Back from Hokkaido travels, quick blog update for now

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Hi Blog.  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, Maruseppu, 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 fewer updates last month, we’ll try to do better in September.  Thanks for reading and caring, Debito.org Readers.  Arudou Debito back in Sapporo

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

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Hi Blog. 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?

NB: I will be on the road for the next week or so, checking my blog only sporadically. So please be patient about having blog comments approved. I will put up a blog poll so people can voice their opinions in macro. Arudou Debito on holiday

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Japan as number three
Watching China whizz by
Japan is now the world’s third-largest economy. Can its firms cope?
The Economist London, Aug 19th 2010 | TOKYO

Article plus two interesting charts at http://economist.com/node/16847828

FIVE years ago China’s economy was half as big as Japan’s. This year it will probably be bigger (see chart 1). Quarterly figures announced this week showed that China had overtaken its ancient rival. It had previously done so only in the quarter before Christmas, when Chinese GDP is always seasonally high.

Since China’s population is ten times greater than Japan’s, this moment always seemed destined to arrive. But it is surprising how quickly it came. For Japan, which only two decades ago aspired to be number one, the slip to third place is a gloomy milestone. Yet worse may follow.

Many of the features of Japanese capitalism that contributed to its long malaise still persist: the country is lucky if its economy grows by 1% a year. Although Japan has made substantial reforms in corporate governance, financial openness and deregulation, they are far from enough. Unless dramatic changes take place, Japan may suffer a third lost decade.

Of course, Japan still boasts some of the world’s most innovative firms. Carmakers such as Toyota and electronics firms such as Toshiba are in a class of their own. Japanese firms hold more than a 70% market share in 30 industries worth more than $1 billion in annual sales, from digital cameras to car-navigation devices, according to 2008 data. Whatever the brand on a digital gadget’s case, Japanese wares are stuffed inside or are essential for producing it.

Yet the success of Japan’s best firms masks wider weaknesses. Yoko Ishikura, a business professor at Hitotsubashi University, believes that Japanese bosses are complacent. “They are either too afraid to face the reality of the power shift,” she says, “or [they] want to stick to old, familiar models.” Yet the core problem is that Japan suffers from a gross misallocation of resources, both financial and human.

Japan has long kept the cost of capital low, to boost investment or help stragglers. Since the financial crisis began, bureaucratic organs such as the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan and the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation have been handed $25 billion to revitalise ailing companies. Among the latter agency’s first acts was to assist a dying wireless operator that bet on archaic technology.

Food for zombies

The system almost guarantees that fresh capital goes to the losers of yesteryear. Because struggling companies rarely die, new ones do not form. Japan’s bankruptcy rate is half of America’s; the rate at which it creates new firms is only a third as high. Japanese venture capitalists are few and far between. Japan’s bureaucratic allocation of credit seldom spurs animal spirits. Rather, it nourishes zombies.

Japan has also lost its knack for getting the best out of its human capital. Its people are superbly literate and numerate, but certain cultural traits are holding businesses back. Respect for seniority means that promotions go to the older, not the most able. Young executives with good ideas refrain from speaking up. Retiring presidents are kept on as chairmen or advisers, making it awkward for the new guy to undo his predecessor’s mistakes. A rising executive at a big trading house says he was counselled by his seniors to keep his views hidden if he wanted to get on.

Japanese salarymen, who were once regarded as modern-day samurai, are today known as soshoku-danshi (wussy, unambitious “grass-eating men”). Since 2003, the proportion of young Japanese entering the labour force who want to be entrepreneurs has halved, to 14%, while those who seek lifetime employment has nearly doubled, to 57% (see chart 2). Bosses grouse that the young eschew overseas posts; even a foreign-ministry official confides that Japanese diplomats prefer to stay at home.

The herbivores are markedly less “globalised” than their elders. Since 2000 the number of Chinese and Indians studying in America has doubled, whereas the number of Japanese has dropped by a third, to a fraction of the other Asian countries’ total. And despite years of mandatory English-language classes in secondary school, the Japanese score lowest among rich countries on English tests. This needn’t be a problem, except that as an export-dependent economy, Japan’s lifeblood is its relations with other countries, frets Takatoshi Ito, an economist at the University of Tokyo.

Half the nation’s talent is squandered. Only 8% of managers are female, compared with around 40% in America and about 20% in China. There are more women on corporate boards in Kuwait than Tokyo. Women are paid 60-70% as much as their male counterparts. A manager at one of Japan’s biggest conglomerates says that 70% of qualified job applicants are women, but fewer than 10% of new hires are, since the work may entail visits to factories or mines, where they might perspire in an unladylike way. Kirin, a brewer, seeks to double the number of its female managers by 2015—to a mere 6% of the total.

To get the economy moving, Japan Inc took a page from its industrial-policy playbook of yore. In June the trade ministry released a sweeping new “growth strategy” that identifies a score of vibrant sectors meriting government assistance, from overseas construction to attracting medical tourists. The project calls for hundreds of reforms, big and small. But the bureaucrats most intimately involved were shunted to other jobs in July, so who knows whether any will be implemented. Once again, the practices of old Japan scuttle the new. Richard Katz, editor of the Oriental Economist (no relation to us), believes Japan has trouble tackling its problems because they are all inter-related. “It is hard to fix one without fixing the others,” he says.

The local news media have played down Japan’s slip to third place. Alarmists fear that South Korea—which has a much smaller population—may overtake Japan, too. Is Japan willing to fight to keep its bronze medal for as long as possible?

Supporters say that the country always seems to shuffle its feet but then snaps into action when faced with a crisis. It did so in the 19th century, adopting modern ways to avoid being colonised, and again after the second world war. Japan was the world’s second-largest economy for 40 years. But the traits that made it an economic powerhouse in the 20th century—easy capital, big companies, rote learning, management by mandarins and stable jobs for male breadwinners—are ill-suited to the 21st. Today, Japan’s biggest obstacle is itself. Without dramatic reform, it will slip swiftly to number four, number five and beyond.

ENDS

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

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Hi Blog. I got the following from the organizers of demonstrations against dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Wakayama (subject of documentary “The Cove”). Comment follows:

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

Posted By: Fonda Berosini
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.”

“We” are now more than 1.6 million people from 153 countries, including Japan. 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.

I know some will be disappointed, but I really think we can do better elsewhere at this time. Please know that I’m not concerned about my own safety, however many supporters – some from this Cause – are planning to join us, and I won’t risk their well being.

We will not abandon the dolphins in trouble in Taiji and other fishing villages. In fact, moving the event will allow us to show the full scope of the problem. Several other communities along the coast of Japan have dolphin kills, although most have abandoned the drive fishery that was depicted in The Cove. And there is also the broader issue of captivity. We would like to discuss these issues in a neutral, conflict-free environment.

Thanks for your understanding. To follow our next steps in Japan, I invite you to check my blog:

http://www.savejapandolphins.org/blog.html

Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

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

COMMENT: Debito.org is following this case with interest because it offers one template for activism in Japan (a society that in my view eschews activism of this sort because historically it has been associated with extremism).  The outcome of this case, with so much time, effort, and publicity invested, will of course affect the efficacy of future grassroots protests in Japan.

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 Japanese police have a habit of not stopping public violence if it’s inflicted by the Right Wing: examples herehere, here, and within the movie Yasukuni).  Only a violence-free demo will reassure an already tetchy Japanese public that not all demonstrators are extremists.  One would need the non-violence discipline and training of MLK’s followers in places like Birmingham and Selma; when faced with biting police dogs and fire hoses, they managed to keep cool heads and evoke public sympathy.  Thanks to the media, of course, who published photographs showing who the one-sided perpetrators of violence were.  There is no guarantee of that in the Japanese media (no doubt there would be plenty of domestic outlets either trying to create faux balance by finding fault with both sides, or just saying that the intruders were there making trouble).

but

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, especially given the anti-Leftist/anti-intruder police and media sympathies I mentioned above?  Whenever any group is able to successfully hold public safety hostage, violence (or the threat of it) will in fact be more encouraged.  Where the demo lines can be drawn, especially in a society that needs police and community permission to even hold a public rally outdoors, will be perpetually gray.  So why not draw them in Taiji?

This is just an internal debate I have going on inside of me.  What do others think?  It’s been one hot summer this year, let’s hope cooler heads prevail and nobody gets hurt.  Arudou Debito on vacation.

PS:  I’ve put this question up as a blog poll, in the right-hand column of any blog page.  Let us know what you think.

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

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MEDIA RELEASE / Free Use

“Greater Tuna” Press Release

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!

Last year, TIP Second Stage produced Greater Tuna in its intimate, black box space to tremendous audience response. This encore production features Bob Werley reprising his roles, joined by TIP veteran Charlie Lent. Andrew Martinez is returning as director. You don’t want to miss it the second time around!

Andrew Martinez (Director): “Greater Tuna is such a hilarious show I felt Tokyoites deserved another chance to see it. This time around I cast the show as it was originally performed, with two males playing 10 roles each. It adds another dimension with a more diversified chemistry. Hope y’all can come on down and see the show!”

September 3, 4, 5 & 10, 11, 12 at Our Space Theater:

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 amartinez@tokyoplayers.org with date of the show and number of tickets required. Visit the Greater Tuna Facebook page: www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=109937582394177

The venue, Our Space, is located off the north side of Koshu Kaido street, a three-minute walk from Hatagaya Station, or a five-minute taxi from Shinjuku Station’s south exit.

Our Space
Toei Shopping Center 101
Hatagaya 2-1-1 #101
Shibuya-ku
Map:
http://www.tokyoplayers.org/?lang=1&page=16

Our Space has a limited capacity, and so reservations are strongly recommended.

Now in its 114th season, TIP is Japan’s oldest English-language community theater group.

