My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out tomorrow on Okinawa Futenma Issue

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Hi Blog. Coming out tomorrow, June 1, in print and online (print version will appear Wednesday June 2 in the provinces), my column will be on the Okinawa Futenma Issue. I think my opinion on what PM Hatoyama should do about the American military bases here will surprise some of you; my editor anticipates quite a bit of debate generated. So get yourself a copy at newsstands tomorrow, or view at www.japantimes.co.jp as you prefer.

I’ll let this announcement be today’s blog entry. Yesterday’s (on the Top Ten artists who would not have been successful the American Idol format) was fat enough to count as a double entry.  Been cycling in the gorgeous weather, a bit tired, think I’ll chuck it in early tonight.  Getting old, I guess.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Here’s the article.  I’ll have it up tomorrow for comment.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100601ad.html

Sunday Tangent: Top ten performers who would not be successful if American Idol were the template for success

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Hi Blog.  As a Sunday Tangent (this time a complete and utter digression):

I see America has come up with its next American Idol (I won’t spoil the fun for those who are watching the show in Japan; we’re five weeks behind).  I will admit to being a fan of the show;  I like watching stars bloom, and its fun to watch performers handle several different genres every week, seeing who comes out in the wash over the course of months, and witnessing whose style lacks the versatility to mature and grow over what is admittedly a tough contest.  It has chosen genuine stars (like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, and my favorite of them all — Adam Lambert), and the occasional underperformer (most famously Taylor Hicks — but I still enjoy his schtick as a lounge singer; I’d buy a ticket to see him in Vegas, as I would Wayne Newton or, yes, Barry Manilow!  Remember, I’m a big fan of Duran Duran, so there’s no accounting for taste.).

But there is something wrong with the runaway success of the American Idol model.  It focuses too much on the person as a vessel of natural singing talent (and occasionally performance), wants vocal fireworks just about every time there’s a chorus, and is (naturally) a sucker for covers instead of originality (forcing people to toe a fine line between “carry-okey” and “fresh contemporary originality”).  And with the upcoming departure of Simon Cowell, we will have only judges that are trying to be too nice and not own up that the occasional bad performer slipped through their filter (as happened this season, one reason I stopped watching at around the Top Ten).  Its success reminds me of the success of something like Star Wars, which made Hollywood feel the need for event movies every year instead of making serious art (whatever that means; but before you call me a snob, remember that MGM’s slogan is still “Ars Gratia Artis”, art for the sake of art), where quality was measured by financial income.  And the only music that sees much distribution these days is something with big-studio production values, a committee of songwriters and stage choreographers behind it, and a rock video.  Hark back to the occasional hiccups in the charts where real oddities were having hits (the Psychedelic era of the Sixties, the Progressive Rock era of the early Seventies (how the hell did Sugarloaf’s “Green-Eyed Lady” get into the Billboard Top Five in 1970?), Punk and then early (stress: early) New Wave, then, however briefly, Grunge?)  I think American Idol has contributed to the hammerlock the studios have over the music business, as they continue to watch and wonder why their music is so uninspiring and, yes, bringing in progressively less and less revenue?  We’re now back to rehashing (“contemporizing”) remakes and passing them off as new material.

As further proof of the flaws in the American Idol model for success, I’ve come up with a personal list of ten performers who I think would never have made it if in their day American Idol were the template for success.  The reason being:  They lack much (or any) natural singing talent.  But their ability to perform, songwrite, read the cultural zeitgeist of the moment, and keep their momentum and staying power over the years, have made them stars in their own right.  And deservedly so.  Think of how much less enriched the musical genres would be without the contributions of these people?  These are not mere singers, they are artists.

TEN ARTISTS WHO WOULD NEVER HAVE MADE AMERICAN IDOL

10. Simon Le Bon / Duran Duran. Sadly enough (and I’m a HUGE fan of both him and the group), Simon lacks the vocal range necessary for a competition like Idol.  He would pass the regional preliminaries, but would probably not get through to the top fifty or so.  Imagine Simon singing country or blues (the closest you can see is him singing covers of songs of artists that inspired the band on album THANK YOU) and you’ll get what I mean.  His voice is tuned for his band:  Pastel Pink and Magenta, minor notes, and off-kilter songs (try imagining anyone but him singing “Girls on Film” and not looking corny or silly).  He’s a master of his genre (however narrow, and I happen to like it), and his songwriting skills (check out some of the lyrics of “Breath after Breath”, or “Still Breathing” for example) are superb even after all these years.

9. David Bowie.  Yes, he can sing, but like Simon Le Bon he is a very stripey singer, whose voice grew over the years (witness how he sang back in the Sixties; “Space Oddity” or “Good Morning Girl” would not have made Idol), as did his creative talents (from Ziggy Stardust to the Serious Moonlight tours, who would imagine a guy in his fifties putting out “Hallo Spaceboy” or the 1.OUTSIDE album).  Bowie is an artist first, a singer/performer a far second, and a model who attracts and keeps models as wives third.  He keeps surprising us with how much he has inside (Idol would never be so patient to let him grow and “ch-ch-change” over decades).

8. Marilyn Manson.  I only have a few songs by him (not a real fan of his genre) so I won’t comment in depth, but I can recognize his vocal power and creative abilities.  That said, he’s not necessarily a singer, let alone a versatile one.  We did have a person who did a Mansonesque growly voice in auditions a few seasons back; he was laughed off stage.  It’s not a Simon Cowell “sing well” voice.

7. Michael Stipe / R.E.M.  One of the reasons why R.E.M. is a band I can like but not love is because their songs sound samey after awhile (one of the problems I have with The Blues as well; I can see myself enjoying The Blues while playing pool in a bar and getting progressively drunk, but not necessarily sit down and listen to The Blues in concert format).  Michael’s talent is as a poet who writes great lyrics and has a great band behind him, crafting well within their genre.  His tender cover of Lennon’s “#9 Dream” is excellent, but unusually so.  I wouldn’t want him to try lounge-y music, Sinatra Big Band, or show tunes, which are closer to the versatility of what Idol wants.  Yet if Michael was never heard of, we would lose the incredible beauty of “Losing My Religion” from the great world songbook.  That loss would make me cry.

6. Alice Cooper.  Look, admit it:  Alice Cooper just can’t sing.  He has trouble keeping in tune in STUDIO (!!) recordings of “Desperado” and “Halo of Flies”, for example.  But y’know, one doesn’t care.  Because he’s a great stage performer with great dramatic flair, good at making music and presenting a persona your parents will hate (which is all the more reason for disaffected teens to buy it).  He’s also put out great gut-wrenchers and head-bangers like “School’s Out” and “No More Mr Nice Guy”, even sensitive tunes like “Only Women Bleed”, and has enabled entire shock-jock artists to couple (if not substitute) visual talent for musical talent.  That said, he still can’t sing.  No Idol for you!

5. Kurt Cobain / Nirvana. This band is long after my time (I stop listening to charts, except for runaway successes, around 1987; it happens), so again, I won’t comment in depth. But this to me is a garage band who not only made it big, they inspired and legitimized a whole genre (Grunge), and still is making an impact with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. That said, the vocals on, say, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” do not fit Idol, and if the Idol model controlled everything, they’d still be in their garage. Enormous loss to the Generation X-ers and Y’s who still seem him as a near-holy figure, their very own idol.

4. David Byrne / Talking Heads.  David Byrne is also a voice you can’t imagine ever being successful (witness the vocal calisthenics on “Artists Only”, and all the fat suit antics during the STOP MAKING SENSE juggernaut of the Eighties).  But it fits the very iconoclastic music (best in the Seventies, get MORE SONGS ABOUT BUILDINGS AND FOOD, one of my favorite albums of all time), and before it devolved into self-parody, the Talking Heads made nerdy rock by Rhode Island School of Design artists into serious art.  But again, based only on how David looked when first starting out, Simon Cowell would have told him to get off the stage at the first cut.  Huge loss.

3. Peter Gabriel.  Peter, like many of the artists on this list, has a voice that grows on you as you familiarize yourself with the style (I wonder how many labels told early Genesis to get rid of their frontman) and, more importantly, the stage antics (they made albums into whole live-on-stage stories, and to this day the best concerts recorded on video are Gabriel’s:  Get SECRET WORLD LIVE or GROWING UP LIVE if you have any doubt, not to mention the groundbreaking EVE multimedia CD-ROM.  But again, he’s very genre specific (progressive rock), yet an enricher of all that he touches.  Idol would simply not “get” him.

2. Neil Young.  Neil is another one of those performers who should never have gotten on stage to sing (I have the feeling Crosby, Stills, and Nash did their best to keep him away from the mike disrupting their perfect harmonies) — just “shuddup and play yer guitar”.  But Neil nevertheless has the ability to just go up on stage with a guitar and an amp alone and make an evening of it (check out this LIVE RUST concert footage if you doubt that).  And then we get to his songs, with enormous range:  gutty grittiness (“Hey Hey, My My”,”Southern Man”), wonderful craftsmanship (“Cinnamon Girl”, “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man”, “The Loner”, “Down By the River”), as well as exquisite tenderness (“Sugar Mountain”, “I am a Child”, “Inca Queen”, “Lotta Love”).  He can even do blues (“On the Beach”, “Safeway Cart”).  He even puts out the flame at the Vancouver Olympics Closing.  But he can’t sing, except to match his own songs.  Too bad.  He’s a cultural treasure.

1. Bob Dylan.  Even Bowie sang that Dylan has “a voice like sand and glue”.  I never myself “got” Dylan (again, the voice is still too off-putting for me, and he was popular long before my time anyway), except for maybe two songs: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (poetry that is great fun for a change) and  “Lay Lady Lay” (where the catchy vocals are by Johnny Cash anyway).  But he’s still around, still collaborating, still commanding the respect as a performer/songwriter that he deserves.  And once he made the (judicious) jump from Folk to Rock, he was if anything even more influential.  I’m again not a fan, so I won’t dwell.  But Idol would never have let him get near a televised mike, except as a joke, perhaps.  Too bad.  Dylan changed music, in many people’s view, as much as The Beatles.  And he did it without a great deal of vocal talent.

That says a lot for how flexible the rock/pop market is, and how blind American Idol is to other types of influences.  This is why they should not have too much influence on on how the market picks talent.  Alas (and Idol’s waning power notwithstanding), the demands of Reality TV means instant success or no, take it or leave it.  I suspect we’re leaving a lot of good stuff behind and “undiscovered”, as it were.

Readers, feel free to add to the list of Idol-proof successful artists.  My list is obviously dated.  Maybe because so few people are getting through the filters these days.  How many of the artists mentioned in the above Top Ten even have their songs featured on Idol?

Thanks for indulging.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

ENDS

Tangent: Japan Times exposes dissent amidst scientist claims that eating dolphin is not dangerous

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Hi Blog. Putting this up because it’s an important story, and where else are you going to find an expose like this of something so politically hot within the domestic press?  Good investigative journalism in the Japan Times regarding the Taiji dolphin culls (the subject of the award-winning movie The Cove), questioning the science behind the public policy of letting people eat unsafe food for political reasons.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen GOJ/public pressure interfere with the scientific community in Japan. Two examples come to mind: 1) Japan‘s Demographic Science making “Immigration” a Taboo Topic, and 2) Apple Imports and the Tanii Suicide Case. Excerpt follows, courtesy of Kevin. Arudou Debito in Sapporo.

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The Japan Times Sunday, May 23, 2010
Experts fear Taiji mercury tests are fatally flawed (excerpt)
By BOYD HARNELL

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20100523a1.html

PHOTO CAPTION: Award-winning U.S. neurologist Dr. David Permutter: “Serving dolphin meat is tantamount to poisoning people; they may as well serve them arsenic …”

PHOTO CAPTION: Dr. Pal Wiehe, Chief Physician, Dept. of Occupational Medicine, Public Health in the Faroe Islands: “Without doubt, (Taiji dolphin meat) is dangerous to consumers …”

On May 10, in a front-page lead story headlined “Taiji locals test high for mercury,” The Japan Times reported the results of tests by the National Institute of Minamata Disease (NIMD) that found “extremely high methyl-mercury (MeHg) concentrations in the hair of some residents of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, where people have a tradition of eating whale and dolphin.”

Specifically, the tests of 1,137 Taiji residents last year revealed that average MeHg levels were 11.00 parts per million (ppm) for men and 6.63 ppm for women — compared with an average of 2.47 ppm for men and 1,64 ppm for women at 14 other locations in Japan.

However, the May 10 report stated that “experts were at a loss to explain why none of Taiji’s residents have mercury-related health problems” and that the NIMD would “continue to research” why no symptoms were observed, according to NMID Director General Koji Okamoto.

Such continuing research will perhaps intensify in light of further tests by Masaaki Nakamura, chief of the NIMD’s Clinical Medicine Section, on 182 surveyed Taiji residents having the highest mercury levels. Dr. Nakamura’s results found that 43 residents tested above 50 ppm of MeHg, with one showing a level of 139 ppm.

Nonetheless, all those tested were declared healthy at an NIMD-sponsored press conference in Taiji on May 9, at which the institute didn’t give the 43 residents any dietary advice, with Okamoto noting, according to media reports, that, “It’s important that they decide what they should eat.”…

Meanwhile, commenting on Okamoto’s advice for Taiji residents that it is “important that they decide what they should eat,” Dr. Pal Wiehe, chief physician in the Department of Occupational Medicine, Public Health in the Danish-controlled Faroe Islands, said, “This is inappropriate advice . . . We have seen over a period of time that there were negative impacts at all levels in our neurological, physiological and psychological tests that were irreversible.”…

Commenting on the high concentration of mercury in Taiji dolphin meat in 10 certified lab tests conducted on different dolphin species, which found the highest level, at 14.3 ppm, was almost 36 times over Japan’s advisory level of 0.4 ppm, Wiehe said, ” That to me, without any doubt, is dangerous to consumers’ health . . . our average concentration (in pilot whales, which are oceanic dolphins) is 2 ppm.”

He added, “We don’t consider pilot whale meat proper human food.” In fact, despite some harsh local opposition, on Dec. 1, 2008 Wiehe successfully recommended to the government of the Faroe Islands that residents discontinue the consumption of pilot whale meat…

Just as the researcher said that fears of intimidation (and the withdrawal of research funding) prompted him to request his name be withheld, the Taiji dolphin-cull story and the toxic meat it produces is mostly ignored in Japan’s vernacular media. Indeed, this writer has repeatedly been told by editors that the whole subject is “too sensitive” for them to cover.

Whatever the attempts in Japan to ignore questions surrounding the NIMD’s approval for Japanese citizens to continue eating toxic dolphin, however, one of America’s leading neurologists, Florida-based Dr. David Permutter — a recipient of the prestigious Linus Pauling Functional Medicine Award for his research into brain disease — was far less inhibited….

“These levels (of MeHg) are dramatically elevated. This practice of serving dolphin meat is tantamount to poisoning people; they may as well serve them arsenic, it would be no less harmful! What they’re doing is wrong on every count; it’s the wrong thing to do for the people and the wrong thing to do for the dolphins. No matter how you look at this, it’s perverse — it’s a tragedy and it should be condemned. If the role of government is to protect the people, then they’re failing miserably in their role.”

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20100523a1.html
ENDS

JIPI’s Sakanaka in Daily Yomiuri: “Japan must become immigration powerhouse” (English only, it seems)

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Hi Blog.  Sakanaka Hidenori, former head of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau who has been written about on Debito.org various times, had an article on the need for immigration to Japan in the Daily Yomiuri the other day.  Happy to see.  However, I can’t find a Japanese version in the paper anywhere.  Tut.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Japan must become ‘immigration powerhouse’
Hidenori Sakanaka / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
May. 26, 2010,
Courtesy of Daily Yomiuri staff
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/columns/commentary/20100526dy01.htm

The size of a country’s population is a fundamental element of its government, economy and society. If the population keeps shrinking, it is self-evident that the nation’s strength will wane, the economy will shrink and the survival of society will be threatened.

Three elements contribute to demographic changes: births, deaths and migration across national borders.

In the face of Japan’s population problem, the government has focused on measures for boosting the birthrate. Huge sums of money have been poured into programs such as child allowances to help people raise children.

But will the nation’s population start growing just by continuing with these measures?

My view is that a low birthrate is unavoidable as a civilization matures.

Other industrially advanced countries have also turned into societies with low birthrates as they have matured. Advancements in education, increased urbanization, the empowerment of women and diversification of lifestyles also exemplify the maturity of a society.

Japan, a mature civilization, should expect to experience a low birthrate for at least the foreseeable future.

Even if the government’s measures succeed in increasing the birthrate sharply and cause the population to increase, any era of population growth is far away and will be preceded by a stage of “few births and few deaths,” where there are declines in both birth and mortality rates.

Accordingly, the only long-term solution for alleviating the nation’s population crisis is a government policy of accepting immigrants. Promotion of an effective immigration policy will produce an effect in a far shorter time period than steps taken to raise the nation’s birthrate.

We, the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, propose that Japan accept 10 million immigrants over the next 50 years.

We believe that to effectively cope with a crisis that threatens the nation’s existence, Japan must become an “immigration powerhouse” by letting manpower from around the world enter the country.

By allowing people from a wide variety of racial and cultural backgrounds to mingle together, a new breed of culture, creativity and energy will arise, which will surely renew and revitalize Japan.

If this proposal is implemented, the 10 million immigrants, most of whom will be young workers, will lessen the burden on young Japanese in funding social welfare programs for the elderly. The new immigrants will be “comrades,” not competitors in tackling the challenges of a graying society and a declining population.

Young Japanese workers will need to join forces with the immigrants to weather these difficulties.

Encouraging the acceptance of immigrants will not only help Japan out of the population crisis. The immigrants will also serve as a driving force in converting this homogenous and uniform society into one teeming with diversity, where a galaxy of talented people will interact to create a vigorous multiethnic society.

It also must be clearly stated that if Japan hopes to benefit by throwing its doors open to immigrants, it must become a place where immigrants have sufficient opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

Analysts at home and abroad have often declared the “sinking of Japan” because of its passivity over reform, but there can be no denying that transforming Japan into an immigration powerhouse should be the ultimate goal of any reform agenda.

If this country dares to implement the immigration policy we envision, the world will surely welcome the opening of this country’s doors to immigrants as a “revolution of Japan.” This, I believe, will boost the presence of the nation in the international community.

This is the “making of a new nation” that could develop into a change as radical as the Meiji Restoration.

The grand, revolutionary task of transforming Japan cannot be achieved without ambitious men and women in their 20s and early 30s, people like Sakamoto Ryoma and Takasugi Shinsaku at the end of the Edo period (1603-1867).

With this in mind, I plan to establish a school in July for young people to discuss what a desirable immigration policy should entail.

I hope this will help foster leaders for the Heisei era (1989- ) that will carve out a future for Japan.

Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, is executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute.

ENDS

Kyodo: MOFA conducts online survey on parental child abductions and signing Hague Convention (in Japanese only)

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Hi Blog.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just started asking for opinions from the public regarding Japan’s ascension to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (which provides guidelines for dealing with cases of children being taken across borders without the consent of both parents, as well as establishing custody and visitation; all past Debito.org articles on the issue here.).

