnic identity for centuries.

“If Aiko becomes the reigning empress and gets involved with a blue-eyed foreigner while studying abroad and marries him, their child may be the emperor,” Hiranuma told about 40 lawmakers, academics and supporters at a Tokyo hall. “We should never let that happen.”

Despite the overwhelming public support for the reform, traditionalists have stepped up a campaign to quash the move — going so far as to propose bringing back concubines to breed male descendants as was done until the Taisho Era (1912-1926). Others have argued the aristocracy, banned after World War II, should be reinstated as a way of broadening the pool of candidates for the throne.

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

COMMENT CONTINUES:  This video-nasty of a person is in my view unfit for national office.  Unfortunately, his constituency did not agree.  He got comfortably reelected in Okayama as an independent last August.  I’d say that’s Okayama’s shame, but Hokkaido reelects shameful politicians too (think Suzuki Muneo).

Let’s hope the media takes Hiranuma to task like the media did somewhat for a similar-style othering of TV personality Takigawa Christel (unrelated to Hiranuma, but same genre).  Japan’s future has no use for people like him.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

On the 15th anniversary of the Kobe Earthquake: My first activism in Japan: Eyewitness essays when I volunteered down there

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As the Japanese media has been blitzing lately (dovetailing with the events in Haiti, although NHK refuses to put it as top news when there are Center Shikens affecting Japanese students out there), yesterday, January 17, was the fifteenth anniversary of the Kobe/Awajishima Earthquake that claimed over 6000 lives.

The Kobe Quake has special significance for me personally.  A third of my life ago, I was so enraged by the GOJ irresponsibility (an NHK program last night from 9PM cataloging the science behind the 15-second temblor still refused to mention how the highway overpasses also collapsed because of shoddy construction work (tenuki kouji); commentators blamed it all on sea sand vs. mountain sand) that I went down to Kobe for a couple of weeks at my own time and expense to help out as a volunteer.  I of course wrote the events up, and they are amongst my first essays charting my nascent activism in Japan.  Here are links to them all:

Artery site:

http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#kobequake

Thoughts just after it happened:
http://www.debito.org/kobequakeone.html

My eyewitness account going there:
http://www.debito.org/kobequakenarrative.html

Stupid Economist editorial on the event, with my letter to the editor:
http://www.debito.org/kobequakeeconomisteditorial.jpg
http://www.debito.org/kobequakeeconomistletter.jpg

Letters to the editor both as critical opinion and as eyewitness reports which got sanitized when published in the Hokkaido Shinbun (all at artery site):
http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#kobequake

Opinions as on the aftermath in the Western media:
http://www.debito.org/kobequakeupdate.html
http://www.debito.org/kobequakeupdate2.html

In sum, the Kobe Quake gave me a major reason to stay in Japan:  I found fellow activist types who went down in the freezing cold to help out as best they could, for no other reason than because it gave them an inner glow as human beings.  That glow is still with me today, and it brought to an end the previous feelings I had about Japanese society (thanks to a stint as a Japanese businessman), where everyone was an economic animal and nobody cared about anyone else as long as they accrued wealth to themselves.  Interpersonally, I was wrong, and Kobe proved it.

But it was also my first taste of media-manufactured consent and control of public opinion.  Even fifteen years on, it’s a pity the media is still unwilling to face the truth and expose the people who made it worse through their negligence.

Enjoy the time capsule.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Sunday Tangent: Economist excerpt on being foreign

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Hi Blog.  In its Xmas Special of December 19, 2009, The Economist (London) had a long and thoughtful essay on what it’s like to be foreign, and how “it is becoming both easier and more difficult to experience the thrill of being an outsider”.

It opens with:

FOR the first time in history, across much of the world, to be foreign is a perfectly normal condition. It is no more distinctive than being tall, fat or left-handed. Nobody raises an eyebrow at a Frenchman in Berlin, a Zimbabwean in London, a Russian in Paris, a Chinese in New York.

The desire of so many people, given the chance, to live in countries other than their own makes nonsense of a long-established consensus in politics and philosophy that the human animal is best off at home. Philosophers, it is true, have rarely flourished in foreign parts: Kant spent his whole life in the city of Königsberg; Descartes went to Sweden and died of cold. But that is no justification for generalising philosophers’ conservatism to the whole of humanity.

Inter alia, it asserted:

The well-off, the artistic, the bored, the adventurous went abroad. (The broad masses went too, as empires, steamships and railways made travel cheaper and easier.) Foreignness was a means of escape—physical, psychological and moral. In another country you could flee easy categorisation by your education, your work, your class, your family, your accent, your politics. You could reinvent yourself, if only in your own mind. You were not caught up in the mundanities of the place you inhabited, any more than you wanted to be. You did not vote for the government, its problems were not your problems. You were irresponsible. Irresponsibility might seem to moralists an unsatisfactory condition for an adult, but in practice it can be a huge relief.

It even devoted more than a paragraph specifically to Japan’s offer of foreignness:

The most generally satisfying experience of foreignness—complete bafflement, but with no sense of rejection—probably comes still from time spent in Japan. To the foreigner Japan appears as a Disneyland-like nation in which everyone has a well-defined role to play, including the foreigner, whose job it is to be foreign. Everything works to facilitate this role-playing, including a towering language barrier. The Japanese believe their language to be so difficult that it counts as something of an impertinence for a foreigner to speak it. Religion and morality appear to be reassuringly far from the Christian, Islamic or Judaic norms. Worries that Japan might Westernise, culturally as well as economically, have been allayed by the growing influence of China. It is going to get more Asian, not less.

Even in Japan, however, foreigners have ceased to function as objects of veneration, study and occasionally consumption…

What do readers think about this model for “foreignness” in Japan.  That everyone has a role and for the NJ it is to be foreign, and we are impertinent to speak it?  etc.

The entire article of course is worth a read. See it at:

Being foreign

The others

Dec 17th 2009
From The Economist print edition

It is becoming both easier and more difficult to experience the thrill of being an outsider

http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108690

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 16, 2010

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 16, 2010

Table of Contents:
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
DISCUSSIONS
1) Query: What to do about J children being rude towards NJ adults? (also Debito.org Poll on the subject)
2) Discussion: KFC Australia’s “racist” CM vs McD Japan’s “Mr James”
3) NZ publisher prints “Tales of Gaijin”; I have to withdraw submission due to rubric I cannot accept

UPDATES
4) Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients
5) GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine becomes a “Taboo” topic in a 2007 magazine, victimizing J publisher
6) A Debito.org Reader updates on Toyoko Inn’s discriminatory treatment of NJ clients
7) Asahi Shinbun Jan 8 “Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention” on Child Abductions issue, still mentions NJ “DV concerns”
8 ) Mainichi: New real estate guarantor service set up for NJ residents

WEIRD STUFF
9) Getchan on Japan Post’s recent anti-terrorism half-measures regarding parcels
10) DNA checks of “hakujin” at my university (?!?)

… and finally …
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Jan 5 with my top ten NJ human rights issues for 2009

read aloud in
DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JANUARY 10, 2010

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

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates and RSS at www.debito.org, Podcasts at iTunes
Freely Forwardable

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

DISCUSSIONS

1) Query: What to do about J children being rude towards NJ adults? (also Debito.org Poll on the subject)

Got a question from Debito.org Reader Kimberly who wrote this to The Community yahoogroups list yesterday. About kids in Japan who are rude (if not unwittingly racist) towards NJ adults, and they are not cautioned or taught not to be so by surrounding J adults? What do other Readers think or do?

Kimberly: Hello everyone, I’ve been meaning to ask for some advice on this for awhile — how do you deal with it when you get asked something inappropriate or hear a discriminatory comment from a child too young to have any real malicious intent? As my own kids get older I’m finding more and more situations where a child just has to give a smart-alecky HARO! or ask if we’re going to commute to yochien by airplane — and I’m torn between not wanting to hurt the kid’s feelings when I KNOW a four year old probably isn’t trying to be mean, and wanting to teach them something because I may be the only one who ever tries. If they just imitate what their parents or TV tells them to do, the next generation won’t be any more open-minded than this one.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5738

(Blog poll on the subject in the right-hand column of any Debito.org blog page)

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

2) Discussion: KFC Australia’s “racist” CM vs McD Japan’s “Mr James”

Funny thing, this. We get KFC Australia doing a hasty retreat from its controversial commercial days after it goes viral on YouTube, and pulling it pretty quickly.

Now contrast with the ad campaign by another American-origin fast-food multinational, McDonalds. For those who don’t know, between August and November of last year McDonalds Japan had that White gaijin stereotype “Mr James” speaking katakana and portraying NJ as touristy outsiders who never fit in. More on what I found wrong with that ad campaign here.

Yet the “Mr James” ad campaign never got pulled. In fact, the reaction of some Asians in the US was, “Karma’s a bitch”, as in White people in Japan deserve this sort of treatment because of all the bad treatment they’ve foisted on Asians overseas in the past. Still others argue that we can’t expect Japan to understand the history of other countries, or how they feel about certain sentiments found overseas, and one shouldn’t foist their cultural values onto other cultures (this argument usually pops up when one sees minstrel blackface shows etc in Japan). This argument was also made in comments to this blog as well.

But KFC pulls the ad, in contrast to “Mr James”, where people rushed to defend it in the name of cultural relativism. Why the difference?

I’m not saying I have the answer to this question. So I bring it up for discussion here on Debito.org. What do readers think?

http://www.debito.org/?p=5689

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

3) NZ publisher prints “Tales of Gaijin”; I have to withdraw submission due to rubric I cannot accept

I was invited a little over a year ago to submit two stories to a NZ publisher, a new place called Fine Line Press, run by a jolly decent fellow I know (former head of the Tokyo Chapter of JALT) named Graham Bathgate. One story was on the Otaru Onsens Case, the other on the Top Five Things I Like About Japan. I knew the person, was happy to oblige, and we exchanged some story drafts until satisfaction about the submissions were reached on both sides.

However, in August I heard that the book would be published under the rubric of “Foreign Tales from Japan” (actually, they were originally punning on the “Tales of Genji” to make “Tales of Gaijin”. Ick). Alas, I am not a foreigner in Japan, and I said I did not want my stories to be included either under this rubric or within this concept. I have, naturally, very strong feelings about being treated as a foreigner in Japan, and I do not like publishers (and former long-termers in Japan, such as Graham) exporting the binary “Japanese vs. Gaijin” mindset to media overseas. We have enough trouble dealing with it over here without it being propagated in more liberal societies (such as NZ). Graham, IMHO, should know better, and should publish better.

So I protested and asked the rubric to be changed or my writing withdrawn. After several months of silence, I got the final word: The rubric would stand. Okay. Sad to see.

But I’m not one to let things like this go. I feel the publisher wound up pigeonholing me through imported racist paradigms. Should be known about. Here’s the main correspondence we had, for the record.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5725

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

UPDATES

4) Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients

While doing research over the new year, I got quite a shock when I was doing some followup on a case of exclusionary practices. I reported on Debito.org in September 2007 that Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website was advertising 35 hotels that refused NJ clients. This is one of the few business sectors that actually has explicit laws preventing refusals of customers based upon nationality alone (thanks to the Hotel Management Law), so when a government agency is even promoting “Japanese Only” hotels, you know something is rum indeed.

What’s even more rum is that even after I advised the Tourist Information Agency that what they were doing is unlawful, and they promised in writing to stop doing it, now two years later the same website is now promoting 318 (!!) hotels that refuse NJ clients. You can’t help but get the feeling that you have been lied to, and by government bureaucrats.

A brief write up, with links to sources, follows. At the very bottom are screen captures of the FTIA website evidencing the exclusionary practices.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5619

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

5) GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine becomes a “Taboo” topic in a 2007 magazine, victimizing J publisher

A magazine on “Taboos”, sent to me more than two years ago, tells the story of the reactionary gaijin who took the “Gaijin Hanzai Ura File” mook to task for the lies and hate speech it was spreading on convenience store newsstands nationwide (substantiation of that all here). And portrays that pitifully misunderstod publisher, Eichi Shuppan Inc., which went bankrupt within two months of releasing that mook, as victim.

