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  • Archive for August, 2010

    Back from Hokkaido travels, quick blog update for now

    Posted by arudou debito on 31st August 2010

    I got a call today from a self-described “religious checker of Debito.org”, who was getting worried about my welfare after so few blog updates recently. Well, as the clock runs down on August 2010, let me just say I just got back minutes ago from travels with a friend in the Hokkaido Outback. Points of interest: Biei, Monbetsu, Saromako, Abashiri, Yanbetsu, Utoro, Shiritoko Goko and Kamuiwakka, Notsuke Hantou, Nemuro, Nosappu Misaki, Kiritappu, Akkeshi, and back. Drove the 550 kms circuitously between Nemuro back to Sapporo today through a gorgeous day, a great way to round off the journey (if not a bit tiring, all at once) that totaled 1700 kms. Back to work, got a JT column due next week and some other writing projects to get on with before trips to Tokyo and Canada in September and October. Sorry to do less updates last month, we’ll try to do better in September. Thanks for reading and caring, Debito.org Readers.

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

    Economist: Japan as number three, watching China’s economy whizz by

    Posted by arudou debito on 26th August 2010

    Here’s the better of the latest Western-press articles, from The Economist London, showing China overtaking Japan to become the world’s number two economy.

    Now, the reason why this is a Debito.org issue: The economic malaise that has affected this society for two decades and counting has had two cantilevering effects: 1) The need to bring in cheap labor from overseas to lower labor costs and increase export productivity; and 2) the jealousy and xenophobia that will rise towards those NJ brought here as a natural consequence — of seeing an economic rival usurp the position of Asia’s leader — and how a society seeing itself in decline may in fact become even more insular and closed-minded.

    That’s where I’d like to see the discussion head here regarding this topic. Never mind disputing the economics in specific (that can be done elsewhere). Just assume that China will overtake Japan. What do people think that will do to Japan as a society vis-a-vis its treatment of NJ?

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 23 Comments »

    “The Cove” Taiji Dolphin protesters cancel local demo due to potential Rightist violence

    Posted by arudou debito on 22nd August 2010

    To: Members in “The Cove” – Save Japan Dolphins
    UPDATE: Sept.1 Taiji events cancelled
    Received August 20, 2010

    For several important reasons, we have decided to cancel our plans in Taiji, Japan for Sept. 1st (the first day of the annual dolphin slaughter.)

    Most importantly, we received word that an extreme nationalist group known to be violent is set to confront us in Taiji. Our work in Japan has never been about physical confrontation. Since “The Cove” premiered in theaters earlier this Summer, we believe we are making progress by bringing the truth to the people of Japan about the dolphin slaughter and about mercury-poisoned dolphin meat in markets. We will not play the game that the nationalist groups want us to play – we will not have it become “us versus them.”… The militant nationalist groups may gather as they like in Taiji; we will be elsewhere in Japan, talking to the media, explaining the problem, and making sure the public understands that we are not there to fight, but to work together.

    COMMENT: The development above has stirred mixed feelings in me because: 1) The decision to cancel and move elsewhere the demonstration is understandable because we don’t want violence to mar the demos (and I think some of the groups will make good on their threat of violence — the police have a habit of not stopping public violence if it’s inflicted by the Right Wing. Only a violence-free demo will reassure an already tetchy Japanese public that not all demonstrators are extremists.

    Yet 2) In principle, giving in to bullies only makes them stronger, and if the Rightists are able to deter demos in Taiji by threatening violence, then what’s to stop them from threatening the same elsewhere? Whenever any group is able to successfully hold public safety hostage, violence (or the threat of it) will in fact be more encouraged. This is just an internal debate I have going on inside of me. What do others think? Blog poll also included.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Blog Polls, Cultural Issue, Discussions | 26 Comments »

    TIP Shibuya presents: “Greater Tuna”, two free tickets to this play for Debito.org Readers

    Posted by arudou debito on 18th August 2010

    TOKYO INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS SECOND STAGE
    PRESENTS “GREATER TUNA”
    Written by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard
    Directed by Andrew Martinez
    Starring Bob Werley and Charlie Lent

    Greater Tuna premiered in 1982 and quickly became one of the most widely-produced plays in the United States. An uproarious satire on rural American mores, the play is set in Texas’ third-smallest town — where the Lion’s Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies. The wacky backwater characters, who number twenty in total, are portrayed on the stage by just two actors, making this quick-change comedy even more fascinating and funny. Greater Tuna has to be seen to be believed!