***For more information, or to arrange photographs or interviews, the media contact
is Andrew Martinez: 090-2643-5919; amartinez@tokyoplayers.org***

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 greatertunatokyo@gmail.com with “GREATER TUNA” in the “subject” line.  Deadline Thursday, September 2nd at 6pm.  Please include your name and telephone number in the body of the message, and specify that you got this information through Debito.org. Entrants must be over 16 yrs of age. Please specify what performance date you want; winners will be notified by e-mail.

Note from Debito:  I will be attending too.  Arudou Debito on holiday

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

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Hi Blog. While doing some research yesterday, I found out this interesting development:

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.  Archive:

http://www.debito.org/TheCommunity/takamadoproject.html

When the dubious practice of assuming that any foreigner had a linguistic advantage in English was raised with the organizers, they decided to keep the rules as is.  So I wrote about it for the Japan Times, dated January 6, 2004:

—————————————

Freedom of speech
‘Tainted blood’ sees ‘foreign’ students barred from English contests

http://www.debito.org/japantimes010604.html

… A prestigious event, name-sponsored by the late Prince Takamado, its goal is: “To create an internationally rich youth culture, both proficient in English and widely popular (sic), which aims to develop Japanese culture and contribute to international relations.”

Yet its disqualifiers are oddly xenophobic: Rule 3: “If any of your parents or grandparents are foreigners (including naturalized Japanese) in principle you are excluded.” Rule 2a: “If you are born in a foreign country and have stayed abroad past your 5th birthday,” and; 2b: “If after your 5th birthday you have lived in a foreign country for over a total of one year, or if you have lived in a foreign country over a continuous six-month period,” you may not enter the contest.

The organizers seemed to have forgotten that not all foreigners speak English…

—————————————

So now back to the present.  I checked the rules for Takamado yesterday, and here’s how they’ve been revised:

—————————————

  1. Students recommended by their school principal and attending a Middle School in Japan (excluding International and American Schools).
  2. Students who fall into any of the following categories are not eligible to participate in the contest:
  3. Those who were born and raised in English speaking countries/regions* beyond the age of five.
  4. Those who lived in English speaking countries/regions or studied in International and American Schools beyond the age of five for a total of one year or six months continuously.
  5. Those whose parent or grandparent with nationalities of English Speaking countries or naturalized Japanese, having lived in Japan for less than 30 years.
  6. Those who won 1st to 3rd places in any previous contests.
  7. Those that violate the above clauses and enter the Contest will be disqualified.

*Below are the definitions of the English speaking countries. (Defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Republic of Singapore, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Republic of the Philippines, Negara Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Commonwealth of Australia, Republic of Kiribati, Independent State of Samoa, Solomon Island, Tuvalu, Kingdom of Tonga, Republic of Nauru, New Zealand, Republic of Palau , Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Vanuatu, Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Fiji Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, United States of America, Canada, Antigua and Barbuda, Republic of Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Republic of Suriname, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Commonwealth of Dominica, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Republic of Uganda, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Ghana, Republic of Cameroon, Republic of The Gambia, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Zambia, Republic of Sierra Leone, Republic of Zimbabwe, Republic of the Sudan, Kingdom of Swaziland, Republic of Seychelles, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Republic of Namibia, Republic of Botswana, Republic of Malawi, Republic of South Africa, Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Liberia, Republic of Rwanda, Kingdom of Lesotho, Republic of Cyprus, Lebanese Republic, Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Republic of Malta, Cook Islands, Niue, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, India, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

http://www.jnsafund.org/en/ptt61st/details.html

—————————————

Now that’s more like it.  Took some time, but it looks like they added some sophistication to deeming who has a linguistic advantage.  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.  Arudou Debito on holiday

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

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Hi Blog.  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.  More on the issue from Debito.org here.  Arudou Debito on holiday.

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Japan to join The Hague convention on child custody
Kyodo News/Japan Today Sunday 15th August, 2010, courtesy of JK

http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-to-join-the-hague-convention-on-child-custody

TOKYO — 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.

Japan has come under pressure from the United States and European countries to join the 1980 treaty aimed at preventing one of the parents in a failed international marriage from taking their offspring across national borders against an existing child custody arrangement.

The government has judged it necessary to resolve the issue as soon as possible, given that leaving it unresolved for a long term would undermine Japan’s international standing, the sources said.

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.

For example, on parental rights, Japan’s law gives a single parent full custody of children in a divorce, virtually allowing the custodial parent to take the children away without the consent of the noncustodial parent, while the United States and Europe allow joint custody.

Japan’s Civil Code also does not mention visitation rights for noncustodial parents and many Japanese parents awarded custody are known to refuse the other parent access to the child.

Many civic groups active on the issue urge the Japanese government to amend the Civil Code to allow joint custody but the government is set to forgo such an amendment at this stage, according to the sources.

In January, ambassadors of the United States and seven other nations urged Japan to sign the Hague convention in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Tokyo.

Amid growing global concerns over the so-called child abductions, the Japanese government set up a division in the Foreign Ministry to specifically deal with the issue in December last year, while then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in February suggested that he was considering Japan’s accession to the treaty.

Japan and Russia are the only two countries among the Group of Eight industrialized nations that are not a party to the Hague Convention.
ENDS

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

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Hi Blog.  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 herehere, 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.  Arudou Debito on holiday

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

Rightists arrested over harassment of schoolchildren
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/08/11 Courtesy of JK

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201008100352.html

KYOTO–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.

The investigation centered on bringing charges of disrupting the classes and damaging the reputation of the elementary school, which is supported by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon). The organization serves as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Japan.

Two of the men arrested have executive roles in Zaitokukai itself: an electrician who serves as its vice chairman, and a janitor in a condominium building who manages its Kyoto branch. The other two belong to a group called Shuken-Kaifuku o Mezasu Kai (or Shukenkai, for short), which translates literally as “a group aiming at recovering sovereignty,” and has close ties with Zaitokukai. One is a company employee who was head of Shukenkai’s Kansai section. The other is a snack bar operator who used to help organize the same branch.

All four men are thought to have been present at the demonstration at the school on Dec. 4. About 10 people shouted slogans, some using loudspeakers.

They are also being investigated for damaging property by cutting a cord to a speaker in a nearby park.

Zaitokukai claims that the Korean school installed the speaker and a soccer goal in the park, which is managed by the city government, without permission. The school’s students use the park as a playground.

A vice chairman of Zaitokukai told The Asahi Shimbun: “We tried to talk with the school after removing the illegally installed equipment. The school refused to talk, so we protested against them.”

Police say the demonstration stopped classes and caused anxiety among some of the schoolchildren.

Zaitokukai was set up in December 2006, with Sakurai as its chairman. The Tokyo-based group says it has 9,000 members and 26 branches nationwide and claims about 200 members in Kyoto.

It is one of a new breed of rightist groups that use the Internet to promote themselves.

Zaitokukai films many of its protests and posts them on video-sharing websites.

The Zaitokukai vice chairman who talked to The Asahi Shimbun said he joined the group last July after seeing Sakurai in one of the videos.

He said his family was opposed to his involvement. “These activities are a big financial burden. But I’m doing them out of patriotism,” he said.

ENDS

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

在特会幹部ら、京都府警が聴取へ 朝鮮学校授業妨害容疑
2010年8月10日 朝日新聞
http://www.asahi.com/kansai/news/OSK201008100036.html

京都朝鮮第一初級学校(京都市南区)の前で、「日本から出て行け」などと拡声機で叫んで授業を妨害するなどしたとして、京都府警は、在日特権を許さない市民の会(在特会、本部・東京)の幹部ら数人から、威力業務妨害などの疑いで近く事情聴取する方針を固めた。

捜査関係者によると、在特会幹部らメンバー約10人は昨年12月4日昼、同初級学校の周辺で1時間近くにわたり、拡声機を使って「日本人を拉致した朝鮮総連傘下」「北朝鮮のスパイ養成所」「日本から出て行け。スパイの子ども」などと怒鳴り、授業を妨害した疑いなどが持たれている。

在特会のホームページによると、在特会は、同初級学校が、隣接する児童公園に朝礼台やスピーカー、サッカーゴールを無断で設置して「不法占拠」をしていると主張。これらを撤去したうえで街宣活動をしたとしている。在特会側は街宣の様子を撮影し、動画投稿サイト「ユーチューブ」などで流していた。

学校側は昨年12月末、威力業務妨害や名誉棄損の疑いなどで府警に告訴。その後も街宣活動があったため、今年3月に街宣の禁止を求める仮処分を京都地裁に申し立て、地裁は学校周辺で学校関係者を非難する演説やビラ配りなどの脅迫的行為を禁じる仮処分を決定した。さらに学校側は6月、在特会と街宣活動をしたメンバーらを相手取り、街宣の禁止と計3千万円の損害賠償を求めて提訴している。

京都市などによると、同初級学校は約50年前から、市が管理する児童公園を運動場代わりに使用。市は昨春以降、市の許可を得ていないとして設備の撤去を求めてきた。府警は、学校側の関係者についても、都市公園法違反容疑で立件するかどうか検討するとみられる。

昨年12月の街宣活動に参加した在特会メンバーの一人は、朝日新聞の取材に「公園の無断使用は許されない。自分たちはマイク一つで、ぎりぎりの範囲でやってきた。見る人が見たら共感してくれる」と話している。

在特会(桜井誠会長)は2006年に発足。在日韓国・朝鮮人の特別永住資格は「特権」と批判し、全国各地でデモ活動などを続けている。ホームページによると、全国に26支部あり、会員は9千人以上いるという。

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「在特会」幹部ら逮捕 京都朝鮮学校の授業妨害容疑
2010年8月10日 朝日新聞
http://www.asahi.com/kansai/news/OSK201008100088.html

京都朝鮮第一初級学校(京都市南区)の前で「日本から出て行け」と拡声機で叫んで授業を妨害するなどしたとして、京都府警は10日、威力業務妨害容疑などで「在日特権を許さない市民の会」(在特会)の幹部ら4人を逮捕した。本部を置く東京の会長宅なども家宅捜索した。