It has quotes from me (even of me laughing) that it never garnered through any interviews (they apparently talked to Eichi, but I received no communication from this publication), and shows me as some sort of fearsome activist (thanks, I guess). It of course offers no counterarguments to Eichi’s spurious published assertions, for example about the rise of NJ crime (I would have given those counterarguments if they’d only asked), accepting their assertions at face value. And of course we have no real debate on whether or not the book was actually telling the truth or not (obviously, as I argued in many venues, it wasn’t). For all the research they did pulling my written quotes out of context, they didn’t cite my questions of the veracity of the portrayals that assiduously at all.

In other words, it’s a debate that once again favors and victimizes Team Japan. Those poor victimized convenience stores responding to public pressure (yeah, like that worked for “Mr James”; McDonald’s basically ignored us). It couldn’t just be that the stores carrying the mook were convinced by our arguments about its exaggerated and errant claims and hateful tone now, could it? Naw, Japanese lost to the foreigners, therefore the foreigners didn’t fight fair. And now because of that, we have yet another “taboo” that hurts We Japaneses’ Freedom of Speech. Hardly a “taboo” here. You overdid it, and lost the debate. That’s all.

http://www.debito.org/?p=601

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

6) A Debito.org Reader updates on Toyoko Inn’s discriminatory treatment of NJ clients

I’ve reported on nationwide bargain business hotel chain Toyoko Inn before, regarding their lousy treatment of me at check-in back in 2007 (when they decided to gaijinize me, and quite nastily too; my letter of complaint to HQ went unanswered), and for refusing reservations for other NJ if they don’t produce Gaijin Cards (something they are not entitled to do under laws governing Immigration or hotels). Not to mention their lousy treatment of handicapped guests (receiving GOJ subsidies earmarked for barrier-free facilities and spending it on other things). It’s a place I’ll never stay at again.

Now for an update. Over the past couple of days, a Debito.org Reader who calls himself The Shark has been sending us good reports on Toyoko Inn as comments that deserve a blog entry of their own. We aim to please. Other people with experiences (Doug also commented, and I’ll repost that too) at Toyoko, feel free.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5716

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

7) Asahi Shinbun Jan 8 “Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention” on Child Abductions issue, still mentions NJ “DV concerns”

New article in the Asahi re the GOJ and the Child Abductions Issue re signing the Hague Convention. As submitter PT comments:

“Note the Red Herring of Domestic Violence thrown out by Justice Minister Chiba in the last sentence. Interesting how the Japanese Government refuses to involve their justice ministry in talks with the US, yet they are quick to put forward a quote from the Justice Minister when pushing back on reasons against signing the Hague.” Article follows.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5696

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

8 ) Mainichi: New real estate guarantor service set up for NJ residents

Mainichi: A Tokyo non-profit organization has set up a new real estate guarantor service for foreign residents negotiating Japan’s notoriously discriminative housing system.

The service, the first of its kind, is set up by the Information Center for Foreigners in Japan and will start offering guarantor services in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures in South Korean and Chinese later this month. The services will later be expanded to cover people from English-speaking countries.

The service was set up after a 2006 questionnaire showed that foreign residents in Tokyo were visiting an average of 15 real estate agents [!!!} before finding a landlord willing to lease a home to them. Common excuses given were language problems, different lifestyle habits and fears over non-payment of rent…

http://www.debito.org/?p=5703

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

WEIRD STUFF

9) Getchan on Japan Post’s recent anti-terrorism half-measures regarding parcels

Getchan reports on his latest tribulations at the Japan Post Office, where he talks about recent measures they’ve taken to foil terrorism that are not all that well-thought-through. Not an issue that’s necessarily “NJ-related”, but for those who use the posts, here you go.

Excerpt: Next day, I found a form letter in my P.O.Box, informing me that both items had been sent surface and would thus be delayed by a day or two.

I went to see the postmaster to tell him, that this was totally useless, as — except for imminent, clear and present danger — Japan Post employees are not authorized to open and check the mail for contents.

Postmaster: “These are the new rules, airlines won’t accept parcels and flat rate envelopes for air transport, if the contents are not noted on the outside”

Me: “But they get X-rayed anyway”

Postmaster: “NO, they DON’T!” (now, was he supposed to tell me that???)

My conclusion — potential and active terrorists in Japan can be trusted in this country. If they wanted to mail a bomb and blow up a plane that way, they would have to mark “bomb” on the parcel, and that would thwart their efforts, would it not? Japanese authorities have everything under control and would be able to sort out any flat rate envelope marked “Bomb”, while the CIA lets known suspects slip thru…

http://www.debito.org/?p=5638

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

10) DNA checks of “hakujin” at my university (?!?)

It’s currently exam time (I did more than 110 individual 20-minute oral interviews over the two weeks). And right in the middle of them we have this singular event:

One of my co-workers is this medical researcher who fancies himself internationalized, cos he says “hello” to me as we pass in the corridors (I answer back konnichiwa, of course). Well, yesterday, right in between two interviews, he pops in my office with a student saying he has a favor to ask (and sidles up to me as if it’s a given that I will oblige — his students had several vials in his hand all ready for my obliging).

Sez he (in Japanese): “We need a strand of your hair please…”

http://www.debito.org/?p=5742

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

… and finally …

11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Jan 5 with my top ten NJ human rights issues for 2009

read aloud in
DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JANUARY 10, 2010
http://www.debito.org/?p=5561

Human rights in Japan: a top 10 for ’09

JUST BE CAUSE Column 24/ZEIT GIST Column 53 for the Japan Times Community Page

The Japan Times January 5, 2010
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20100105ad.html
Also online at http://www.debito.org/?p=5660

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

That’s all for this month! Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 16, 2010 ENDS

Saturday Tangent: DNA checks of “hakujin” at my university (?!?)

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Hi Blog.  As a Saturday Tangent, let me relate something rather funny that happened to me two days ago at my workplace, a university (i.e., Hokkaido Information University, Ebetsu, Hokkaido):

It’s currently exam time (I did more than 110 individual 20-minute oral interviews over the past two weeks, which may explain my recent short-temperedness over things like overseas racist publishers).  And right in the middle of them we have this singular event.

One of my co-workers is this medical researcher who fancies himself internationalized, cos he says “hello” to me as we pass in the corridors (I answer back こんにちは, of course).   Well, yesterday, right in between two interviews, he pops in my office with a student saying he has a favor to ask (and sidles up to me as if it’s a given that I will oblige — his students had several vials in his hand all ready for my obliging).

Sez he (in Japanese): “We need a strand of your hair please. We’re conducting experiments.”

When I backed off a bit with amusement and asked what for, he said, “We will keep the results private, but we need to do some DNA tests.”

When I asked whatever for, and why me, he said, “We’re testing for a special “wild gene” (yes, he said that, in English) that white people (hakujin) have.”

I said, sorry, find yourself another hakujin. They slunk out.

You’d think they’d know by now not to bother a person like me with stuff like that. But no.  (And I just checked with one other “hakujin” in my school — he didn’t get asked.  So double points for effrontery.)

Anyway, the use of the “hakujin” here is what set me off. But then again, so would “gaikokujin” (especially since it would have been incorrect; they knew that much). In fact, any word would have set me off. The request to be guinea-pigged thusly for whatever reason was something I found quite offensive.

What a funny situation! No doubt my friend Olaf will say (as he should), “Why does this stuff keep happening to Debito?!”  Guess it’s my fate here in Japan.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Query: What to do about J children being rude towards NJ adults?

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Got a question from Debito.org Reader Kimberly who wrote this to The Community yahoogroups list yesterday. About kids in Japan who are rude (if not unwittingly racist) towards NJ adults, and they are not cautioned or taught not to be so by surrounding J adults? What do other Readers think or do? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Kimberly writes:

Hello everyone, I’ve been meaning to ask for some advice on this for awhile… how do you deal with it when you get asked something inappropriate or hear a discriminatory comment from a child too young to have any real malicious intent? As my own kids get older I’m finding more and more situations where a child just has to give a smart-alecky HARO! or ask if we’re going to commute to yochien by airplane… and I’m torn between not wanting to hurt the kid’s feelings when I KNOW a four year old probably isn’t trying to be mean, and wanting to teach them something because I may be the only one who ever tries. If they just imitate what their parents or TV tells them to do, the next generation won’t be any more open-minded than this one. :S

Twice in the past couple of weeks this kind of thing has happened, and I dont think I handled either very well. The first was at my son’s swim class, an older child getting dressed for the class after his “whispered” (loudly enough to be heard across the room) to his mom “Hey mom, that woman looks like an English-person (eigo no hito, not a person from England) but she’s speaking Japanese!” The mom shushed him and gave me an apologetic look… which is better I suppose than encouraging it, but she didn’t come back with “Skin color has nothing to do with what language(s) a person can or can’t speak,” so I kind of wish I’d said something…. but would it have been inappropriate to try to discipline someone else’s kid?

The second was at the community center over winter vacation, a girl probably about 7 or 8 years old asked “Did you come from a foreign country?” And I said “Nope, I came from [town where I live]” Probably a good smart-alecky comment for an older kid or adult who knows better… but I probably could have actually told the kid that that was an inappropriate question instead of just leaving her confused.

With adults I’m so used to ignoring the person completely, or coming back with “If you’re looking for English lessons, there’s an Aeon in Parco” or something…. that’s probably not the best approach with kids, since they’re still young enough to learn to be more colorblind. I don’t know… my son’s about to start yochien so I’m sure there will only be more opportunities, any suggestions on how to be a POSITIVE influence on these kids, not by teaching them English or the history of Halloween, but by giving them an example of a mixed family who’s just… a normal family after all?

Thanks in advice for any suggestions. 🙂 Kimberly
//////////////////////////////////////////////

Andrew Smallacombe, fellow Debito.org Reader, replies:

//////////////////////////////////////////////
Great question, Kimberly.

My eldest (ethnic Japanese mother, Caucasian father) goes to a regular kindergarten, which means that I occassionally have to go there. Fortunately, she has responded to kids’ questions on my behalf – “Are you a foreigner?”
“No, he’s from Australia.”

I have chewed out little kids on occassion.

I remember back 5 or so years ago when I was still at Nova. A particularly obnoxious kid responded to my instructions with “urusai, gaijin!” (“shut up, foreigner!”). I chewed him out there and then, and followed up with the procedures in place. Nothing was made of it.

A little over a year ago I took a complete stranger to task.
Two young kids, I assume brother and sister, were approaching me as I was returning home. The little boy suddenly burst out repeatedly “Taiheiyo sensotte nani?” (“What’s the Pacific War?”)
I ignored him, and the girl told him to stop because it was rude. He told her that it didn’t matter because I was a gaijin.
I turned around and blasted him for being rude, making racist comments and assuming that I wouldn’t be able to understand him.
I immediately smiled to the girl and told her everything was alright, and she seemed fine.
In hindsight, I would have liked to have handled this better, but I’ve run out of patience for this kind of thing.

I put part of the blame for the trouble we experience now on TV. Have you seen some of the images of foreign nationals on kids TV programming? NHK Educational boasts cartoons featuring big-nosed foreigners who speak in weird accents. A current early-evening show aimed at primary school kids depicts caucasians as lazy slobs. Earlier incarnations (which I have mentioned on this site) have featured Westerners merely as the instruments of punishment for the losing team.

And teaching a class of 7 year-olds was torture when every utterance was greeted with Taka and Toshi’s “Obei ka?”, or a “Mr. James” impression.

Kids have trouble grasping certain concepts. Like that I might actually NOT live at the school or in another country. Or that I have been living here since before they were born. This is not their fault, nor is it inherently bad.

But to think that the respect they are expected to show adults is suddenly vetoed by my ethnicity, well, that’s another matter.
ENDS
////////////////////////////////////

Other responses?

NZ publisher perpetuates “Tales of Gaijin”; I have to withdraw submission due to rubric I cannot accept

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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[NB:  Original title of this post has been amended]

Hi Blog.  I was invited a little over a year ago to submit two stories to a NZ publisher, a new place called Fine Line Press, run by a jolly decent fellow I know (former head of the Tokyo Chapter of JALT) named Graham Bathgate.  One story was on the Otaru Onsens Case, the other on the Top Five Things I Like About Japan.  I knew the person, was happy to oblige, and we exchanged some story drafts until satisfaction about the submissions were reached on both sides.