    September 3, 4, 5 & 10, 11, 12 at Our Space Theater:
    Toei Shopping Center 101 Hatagaya 2-1-1 #101 Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Map: http://www.tokyoplayers.org/?lang=1&page=16

    All shows 7 pm Reserved tickets cost 2,000 yen, tickets at the door are 2,500 yen. Admission includes one free drink. Reservations can be made by sending an e-mail to…

    FREEBIE: Tokyo International Players Second Stage is giving away a free pair of tickets to Debito.org readers to see GREATER TUNA. To enter, send an e-mail to…

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Tangents | No Comments »

    Success Story: Takamado English Speech Contest reform their “Japanese Only”, er, “Non-English Speakers Only” rules

    Posted by arudou debito on 16th August 2010

    Debito.org (via The Community) originally reported about a decade ago that the Takamado English speech contest, for junior-highschooler English speaking ability name-sponsored by a member of the Japanese royalty, was refusing foreign children enrolled in Japanese schools entry. This might seem reasonable, since native English speakers competing with Japanese L2 students would indeed have an unfair advantage.

    However, Takamado’s rules excluded ALL foreigners, including those from countries that are not native English-speaking countries (such as Chinese or Mongolians). Moreover, the rules also excluded ALL Japanese who had foreign blood, as far back as grandparents.

    So I wrote about it for The Community. Nothing happened. Then I wrote about it for The Japan Times back in 2004. Then something happened. I checked the rules for Takamado yesterday, and they’ve been revised to be more sophisticated about deeming who has a linguistic advantage. A foreigner is no longer just a foreigner and not a blanket tainter of Japanese student blood. Pays to say something. No longer is it a blanket system of “a foreigner is a foreigner is a foreigner”, and the attitude is less that any foreigner is a blanket tainter of Japanese student blood. Okay, better. Pays to say something. Especially in print.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Education, Exclusionism, Good News | 15 Comments »

    Kyodo: Japan to join The Hague Convention on Child Abduction. Uncertain when.

    Posted by arudou debito on 15th August 2010

    The GOJ just said it will join the Hague Convention (on Child Abductions, not child custody, as entitled below; guess that’s more palatable to readers), something sorely needed in in a society which acts as a haven for international child kidnapping after divorce. It’s an important announcement, with a couple of caveats: 1) It hasn’t happened yet (or it’s uncertain when it will happen, so it’s not quite news), and 2) it’s unclear, as the article notes (and many Debito.org Readers believe, according to a recent poll here) that Japan will properly enforce it if it does ratify (as it has done in the past with, say, the Convention on Racial Discrimination) with laws guaranteeing joint custody and/or visitation rights. Good news, kinda. Wait and see.

    Kyodo: Japan has decided to become a party to a global treaty on child custody as early as next year amid growing calls abroad for the country to join it to help resolve custody problems resulting from failed international marriages, government sources said Saturday.

    The government will develop domestic laws in line with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides a procedure for the prompt return of ‘‘abducted’’ children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights, the sources said.

    Complaints have been 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…

    However, the government has yet to determine when to ratify the treaty, as it is expected to take time to develop related domestic laws because of differences in the legal systems of Japan and other signatory nations.

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

    Asahi: Zaitokukai arrests: Rightist adult bullies of Zainichi schoolchildren being investigated

    Posted by arudou debito on 14th August 2010

    We’ve seen plenty of cases where Far-Right protesters who harass and even use violence towards people and counter-demonstrators doing so with impunity from the Japanese police (examples here, here, here, and within the movie Yasukuni). However, it looks as though they went too far when this case below was brought up before a United Nations representative visiting Japan last March, and now arrests and investigations of the bullies are taking place (youtube video of that event here, from part two). Good.