府警によると、逮捕されたのは在特会副会長で電気工事業の川東大了(かわひがし・だいりょう)容疑者=大阪府枚方市=、在特会京都支部運営担当でマンション管理人の西村斉(ひとし)容疑者=京都市右京区=ら30〜40代の男性4人。

4人は他の在特会メンバーらとともに昨年12月4日昼、同校周辺で1時間近くにわたり、拡声機で「北朝鮮のスパイ養成所」「日本から出て行け。スパイの子ども」などと怒鳴って授業を妨害し、同校の名誉を傷つけた疑いがある。隣接する児童公園で、同校が管理するスピーカーのコードを切断したとする器物損壊容疑も持たれている。学校側が昨年12月に告訴した。

在特会は、市が管理する児童公園を学校が運動場代わりにし、スピーカーやサッカーゴールを無断で設置していた点をただそうとしたと主張。川東容疑者は逮捕前、朝日新聞の取材に「違法な設置物を撤去したうえで話し合おうとしたが、学校側に拒否されたので抗議しただけだ」と説明していた。

府警は、大勢のメンバーが押しかけて、ののしりの言葉を大音量で繰り返し、子どもたちを不安に陥れた点を重視。授業ができなくなる事態に追い込んだ結果は見過ごせないと判断した。

ENDS

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

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.  Yet another Summer Tangent linked with yesterday’s post on Amakudari foiling reforms.  Here we have a reporter connecting the dots of Japan’s economic decline with more than just a whiff of Schadenfreude:  Holding up Japan as a laboratory experiment example of a society going down the tubes.  Well, points taken, especially about the sense of “Why bother?” for workers in a deflationary economy, but I’m not sure there are lessons that really apply anywhere else but here (and as a nitpick:  I don’t see “grass-eating men” as people who lack workplace competitiveness:  to me it’s more a fashion statement for men who have been brought up in a society where the ideal of beauty has long been far more feminine than masculine).  But anyway, food for thought.  Comments?  Debito

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Japan’s Economic Stagnation Is Creating a Nation of Lost Youths

DailyFinance.com By CHARLES HUGH SMITH
Posted 7:00 AM 08/06/10, Courtesy of CJ

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/careers/japans-economic-stagnation-is-creating-a-nation-of-lost-youths/19580780/

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.

Many fear that as the generation of salaried baby boomers dies out, the country’s economic slide might accelerate. Japan’s share of the global economy has fallen below 10% from a peak of 18% in 1994. Were this decline to continue, income disparities would widen and threaten to pull this once-stable society apart.

Downsized Expectations, Opting Out

The Japanese term ”freeter” is a hybrid word that originated in the late 1980s, just as Japan’s property and stock market bubbles reached their zenith. It combines the English ”free” and the German ”arbeiter,” or worker, and describes a lifestyle that’s radically different from the buttoned-down rigidity of the permanent-employment economy: freedom to move between jobs. This absence of loyalty to a company is totally alien to previous generations of driven Japanese “salarymen” who were expected to uncomplainingly turn in 70-hour work weeks at the same company for decades, all in exchange for lifetime employment.

Many young people have come to mistrust big corporations, having seen their fathers or uncles eased out of ”lifetime” jobs in the relentless downsizing of the past 20 years. From the point of view of the younger generations, the loyalty their parents unstintingly gave to companies was wasted.

The freeters have also come to see diminishing value in the grueling study and tortuous examinations required to compete for the elite jobs in academia, industry and government. With opportunities fading, long years of study are perceived as pointless. In contrast, the freeter lifestyle is one of hopping between short-term jobs and devoting energy and time to foreign travel, hobbies or other interests.

As long ago as 2001, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimated that 50% of high school graduates and 30% of college graduates quit their jobs within three years of leaving school. The downside is permanently shrunken income and prospects. These trends have led to an ironic moniker for the freeter lifestyle: dame-ren (no good people). The dame-ren get by on odd jobs, low-cost living and drastically diminished expectations.

Changed Men

The decline of permanent employment has also led to the unraveling of social mores and conventions. The young men who reject their fathers’ macho work ethic are derisively called “herbivores” or “grass-eaters” because they’re uncompetitive and uncommitted to work.

Take the bestselling book The Herbivorous Ladylike Men Who Are Changing Japan, by Megumi Ushikubo, president of Infinity, a Tokyo marketing firm. Ushikubo claims that about two-thirds of all Japanese men aged 20-34 are now partial or total “grass-eaters.” “People who grew up in the bubble era [of the 1980s] really feel like they were let down. They worked so hard and it all came to nothing,” says Ushikubo. “So the men who came after them have changed.”

This has spawned a disconnect between genders so pervasive that Japan is experiencing a “social recession” in marriage, births and even sex, all of which are declining.

With a wealth and income divide widening along generational lines, many young Japanese are attaching themselves to their parents. Surveys indicate that roughly two-thirds of freeters live at home. Freeters ”who have no children, no dreams, hope or job skills could become a major burden on society, as they contribute to the decline in the birthrate and in social insurance contributions,” Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor wrote in a magazine essay titled, ”Parasite Singles Feed on Family System.”

Take My Son, Please

“Parasite singles” is yet another harsh term for some Japanese youths. It refers to those who never leave home, sparking an almost tragicomical countertrend of Japanese parents who actively seek mates to marry off their “parasite single” offspring as the only way to get them out of the house.

Even more extreme is hikikomori, or “acute social withdrawal,” a condition in which the young live-at-home person nearly walls himself off from the world by never leaving his room. Though acute social withdrawal in Japan affect both genders, impossibly high expectations for males from middle- and upper-middle-class families has led many sons, typically the eldest, to refuse to leave home. The trigger for this complete withdrawal from social interaction is often one or more traumatic episodes of social or academic failure. That is, the inability to meet standards of conduct and success that can no longer be met in diminished-opportunity Japan.

The unraveling of Japan’s social fabric as a result of eroding economic conditions for young people offers Americans a troubling glimpse of the high costs of long-term economic stagnation.
ENDS

Summer Tangent: Economist.com summary of Amakudari system

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 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.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Japan’s overpowerful bureaucrats
Summertime, and the living is easy
Politicians fail to end cosy ties between pen-pushers and business
Aug 5th 2010 | TOKYO

http://www.economist.com/node/16743989?story_id=16743989

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.

For decades politicians of all stripes have vowed to end amakudari. True to form, the new Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power promising change, but so far has done little, though there is talk of shutting a few quangos—such as a farm-road-planning group linked to the agriculture ministry. In theory this could mean big changes: around 100 “public corporations” are attached to ministries and another 6,500 semipublic associations exist. Together, such firms enjoy an annual budget estimated as large as ¥3.4 trillion (around $40 billion).

But few expect action soon. The rationale for amakudari is that, given Japan’s strictly hierarchical society, getting old civil servants out of the way is the only means of letting younger ones rise. Companies comply because they rely on cosy official contacts to prosper: a board director at a big Japanese firm concedes that its heavenly arrivals help to ease interactions with regulators.

Kicking this unhealthy habit, therefore, requires broad, sharp changes to much of how Japanese culture, politics and business works. Don’t expect to see that done by next summer.

ENDS

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

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 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. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Japan To Voice Remorse Tues. Over Annexation of Korea 100 Years Ago
Kyodo World Service in English 1211 GMT 09 Aug 10 2010, courtesy Club of 99.

http://home.kyodo.co.jp/modules/fstStory/index.php?storyid=516523

Tokyo, Aug. 9 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.

The expressions used closely follow those of past prime ministerial statements — one by Tomiichi Murayama in August 1995 and another by Junichiro Koizumi in August 2005, the sources said.

The government told the Democratic Party of Japan that Kan is planning to release a statement in connection with the centenary after securing approval from the Cabinet on Tuesday, Goshi Hosono, acting secretary general of the DPJ, told reporters after attending a ruling party meeting.

While apologizing for the annexation, the statement will also be aimed at deepening future-oriented ties with South Korea, the sources said.

Kan is hoping to turn the page on bilateral historical issues, while enhancing cooperation with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s government in addressing challenges related to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its past abduction of foreign nationals, the sources said.

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.

The statement does not refer to Japan-North Korea relations, the sources said.

The release will take place before Aug. 15, when South Korea celebrates its liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Kan’s Cabinet had been considering releasing the statement either before Aug.15 or Aug. 29, the day the annexation treaty was proclaimed 100 years ago.

Kan is slated to hold a news conference on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to explain his reason for issuing the statement.

Opposition to releasing such a document remains among conservative lawmakers within and outside the DPJ, with some expressing concern over renewed claims for financial compensation for the suffering inflicted during Japan’s colonial rule in some Asian countries.

DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano said at a news conference that the party did not make any special request regarding the release.

Edano also said he has no concerns about reigniting the issue of compensation in Asia because of the release.

ENDS

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

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 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.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Strict immigration rules may threaten Japan’s future
By Chico Harlan
The Washington Post Wednesday, July 28, 2010
, Courtesy lots of people.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/27/AR2010072706053.html

TOKYO — Her new country needs her, her new employer adores her, and Joyce Anne Paulino, who landed here 14 months ago knowing not a word of the language, can now say in Japanese that she’d like very much to stay. But Paulino, 31, a nurse from the Philippines, worries about the odds. To stay in Japan long-term, she must pass a test that almost no foreigner passes.

For Japan, maintaining economic relevance in the next decades hinges on its ability — and its willingness — to grow by seeking outside help. Japan has long had deep misgivings about immigration and has tightly controlled the ability of foreigners to live and work here.

But with the country’s population expected to fall from 127 million to below 100 million by 2055, Prime Minister Naoto Kan last month took a step toward loosening Japan’s grip on immigration, outlining a goal to double the number of highly skilled foreign workers within a decade.