However, in August I heard that the book would be published under the rubric of “Foreign Tales from Japan” (actually, they were originally punning on the “Tales of Genji” to make “Tales of Gaijin”.  Ick).  Alas, I am not a foreigner in Japan, and I said I did not want my stories to be included either under this rubric or within this concept.  I have, naturally, very strong feelings about being treated as a foreigner in Japan, and I do not like publishers (and former long-termers in Japan, such as Graham) exporting the binary “Japanese vs. Gaijin” mindset to media overseas.  We have enough trouble dealing with it over here without it being propagated in more liberal societies (such as NZ).  Graham, IMHO, should know better, and should publish better.

So I protested and asked the rubric to be changed or my writing withdrawn.  After several months of silence, I got the final word:  The rubric would stand.  Okay.  Sad to see.

But I’m not one to let things like this go.  I feel the publisher led me down a garden path, and then wound up pigeonholing me through imported racist paradigms.  Should be known about.  Here’s the main correspondence we had, for the record.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

From: graham bathgate
Date: December 26, 2008 11:54:02 AM JST
To: debito@debito.org
Subject: Graham Bathgate here

Dear Debito, A long time ago we connect re JALT stuff, etc. Actually,
I interviewed you in a room at Sophia University (Jan. 28 ’01) and produced
a piece which unfortunately I had no outlet for. That was entitled
“Onsen in hot water won’t come clean”.

Now I wonder if you would be interested and have the time
to craft a story for a book I would like to publish in 2009. It will
be my second book, the first being a slim volume of memoirs
by an old student of mine, now 85 – called “Glimpses of Old Tokyo”.
The second book has the working title of “Tales of Gaijin” and
will be stories derived from the personal experiences of people
who have lived or still live in Japan.
I have taken the liberty of including the brief guidelines straight off
to you, knowing that you are already a very productive writer – I greatly
admired your home page and writings. Must be hugely helpful to
all people, newcomers and old-hands in Japan.
You’ll see below that there’s a limit of 2000 words on a story, but no-one’s
going to quibble about 2,500 or a bit more. The deadline for an idea for
a story is end of January, and for writing something, the end of March ’09…

Hope to hear from you soon. All the best for 2009. Graham
¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶
Guidelines in acronym form (PILLOTS) for your story about Tokyo/Japan:
PILLOTS

P – Personal experience / feelings
I –  Images – clear and concrete – of Tokyo and/or Japan
L – Lyrical (The prose should have beauty if not poetic quality)
L – Light (Story ideally shows a light side of life in Japan with serious  comment on this …… or vice versa
O – Observation (A clear event described or some thoughts about                                        Tokyo/Japan – contrast/comparison with other places OK)
T – Tokyo-based atmosphere preferred / Japan fine, too
S – Short (Not more than 2,000 words, or two or three very short “stories” adding up to that). There can be exceptions but 5,000 words would be a take-over!
¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶

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

We had a few months of drafts bouncing back and forth, arrived at finished product, then I got this update:

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

From: graham bathgate
Subject: Invitation to book launch Tokyo
Date: August 8, 2009 7:41:28 AM JST

Dear All, Please have a look at the invitation on the site ….. and tell a friend:

www.finelinepress.co.nz

Iit will be “Foreign Tales from Japan” next year.

My apologies to those of you already received something like this. Cheers, Graham

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

I immediately checked things out and sent this reply:

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

From: debito@debito.org
Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.
Date: August 8, 2009 10:04:27 AM JST
To: Graham Bathgate

Hi Graham. I’ve had a look. I am gravely disappointed by the publisher’s prospectus:

http://www.finelinepress.co.nz/foreign_tales_from_japan.html

=========================================
A colleague at the school we taught at in Tokyo said that everyone has a good story to tell, possibly very true for travellers to the Far East. Recalling this we decided to ask friends there if they would like to write about an experience in Japan. The contributions were sufficient to start work on the next book. It will be published by the end of 2009, a compilation of forty stories by foreigners who live or have lived in Japan.

The basic idea in producing this kind of book was to give a chance to people to tell their Japan experience in well-crafted story form, a tale that deserves to be recounted but perhaps wouldn’t otherwise find its way into print. The working title of the book isTales of Gaijin (after “Tale of Genji”).

It will fascinate anyone interested in how foreigners view Japan and what their unique experiences were. It is hoped that Japanese people will read these stories and reflect on the images and opinions of people who love Japan.

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

Debito continues:

“a compilation of forty stories by foreigners who live or have lived in Japan”, “how foreigners view Japan” etc

I’m not a foreigner.

“Tales of Gaijin (after “Tale of Genji”).”

This had better not be the title of the book.

If this is how the book is shaping up, I want no part of it. I never knew that this would be sold as a book by “foreigners”, worse yet “gaijin” (a racist term in the very title). Either have your publisher make the proper accommodations for long-term residents and citizens or withdraw my story. I will have no part in perpetuating racist stereotypes overseas.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(cc publisher, which worse yet looks like it’s you. You wrote this??)

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

From: Graham Bathgate
Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.
Date: August 8, 2009 11:12:34 AM JST
To: debito@debito.org

Dear Debito,
Sorry you feel the book will not shape up and be fair to all, especially to the
Japanese. All the stories have wonderful unique experiences
to tell. There are haiku and tanka, too. It is a fine collection. I would be
sad to lose your story because it gives an edge to the book which is lacking
somewhat, I feel. However, good experiences in an adopted country have
a readership, I am sure, not only among non-Japanese but also I hope
among Japanese.
The working title was the play on title “Tales of Genji”. Not the final title
at all.
What title would you suggest? I am open.
What else would you like changed? Again open.
I hope I can keep your story. It’s one of the best.
Cheers,
Graham

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

From: debito@debito.org
Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.
Date: August 8, 2009 10:28:32 PM JST
To: Graham Bathgate

Graham, I think you missed my point. You are selling this as a book with the perspectives of foreigners. What about me, then? I am not a foreigner. Can you not see the disconnect?

Titling: “Foreign Tales from Japan”, okay, but again, what about me? Not foreign. If you say it’s foreign perspectives, I’m out.

Moreover, if you use the word “gaijin” in the title, my essay is off limits. I am not a gaijin, or a gaikokujin, and I will not be associated with any work which imports and uses that binary rubric to view the world. I am a Japanese. Full stop.

Do you at least see the problem I’m talking about? I’m not talking about “fairness to all, especially to the Japanese”. I’m talking about accuracy. Calling me a foreigner is inaccurate. With me so far? If so, email back and we’ll continue this discussion.

PS: Again, did you write the book blurb below?

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

I received no answer until January 12, as in two days ago.

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

From: Graham Bathgate
Subject: Re: Launch ……. I am deeply disappointed…..
Date: January 12, 2010 6:47:17 PM JST
To: debito@debito.org

Omedetoh,
Sorry such a late reply, but Xmas or something.
Many other writers were happy as “gaijin”, so I would like to
save your “Onsen”, if I may, for another publication.

I’ll be sure to let you know about the launch of “Forty Stories of Japan”, probably
beginning of November in Tokyo, but should be out here in March.
All the best for Tiger,

Graham
============================

On 14/12/2009, at 7:32 PM, Arudou Debito wrote:

Hellooooo Graham? What’s happening with my writing, please? Debito

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

Begin forwarded message:

From: Arudou Debito
Date: August 13, 2009 9:55:43 PM JST
To: Graham Bathgate

Subject: RESEND: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.

Graham, did you get this? Debito

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

Begin forwarded message:

From: Arudou Debito
Date: August 8, 2009 10:28:32 PM JST
To: graham bathgate

Subject: Re: Invitation to book launch Tokyo — I am deeply disappointed by the publisher’s taglines.

Graham, I think you missed my point. You are selling this as a book with the perspectives of foreigners. What about me, then? I am not a foreigner. Can you not see the disconnect? … [rest of forwarded message deleted]

ENDS

Shark updates on Toyoko Inn’s discriminatory treatment of NJ clients

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  I’ve reported on nationwide bargain business hotel chain Toyoko Inn before, regarding their lousy treatment of me at check-in back in 2007 (when they decided to gaijinize me, and quite nastily too; my letter of complaint to HQ went unanswered), and for refusing reservations for other NJ if they don’t produce Gaijin Cards (something they are not entitled to do under laws governing Immigration or hotels).  Not to mention their lousy treatment of handicapped guests (embezzling GOJ subsidies earmarked for barrier-free facilities).  It’s a place I’ll never stay at again.

Now for an update.  Over the past couple of days, a Debito.org Reader who calls himself The Shark has been sending us good reports on Toyoko Inn as comments that deserve a blog entry of their own.  We aim to please.  Other people with experiences (Doug also commented, and I’ll repost that too) at Toyoko, feel free.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo, whose life is probably officially half over as of today (age 45).

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

SHARK’S REPORT BEGINS (collated), received January 11 and 12, 2010:

Summary about Toyoko-Inn hotels:
(1) They will refuse foreigners if the foreigner does not show some kind of ID.

I had exactly the same experience with this hotel chain. In my case my wife went first and explained the situation to me by phone. I had her convey that I refuse to stay at the hotel on the grounds of discrimination. The hotel then said to my wife that it’s not compulsory and seeing as I would be with my wife they would let it pass. Needless to say I wont be going to that chain again. The experience puts me off traveling in Japan.

The TOYOKO INN hotel chain (東横イン) state the following in their “Terms & Conditions for Accomodation Contract” which can be found in any of their rooms:

“Registration

The Guest shall register the following particulars at the front desk of the Hotel …
… (2) Except Japanese, nationnality, passport number, port and date of entry in Japan; (The copy of the passport is necessary) …”
or in Japanese:
“…(2) 外国人にあっては、国籍、旅券番号、入国地及び入国年月日。(確認の為、パスポートのコピーをとらせていただきます)。”

  • My (Japanese) wife checked in so we had no problems. But by chance I noticed these conditions inside the room and talked to the front staff about them (in Japanese!). Here are parts of our conversation:
  • Me: According to Japanese law you don’t need this information from foreigners living in Japan. Do you know that?
  • Staff: We know it’s not required by law. It’s just our policy.
  • Me: If I came alone (without my wife) and I didn’t show you my passport would you refuse me?
  • Staff: Yes, we would.
  • Me: But according to the Hotel Management Law coming without a passport is not a reason for refual.
  • Staff: We know that. It’s not the law. It’s just our rule.
  • Me: So your rule is above the law, right?
  • Staff: Right.
  • Me: How about foreigners living in Japan and travelling domoestically without a passport?
  • Staff: Oh, they can show their driver’s licence or some other ID.
  • Me: Why?
  • Staff: We need to confirm that their address is correct.
  • Me: Does that mean, you belive that Japanese guests dont need to show an ID because they would never lie about their address? But non-Japanese guests need to show an ID because they are more likely to lie about their address?
  • Staff: That’s the rule at our hotels. But please don’t think it’s discrimination.
  • ==> NB: She started using the word discrimination (差別) during our conversation. Because I delibarately decided not to use it!
  • Me: If I told you I were Japanese would you believe me?
  • Staff: Yes, we would.
  • Me: So how you know someone is Japanese?
  • Staff: If someone can speak Japanese , then he or she could be Japanese.
  • Me: So your decision about someone’s nationality depends on that person’s language ability?
  • Staff: Yes, that’s how we do it.

At that time I decided to discontinue the conversation before it became even weirder than it already was.

Summary about Toyoko-Inn hotels:
(1) They will refuse foreigners if the foreigner does not show some kind of ID.
(2) They use creative methods to confirm someone’s nationality.

The Shark and the Ant seem to have had a similar “Toyoko-Inn” experience.
It’s a pity they have such a policy. Because that hotel chain is quite cheap and they are all over Japan.
Their webpage and all their information is multilingual (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese).
However, I believe equal treatment matters more to foreigners than any non-Japanese language information.
I personally will not be staying at Toyoko-Inn hotels again (as long as they have such a policy in place).