    Asahi: Senior members of a group of “Net rightists” who hurled abuse at elementary schoolchildren attending a pro-Pyongyang Korean school were arrested by police on Tuesday.

    The group, part of a new wave of extreme nationalist groups that use video-sharing websites to promote their activities, targeted children at Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School in the city’s Minami Ward with taunts including “Leave Japan, children of spies” and “This school is nurturing North Korean spies.”

    A janitor, a snack bar operator, an electrician and a company employee, all men in their 30s and 40s, are suspected of playing leading roles in the demonstration near the school on Dec. 4 last year.

    On Tuesday, police began questioning four people, including Dairyo Kawahigashi, 39, an executive of Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai, which literally means, “a citizens group that does not approve of privileges for Korean residents in Japan,” and is known as Zaitokukai for short.

    Police also searched the Tokyo home of the group’s chairman, Makoto Sakurai, 38…

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Exclusionism, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese police/Foreign crime, 日本語 | 17 Comments »

    Summer Tangent: DailyFinance.com on Japan’s generation-long economic stagnation leading to a lost generation of youth

    Posted by arudou debito on 12th August 2010

    Daily Finance.com: What happens to a generation of young people when:

    They are told to work hard and go to college, yet after graduating they find few permanent job opportunities?
    Many of the jobs that are available are part-time, temporary or contract labor?
    These insecure jobs pay one-third of what their fathers earned?
    The low pay makes living at home the only viable option?
    Poor economic conditions persist for 10, 15 and 20 years in a row?

    For an answer, turn to Japan. The world’s second-largest economy has stagnated in just this fashion for almost 20 years, and the consequences for the “lost generations” that have come of age in the “lost decades” have been dire. In many ways, Japan’s social conventions are fraying under the relentless pressure of an economy in seemingly permanent decline.

    While the world sees Japan as the home of consumer technology juggernauts such as Sony and Toshiba and high-tech “bullet trains” (shinkansen), beneath the bright lights of Tokyo and the evident wealth generated by decades of hard work and Japan Inc.’s massive global export machine lies a different reality: increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity for the nation’s youth.

    Suddenly, It’s Haves and Have Nots

    The gap between extremes of income at the top and bottom of society — measured by the Gini coefficient — has been growing in Japan for years. To the surprise of many outsiders, once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

    The media in Japan have popularized the phrase “kakusa shakai,” literally meaning “gap society.” As the elite slice prospers and younger workers are increasingly marginalized, the media has focused on the shrinking middle class. For example, a best-selling book offers tips on how to get by on an annual income of less than 3 million yen ($34,800). Two million yen ($23,000) has become the de-facto poverty line for millions of Japanese, especially outside high-cost Tokyo.

    More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system, nudged along by government legislation that abolished restrictions on flexible hiring a few years ago. Temp agencies have expanded to fill the need for contract jobs as permanent job opportunities have dwindled.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »

    Summer Tangent: Economist.com summary of Amakudari system

    Posted by arudou debito on 11th August 2010

    For a Summer Tangent, here’s a good summary of Japan’s Amakudari system, and its effects on politics and prospects for reform. The Economist has come a long way from when I first read it back in the Eighties, when it basically assumed that Japan’s postwar economic miracle was due to theoretical economic efficiencies (as opposed to a closed captive domestic market and sweetheart-deal overseas trade access). Now they have people here on the ground (well, one that I’ve met, and I found him knowledgeable and impressive) who aren’t blinkered by mere Adam-Smithism and clearly know their way around. Good. Have a read. It’s short and sweet.

    Economist: A SWATHE of high-ranking bureaucrats from Japan’s biggest ministries began in new posts on July 30th, doled out as part of an annual summer rite. A gaggle of even more senior ones were asked to retire—and immediately won cushy, lucrative jobs at quasi-public agencies and private foundations. Some were even sent to companies in industries they had previously regulated.