In Japan, just 1.7 percent of the population (or roughly 2.2 million people) is foreign or foreign-born. Foreigners represent small slices of almost every sector of the economy, but they also represent the one slice of the population with a chance to grow. Japan is on pace to have three workers for every two retirees by 2060.

But the economic partnership program that brought Paulino and hundreds of other nurses and caretakers to Japan has a flaw. Indonesian and Filipino workers who come to care for a vast and growing elderly population cannot stay for good without passing a certification test. And that test’s reliance on high-level Japanese — whose characters these nurses cram to memorize — has turned the test into a de facto language exam.

Ninety percent of Japanese nurses pass the test. This year, three of 254 immigrants passed it. The year before, none of 82 passed.

For immigrant advocates, a pass-or-go-home test with a success rate of less than 1 percent creates a wide target for criticism — especially at a time when Japan’s demographics are increasing the need for skilled foreign labor.

For many officials in the government and the medical industry, however, difficulties with the program point to a larger dilemma confronting a country whose complex language and resistance to foreigners make it particularly tough to penetrate.

Kan’s goal to double the number of skilled foreign workers seems reasonable enough, given that Japan currently has 278,000 college-educated foreign workers — the United States has more than 8 million, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — but it meets some resistance.

An Asahi Shimbun newspaper poll in June asked Japanese about accepting immigrants to “maintain economic vitality.” Twenty-six percent favored the idea. Sixty-five percent opposed it. And the likelihood of substantive changes in immigration policy took a major hit, experts said, when Kan’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan saw setbacks in parliamentary elections this month.

Political analysts now paint a grim picture of a country at legislative impasse. Foreigners such as Paulino find it difficult to get here, difficult to thrive and difficult to stay, and at least for now, Kan’s government will have a difficult time changing any of that.

‘A lack of urgency’

“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.

A new culture

When Paulino boarded a flight from Manila to Tokyo in May 2009, she had a sense of trepidation and adventure — not that she could express it in Japanese. She saw her mission as a way to make better money and “explore herself,” she said. Her first chance for exploration came onboard, when a meal of rice, which she doesn’t like, came with chopsticks, which she didn’t know how to use.

“All the way to Japan, we were joking about that,” said Fritzie Perez, a fellow Filipino nurse who sat in the same row. “We were saying, ‘Joyce, how are you going to eat?’ “

Now eight months into her stint at the Tamagawa Subaru nursing home, Paulino feels comfortable speaking and joking with the elderly people she cares for.

“She did have problems initially, especially in the Japanese language, but there’s been so much improvement,” said Keisuke Isozaki, head of caretaking at the home. “She’s not capable of writing things down for the record, but otherwise she’s as capable as any Japanese staffer.”

Paulino said she is nervous about her test, scheduled for January 2013. This month, 33 nurses and caretakers returned to their home countries, discouraged with their chances.

Her friend, Perez, described the language study and the caretaking as “serving two masters at the same time.”

“When I get home, that’s when I study,” Paulino said. “But every time I read my book, I start to fall asleep. It’s bothering me. Because [the test] is only one chance. And I don’t know if I can get it.”

Special correspondent Akiko Yamamoto contributed to this report.
ENDS

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

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 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. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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August 5, 2010
Dear Debito,

First of all, I would like to thank you for all your efforts. It is good to know that someone cares.

The other day I wanted to buy a cooler, after all it is a hot summer and nothing feels better than having a BBQ on the beach.

So, I went to a sports shop and found a good sized one from Coleman. When I opened it, I saw some instructions and the first thing that I saw was ‘For Japanese Consumers only’. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about it but it was enough for me to feel somewhat offended by it.

We have seen the hot springs, the hotels and clubs but if they start doing this now also with goods, I think it is going a bit too far.

Have a look at the enclosure and tell me what you think.

Enjoy the 35C tomorrow, hopefully you will go to the beach too with a nice cooler.  SW.

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 6, 2010

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 6, 2010

Hi All. Fat one this time, what with nearly a month gone by since the last one. And with summer here, I’m going to be less on the keyboard and outside trying to get sick of warm, sunny weather. Can’t imagine it happening, but it’s worth a try. Enjoy August!

Table of Contents:
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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
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily Blog Updates and RSS at www.debito.org. Facebook and Twitter arudoudebito
Freely Forwardable

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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

As a friend most poignantly pointed out to me yesterday evening, something’s very wrong with Japan’s current top news story:

“Have you been following the reaction to the treatment given that ex-North Korean spy who blew up a plane and murdered 115 people, yet came to Japan as a VIP and is now staying at Hatoyama’s Karuizawa retreat? David McNeil and Justin McCurry did pieces with a hint of outrage, especially David, who noted that, if Japanese authorities had bothered to follow the immigration law, she would have been arrested. To be fair, some Japanese journalists noted last night (on TBS, I think) that something isn’t quite right.

“You may be interested to know that the group “Bring Abducted Children Home” is pretty upset as well, noting that the Japanese government rolls out the red carpet for a mass murderer just because she might have some information on Japanese children who were kidnapped out of Japan but doesn’t want to deal with anybody seeking a meeting about Japanese children kidnapped back to Japan by a Japanese parent.”

Quite. As far as I recall not a peep about the terrorism on NHK 7PM last night. Only the meeting with the Yokotas and all the smiles. Elite politics indeed trumps all.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=7278

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2) UPDATE: Additional thoughts on the DPRK Spy Kim Hyon Hui Japan Visit from a friend in the know

Excerpt: Kim Hyon Hui, a wannabe actress-turned-terrorist who blew up a 747 filled with 115 people back in 1987 when she was a North Korean agent and who got the death penalty, only to see it revoked for reasons that are still unclear, arrived at Haneda airport Wednesday by special charter plane from her home in South Korea. Ms. Kim saw Japan’s fine hospitality at its best, and was even given her own motorcade to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s summer home in Karuizawa. No delays at train stations or red lights for our Ms. Kim!…

Yes, Ms. Kim did suffer a memory loss when she originally told Japanese officials she’d never met Megumi Yokota. But that was then and this is now. The Japanese government is quite happy to learn she has regained her memory, calling it a miracle and dismissing cynics who wonder whether Kim’s memory loss was restored with the aid of both hypnosis and secret bank accounts in Switzerland, Macau, or the Cayman Islands.

So busy were Japanese officials with their one-woman “Yokoso Japan!” on behalf of Ms. Kim and her testimony about children abducted from Japan by foreigners in violation of domestic and international law that readers will surely sympathize with our nation’s overworked and understaffed bureaucracy when they insist they have no time to meet with Americans, Canadians, British, Germans, French, Indians, or anyone else who would like — just a few minutes, if you please — to discuss the issue of children abducted to Japan by Japanese in violation of domestic and international law.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7282

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3) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Aug 3: Kim uses Japan’s “perpetual victimhood” to her advantage

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010
JUST BE CAUSE
The victim complex and Kim’s killer con
Courtesy
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100803ad.html
Comments and links to sources at
http://www.debito.org/?p=7378
By DEBITO ARUDOU

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OTHER BIG CONS

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7370

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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

Kyodo reports the semiannual NPA NJ crime propaganda campaign, claiming once again some kind of “increase”. Before, we had decreases in crime depicted as an increase, depending on what crime you looked at or what language the article was in. Now it’s the NPA, in the face of a 40% admitted drop in “NJ criminals rounded up” since 2004, giving the spin of doubting its own statistics. What’s next, saying NJ are more likely to commit crime because of their criminal DNA? (Actually, Tokyo Gov Ishihara beat them to that nearly a decade ago.)

Here’s the report being referred to in pdf format:
http://www.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai6/rainichi.pdf

Note how on the bottom of page two, they give a definition that the “gaikokujin” they’re referring to do not mean those here with PR status, the Zainichi, the US military, or “those with unclear Statuses of Residence” (what, refugees? certainly not visa overstayers). Okay. Pity the media doesn’t mention that. Nor is it mentioned that although this report is supposed to deal with “international crime”, it is just titled “Rainichi Gaikokujin Hanzai no Kenkyo Joukyou” (lit. The Situation of Cases of Crimes by Foreigners Coming to Japan). I guess just talking about garden-variety crime by NJ (back in the day when it was allegedly going up) isn’t convenient anymore. You have to narrow the focus to find the crime and shoot the fish in the proverbial barrel — it gets the headlines that attribute crime to nationality, even somehow allows you to doubt your own statistics. Moreover enables you to claim a budget to “establish a system in which investigators across the nation would be able to work in an integrated manner to counter crimes committed by foreigners” (as opposed to an integrated manner to counter crimes in general).

Let’s see what the NPA spin is next time. Fascinatingly bad science.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7293

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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.)

For a nice bite-size Sunday post, dovetailing with yesterday’s post on the NPA’s whipping up fear of foreign crime gangs, here we have the Kanagawa Police offering us a poster with racist caricatures of NJ, and more minced language to enlist the public in its Gaijin Hunt. Check this out:

http://www.debito.org/?p=7296

Let’s analyze this booger. In the same style of fearmongering and racist police posters in the past (see for example here, here, here, and here), we have the standard NJ conks and wily faces. Along with a crime gang stealing from a jewelry store (nothing like getting one’s hands dirty, unlike all the white-collar homegrown yakuza crime we see fewer posters about).

The poster opens with employers being told to check Status of Residences of all the NJ they employ. Of course, employers who employ NJ usually sponsor them for a visa, so this warning shouldn’t be necessary. I guess it’s nicer than warning the employer that if they do employ overstayers, the employer should also be punished. But again, we hear little about that. It’s the NJ who is the wily party, after all.