One more thing:
Sometimes they don’t listen when foreigners complain.
So in my case my (Japanese) wife was kind enough to tell the front staff in front of other people that she too would not be staying there again if they didn’t treat her husband like all other people.
Suddenly they paid more attention and promised my wife that we would get a reply from the hotel management regarding that matter.
Haven’t received anything yet. But if we do get anything in writing that might be of interest to others I will post it here.

One final thing about Toyoko-Inn:
If you want to make reservation online, you need to tell them your date of birth and your citizenship. Even Japanese guests need to provide this information! Under citizenship (国籍) you can have a selection of 15 countries (including Japan). Otherwise you need to select “other countries”
So they didn’t even bother to compile a list of all countries in the world. And the logic behind their selection is incomprehensible. Slovenia is included for instance, but Russia isn’t.

You can check it out yourself. That’s their webpage:
http://www.toyoko-inn.com/eng/index.html
(of course: just for looking, not for booking!)

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

DOUG REPLIES:

First I am not saying this never happens, because obviously it does (not one of the dudes that says if it does not happen to me it does not happen). It really sucks.

I have used Toyoko Inns for over 5 years now for business and have never had this happen to me. I am usually travelling alone and on business. The locations I have used are numerous (Kofu, Kumamoto, Fujisawa, Sendai, etc.)

The reason I bring this up could there be some other type of profiling going on? I am not married to a Japanese woman and usually show up alone. I complete the check in process in Japanese and write my name in katakana and address in my feeble nihongo.

The places are cheap, clean, and have good internet connectivity and even a little breakfast in the morning. I think the best deal in Tokyo is the Toyoko at Shinagawa if you can get in.

It sucks this is happening….especially to guys that are with their wives!!!! I hope the wives are furious!

I am wondering if these events are taking place in the same locations?

Shark do you mind saying where this happened? And if you get a reply I would love to see it. I use this chain all the time.

MORE COMMENTS?  FIRE AWAY

Asahi Shinbun Jan 8 “Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention” on Child Abductions issue, still mentions NJ “DV concerns”

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Hi Blog.  New article in the Asahi re the GOJ and the Child Abductions Issue re signing the Hague Convention.  As submitter PT comments:

“Note the Red Herring of Domestic Violence thrown out by Justice Minister Chiba in the last sentence.  Interesting how the Japanese Government refuses to involve their justice ministry in talks with the US, yet they are quick to put forward a quote from the Justice Minister when pushing back on reasons against signing the Hague.”

Article follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/1/8, Courtesy of PT

http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY201001080120.html

Criticism of Japan over its handling of international child abduction disputes has prompted the Foreign Ministry to look closely at signing a convention designed to protect children caught in the middle.

The Hague Convention on international child abduction stipulates that if a parent from a broken international marriage takes a child out of his or her country of residence without the other’s consent, the child must be returned to that country.

The ministry established a task force on child custody last month and will shortly hold talks about the issue with the United States–the country with which Japan has the most disputes on this issue.

Critics in some countries say Japan has become a haven for “child abductors,” usually Japanese women who bring their children to this country and deny their spouses further custodial access.

In a high-profile case, an American father was arrested in Fukuoka Prefecture last September for trying to snatch back his two children, whom his Japanese ex-wife had brought to Japan without his consent. His arrest drew criticism from within the United States, a signatory to the Hague Convention.

As international marriages and divorces have increased, so, too, has the number of child abduction disputes.

Eighty-one countries are signatories to the 1980 convention. Japan is the only Group of Seven member that is not.

Signatory nations have urged Japan to join to resolve those disputes, and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended in 2004 that Japan ratify it.

Soon after he assumed the office in September, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada made clear his intention to study Japan’s participation “in a positive manner.”

The Division for Issues Related to Child Custody, the task force of nine officials who specialize in treaty and regional matters, addresses specific disputes while studying whether Japan should sign it.

Also in December, the ministry held the first meeting of the Japan-France consultative committee in Tokyo. The French delegation presented a list of 35 disputes, including eight “serious” cases.

In one case, a Japanese woman who brought her offspring to Japan refuses contact with her French ex-husband. Japanese officials have promised to extend liaison and other help, officials said.

According to the division, the United States had informed Japan of 73 “child abduction” cases, Canada 36 and Britain 33 as of last October.

There are hurdles to clear, however, before Japan can sign the convention. Specifically, officials want to ensure there will be protection for mothers and children who flee abusive ex-husbands.

“Victims of domestic violence have concerns,” said Justice Minister Keiko Chiba.

ENDS

Mainichi: New real estate guarantor service set up for NJ residents

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Hi Blog.  Here’s some information about Japan’s “notorious” housing rental market.  About how it takes an average of about 15 visits to a realtor before NJ can even find a place willing to rent to them!  And how the company offering guarantor services is having them pay handsomely for the services (says below about half their monthly rent up front — no small sum in places like Tokyo — plus a stipend every year thereafter).  Submitter JK adds additional commentary on how the hoshounin system makes life difficult for Japanese as well.  Time to abolish it.  It causes too many abuses and justifies discrimination.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

JK COMMENTS

Hi Debito:  Here’s some good news for the new year:

New real estate guarantor service set up for foreign residents
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20100108p2a00m0na013000c.html

家賃保証サービス:外国人向けに実施 NPOが団体設立
http://mainichi.jp/life/housing/news/20100105k0000e040081000c.html

IMO, the best part is the first sentence: “A Tokyo non-profit organization has set up a new real estate guarantor service for foreign residents negotiating Japan’s notoriously discriminative housing system.”

“Notoriously discriminative housing system” — Holy shit, some brutal honesty for a change! [NB:  Doesn’t say the same thing in the Japanese article — Ed.] Funny thing is that I was watching a show on NHK the other day that talked about old people without kids (read: guarantors) having trouble moving in due to a lack of 保証人. In fact, this has gotten to the point where the old folks are resorting to using something called 高齢者専用賃貸住宅 (a.k.a. 高専賃) to bypass the whole 保証人 requirement! Sheesh!

Anyways, allow me take the 保証サービス concept a step further for a minute — thinking out loud, I wonder how “Japanese Only” establishments would react to serving NJs if some type of  guarantor service were in place similar to the 家賃保証サービス (e.g. an 温泉保証サービス). Your thoughts?

Personally, the whole idea of 保証 (especially 家賃保証) is a turnoff for me (hey people, I am a big boy! No, really, I am! Sure, the need for 債務保証 is obvious as there’s typically non-trivial sums of money involved with loans). So I don’t find the idea of something like 温泉保証 particularly tasteful as it sets a bad precedent (i.e. the underlying assumption is essentially that the patron can’t be trusted — he/she might commit an abomination like peeing in the bath thereby causing financial harm to the establishment). That being said, if there’s a chance to paint J-only establishments that refuse clients with 保証 as engaging in ‘unrational discrimination’ (ring a bell??), I can see how the 保証 avenue *might* be worth pursuing. –JK

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

New real estate guarantor service set up for foreign residents
(Mainichi Japan) January 8, 2010, Courtesy JK

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20100108p2a00m0na013000c.html

A Tokyo non-profit organization has set up a new real estate guarantor service for foreign residents negotiating Japan’s notoriously discriminative housing system.

The service, the first of its kind, is set up by the Information Center for Foreigners in Japan and will start offering guarantor services in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures in South Korean and Chinese later this month. The services will later be expanded to cover people from English-speaking countries.

The service was set up after a 2006 questionnaire showed that foreign residents in Tokyo were visiting an average of 15 real estate agents [!!!] before finding a landlord willing to lease a home to them. Common excuses given were language problems, different lifestyle habits and fears over non-payment of rent.

Prospective lessees will pay 40-60 percent of their monthly rent as an initial payment, followed by 10,000 yen a year every subsequent year. In turn, the service provider will guarantee up to a year’s missed rent to landlords. Lessees can also receive the service provider’s information packs on living in Japan.

South Korean student Kim Yon-min, 23, says: “I’ve got friends who have been told ‘no foreigners allowed’ by real estate companies. I’m still not confident about my Japanese, so this kind of service makes me feel reassured.”

“When I first arrived in Japan, I was in trouble because no one was willing to be my guarantor,” says a 28-year-old Indonesian designer. “I think other Indonesians will ask for this kind of service.”

The Information Center for Foreigners in Japan was set up in 1995 to aid foreign victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It provides volunteer Japanese lessons, and provide information on living in Japan to the editors of newsletters in 14 languages.

Original Japanese story
===========================
家賃保証サービス:外国人向けに実施 NPOが団体設立
毎日新聞 2010年1月5日
http://mainichi.jp/life/housing/news/20100105k0000e040081000c.html
日本に住む外国人の生活支援などを行っているNPO法人「在日外国人情報センター」(東京都新宿区)が母体となり、在日外国人向けの家賃保証団体を設立し、今月中にも本格的に活動を始める。外国人に限定した家賃保証サービスはあまり例がないといい、首都圏の1都3県が対象地域。当面は韓国・中国人向けで、英語圏の人たちにも拡大する方針だ。【曽田拓】

同センターは95年の阪神大震災で被災した外国人の救援活動をきっかけに設立。現在は、中国語や韓国語、タイ語など14言語の在日外国人向け情報紙など計44メディアと連携している。センターが中心となってネットワークをつくり、東京都などからの防災情報や行政情報を各メディアに掲載する活動のほか、都の委託で外国人向けの防災訓練や語学ボランティアの研修事業も行っている。

同センターが都内在住の外国人約400人を対象に06年9月に実施したアンケートで、賃貸物件を借りるために、1人平均15軒以上の不動産業者を回っていることが判明。言語や生活習慣の違いや、「家賃を滞納されるのでは」との不安から外国人が敬遠される実態が浮かび上がった。

このため、同センターと在日中国人向け情報紙が協力し、社団法人「外国人生活サポート機構」(豊島区)をつくり、家賃保証サービスを始めることにした。提携先として、都内の不動産業者数社が名乗りを上げている。

具体的な仕組みは、提携先の不動産業者が、物件探しに訪れた外国人にサービスを紹介。借り主は、家賃1カ月分の40~60%を初回保証委託料、1年を超えるごとに追加の委託料として1万円を同機構に支払う。機構側は借り主が滞納した場合、積み立てた委託料の中から1年分を限度に保証する。さらに、家賃保証だけでなく、借り主に電子メールアドレスを登録してもらい、生活情報などを提供しながら継続的に連絡を取る。

1年前に来日した韓国人学生、金英敏(キム・ヨンミン)さん(23)は「友人にも『外国人はダメ』と不動産業者に断られた人がいる。私もまだ日本語に不安があるので、こういうサービスはうれしい」。日本に住んで5年になるというインドネシア人デザイナー(28)は「来日した当初は、保証人になってくれる人もおらず困った。インドネシア人にも需要はあると思う」と話した。

自身がマンションオーナーで、在日フィリピン人向け情報紙編集長もしている小池昌・同センター代表(55)は「住宅探しに苦労している外国人は多く、この試みを成功させたい」と話している。

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JANUARY 10, 2010

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.

debitopodcast

I’ve heard from folks (thanks for your feedback; it’s very welcome and accelerates the learning curve) that they wanted something newer and fresher in the Debito.org Podcast.  Okay, can’t get much fresher than this.  Reading:

1) My Top Ten Human Rights Issues Affecting NJ in Japan for 2009 (published in Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 5 2010)

2) My Top Nine Most Influential Events in my Life 2000 – 2009 (blogged January 2, 2010).

These are most timely as we enter the new decade (by the unscientific style of reckoning).  Enjoy listening instead of reading, if you’re on the go.  Please give me more feedback below too, if you like.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

[display_podcast]

Discussion: KFC Australia’s “racist” CM vs McD Japan’s “Mr James”

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  This has been bubbling a bit these past couple of days in the Comments Section of a few blog entries, so let’s bring it to the fore and get a discussion going.