Sounds good until you consider the contexts.  We’ve already had a lot of Japanese media portraying the Japanese side of an international marriage as victims, fleeing an abusive NJ.  Even the odd crackpot lawyer gets airtime saying that signing the Hague will only empower the wrong side of the divorce (i.e. the allegedly violent and-by-the-way foreign side), justifying Japan keeping its status as a safe haven.  Even the Kyodo article below shies away from calling this activity “abduction” by adding “so-called” inverted quotes (good thing the Convention says it plainly).

But now we have the MOFA officially asking for public opinions from the goldfish bowl.  Despite the issue being one of international marriage and abduction, the survey is in Japanese only.  Fine for those NJ who can read and comment in the language.  But it still gives an undeniable advantage to the GOJ basically hearing only the “Japanese side” of the divorce.  Let’s at least have it in English as well, shall we?

Kyodo article below, along with the text of the survey in Japanese and unofficial English translation.  Is it just me, or do the questions feel just a tad leading, asking you to give reasons why Japan shouldn’t sign?  In any case, I find it hard to imagine an aggrieved J parent holding all the aces (not to mention the kids) saying, “Sure, sign the Hague, eliminate our safe haven and take away my power of custody and revenge.”  That’s why we need both sides of the story, with I don’t believe this survey is earnestly trying to get.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Japan conducts online survey on parental child abductions
Kyodo News/Japan Today Wednesday 26th May, 06:29 AM JST

http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-conducts-online-survey-on-parental-child-abductions

TOKYO — Japan began Tuesday soliciting views via the Internet on the possibility of the country ratifying an international convention to deal with problems that arise when failed international marriages result in children wrongfully being taken to Japan by one parent.

The online survey by the Foreign Ministry asks people who have been involved in the so-called parental ‘‘abductions’’ to Japan of children of failed marriages what they think about Japan’s accession to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Complaints are growing over cases in which a Japanese parent, often a mother, brings a child to Japan without the consent of the foreign parent, or regardless of custody determination in other countries, and denies the other parent access to the child.

The convention provides a procedure for the prompt return of such ‘‘abducted’’ children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has suggested that he is considering positively Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention and ratifying it during the next year’s ordinary Diet session.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said at a regular news conference Tuesday that the government will examine opinions collected through the online survey in studying the possibility of joining the convention. The questionnaire will be posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry and its 121 diplomatic missions abroad, he said.

At present, 82 countries are parties to the Hague Convention. Of the Group of Eight major powers, Japan and Russia have yet to ratify the treaty.
ENDS

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TEXT OF THE MOFA SURVEY

Courtesy http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/event/files/ko_haag.doc

「国際的な子の奪取の民事面に関する条約(ハーグ条約)」に関するアンケート

【問1】 国境を越えた子供の移動に関する問題の当事者となり、以下のような経験をしたことはありますか。なお、回答に当たり、個人名などは挙げていただく必要はありません。

●国境を越える形で子供を連れ去られたり、やむなく子供と一緒に移動せざるを得なかったこと (その事情も含めて教えてください。) (回答)

●外国で裁判をして、裁判所の命令等により国境を越える移動に制限が加えられたこと (回答)

●差し支えなければ、以下の事項についても教えてください。 -子供の年齢: -父母の別: -子供に対する親権の有無: -関係ある国の名前:

【問2】 ハーグ条約の存在やその内容をご存知でしたか。 (回答)

【問3】 これまで我が国がハーグ条約を締結していないことについてどのようなご意見をお持ちですか。 (回答)

【問4】 日本がハーグ条約を締結することになれば、ご自身又は類似の境遇に置かれている方々にどのような利益・不利益があると思いますか。 (回答)

【問5】 その他ハーグ条約や国際的な子の連れ去り問題についてご意見があれば、お書きください。 (回答)

お名前(       )

ご連絡先(      )

場合によって当方からさらに詳細についてお伺いするために連絡をとらせていただくことは,

(1)差し支えない (2)希望しない

ご協力に感謝申し上げます。

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

UNOFFICIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION

SURVEY REGARDING THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION

Question 1:  Have you ever had an experience like the ones below regarding the problem of children being moved across borders? You do not have to reveal anyone’s names in your answers:

— There was a child abducted across an international border / you had no choice but to move with your children (please give details):
— You had a court trial in a foreign country and your border movements were restricted by a court order. (Response space)

— If convenient, please tell us about the following conditions:  Age of the child: — Whether you are the mother or the father — Whether you had custody of the children / The name of the relevant country (Response space)

Question 2: Did you know the existence and the content of the Hague Convention? (Response space)
Question 3: Do you have an opinion about Japan not becoming a party to the Hague Convention so far? (Response space)
Question 4: If Japan were to sign the Hague Convention, you think there would be any advantages or disadvantages given to people in similar circumstances, or yourself? (Response space)
Question 5: If you have any comments about the issues – child abduction and the Hague Convention and other international issues, please state them below: (Response space)

Name

Contact details

There may be cases where we need to contact you to receive more details on your case.  Would contacting you be possible? (Yes/No)

Thank you for your cooperation.

ENDS

Robert Dujarric in Japan Times: Immigrants can buoy Japan as its regional power gives way to China

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 is a thoughtful article from Temple University’s Robert Dujarric on how immigration might help Japan as its power wanes vis-a-vis China.

I will say, however, that if Japan offers the promise of domestic work, and if (to quote Dujarric) “Many individuals would start to study Japanese, in the hope of one day working in the country.”, then it had better make good on the promise of offering equal opportunity for advancement and assimilation regardless of background, by enacting laws that protect against discrimination.  We were made a similar promise under the purported “kokusaika” of the Bubble Era.  That’s why many of our generation came to Japan in the first place, and decades later feel betrayed by the perpetual second-class status.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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The Japan Times Thursday, May 20, 2010
Immigrants can buoy Japan (excerpt)
By ROBERT DUJARRIC Special to The Japan Times

It is not possible to spend more than a few minutes with a Japanese diplomat or scholar without hearing the “C,” namely China. Most of them are convinced that the People’s Republic is expanding its global influence while Japan’s is shrinking. The entire world, and most worryingly Asia, which used to look toward Japan when Harvard scholar Ezra Vogel crowned it “No. 1” now sees China not only as the country of the future but already as today’s only Asian giant.

There is an element of truth in this concern. China has deepened and expanded its economic, political and cultural reach in the past two decades. Japan, on the other hand, has failed to show the same dynamism. Past and current Japanese administrations have sought to counteract these trends, but their ambitions have generally been thwarted by the unwillingness to spend more (foreign aid, cultural diplomacy, etc.) and the power of the agricultural lobby, which has forced Japan to lag behind China in initializing free-trade agreements (the value of which may be disputed, but they do have a public-relations impact).

There is one area, however, where Japan could engage in a strategy that would simultaneously help its economy and give it an edge over China. This is immigration. Japan is unique among economies that are highly developed and in demographic decline in having so few immigrants. In fact, even European states that are in much better demographic condition also have large numbers of foreigners and recently naturalized citizens in their labor force.

The domestic economic advantages of a more open immigration policy are well documented. What is less understood is how it can be used as a foreign policy instrument. If Japan were home to several million guest workers, the country would become the lifeline of tens of millions of individuals back in their homeland who would benefit from the remittances of their relatives in the archipelago. Its economic role in the lives of some of these countries would become second to none. Many individuals would start to study Japanese, in the hope of one day working in the country. Familiarity with Japan and its culture would also rise dramatically in these nations.

Moreover, Japanese diplomatic power would increase as well…
Rest of the article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20100520a1.html

ENDS

Economist London column on DPJ woes, passim on how senile Tokyo Gov Ishihara seems to be getting

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’s a thought-provoking essay on Japanese politics from The Economist (London).  Within it is a vignette on Tokyo Governor Ishihara getting all pissy about how Japanese men are being emasculated, based upon the way they are allegedly being forced to urinate.  The other points within the essay are more important, but I find it singularly impressive how a leader of one of the world’s cities could go off on such an irrelevant and unprofessional tangent before a member of the international press (who, charitably, passes it off as the rantings of a grumpy old man).  That’s just one more signal to me, however, of how senile Ishihara has become.  Only one more year of the man left in office, fortunately.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Banyan
Things fall apart in Japan
The opposition is a shambles; but since the government is its own worst enemy, who needs one?
Apr 29th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16005298

FOR half a century Japan, dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was a one-party state in multiparty clothes. Last August came a seismic shift, when the general election swept away the once-mighty LDP and installed the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in office. Anyone rooting for an overdue revamp of Japan’s political apparatus hailed the advent of a two-party state. Competition might even produce good policy.

They were too optimistic. A black dog of a depression has settled back over the country’s politics, affecting both main parties. In opposition the LDP has unravelled with impressive speed. In late April the country’s favourite politician, Yoichi Masuzoe, a rare combination in the LDP of ambition and ideas, joined a stream of high-profile defectors forming new parties. He calls for refreshing change: deregulation, decentralisation and—crucially for a country with too many paws on the levers of power—a halving of the number in the Diet (parliament).

For the moment, such groupings have not captured the public imagination. They contain too many lone wolves and grumpy old men, such as the governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, who is responsible for the naming of one notable new party, Tachiagare Nippon!—literally, Stand Up, Japan! When Banyan once called on him, he launched into a tirade about Japanese men cowed by their womenfolk into sitting down when they pee.

If the LDP seems at the end of the line, the bigger surprise is that it lasted so long. It was born of the cold war, free of any ideology save anti-communism. Its business was winning elections and dividing the spoils—and for decades it did that very efficiently. But once the communist threat had gone and economic growth had slowed, the LDP had lost its purpose. Younger reformists lost seats at the last election or are now walking out. The grizzled old guard are at a loss.

For the DPJ government the opposition’s ineptitude has not mattered, so capable has it proved at self-destruction. For a start, both Yukio Hatoyama, prime minister since September, and the DPJ’s secretary-general, Ichiro Ozawa, are under a cloud over the misuse of political funds. On April 27th a judicial panel ordered a review of a February decision not to prosecute Mr Ozawa.

Worse, the prime minister’s early promise to concentrate decision-making powers in the cabinet has come to nought. Along with a flair for airy-fairy waffle, Mr Hatoyama has exhibited breathtaking indecision.

This is most visible over a 2006 plan to move Futenma, the air base on Okinawa for America’s marine expeditionary force. Mr Hatoyama insisted on reopening the agreement—locals objected to building a new heliport on an unspoilt shore—while offering no reasonable alternative. Japan’s relations with its American ally sank to new lows. Expectations among Okinawans (90,000 demonstrated against the move on April 25th) cannot be met. At the end of May Mr Hatoyama may propose a modified version of the original plan. But when Barack Obama in April bluntly asked him whether he had it in him to get a deal, Japanese officials were too shocked to record the question, let alone the answer.

At home a spat about roads undermines all the assurances about cabinet authority. Mr Ozawa wants both to have low tolls and taxpayer funds to go on building unnecessary roads. The transport minister, Seiji Maehara, rightly objects. The cabinet should have ruled. Instead, Mr Hatoyama has passed the matter to the Diet, where members will look out for their own districts. This recalls how the LDP used to act. It bodes ill for a country that needs to tackle rapidly worsening finances and sluggish growth.

The tensions between the DPJ’s modernisers and Mr Ozawa, who undermines the cabinet from outside it, have the potential to tear the party apart. Mr Hatoyama’s popularity, which once soared, plumbs abysmal depths. Japan has gone from a one- to a two-party state, and now to what? A no-party state? A splinter-party state? Is Japan cursed by being terminally ungovernable?

Let’s twist again like we did last summer
The question will be easier to answer, first once it is known how Mr Hatoyama and Mr Ozawa weather the immediate political squalls, and then with the results of elections to be held in July for half of the seats in the Diet’s upper house. In private, the prime minister, for all his indecision, is stubborn on one point. All he wants is to stay in office for longer than another recent prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Like Mr Hatoyama, Mr Abe is the grandson of a notable LDP prime minister and, like him, was put up for the top job by a rich and domineering mother (it is not known what posture the two men adopt for urination). Mr Abe lasted all of a year. This is how low the prime minister has set the bar for himself. But Futenma may bring him down before the election.

Many DPJ reformers want Mr Ozawa to go before then too—the party’s election prospects would be better. This week Mr Hatoyama backed Mr Ozawa, the real power in the DPJ, after the ruling by the prosecutors’ panel. Certainly, Mr Ozawa’s potential to damage the DPJ is immense. For instance, Takao Toshikawa, a political insider, suggests that Mr Ozawa could challenge and replace Mr Hatoyama, call a snap election and then step down as prime minister to run from behind the scenes the kind of “grand coalition”, including with disaffected ex-LDPers, that he attempted once before, in effect creating a new LDP in his own mould.

More likely, the election will force the DPJ to seek the support of smaller groups to form a governing majority. Some of the reformist groups that have splintered from the LDP might spot a chance to wield influence. But continued alliances with anti-reform groups are also possible. Either way, the horse-trading will serve only to alienate voters further from a system that is more responsive to back-room deals than to the national need.

ENDS

AFP: Another hunger strike in Immigration Detention Center, this time in Ushiku, Ibaraki

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.  The Suraj Case of a mysterious death of a NJ during deportation, despite the system’s best efforts to keep it under wraps (including media underreportage, nobody arrested or charged, an proforma investigation, an inconclusive autopsy, and even workplace punishment of the widow for making a fuss about her husband’s death), continues on with another hunger strike in a different “Gaijin Tank” Immigration Detention facility.

Good article detailing the breadth and depth of the issue came out in the AFP the other day.  Have a look.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Inmates on hunger strike in Japan immigration centre
By Harumi Ozawa (AFP) – May 20, 2010, Courtesy of Liza’s Twitter Feed

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jf1HRDmVvn_yJNlK6g94oQVTwDCg

TOKYO — Scores of foreigners in a Japanese immigration detention centre have been on hunger strike for more than a week, demanding to be released and protesting the mysterious death of an African deportee.

Some 70 detainees — many of them Sri Lankans and Pakistanis — have refused food since May 10, also seeking to highlight suicides there by a Brazilian and a South Korean inmate, say their outside supporters.

The protest comes after UN rights envoy Jorge Bustamante in March raised concerns about Japan’s often years-long detentions of illegal migrants, including parents with children as well as rejected asylum seekers.

“Those in the centre suffer such mental stress from being confined for so long,” said Kimiko Tanaka, a member of a local rights group, about the East Japan Immigration Centre in Ushiku, northeast of Tokyo.

Japan keeps tight control on immigration and last year, despite generous overseas aid for refugees, granted political asylum to just 30 people.

Human rights activists, lawyers and foreign communities have complained for years about conditions at Ushiku and Japan’s two other such facilities, in the western prefecture of Osaka and in southwestern Nagasaki prefecture.

At Ushiku, about 380 people are detained, with eight or nine inmates living in rooms that measure about 20 square metres (215 square feet), said Tanaka, a member of the Ushiku Detention Centre Problem Study Group.

“They are crammed into tiny segmented rooms that are not very clean, and many contract skin diseases,” she told AFP.

The hunger strike protesters said in a statement that “foreigners are the same human beings as Japanese” and claimed that conditions are severe and their freedom to practise their religions is being curtailed.

“The Immigration Bureau has forced asylum seekers to leave voluntarily by confining them for a long time, making them give up on their religion, weakening their will and torturing their body and soul,” they said.

“Japan, a democratic country, must not do such a thing, no matter what.”

The protest erupted weeks after a Ghanaian man, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, died in unexplained circumstances in March as Japanese immigration officials escorted the restrained man onto an aircraft bound for Cairo.

“Police conducted an autopsy but could not find out the cause of his death,” a Narita Airport police spokesman told AFP about the 45-year-old, whose Japanese widow has challenged authorities to explain.

Rights activists believe he was gagged with a towel, recalling a similar but non-fatal case in 2004 when a female Vietnamese deportee was handcuffed, had her mouth sealed with tape and was rolled up in blankets.

The protesters on hunger strike argue two recent suicides by hanging — a 25-year-old Brazilian, and a 47-year-old South Korean — also illustrate Japan’s harsh treatment of inmates.

“Those were very unfortunate incidents,” said an official at the Ushiku immigration centre who declined to be named.

“We recognise the largest problem is that an increasing number of foreigners here refuse to be deported, despite legal orders,” he said.

The official also said the number of asylum seekers had doubled since 2008 mostly because of turmoil in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Last year 1,388 people, including 568 Myanmar and 234 Sri Lankan nationals, sought refuge in Japan.

Japan’s immigration authorities have faced protests before. Two months ago, 73 foreigners at the Osaka centre staged a two-week hunger strike.

“We would have seen suicides like in Tokyo if they had waited longer,” said Toru Sekimoto, who leads the local support group TRY, which successfully won the temporary release of most of the protesters.

Hiroka Shoji of Amnesty International Japan said: “The immigration facilities are supposed to be places where authorities keep foreigners for a short period before deportation.

“But some people have been confined for over two years as a result. The government must introduce a limit to detentions.”

A Justice Ministry official who asked not to be named said: “The government will interview protesters at the centre and take appropriate measures.”
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010

Table of Contents:
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INTERESTING VIEWS
1)  Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese
2)  David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective
3)  Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”
4)  Yomiuri, Terrie’s Take offer thoughtful essays on easing language hurdles for NJ on a tight deadline, such as Filipine or Indonesian nurses
5)  Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?
6)  Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”
7)  Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey
8 ) Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)
9)  JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

NEWS YOU CAN USE
10) Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.
11) Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ
12) Japan Times: Housing glut resulting in more assistance for NJ renters, e.g., Japan Property Management Association
13) Matthew Apple on how to take child care leave in Japan. Yes, even in Japan. Sanctioned by the GOJ.
14) Sunday Tangent: Cato Institute on dealing with police racial profiling in general
15) MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008
16) NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

… and finally …
17) DEBITO.ORG BLOG POLL:  “What do you think about the whole Okinawa Futenma Issue?”
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Daily Blog Updates at www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito
Freely forwardable

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INTERESTING VIEWS

1)  Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese

Nothing breeds arrogance like success. It must be nice to have created a rich city-state in your image, so you think you can claim enough legitimacy to bald-facedly tell other countries to do as you say, not as you do. We have elder statesman Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore offering his opinions earlier this week to the GOJ about how to deal with immigration — where he advocates a “homogeneous Japan” solution that chooses people based upon their thoroughbredness:

Lee: “You have the choice to keep Japan homogeneous and shrinking and stagnant economically, or you accept immigrants and grow,” he told the audience… He also advised the Japanese to chose immigrants who can be assimilated more easily.

“If I were Japanese, I would not want to go beyond people who look like Japanese. I will (also) choose people from the high end, so that the children will also be of a higher calibre.”

COMMENT: I wonder if Lee believes his fellow Chinese fall into the category of being “from the high end”? Many of his fellow “homogeneous Japan” proponents in Japan would not think so.