Then we get the odd warning about overstayers (they say these are lots of “rainichi gaikokujin”, which is not made clear except in fine print elsewhere that they don’t mean the garden-variety NJ) and their links to “international crime groups” (although I haven’t seen convincing statistics on how they are linked). Then they hedge their language by saying “omowaremasu” (it is thought that…), meaning they don’t need statistics at all. It’s obviously a common perception that it’s “recently getting worse” (kin’nen shinkoku ka)…

Finally, we have the places to contact within the Kanagawa Police Department. We now have a special “international crime” head (kokusai han kakari), a “economic security” head (keizai hoan kakari), and a “gaiji kakari”, whatever that is shortened for (surely not “gaikokujin hanzai jiken”, or “foreign crime incidents”). Such proactiveness on the part of the NPA. I hope they sponsor a “sumo-yakuza tobaku kakari” soon…

Anyone else getting the feeling that the NPA is a law unto itself, doing whatever it likes in the purported pursuit of criminals, even if that means racial profiling, social othering of taxpayers and random enforcement of laws based upon nationality (even a death in police custody with impunity), and manufacturing consent to link crime with nationality?

UPDATE: Compare and contrast with the English version of PR for the same police department, courtesy of crustpunker:

http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/eng/eng_idx.htm

Not only is it a disingenuous lie, its contents are utterly banal. And since I can’t find the gaiji kakari under “Section Information” in English, so I doubt the overall accuracy as well.

This is linked from this even nastier Kanagawa Police site regarding NJ:

http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/mes/mese2001.htm

More at http://www.debito.org/?p=7296

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7) Shame on Berlitz Japan for its court harassments, firing teacher for having cancer

Japan Times: The battle between Berlitz Japan and Begunto began with a strike launched Dec. 13, 2007, as Berlitz Japan and its parent company, Benesse Corp., were enjoying record profits. Teachers, who had gone without an across-the-board raise for 16 years, struck for a 4.6-percent pay hike and a one-month bonus. The action grew into the largest sustained strike in the history of Japan’s language school industry, with more than 100 English, Spanish and French teachers participating in walkouts across Kanto.

On Dec. 3, 2008, Berlitz Japan claimed the strike was illegal and sued for a total of JPY 110 million in damages. Named in the suit were the five teachers volunteering as Begunto executives, as well as two union officials: the president of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, Yujiro Hiraga , and Carlet, former NUGW case officer for Begunto and currently executive president of Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union (Tozen)…

Another of the teachers named in the suit, Catherine Campbell, was fired earlier this month after taking too long to recover from late-stage breast cancer cancer. In June 2009, Campbell took a year of unpaid leave to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Because Berlitz Japan failed to enroll Campbell in the shakai hoken health insurance scheme, she was unable to receive the two-thirds wage coverage it provides and had to live with her parents in Canada during treatment. The company denied Campbell’s request to extend her leave from June to Sept. 2010 and fired her for failing to return to work.

Berlitz Japan work rules allow for leave-of-absence extensions where the company deems it necessary. “If cancer is not such a case, what would be?” Campbell asks…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7327

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8 ) Yomiuri: New “lay judges” in J judiciary strict about demanding evidence from prosecutors, give ‘benefit of doubt’. Well, fancy that.

Here’s an article (I can’t find in Japanese) regarding what’s happening in Japan’s “Lay Judge” system (i.e. generally bringing six common folk to sit on Japanese juries as “saiban’in”, with three other real judges offering “legal guidance”, as in, keeping an eye on them). Well, guess what, we have “Runaway Juries”, by Japanese standards! They’re getting in the way of the public prosecutor (who gets his or her way in convicting more than 99.9% of cases brought to Japanese criminal court) and offering acquittals! Well, how outrageous! Given what I know about the Japanese police and how they arrest and detain suspects (particularly if they are existing while foreign), I doubt they are right 99.9% of the time. And it looks like some of the saiban’in would agree. But here’s a lament by the Yomiuri about how those darn lay judges (how belittling; why aren’t they just “jurists”?) are getting in the way. Good. Raise the standard for burden of proof.

Yomiuri: Three complete or partial acquittals were handed down in lay-judge trials in June and July, in which the principle of giving the benefit of the doubt to defendants in criminal trials was strictly applied. As a result, some prosecutors believe it is becoming harder and harder to persuade lay judges that defendants are guilty…

According to lawyer Koshi Murakami, a former division chief of the Tokyo High Court, the sentences of not guilty were handed down in these cases due to professional judges and lay judges’ different understanding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for deciding whether a defendant is guilty.

“Even if they doubt a piece of circumstantial evidence, professional judges decide whether a defendant is guilty after a comprehensive review of other pieces of evidence,” Murakami said. “However, lay judges may consider a not guilty decision if they are suspicious of even one piece of evidence.”…

During the trial, the prosecution did not submit as evidence a security video that recorded conversations between a shop clerk and the defendant and his accomplice.

The prosecution decided it was unnecessary to submit the videotape and did not preserve it because of the consistent statements given by the defendant, the accomplice and the clerk in the course of the investigation.

However, one of the trial’s lay judges criticized the prosecution for its choice.

“I felt the prosecution was overly optimistic not submitting the security video record, which is very objective evidence,” said company employee Nanako Sugawara, 62.

“From now on, objective pieces of evidence such as video tapes must be preserved until all hearings related to a case are finished,” a senior official at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said, reflecting on the trial. “We have to improve our investigation methods so that we can prove our allegations regardless of who is chosen as lay judges…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7287

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9) Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death

A couple of days after this issue appeared in Kyodo and on Debito.org, the Economist London had an article in its print and online version. (If Debito.org is an inspiration for your articles, may we say how grateful we are for the extended audience.) With even more research and quotes, and a comparison with another issue also recently discussed on Debito.org (how Chinese money is affecting the tourist economy), here’s the article:

Economist: Many Japanese strive to keep up egalitarian appearances… But when it comes to the way Japan treats its nouveau riche neighbour, China, different rules apply. Two events this month betray the double standards with which Japanese officialdom treats China’s rich and poor. On July 1st Japan relaxed visa requirements for well-off Chinese tourists. It was not stated how much anyone needed to earn to apply for one. But as long as they had at least a gold credit card and a solid professional or civil-service job to go back to, they were free to come to Japan, to shop until they dropped.

Far from the bright lights of Japan’s shopping districts, however, young Chinese working in small industrial firms get anything but red-carpet treatment. On July 5th Kyodo, a news agency, reported that 21 Chinese were among 27 foreign trainees who died last year on a government-sponsored skills-transfer scheme for developing countries that over the past four years has brought in an average of 94,000 workers a year, mostly from China.

Of the 27, nine died of heart or brain diseases, four died while working and three committed suicide. A few days earlier officials confirmed that a 31-year-old Chinese trainee who died in 2008 after clocking up about 100 hours a month of overtime was the victim not of heart failure, as originally reported, but of “karoshi”, the Japanese affliction of death from overwork…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7243

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10) NYT has video and article on JITCO NJ “Trainee” Program, including sweatshop conditions and karoushi

NYT: For businesses, the government-sponsored trainee program has offered a loophole to hiring foreign workers. But with little legal protection, the indentured work force is exposed to substandard, sometimes even deadly, working conditions, critics say.

Government records show that at least 127 of the trainees have died since 2005 — or one of about every 2,600 trainees, which experts say is a high death rate for young people who must pass stringent physicals to enter the program. Many deaths involved strokes or heart failure that worker rights groups attribute to the strain of excessive labor.

The Justice Ministry found more than 400 cases of mistreatment of trainees at companies across Japan in 2009, including failing to pay legal wages and exposing trainees to dangerous work conditions. This month, labor inspectors in central Japan ruled that a 31-year-old Chinese trainee, Jiang Xiaodong, had died from heart failure induced by overwork.

Under pressure by human rights groups and a string of court cases, the government has begun to address some of the program’s worst abuses. The United Nations has urged Japan to scrap it altogether…

The Japan International Training Cooperation Organization, or Jitco, which operates the program, said it was aware some companies had abused the system and that it was taking steps to crack down on the worst cases. The organization plans to ensure that “trainees receive legal protection, and that cases of fraud are eliminated,” Jitco said in a written response to questions…

As part of the government’s effort to clean up the program, beginning July 1, minimum wage and other labor protections have for the first time been applied to first-year workers. The government has also banned the confiscating of trainees’ passports.

But experts say it will be hard to change the program’s culture… “If these businesses hired Japanese workers, they would have to pay,” said Kimihiro Komatsu, a labor consultant in Hiroshima. “But trainees work for a bare minimum,” he said. “Japan can’t afford to stop.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=7276

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11) Mainichi/Kyodo: J companies will boost hiring of NJ by 50%! Yeah, sure.

Major Japanese firms are planning to boost hiring of foreign nationals by up to 50 percent of their new recruits in fiscal 2011, officials of the companies said Tuesday.

Fast Retailing Co., the operator of the popular Uniqlo casual clothing chain, major convenience store chain Lawson Inc. and Rakuten Inc., which operates the largest Internet mall in Japan, are planning to recruit foreigners mainly from Asian countries including China, Taiwan and Malaysia, according to the officials.

As they are expanding global operations especially in emerging markets in Asia amid shrinking domestic sales, the three companies are accelerating operations to hire Asian graduates in their home countries and those studying at Japanese universities.

The firms hope to promote them to company executives in the future to lead their operations in the Asian markets, the officials said…

COMMENT: My my, we’ve heard that before. Not just recently in the Asahi last April (where respondents who had been through the hiring process recently smelled tripe and onions; as did the Yomiuri April 2009). We heard this tune back in the Bubble Years too (one of the reasons why people like me came here in the late 1980s). We were made promises that simply were not kept. Remains to be seen, then as now. Just saying it will happen don’t make it so. Feels to me like somebody’s talking up the Japanese job market.