KFC (aka Kentucky Fried Chicken) has been accused of racism, according to various media sources, thanks to a recent advertisement it ran in Australia.  Here it is:

The Guardian UK writes:
========================================
KFC accused of racism over Australian advertisement
KFC advert showing Australian cricket fan placating West Indies supporters with chicken has caused anger in America
Andrew Clark guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 January 2010 16.32 GMT

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/06/kfc-advertisement-accused-of-racism

The Australian arm of the fast-food chain KFC has been accused of racial insensitivity over a television commercial showing an outnumbered white cricket fan handing out pieces of fried chicken to appease a dancing, drumming and singing group of black West Indian supporters.

Aired as part of a series called “KFC’s cricket survival guide”, the 30-second clip depicts an uncomfortable looking man named Mick wearing a green and yellow Australian cricket shirt, surrounded on all sides in a cricket stand by high spirited Caribbean fans.

“Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation?” Mick asks. He then passes round a bucket of KFC chicken, the drumming stops and he remarks: “Too easy.”

Although intended only for an Antipodean audience, the clip has quickly found its way around the world on the internet, prompting stinging criticism in the US where fried chicken remains closely associated with age-old racist stereotypes about black people in the once segregated south.

A writer at one US newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, questioned whether the ad was a spoof, remarking: “If it is a genuine KFC advertisement, it could be seen as racially insensitive.”

Another on-line commentator, Jack Shepherd of BuzzFeed, asks: “What’s a white guy to do when he finds himself in a crowd full of black folks? KFC has the answer.”

KFC Australia has come out fighting, saying that the commercial was a “light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team” that had been “misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US.”

The company said: “The ad was reproduced online in the US without KFC’s permission, where we are told a culturally-based stereotype exists, leading to the incorrect assertion of racism.

“We unequivocally condemn discrimination of any type and have a proud history as one of the world’s leading employers for diversity.”

In the Australian media, the reaction has been mixed, with some commentators accusing Americans of “insularity”. Brendon O’Connor, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, told 9 Network News that the association between fried chicken and ethnic minorities was a distinctly US issue: “They have a tendency to think that their history is more important than that of other countries.”

The flare-up comes three months after another racial controversy between Australia and the US in which the American singer Harry Connick Jr, appearing as a judge on an Australian television talent show, reacted strongly to a skit in which a group of singers appeared with blacked up faces to emulate the Jackson Five.

On the show, called “Hey, Hey It’s Saturday“, Connick gave the group zero points and demanded an apology from the broadcaster, remarking: “If they turned up looking like that in the United States, it would be like ‘hey, hey, there’s no more show’.”


GUARDIAN ARTICLE ENDS
////////////////////////////////////////////////

Then this happens:

KFC advertisement in Australia sparks race row
By Nick Bryant BBC News, Sydney
Friday, 8 January 2010

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8447457.stm

The Australian arm of the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken has had to withdraw an advertisement after accusations of racial insensitivity.

It showed a white cricket fan trying to pacify a group of rowdy West Indian fans by handing around fried chicken.

When the advertisement reached America via the internet there were complaints.

It was accused of reinforcing a derogatory racial stereotype linking black people in the American deep south with a love of fried food.

The advertisement from Kentucky Fried Chicken features a white cricket fan dressed in the green and gold of the Australian team surrounded by a group of West Indian supporters, who are dancing and singing to a calypso beat.

He decides to quieten them down by handing around a bucket of fried chicken.
Picked up by the American media, the advertisement immediately stirred controversy, because it was alleged to have perpetuated the racial stereotype that black people eat a lot of fried chicken.

The fast food chain’s head office in America said it was withdrawing the advertisement, and apologised for what it called “any misrepresentation” which might have caused offence.

It is the second time in three months that something broadcast in Australia has caused a racial stir in America.

The last flare-up was over an entertainment show on the Australian network Channel Nine in which a group of singers appeared with blacked-up faces to impersonate the Jackson Five.
ENDS
/////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT: Funny thing, this. We get KFC Australia doing a hasty retreat from its controversial commercial days after it goes viral on YouTube, and pulling it pretty quickly.

Now contrast with the ad campaign by another American-origin fast-food multinational, McDonalds. For those who don’t know, between August and November of last year McDonald’s Japan had that White gaijin stereotype “Mr James” speaking katakana and portraying NJ as touristy outsiders who never fit in. More on what I found wrong with that ad campaign here.

Yet the “Mr James” ad campaign never got pulled — and the debate we offered with McDonalds Japan was rebuffed (they refused to answer in Japanese for the Japanese media). In fact, the reaction of some Asians in the US was, “Karma’s a bitch“, as in White people in Japan deserve this sort of treatment because of all the bad treatment they’ve foisted on Asians overseas in the past. Still others argue that we can’t expect Japan to understand the history of other countries, or how they feel about certain sentiments found overseas, and one shouldn’t foist their cultural values onto other cultures (this argument usually pops up when one sees minstrel blackface shows etc in Japan). This argument was also made in comments to this blog as well.

But KFC pulls the ad, in contrast to “Mr James”, where people rushed to defend it in the name of cultural relativism. Why the difference?

I’m not saying I have the answer to this question. So I bring it up for discussion here on Debito.org. What do readers think?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine becomes a “Taboo” topic in a 2007 magazine, victimizing J publisher

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Hi Blog. Here’s something that’s been sitting on my server since September 2007 (!!) and I’ve finally decided to put up now. (Didn’t want to encourage sales of something like this by attracting attention to it until long after the fact.)

A magazine on “Taboos”, sent to me more than two years ago by MS, tells the story of the reactionary gaijin who took the “Gaijin Hanzai Ura File” mook to task for the lies and hate speech it was spreading on convenience store newsstands nationwide (substantiation of that all here).  And portrays that pitifully misunderstod publisher, Eichi Shuppan Inc., which went bankrupt within two months of releasing that mook, as victim.

It has quotes from me (even of me laughing) that it never garnered through any interviews (they apparently talked to Eichi, but I received no communication from this publication), and shows me as some sort of fearsome activist (thanks, I guess).  It of course offers no counterarguments to Eichi’s spurious published assertions, for example about the rise of NJ crime (I would have given those counterarguments if they’d only asked), accepting their assertions at face value.  And of course we have no real debate on whether or not the book was actually telling the truth or not (obviously, as I argued in many venues, it wasn’t).  For all the research they did pulling my written quotes out of context, they didn’t cite my questions of the veracity of the portrayals that assiduously at all.

In other words, it’s a debate that once again favors and victimizes Team Japan.  Those poor victimized convenience stores responding to public pressure (yeah, like that worked for “Mr James”; McDonald’s basically ignored us).  It couldn’t just be that the stores carrying the mook were convinced by our arguments about its exaggerated and errant claims and hateful tone now, could it?  Naw, Japanese lost to the foreigners, therefore the foreigners didn’t fight fair.  And now because of that, we have yet another “taboo” that hurts We Japaneses’ Freedom of Speech.

Hardly a “taboo” here.  You overdid it, and lost the debate.  That’s all.  And if you spread lies and hate speech in public again like this, you should be called on it again and debated against.  And if you lose the debate (moreover your company after your risky business decisions), don’t put it down to sour grapes and blame the other side for your losing.  Take responsibility for your actions like an adult, and put it down to publishing stupid things that were trying to defame and hurt people, particularly Japan’s NJ residents.  You lost.  Live with it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(Click on any image to expand in your browser)

807.taboo.jpgTaboo1.jpgTaboo2.jpgTaboo3.jpgTaboo4.jpgTaboo5.jpgTaboo6.jpg

ENDS

The most customized (and presumptuous) “email scam” letter I’ve received yet

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Hi Blog.  Bit of a tangent today, but not really.  I got this morning an email from somebody asking for help.  That’s not unusual (I get at least one a day, two on Sundays), and I do my best to accommodate, within reason, depending on the reasonableness of the request and my depth of knowledge about the problem raised.

But this is the Internet, and things can get kinda odd at times.  The requests I’ve tended to ignore are the ones asking me to abet an illegal activity (some people have friends who are going down for drugs and want me somehow to assist them; sorry, TS), asking for free legal advice (when I’m no lawyer), asking questions they could easily find either with a quick Google search or in our HANDBOOK (such as how long a Japanese visa is or what kinds of visas are out there), asking me how hard is it to naturalize (usually from high schoolers who are entranced by Japanese anime and have never even been to Japan), or even those who want me to write their college term papers for them (most cryptic question:  “Is Japanese a left-leaning or right-leaning language?  Why or why not?”  Huh?)

The ones I’ve regretted helping are those who are nuts (such as this one, who has a case with merit but can’t make his own case sound convincing; and another one whom I won’t mention by name but wasted an afternoon listening to; the latter later became a cellphone stalker when I dropped his case), or those who have anger management problems and go all ungrateful, such as this one.

But then, this morning, I got the most jarring one yet:

I hope you  receive my message? And is very urgent. I could barely think straight at this point. I had a trip here in  United Kingdom  on a mission. I am presently in [XXXXXXXXX] and I am having some difficulties. I misplaced my bag on my way to the hotel where other valuable things were kept along with my passport. I feel so ashamed because i am so stranded and idle.  I will like you to help me with a loan of 1800 Pounds to pay my hotel bills and also return back home. I will refund the money to you as soon as I get back,  I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively I currently have limited access to emails for now.

To quote Jon Stewart: “WHAT??!!”

Let’s take inventory.  This guy not only wants my time, he wants money.  He wants me to pay for the privilege of helping him.  I’ve seen all sorts of mass-mailed scams from Nigerian princes and the like, but this is the most customized (and presumptuous) of them all — taking advantage of Debito.org’s charitable use of time to ask a perfect stranger (I’ve never met this person) for a loan.  Sorry Charlie.  Even if I had the time, I definitely do not have the money.  Or that much of a Pollyanna outlook towards people.

I’m glad to help when I can.  But it’s instances like these that make me wonder if I’ve been just a little too generous with my time, to the point where people think they can take this much advantage.  Overly harsh an assessment?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column with my top ten NJ human rights issues for 2009

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Human rights in Japan: a top 10 for ’09

JUST BE CAUSE Column 24/ZEIT GIST Column 53 for the Japan Times Community Page

The Japan Times January 5, 2010

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20100105ad.html

They say that human rights advances come in threes:  two steps forward and one back.  2009, however, had good news and bad on balance.  For me, the top 10 human rights events of the year that affected non-Japanese (NJ) were, in ascending order:

10) “Mr. James”

Between August and November, McDonald’s Japan had this geeky Caucasian shill portraying foreigners to Japanese consumers (especially children, one of McDonald’s target markets) as dumb enough to come to Japan, home of a world cuisine, just for the burgers.  Pedantry aside, McDonald’s showed its true colors — not as a multinational promoting multiculturalism (its image in other countries), but instead as a ruthless corporation willing to undermine activists promoting “foreigner as resident of Japan” just to push product.  McD’s unapologetically pandered to latent prejudices in Japan by promoting the gaijin as hapless tourist, speaking Japanese in katakana and never fitting in no matter how hard he shucks or jives.  They wouldn’t even fight fair, refusing to debate in Japanese for the domestic media.  “Mr. James’s” katakana blog has since disappeared, but his legacy will live on in a generation of kids spoon-fed cultural pap with their fast food.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4303

http://www.debito.org/?p=4243

9) “The Cove”

Although not a movie about “human” rights (the subjects are sentient mammals), this documentary (www.thecovemovie.com) about annual dolphin slaughters in southern Wakayama Prefecture shows the hard slog activists face in this society.  When a handful of local fishermen cull dolphins and call it “Japanese tradition,” the government (both local and national), police and our media machines instinctively encircle to cover it up.  Just to get hard evidence to enable public scrutiny, activists had to go as far as to get George Lucas’s studios to create airborne recording devices and fit cameras into rocks.  It showed the world what we persevering activists all know:  how advanced an art form public unaccountability is in Japan.