Anyway, on behalf of all of us non-thoroughbred Japanese citizens: nuts to you Lee Kwan Yew.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6752

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2)  David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective

Untangle an ardent ultranationalist:

Sakurai: “To tell you the truth, Japan is extremely bad at dealing with foreigners,” he says. “Until about 100 years ago, before the Meiji Restoration, there were almost no foreigners here. We’ve only been dealing with them for a little over a century. But with globalization we understand that a lot of Japanese people go abroad, and that naturally a lot of foreigners now come to Japan. We realize we can’t prevent that. But they should obey Japanese rules.”

Japan Times: So he’s not actually against foreigners coming to Japan, just those who break the law?

Sakurai: “No, we oppose immigration. The (ruling) Democratic Party of Japan has proposed allowing 10 million people to come here. According to the ministry of health, by 2050 there will be 80 million Japanese here ● that’s a fall of over 40 million. By 2100 it will be 20 million. If it continues like this our working population will disappear. So people are wondering what we should do. Should be accept millions of foreigners? I don’t think so.”

Japan Times: What about foreigners who have come here, married Japanese citizens, who pay taxes and have children. Would you send them all home?

Sakurai: “That’s different. Those people weren’t invited to come here by the government. The government wants millions of people to come in and work like robots in industrial jobs. They can’t treat foreigners like robots. Are you going to treat them as citizens? The DPJ is not talking about this. They should be allowed in step by step. It should be deliberated.”

Japan Times: Then you support a policy of phased, planned integration?

Sakurai: “If we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s set up schools for these people to help them blend into our society,’ I can understand that a little. But that’s not happening. The government is simply saying, ‘Come to Japan as workers.’ There’s no debate.”

Japan Times: OK, so let’s say there is a debate. Let’s say the government does deliberate this and create a policy that will allow phased mass emigration of 10 million people to come here. Would that be acceptable?

Sakurai: “No, I oppose such a move…”

http://www.debito.org/?p=6747

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3)  Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”

In an interesting twist to the whole “racial discrimination” issue in Japan, we have Japanese managers suing their former employer, world-famous luxury brand maker Prada, for alleged workplace sexual and power harassment, and “lookism” (i.e. treating people adversely based upon their “looks”).

Good, in the sense that people who are treated badly by employers don’t just take it on the chin as usual. But what makes this a Debito.org issue is the allegation, made by at least one morning Wide Show (“Sukkiri” last Monday, May 17), is that the companies are practicing “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu).

Funny thing, that. If this were a Japanese company being sued for harassment, there would be no claim of racial discrimination (as race would not be a factor). But this time it’s not a Japanese company — it’s Prada. Yet when NJ or naturalized Japanese sue for racial discrimination (as they did in the Otaru Onsen Case), the media would NEVER call it “racial discrimination”, merely “cultural misunderstandings” and the like.

Another example of the Japanese media saying racism is only something done TO Japanese, never BY Japanese?

http://www.debito.org/?p=6726

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4)  Yomiuri, Terrie’s Take offer thoughtful essays on easing language hurdles for NJ on a tight deadline, such as Filipine or Indonesian nurses

Here is a slew of articles regarding the Japan-Asian countries’ EPA program to import health care workers to Japan, which we have discussed on Debito.org before.

First up, some background FYI on the issue from the Japan Times, then an article by the Yomiuri on the language barrier faced by NJ nurses over here on the nursing visa program — once just Filipinos/Filipinas and Indonesians, perhaps being expanded to Thais and Vietnamese. Then a thoughtful essay by Terrie Lloyd on the prospects of overcoming the language barrier in a decent amount of time. And finally, a Japan Times article calling for a serious revision of the program to give people more time to come up to speed in the Japanese language.

Unsaid (so I’ll say it) is the quite possible goal of setting a hurdle too high in the first place, so that few NJ will qualify to stay longer than three years, and the visa status remains a revolving-door employment program. It wouldn’t be the first time the GOJ has acted in such bad faith towards NJ labor.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6692

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5)  Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?

Here are a few articles that have sat in my “Drafts” section for months, waiting for the right time to be posted on Debito.org (it happens sometimes, sorry). Their point is that we have plenty of voices saying that the NJ nurses brought under the special visa program ought to be given a bit more of a break when it comes to language training (again, these people are qualified nurses — it’s only a language barrier), and yet the GOJ intransigently says that these people don’t deserve one — they should pass the same exam that only about 50% of native Japanese speakers pass anyway. Can’t you at least simplify the language and add furigana? Noooo, that would be unfair! As if it’s not unfair already.

I understand the argument that in emergency situations, people should be able to be communicated with without error, but surely there’s some grey in there. My belief, as I said yesterday and numerous times before, is that this is just taking advantage of fear to mask the program’s true intention, of keeping NJ on a short-term revolving door visa program so they don’t come here to stay permanently. These articles below are further evidence I believe of the subterfuge. Sorry to have taken so long to get to them. One-two punch for this week.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5258

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6)  Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”

Times (London): Peter Rabbit, who has appeared on everything from tea towels to crockery, has now inspired a tax. A party of Japanese tourists posing for photographs yesterday at the Cumbrian cottage made famous by Beatrix Potter’s stories became the first to be asked to make a GBP 5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.

Now Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute GBP 5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an academic in medical research, said that GBP 5 would not be prohibitive to most Japanese but they should not be the only ones to pay. “Everyone is equal in Japan,” he said. “If you distinguish between Japanese and others, you run the risk of appearing discriminatory.”

COMMENT:  That’s kinda rich…!

http://www.debito.org/?p=6655

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7)  Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey

Meat 67: I received the following survey in the mail from the City of Urayasu (see below). While I have many friends and acquaintances in Japan and Urayasu, I sometimes feel alienated from “official” Japan, so I was pleased to see that the city wanted my opinion on their “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines”. Like most things from governments there are good and bad things about this survey.

The first nice thing about the survey was the option of doing it in English and Japanese. For those people whose Japanese is at a low level the option of doing it in English is nice, while the option of Japanese acknowledges that many immigrants, can, in fact, read and write Japanese. That being said, just from my own personal observation from living in Urayasu for the past seven years, the inclusion of Chinese and Tagalog versions as well would have made it even better.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6046

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8 ) Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)

Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas. The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau. I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically. But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.

Economist excerpt: Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The Special Residency Permit system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6714

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9)  JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) SIG group Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education (PALE) has just put out its next semiannual newsletter for the season.

Contents include 2010 average salary scales for university educators in the Kansai region (see how your salary stacks up; I’m about 300 man below average), a report on JALT’s advertising policies for unfair workplaces, a quick look at teaching licenses in Japan, MEXT scholarships and how international students are adversely treated, and how a university educator stopped his contract termination by hiring a lawyer.

Download PDF file of the newsletter here:

http://www.debito.org/?p=6663

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NEWS YOU CAN USE

10) Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.

Speaking of “Peter Rabbit Taxes” for Japanese tourists: Here we have more information about Japanese travel agencies overcharging, surcharging, or refusing to sell tickets at all to NJ. Tellmeclub.com is offering different prices based upon nationality, according to A and J below. Contrast with H.I.S. and No.1 Travel doing the same thing back in 2006, despite their claims that they would stop.

Do watch yourself when dealing with travel agents in Japan. Check pricing at the agency’s website after you get an estimate, and don’t buy on the spot. Charging different fares by nationality, according to my investigations back in 2006, is not allowed by the Ministry of Transport. But it happens in Japan, it seems quite unabated.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6430

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11) Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ

As a follow-up with the exclusionary hotels (and the prefectural tourist agency that promotes them) in Fukushima-ken, here we have one person’s experience the other day getting refused at one of them, by being told that there were no rooms available (meaning they get around the Hotel Management Law that forbids refusing people for reasons such as being a customer while NJ). Discriminators are getting more sophisticated, so it looks like we have to have native Japanese make reservations at some Japanese hotels on our behalf. Sheesh.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6690

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12) Japan Times: Housing glut resulting in more assistance for NJ renters, e.g., Japan Property Management Association

Debito.org Reader Kevin submitted this Japan Times article (thanks!) on how The Japan Property Management Association, which covers more than a thousand real estate agencies, is offering information to NJ renters and recourse to fearful landlords. They’re even suggesting hiring NJ to bridge communication gaps! Bravo. If you’re in the market for new digs, check this association out and give them your business.

After all, one of the first nasty things a NJ experiences is the pretty ubiquitous housing discrimination in Japan — where a renter can be refused by the mere whim of a landlord, and tough titties if that landlord has a “thing” about foreigners (due to, say, envisioned phobias about “differing customs”, “communication troubles”, or just plain visceral xenophobia). Sadly, there is no way, outside of a courtroom (which will probably, experience and word-of-mouth dictates, not rule in the NJ’s favor unless the landlord changes his or her mind AFTER a rental contract is signed). ‘Cos, as y’all know so well, there ain’t no law against racial discrimination in this part of the world.

One more thing, and this is a tangent but I’m feeling chatty today: Before we get all Pollyanna and flout any economic theories that “the marketplace will correct all if left to its own devices” (i.e. Japan’s housing glut is forcing the buyer’s market to find ways to be more accommodating to NJ), remember that there is no way economics is going to “fix” illogical or irrational behavior, such as fear and hatred of foreigners or other races that exist in every society. If anything, as seen in the course of the Otaru Onsens Case, bathhouse managers (and apologist bigots like Gregory Clark) have even made economic arguments to justify the status quo (“our customers don’t want to take baths with foreigners, so we have to give them what they demand”; some even created flawed surveys of customers to “prove” it, which got widely reported by unanalytical Japanese media. In any case, the market CAN break down (in classic cases like farmers dumping surplus crops in the ocean to keep the market
price up), and needs laws to govern it. In this case, laws against the effects of the dread mental disease that is xenophobia.

Anyway, again, bravo Japan Property Management Association. JT article about them follows.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6733

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

13) Matthew Apple on how to take child care leave in Japan. Yes, even in Japan. Sanctioned by the GOJ.

Excerpt: “My child care leave officially started on April 1, 2010, but the process of applying for leave started about half a year prior to that. Technically, I was required to give about one month’s notice before applying for leave, according to the Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave (one of the longest names on record, perhaps?). However, I was asked in November, 2009, by the General Affairs Office of my school to check with my department head for “permission” to take child care leave.

Said permission notwithstanding, the General Affairs Chief promised me at the time that, in the event the Department Head refused or evaded, he was prepared to support me in my claim as to the legality of taking child care leave. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, and I was given permission to apply for the leave.

At any rate, the conditions of the leave were that I had to be already employed for over 12 months, that I had to be able to continue working at the same company after the leave ended, and that I would not be paid at all during the leave. The last condition hurt; I was even told that not being paid during leave would additionally impact on my retirement pay from the school as well as national pension● Last week, I was further informed that I could receive some financial support from the government to help care for my daughter. The official form is administered by Hello Work (surprisingly), and all funds come from unemployment insurance. Basically, I get 30% of my base salary until my daughter turns one year old, and then six months after I go back to work, I get an additional 20% as a bonus.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=6739

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14) Sunday Tangent: Cato Institute on dealing with police racial profiling in general

As a Sunday Tangent, here is a Cato Institute webcast on Ten Rules for Dealing with Police, especially when you’ve become a target of racial profiling. Not completely applicable to Japan, but some lessons are, and it’s worth a viewing.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6445

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15) MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008

Dovetailing with the article below talking about Americans who give up their US citizenship, here are some statistics for people taking out Japanese citizenship from the MOJ.

These are all the numbers of people who applied between 1999 and 2008. The numbers have been up and down like a sine curve, but about 15,000 per year (which will add up to quite a substantial number over time). Most of them are of Korean descent (probably Zainichi). The trend is for fewer Koreans, about the same Chinese, but a doubling in the “other countries” column (I am one of the 725 in 2000). The numbers rejected are very small (about one or two percent), but as I argue in an old discussion on Mutantfrog (thanks to them for this link), this is unindicative of a lax system, since the entrance interviews weed out obviously most of the unsuitable candidates before they even apply. More on my experience with Japanese naturalization more than a decade ago here.

Anyway, no booms here. Yet.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6709

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

16) NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

NYT: Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”…

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad…

Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.

Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6706

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

… and finally …

17) DEBITO.ORG BLOG POLL:  “What do you think about the whole Okinawa Futenma Issue?”

Here are the possible responses, in no particular order:

  • Having the Americans there is crucial not only to the Okinawan economy but also regional stability. Not to mention keeping the Genie in the Bottle.
  • Futenma should be given back and those US troops withdrawn to Guam.
  • This whole issue is a relic of Cold-War thinking. Japan should reassert its sovereignty and all US troops should withdraw from Japanese soil.
  • Hatoyama should follow US-J agreements even if signed under LDP rule. Bite the bullet.
  • I’m happy to see some US troops and bases leave, but having a complete withdrawal is too much to take in. Baby steps.
  • I can accept a compromise, where US Futenma troops are relocated piecemeal within Japan.
  • I’m all for more secure borders and the status quo, but we need more strict policing of the US troops.
  • I don’t know what to say, but the stalemate where the US keeps threatening “separation anxiety” is disrespectful towards Japan. Cut it out!
  • I’m neutral on the subject. Issue is too complicated.
  • Don’t know, don’t care, not sure etc.
  • Something else.

Nearly 250 people have voted so far.  Cast your vote at any blog page at http://www.debito.org

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

All for this month.  Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Daily Blog Updates at www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010 ENDS

Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese

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.  Nothing breeds arrogance quite like success.  It must be nice to have created a rich city-state in your image, so you think you can claim enough legitimacy to bald-facedly tell other countries to do as you say, not as you do.  We have elder statesman Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore offering his opinions earlier this week to the GOJ about how to deal with immigration — where he advocates a “homogeneous Japan” solution that chooses people based upon their thoroughbredness.  Well on behalf of all of us non-thoroughbred Japanese citizens:  nuts to you Lee Kwan Yew.

It’s a pity, since he does offer a number of good points, meaning that age doesn’t necessarily mean people turn into bigoted curmudgeons like Tokyo Governor Ishihara.  Here is a scan of the full article (an online excerpt available at http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Asia/Story/STIStory_529528.html).  Courtesy of Steve in Tokyo.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  I wonder if Lee believes his fellow Chinese fall into the category of being “from the high end”?  Many of his fellow “homogeneous Japan” proponents in Japan would not think so.

David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective

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
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Hi Blog.  The Japan Times Community Page put out an interview with an ultranationalist, Sakurai Makoto, who first came to my attention during his push to send Calderon Noriko “home” with her visa-overstaying parents last year.  He strikes me as one of those shy guys who compensates with a flamboyant public image.  Pity he’s using that image to promote ignorance and bigotry.  Excerpt follows focusing on the interview, laying bare how inconsistent the actual mindset is.  It’s good to know what the other side is thinking.  What doesn’t frustrate you beyond belief only makes your arguments stronger.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

////////////////////////////////////////////
THE ZEIT GIST
Sakurai: a very dapper demagogue
The man behind ‘Japan’s most dangerous hate group’
By DAVID McNEILL
Japan Times Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100518zg.html

Excerpt: Why such relentless invective?

“To tell you the truth, Japan is extremely bad at dealing with foreigners,” he says. “Until about 100 years ago, before the Meiji Restoration, there were almost no foreigners here. We’ve only been dealing with them for a little over a century. But with globalization we understand that a lot of Japanese people go abroad, and that naturally a lot of foreigners now come to Japan. We realize we can’t prevent that. But they should obey Japanese rules.”

So he’s not actually against foreigners coming to Japan, just those who break the law?

“No, we oppose immigration. The (ruling) Democratic Party of Japan has proposed allowing 10 million people to come here. According to the ministry of health, by 2050 there will be 80 million Japanese here — that’s a fall of over 40 million. By 2100 it will be 20 million. If it continues like this our working population will disappear. So people are wondering what we should do. Should be accept millions of foreigners? I don’t think so.”

What about foreigners who have come here, married Japanese citizens, who pay taxes and have children. Would you send them all home?

“That’s different. Those people weren’t invited to come here by the government. The government wants millions of people to come in and work like robots in industrial jobs. They can’t treat foreigners like robots. Are you going to treat them as citizens? The DPJ is not talking about this. They should be allowed in step by step. It should be deliberated.”

Then you support a policy of phased, planned integration?

“If we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s set up schools for these people to help them blend into our society,’ I can understand that a little. But that’s not happening. The government is simply saying, ‘Come to Japan as workers.’ There’s no debate.”

OK, so let’s say there is a debate. Let’s say the government does deliberate this and create a policy that will allow phased mass emigration of 10 million people to come here. Would that be acceptable?

“No, I oppose such a move. Look at the Scandinavian countries. They let immigrants in and it resulted in cultural friction. You can’t let people in who are from different religions and cultures. It creates too many problems.”

Of course there are some problems, but many societies have successfully integrated large immigrant populations. What about Britain?

“Britain is getting what it deserves (jigo jitoku) because it was a colonial power. All those people it colonized and suppressed are coming back.”

Didn’t Japan do the same to Korea?

“No, that wasn’t colonization; it was an annexation (heigo). The Koreans invited us to come to their country.”

Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100518zg.html

Matthew Apple on how to take child care leave in Japan. Yes, even in Japan. Sanctioned by the GOJ.

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 just received this informative essay yesterday from Matthew Apple, who is currently on leave from his school, subsidized by the GOJ, to raise his child.  Called Ikuji Kyuugyou, Child Care Leave is possible in Japan, and he kindly offers his insights on how to do it.  I suggest expectant and new parents look into this.  It might make a difference between a well-balanced or an isolated latchkey kid in future.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Taking Leave: How I Successfully Applied for Child Care Leave in Japan

By Matthew Apple, Special to Debito.org.  Received May 20, 2010.

The other day while playing with my one year old daughter at a local child support center, I was asked by a group of mothers if I had taken one or two months of child care leave. “No, a full year,” I responded.

Stunned expressions of disbelief followed. But I’ve gotten used to that—even though I recently became one of the few men in Japan (less than 2% annually) to take child care leave. Ah, of any kind.

My child care leave officially started on April 1, 2010, but the process of applying for leave started about half a year prior to that. Technically, I was required to give about one month’s notice before applying for leave, according to the Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave (one of the longest names on record, perhaps?). However, I was asked in November, 2009, by the General Affairs Office of my school to check with my department head for “permission” to take child care leave.

Said permission notwithstanding, the General Affairs Chief promised me at the time that, in the event the Department Head refused or evaded, he was prepared to support me in my claim as to the legality of taking child care leave. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, and I was given permission to apply for the leave.

The conditions for applying for Child Care Leave were a bit complicated, but the forms were fairly simple. Essentially, because my wife or other close family relative (i.e., grandparents) was unable to care for my infant daughter, I was allowed by law to take child care leave. This is called “ikuji-kyuugyou,” or 育児休業 in Japanese. Recently I checked the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s homepage and discovered that the English version (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/general/seido/koyou/ryouritu/index.html) states that the leave can only be taken until the child is one year old, or in some cases up to 18 months old.

(For more information and links to child care leave documents, please visit “Applying for Child Care Leave in Japan,” at http://takingleaveinjapan.wordpress.com/leave-links.)