    The practice is called amakudari (meaning “descent from heaven”). It has long reflected unhealthily close relations between bureaucrats and business, distorting the work of civil servants on the look out for a plum job, and burdening firms with the deadweight of ex-pen pushers serving as “senior advisers”. At its worst, it lets civil servants enrich themselves, pay back vested interests and resist economic reform. One reason why Japan’s banking crisis in the 1990s took so long to fix was because former senior staff from the finance ministry and Bank of Japan had moved to the banks that needed fixing. They pressed their former deputies to bail them out on soft terms, and then failed to carry out much-needed surgery…

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Japanese Government, Tangents | 10 Comments »

    Japan will apologize for Korean Annexation 100 years ago and give back some war spoils. Bravo.

    Posted by arudou debito on 10th August 2010

    In another big piece of news, Japan is taking another step closer to healing the wounds around Asia of a cruel colonial past by saying sorry to South Korea. Good. Bravo. Sad that it took a century for the apologies and return of some war spoils, but better now than never. Let’s hope it further buries the ahistorical revisionist arguments that basically run, “We were invited to Korea, and did them a favor by taking them over.” — arguments that help nobody get over the past or help with neighborly Asian cooperation.

    Kyodo: Prime Minister Naoto Kan is scheduled to release a statement for South Korea on Tuesday regarding the centenary later this month of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula, ruling party lawmakers said Monday.

    The statement will include a phrase expressing deep remorse and apologizing for Japan’s colonial rule, stating also that Japan will return cultural artifacts taken from the peninsula that South Korea has been demanding, according to sources familiar with the matter…

    On the transfer of cultural artifacts, the items in question are believed to be held by the Imperial Household Agency, including the Joseon Wangsil Uigwe, a meticulous record of Korean royal ceremonies and rituals.

    The statement to be released Tuesday will only be directed at South Korea, whereas the Murayama statement apologized to Asian victims of Japan’s past aggression, the sources said.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, History, Injustice, Japanese Government | 27 Comments »

    Wash Post: “Strict immigration rules may threaten Japan’s future”, focus on nursing program

    Posted by arudou debito on 9th August 2010

    Here’s more information that we’re making public seeping into overseas media. Nothing terribly new to regular readers here (but no doubt new to many readers overseas). But brace yourself for the Comments section of this article, full of the nastiness that goes beyond cultural relativity. Amazing how immigrants are the eternal bashables, told to abide by whatever vague rules the nativists come up with (and don’t always follow themselves), told to accept inferior wages and working conditions, and told to go home if they have any problems or complaints. Worse yet is when the government is essentially saying the same thing by setting up hurdles that are nearly insurmountable. As the article gets into below. Enjoy.

    Wash Post: “There’s a lack of urgency or lack of sense of crisis for the declining population in Japan,” said Satoru Tominaga, director of Garuda, an advocacy group for Indonesian nurse and caretaker candidates. “We need radical policy change to build up the number” of such workers. “However, Japan lacks a strong government; if anything, it’s in chaos.”

    When Japan struck economic partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, attracting nurses and caretakers wasn’t the primary objective. Japan sought duty-free access for its automakers to the Southeast Asian market. Accepting skilled labor was just part of the deal.

    But by 2025, Japan will need to almost double its number of nurses and care workers, currently at 1.2 million. And because of the test, substandard language skills, not substandard caretaking skills, are keeping the obvious solution from meeting the gaping need.

    The 998 Filipino and Indonesian nurses and caretakers who’ve come to Japan since 2008 all have, at minimum, college educations or several years of professional experience. Nurses can stay for three years, with three chances to pass the test. Other caregivers can stay for four years, with one chance to pass. Those who arrive in Japan take a six-month language cram class and then begin work as trainees.

    They are allotted a brief period every workday — 45 minutes, in Paulino’s case — for language study. Many also study for hours at night.

    “The language skills, that is a huge hurdle for them,” said Kiichi Inagaki, an official at the Japan International Corporation for Welfare Services, which oversees the program. “However, if you go around the hospital, you understand how language is important. Nurses are dealing with medical technicalities. They are talking to doctors about what is important. In order to secure a safe medical system, they need a very high standard of Japanese.”