8) The pocket knife/pee dragnets (tie)

The Japanese police’s discretionary powers of NJ racial profiling, search and seizure were in full bloom this year, exemplified by two events that beggared belief.  The first occurred in July, when a 74-year-old American tourist who asked for directions at a Shinjuku police box was incarcerated for 10 days just for carrying a pocket knife (yes, the koban cops asked him specifically whether he was carrying one).  The second involved confirmed reports of police apprehending NJ outside Roppongi bars and demanding they take urine tests for drugs.  Inconceivable treatment for Japanese (sure, sometimes they get hit for bag searches, but not bladder searches), but the lack of domestic press attention — even to stuff as egregious as this — shows that Japanese cops can zap NJ at whim with impunity.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3772

http://www.debito.org/?p=4257

7) “Itchy and Scratchy” (another tie)

Accused murderer Tatsuya Ichihashi and convicted embezzler Nozomu Sahashi also got zapped this year.  Well, kinda.

Ichihashi spent close to three years on the lam after police in 2007 bungled his capture at his apartment, where the strangled body of English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker was found.  He was finally nabbed in November, but only after intense police and media lobbying by her family (lessons here for the families of fellow murdered NJs Scott Tucker, Matthew Lacey and Honiefaith Kamiosawa) and on the back of a crucial tip from plastic surgeons.

Meanwhile Sahashi, former boss of Eikaiwa empire NOVA (bankrupted in 2007), was finally sentenced Aug. 27 to a mere 3.5 years, despite bilking thousands of customers, staff and NJ teachers.

For Sahashi it’s case closed (pending appeal), but in Ichihashi’s case, his high-powered defense team is already claiming police abuse in jail, and is no doubt preparing to scream “miscarriage of justice” should he get sentenced.  Still, given the leniency shown to accused NJ killers Joji Obara and Hiroshi Nozaki, let’s see what the Japanese judiciary comes up with on this coin toss.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4364

http://www.debito.org/?p=5413

6) “Newcomers” outnumber “oldcomers”

This happened by the end of 2007, but statistics take time to tabulate.  Last March, the press announced that “regular permanent residents” (as in NJ who were born overseas and have stayed long enough to qualify for permanent residency) outnumber “special permanent residents” (the “Zainichi” Japan-born Koreans, Chinese etc. “foreigners” who once comprised the majority of NJ) by 440,000 to 430,000.  That’s a total of nearly a million NJ who cannot legally be forced to leave.  This, along with Chinese residents now outnumbering Koreans, denotes a sea change in the NJ population, indicating that immigration from outside Japan is proceeding apace.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2852

5) Proposals for a “Japanese-style immigration nation”

Hidenori Sakanaka, head of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute (www.jipi.gr.jp), is a retired Immigration Bureau mandarin who actually advocates a multicultural Japan — under a proper immigration policy run by an actual immigration ministry.  In 2007, he offered a new framework for deciding between a “Big Japan” (with a vibrant, growing economy thanks to inflows of NJ) and a “Small Japan” (a parsimonious Asian backwater with a relatively monocultural, elderly population).  In 2009, he offered a clearer vision in a bilingual handbook (available free from JIPI) of policies on assimilating NJ and educating Japanese to accept a multiethnic society.  I cribbed from it in my last JBC column (Dec 1) and consider it, in a country where government-sponsored think tanks can’t even use the word “immigration” when talking about Japan’s future, long-overdue advice.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4832

http://www.debito.org/?p=4944

4) IC-chipped “gaijin cards” and NJ juminhyo residency certificates (tie)

Again, 2009 was a year of give and take.  On July 8, the Diet adopted policy for (probably remotely trackable) chips to be placed in new “gaijin cards” (which all NJ must carry 24-7 or risk arrest) for better policing.  Then, within the same policy, NJ will be listed on Japan’s residency certificates (juminhyo).  The latter is good news, since it is a longstanding insult to NJ taxpayers that they are not legally “residents,” i.e. not listed with their families (or at all) on a household juminhyo.  However, in a society where citizens are not required to carry any universal ID at all, the policy still feels like one step forward, two steps back.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3786

3) The Savoie child abduction case

Huge news on both sides of the pond was Christopher Savoie’s Sept.28 attempt to retrieve his kids from Japan after his ex-wife abducted them from the United States.  Things didn’t go as planned:  The American Consulate in Fukuoka wouldn’t let them in, and he was arrested by Japanese police for two weeks until he agreed to get out of Dodge.  Whatever you think about this messy case, the Savoie incident raised necessary attention worldwide about Japan’s status as a safe haven for international child abductors, and shone a light on the harsh truth that after a divorce, in both domestic and international cases, there is no enforced visitation or joint custody in Japan — even for Japanese.  It also occasioned this stark conclusion from your columnist:  Until fundamental reforms are made to Japan’s family law (which encourages nothing less than Parental Alienation Syndrome), nobody should risk getting married and having kids in Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?cat=49

http://www.debito.org/?p=4664

2) The election of the Democratic Party of Japan

Nothing has occasioned more hope for change in the activist community than the end of five decades of Liberal Democratic Party rule.  Although we are still in “wait and see” mode after 100 days in power, there is a perceptible struggle between the major proponents of the status quo (the bureaucrats) and the Hatoyama Cabinet (which itself is understandably fractious, given the width of its ideological tent).  We have one step forward with permanent residents probably getting the vote in local elections, and another with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama saying at the APEC Summit on Nov. 14 that Japan should “create an environment that is friendly to [NJ] so they voluntarily live in Japan.”  But then we have the no-steps-anywhere: The DPJ currently has no plans to consider fundamental issues such as dual nationality, a racial discrimination law, an immigration ministry, or even an immigration policy.  Again, wait and see.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5141

1) The “Nikkei repatriation bribe”

This more than anything demonstrated how the agents of the status quo (again, the bureaucrats) keep public policy xenophobic.  Twenty years ago they drafted policy that brought in cheap NJ labor as “trainees” and “researchers,” then excluded them from labor law protections by not classifying them as “workers.”  They also brought in Nikkei workers to “explore their Japanese heritage” (but really to install them, again, as cheap labor to stop Japan’s factories moving overseas).  Then, after the economic tailspin of 2008, on April Fool’s Day the bureaucrats offered the Nikkei (not the trainees or researchers, since they didn’t have Japanese blood) a bribe to board a plane home, give up their visas and years of pension contributions, and become some other country’s problem.  This move, above all others, showed the true intentions of Japanese government policy:  NJ workers, no matter what investments they make here, are by design tethered to temporary, disposable, revolving-door labor conditions, with no acceptable stake or entitlement in Japan’s society.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2930

Bubbling underNoriko Calderon (victim of the same xenophobic government policies mentioned above, which even split families apart), Noriko Sakai (who tried to pin her drug issues on foreign dealers), sumo potheads (who showed that toking and nationality were unrelated), and swine flu (which was once again portrayed as an “outsiders’ disease” until Japanese caught it too after Golden Week).

2009 was a pretty mixed year.  Let’s hope 2010 is more progressive.

Debito Arudou coauthored “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.”  Twitter arudoudebito.  Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month.  Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

1538 WORDS

Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients

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Hi Blog.  Now back to business.  While doing research over the new year, I got quite a shock when I was doing some followup on a case of exclusionary practices.  I reported on Debito.org in September 2007 that Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website was advertising 35 hotels that refused NJ clients.  This is one of the few business sectors that actually has explicit laws preventing refusals of customers based upon nationality alone (thanks to the Hotel Management Law, see below), so when a government agency is even promoting “Japanese Only” hotels, you know something is rum indeed.

What’s even more rum is that even after I advised the Tourist Information Agency that what they were doing is unlawful, and they promised in writing to stop doing it, now two years later the same website is now promoting 318 (!!) hotels that refuse NJ clients (in other words, about half of the total).  You can’t help but get the feeling that you have been lied to, and by government bureaucrats.

A brief write up, with links to sources, follows.  At the very bottom are screen captures of the FTIA website evidencing the exclusionary practices.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Place:  Fukushima Prefecture (35 hotels, now 318 hotels)[1]

Background:  In September 2007, the author was advised that the Fukushima Prefecture’s Tourist Information website[2] in English listed and advertised 35 hotels in the region that officially refused NJ clients.

Action taken by observers/activists:  In September 2007, the author contacted the Fukushima Tourist Information Agency, and advised them this practice of refusing NJ is unlawful under the Hotel Management Law (Hotel Management Law (ryokan gyouhou), Article 5[1], which says that hotels may not refuse customers unless 1) rooms are full, 2) there is a threat of contagious disease, or 3) there is a threat to “public morals” (fuuki)).  A FTIA bureaucrat who contacted all 35 hotels responded in October, stating, “Most of the answers were, ‘We do not explicitly refuse NJ’,” as they had never had a NJ client.  However, eight hotels of the 32 they were able to contact stated they would continue to refuse NJ, because they did “not have staff who spoke English”, therefore “they could not positively (sekkyoku teki ni) receive NJ”.  The FTIA said they advised them of the unlawfulness of this practice, and would be clarifying their website questions in future.

Current status (as of this writing):  A January 2010 search of the Japanese website[3] using search terms “gaikokujin no ukeire: fuka” revealed 318 lodgings refusing NJ lodgers, and amending the search terms revealed 335 places accepting NJ.  It would appear that the prefectural tourist agency officially offering the option to refuse NJ lodgers enables businesses to refuse.  This would appear to be within character:  The GOJ reported, in an October 2008 nationwide survey of 7068 responding hotels, that 27% of all hoteliers did not want NJ clients[4].


[1] Primary source information at http://www.debito.org/?p=1941

[1] http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#refusedhotel

[2] http://www.tif.ne.jp/

[3] http://www.tif.ne.jp/jp/spot/cat_search.php, enter 外国人の受入:不可 into the キーワード section.

[4] “No room at inn for foreigners”, CNN October 9, 2008, and 「外国人泊めたくない」ホテル・旅館3割 07年国調査」 朝日新聞2008年10月9日, both archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=1940

——————————-

Here are some evidentiary screen captures from the FTIA website as of January 3, 2010 (click on image to expand in your browser)
First, the site with search terms that indicate that 318 hotels refuse NJ clients:

Example of one hotel that explicitly says it refuses NJ clients:

Screen capture with different search terms, indicating 335 hotels of the total allow in NJ:

Example of one hotel that allows in NJ clients:

ENDS

Get Japan Times tomorrow Tues Jan 5: latest JUST BE CAUSE column out on Top Ten NJ human rights issues 2009

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As the title says, get yourself a copy of the Japan Times tomorrow, Tues Jan 5, 2009 (Weds in print in the provinces), where I’ll be ranking what I consider to be the top ten human rights issues for 2009 (see a selection on the blog poll on the right-hand column, and rank the top three for yourself!) Enjoy!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tangent: Getchan on Japan Post’s recent anti-terrorism half-measures regarding parcels

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. For the last tangent of the new year holidays, here’s Getchan with a report on his latest tribulations at the Japan Post Office, where he talks about recent measures they’ve taken to foil terrorism that are not all that well-thought-through. Not an issue that’s necessarily “NJ-related”, but for those who use the posts, here you go.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Hi all.  The recent foiled suicide bombing attempt on a US plane from Amsterdam to the US prompted “Japan Post” to take radical measures in cooperation with domestic airlines to prevent bombs from getting aboard planes.

Here’s how it’s done.

“Japan Post” offers flat rate envelopes. For a flat rate of 500 Yen (approx. $5.50), snail mail users can buy a ready-to-mail cardboard envelope. Maximum weight is 20 kg!! There are no limits on distance, and anything within the framework of the law can be enclosed. Each envelope has a detachable bar code label, that the sender keeps, and another that the delivery man takes off upon delivery. The flat rate envelope can be deposited in mail boxes, and at P.O. counters for immediate dispatch (ah, well, next outbound mail truck, that is…). Contrary to 1st class mail, these envelopes are transported by air, which makes them real fast! From my place to Southern Japan, which can easily be 1,000 to 1,500 miles, it’s mostly next day delivery, as can be verified by online tracking.

The parts to be filled in are: Sender’s data, recipient’s data, and description of contents. The latter has been mandatory since the aftermath of 9/11 for ordinary parcel post, which carries automatic insurance of up to 100,000 Yen ($1100). The flat rate envelopes cannot be insured, but my buyers prefer it over registered 1st class mail, just because the envelopes are sturdy, and delivery is a day or two faster! Fine with me, as I don’t have to spend money on packing materials.. ;-).