Yet I was told by the General Affairs Chief that I could take leave until my daughter was 3 years old. Since the original law was promulgated in 1991, it seems to have been revised several times. On the web the most recent revision was listed as 2005; however, since the vast majority of information available is in Japanese (including the links to the English version of the law) it may be that the information online is outdated already.

At any rate, the conditions of the leave were that I had to be already employed for over 12 months, that I had to be able to continue working at the same company after the leave ended, and that I would not be paid at all during the leave. The last condition hurt; I was even told that not being paid during leave would additionally impact on my retirement pay from the school as well as national pension. Moreover, I still had to pay income tax, since income tax in Japan is based on the previous year’s income. But in this case, the means justified the ends. My daughter’s welfare was more important to me than a year’s salary.  At least I won’t have to pay any income tax at all next year.

Last week, I was further informed that I could receive some financial support from the government to help care for my daughter. The official form is administered by Hello Work (surprisingly), and all funds come from unemployment insurance. Basically, I get 30% of my base salary until my daughter turns one year old, and then six months after I go back to work, I get an additional 20% as a bonus (for going back to work, I suppose). Theoretically, it’s possible to extend the benefits until my daughter is the age of 18 months, but I would have to apply and be rejected from an officially-approved day care facility after my daughter’s birthday. Seems a bit besides the point, since I’ve already taken the year leave, and since she was already rejected in February.

As I said, I was given permission to take child care leave, which to my knowledge is the first time a male employee at my school has ever done so. One person in my department tried to convince me otherwise, saying that he and his wife had left both their children at day care when they were four and five months old. However, other male colleagues encouraged me and even congratulated me for taking the leave. Several privately confided that it was too bad the law wasn’t in effect when their own children were born. On the other hand, one female colleague told me that her husband not only didn’t bother taking leave a few years ago, but furthermore refused to lift a finger around the house at all. She lamented the fact that “Japanese men” expected their wives to do all the child-raising in addition to working a full-time job.

Not being a Japanese man, I can’t say whether this accusation is true or not. I only know two things: The first is that Japan has the world’s lowest rate of childbirth, in addition to the world’s lowest rate of fathers taking child care leave. These seem logically connected.

The second is that, as a teacher, I am expected to care for my students. If that’s the case, then, how can I take care of other people’s children before learning how to care for my own child?

(You can read more about my “adventures” during my year of leave at my blog, Taking Leave in Japan at http://takingleaveinjapan.wordpress.com. )

ENDS

Japan Times: Housing glut resulting in more assistance for NJ renters, e.g., Japan Property Management Association

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
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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader Kevin submitted this Japan Times article (thanks!) on how The Japan Property Management Association, which covers more than a thousand real estate agencies, is offering information to NJ renters and recourse to fearful landlords. They’re even suggesting hiring NJ to bridge communication gaps! Bravo. If you’re in the market for new digs, check this association out and give them your business.

After all, one of the first nasty things a NJ experiences is the pretty ubiquitous housing discrimination in Japan — where a renter can be refused by the mere whim of a landlord, and tough titties if that landlord has a “thing” about foreigners (due to, say, envisioned phobias about “differing customs”, “communication troubles”, or just plain visceral xenophobia). Sadly, there is no way, outside of a courtroom (which will probably, experience and word-of-mouth dictates, not rule in the NJ’s favor unless the landlord changes his or her mind AFTER a rental contract is signed). ‘Cos, as y’all know so well, there ain’t no law against racial discrimination in this part of the world.

One more thing, and this is a tangent but I’m feeling chatty today:  Before we get all Pollyanna and flout any economic theories that “the marketplace will correct all if left to its own devices” (i.e. Japan’s housing glut is forcing the buyer’s market to find ways to be more accommodating to NJ), remember that there is no way economics is going to “fix” illogical or irrational behavior, such as fear and hatred of foreigners or other races that exist in every society.  If anything, as seen in the course of the Otaru Onsens Case, bathhouse managers (and apologist bigots like Gregory Clark) have even made economic arguments to justify the status quo (“our customers don’t want to take baths with foreigners, so we have to give them what they demand”; some even created flawed surveys of customers to “prove” it, which got widely reported by an unanalytical Japanese media (page down to “False Summits Dec 1999“).  In any case, the market CAN break down (in classic cases like farmers dumping surplus crops in the ocean to keep the market price up), and needs laws to govern it.  In this case, laws against the effects of the dread mental disease that is xenophobia.

Anyway, again, bravo Japan Property Management Association.   JT article about them follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Housing glut opens door to foreign tenants
By MIZUHO AOKI Staff writer
The Japan Times: Saturday, May 15, 2010 (excerpt)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100515f2.html

As the country’s foreign population keeps growing and the declining birthrate and oversupply of housing result in more and more vacancies, it is time for real estate agents to create a more welcoming environment for foreign customers, according to people who work in the business.

“Housing discrimination against foreigners still remains in Japan today. . . . We have a lot of vacant housing that needs to be filled. And there are many (foreigners) who want to rent housing in the country,” Noriaki Shiomi, vice deputy chairman of the Japan Property Management Association, told a forum in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday. “What we must try now is to gain knowhow to smoothly accept foreign customers.”

Efforts to provide foreigners access to rental housing have become increasingly important amid the surge in vacancies in recent years due to oversupply and the shrinking population, according to the association…

According to a survey conducted by the association in 2003 on 275 landlords nationwide, over 60 percent of landlords said they worried about dealing with foreign customers when there is a problem because of difficulties in communicating. Over 50 percent of landlords also said they were concerned about differences in customs relating to living.

“What landowners want to know is that when something happens, they will have support from real estate agencies,” said Ogino. “In other words, if the owners know that the agencies will deal with foreigners when they have trouble, many are willing to rent out their properties to foreigners.”…

The Japan Property Management Association provides printed guidebooks and DVDs in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese designed to help foreigners gain basic knowledge of searching for and renting housing. They can be found at the association’s member real estate agents.

The guidebooks explain step-by-step procedures for renting apartments, including tips in visiting real estate agencies, explanations of contracts and the rules of everyday life.

In addition to the booklets and DVDs, the association said another key for the industry to become more accessible for foreign customers is to hire foreigners.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100515f2.html

ENDS

Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”

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.  In an interesting twist to the whole “racial discrimination” issue in Japan, we have Japanese managers suing their former employer, world-famous luxury brand maker Prada, for alleged workplace sexual and power harassment, and “lookism” (i.e. treating people adversely based upon their “looks”).  Some excerpts from the Japan Times:

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

The Japan Times Saturday, March 20, 2010
Fired Prada manager files suit (excerpt)
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100320a8.html
Former Prada Japan manager Rina Bovrisse filed suit Friday with the Tokyo District Court, seeking compensation for emotional distress from alleged harassment, she and her lawyers said….

——————————

The Japan Times Saturday, April 17, 2010
Ex-Prada exec claims harassment (excerpt)
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100417a6.html
Former Prada Japan senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, who is suing the company over emotional distress from alleged harassment, said Friday she took the action to support mistreated working women in Japan who don’t feel they have the power to fight their employers.

“I filed the lawsuit against Prada Japan for creating a working environment cruel and unsafe for women,” Bovrisse said at a news conference at the Tokyo District Court. “Prada Japan’s personnel practice is abusive to women.”

The civil trial, in which Bovrisse will argue that the Italian fashion company discriminated against her and other female workers for what the company president called poor appearance, will get under way May 14. She is demanding an apology, compensation and cancellation of her dismissal from the company….

——————————

The Japan Times Saturday, May 15, 2010
Two former managers to file harassment suits against Prada (excerpt)

By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100515a9.html

Two former shop managers of Prada Japan will file harassment lawsuits against the company, a move inspired by a former senior retail manager who sued the company for another harassment case, her lawyer said Friday.

Yoshiki Kojima, the lawyer for former senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, revealed the move when her suit commenced before the Tokyo District Court. Bovrisse is demanding the company apologize, pay compensation for emotional distress and come up with measures to prevent harassment. […]

Bovrisse alleges Prada Japan’s CEO asked her to get rid of shop managers and assistant managers who he described as unattractive last May. After she refused to do so, Prada Japan’s human resources manager gave most of those managers, including the two planning to file suit, transfer orders that amounted to demotions in May and June last year, according to Bovrisse and a shop manager and two assistant shop managers who received the orders.

————————————–

不当に解雇されたとして「プラダジャパン」を訴えていた元女性部長が法廷で意見陳述
FNN News May 14, 2010

http://www.fnn-news.com/news/headlines/articles/CONN00177301.html
セクハラやパワハラを受け、不当に解雇されたとして「プラダジャパン」を訴えていた元女性部長が、14日に法廷に立った。対するプラダジャパン側も、全面的に争う姿勢。
白いワンピースにピンクのベルトを着用し、全身シャネルのスタイルで法廷へと向かう、「プラダジャパン」の元部長・ボヴリース里奈さん(36)。
ボヴリースさんは、「『やっときょう(14日)から始まる』という感じで。ただ真っすぐ行くっていう感じで」と話し、東京地裁へと向かった。
ボヴリースさんは、プラダジャパンから一方的に解雇されたとして、解雇の無効と慰謝料を求める訴えを起こしており、その1回目の裁判が14日に行われた。
解雇のいきさつについて、ボヴリースさんは4月に、「やせろ。オペレーション部長としてふさわしくない。ミラノ本社からの訪問者にも絶対に紹介したくないし、見せたくない(と言われた)」と話した。
2009年9月、人事部長から社長の言葉として、「やせろ」、「君の醜さが恥ずかしい」などと言われたため、イタリアの本社に直接報告したところ、部長職を解かれたなどとしている。
労働審判に訴えるも認められず、結局解雇となったため、異議を申し立て民事裁判で争うこととなった。
4月、ボヴリースさんは、「被害を受けた方全員に謝罪をしていただきたいし、やはりこういうことがあったことは認めて、そこからどうやって改善できるかっていうことを考えていただきたいですし」と話した。
提訴を受け、プラダ本社は、「プラダは、プラダに対してなされたそのイメージを傷つけるいかなる非難をも名誉棄損とみなします。プラダの権利を守るために、かつ、プラダの事業が被るすべての重大な損害に対して、会社は必要に応じて決然と対抗します」とコメントしていた。
14日の第1回の審理を前に、ボヴリースさんは、「『真実』という意味があるかなと思って、特に意識しているわけではないですけど、なぜか『白』を必ず選んでしまって。ピンクが好きなので、ハッピーカラーなので。たぶん、最後までピンクと白で通すと思います」と話していた。
午前10時45分に開廷。
ボヴリースさんは、「わたしは、性差別やハラスメントで苦しんでいる、すべての日本人の女性のために、立ち上がるべきだと考えました」と述べ、証言台で、しっかりとした声で意見陳述を行った。
その際、被告側の代理人の方に目を向ける場面が何度か見られた。
ボヴリースさんは閉廷後、「(意見陳述を)読み上げている時にも、怒りが増してきて、『こんな状況を代理するってどういうこと!』ということで、あまりにも感情的になってしまって、見てしまいました。にらみつけてしまいました。(プラダ側の反応は?)もう『無視』って感じなんですけれども、大丈夫です。これから無視できないよう頑張ります」と話した。
一方、プラダジャパン側は、全面的に争う姿勢を示し、ボヴリースさん本人に対し、名誉棄損などで反訴するとしている。
次回公判は、7月2日に予定されている。
(05/14 18:53)

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

COMMENT:  Good, in the sense that people who are treated badly by employers don’t just take it on the chin as usual.  But what makes this a Debito.org issue is the allegation, made by at least one morning Wide Show (“Sukkiri” last Monday, May 17), is that the companies are practicing “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu).

Funny thing, that.  If this were a Japanese company being sued for harassment (some examples here), there would be no claim of racial discrimination (as race would not be a factor).  But this time it’s not a Japanese company — it’s Prada.  Yet when NJ or naturalized Japanese sue for racial discrimination (as they did in the Otaru Onsen Case), the media would NEVER call it “racial discrimination”, merely “cultural misunderstandings” and the like.

Another example of the Japanese media saying racism is only something done TO Japanese, never BY Japanese?

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)

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Hi Blog.  Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas.  The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau.  I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically.  But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Japanese immigration policy

A nation’s bouncers

A suspicious death in police custody

May 13th 2010 | TOKYO | From The Economist print edition

http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16113280

ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was already unconscious when the cabin crew of EgyptAir MS965 saw him on board, before the Tokyo-to-Cairo flight. Shortly later he was dead. A Ghanaian who had lived illegally in Japan, Mr Suraj was being deported on March 22nd, when he was lifted and forced onto the plane in handcuffs with a towel gagging him and knotted in the back to restrain him. An autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, yet his widow saw facial injuries when she identified the body. Three days later an Immigration Bureau official admitted: “It is a sorry thing that we have done.”

The death is putting Japan’s controversial immigration policy under a sharper spotlight. The country has long eschewed immigration. In recent months, however, its resistance has become even tougher. Families have been broken apart as parents of children born in Japan have been detained and deported. People who seemed to qualify for a special residency permit (SRP), designed for those who overstay their visa but wish to remain, have been denied. Forced deportations have become more frequent and rougher, according to the Asian People’s Friendship Society, a Japanese immigrant-support group. Japan’s Immigration Control Centres, where many illegal residents are detained, have faced special criticism. This year alone, two detainees have committed suicide, one has publicly complained of abuse, and 70 inmates staged a hunger strike demanding better treatment.

Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The SRP system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.

ENDS

MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008

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Hi Blog.  I usually like to start Mondays off with a bang, but since I had a long weekend down south, getting back late last night, and a morning this morning too beautiful to avoid cycling to work, let me open this week with a tired whimper.  Dovetailing with the article yesterday talking about Americans who give up their US citizenship, here are some statistics for people taking out Japanese citizenship.

Source:  Ministry of Justice.  http://www.moj.go.jp/MINJI/toukei_t_minj03.html

These are all the numbers of people who applied between 1999 and 2008.  The numbers have been up and down like a sine curve, but about 15,000 per year (which will add up to quite a substantial number over time).   Most of them are of Korean descent (probably Zainichi).   The trend is for fewer Koreans, about the same Chinese, but a doubling in the “other countries” column (I am one of the 725 in 2000).  The numbers rejected are very small (about one or two percent), but as I argue in an old discussion on Mutantfrog (thanks to them for this link), this is unindicative of a lax system, since the entrance interviews weed out obviously most of the unsuitable candidates before they even apply.  More on my experience with Japanese naturalization more than a decade ago here.

Anyway, no booms here.  Yet.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

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 a Sunday Tangent, here’s the NYT on how some (former) Americans are giving up their US Citizenship due to double-taxation concerns (which I’ve heard before) and also being treated as potential terrorists by US banks for having addresses abroad (I have a Canadian friend who’s fallen into that category; makes it very difficult to pay American credit card bills, and the credit companies enjoy the windfall of charging late fees).  My reason for giving up US citizenship was one of the rare political issues:  See what happened here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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New York Times April 25, 2010
More American Expatriates Give Up Citizenship
By BRIAN KNOWLTON

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/us/26expat.html

WASHINGTON — Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”

The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.

Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence, though they are allowed to exclude their first $91,400 in foreign-earned income.

One Swiss-based business executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitive family issues, said she weighed the decision for 10 years. She had lived abroad for years but had pleasant memories of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Yet the notion of double taxation — and of future tax obligations for her children, who will receive few U.S. services — finally pushed her to renounce, she said.

“I loved my time in the Marines, and the U.S. is still a great country,” she said. “But having lived here 20 years and having to pay and file while seeing other countries’ nationals not having to do that, I just think it’s grossly unfair.”

“It’s taxation without representation,” she added.

Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.

Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.

“It seems the new anti-terrorist rules are having unintended effects,” Daniel Flynn, who lives in Belgium, wrote in a letter quoted by the Americans Abroad Caucus in the U.S. Congress in correspondence with the Treasury Department.

“I was born in San Francisco in 1939, served my country as an army officer from 1961 to 1963, have been paying U.S. income taxes for 57 years, since 1952, have continually maintained federal voting residence, and hold a valid American passport.”

Mr. Flynn had held an account with a U.S. bank for 44 years. Still, he wrote, “they said that the new anti-terrorism rules required them to close our account because of our address outside the U.S.”

Kathleen Rittenhouse, who lives in Canada, wrote that until she encountered a similar problem, “I did not know that the Patriot Act placed me in the same category as terrorists, arms dealers and money launderers.”

Andy Sundberg, another director of American Citizens Abroad, said, “These banks are closing our accounts as acts of prudent self-defense.” But the result, he said, is that expats have become “toxic citizens.”

The Americans Abroad Caucus, headed by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, has made repeated entreaties to the Treasury Department.

In response, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner wrote Ms. Maloney on Feb. 24 that “nothing in U.S. financial law and regulation should make it impossible for Americans living abroad to access financial services here in the United States.”

But banks, Treasury officials note, are free to ignore that advice.

“That Americans living overseas are being denied banking services in U.S. banks, and increasingly in foreign banks, is unacceptable,” Ms. Maloney said in a letter Friday to leaders of the House Financial Services Committee, requesting a hearing on the question.

Mr. Wilson, joining her request, said that pleas from expats for relief “continue to come in at a startling rate.”

Relinquishing citizenship is relatively simple. The person must appear before a U.S. consular or diplomatic official in a foreign country and sign a renunciation oath. This does not allow a person to escape old tax bills or military obligations.

Now, expats’ representatives fear renunciations will become more common.

“It is a sad outcome,” Ms. Bugnion said, “but I personally feel that we are now seeing only the tip of the iceberg.”
ENDS

Was offline Friday and Saturday: Speech in Kani-shi, Gifu-ken

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. Been on the road the past few days, giving speeches at Daito Bunka Daigaku in Tokyo on Thursday, and on Saturday at a place quite “in the middle of nowhere” called Kani City in Gifu Prefecture, close to an hour north from Nagoya, in a quite spread-out and leafy area of the country.

I’ll have more details on the speech soon (as soon as I can get to a scanner; I have copious documents) but this is a very, very progressive place regarding the treatment of its high NJ-resident population (it even signed the Hamamatsu Sengen nearly a decade ago), and a model for other local governments in Japan.  I was invited to speak on what Japan needs to do as a country to make things better. Good audiences, great fun, more on it later.

I also managed to spend Friday night in Inuyama and had a great meeting with City Councilor (and naturalized citizen) Anthony Bianchi, talking about the ins and outs of running for local office.  Other naturalized citizen and City Councilor Jon Heese in Tsukuba has already discussed this on Debito.org, so have a read if you’re interested.

The problem with the recommended (and quite cheap) tourist hotel I stay in on the shores of Kisogawa (the river Momotaro came down, famous for its cormorant fishing shows) is that the owners have not even heard of the Internet, so that leaves me offline whenever I head for the hinterlands.

Anyway, I’m with friends in Nagoya the rest of the day, returning to Sapporo tonight, so please let me confine my postings this weekend to a Sunday Tangent, which I will put up in a few minutes.  Thanks to everyone again for reading Debito.org!  Arudou Debito in Nagoya

Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?

