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  • Archive for May, 2010

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 31st May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Articles & Publications | Comments Off

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 30th May 2010

    A completely self-indulgent essay talking about the overarching influence of the American Idol model for selecting new musical talent for pop success. I make the case that certain artists, who became successful in their own right, would never have made it through Idol. Think of how less enriched the music scene would be without these artists. Here are my Top Ten: 10. Simon Le Bon / Duran Duran, 9. David Bowie, 8. Marilyn Manson, 7. Michael Stipe / R.E.M, 6. Kurt Cobain / Nirvana, 5. Alice Cooper, 4. David Byrne / Talking Heads, 3. Peter Gabriel, 2. Neil Young, 1. Bob Dylan. Add more if you like.

    Posted in Discussions, Tangents | 37 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 29th May 2010

    Excerpt: 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.”

    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.”…

    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.”

    COMMENT: It’s not the first time I’ve seen GOJ/public pressure interfere with the scientific community in Japan. Two examples come to mind, archived at Debito.org: 1) Japan’s Demographic Science making “Immigration” a Taboo Topic, and 2) Apple Imports and the Tanii Suicide Case.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Gaiatsu, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents | 4 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 28th May 2010

    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. Excerpt follows:

    “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.”…

    Posted in Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 16 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 27th May 2010

    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).

    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.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 17 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 26th May 2010

    Excerpt: 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 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…

    COMMENT: If Japan offers the promise of domestic work, and if “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.

    Posted in Discussions, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 4 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 25th May 2010

    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.

    Excerpt: “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.”

    Posted in Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tangents | 8 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 24th May 2010

    AFP: 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…

    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…

    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.”

    Posted in Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 4 Comments »

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010

    Posted by arudou debito on 24th May 2010

    Table of Contents:
    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?”

    Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 23rd May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies | 24 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 22nd May 2010

    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…”

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies | 47 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 21st May 2010

    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.”

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Tangents | 7 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 20th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Good News, Practical advice | 8 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 19th May 2010

    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?

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Labor issues, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 12 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 18th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Exclusionism, Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 39 Comments »

    MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008

    Posted by arudou debito on 17th May 2010

    Dovetailing with the article yesterday 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.

    Posted in Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 5 Comments »

    NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

    Posted by arudou debito on 16th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Tangents | 21 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 16th May 2010

    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 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.

    Posted in debito.org blog and website biz | 1 Comment »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 14th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 8 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 13th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 7 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 12th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism | 11 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 11th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 49 Comments »

    Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey

    Posted by arudou debito on 10th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 10 Comments »

    JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

    Posted by arudou debito on 9th May 2010

    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:

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Education, Labor issues | 2 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 9th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Tangents | 3 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 8th May 2010

    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 £5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.

    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.”

    Posted in Ironies & Hypocrisies, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 23 Comments »

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 8, 2010

    Posted by arudou debito on 8th May 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)

    Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 7th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Bad Social Science, Discussions, Immigration & Assimilation, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 6th May 2010

    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…

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, History, Japanese Politics | 26 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 5th May 2010

    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:

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Immigration & Assimilation, Practical advice | 16 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 4th May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Child Abductions, Lawsuits | 26 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 3rd May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Articles & Publications | Comments Off

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 3rd May 2010

    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…

    Posted in Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Japanese Government | 11 Comments »

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

    Posted by arudou debito on 2nd May 2010

    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.

    Posted in Humor, Tangents | 1 Comment »

    DEBITO.ORG PODCAST MAY 1, 2010

    Posted by arudou debito on 1st May 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. Enjoy.

    Posted in Podcasts | 4 Comments »