And even if they do hire as many as they say, will they have the smarts to offer them job conditions that will keep them on board? Or will they fall back into the hackneyed practice of assuming that job applicants should just feel grateful for the honor to work for a Japanese company? Hah. I think people are more informed than that nowadays. Opinions?

http://www.debito.org/?p=7161

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12) JIPI’s Sakanaka on Gaijin Tank detentions for visa overstays: Put a maximum time limit on them

Here we have JIPI’s Sakanaka-san in the Japan Times speaking out from a position of authority again in favor of NJ, this time regarding Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers (aka Gaijin Tanks for visa overstayers) and their conditions. As has been discussed here before, Gaijin Tanks are not prisons; they do not fall under the penal code for incarceration conditions, there is no arraignment before a judge or court sentence to fulfill, and there is no time limit to how long you can be incarcerated for visa violations in Japan. This has deleterious effects on the physical and mental health of detainees, of course. So Mr S. is quite magnanimously (given Japan’s racially-profiling law enforcement) offering a compromise limit of one year behind bars. Think there will be any takers?

Japan Times: Illegal residents should not be held in detention for more than one year because any longer causes too much stress, a former chief of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau said, noting extended incarceration led to two hunger strikes at detention centers this year, one of which followed suicides…

There is no limit on how long the government can hold foreign residents deemed to be in Japan illegally. The Immigration Bureau’s Enforcement Division said 71 inmates out of 442 being held in three detention centers in Ibaraki, Osaka and Nagasaki prefectures had been confined for more than a year as of May 31.

Dozens of detainees went on hunger strikes lasting more than a week at the East Japan Immigration Control Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, in May and at the West Japan Immigration Control Center in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, in March. They were demanding better treatment, including limiting their incarceration to six months… The hunger strikes failed to win any concessions…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7249

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13) Toyota QC and “culture” again, says it will increase safety by dealing with mechanical and cultural defects, with Japanese-only review panel

As an update to the whole Toyota and safety issues (with people blaming them on cultural differences), now we have news that Toyota is actually going to “review defect measures” and “beef up quality controls” using “outsiders” for “independent scrutiny”.

I myself am not all that optimistic. Toyota is, as the article says below, essentially “keeping it in the family”. After previously penalizing an American QC expert for his scrutiny, they’ve anointed a blue-ribbon panel of experts who are Japanese only. Yeah, that’ll learn ’em about “cultural differences”, all right. Especially since the article below once again quotes Toyota as still trying to “bridge a cultural gap”. As if culture is any factor here in making unsafe cars safe. Enforced cluelessness.

Meanwhile, a US federal grand jury is subpoenaing Toyota to make sure the documentation doesn’t also continue to “stay in the family”. That article and video below too.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7227

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14) Asahi: South Korea, China overtaking Japan in ‘cool’ culture battle, whatever that means

Here are two articles about an economic phenom I’ve never quite gotten the hang of: the “coolness” of a country. The Asahi frets that Japan is losing out to other Asian countries in “coolness”, whatever that means. There is an actual department within METI dealing with “cool”, BTW, and an article below talks about “Japan’s Gross National Cool”, again, whatever that means. Sounds like a means for former PMs like Aso to create manga museums and bureaucrats to get a line-item budget for officially studying “soft power”. Ka-ching.

But in all fairness, it’s not only Japan. Brazil is doing something similar with its quest for “soft power” (but more as an understated tangent to its economic growth, according to The Economist London). And of course, PM Blair had “Cool Brittania”. So this may be just an extension of trying to measure the value of services as well as hard material goods, or a hybrid thereof. It’s just that with “soft power” comes the potential for some equally soft-focus science — how can you be “losing” to other countries in something so hard to measure?

http://www.debito.org/?p=7326

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15) AP and JT on “Soft Power” of JET Programme, projecting Japan’s influence abroad

Here are two articles talking about what I brought up yesterday, Japan’s “soft power”, and how the JET Programme is an example of that. First one delves into the history and goals, the other making the case for and against it, with input from former students under JETs’ tutelage.

We’ve talked extensively about JET cuts/possible abolition here already on Debito.org (archives here), and raised doubts about the efficacy of the program as a means to teach Japanese people a foreign language and “get people used to NJ” (which I agree based upon personal experience has been effective, as Anthony says below). I guess the angle to talk about this time, what with all the international networking and alumni associations, is the efficacy of the program as a means of projecting Japan’s “soft power”, if not “cool”, abroad.

I have already said that I am a fan of JET not for the projection of power abroad, but rather because the alternative, no JET, would not be less desirable. Otherwise, in this discussion, I haven’t any real angle to push (for a change), so let’s have a discussion. Give us some good arguments on how effective JET is abroad.

AP: Of the more than 52,000 people who have taken part, many are moving into leadership at companies, government offices and non-profits that make decisions affecting Japan, said David McConnell, an anthropology professor at The College of Wooster in Ohio and author of a book about JET.

“The JET Program is, simply put, very smart foreign policy,” he said.

James Gannon, executive director for the nonprofit Japan Center for International Exchange in New York, describes JET as a pillar of the U.S.-Japan relationship and the “best public diplomacy program that any country has run” in recent decades.

JT: Upon return to their home countries, they act as unofficial goodwill ambassadors for Japan, and their experience as a JET is looked upon favorably by employers such as the U.S. State Department. For a relatively small investment on the part of taxpayers, the JET program has created huge returns, welcoming generations of non-Japanese who have, and will, go on to promote better relations between Japan and their own country and expose Japanese to the outside world in unprecedented ways.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7344

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7098

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OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

17) NJ population falls in 2009 for the first time since 1961

In probably the most significant news germane to Debito.org this year, we have for the first time in nearly a half-century (48 years) the population of NJ decreasing in Japan. Looks like the “Nikkei Repatriation Bribe” was very effective indeed.

To try to take the edge off this bad news, I have an Ishihara joke at the end of this blog post if you’re interested.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7153

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18) New separate blog with details about taking Japanese citizenship, in English, written by other fellow naturalized Japanese

Late last June a naturalized Japanese friend of mine set up a website devoted solely to offering information to people interested in taking out Japanese citizenship (or of course for those who just have a curiosity about what’s involved). Written by people who have actually gone through the process (yours truly included). See it at:

http://www.turning-japanese.info/

Debito.org was once pretty much the source for that in English, but the data there is out of date in places (of course, it’s been a decade). This collection of modern and variable experiences from the increasingly-visible naturalized Japanese citizens (word has it your treatment by MOJ officials depends quite a bit on your race and national origin; I believe as a White former American I had a comparatively easy time of it) is a valuable addition to the canon, and I wanted to devote today’s blog entry to point you towards it.

Topics thus far covered there:
===================================

  • High-fidelity MS Word and OpenDocument Japan naturalization forms
  • FAQ: Which is more difficult: permanent residency or naturalization
  • Comparison: The U.S. Citizenship Test on Video
  • Misinformation: justlanded.ru: Japanese citizenship
  • The three types of naturalization
  • Misinformation: eHow: How to become a Japanese Citizen
  • FAQ: Do you have to speak perfect Japanese to naturalize?
  • FAQ: How much paperwork is involved?
  • FAQ: Can I have an official Japanese name even if I don’t naturalize?
  • What the Ministry of Justice website says about naturalization
  • Analyzing the Application Procedures
  • FAQ: Do you have to be a permanent resident or special permanent resident to naturalize?
  • Your newly acquired right to vote: Using the web to know your candidates
  • FAQ: Do you have to take a Japanese name if you naturalize?
  • FAQ: How much does it cost to naturalize?
  • Becoming Japanese is becoming more expensive for Americans
  • Japanese “Naturalization Permission Application Guidance” booklet
  • Renouncing Former Nationalities
  • My first visit to the Nationality Section

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

and more.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7298

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19) Thoughts on GOJ Upper House Election July 11, 2010: A DPJ loss, but not a rout, regardless of what the media says.

Background: The Upper House of Japan’s Diet (parliament) has a total of 242 seats. Half the UH gets elected every three years, meaning 121 seats were being contested this time. Of the ones not being contested, the ruling DPJ, which has held the majority of UH seats (through a coalition with another party) since 2007, had the goal of keeping that majority. To do that, the DPJ had to win 55 seats plus one this time (since they already had 66 seats not being contested this election). The opposition parties (there are many, see below) had the goal of gaining 66 seats plus one (since 55 of theirs were not being contested this election) to take the UH majority back. Here’s how the numbers fell this morning after yesterday’s election:

DPJ won 44 (and their coalition partner lost all of theirs).
Non-DPJ won 77.

Totals now come up to 106 (a loss of ten) seats for the DPJ, meaning they lost their absolute Upper House majority thanks to a coalition partner party (Kokumin Shintou) losing all their contested seats (three). Thus the DPJ lost control of the Upper House.

However, this does not mean that somebody else assumes power of it. Nobody is close to forming a Upper House majority, meaning there will be some coalition work from now on. After breaking down the numbers on this blog, conclusions:

DPJ lost this election, there’s no other spin to be had. But it was not a rout (like the UH election of 2007 against the LDP was, see here). Consider this:

Number of electoral districts where DPJ came out on top where they weren’t on top before (in other words, electoral gains as far as DPJ is concerned): None.

Number of electoral districts where DPJ stayed on top or kept their seat same as last election (in other words, no change for the worse): 22

Number of electoral districts where DPJ lost but lost before anyway (in other words, the status quo of no electoral gains held): 10

Number of electoral districts where DPJ flat out won before but lost a seat this time (this is the bad news, electoral losses): 12

Conclusion: The DPJ essentially held their own in a near-majority of contested electoral districts. They did not gain much, but did not lose big. In fact, in all multiple-seat constituencies, at least one DPJ candidate won (see below)…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7206

UPDATE: A reporter friend asks me for a critique of his article (which I thought fell for the Japanese media line of “the rout”). Here’s what I wrote:

http://www.debito.org/?p=7206#comment-198285

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20) Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates

In the middle of the election period, here’s a surprising editorial from the Asahi — in support of NJ PR Suffrage! The ruling DPJ dropped it from their manifesto, and most parties that took it up as an issue (LDP, Kokumin Shintou (rendered below as People’s New Party) and Tachiagare Nippon (i.e. Sunrise Party, hah)) used it to bash NJ and try to gain votes from xenophobia (didn’t matter; the latter two still did not gain seats from it). Anyway, here’s the strongest argument made by mainstream Japanese media in support of it. And it’s a doozy. Thanks Asahi for injecting some tolerance into the debate. Maybe it made a difference in voting patterns.