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 are a few articles that have sat in my “Drafts” section for months, waiting for the right time to be posted on Debito.org (it happens sometimes, sorry).  Their point is that we have plenty of voices saying that the NJ nurses brought under the special visa program ought to be given a bit more of a break when it comes to language training (again, these people are qualified nurses — it’s only a language barrier), and yet the GOJ intransigently says that these people don’t deserve one — they should pass the same exam that only about 50% of native Japanese speakers pass anyway.  Can’t you at least simplify the language and add furigana?  Noooo, that would be unfair!  As if it’s not unfair already.

I understand the argument that in emergency situations, people should be able to be communicated with without error, but surely there’s some grey in there.  My belief, as I said yesterday and numerous times before, is that this is just taking advantage of fear to mask the program’s true intention, of  keeping NJ on a short-term revolving door visa program so they don’t come here to stay permanently.  These articles below are further evidence I believe of the subterfuge.  Sorry to have taken so long to get to them.  One-two punch for this week.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo

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Survey: 70% want special exams for Indonesian trainees
BY TOMOKO SOGO, SONOKO MIYAZAKI AND MIKI MORIMOTO
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

2009/11/3
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200911030096.html

About 70 percent of medical and welfare facilities with Indonesian nurse and caregiver trainees believe the national qualification exams should include some special treatment for those lacking fluency in Japanese, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Thirty-seven percent of the hospitals and nursing-care facilities said furigana pronunciations for kanji should be added in the exam questions, the most commonly chosen request, while nearly 33 percent said the trainees should be allowed to take the exams in their native language or in English.

Fifty-nine percent said they were “satisfied” or “relatively satisfied” with the specialized job skills of the trainees, but less than 20 percent of those surveyed believe the trainees would be able to pass the exams.

Those who pass their exams are allowed to stay on in Japan, while those who fail must return to Indonesia when their stays expire.

An official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare dismissed suggestions that special considerations be made, saying that both Japan and Indonesia agreed that the trainees would “attain the required qualifications in line with Japanese law under the (economic partnership) agreement.

“We have no intention of lowering the standards of the exams,” the official said.

The survey was conducted between late September and early October and involved 47 hospitals and 53 nursing-care facilities. Valid responses were obtained from 86 of them.

The first group of 208 Indonesian trainees came to Japan in summer 2008. After receiving basic training, they have been working as novices at hospitals and nursing-care facilities. Nurse trainees have three chances to take the national exam during their maximum three-year stay in Japan.

Caregiver trainees have only one shot at passing their exam during their four-year stay because they are required to have three years of job experience.

Many of the trainees are either qualified to practice in Indonesia or have undergone training there. The difficulty in learning Japanese has been cited as their biggest obstacle in passing the national exams.

Thirty hospitals and 41 nursing-care facilities sought some kind of change to the exams, including eased language standards.

Fifty-eight percent said they hoped the government would extend the permitted stay period to give trainees more opportunities to take the exam.

The most commonly cited reason for seeking a change concerning Japanese language in the exams was that it was difficult for trainees to understand complicated kanji and technical terms used to describe common symptoms, such as bedsores and a patient’s posture.

Thirteen respondents, including nine hospitals, said they did not think any special treatment should be given to the trainees, citing the need to maintain fairness or prevent accidents.

Regarding Japanese language proficiency, 56 percent of the respondents said they were either “dissatisfied” or “relatively dissatisfied” with the trainees’ abilities, while 45 percent said the trainees lacked ample time to study the language.

They also cited a lack of staff members capable of teaching the Japanese language.(IHT/Asahi: November 3,2009)

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国家試験、言葉の壁訴え 外国人看護師ら受け入れ施設(1/2ページ)
2009年11月2日4時32分
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1102/OSK200911010119.html

日本とインドネシアの経済連携協定(EPA)に基づき、看護師と介護福祉士の候補者を受け入れた病院・介護施設計100カ所の少なくとも7割強が、資格取得のための国家試験で日本語の振り仮名をつけたり、母国語の選択肢を設けたりするなど、何らかの配慮をすべきだと考えていることが朝日新聞社のアンケートでわかった。「試験に合格できると思う」と答えたのは2割に満たず、日本語の習熟がなお、厚い壁になっている実情が浮かんだ。

インドネシア人が働く全国の病院47カ所と介護施設53カ所を対象に、9月下旬から10月上旬にかけてアンケートを送付。「施設側の方針」などが理由の回答拒否を除く86カ所から回答を得た。

国家試験の受験方法について意見を聞いたところ、最も多かったのは「日本語の振り仮名をつける」で32カ所。「母国語や英語での選択肢を与える」も28カ所あった。「褥瘡(じょくそう)」(床ずれ)、「仰臥位(ぎょうがい)」(仰向けに寝た姿勢)など専門用語の多さや漢字の難しさが主な理由で、「その他」に記入のあった「受験回数を増やす」「試験時間の延長」なども含めると、71カ所(病院30、介護施設41)が何らかの変更を求めていた。

一方、「特段の配慮をすべきでない」は13カ所。このうち9カ所が病院で、日本人との平等性や医療事故の防止などが理由だった。

厚生労働省は「日本の法令に沿った資格付与が協定で決まっており、試験水準を下げることは考えていない」と受験方法の変更に否定的だ。それでも受け入れ側の要望が強いのは「このままでは合格できない」との危機感がある。

現段階での日本語能力に対する評価は、「不満」「やや不満」を合わせて56%。学習時間については、45%が「足りていない」と回答し、理由として「教える側の体制不足」などが目立った。

合格見通しは「合格者を出せると思わない」が33カ所(38%)で、「思う」の15カ所(17%)を大きく上回る。さらに、受験機会を増やすなどの理由で全体の58%が「在留期間の延長」を求めた。(十河朋子、宮崎園子、森本美紀)

看護・介護現場へのインドネシア人受け入れ 昨夏、第1陣の208人が来日し、研修を積んだ後、全国の病院と介護施設で働き始めた。それぞれ一定の専門知識を持つが、日本では無資格のため、看護師候補者は上限3年、介護福祉士候補者は同4年の滞在期間内に国家試験を受験。合格すれば引き続き滞在できるが、不合格だと帰国しなければならない。看護師試験が期間内に受験機会が3度あるのに対し、3年の実務経験が必要な介護福祉士試験は1度だけ。今年2月の看護師国家試験では82人が挑戦し、合格者はゼロだった。

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国家試験見直しへ議論 外相、外国人看護師研修生問題で
朝日新聞 2009年11月21日22時0分
http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/1121/NGY200911210022.html

岡田克也外相は21日、インドネシアなどからの看護師、介護福祉士の研修生が日本語の壁などで国家試験に苦戦し、期待される合格者数が確保できない問題について「本国では優秀なのに日本で3年間研修しても受からず、帰国するようなことがあってはならない」と述べ、外務省内で試験などの見直しに向け議論を始めていることを初めて明らかにした。

この日、三重県四日市市で開いたオープンセミナーでの講演で話した。岡田外相は経済連携協定(EPA)に基づき来日した研修生について「漢字が難しく、ほとんどの人が受からないだろう」との認識を示し、「ほとんど落ちるという試験とはいかがなものか。彼らに課すような試験ではないのではないか」と疑問を示した。

講演後記者団に対し、研修生の意見も聴き、見直しに向けて外務省で議論をまとめたうえ、今後、厚生労働省など各省庁と協議する考えを示した。(中川史)

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Indonesia to supply 500 more caregivers
Japan Times/Kyodo News/Bernama Nov 25, 2009

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20091125a7.html

Japan will accept up to 500 health care workers from Indonesia in the fiscal year that starts next April 1 under an economic partnership agreement, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The quota breaks down to 200 nurses and 300 nursing aides. The government has informed Indonesia of the decision, officials said.

In 2008 and 2009, Japan set the quota at 1,000 health care workers and accepted 570 from Indonesia — 277 nurses and 293 caregivers.

Japan International Corp. of Welfare Services, an affiliate of the health ministry, will seek out hospitals and nursing care facilities from across Japan willing to accept the Indonesian health care workers, the officials said.

Japan has accepted Filipino nurses and caregivers from the Philippines under a similar agreement.

While working they study for Japanese-language and medical tests to become licensed nurses and care givers.

Four of the Indonesian health care workers who entered Japan last year have returned home because of unexpected working conditions, climate or personal reasons.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

Yomiuri, Terrie’s Take offer thoughtful essays on easing language hurdles for NJ on a tight deadline, such as Filipine or Indonesian nurses

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 is a slew of articles regarding the Japan-Asian countries’ EPA program to import health care workers to Japan, which we have discussed on Debito.org before.

First up, some background FYI on the issue from the Japan Times, then an article by the Yomiuri on the language barrier faced by NJ nurses over here on the nursing visa program — once just Filipinos/Filipinas and Indonesians, perhaps being expanded to Thais and Vietnamese.  Then a thoughtful essay by Terrie Lloyd on the prospects of overcoming the language barrier in a decent amount of time.  And finally, a Japan Times article calling for a serious revision of the program to give people more time to come up to speed in the Japanese language.

Unsaid (so I’ll say it) is the quite possible goal of setting a hurdle too high in the first place, so that few NJ will qualify to stay longer than three years, and the visa status remains a revolving-door employment program.  It wouldn’t be the first time the GOJ has acted in such bad faith towards NJ labor.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo

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Background on the issue from Japan Times FYI Column:

FYI
FOREIGN NURSES
Language sets high hurdle for caregiver candidates
By MIZUHO AOKI Staff writer
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

(…)

Why did Japan start accepting nurse and caregiver candidates from Indonesia and the Philippines?

The acceptance is part of bilateral EPAs, one with Indonesia that took effect on July 1, 2008, and another with the Philippines that started on Dec. 11 the same year.

Under the accords, Japan can benefit from the reduction or removal of tariffs on Japanese goods. In return, Japan agreed to accept nurses and caregivers from the two countries as candidates for certification to work here.

Although the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has denied that accepting foreign caregivers is part of efforts to resolve the manpower shortage in health care, about 60 percent of hospitals and about 50 percent of welfare facilities that have accepted Indonesian candidates said they offered them jobs hoping to improve staff levels, according to a survey conducted by the health ministry.

What is required to become a qualified nurse or caregiver in Japan under the EPAs?

Both Indonesians and Filipinos must be qualified nurses in their home countries. Plus, Indonesian nurses must have more than two years of experience. Filipino nurses should have three years of experience.

For caregivers, Indonesians must be graduates of nursing universities or schools that require at least three years of study. Filipinos must be graduates of four-year universities or nursing colleges.

All are required to take six months of Japanese-language training before working for care facilities.

Nurses must pass the annual exam within three years, while caregivers get four years. To be qualified to take the exam, caregiver applicants must have three years of on-the-job training in Japan, which means they have only one shot to pass the exam before they are asked to return to their countries.

Rest at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100511i1.html

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High language barrier for nurses
Yomiuri Shimbun Apr. 13, 2010
Hirofumi Noguchi and Takashi Ko
yama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers, Courtesy of Kevin
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20100413TDY01T01.htm

Masugi Sato, the director of Sato Hospital in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, was deeply disappointed by the results of this year’s national nurses examination. Two foreign nurses are working at his hospital under a project tied to an economic partnership agreement (EPA), aiming to pass the nurses exam after acquiring work experience in Japan, but both failed the test.

Only three, or 1.2 percent, of the non-Japanese applicants for the latest test were successful.

“I was correct in worrying that the Japanese-language proficiency [of the two foreign nurses] might be insufficient,” Sato said.

The government announced the exam results March 26. It was the second chance to achieve qualification for the first group of foreign nurses who came to Japan under the economic partnership program.

In the first opportunity in 2009, 82 foreign nurses took the exam, and all failed. This year, 254 such nurses applied, and three passed.

The news was a relief for the different parties involved, but there were still 251 unsuccessful applicants. If any of the 98 Indonesian nurses in the first group fail the test next year, they will have to return home.

Japan has agreed to accept nurses and nursing caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines under its EPAs with those nations. Currently, 840 foreign nurses and caregivers work in Japan under the program.

If they pass the qualifying exam within their designated periods–three years for nurses and four years for nursing caregivers–they can continue to work in Japan beyond those periods. The government is in talks to accept nurses and caregivers from Vietnam and caregivers from Thailand.

Sato Hospital hosts two Indonesians, and it is the hospital’s responsibility to prepare them for the test, although there are no established methods or textbooks translated into Indonesian. It takes the Indonesian staff one week to learn a single page in a textbook written in Japanese, looking up the technical terms in dictionaries as they go.

Indonesia does not have public health insurance or nursing care insurance systems. “The test covers three kinds of insurance programs, including national health insurance,” said Junichi Itaoka, 58, a volunteer who teaches Japanese to the nurses. “I taught them about it, but they don’t seem to grasp the differences.”

One of the two Indonesians, Ida Ayu Made Juliantari, had a good education in Indonesia and four years of work experience at a hospital there before coming to Japan.

But her experience often is not applicable in Japan. “In Indonesia, many patients [I dealt with] had infectious diseases or appendicitis. I rarely saw elderly people with dementia,” she said in Japanese.

Tomomi Yoshino, the chief nurse who is her supervisor, said: “She has only one more chance. We must do our best.”

===

Burden of education

Morina Melina Ross Tambunan, 23, is a nursing care worker at Arcadia, a health care facility for the elderly in Musashi-Murayama, Tokyo. She continues to help patients eat even when it is time for her break, and is well liked among them.

Chief care worker Manami Komatsu, 31, says: “She’s our role model for polite language. She inspires us.”

Overall, however, medical institutions are seeking far fewer foreign nurses and caregivers this fiscal year. In total, they have requested 139 nurses and 189 caregivers, 60 percent fewer than the previous fiscal year.

The reason is believed to be the educational burden involved in taking on foreign workers. Also, an increasing number of Japanese are seeking jobs in the nursing and caregiver fields amid the ongoing recession.

Morina plans to take the national qualification exam for nursing caregivers two years from now. The pass rate among Japanese applicants is 50 percent.

Morina takes a two-hour Japanese lesson three to four times a week, but is still far from the level needed to pass.

“Under the current exam, all [foreign] applicants may fail, and the program itself may fail,” said facility head Tsuneto Kimura. “Even if they don’t pass the same exam as Japanese applicants, they can work well.”

Numerous experts and observers are calling for the program to be reviewed.

Four hospital groups, including the Japan Hospital Association, submitted a set of proposals to the government last month. The proposals included:

  • Foreign nurses and caregivers should be provided with sufficient Japanese-language education before coming to Japan.
  • Candidates should be allowed to stay in Japan for an extended period and given more opportunities to take the exam.

A civic group named Garuda Supporters called for “special measures in consideration of the Japanese-language handicap,” such as extending the time applicants have to complete the exam.

The tests use terms so technical that few native Japanese speakers can read them. For example, “jokuso” is a synonym of “tokozure” (bedsore), and “goen” is a term for aspiration.

“I’ll ask the exam committee [that creates the questions] to consider whether difficult terms can be replaced with easy words,” Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma has said,

Still, it is unclear whether word changes would boost the number of foreigners passing the exam.

To increase the number of successful applicants under the current framework, the government has begun supporting medical institutions in their efforts to help foreign employees improve their Japanese skills.

Starting this fiscal year, the government is granting subsidies to medical facilities to hire Japanese-language teachers.

The Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services, which acts as an intermediary between foreign nurses and Japanese medical institutions, distributed three kinds of textbooks for the exams.

“Hospitals are having a harder time and are more frustrated than we expected. We want to support them,” an official of the organization said.
(Apr. 13, 2010)

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

General Edition Sunday, May 09, 2010 Issue No. 564

Back in March (TT559) we reported that out of 257 Filipino nurses brought to Japan to help out with the nation’s nursing shortage, only 3 actually passed their Japanese-language nursing exams. While in 2009, none of the 82 candidates passed. This represents a stunning waste of human resources, money, and dreams, both here in Japan and back in the Philippines.

As we mentioned in the news item at the time, most of the blame on this rather miserable statistic can be placed with the Japanese authorities who conceived the program in the first place. How can someone possibly learn enough Japanese in the first 6 months that over the remaining 2 1/2 years of gruelingly long hours of manual labor they can then acquire the rest of the language needed to actually pass their nursing exams?

Indeed, one of the three to successfully pass recounted how she had to fight to stay awake and study until 01:00am every morning, trying to acquire sufficient kanji to read the exam questions in the first place. Let’s remember that she was already a fully qualified nurse — so this was really just a language issue.

From our experience (both personal and through observation) the quickest that an intelligent person not used to Chinese/Japanese characters can actually learn and be functional in the language, from zero, is about one year. And for those wanting to be productive (versus merely functional) two years is a much better time frame. These periods, by the way, mean FULL TIME study — in a highly structured classroom setting, with lots of quality teaching time, and with the very best language aids that money can buy. Add work responsibilities and long hours, and an immigrant may never master Japanese properly.

The basis for our saying one year is the practical minimum is based on the fact that certain diplomatic courses run here for staff of foreign embassies can turn out Japanese speakers/readers in one year so long as the person can dedicate themselves fully to their studies and doesn’t have to worry about income, job responsibilities, etc. Although the graduates from such courses can indeed read a newspaper after a year, they will quickly tell you that a dictionary and a spare hour per article is also needed to cope. That’s why we say that an extra year of study is worth investing in: it spares you having to carry a dictionary and hours of spare time.

Thus, to expect nurses from a relatively relaxed culture to come in and suddenly become Japanese-fluent, while changing bed pans and turning immobile patients over (remember they’re not registered in Japan as nurses yet, so the work is manual and extremely tiring) is just an exercise in futility.

And it’s not just nurses. There have been many schemes cooked up over the years to bring low-cost foreign workers to Japan and put them to work. One segment where there has been some (limited) success is in software development. In India, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, there are numerous Japanese language schools servicing the needs of large corporations there that want to break into the Japanese market.

Typically these foreign employers have their engineers study on their own time initially, to prove that they have the basic interest, commitment, and capability. If the person passes their Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level Four exam, then they are given financial and work support to do a full-time course for at least 3 months to get to Level 3 or higher. If they pass Level 3, then they are placed on an eligibility roster for eventual assignment in Japan.

Now, admittedly, JLPT Level 3 isn’t really that useful in a Japanese work environment, you need to have Level 2 or even Level 1 ability to be a proper contributor. But at least one’s own personal needs and social support can be covered with Level 3. In reality, most of the work a foreign software person is going to perform in Japan anyway is going to be low level and relatively language independent. We say this because one of the most common jobs for foreign software developers is to churn out the mind-numbing code needed for device drivers and electromechanical devices. Recently there is some higher-end systems architecting work available, but this is still rare.

Anyway, we now have a situation where the designers of the nursing program are starting to realize that their charges are actually people and not little flexible-limbed robots, and therefore the idea of extending their language lessons by at least another 3-6 months without the conflict of grueling work schedules, is highly likely. Yes, it’s going to be expensive, but without such steps, they can forget about having 10,000 extra foreign nurses here.

Japan could learn about language learning for foreign immigrants by taking a look at how foreign companies prepare their own employees for overseas assignments, and pick up on best practices. The Nikkei’s erstwhile senior journalist, Waichi Sekiguchi, penned an interesting article several weeks ago about how Samsung prepares its staff for foreign postings, including coming to Japan.