    Advocates for foreign nurses and caregivers do not play down the importance of speaking and understanding Japanese. But they emphasize that the Japanese characters for medical terminology are among the hardest to learn; perhaps some jargon-heavy portion of the certification test, they say, could be given in English or workers’ native language.

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

    Coleman Japan Inc. has instructions “For Japanese Consumers Only”

    Posted by arudou debito on 8th August 2010

    As a lighter post for Sunday, Debito.org Reader SW sends these words and a silly instruction booklet from Coleman Japan Inc., saying their instructions are “For Japanese Consumers Only”.

    I think Coleman HQ (in the US) has let their oversight of their licensee go a bit, allowing the assumption that only Japanese can read Japanese. A bit of sense and sensitivity would have rendered it as “For Consumers in Japan Only” (which I’ve seen enclosed for some products in terms of warranties). Or else this needn’t be put on the form at all: I doubt anyone will panic if they see a page of gibberish as long as there is another page with something legible. But this carelessness has left a bit of a sour taste in one consumer’s mouth, quite unnecessarily. Read on.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tangents | 21 Comments »

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 6, 2010

    Posted by arudou debito on 7th August 2010

    Table of Contents:
    SPECIAL ON THE DPRK SPY KIM HYON HUI JAPAN VISIT: THE BIG CON

    1) North Korean spy and terrorist skirts Immigration, gets to stay in Hatoyama summer home, due to Yokota Megumi Case
    2) UPDATE: Additional thoughts on the DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit from a friend in the know
    3) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3: Kim uses Japan’s “perpetual victimhood” to her advantage

    OTHER BIG CONS

    4) Japan’s Centenarians are missing: Registry systems that ignore NJ residents are also registering long-dead Japanese as alive
    5) Kyodo: NJ crime down once again, but NPA spin says NJ crime gangs “increasingly” targeting Japan, whines about difficulty in statistically measuring NJ crime
    6) More racism in NPA police posters, this time Kanagawa Ken Yamate police and big-nosed “int’l NJ crime groups”.
    (UPDATE: Contrast with same Kanagawa Police site in English: “we patrol community hoping smiles of residents never vanish.” Retch.)
    7) Shame on Berlitz Japan for its court harassments, firing teacher for having cancer
    8 ) Yomiuri: New “lay judges” in J judiciary strict about demanding evidence from prosecutors, give ‘benefit of doubt’. Well, fancy that.
    9) Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death
    10) NYT has video and article on JITCO NJ “Trainee” Program, including sweatshop conditions and karoushi
    11) Mainichi/Kyodo: J companies will boost hiring of NJ by 50%! Yeah, sure.
    12) JIPI’s Sakanaka on Gaijin Tank detentions for visa overstays: Put a maximum time limit on them
    13) Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel
    14) Asahi: South Korea, China overtaking Japan in ‘cool’ culture battle, whatever that means
    15) AP and JT on “Soft Power” of JET Programme, projecting Japan’s influence abroad
    16) IMADR Connect Mag: UN CERD concerns and recommendations 2010 for the GOJ; rinse and repeat

    OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

    17) NJ population falls in 2009 for the first time since 1961
    18) New separate blog with details about taking Japanese citizenship, in English, written by other fellow naturalized Japanese
    19) Thoughts on GOJ Upper House Election July 11, 2010: A DPJ loss, but not a rout, regardless of what the media says.
    20) Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates

    INTERESTING TANGENTS

    21) AP: A Milestone For Russia: African-born Town Councilor Is Country’s 1st Black Elected To Office
    22) Japan Times columnist CW Nicol (a whaling supporter) on why “The Cove’s” Taiji dolphin culls bother him

    … and finally…

    23) My Schofill family roots include Cherokee and lots of American South skeletons

    Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »

    Tangent: Japan’s Centenarians are missing: Registry systems that ignore NJ residents are also registering long-dead Japanese as alive

    Posted by arudou debito on 6th August 2010

    As a tangent (but a very interesting one) is the biggest news story the past few days in Japan; Japan has some very old people who have gone missing or are long dead, but are still registered as living pensioners.