A few days after the foiled attempt on the Detroit flight, I had to send

1) $350 worth of merchandise to a buyer near Tokyo – I never write “Stamps” on the outside of the flat rate envelopes – even though our mail system is very safe, I just don’t want to push it!

2) A Bon Jovi CD as a birthday gift to a friend in Osaka.

As I deposited the items at a P.O. counter, the cute and very nice lady told me I had to note the contents outside, new rules imposed by Japan Post. I said, that one contained valuables, and one contained a birthday present, and I added that there was no way I was noting “stamps” on the outside of the first item, as I wasn’t going to invite thieves, and no way I was noting “CD” on the outside of the second item, as I wasn’t going to spoil the surprise for my friend. I took the items back & deposited them in a mail box outside the P.O., and everything would be fine.

WRONG!

Next day, I found a form letter in my P.O.Box, informing me that both items had been sent surface and would thus be delayed by a day or two.

I went to see the postmaster to tell him, that this was totally useless, as – except for imminent, clear and present danger – Japan Post employees are not authorized to open and check the mail for contents.

Postmaster: “These are the new rules, airlines won’t accept parcels and flat rate envelopes for air transport, if the contents are not noted on the outside”

Me: “But they get X-rayed anyway”

Postmaster: “NO, they DON’T!” (now, was he supposed to tell me that???)

My conclusion – potential and active terrorists in Japan can be trusted in this country. If they wanted to mail a bomb and blow up a plane that way, they would have to mark “bomb” on the parcel, and that would thwart their efforts, would it not? Japanese authorities have everything under control and would be able to sort out any flat rate envelope marked “Bomb”, while the CIA lets known suspects slip thru… 😉

And BTW, 1st class registered mail doesn’t need to have the contents noted outside, but can weigh up to 2kg – terrorists don’t use 1st class registered mail, as they would have to give their return address…

Wow, do I feel safe… Happy and safe New Year 😉 Getchan

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 3, 2010

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Hello All. Happy New Year. Here comes the latest

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 3, 2010
TURN OF THE DECADE HOLIDAY SPECIAL

Table of Contents:
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
RUMINATIONS
1) Debito’s decade 2000-2009 in review
2) Debito.org Blog Poll: What do you consider the TOP THREE NJ human rights events of 2009 in Japan? (More in Japan Times Jan 5)
3) Oguri’s “Darling wa Gaikokujin” becomes a movie, with parody cartoon about the “Darling Dream” being sold by all this

FUN STUFF AND TANGENTS
4) Book review of “Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me” (Pubs Simon and Schuster). Yes, that is the title.
5) Holiday Tangent: My Movie Review of AVATAR in 3D
6) LIFER! cartoon on “End-Year Holiday Activities in Japan”
7) Haagen Daz ice cream excludes Indians from sampling the latest flavor — in India!

BUSINESS AS USUAL
8 ) Proof positive that some people really do suck: JT responses to proposals for a Japanese immigration policy
9) Yonatan Owens’ excellent riposte Letter to the Editor
10) Guest blog post by Steve on “How to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law”
11) Yomiuri: Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work
12) DR on dealing with GOJ border fingerprinting: sandpaper down your fingers

… and finally …
13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out January 5, on the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2009 (get a copy!)
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates and RSS at http://www.debito.org, Podcasts at iTunes
Freely Forwardable

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

RUMINATIONS

1) Debito’s decade 2000-2009 in review

This here’s a personal entry. I think it instructive for people to look back periodically and chart a few lifeline arcs. As we enter 2010, let me give you the top nine influential trends for me personally between 2000 and 2009. In ascending order: My Beard, FRANCA, Naturalization, Debito.org Blog, Japan Times Column, Three Books, The Otaru Onsens Lawsuit, My Divorce, and “That Sinking Feeling”.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5613

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2) Debito.org Blog Poll: What do you consider the TOP THREE NJ human rights events of 2009 in Japan? (More in Japan Times Jan 5)

Let me ask readers what they think the most important NJ human rights events (I won’t say “advances”, as I consider 2009 to be pretty mixed) were last year? I’ve put them as a blog poll on the right so you can vote (choose three), but below are the ones that come to my mind, in no particular order (if you think I’ve missed any, Comments Section).

In no particular order, to wit:

  1. The Nikkei “Repatriation Bribe”
  2. The election of the DPJ and concomitant hopes
  3. The Savoie Child Abduction Case
  4. The forthcoming IC Chips in Gaijin Cards
  5. “Newcomer” Permanent Residents outnumbering “Oldcomer” Zainichi PRs
  6. The Calderon Noriko Case
  7. Police arresting a 74-yr-old US tourist for carrying a pocket knife
  8. Ichihashi Tatsuya’s arrest for the Hawker Murder
  9. “The Cove” documentary exposing Wakayama dolphin slaughters
  10. NJ also to be listed on Juuminhyou Residency Certificates
  11. McDonald’s Japan’s gaijin shill “Mr James”
  12. Sakanaka’s proposals for an Immigration Ministry et al
  13. NOVA boss Saruhashi getting 3.5 years for embezzlement
  14. Roppongi police street testing NJ urine for drugs
  15. Sakai Noriko pinning her drug issues on NJ dealers
  16. Pothead Sumo wrestlers
  17. Something else
  18. Don’t know / Can’t say / Don’t care etc.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5609

I’ll be ranking them myself in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out January 5, so have a read!

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

3) Oguri’s “Darling wa Gaikokujin” becomes a movie, with parody cartoon about the “Darling Dream” being sold by all this

I want to offer my congratulations to Oguri Saori, very successful author of the “Darling wa Gaikokujin” series (translated as “My Darling is a Foreigner”, but officially subtitled “My Darling is Ambidextrous”), for the news just out this month that the first book in the series will be made into a live-action movie (starring Inoue Mao and Jonathan Share as Saori and Tonii respectively). The empire built upon the dream being sold to Japanese women for marrying a white foreigner keeps on gathering strength.

Although portrayed in the movie by the very handsome and disarming Jonathan as a “grass-eating man”, Tonii in real life is not as he is cartooned. Laszlo is a big fan of putting his funds into threatening lawsuits, for one thing. And of deleting internet archives. And more. It just so happens I found a cartoon parodying this phenomenon of the contrasts. As the last post on Debito.org for this decade, enjoy.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5595

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FUN STUFF AND TANGENTS

4) Book review of “Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me” (Pubs Simon and Schuster). Yes, that is the title.

Simon and Schuster sent me this book for review, and I know not why. I am probably the last person to whom you’d send “Chick Lit” (defined as a genre where the protagonist is a young female trying to make it in the modern world dealing with issues that women face, whether it be them learning how to stand on their own two feet, or just about them being passionate about career, style, personal appearance, shopping…). But I did sit down and get through it. I agree with the reviews on Amazon.com — it’s “an easy read”. That’s not much of a compliment, however: If the most positive thing you can say about a literary work is that you got through it quickly, that’s damning with faint praise indeed.

So let’s get through this review and make it a quick read too. Start with the obvious: J.A.P. Having a racial epithet cloaked as an ethnic slur (I hail from Cornell University, so am plenty aware of “Jewish American Princesses”) in the very title already puts me off — as very culturally insensitive. What were you thinking, S&S?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=5563

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5) Holiday Tangent: My Movie Review of AVATAR in 3D

Movie review conclusion: But in terms of what lingers after AVATAR is all over, it’s not the environmental lesson, or the good versus business/military ethics, or even the 3D. It’s the planet of Pandora, and how lovely it must be to see it in all it’s glory without the goddamn glasses on. I hope someone who cares as much as James Cameron about movie craft comes along and makes the 3D technology something that gives us the focus and color as vibrantly as without. Next time. Thanks for the good college try, Mr Cameron. You haven’t lost your touch. Grade: B-

http://www.debito.org/?p=5576

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6) LIFER! cartoon on “End-Year Holiday Activities in Japan”

For the holidays, here’s a timely cartoon by Lifer from the December 2009 issue of Hokkaido Free Paper SAPPORO SOURCE. How to enjoy the end-year holidays in Japan, with a twist, as always.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5321

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7) Haagen Daz ice cream excludes Indians from sampling the latest flavor — in India!

For a Sunday Tangent, watch what happens when an exclusionary sign goes up in, say, India. Article from the Times of India follows (of quite questionable writing quality, but never mind). More interesting than the article are the comments from readers below it online. They are not amused, indeed. Have a read.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5475

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

BUSINESS AS USUAL

8 ) Proof positive that some people really do suck: JT responses to proposals for a Japanese immigration policy

Get a load of these letters to the editor (including authors who won’t reveal their names, or don’t live in Japan anyway) responding acidulously to my Japan Times column earlier this month, where I made constructive proposals for making Japan a place more attractive for immigration. (Many of these proposals were made not just by me, but also by former Immigration bureaucrat Sakanaka Hidenori; so much for their pat claim below of imposing my moral values).

It’s times like these when I think human society really has a bottomless capacity for oozing disdain for and wishing ill-will upon others. None of these respondents appear to be immigrants, or have any expressed interest in investing in this society, yet they heap scorn upon those who might plan to. I know paper will never refuse ink, but surely these people have more productive uses of their time then just scribbling poorly-researched and nasty screeds that help no-one. The self-injuring, snake-eating-its-tail mentality seen in NJ vets of Japan is something worthy of study by psychologists, methinks. Any takers?

http://www.debito.org/?p=5557

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9) Yonatan Owens’ excellent riposte Letter to the Editor

Counterpoint letter in the JT to the above sucky letters, concludes: “The question of civil rights in Japan is real and the question of immigration will soon be as well. Japan cannot simply turn back the clock and expel the foreigners. To avoid future confrontation and hardship for everyone — Japanese and foreigners alike — these issues require serious consideration. Some of us here are not just expatriates or perpetual tourists; some of us are trying our hardest to lead a normal life in the land that we live in and love. If you won’t help, why get in the way?”

http://www.debito.org/?p=5581

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10) Guest blog post by Steve on “How to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law”

Steve: Proposed plan of action: a law-abiding human here in Japan (with taxes, national insurance, and even pension — all paid-up in full (nod to Hoofin), preferably a permanent resident of Japan or Japanese national, to avoid the possibility of visa-denial retaliation) who has an establishment (a bar, restaurant, shop, whatever) AND COURAGE (very essential) and good property insurance (also essential, since some right-wing crazies will probably break some windows and/or start some fires) should put up a big sign out front proclaiming “No Japanese” and/or “No Japanese may enter” and/or “Non-Japanese Only” and/or “Entry Restricted to Non-Japanese” (in perfect Japanese of course) PLUS underneath this sign should be big poster-sized-laminated-PHOTOS of all the variations of “Japanese Only” signs found in Japan (e.g. www.debito.org/roguesgallery.htmlespecially photos of the signs written in Japanese such as http://www.debito.org/edensign030707.jpg) PLUS underneath those photos should be a sentence in Japanese which says, “Japan needs a law which clearly states, ‘Barring entry to private establishments based on nationality, or race, is hereby illegal, and violators of this law will be prosecuted and face severe penalties.’ “

A well-written (triple-proofread) press-release in Japanese together with this story’s dramatic money-shot: a well-taken photo which clearly shows the whole picture, meaning, the controversial “Non-Japanese Only” sign TOGETHER with the big poster-sized-laminated-photos of “Japanese Only” signs directly underneath that, TOGETHER with the solution to this problem stated underneath that, specifically, our proposed law against discrimination.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5546

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11) Yomiuri: Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work

Hi Debito: OK, this is good:

“Yomiuri: Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work”

I assume that the clerks in question are going out of their way to assist foreigners in obtaining residency permits (even to the point of placing ads in newspapers) due to bribery (as opposed to benevolence), and that this behavior is motivated by said clerks’ cognizance of loopholes in the immigration control law.

If so, then there’s nothing less than a government-backed residency permit black market at work, which, I might add, shows no signs of going away — a simple to fix the problem would be to amend the immigration control law to punish the clerks as needed, but is that what’s happening? No. Instead the issue is being given superficial treatment…

http://www.debito.org/?p=5021

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12) DR on dealing with GOJ border fingerprinting: sandpaper down your fingers

DR writes: Sanding Down Your Fingerprints

Incensed by the Japanese government’s slavish following of the US fingerprinting program, I decided to take charge of my own biometrics.