He points out that the firm realizes that employees working abroad have to have strong language skills and so it has a program whereby trainees are sent abroad for a year, to intensively learn English, Chinese, or Japanese.

For the first nine months the employee does nothing but immersive study and for the following three months they are expected to get out into the local community and build a personal network. This last part is a stroke of brilliance because it strongly ties exam achievement with practical application of the newfound skill. Of course the employee receives salary during this entire period. Samsung also has Korea-based language training camps and about 1,100 employees attend these camps annually for 10 weeks of solid instruction. Apparently about 20,000 people, about 10% of the workforce, has gone through such intensive programs — which is very impressive.

Now, this discussion is about inbound workers rather than Japanese employees being sent abroad. So the point of the Samsung model is that here you have a large group of corporate elite, and even for such motivated employees the minimum language training offered is twelve months (if you include the three months dedicated to personal networking). This, in our opinion is the absolute minimum that should be offered to the nurses and engineers who are supposed to help out the nation in the future.

We have no doubt that some would prefer the technological answer. Therefore, one ray of hope may come from a company called Fuetrek, which has announced a software recognition application and accompanying chip set having an outstanding 99% accuracy. This is significantly higher than existing systems which come in at around 85% accuracy. The system uses a centralized network server to store and process a million-word/phrase database from input made on a cell phone or other remote device. The system is yet to be incorporated into any commercial devices, but if it is, perhaps this technology will go some way towards easing language issues for skilled foreign newcomers.

Of course if someone is having a heart attack and you’re out of translator batteries, then we wonder who gets the blame? The hospital, the nurse, or the translation device vendor? 😉

ENDS

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

JAPAN TIMES EDITORIAL (excerpt)

EDITORIAL Monday, April 5, 2010

Ease up on the nursing exam

It is clear that the Japanese language is the barrier in the exams. Trainees receive Japanese training for the first six months, but after they start working as trainees, they face increasing difficulty in allocating the time necessary to learn Japanese. Host institutions also have difficulty providing them with sufficient support. The government should work out the standards for acquiring the necessary Japanese-language ability and give the necessary financial and other support to trainees and host institutions to help them achieve the goals.

There is the opinion that sufficient Japanese-language ability is a must because failure to understand medical records containing technical kanji terms could lead to serious accidents. If so, the period of stay for trainees should be lengthened to give them the opportunity to strengthen their Japanese-language ability as well as more chances to take the exams. Trainees should not be sent back home disappointed and feeling that they have failed.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20100405a2.html

ENDS

Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ

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 a follow-up with the exclusionary hotels (and the prefectural tourist agency that promotes them) in Fukushima-ken, here we have one person’s experience the other day getting refused at one of them, by being told that there were no rooms available (meaning they get around the Hotel Management Law that forbids refusing people for reasons such as being a customer while NJ).  Discriminators are getting more sophisticated, so it looks like we have to have native Japanese make reservations at some Japanese hotels on our behalf.  Sheesh.

I’m going to be on the road for a few days (Tokyo and Nagoya) doing a couple of speeches, so brief entry for today.  Arudou Debito in transit.

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

May 11, 2010
Dear Debito,

Thank you for your effort to improve the lives of foreigners in Japan. I’ve read a lot on your blog about Japanese businesses refusing foreigners by explicitly stating so, and you give good advice on how to deal with this. Unfortunately there is also quite a lot of concealed discrimination.

During Golden Week for example, I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Takasago (http://spo-sato.jp/2006/03/03-133856.php) in Futaba (Fukushima-ken), the only hotel in town, and was told to go to the next bigger city because all rooms are full (the whole conversation in Japanese). I left the lobby and immediately my girlfriend, who is Japanese and had waited outside, called the hotel and asked for vacancies. She was offered a twin room, walked in and got the key, all this within 5 minutes.

It could be that the room had just been cancelled but I don’t think so as we called immediately after I had left the lobby. We stayed in that twin room (the owner didn’t notice me walking in again later) and that night as well as the next morning there where no signs whatsoever of any other hotel guest, the parking lot was empty etc.

I find this kind of discrimination particularly annoying because you can’t do much if the hotel owner just claims all rooms are full. MP

ENDS

Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.

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.  Speaking of “Peter Rabbit Taxes” for Japanese tourists:  Here we have more information about Japanese travel agencies overcharging, surcharging, or refusing to sell tickets at all to NJ.  Tellmeclub.com is offering different prices based upon nationality, according to A and J below.  Contrast with H.I.S. and No.1 Travel doing the same thing back in 2006, despite their claims that they would stop.

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

Travel firm rapped over foreigner ticket policy
Top travel agency charges foreigners more for ‘discount’ air tickets

By VANESSA MITCHELL

Japan Times July 4 2006

The nation’s largest discount travel agency, HIS, which also runs foreigner-friendly No.1 Travel, has based the price of some air tickets from Japan on the nationality of the traveler, possibly in breach of Japanese law, The Japan Times has learned.

Foreigners trying to buy discount tickets through the company were quoted higher prices than Japanese customers purchasing discount seats on the same flight.

The policy came to light when the company offered a discount ticket to Los Angeles over the telephone to a Japanese caller, but said it was no longer available at the quoted price after finding out a Canadian was the intended traveler.

It then informed the caller that the price for the ticket would be higher for a non-Japanese customer.

However, Japanese Air Law, Article 105, Paragraph 2, clearly states that “no specific passenger or consigner will be unfairly discriminated against.”

The company, which has acknowledged the ticketing policy, has defended its actions, denying ticketing pricing discrimination and suggesting foreign customers pose a threat to profits.

Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/print/fl20060704zg.html

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Debito.org archives on H.I.S. et.al:
http://www.debito.org/HISpricing.html
http://www.debito.org/?s=%22H.I.S.+Travel%22

Do watch yourself when dealing with travel agents in Japan.  Check pricing at the agency’s website after you get an estimate, and don’t buy on the spot.  Charging different fares by nationality, according to my investigations back in 2006, is not allowed by the Ministry of Transport.  But it happens in Japan, it seems quite unabated.  Where are you, government enforcers?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Apr 7, 2010

Dear Debito, First of all, lot of thanks for you daily effort to the cause of improving the living of the foreign community in Japan and arduous endeavor without any doubt.

The last two years I have been witnessing how foreigners colleagues are denied travel tours (national and international) because they are foreigners and can not speak Japanese fluently.

This time happened to my girlfriend when trying to make a reservation for a tour trip to Hong Kong for the both of us. It made her felt so bad that she automatically canceled.

I don’t want to be excessively reactionary about this but it doesn’t seem right.

I’m thinking about asking myself why are the reasons I have to extra pay, because I don’t really get it.

Any thoughts would be really appreciate it.

Please find enclose the mail.
By the way I’ve been living 12 years in Japan and I do speak, read, write fluently Japanese.

Thanks for your time. A inTokyo

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From: yuka.tatara@tellmeclub.com
> To: ******@live.jp
> Subject:
〔てるみくらぶ〕オンライン予約受付確認 WB0119192
> Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 15:11:07 +0900
>
*********

>
>
この度はてるみくらぶをご利用いただき、誠にありがとうございます。
>
>
一点ご案内させて頂きたいことがありご連絡いたしました。
> 失礼ですが、お客様皆様の国籍はどちらになりますでしょうか。
>
>
大変申し訳ございませんが、こちらのコースは日本国籍のお客様対象のコースとなりますので、
> 外国籍のお客様にはお一人様¥5,000の追加料金をお願いしております。
>
>
お申込みいただいたコースの詳細(料金についての注意事項)に「日本国籍の方対象コースです。
> 外国籍のお客様は追加代金が必要になる場合があります。」と記載させていただいております。
> 現地オペレーターとの契約上観光プランに参加される外国籍のお客様は追加代金がかかってしまうのが現状です。
>
> また、外国籍のお客様はお申込み書類と一緒にパスポートのコピーもお願いしております。
> なお、国籍やお客様によってVISA、再入国の書類が必要となりますので、
> 必要でございましたらご自身でご準備願います。

>
>
今回は、請求書に外国籍のお客様の追加料金も計上してお送りしますのでご確認お願いいたします。
> また、パスポートと請求書のお名前が一文字でも
> 間違いがあると飛行機に搭乗できませんので変更ある場合は必ずご入金
> 前にお電話にてお伝えください。入金後は取り消し手数料の対象となります。
> また、混み合う時期は変更ができずチケットを確保できない可能性が
> ありますので十分ご注意ください。
>
>
それでは、何かございましたらお気軽にお問い合わせください。
>
>
てるみくらぶ 香港課 多々良
> 03-3499-4111

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

Also from J:

April 7, 2010

Sorry to bother you, but a friend sent me this “gem”, and I’m itching to send them an e-mail:

■日本国籍の方対象コースです。外国籍のお客様は、追加料金が必要になる場合がございますので、別途お問合せ下さい。  (It was 5000 yen.)
http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?al_id=9832&tour_no=KVNAV30RA003&ym=MMMM

It gets better:
※日本国籍の方対象のコースとなります。外国籍の方のみでのご参加は承れません。
http://www.tellmeclub.com/tour/detail.php?search=on&tour_no=KFNAT01CM004&ym=201001

They don’t even bother explaining why.
ENDS

Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey

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 is a report from Meat67 (sorry for the delay) on a citywide survey of NJ carried out by Urayasu, Chiba-ken, across the river from Tokyo proper.  Scans enclosed below.  Compare this with an excellent one from Sapporo City that came out in 2008.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

From: meat67
Date: February 26, 2010

I received the following survey in the mail from the City of Urayasu (see below). While I have many friends and acquaintances in Japan and Urayasu, I sometimes feel alienated from “official” Japan, so I was pleased to see that the city wanted my opinion on their “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines”. Like most things from governments there are good and bad things about this survey

.

The first nice thing about the survey was the option of doing it in English and Japanese. For those people whose Japanese is at a low level the option of doing it in English is nice, while the option of Japanese acknowledges that many immigrants, can, in fact, read and write Japanese. That being said, just from my own personal observation from living in Urayasu for the past seven years, the inclusion of Chinese and Tagalog versions as well would have made it even better.

I think there are a good variety of questions on the survey, from the general to the specific. They ask about general life in Japan and dealing with Japanese people. They also ask about specific groups sponsored by the local government. Many of the general questions have an “other” option, which is great. They probably received many responses they were not expecting or had thought of .

I liked question 3 about the resident’s association. I have never been asked to join in all the time I have lived here. However, I never went out of my to find out about it either, so when I move next month I will try to find out more about the one in my new area.

Unfortunately, the most general question, 14, has such a tiny box that I had to write really small to fit in what I wanted to say. I mentioned the racism of the police, which, I don’t think, the city can do much about. I also told them that the cyclists and drivers here drive me crazy because they don’t stop at stop signs, sometimes not even for red lights, drive the wrong way down one way streets, don’t look when they cut from the sidewalk to the road, etc…. This, more than anything else, affects my daily life, since I ride my bicycle somewhere almost everyday. I often arrive at work pissed off. It’s so bad that a couple of months ago I actually mentioned to a co-worker how surprised I was that for three or four days in a row no one had annoyed me. I have gone so far as to change the route I take to work a few times to see if that would make a difference. My morning commute is more often than not the most stressful 10 minutes of the day.

Like any survey, some of the questions can be open to interpretation. Question 7-1, for example, asks if you have experienced difficulty at work. I circled 2 because I do not always receive all the information I need. However, I don’t think this is always because I am not Japanese, but because I am in the part-time teachers room. Even many of the Japanese part-time teachers don’t always know what’s going on, since they don’t attend the morning teachers meetings either.

Question 12 is a little problematic. Even though I am “2. Somewhat satisfied” and so went on to question 12-1, I would have liked to answer 12-2 also. I am dissatisfied with some things as well and would have liked to say what they are. I’m just more satisfied than not.

I would have changed some of the language. Just one example is “foreign nationals (外国人居住者)”. Again, from my experience of living here for seven years, the vast majority of foreign nationals I meet are immigrants, so why not call us that? The use of “immigrants” would make me feel much more accepted as a contributing member society rather than just a “guest”.

Finally, I have to ask, why do people think it’s so hard to separate garbage? The city hall offers a chart with pictures and descriptions of the various types of garbage. Garbage bags have their purpose written in both Japanese and English. I really for the life of me cannot figure out where this “Oh my god, foreigners cannot figure out the super complex garbage rules of Japan” idea comes from. When my girlfriend, who has lived in Japan all her life, moved in with me she spent the first month or two asking me questions about the garbage.

All in all, I am happy with the city government’s initiative. I was happy to answer the questions on the survey. In fact, I would be more than happy talk with someone from city hall to answer more questions if they wanted to. I look forward to seeing the results on the city’s website.

Meat67 in Urayasu

ENDS

JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

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. The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) SIG group Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education (PALE) has just put out its next semiannual newsletter for the season.

Contents include 2010 average salary scales for university educators in the Kansai region (see how your salary stacks up; I’m about 300 man below average), a report on JALT’s advertising policies for unfair workplaces, a quick look at teaching licenses in Japan, MEXT scholarships and how international students are adversely treated, and how a university educator stopped his contract termination by hiring a lawyer.

Download PDF file of the newsletter here:
PALEMay2010

See PALE’s current archives at
http://www.pale-jalt.org/moodle
See past archives at
http://www.debito.org/PALE

I have been a member in good standing with this group for well over a decade, and spent several years editing the newsletter myself. Always worth your time and attention. And if you’re a member of JALT, do join our group. Our table is always the most exciting and I spend more time there every year than anywhere else.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Sunday Tangent: Cato Institute on dealing with police racial profiling in general

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.  Debito.org Reader CF submits the following.  Food for thought on a Sunday morning, given the degree of racial profiling in Japan.  On how police are trained in getting people to waive their rights.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Debito, although it is not entirely applicable to Japan, this video (screened in full with a panel afterwards at the Cato website) provides legal advice that is generally applicable to targets of racial profiling.

“10 Rules for Dealing with Police”

http://www.cato.org/events/100212screening.html
http://flexyourrights.org/

The advice to not request badge numbers, and of course, the rules on not needing to present ID do not apply to us in Japan.

I’m not a Japanese lawyer so I don’t know to what degree the other rules apply, but in general, it seems to fit what we’ve learned on your site.

Please give it a look and use if you like.  CF

ENDS

Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”

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.  Another example of sauce for the goose.  When we see Japanese overseas being subjected to a unequal treatment (in this case, an optional tourist surcharge), we get news coverage and complaints (in this case, from a Japanese bystander — either ignorant or not wanting to acknowledge that the Home Team doesn’t in fact treat foreigners equally — who richly claims that “everyone is equal in Japan”).  Shoe sure does pinch on the other foot.

For the record, I think this (optional) surcharge is okay as long as it’s optional and not applied to only one ethnic group (if there’s an issue of taxpayer subsidies of a place, then fine; allow for refunds of VAT for non-residents at the border to offset).  However, according to the article below, it looks like this very surcharge was encouraged by the Japanese tourist board!  Wheels within wheels.  At least they get a badge.  Anyway, something to chuckle over on a rainy Saturday.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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The tale of Peter Rabbit and a £5 ‘tax’ on his Japanese friends
The Times (London)
May 6, 2010, courtesy Ben Shearon

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7117473.ece
Also visible at Japan Probe with commentary

Peter Rabbit, who has appeared on everything from tea towels to crockery, has now inspired a tax. A party of Japanese tourists posing for photographs yesterday at the Cumbrian cottage made famous by Beatrix Potter’s stories became the first to be asked to make a £5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.

The group was following a trail from Bowness to Hawkshead taken by 80,000 of their countrymen each summer. They come to see Hill Top, the cottage where Peter Rabbit, a character as central to a Japanese child’s upbringing as Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse, was invented.

Now Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an academic in medical research, said that £5 would not be prohibitive to most Japanese but they should not be the only ones to pay. “Everyone is equal in Japan,” he said. “If you distinguish between Japanese and others, you run the risk of appearing discriminatory.”

The initiative, believed to be the first of its kind, was born when Japanese Travel Trade, effectively the Japanese tourist board, approached Japan Forum, run by Lakeland businesses.

Keira Holt, a marketing executive with Nurture Lakeland, which supports conservation in the Lakes, said that the Japanese were keen to promote ecotourism. She emphasised that the donation was voluntary and that Japanese people were not being discriminated against. They were, she said, simply leading the way. “Ecotourism is huge in Japan,” she said. “We are incredibly appreciative that their concern for the environment extends to our own country.

“The money will go towards anything to do with conservation, restoring worn footpaths and promoting biodiversity such as projects to protect species like the red squirrel.”

So far 3,200 visitors have signed up to the scheme. They will be rewarded with a badge bearing the legend “Help look after the landscape that inspired Peter Rabbit” and a certificate.

The initiative was launched at Wray Castle, near Ambleside, where Potter stayed as a 16-year-old in 1882 and fell in love with the Lakes.

She acquired Hill Top, a farm cottage near Sawrey, in 1905. The setting inspired The Tales of Peter Rabbit and characters such as Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten and Samuel Whiskers. The author died in 1943, leaving the property to the National Trust. The curators maintain it as it was when she lived there.

The popularity of the books has been boosted by the release of the 2007 film Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger.

Yesterday the Japanese visitors, who make up about one in four of all visitors, stepped through the modest porch into the dark interior or enjoyed a pot of tea with spectacular views over Esthwaite. Junko Ishiwata, a tour guide for Mountain Goat, said: “In Japan Peter Rabbit is a very popular character like Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse. In the books there is the beatiful Lakeland scenery. Many people want to see it for themselves.

“I think the donation scheme is great for the Lakes. Five pounds is not very big for the Japanese people, espcially if they receive the Peter Rabbit badges. But, at the same time, they have already paid a lot of money to come here. It really depends on each individual person. After they see the beautiful scenery, they may wish to contribute something.”

John Moffat, general manager of the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter properties, said: “The Japanese are very important to us at Hill Top. It is a key place they want to visit when they come to the UK.”
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 8, 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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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 8, 2010

Table of Contents:
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

MIXED OPINIONS
1)  Newsweek and NBER on how immigration helps societies, vs separate Newsweek column doubting it
2)  Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct
3)  US House of Reps Resolution submission regarding Japan’s Child Abductions Issue
4)  How the mighty have fallen: Forbes ranks world’s leading companies, Japan with only 3 in top 100, Toyota drops from 3rd to 360th
5)  Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway
6)  Japan Times editorial calling for the removal of its own Berlin Walls
7)  DEBITO.ORG Podcast May 1, 2010

INFORMATION YOU JUST MIGHT NEED
8 ) GEOS Bankruptcy and G-Education takeover: Internal document forwarded to Debito.org stating staff not getting back wages
9)  Mainichi: First GOJ guidelines for teaching NJ the Japanese language so they can live here
10) Debito.org Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week

TANGENTS
11) Racial profiling of immigrants becomes legal in Arizona. However, controversy ensues.
12) Holiday Tangent: “Lifer” cartoon on “Things to do in a Wintry Hokkaido”, Happy May

… and finally …
13) JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues ” (full text)

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

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Daily Blog Updates, RSS, Newsletters, and Podcasts at www.debito.org
Freely Forwardable

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

MIXED OPINIONS

1)  Newsweek and NBER on how immigration helps societies, vs separate Newsweek column doubting it

We had two articles come out in Newsweek over the past two months on the effects of immigration. One from last March cites an academic saying how influxes of foreign workers boost economies, raising average incomes (based upon 50 years of data) 0.5% for every percent increase in the workforce that is foreign-born. The other guest column that came out late April cites other academics suggesting the opposite.