Asahi: More than 2.2 million foreign residents are registered in Japan, and 910,000 of them have been granted permanent resident status. Japan is already a country comprising people with various backgrounds. It is appropriate to have those people rooted in their local communities to share the responsibility in solving problems and developing their communities.

It is also appropriate to allow their participation in local elections as residents, while respecting their bonds to their home nations.

In its new strategy for economic growth, the government says it will consider a framework for taking in foreigners to supplement the work force. To become an open country, Japan must create an environment that foreigners find easy to live in.

An Asahi Shimbun survey in late April and May showed that 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of foreign suffrage while 43 percent were against it.

Since public opinion is divided, the DPJ, which put the issue on the public agenda, should not waffle but should give steady and persuasive arguments to the public.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7147

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INTERESTING TANGENTS

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

(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, and we’re going to see more of it worldwide as ever-increasing international migration means mixing, assimilation, then representation in governmental bodies.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7317

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22) Japan Times columnist CW Nicol (a whaling supporter) on why “The Cove’s” Taiji dolphin culls bother him

As another angle to the subject of the documentary The Cove, here we have Japan Times naturalist columnist (and fellow naturalized citizen) C.W. Nicol offering his view on what’s going on in Taiji. What’s interesting is his take on the matter of animal cruelty. Although he supports whaling as an issue and has no truck with tradition involving hunting of wild animals, what gets him is what the hunt does to the people in the neighborhood. I’m reminded of what goes on at Pitcairn Island (you get a society removed enough long enough from the authorities, they’ll invent their own rules, even if at variance with permissible conduct in society at large, and claim it as tradition). It was another reason for me personally to feel the conduct at Taiji is reprehensible.

The problem is that although Taiji is a small community, once it’s claimed to be “Japanese tradition”, you get one of the world’s most powerful economies behind it. Then all manner of issues (Japan bashing, economics, a general dislike at the national level of having outsiders telling Japan what to do, fear of right-wing repercussions, and corruption of culturally-tolerant debate arenas overseas) adhere and make the debate murky.

Nicol: What horrified me in Taiji was that the dolphins were not harpooned, and thus secured to be quickly dispatched. Instead, the hunters were simply throwing spears into a melee of the animals swimming in a small inlet they had sealed off from the sea, hitting them here and there. Then they’d retrieve the spear by hauling in a rope tied to it and hurl it again or use it close up to stab with. This was a far cry from the efficiency — and respect for life, and death — of an Inuit hunter or a whaler at sea.

That first time I witnessed the Taiji killings, I saw a dolphin take 25 minutes to die, while on another hunt I saw one that thrashed and bled for a horrible 45 minutes before it succumbed to its wounds. Killing, if justified and necessary, should surely be merciful and quick — yet I even saw an old grandmother laughing at a dolphin’s death throes and pointing out the animal to the small child with her as if it was some kind of joke. That really hurt and shook my belief in people.

In addition to this catalog of horrors, though, as a former marine mammal research technician in Canada, it shocked me that all those dolphins were being captured and killed with no government inspector or fisheries biologist on hand to take data and monitor the kill. I protested about what was going on to the fishermen, and to Town Hall officials in Taiji. I even went to Tokyo and protested to a senior official in the Fisheries Agency, but he just sneered and said, “What does it matter, they die anyway.”…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7137

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… and finally…

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

About two months ago I received out of the blue two fat books from a distant relative. Information on the Schofill Clan, hand-collated from family history and lore.

I have gone through four name changes in my life: I was born 1965 as David Christopher Schofill, was adopted after divorce by my stepfather around 1971 to become David Christopher Aldwinckle, became Sugawara Arudoudebito (due to koseki woes) when I naturalized into Japan 2000, and then had the Sugawara legally removed from my koseki in 2006 by Japanese court weeks after my divorce to become Arudou Debito. Hiya.

But I have been so far removed from family, any family, my entire life (birth father, step father, and mother all moved far away from their birth roots, and my mother severed almost all contact with the Schofill Clan after the divorce; I’ve furthermore been excommunicated by my parents since my naturalization) that receiving these fat books of family lore was a very pleasant surprise and unprecedented experience for me.

So here’s what I’ve gleaned: I have a picture of Philip Schofill, my great great great great grandfather, born March 31, 1803 in Lexington, South Carolina.

What’s also an interesting find is that Philip Schofill’s father was, according to family legend, a Cherokee Indian by the name of Red Feather, before marrying a settler and taking the name Reese Busbee. Here’s a photo (undated): So that means that I’m 1/128th Cherokee, which translates to about a pound and a half of my flesh; better not diet). Might matter in Canada.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6847

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That’s all for a while. Again, enjoy August!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo, Japan
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 6, 2010 ENDS

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

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Hi Blog. 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. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Tokyo’s oldest listed person, age 113, is missing
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
Associated Press August 3, 2010

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jK7v2YLnsB_Ih0SuHlVgZSpnrL6AD9HC0I080

TOKYO (AP) — A 113-year-old woman listed as Tokyo’s oldest person is missing, officials said Tuesday, days after the city’s oldest man was found dead and mummified.

Fusa Furuya, born in July 1897, does not live at the address in the Japanese capital where she is registered and her whereabouts are unknown, Tokyo Suginami ward official Hiroshi Sugimoto said.

Her disappearance surfaced just days after the shocking discovery last week that Tokyo’s oldest man, who would have been 111 years old, had actually been dead for decades.

Officials said that they had not personally contacted the two oldest people for decades, despite their listing as the longest-living in the city. They apparently found out that the man was dead, and Furuya missing, when they began updating their records ahead of a holiday in honor of the elderly that is to be observed next month.

Officials visited Furuya’s apartment last Friday, but her 79-year-old daughter said she has never lived there.

The daughter, whose name was not disclosed, told officials she was not aware of her mother’s registration at that address and said she thought her mother was just outside Tokyo with her younger brother, with whom she has lost touch.

But when officials checked that address they found a vacant lot.
Officials are also looking for a 106-year-old man who is missing in Nagoya, central Japan, Kyodo News agency reported. The Asahi newspaper said three more centenarians were unaccounted for.

The number of centenarians in Japan has been rising for decades.
Japan has 40,399 people aged 100 or older, including 4,800 in Tokyo, according to an annual health ministry report last year marking a Sept. 21 holiday honoring the elderly. Each centenarian receives a letter and a gift from a local government office — usually by mail.

In the earlier case, police are investigating the family of the man found dead and mummified on suspicion of abandonment and swindling his pension money. Sogen Kato is believed to have died 32 years ago after he had retreated to his bedroom, saying he wanted to be a living Buddha.

Health and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma has urged officials to find a better way to monitor centenarians, but local officials say it is hard to keep track because their families are often reluctant to receive official visits.

Many also send their elderly relatives to nursing homes without doing the proper paperwork.
AP-ES-08-03-10 0506EDT
ENDS

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

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justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010
JUST BE CAUSE
The victim complex and Kim’s killer con
By DEBITO ARUDOU

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100803ad.html

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.
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007230525.html

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. That is to say, by portraying itself as a victim of North Korea, Japan gets brownie points at the geopolitical bargaining table and audiences with American presidents. It also creates a villain to mobilize and scare the Japanese public, justifying bunker-mentality policing powers. (Not to mention outright xenophobia. Remember some of the arguments against suffrage for non-Japanese permanent residents (JBC, Feb. 2)? “How dare we give the vote to potential North Korean agents!” We’ll get no national law protecting universal human rights in Japan while the current regime is in place in Pyongyang.)

Yet ironies abound. After decades of virtually ignoring the abductions issue, the government has now firmly entrenched it as one of those “international sympathy” chestnuts, along with “Japan is the only country ever bombed by nuclear weapons,” “Our nation as a whole was a victim of a rapacious military junta during World War II,” and just about any claim of “Japan-bashing” rolled out whenever somebody needs to win a domestic or international argument.

Never mind the hypocrisies, such as Japan’s own wartime atrocities and public complicity, the officially sponsored bashing of non-Japanese residents, and the kidnappings (both international and domestic) of children under Japan’s insane laws covering divorce, child custody and visitation. Portraying Japan as the perpetual “victim of circumstance or historical conspiracy” keeps our past unexamined, the status quo unchallenged, and our society blissfully inculpable.

But as I said earlier, the Kim visit showed how victimhood can be used — even against the pros — for fun and profit.

Think about it. Kim should be the poster child for all that’s bad about North Korea. Masquerading as a Japanese in her attempt to kill as many innocent people as possible, she was a fundamental part of the system that abducted innocent Japanese, and a beneficiary of their captive services. Yet she so effectively converted herself into a “victim of the North” that South Korea commuted her death sentence, and her memoir even became a best seller.

So last month, by joining hands with Japan against a putative common enemy, Kim played our government like a shamisen. She essentially got the trip to Disneyland that fellow North Korean elite Kim Jong Nam (son of the Dear Leader) tried to get when he smuggled himself into Japan on a false passport in 2001. He should have pretended to be a victim, not a Dominican.
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,108692,00.html

In sum, Kim Hyon Hui pulled off an awesome con. But consider the damage done.

What was had for this Kim visit? We taxpayers were. “Little information to help solve the long-standing abduction issue was obtained,” according to the Asahi Shimbun. Yet this rot has become even more bureaucratically entrenched: The fiscal 2010 budget allots ¥1.2 billion for “abduction-related activities,” double that of 2009. More money into the sinkhole while other programs are facing cuts?
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007230525.html

Worse still is the political precedent that has been set. Taking office last year from the corrupt Liberal Democratic Party on the promise of reform, the Democratic Party of Japan has now squandered political capital and goodwill.