    This of course calls into question two things:

    1) The oft-cited claim that Japanese live longest in the world. With actually-dead people nudging up the average, and the possibility that the oldest people are only that way because nobody has checked on them in thirty years, this source of national pride has given way to questions of the efficacy of Japan’s Kokusei Chousa (National Census) system, which has somehow missed recording these people for decades (or in all probability, enabled horrific scams of “baachan in a freezer” while her pensions keep getting collected).

    and 2) (and this is why it’s tangentially related to Debito.org), it calls into question the efficacy of the Juuminhyou and Koseki systems too. Although any formal registry system might miss people who are not being noticed or are being deliberately hidden, it’s funny to find a centarian registered as living at a car park. But it’s not funny when you realize that taxpaying NJ are not registered as “spouse” on the Koseki Family Registry system, or even as visible residents and family under the Juuminhyou Residency Certificate system. Meanwhile, long-dead people are, just because they’re Japanese. It’s screwy. It’s an angle that has not been covered in the debate on this. But it oughta be.

    Read on for the first article I read on this issue. If you see any more that cover other important angles, send them on with links, thanks.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Tangents | 20 Comments »

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3 2010: “The victim complex and Kim’s killer con”

    Posted by arudou debito on 5th August 2010

    It’s fascinating whenever someone cons people out of pots of money — doubly so when someone cons a whole government. Take, for example, Japan’s biggest news story two weeks ago: Kim Hyon Hui’s four-day visit to Japan.

    You might recall that in 1987 this North Korean spy, traveling on a fake Japanese passport, blew up a South Korean commercial airliner, killing 115 passengers.

    Last July 20, however, this agent of international terrorism was allowed into Japan for a reception worthy of a state guest. Bypassing standard immigration procedures, Kim had her entry visa personally approved by our justice minister, boarded a chartered flight that cost Japan’s taxpayers ¥10 million, and was whisked by helicopter to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s private dacha to eat with political elites.

    Then, flanked by a phalanx of 100 cops (who made sure nobody raised any uncomfortable questions), Kim got to meet the parents of Megumi Yokota, the cause celebre of North Korean kidnappings of innocent Japanese citizens decades ago. Next, at her request, Kim boarded another helicopter (at around ¥800,000 an hour) for an aerial tour of Mount Fuji. As a parting gift, she got an undisclosed amount of “additional remuneration.” Sweet.

    And what did Japan get? Kim said she had information for the Yokotas about their missing daughter and other Japanese abductees who trained her to be a multilingual spy — even though, way back when, she said she had never met Megumi. So suddenly Kim has a quarter-century-old brain fart and gets the red carpet?

    The Megumi Yokota tragedy has for the past decade been a political football in Japanese politics, a means for Japan as a whole to claim victimhood status…

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Child Abductions, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 11 Comments »

    IMADR Connect Mag: CERD concerns and recommendations 2010 for the GOJ; rinse and repeat

    Posted by arudou debito on 4th August 2010

    Here we have a report from human rights group IMADR, along with a number of other NGOs, making their case to the UN CERD Committee again about discrimination in Japan. The UN then makes recommendations, and then the GOJ answers once again that those recommendations are unfeasible. It’s the same process that has been going on for decades, my recent research has shown. I’ll share that paper with you when it gets published. Meanwhile, enjoy the circus below.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Human Rights, Japanese Government, United Nations | 4 Comments »

    Japan Times Community Page on “Trainee” Jiang karoushi, how employer Fuji Denka Kogyo is trying to get away with it

    Posted by arudou debito on 3rd August 2010

    Japan Times: Recent amendments to the Immigration Control Act, which also included changes to Japan’s alien registration card system, have improved the situation for participants of the internship program, although arguably it is a case of too little, too late.

    Under the old system, those in the first year of the program were officially classed as “trainees,” not workers, meaning they were unable to claim the protections Japanese labor law affords regular employees.

    For example, the minimum wage in Japan varies according to prefecture, and currently the national average is ¥713 per hour. But as foreign trainees are not technically “workers,” employers are not obliged to pay them even this. Instead, they receive a monthly “trainee allowance,” which for most first-year trainees falls between ¥60,000 and ¥80,000 — the equivalent to an hourly wage in the range of ¥375 to ¥500 for a full-time 40-hour week.

    For first-year trainees, trying to survive on such a low income is a real struggle, so most have to do a great deal of overtime just to make ends meet.

    Although the “trainee” residency status still exists for foreign workers who arrived before 2010, it is currently being phased out, and from 2011 all first-year participants in the program will be classed as technical interns. This a significant step forward, as the Labor Standards Law and the Minimum Wage Act apply to foreign migrant workers with technical-intern residency status. However, whether migrant workers are actually able to access the protections they are entitled to is another matter, and the issue of oversight — or the lack of it — is still a long way from being resolved.

    Abiko believes this absence of proper oversight has grown out of the internship program’s weak regulatory structure and a general lack of government accountability. The government entrusts most of the operations of the internship program to JITCO, an authority that lacks the power to sanction participating organizations or companies, says Abiko.

    “JITCO is just a charitable organization. It is very clear that JITCO is not appropriate to regulate and monitor this program.”

    In addition, she argues, the financial relationship between JITCO and the collectives or companies under which trainees work makes JITCO’s role as a regulatory body even more untenable. JITCO’s total income for the 2008 financial year was ¥2.94 billion. More than half this amount, ¥1.66 billion, came from “support membership fees” paid by the companies themselves.

    “How can JITCO appropriately regulate and monitor their support members when they are dependent on them for membership fees?” she said.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits | 1 Comment »

    Get my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column tomorrow Aug 3, on the Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit and The Big Con

    Posted by arudou debito on 2nd August 2010

    Short post for today, to tell you to get my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column tomorrow, Aug 3, 2010.

    Topic: DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui’s visit to Japan last month, and how she conned Japan out of a lot of money by using the same “victimhood” phenomenon so often used by the GOJ. Props to her, I guess, for turning the tables.

    In the words of my editor, the essay “made [his] blood boil”. Good. Hopefully it will inspire some discussion. Have a read tomorrow (online and on newsstands, Wednesday editions in the provinces).

    UPDATE: Here it is:
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100803ad.html

    Posted in Articles & Publications | Comments Off

    Summer’s here. Debito.org blog updated less often.

    Posted by arudou debito on 1st August 2010

    Just to let you know, as it’s finally summer in Hokkaido and school grading is all done, I intend to spend less time at the keyboard and more outside (as well as finish up a couple of overdue projects that blogging tends to take attention from). I won’t say that there will be absolutely no updates over the next six weeks or so (after all, I have Japan Times columns to republish here), but I’m going to try not to blog daily. Everyone deserves a break (and Debito.org has published since 2006 more than once a day on average), so I’m going to take one.

    Enjoy your summer, everyone. We’ve earned it up here in Hokkaido, given how cold or clammy our climate can be. Gonna get outside until I get sick of sunshine and want winter back. Probably not going to happen, but worth a try.

    Posted in debito.org blog and website biz | 2 Comments »

    Sunday Tangent: AP: A Milestone For Russia: African-born Town Councilor Is Country’s 1st Black Elected To Office

    Posted by arudou debito on 1st August 2010

    (AP) – People in this Russian town used to stare at Jean Gregoire Sagbo because they had never seen a black man. Now they say they see in him something equally rare – an honest politician.

    Sagbo last month became the first black to be elected to office in Russia.

    In a country where racism is entrenched and often violent, Sagbo’s election as one of Novozavidovo’s 10 municipal councilors is a milestone. But among the town’s 10,000 people, the 48-year-old from the West African country of Benin is viewed simply a Russian who cares about his hometown…

    COMMENT: Already seen it in Japan with people like Tsurunen Marutei, Anthony Bianchi, and Jon Heese…

    Posted in Immigration & Assimilation, Tangents | 4 Comments »