My take: I feel that we’ve got some posturing going on. I’m reminded of the movie THE RIGHT STUFF, where we have the character of Werner Von Braun saying that the Americans are going to win the space race against the Soviets because “our German [scientists] are better than their German [scientists]”. Same here, where the April article brandishes its scientists vigorously, throwing in undeveloped citations like rocks (some aimed at “activists” and “multicuturalists” shrouding the debate in phony “half-truths”), and name-dropping academics with insufficient development of the science involved.

Myself, I’ll trust a half-century of data collated in the March Newsweek article, and believe that countries are enriched by immigration. Would anyone argue that places like the United States have NOT benefited through labor migration to its shores? The only issue is of quantifying how much, which the April column in my view hardly accomplishes.

And if proper attraction and assimilation of immigrants is key (which the April article hints at but won’t come out and say plainly), then the argument once again supports those half-truthy “multiculturalists” and their purportedly phony solutions.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6318

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2)  Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct

AP: FRANKLIN, Tenn.  A Tennessee man who was arrested in Japan when he tried to take his children back from his ex-wife is suing the local judge and an attorney who handled the divorce.

Japanese prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Christopher Savoie of Franklin after he tried in September to enter the U.S. Consulate with his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Ex-wife Noriko Savoie had violated a U.S. court custody decision by taking the children to her native Japan a month earlier.

The lawsuit says the children are still living in Japan with their mother.

Savoie filed a federal lawsuit this month against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin, who served as both the mediator during the divorce and then later as the judge that lifted a restraining order barring the ex-wife from taking the children to Japan.

Savoie claims that Tennessee Supreme Court law states that mediators should refrain from acting in a judicial capacity in cases in which they mediated. He also claims negligence because the judge was aware of the risk of child abduction in this case.

He also filed a state lawsuit in Williamson County against his former divorce attorney, Virginia Lee Story, arguing she failed to object to having Martin hear the case as a judge. He claims she was negligent and asks for compensatory and punitive damages…

http://www.debito.org/?p=6632

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3)  US House of Reps Resolution submission regarding Japan’s Child Abductions Issue

On Wednesday, May 5th 2010, the Japanese National Holiday of Children’s Day, A United States House of Representatives House Resolution will be introduced condemning Japan for International Child Abduction and calling on Japan to facilitate the immediate return of all children abducted to Japan. This historic resolution comes after 58 years of zero cooperation by the Government of Japan on this issue. Of the 231 children abducted to Japan in the last decade, and the countless hundreds more abducted in the preceding decades, none have ever been returned, making Japan quite literally a black hole from which no child ever returns.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6624

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4)  How the mighty have fallen: Forbes ranks world’s leading companies, Japan with only 3 in top 100, Toyota drops from 3rd to 360th

Kyodo: Toyota Motor Corp. has fallen to 360th in the Forbes ranking of the world’s leading companies for 2010, plunging from third the previous year.

Only three Japanese companies — NTT Corp., Mitsubishi Corp. and Honda Motor Co. — were ranked in the top 100, compared with 11 the previous year, indicating the diminished presence of domestic firms in the global economy. NTT was ranked 41st, Mitsubishi 78th and Honda 86th.

Major financial groups also fell in the rankings, hit by deteriorating earnings, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. dropping to 369th from 21st.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6588

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5)  Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway

Bringing this old article up as a matter of record: I mentioned on Debito.org back in early 2008 about a Swiss woman who came to Japan as a tourist and was arrested on drug charges. She got acquitted not once but twice in Japanese courts, yet was not released on bail because NJ and are considered more of a flight risk. While actual convicted felons are released in the interim if they are Japanese.

Again, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan. Unlike Japanese: When Japanese defendants appeal guilty verdicts, they are not detained (see Horie Takafumi and Suzuki Muneo; the latter, now convicted of corruption twice over, is still on the streets, even re-elected to the Diet!).

So despite being incarcerated as an innocent NJ since 2008, she finally gets booted out for “overstaying her visa” (oh, sure, she could have gone to Immigration any time and renewed, right?) and barred from reentry. Rights of the defendant and “Hostage Justice” depending on your nationality. What a swizz.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6436

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6)  Japan Times column calling for the removal of its own Berlin Walls

Japan Times excerpt: More than 20 years have passed since the Berlin Wall fell, yet Japan remains shut out from the rest of humanity by its own wall. Though it is a shapeless partition that we cannot touch, it nevertheless cuts off the country from the world beyond its shores. What are the characteristics of this invisible barrier?

It serves as much to prevent inbound flows as outward ones. Japan is the only major developed nation where almost none of the men and women of influence — in the realm of ideas, business or government — are from foreign backgrounds. Tokyo, as opposed to other global metropolises, has no cosmopolitan flavor. There is a striking paucity of Japanese people teaching in foreign universities, writing about the humanities and social sciences or contemporary politics in scholarly journals or mass-circulation magazines and Web sites, and working in multinational corporations, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

This intangible forcefield harms Japan much more than is generally realized. It condemns Japanese universities, especially in the humanities and social sciences, to international irrelevance. This is not to say that Japan lacks great researchers — it has plenty of them. But they operate in an environment with few foreign colleagues and students (except for a few Asian countries), are under-represented in international conferences, and rarely publish in global journals. Thus, their ideas remain locked within the boundaries of the wall…

http://www.debito.org/?p=6501

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7)  DEBITO.ORG Podcast May 1, 2010

1) “2Channel: The Bullies’ Forum” (Japan Times Just Be Cause Column February 3, 2009), on how the thriving culture of bullying in Japan has gone online and spoiled things for the rest of us.

2) Column by Gregory Clark, “Antiforeigner Discrimination is a Right for Japanese People” (Japan Times January 15, 2009), an apologist’s view on how Japanese are taken advantage of both ways — both by rapacious foreigners and by bullying anti-discrimination activists. One of the worst examples of social science I’ve seen in print in the Japan Times.

3) “On Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates” (Japan Times Just Be Cause Column March 3, 2009), inspired in part by Clark’s column above, I explore the subterfuge of the disenfranchised seeking benefits of membership in The Nativist Club by telling enfranchised Japanese what they want to hear.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6615

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INFORMATION YOU JUST MIGHT NEED

8 ) GEOS Bankruptcy and G-Education takeover: Internal document forwarded to Debito.org stating staff not getting back wages

I’m sure you’ve heard about the next great pop in the Eikaiwa Bubble in Japan, the bankruptcy of GEOS this month. Looks like there be a similar takeover and people left without jobs or remuneration for past work, so people in the industry, heads up. I was forwarded this morning the following internal email from GEOS, and those in the know might be able to explain better here or elsewhere what this all means. FYI.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6604

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9)  Mainichi: First GOJ guidelines for teaching NJ the Japanese language so they can live here

Kyodo: A government subcommittee has drafted guidelines for the first time on teaching Japanese to foreign residents of Japan in order to support them in their daily lives, government officials said Thursday.

The draft guidelines compiled by a Council for Cultural Affairs subcommittee lists examples of words and phrases that foreigners should be encouraged to learn for smooth communication in 10 main types of situations, including health care, travel and activities related to consumption and safety…

The number of registered foreign residents in Japan stood at around 2.22 million at the end of 2008, according to the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.

Many government officials concerned with language education believe it would be desirable for at least 1 million of the foreign residents to learn Japanese so that they can live their lives smoothly.

However, there has been no previous attempt to compile government standards on the extent to which foreign residents should learn Japanese.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6540

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10) Debito.org Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week

Earlier this year I was forwarded a manuscript by a Mr Christopher Dillon, entitled “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”. I liked it so much that I’m recommending it here on Debito.org. As I say within the inside cover:

“Dillon’s book is so good that while reading it, I felt like I was an adult in a toy store: Envious of the stuff kids have now that I would have loved to have as a kid. If only I had the information in this book when I was building my house in the 1990s, I wouldn’t have ended up with the financial albatross I have now! LANDED is an essential resource for anyone considering buying the most expensive consumer good in one of the most expensive (and tricky) housing markets in the world. It’s even a good read!”

As per the spirit of Debito.org (which seeks to help and empower people in Japan), and in the spirit of my first Housebuilding in Japan Essays I wrote more than a decade ago, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking to settle down for good in Japan. Here are some cover and table of contents scans, and information about the author’s Tokyo book tour next week:

http://www.debito.org/?p=6636

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TANGENTS

11) Racial profiling of immigrants becomes legal in Arizona. However, controversy ensues.

I have been hearing word from several sources about the new draconian laws being enacted in Arizona to catch illegal migrant workers, including legally-sanctioned racial profiling, and stopping people on the street for ID checks. Many have said that it seems Arizona has taken a page out of the GOJ’s handbook for dealing with NJ in Japan. The difference, however, is that 1) the US dragnet is (necessarily) a coarser mesh (as Japanese authorities have a wider view of who doesn’t “look Japanese”, since anyone can “look American” and more sophistication is needed over there), and 2) it’s caused a level of controversy that has never happened in Japan (imagine street protests to this degree, even a J prime minister denouncing it?).

I believe it’s only a matter of time (and it will take some time) before the Arizona authorities stop the wrong person on racial grounds, other American laws kick in to protect people against racial discrimination, and American courts rule this Arizona law unconstitutional. Wait and see.

That just ain’t gonna happen in Japan for obvious reasons: We ain’t got no legal sanctions against racial discrimination, let alone this degree of people caring for the human rights of foreigners.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6577

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12) Holiday Tangent: “Lifer” cartoon on “Things to do in a Wintry Hokkaido”, Happy May

Here’s a holiday tangent: Things to do during a Hokkaido Winter, by “Lifer”. Published in Sapporo Source last January (forgot to blog). Since the seasons finally flipped May 1 in Hokkaido (we went from a crappy April to a warmer and sunny May at noon yesterday, like clockwork), we are now officially as far away from Winter as possible. In commemoration, have a chuckle.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6611

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… and finally …

13) JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues ” (full text)

The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 4, 2010
JUST BE CAUSE
Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues

By DEBITO ARUDOU
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100504ad.html
Version with links to sources at
http://www.debito.org/?p=6634

Tally ho! The hunt is on for “fake Japanese” in Japanese politics.

On March 17, at a meeting of opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officials, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara not only criticized the ruling coalition for their (now moribund) bill offering permanent resident non-Japanese (NJ) the vote in local elections. He even accused them of having subversive foreign roots!

“How about those Diet members who have naturalized, or are the children of parents who naturalized? Lots of them make up the ruling coalition and are even party heads.”

He argued that their support for NJ suffrage arose from a sense of “duty to their ancestors.”

We then had the standard Ishihara brouhaha: One person who felt targeted by that remark, Social Democratic Party leader and Cabinet member Mizuho Fukushima, denounced it unreservedly as “racial discrimination.” She stressed that she was in fact a real Japanese and demanded a retraction. Ishihara, as usual, refused. Cue coda.

But something’s different this time. Ishihara is not just toeing the “foreigners cannot be trusted” line he’s reeled out ad nauseam over the past decade to justify things like targeting foreigners and cracking down on Tokyo’s alleged “hotbeds of foreign crime.”

He is now saying foreigners will always be foreigners, even if they have been naturalized Japanese for generations.

He also assumes even “former foreigners” will always think along tribal bloodlines, and axiomatically vote against Japanese interests.

Take that in: A leader of a major world city is stating that personal belief is a matter of genetics. The problem isn’t only that this ideology was fashionable about 130 years ago. Look where it ultimately led: putsches, pogroms and the “Final Solution.”

What’s with Ishihara’s foreigner fetish? Author and scholar M. G. Sheftall of Shizuoka University, whose Waseda doctoral thesis was on the psychological consequences of Japan’s defeat in World War II, notes this might not be limited to one demagogue.

Ishihara’s “Showa Hitoketa generation” (1926-1935) was “completely immersed, from birth until late adolescence/early adulthood, in prewar Japanese ideology at its most militantly militaristic, chauvinistic and xenophobic. It is unsurprising many never quite recovered from the trauma they suffered when their ideology was suddenly and catastrophically delegitimized in August 1945.”

Indeed, Ishihara is not alone. Splitting off from the LDP last month was the new Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), founded by xenophobes including Takeo Hiranuma and Ishihara. Hiranuma, you might recall from my Feb. 2 column, similarly questioned the legitimacy of Japanese lawmaker Renho because she naturalized.

But Ishihara’s Japan is dying — or just plain dead. Demographic and economic pressures are making a multicultural Japan inevitable. These psychologically crippled old men are merely raging against the dying of their light. The average age of Sunrise Party founders is around 70; Ishihara himself is 77. Mortality is a blessing, as they won’t be around to see the Japan they can’t envision anyway.

But like I said, it’s different this time, because Ishihara has made a fatal mistake. Before, he picked on foreigners with impunity because of their political disenfranchisement. Now he has expanded his sights to include Japanese citizens.

A lack of focus kills causes. For example, during the 1950s American “Red scare,” a senator named Joseph McCarthy launched an anticommunist crusade to uncover people with undesirable political sympathies. But then he tried to target President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He overdid it, and it was his undoing.

Likewise, Ishihara is trying to unearth foreignness in very enfranchised Japanese people, and his movement is already coming undone. Only the extreme right buys into “racial purity means ideological purity,” and after shouting down the NJ suffrage bill it has lost momentum. All the fading “Sunset” set can do is rehash anti-Chinese and Korean rhetoric while attaching tangents so loopy (e.g., claiming the ruling coalition controls Japan’s entire debate arena) that they just seem paranoid.

Meanwhile, with the departure of immensely popular Diet member Yoichi Masuzoe from the LDP, the only viable opposition party just keeps on sputtering and splintering.

To repeat what I wrote in February: Those calls for NJ to naturalize if they want to be granted suffrage are just red herrings, because for people like Ishihara, Japanese citizenship doesn’t matter. Once a foreigner — or once related to a foreigner — you’ll never be a “real Japanese,” even if you are generations removed.

It’s a Trojan horse of an argument, camouflaging racism as reason. Now that it is also targeting international Japanese, it will fail.

Again, grant NJ the vote, and accelerate the multiculturalization process already under way. Don’t fall for the last gasps of a lunatic fringe grasping for a Japan more than a century behind the times.

Furthermore, those accused of being “foreign” must call Ishihara’s bluff and stop the witch hunt. Reply: “So what if I were to have NJ roots? I am still as Japanese as you. You have a problem with my nationality? Take it up with the Ministry of Justice. They will side with me.”

Ishihara and company: Game over. Time for you to resign and get out of our way.

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

Debito Arudou coauthored the “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

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That’s all for today!  Thanks for reading!

By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Daily Blog Updates, RSS, Newsletters, and Podcasts at www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 8, 2010 ENDS

Newsweek and NBER on how immigration helps societies, vs separate Newsweek column doubting it

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.  We had two articles come out in Newsweek over the past two months on the effects of immigration.  One from last March cites an academic saying how influxes of foreign workers boost economies, raising average incomes (based upon 50 years of data) 0.5% for every percent increase in the workforce that is foreign-born.  The other guest column that came out late April cites other academics suggesting the opposite.

My take:  I feel that we’ve got some posturing going on.  I’m reminded of the movie THE RIGHT STUFF, where we have the character of Werner Von Braun saying that the Americans are going to win the space race against the Soviets because “our German [scientists] are better than their German [scientists]”.  Same here, where the April article brandishes its scientists vigorously, throwing in undeveloped citations like rocks (some aimed at “activists” and “multicuturalists” shrouding the debate in phony “half-truths”), and name-dropping academics with insufficient development of the science involved.

Myself, I’ll trust a half-century of data collated in the March Newsweek article, and believe that countries are enriched by immigration.  Would anyone argue that places like the United States have NOT benefited through labor migration to its shores?  The only issue is of quantifying how much, which the April column in my view hardly accomplishes.

And if proper attraction and assimilation of immigrants is key (which the April article hints at but won’t come out and say plainly), then the argument once again supports those half-truthy “multiculturalists” and their purportedly phony solutions.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Why Immigration Boosts Wages—and Not Just In California
By Tony Dokoupil | NEWSWEEK
Published Mar 12, 2010
From the magazine issue dated Mar 22, 2010, Courtesy of BC

http://www.newsweek.com/id/234882

As the white house revives immigration reform—an issue the president is discussing with congressional leaders—it may want to ponder the effects of curbing foreign labor. While immigrants are blamed for dragging down American wages and stealing jobs, University of California, Davis, economist Giovanni Peri comes to a different conclusion. In a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Peri trowels through nearly five decades of immigration data and finds that foreign workers have boosted the economy, jacking up average income without crowding out American laborers. For each percentage of the workforce that is foreign-born, he found an almost 0.5 percent bump in average wages. In California, where the percentage of immigrants in the workforce has jumped more than 25 points since 1960, that means an almost 13 percent bonus—roughly $8,000. Immigrants, Peri says, push native-born workers into better-paying positions, expanding the size of the job pie so unskilled Americans aren’t left out.

What’s obvious to an economist, however, is hard to translate into politics. The most popular stances on immigration involve citizenship for illegals already here and border security to shut out everyone else. Less likely to land votes: a guest-worker program that brings in labor to meet demand and keep wages afloat. But without such a program, says Peri, “the U.S. is essentially giving up on gains.”

ENDS

Link to the actual paper here (fee required)

http://www.nber.org/papers/w15507

The official summary of the paper (courtesy http://www.nber.org/digest/mar10/w15507.html):

The Effect of Immigration on Productivity: Evidence from US States
A one percent increase in employment in a US state, attributable only to immigration, is associated with a 0.4-0.5 percent increase in income per worker in that state.

Immigration during the 1990s and the 2000s significantly increased the presence of foreign-born workers in the United States, but the increase was very unequal across states. In The Effect of Immigration on Productivity: Evidence from US States (NBER Working Paper No. 15507), NBER Research Associate Giovanni Peri analyzes state-by-state data to determine the impact of immigration on a variety of labor market outcomes, including employment, average hours worked, and average skill intensity, and on productivity and income per worker.

Peri reports a number of distinct findings. First, immigrants do not crowd-out employment of (or hours worked by) natives; they add to total employment and reduce the share of highly educated workers, because of their larger share of islow-skilled relative to native workers. Second, immigrants increase total factor productivity. These productivity gains may arise because of the more efficient allocation of skills to tasks, as immigrants are allocated to manual-intensive jobs, promoting competition and pushing natives to perform communication-intensive tasks more efficiently. Indeed, a measure of task-specialization of native workers induced by immigrants explains half to two thirds of the positive effect on productivity.