This columnist has supported the DPJ mostly because we need a viable alternative to the LDP — an opposition party that can force Japanese politics out of its crapulence and decrepitude. Yet here the DPJ has shown itself unwilling to break the mold of Japan’s elite potentates. Not only are they just as susceptible to the same con that double-agents such as Kim specialize in; they are also just as willing to bend the rules to suit the will of a privileged few.

We saw this happen before spectacularly in the Alberto Fujimori case (JBC, May 5, 2009): An international criminal suspect wanted by Interpol could resign his Peruvian presidency, flee to Japan and get treated as a celebrity. He could even enjoy a safe haven from, yes, being “victimized” under Peru’s allegedly unfair judiciary. “Give us your huddled victims yearning to get rich …”

So I guess the moral is that the new boss is turning out the same as the old boss. Who cares about the rule of law, or cutting deals with international terrorists? We’re hosting a smashing party for our victims, and we don’t want you bounders and oiks to spoil it! Oh, and the bureaucrats want to justify their budgets too, so let’s make like we’re doing something about the abductions. Thus the con is not Kim’s alone.

But spare a final thought for the ultimate victims in this case: the abductees’ families, such as the Yokotas. Lured by false hopes of any news of their loved ones, they got entangled in this political stunt and lost enormous public sympathy for their cause. In the end, they were suckers for a self-proclaimed victim who is in fact a spy, a con artist and a mass murderer.

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 on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp

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REFERENTIAL ASAHI SHINBUN ARTICLE, for the archives:

Critics say ex-spy treated too well
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2010/07/24

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007230525.html

Kim Hyon Hui arrived in Japan on a government-chartered jet, was given a full police escort to the vacation home of a former prime minister and enjoyed a helicopter tour over the capital. All her expenses were paid for by taxpayers in Japan, plus some additional remuneration.

The official treatment of this former North Korean spy once sentenced to death for blowing up a South Korean airliner and killing 115 people has been likened to that for a state guest.

Despite the huge tab and long list of exceptions made for this to happen, relatives of Japanese who were abducted by North Korea said they were encouraged by what she had to say and now have renewed hopes of seeing their kin again.

Kim’s four-day visit to Japan started Tuesday and ended Friday. In the end, however, most agree that little information to help solve the long-standing abduction issue was obtained.

The extent of the exceptional treatment stunned some foreign media. The British newspaper The Independent reported on the story Wednesday under the headline “Former North Korean spy who bombed jet welcomed by Japan.”

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said Kim, who was pardoned for the 1987 bombing of a South Korean passenger jet, received “state guest” treatment.

Critics including the president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Sadakazu Tanigaki, slammed the event as a public-relations feat by the government to impress the public.

However, Hiroshi Nakai, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, countered by saying that if it were merely a political performance, “we would have done it before the Upper House election.”

A source close to the government said, “I heard the government fixed the date (now), to attract public attention to the news after the soccer World Cup finished.”

Japan’s official stance is that 17 of its citizens were abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 2002, Pyongyang admitted to having abducted 13 Japanese citizens and returned five, claiming the rest were dead. Some of the missing abductees are believed to be alive.

The Japanese government had thought that prospects were dim to obtain new information from the former spy that would help solve the abduction issue. Thus, Kim’s visit might have been aimed at showing the public that it was still working on the issue, a government official said.

Kim, 48, should have been barred from entering Japan because she was carrying a fake Japanese passport at the time of the 1987 Korean Air jet bombing. That problem was taken care of by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who granted Kim special permission under the immigration control law.

According to a source close to the government, the chartered jet alone cost 10 million yen ($114,810). Add to that several millions of yen more for Kim’s motorcade from Tokyo to Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, which mobilized 100 police officers. It was “comparable to that of U.S. ministerial or deputy ministerial level officials,” the source said.

The helicopter sightseeing tour was a request by Kim, who reportedly wanted to see Mount Fuji. A helicopter flight of that type would cost 800,000 yen an hour, according to an industry source.

For fiscal 2010, 1.2 billion yen was allotted for abduction-related activities, twice the amount in fiscal 2009.

Even amid all the criticism, family members of abductees viewed Kim’s visit in a positive light. Kim met families of the abductees during her visit.

Shigeo Iizuka, who heads the association of the Japanese abductees’ families, said: “She said she was looking forward to seeing (my sister Yaeko Taguchi). I am sure she will continue to help us.”

Sakie Yokota, the mother of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13, said, “I was encouraged by (Kim’s) words, ‘I believe she is still alive.'”
ENDS

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

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Hi Blog.  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.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



ENDS

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

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Hi Blog. The Japan Times once again makes Tuesdays a must-buy day, as the Community Page once again puts out another good article of investigative journalism, this time about the death of NJ from overwork under the aegis of the GOJ’s “Trainee” visa program.

We’ve already talked here about the Jiang Xiaodong death being the first officially acknowledged as a NJ karoushi. The latest development on that is, according to the article:

The labor office ruling has been passed to the public prosecutor, but it is unknown at this stage whether criminal charges will be laid against Fuji Denka Kogyo or the company’s president, Takehiko Fujioka. Furthermore, lawyers representing Jiang’s wife and family, who are suing for compensation, are claiming the company falsified work records by creating a new time card that showed Jiang worked considerably less overtime than he actually did. Their investigators were able to determine that in the year up to his death, Jiang did an average of more than 150 hours overtime per month — meaning he spent a combined monthly total of 310 or more hours on the factory floor.

But the investigation goes deeper now in the Japan Times. Excerpt:

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010
THE ZEIT GIST
Dying to work: Japan Inc.’s foreign trainees
By SIMON SCOTT

…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.

Full article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100803zg.html

ENDS

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

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.  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).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Here it is:

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100803ad.html

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

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. 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.  Debito in Sapporo

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

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.  I have a feeling we’re going to see this sort of thing more and more (we’ve already seen it in Japan with people like Tsurunen Marutei, Anthony Bianchi, and Jon Heese) as ever-increasing international migration means mixing, assimilation, then representation in governmental bodies.  Just an interesting article that is in the vein of Debito.org.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

Associated Press Jul. 25, 2010
A Milestone For Russia: African-born Town Councilor Is Country’s 1st Black Elected To Office
Coutesy of Carl et al.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/07/25/ap/world/main6711421.shtml

(AP) NOVOZAVIDOVO, Russia (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.

He promises to revive the impoverished, garbage-strewn town where he has lived for 21 years and raised a family. His plans include reducing rampant drug addiction, cleaning up a polluted lake and delivering heating to homes.

“Novozavidovo is dying,” Sagbo said in an interview in the ramshackle municipal building. “This is my home, my town. We can’t live like this.”

“His skin is black but he is Russian inside,” said Vyacheslav Arakelov, the mayor. “The way he cares about this place, only a Russian can care.”

Sagbo isn’t the first black in Russian politics. Another West African, Joaquin Crima of Guinea-Bissau, ran for head of a southern Russian district a year ago but was heavily defeated.

Crima was dubbed by the media “Russia’s Obama.” Now they’ve shifted the title to Sagbo, much to his annoyance.

“My name is not Obama. It’s sensationalism,” he said. “He is black and I am black, but it’s a totally different situation.”

Inspired by communist ideology, Sagbo came to Soviet Russia in 1982 to study economics in Moscow. There he met his wife, a Novozavidovo native. He moved to the town about 100 kilometers (65 miles) north of Moscow in 1989 to be close to his in-laws.

Today he is a father of two, and negotiates real estate sales for a Moscow conglomerate. His council job is unpaid.

Sagbo says neither he nor his wife wanted him to get into politics, viewing it as a dirty, dangerous business, but the town council and residents persuaded him to run for office.

They already knew him as a man of strong civic impulse. He had cleaned the entrance to his apartment building, planted flowers and spent his own money on street improvements. Ten years ago he organized volunteers and started what became an annual day of collecting garbage.

He said he feels no racism in the town. “I am one of them. I am home here,” Sagbo said.

He felt that during his first year in the town, when his 4-year-old son Maxim came home in tears, saying a teenage boy spat at him. Sagbo ran outside in a rage, demanding that the spitter explain himself. Women sitting nearby also berated the teenager. Then the whole street joined in.

Russia’s black population hasn’t been officially counted but some studies estimate about 40,000 “Afro-Russians.” Many are attracted by universities that are less costly than in the West. Scores of them suffer racially motivated attacks every year – 49 in Moscow alone in 2009, according to the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy Task Force on Racial Violence and Harassment, an advocacy group.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Novozavidovo’s industries were rapidly privatized, leaving it in financial ruin.

High unemployment, corruption, alcoholism and pollution blight what was once an idyllic town, just a short distance from the Zavidovo National Park, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev take nature retreats.

Denis Voronin, a 33-year-old engineer in Novozavidovo, said Sagbo was the town’s first politician to get elected fairly, without resorting to buying votes

“Previous politicians were all criminals,” he said.

A former administration head – the equivalent of mayor in rural Russia – was shot to death by unknown assailants two years ago.

The post is now held by Arakelov, a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan who says he also wants to clean up corruption. He says money used to constantly disappear from the town budget and is being investigated by tax police.

Residents say they pay providers for heat and hot water, but because of ineffective monitoring by the municipality they don’t get much of either. The toilet in the municipal building is a room with a hole in the floor.

As a councilor, Sagbo has already scored some successes. He mobilized residents to collect money and turn dilapidated lots between buildings into colorful playgrounds with new swings and painted fences.

As he strolled around his neighborhood everyone greeted him and he responded in his fluent, French-African-accented Russian. Boys waved to Sagbo, who had promised them a soccer field.

Sitting in the newly painted playground with her son, Irina Danilenko said it was the only improvement she has seen in the five years she has lived here.

“We don’t care about his race,” said Danilenko, 31. “We consider him one of us.”

ENDS