(1) The temptation to use harsh, large grit sanding paper was my first impulse, but I settled on a very fine black glass paper for the huge amount of 85 Yen at Jumbo Encho. Usually the packages have a window so the grade of paper can be felt without opening it.

(2) I started sanding on my outbound journey. It was a Nagoya to Frankfurt trip, 12 hours and lots of time to gently sand all my finger and thumb prints lightly. The secret is lightly.

(3) I was to be in the EU for almost three weeks, so about ten minutes per day I would sand a little, lightly. Even sanding lightly it’s easy to break the skin and to expose muscle fibres, causing bleeding. Any distinguishing mark makes a fingerprint more identifiable, and defeats the whole purpose. After about a week I felt like a safe-cracker. Everything I touched was more pronounced; heat, cold, textures. Everything. I couldn’t touch the strings on a guitar as my fingers were too sensitive. I could distinguish the dots on Braille texts much better than before! Eventually the fingers callous-over and, with time, the surfaces become harder…

http://www.debito.org/?p=5538

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… and finally …

13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out January 5, on the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2009 (get a copy!)

That’s right. As per post #2 above, I’ll be ranking what I consider to be the ten most fundamental HR issues involving NJ rights in Japan. I’ll tell ya, 2009 was a pretty mixed year. Hope 2010 is better. Have a read when it comes out Tuesday (Weds in the provinces)

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

All for now. Thanks for reading!
By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates and RSS at http://www.debito.org, Podcasts at iTunes
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 3, 2010 ENDS

Debito’s decade 2000-2009 in review

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Today’s a personal entry.  I think it instructive for people to look back periodically and chart a few lifeline arcs.  As we enter 2010, let me give you the top nine influential trends for me personally between 2000 and 2009.  In ascending order:

9) MY BEARD (starting August 2, 2008).  This sounds silly, but bear with me.  I have borne beards on various occasions (starting from college), sometimes letting it go as far as Karl Marx (I could hide pencils in it), or just settling for Abe Lincoln.  But back then I listened too much to the people around me (J-girls aren’t fans of facial hair, and Japanese society, particularly its corporate culture, tends to frown upon young people being hirsute) and wound up eventually giving in and shaving it off.  Now that I’m in my mid-forties (I’ll be 45 on January 13), I’ve finally grown up enough to say, look, I like my hair long (I see enough bald HS classmates on Facebook), and a beard on my chin I think looks good.  So there.  And I finally don’t care what others think as long as I keep things clean and brushed.  That’s the real growing up (and growing out) — where you say I yam what I yam and this beard helps prove it.  And if you look carefully, you’ll notice how even Japanese men, who have finally carved their own niche in Japanese society, grow facial hair if they so choose (especially as they grow old and glean seniority).  They just gotta have the cojones to stare people down and stand by their decision.  And find someone, I guess, who doesn’t mind kissing beards.

8 ) FRANCA (from July 2009).  This established NGO (FRANCA stands for Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association) registered with the government has only just gotten started (on the aftermath of the anger following the GOJ reinstating border fingerprinting of most NJ from November 2007), but it has great potential.  As in, a group now exists that people can join if they have a yen for lobbying and pushing for “Newcomer” immigrant issues in Japan.  Its very existence is symbolic of what people can establish here if they really try.

7) NATURALIZATION (October 10, 2000).  When I got my Japanese citizenship, it set in motion a number of things that would change my life in Japan (of course for the better, unmitigatedly).  First was the Otaru “Japanese Only” Onsen Yunohana visit (and subsequent refusal despite proof of Japanese nationality), proving conclusively that “Japanese Only” signs were racial discrimination, not “foreigner discrimination”, “cultural misunderstandings”, or whatever other relativistic apologism people wanted to dredge up.  Second was my own feeling of belonging and attachment to Japan — people looked at me in a very different way, and almost always without exception positively.  Third was my delight in being able to play with the rhetorical device “We Japanese” — it puts the Rightists and exclusionists on the back foot.  Lastly but not leastly, it also gave hope to a number of people who have told me they also took out their J citizenship because of me — for if even someone like me could get it, they *definitely* could.

6) DEBITO.ORG GOES DAILY (from June 2006).  Debito.org has been reporting on and archiving issues in Japan since 1997, but only as html pages and artery sites for the record.  But after a friend set me up with blogging software nearly four years ago, I have been blogging almost daily (on average more than once a day) since.  It’s a great way to keep issues alive and reported upon, and a good place for commentary (especially since I began exercising anti-trolling protocols).  It changed my life work into a hobby and back again, established the site as a credible voice in the media and the community, and opened channels for podcasts, book and movie tours.  Blogging made a hobby into an institution.

5) MY JAPAN TIMES “JUST BE CAUSE” COLUMN (from March 2008). Believe it or not, I am my harshest critic. I have a lot of trouble proving to myself that I am doing anything of substance or anything that deserves to be taken seriously. But when the Japan Times gave me a column (not the first place to do so — I wrote columns for a college newspaper, and for japantoday.com between 2000 and 2001 until the former management there stopped paying me properly) after writing 42 bimonthly Community Page articles, I felt as if I had landed as a credible writer — where even journalists (if books are movies, then newspapers are daily broadway shows where people perform every day, twice on Sundays; only the most consistent keyboard pounders survive) thought I had the discipline and consistency necessary for a columnist. No matter how down I get on myself, JBC is my internal-debate counterargument to say, look, serious writers think my writing deserves an audience. And I still feel JBC is going strong after nearly two years and another column elsewhere (Sapporo Source). Boy, with the daily blog, books, and columns, I guess I love to write.

4) THREE BOOKS (2003, 2004, and 2008, with several interim revisions). Although not on the proflicacy level of Stephen King or JK Rowling, three books in ten years for any author is pretty good.  Coming out with “JAPANESE ONLY–The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Akashi Shoten Inc. pubs) in Japanese first showed that I not only had the discipline to sit down for three months and pound something out in book form, but also could do it in a foreign language.  Then oops I did it again in English a year later.  Then as if to show this wasn’t a fluke, friend Higuchi Akira and I co-authored “HANDBOOK for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants“, giving information that would help anyone living here, not just those interested in racial discrimination issues.  It established me as an author, not just a writer.  I’m currently working on another book — about racial discrimination in Japan — but with an academic focus this time.  Two chapters out of eight done.  I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

3) THE OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT (2001-2005).  This is the case (information site here) that showed how Japan’s judiciary (touted by the GOJ to the UN as offering sufficient redress, therefore no law against racial discrimination is necessary) does NOT offer sufficient redress for racial discrimination.  It took more than four years for courts to decide 1) “Japanese Only” signs are racial discrimination but not as such an illegal activity, 2) Japan’s local government bodies do not have to follow international treaties that Japan has signed, 3) the whole issue of refusing people service by race, although specifically delineated in the constitution as illegal, is not a constitutional issue, according to the Supreme Court when they rejected the case.  But we still won, against the onsen (not against the local governing body Of Otaru City, which turned a blind eye towards signposted exclusionism for close to a decade), so it was worth doing.  If only to show the disingenuousness of the system.

2) MY DIVORCE (September 2006, but proceedings started long before that).  Divorces are something that really undermines one’s sense of self, especially when you’re the one asking for one.  It’s when you have to admit you made a fundamental mistake in your life plan, and you try to make some changes with as little damage as possible (which is, of course, practically impossible).  As I’ve said here before, I don’t believe any man can consider himself a success after he’s been through a divorce (and it’s certainly a deterrent to my ever considering getting married again).  Moreover, divorce definitely put the writing on the wall when it comes to seeing where family and friends’ sympathies and allegiances lie.

But now more than three years later as a single man, one positive thing I can say about it is that I no longer have the “Separation Anxiety” (long-instilled by my parents, who threatened all sorts of irrevocable sanctions with the beatings for even small transgressions; that personality flaw was later exploited by my spouse) that made me get hastily married at age 24.  Now it doesn’t matter:  I’m no longer afraid of being alone, nor of being necessarily disliked by the people around me (that’s an asset in a workplace where I’m very underappreciated and underutilized, more below).  A divorce is the great relief-maker — not only in that it provides relief, but also in that it brings so much INTO relief (as in perspective).  Sure, my relationship with my kids is very much a running sore (too complicated to get into right now, but the ex is trashing the house I built and still own).  But on balance, I’m still a lot happier and more secure as a person for having gone through the breakup.  But again, that’s on balance.  Divorce is rarely ever clean, and not something that ever resolves any problem completely.  And it shows how adult society is very, very complicated, and nobody wears the completely Black or completely White Hat.

1) “THAT SINKING FEELING” (starting from 2006).  I think the consensus is that 2009 was a pretty sucky year for most people (especially in Japan), thanks to the 2008 economic meltdown caused in part by the Republican gamblers and bandits that ran the USG for as long as they could.  But it’s been pretty sucky up north here for quite some time.  Hokkaido is now doing better than places like Aomori, Iwate, and Akita (thanks to the tourist inflow and Niseko bubble).  But it’s merely bad not worst.  I’ve seen my salary drop by nearly a third since 2005, and no appreciable elevation in my living standard despite seniority (my workplace has promoted people over me who are younger than me and have worked there less time), qualifications (I’m a bilingual citizen and have published more than anyone around me, and yet…), and the fact by most measures of talent am deserving of better except for the fact that I’m White in an Asian workplace.   As immigrants go, I should be precisely the type the GOJ would want to come contribute to this society, and yet, there’s that feeling of, to quote Pink Floyd, “hanging on in quiet desperation”.

Enough.  I’m not one to just sit and grumble without doing anything about it (believe me, I am), but as this decade draws to a close, I have the feeling I had when reading Economist articles about the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain around 1987 and 1988, when they kept reporting that things over there were “on the brink”.  I didn’t believe it, but then it brinked:   Overnight the Berlin Wall fell, and within two years Yeltsin took over and the CCCP was no more.  Point is, I’m wondering what will put my situation over the brink.

The last decade, the Noughties, showed me more than ever that one must take their own initiatives if they’re every going to get their due.  You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate for.  I’ve done plenty of that, but that point of inflection between mediocrity and prosperity still seems just out of reach, somehow. And the thing is, it takes about a decade before you can really see it.  I have the feeling that the Twenty Teens are going to be much better.  Let’s see.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

ENDS

Debito.org Blog Poll: What do you consider the TOP THREE NJ human rights events of 2009 in Japan? (More in Japan Times Jan 5)

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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Happy New Year, Blog.  As a smaller post to start off 2010, let me ask readers what they think the most important NJ human rights events (I won’t say “advances”, as I consider 2009 to be pretty mixed) were last year?  I’ve put them as a blog poll on the right so you can vote (choose three), but below are the ones that come to my mind, in no particular order (if you think I’ve missed any, Comments Section).

I’ll be ranking them myself in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out January 5, so have a read!  Thanks for reading and supporting Debito.org, everyone.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

  1. The Nikkei “Repatriation Bribe”
  2. The election of the DPJ and concomitant hopes
  3. The Savoie Child Abduction Case
  4. The forthcoming IC Chips in Gaijin Cards
  5. “Newcomer” Permanent Residents outnumbering “Oldcomer” Zainichi PRs
  6. The Calderon Noriko Case
  7. Police arresting a 74-yr-old US tourist for carrying a pocket knife
  8. Ichihashi Tatsuya’s arrest for the Hawker Murder
  9. “The Cove” documentary exposing Wakayama dolphin slaughters
  10. NJ also to be listed on Juuminhyou Residency Certificates
  11. McDonald’s Japan’s gaijin shill “Mr James”
  12. Sakanaka’s proposals for an Immigration Ministry et al
  13. NOVA boss Saruhashi getting 3.5 years for embezzlement
  14. Roppongi police street testing NJ urine for drugs
  15. Sakai Noriko pinning her drug issues on NJ dealers
  16. Pothead Sumo wrestlers
  17. Something else
  18. Don’t know / Can’t say / Don’t care etc.

ENDS