Third, Peri finds that inflows of immigrants decrease capital intensity and the skill-bias of production technologies. The decrease in capital intensity comes from an increase in total factor productivity; the capital-to-labor ratio remains unchanged because investment rises coincident with the inflow of immigrants. The reduction in the skill-intensity of production occurs as immigrants influence the choice of production techniques toward those that more efficiently use less educated workers and are less capital intensive.

Finally, Peri finds that for less educated natives, higher immigration has very little effect on wages, while for highly educated natives, the wage effect of higher immigration is positive. In summary, he finds that a one percent increase in employment in a US state, attributable only to immigration, is associated with a 0.4 to 0.5 percent increase in income per worker in that state.

A central challenge in establishing a causal link between immigration and economic outcomes is the fact that immigrants may be disproportionately attracted to states with strong economic performance. Peri recognizes this problem, and uses information on state characteristics, such as the location of a state relative to the Mexican border, the number of ports of entry, as well as the existence of communities of immigrants there before 1960 to predict immigrant inflows. He then studies how these predicted inflows, rather than actual inflows, are related to labor market outcomes. He argues that the state characteristics that underlie his predictions are not likely to be associated with either labor market outcomes or productivity. He also controls for several other determinants of productivity that may vary with geography such as R and D spending, computer adoption, international competition in the form of exports, and sector composition.

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

Japan’s Phony Solution

The half-truths about immigration.

By Paul J. Scalise | NEWSWEEK
Published Apr 30, 2010
From the magazine issue dated May 10, 2010

Should Japan welcome more immigrants? Diehard multiculturalists insist that migration to Japan is not only inevitable but also enhances “mutual understanding.” Others fear the opposite: the chaos these outsiders, or gaijin, conceivably bring to Japan’s safe streets and largely homogeneous society. Both extremes understand the politics of emotion far better than the economics of immigration, keeping the issue shrouded in half-truths.

The problem is usually described in apocalyptic terms, roughly as follows. According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s population has peaked. A downward turn is expected to follow, reaching close to 100 million in 2050 and 45 million in 2105. That means fewer workers paying fewer taxes to support an already expanding army of senior citizens. With social security, pensions, and interest payments on the national debt occupying more than 50 percent of Japan’s national budget in 2009 (up from 19 percent in 1960), the government, sooner or later, will face a decision of crisis proportions. Does it raise taxes sharply? Cut benefits drastically? Go deeper into debt? Or throw open the doors to young foreigners to restore balance between workers and retirees?

What the debate misses, however, is that immigration reform will likely have a muted impact on Japan’s standard of living if productivity continues to sour and Japanese women remain underutilized. Robert Alan Feldman, chief economist at Morgan Stanley Japan, figures that Japan would need between 7.4 million and 11 million immigrants to maintain a comparable standard of living in 2012 alone, depending on the decline in Japan’s local productivity. Should immigrants bring dependent families, Feldman says this “avalanche” would have to be closer to 20 million.

Hardly anyone realizes how unlikely Japan is to open up to an immigration boom of such magnitude without answering some difficult questions: what kind of immigrants does it want and how to attract them? One problem is that bringing in too many low-skilled immigrants too quickly risks increasing competition for low-skilled jobs and reducing the earnings of low-skilled native-born workers, according to immigration economist Barry R. Chiswick. In this view, because of their low earnings, low-skilled immigrants tend to pay less in taxes than they receive in public benefits. So while the presence of low-skilled immigrant workers may raise the profits of their employers, Chiswick notes, “they tend to have a negative effect on the well-being of the low-skilled native-born population, and on the native economy as a whole.”

Highly skilled, high-wage immigrants present their own problems. Feldman’s Japan model assumes that the average immigrant would be less productive than local hires because of different languages, work habits, traditions, and educational needs. And what’s never explained is how to attract the “right” immigrants and assimilate them in the first place. Right now, Japan’s average compensation per employee (adjusted for purchasing-power parity) is 36 percent lower than in the U.S. and 15 percent lower than in the euro area, according to the OECD. Worse, monthly cash earnings have been falling slowly for the past decade. If Japan wants to attract doctors, nurses, and engineers, and keep them, it needs to pay them more. And therein lies the rub. Is it really worth it in the long run?

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates the fiscal cost and benefits of an influx at three different stages of an immigrant’s life. In stage one, when only single youths are admitted, the government gains more in tax payments than it pays in benefits. In stage two (with spouse) and stage three (with spouse and two children), the benefits paid by the local and central governments far exceed the tax revenues. If 500,000 migrants were to enter Japan in stage three, the ministry estimates, the net loss would become a whopping ¥1.1 trillion, or about $12 billion.

No one knows for certain the extent of the blowback if Japan were to be the migrant sponge of East Asia’s and Latin America’s poor. Instead of a cost-benefit analysis, pundits, activists, and the mainstream media focus mainly on the politics, rarely the economics. Either immigrants are depicted as a feel-good panacea to everything that ails Japan, who are kept at bay by a xenophobic Japanese government, or they are deemed devious criminals and a threat to society. Neither is accurate. Both are distracting. It’s time the focus of debate changed.

Scalise is research fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University, Japan Campus.

ENDS

More on author Paul J. Scalise and his complicated relationship with Debito.org here.

JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times column May 4, 2010, on “Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues “

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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justbecauseicon.jpg
The Japan Times Tuesday, May 4, 2010
JUST BE CAUSE Column 27
Last gasps of Japan’s dying demagogues
By DEBITO ARUDOU

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100504ad.html

Tally ho! The hunt is on for “fake Japanese” in Japanese politics.On March 17, at a meeting of opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officials, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara not only criticized the ruling coalition for their (now moribund) bill offering permanent resident non-Japanese (NJ) the vote in local elections. He even accused them of having subversive foreign roots!

http://www.debito.org/?p=6564

“How about those Diet members who have naturalized, or are the children of parents who naturalized? Lots of them make up the ruling coalition and are even party heads.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=6564

http://www.debito.org/?p=6564#comment-194104

He argued that their support for NJ suffrage arose from a sense of “duty to their ancestors.”

We then had the standard Ishihara brouhaha: One person who felt targeted by that remark, Social Democratic Party leader and Cabinet member Mizuho Fukushima, denounced it unreservedly as “racial discrimination.” She stressed that she was in fact a real Japanese and demanded a retraction. Ishihara, as usual, refused. Cue coda.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100424a7.html

But something’s different this time. Ishihara is not just toeing the “foreigners cannot be trusted” line he’s reeled out ad nauseam over the past decade to justify things like targeting foreigners and cracking down on Tokyo’s alleged “hotbeds of foreign crime.”

He is now saying foreigners will always be foreigners, even if they have been naturalized Japanese for generations.

He also assumes even “former foreigners” will always think along tribal bloodlines, and axiomatically vote against Japanese interests.

Take that in: A leader of a major world city is stating that personal belief is a matter of genetics. The problem isn’t only that this ideology was fashionable about 130 years ago. Look where it ultimately led: putsches, pogroms and the “Final Solution.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism

What’s with Ishihara’s foreigner fetish? Author and scholar M. G. Sheftall of Shizuoka University, whose Waseda doctoral thesis was on the psychological consequences of Japan’s defeat in World War II, notes this might not be limited to one demagogue.

Ishihara’s “Showa Hitoketa generation” (1926-1935) was “completely immersed, from birth until late adolescence/early adulthood, in prewar Japanese ideology at its most militantly militaristic, chauvinistic and xenophobic. It is unsurprising many never quite recovered from the trauma they suffered when their ideology was suddenly and catastrophically delegitimized in August 1945.”

Indeed, Ishihara is not alone. Splitting off from the LDP last month was the new Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), founded by xenophobes including Takeo Hiranuma and Ishihara. Hiranuma, you might recall from my Feb. 2 column, similarly questioned the legitimacy of Japanese lawmaker Renho because [he believes] she naturalized.

http://www.tachiagare.jp/

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100502x1.html

But Ishihara’s Japan is dying — or just plain dead. Demographic and economic pressures are making a multicultural Japan inevitable. These psychologically crippled old men are merely raging against the dying of their light. The average age of Sunrise Party founders is around 70; Ishihara himself is 77. Mortality is a blessing, as they won’t be around to see the Japan they can’t envision anyway.

http://japanvisitor.blogspot.com/2010/04/tachiagare-nihon-new-sunrise-party-of.html

But like I said, it’s different this time, because Ishihara has made a fatal mistake. Before, he picked on foreigners with impunity because of their political disenfranchisement. Now he has expanded his sights to include Japanese citizens.

A lack of focus kills causes. For example, during the 1950s American “Red scare,” a senator named Joseph McCarthy launched an anticommunist crusade to uncover people with undesirable political sympathies. But then he tried to target President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He overdid it, and it was his undoing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy

Likewise, Ishihara is trying to unearth foreignness in very enfranchised Japanese people, and his movement is already coming undone. Only the extreme right buys into “racial purity means ideological purity,” and after shouting down the NJ suffrage bill it has lost momentum. All the fading “Sunset” set can do is rehash anti-Chinese and Korean rhetoric while attaching tangents so loopy (e.g., claiming the ruling coalition controls Japan’s entire debate arena) that they just seem paranoid.

Meanwhile, with the departure of immensely popular Diet member Yoichi Masuzoe from the LDP, the only viable opposition party just keeps on sputtering and splintering.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6509

To repeat what I wrote in February: Those calls for NJ to naturalize if they want to be granted suffrage are just red herrings, because for people like Ishihara, Japanese citizenship doesn’t matter. Once a foreigner — or once related to a foreigner — you’ll never be a “real Japanese,” even if you are generations removed.

It’s a Trojan horse of an argument, camouflaging racism as reason. Now that it is also targeting international Japanese, it will fail.

Again, grant NJ the vote, and accelerate the multiculturalization process already under way. Don’t fall for the last gasps of a lunatic fringe grasping for a Japan more than a century behind the times.

Furthermore, those accused of being “foreign” must call Ishihara’s bluff and stop the witch hunt. Reply: “So what if I were to have NJ roots? I am still as Japanese as you. You have a problem with my nationality? Take it up with the Ministry of Justice. They will side with me.”

Ishihara and company: Game over. Time for you to resign and get out of our way.

Debito Arudou coauthored the “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

Debito.org Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week

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.  Earlier this year I was forwarded a manuscript by a Mr Christopher Dillon, entitled “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan“.  I liked it so much that I’m recommending it here on Debito.org.  As I say within the inside cover:

“Dillon’s book is so good that while reading it, I felt like I was an adult in a toy store:   Envious of the stuff kids have now that I would have loved to have as a kid.  If only I had the information in this book when I was building my house in the 1990s, I wouldn’t have ended up with the financial albatross I have now!  LANDED is an essential resource for anyone considering buying the most expensive consumer good in one of the most expensive (and tricky) housing markets in the world.  It’s even a good read!”

As per the spirit of Debito.org (which seeks to help and empower people in Japan), and in the spirit of my first Housebuilding in Japan Essays I wrote more than a decade ago, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking to settle down for good in Japan.  Here are some cover and table of contents scans, and information about next week’s book tour in Tokyo.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Word from the author today about his book tour in Tokyo next week:
///////////////////////////////////////////

Hi Debito, I hope you’re having a good Golden Week break. I will be in Tokyo next week to speak at the following events, which are open to the public:

May 11 at 12:00 noon — Book launch sponsored by the Canadian and the Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce.
(http://www.anzccj.jp/eventdetails.php?eventid=471&menuid=4)

May 13 at 7:30 PM — The Tokyo Writers Salon (http://writers.meetup.com/648/calendar/13211566/)

May 14 at 12:00 noon –The Forum for Corporate Communications (http://www.fcctokyo.com/lunch_meeting_20100514)

I hope you can attend.

Kind regards

________________________________

Christopher Dillon
chris@dilloncommunications.com
www.dilloncommunications.com
________________________________

Follow Landed: Japan on facebook

ENDS

Savoie Child Abduction Case: Father sues judge and lawyer that enabled ex-wife to abduct

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Hi Blog. Taste the difference in jurisprudence between Japan and the US here. We have Christopher Savoie suing his former lawyer — and the judge in his case — for enabling his ex-wife to get her passport back and take their kids for a visit to Japan, whereupon she abducted the kids despite her court promises. Imagine being able to sue a judge in Japan for negligence! We’ll see where this goes. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

/////////////////////////////////////////////
WSMV.com Nashville Tennessee USA
Franklin Dad Sues Judge After Japanese Arrest
Lawsuit Filed Against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin

http://www.wsmv.com/news/23277866/detail.html
Associated Press
POSTED: 10:43 am CDT April 27, 2010
UPDATED: 4:37 pm CDT April 27, 2010

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — A Tennessee man who was arrested in Japan when he tried to take his children back from his ex-wife is suing the local judge and an attorney who handled the divorce.

Japanese prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Christopher Savoie of Franklin after he tried in September to enter the U.S. Consulate with his 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Ex-wife Noriko Savoie had violated a U.S. court custody decision by taking the children to her native Japan a month earlier.

The lawsuit says the children are still living in Japan with their mother.

Savoie filed a federal lawsuit this month against Williamson County Circuit Court Judge James G. Martin, who served as both the mediator during the divorce and then later as the judge that lifted a restraining order barring the ex-wife from taking the children to Japan.

Savoie claims that Tennessee Supreme Court law states that mediators should refrain from acting in a judicial capacity in cases in which they mediated. He also claims negligence because the judge was aware of the risk of child abduction in this case.

He also filed a state lawsuit in Williamson County against his former divorce attorney, Virginia Lee Story, arguing she failed to object to having Martin hear the case as a judge. He claims she was negligent and asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

Messages left for Martin and Story on Tuesday were not immediately returned.
Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, said her office typically represents state officials in lawsuits relating to their official duties, but they had not yet been served with this lawsuit.

Timothy Tull, Savoie’s attorney, said that judges should be aware of child custody issues that have resulted from Japan’s refusal to join an international agreement three decades ago on the matter.

An arrest warrant issued in Tennessee for Savoie’s ex-wife has no effect in Japan because the country hasn’t signed the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected. Japanese law also allows only one parent to be a custodian — almost always the mother.

“Our goal is to educate and help the judiciary understand they need to heed the State Department’s warning that every measure should be taken to preclude this from happening,” Tull said.

Court records show that Savoie filed for divorce in June 2008 and Martin served as the mediator in multiple sessions before the couple agreed to a marital dissolution agreement and parenting plan. The plan allowed for Noriko Savoie to take the children to Japan on vacation, but required that she continue to live with them in Tennessee.

Savoie said in the federal lawsuit that he grew increasingly concerned that his ex-wife would take the children to Japan permanently and turned over an e-mail as evidence and asked for the court to intervene.

In March 2009 soon after their divorce was final, another Williamson County Judge Circuit Court judge issued an emergency restraining order barring her from traveling with the children. The case was initially assigned to another judge, but then was transferred to Martin, who lifted the travel restriction and returned the children’s passports.

The lawsuit said Christopher Savoie spent 18 days in custody after he went to Japan to get the children back and said he has “little hope of future reunification.”
ENDS

Next JUST BE CAUSE column in Japan Times May 4, on Ishihara’s “Witch Hunt for Japanese with NJ roots”

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.  Just to let you know, sorry it’s in the middle of vacation.

My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column will be out tomorrow May 4 online and in print (Weds in provinces).

Topic:  Tokyo Governor Ishihara tries to launch a Witch Hunt for Japanese politicians with alleged NJ roots.  I argue that this is the end of his influence, as he’s over extended himself.  Before, he could bash NJ because they were disenfranchised.  Not this time.  He’s trying to go after Japanese now too.  He’s no longer just a bigot.  He’s a paranoid nut, trying to smoke out foreigners under every bed.

Get a copy!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Here it is.  Give the JT some hits.  I’ll have it up here tomorrow for commentary.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100504ad.html

US House of Reps Resolution submission regarding Japan’s Child Abductions Issue

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US House of Representatives to Introduce House Resolution condemning Japan for International Child Abduction.
Courtesy of Paul Toland, of Help Bring Erika Toland Home Facebook Page
May 2, 2010

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=98937667971

On Wednesday, May 5th 2010, the Japanese National Holiday of Children’s Day, A United States House of Representatives House Resolution will be introduced condemning Japan for International Child Abduction and calling on Japan to facilitate the immediate return of all children abducted to Japan. This historic resolution comes after 58 years of zero cooperation by the Government of Japan on this issue. Of the 231 children abducted to Japan in the last decade, and the countless hundreds more abducted in the preceding decades, none have ever been returned, making Japan quite literally a black hole from which no child ever returns.

A Capitol Hill press conference introducing the resolution will be held from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM outdoors at the House Triangle, located near the Capitol building, opposite Longworth building (and over Independence Ave. road, away from Longworth building). Closest metro is Capitol South.

Speaking at the Press Conference will be Congressman James Moran (D-VA), Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), and many victim parents to include Christopher Savoie, Commander Paul Toland, Doug Berg and others.

Immediately following the press conference, the Bring Abducted Children
(BAC) Home foundation (www.bachome.org), consisting of victim parents of child abduction, will head to the Japanese Embassy for a 4:00 PM rally where the parents will take turns reading excerpts from the resolution in front of the embassy.

That evening, at 7:30 PM, BAC Home Foundation will hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Japanese Ambassador’s residence to remember and pray for the return of the 200+ abducted children.

May 5, 2010 Schedule:

1:30 – 2:30 PM: Capitol Hill Press Conference to introduce House Resolution condemning Japan for International Child Abduction. House Triangle.

4:00 PM: Bring Abducted Children (BAC) Home rally and House Resolution
Reading, Japanese Embassy. 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC

7:30 PM – BAC Home Candlelight vigil, Japanese Ambassador’s residence, 4000 Nebraska Ave NW, Washington, DC

ENDS

Holiday Tangent: “Lifer” cartoon on “Things to do in a Wintry Hokkaido”, Happy May

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a holiday tangent:  Things to do during a Hokkaido Winter, by “Lifer”.  Published in Sapporo Source last January (forgot to blog).  Since the seasons finally flipped yesterday in Hokkaido (we went from a crappy April to a warmer and sunny May at noon yesterday, like clockwork), we are now officially as far away from Winter as possible.  In commemoration, have a chuckle.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST MAY 1, 2010

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debitopodcast
DEBITO.ORG PODCAST MAY 1, 2010

Table of Contents:

1) “2Channel:  The Bullies’ Forum” (Japan Times Just Be Cause Column February 3, 2009), on how the thriving culture of bullying in Japan has gone online and spoiled things for the rest of us.

2) Column by Gregory Clark, “Antiforeigner Discrimination is a Right for Japanese People” (Japan Times January 15, 2009), an apologist’s view on how Japanese are taken advantage of both ways — both by rapacious foreigners and by bullying anti-discrimination activists.  One of the worst examples of social science I’ve seen in print in the Japan Times.

3) “On Toadies, Vultures, and Zombie Debates” (Japan Times Just Be Cause Column March 3, 2009), inspired in part by Clark’s column above, I explore the subterfuge of the disenfranchised seeking benefits of membership in The Nativist Club by telling enfranchised Japanese what they want to hear.

21 minutes.  Excerpts from Duran Duran open and close, with rests by Tangerine Dream (White Eagle).  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo