Archive for September, 2010
Posted by debito on 30th September 2010
Media: The U.S. House of Representatives turned up the pressure Wednesday on Japan, strongly urging Tokyo to return immediately half-Japanese children that lawmakers say have been kidnapped from their American parents.
The House voted overwhelmingly for a nonbinding resolution that “condemns the abduction and retention” of children held in Japan “in violation of their human rights and United States and international law.”
The resolution, which passed 416 to 1, also calls for Japan to allow Americans to visit their children and for Tokyo to join a 1980 international convention on child abduction that would allow for the quick return of the children to America.
Democratic Rep Jim Moran told reporters that the resolution sends a strong signal to Japan that the U.S. Congress “is watching and expecting action.”
Republican Rep. Chris Smith said, “Americans are fed up with our friend and ally Japan and their pattern of noncooperation.”
The Japanese Embassy said in a statement that Japan is sympathetic to the plight of children caught in custody battles between Japanese and American citizens and “is continuing to make sincere efforts to deal with this issue from the standpoint that the welfare of the child should be of the utmost importance.”
Posted in Child Abductions, Gaiatsu, Good News, Japanese Government, Media | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 29th September 2010
Japan Times: Look at my case (and what the judge wrote in her custody ruling in July). My wife had admitted to the following:
• More than three years of ongoing adultery (“The reason for the breakup of the marriage was the respondent’s adultery”); Giving large sums of money (¥7.7 million) to her lover to help him pay off his gambling debt (“Respondent lent a large sum of money to her colleague”);
• Taking my children on dates to bet on horse racing;
• Being currently on medication for various disorders (“Respondent became mentally ill and started seeing a doctor in or around January 2010 and worried about her insufficient communication with the children”);
• Physically abusing her own spouse and children (“Respondent attacked petitioner . . . and used physical power that cannot be justified as discipline against the children”).
Her own daughter fled from her after being abducted, and then testified against her. Moreover, my wife did not even petition for custody of the children until four months after I filed for divorce and custody. I even submitted a video showing my wife with not one of the bruises or injuries she claimed to have sustained the day before the video was taken. And we even had eyewitness testimony of her trying to injure herself. Could my case be any stronger?
Nevertheless, when the judge awarded me physical custody of my daughter, she also awarded physical custody of the boys to their mother. The reason: “There’s no big problem (with the boys staying where they are).”
Based on such reasoning, you can bet the bank that this judge would have awarded custody of all three children to my wife had I not been able to rescue one. And the judge would probably have given me custody of them all had they all been able to get free.
Japan’s family court is simply a facade designed to make an unevolved system appear civilized.
Let’s not kid ourselves. In Japan, “possession of the children” trumps the “best interests of the children” every time, particularly when the “best interests of the children” are never even addressed. And when you have a country that is pouring great sums of money into a system that shuffles children off to hidden locations whenever a parent makes an unverified DV claim, the state, in essence, becomes complicit in the abduction of the children…
Posted in Child Abductions, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Lawsuits | 6 Comments »
Posted by debito on 28th September 2010
Japan Times: In December 2009, shortly after I detailed my fears in this column (Zeit Gist, Nov. 3, 2009) about my wife’s ongoing affair potentially resulting in me losing custody of my children, family life got even worse as she became increasingly physically abusive toward our children. In fact, the police visited my home after one incident in December and recommended that I take my daughter to the Child Guidance Center (jidosodanjo) so that we could determine how to best handle her mother’s violent behavior. Over the next few months, my daughter was interviewed twice at the Child Guidance Center and a few times at her public elementary school.
Unfortunately, as we neared the abduction date, bias against her American father started to become evident. Exactly two weeks before her abduction, her female school principal met privately with my daughter, who summarized her principal’s comments as follows: “Your mother might be violent, but we know she’s a very nice mother on the inside. She will change one day. She’s just stressed right now.”
Two days before the abduction, the school principal and two child welfare officers met with my daughter in the principal’s office, and just hours after returning home, my daughter reported the following exchange between her and one of the welfare officers, an older Japanese woman: “And then she said, ‘Who are you going to choose?’ And I said, ‘Because Mama beats me, I want to go to Daddy’s side. I’m going to choose Daddy.’ Then she said, ‘Your mother does all the stuff at home, like cooking and doing the clothes and stuff like that, so I think it would be better if you choose your mother.’ “
Posted in Child Abductions, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th September 2010
I often get requests from people online who think about moving to Japan and supplementing their Eikaiwa income with “private lessons”, i.e. your own cottage industry of meetings with an individual or groups in an informal setting and at an hourly rate. They inquire how efficacious that plan my be.
I usually caution people against that, since the Bubble-Era fees are long gone (I was pulling down JPY10,000 an hour once upon a time). Moreover, the Post-Bubble “McDonaldization of Eikaiwa” (as I have heard it described on other listservs) by the NOVAs and ECs have driven average rates for English teaching down to hardscrabble levels, meaning people without a full-time job with health insurance and benefits will probably not be able to make a living on private lessons alone.
But that’s just what’ve I heard. I haven’t done many privates for years now (Sapporo’s market rates, if you can get privates at all, appear to be around JPY2000-3500 an hour). I thought I’d ask Debito.org Readers around Japan what they’re getting/can get for private lessons (in English or in any language you teach) in their local area. Let us know.
Posted in Education, Tangents | 34 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th September 2010
KD: “Hi Debito, Today a lady rang my door and kindly asked me to fill out the census papers. As you probably remember from previous censuses, in the spirit of civil disobedience I refuse to participate with the census, in protest of long-term resident NJ’s not having the right to vote in local elections.
I discussed this with the lady who brought the census papers. She clearly understood my position and also brought up some points herself why it was strange that long-term NJ have no voting rights.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I do not intend to be an activist, but I thought that perhaps other people who follow you might be interested in the idea of protesting our lack of voting rights in this way.
In itself it won’t get us voting rights, but it does send a message. Sending that message, whenever we can, and in every way we can, is important.”
What do others think?
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Discussions, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 32 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd September 2010
We’ve recently had a decent discussion come up in my previous blog entry, and it’s good enough to warrant its own entry.
The topic was Oguri Saori’s “Daarin Wa Gaikokujin” (My Darling is a Foreigner), a best-selling series of manga depicting the life of a quirky bilingual foreigner by the name of “Tony” who marries a Japanese woman. The manga chronicles the different personalities of the husband and wife as they deal with issues in Japan, create a life and a family together, travel from one place to another, and generally try to get inside “Tony’s mind”. There are several books under Oguri’s authorship (at least one with real-life husband Tony Laszlo’s co-billing — his “Guide to Happiness”), and even a movie earlier this year, not to mention an English translation, subway and train PSAs, and an ANA advertising deal. It’s a very influential economic juggernaut that has spawned imitators (there are other “Darling”-types of books connected with different nationalities), and now with “DWG with baby” on board the epic is anticipated to continue for some years to come.
The question for Debito.org Readers: Is the DWG manga series really working in NJs best interests? As in, as far as Debito.org is concerned, helping NJ to assimilate, be treated as equals and moreover residents of Japan?
I came out in my last blog entry and said I wasn’t sure it is. Let me give my standpoint and open the floor up for discussion:
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 40 Comments »
Posted by debito on 20th September 2010
Debito.org Reader RN sends this:
September 19, 2010
Hi Debito, Hope all is well. Not sure if I’ve told you this before but I own a Slingbox in Fukuoka which allows me to watch live Japanese television from home here in the USA. This evening I was watching 福岡放送 (FBS) and saw a commercial that was apparently trying to depict two Japanese people feeling like they were in a foreign country while on vacation. To make them look “foreign” they placed large noses and blonde hair on them and made them speak Japanese with a distinct foreign accent. It kind of reminded me of the whole McDonald’s Mr. James deal (not as blatant but still made me think, “What the heck?!”). I was attempting to put together screen shots, etc. for you (as my Slingbox allows me to pause and back up) but I found the commercial on YouTube. The company is ながさき旅ネット [which links to an English site sponsored by the "Nagasaki Prefecture Convention and Visitors Bureau"]. Here is the CM link:
And here are some screen captures. How nice. Not.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 18 Comments »
Posted by debito on 19th September 2010
Completely self-indulgent tangent, but I will relate it back to Japan. I watched on a complete whim the very last episode of American soap opera “As the World Turns”. It’s been going on for 54 years, with some characters apparently going on (according to Entertainment Weekly; it’s not as if I watch this stuff) for nearly forty. It has even been parodied by the Carol Burnett Show as “As the Stomach Turns” (god I miss Carol’s comedy; what happened to her?); the soap opera has, however, outlasted her. Until now.
I watched it and felt that the parody was appropriate. Fascinating was that every scene (this was a final tie-up all the relationships, making them all “happy ever after”, no drama necessary) ended with a hug if not a hug and a kiss. Every scene, seriously. As if all conflict, inner or outer, was healed by the power of hugs. In general, I find the more lower-market (as in, shooting for a larger, “average” audience, real or imagined) the American programs aimed for, the higher the hug frequency. And the mantra of the ATWT’s last show was that “we all lead normal lives”, real or imagined. Ewg. (The commercials, aiming for a female audience of course, stressed family security and warmth of the hearth; it added to this different world of “normalness” I’ve never really been a party to.) The last scene (there was no retrospective, no cast bows at the end saying goodbye like on some American farewell stage shows) showed the anchoring-character of the doctor leaving his office for retirement, switching off his light, and leaving a spotlight on this cheesy globe (out of place in the dark-panelled room) doing, you guessed it, a long spin… Just in case you lack comprehension of metaphor.
Contrast that with the “home dramas” of Japan that I’ve managed to sit through…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Media, Tangents | 5 Comments »
Posted by debito on 17th September 2010
In the same vein as a previous post putting Japanese and NJ crime in context, we have the Hokkaido police issuing a warning (procured from a Sapporo post office ATM area last February) about “Oreore Sagi” (“Hey Mom, it’s me, I need money fast” fraud) and other types of snatch and grab thefts. As you can read below, we have 1) a shyster phoning some old mom claiming to be her son and asking for emergency funds to be sent to an account, 2) a cash card being used for theft because the owner uses his or her birthday as their PIN number, 3) people storing their inkans too close to their bankbooks, 4) mysterious people distracting marks so they can snatch their belongings, and 5) call the police immediately if they think they’ve been a victim of crime.
Item 4) below in particular is germane to Debito.org. It mentions (in passing) that grabbers might say “you dropped some money” or “your clothes are dirty”, or speak to you in a foreign language. After distracting you, then they run off with your cash or bag.
Fine. It’s in context of other crimes committed by Japanese. Compare it with some past NPA posters making foreigners out to be the main culprits, including racist caricatures (which are fortunately avoided above), like this nasty one with darkies speaking katakana:
I think this new one is a definite improvement. Perhaps we’re getting listened to.
One more thing: About this “Oreore Sagi” fraud phenomenon. One thing I’ve always wondered is, are parents so distant from their children nowadays that they can’t recognize their own child’s voice on the phone? I don’t understand how they get duped. Explain, somebody?
Posted in Good News, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, 日本語 | 6 Comments »
Posted by debito on 16th September 2010
Here is a summary of the hell I went through at LAX. It wasn’t passport control. It was the simply awful treatment everyone has to go through regardless of nationality, unbecoming of a first-world airport. Seems like the American airline industry is on a race to the bottom for standards of customer service. Some airports have already essentially become bus stations. Other American airport horror stories welcome, in hopes that someone will care about outsiders’ opinions as much as the Japanese airports do.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Tangents | 36 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th September 2010
I’m currently writing you from LAX from the United Airlines lounge, and am pretty zoned out at the moment what with the jetlag. Today I’ll write something a little more off-topic and talk about something more cultural: DisneySea.
I’m not generally one for theme parks. I’ve been to the occasional traveling show (cue Cher song), visited a neighborhood place a couple of times called Roseland in Canandaigua, NY (with Roaring Twenties/WWII equivalents of video games — “The Feather Dance” and “Shoot Down the Zero!”, anyone?), enjoyed the Santa Cruz Boardwalk (highlights — seeing Eighties bands doing nostalgia tours, and enjoying the video arcade with the crowded corner offering video games like Pac-Man, Gorf, Tron, and Asteroids to the post-Pong generation), gone to Six Flags in a couple of places, and been to Disneys in Anaheim and Orlando. I find the nickle-and-diming of concessions and the dodginess of the Carny booths kinda get to me.
And when I said to some drinking buddies on Saturday that I would be going to DisneySea with a friend (this would be my first time to go to Tokyo Disneyland), all the guys groaned and said, “Jeez, that’s a place for couples, all sappy’n'shit!”, while their girlfriends all gave a collective sigh of “ii naaa…” It’s the Happiest Place on the Planet(TM), they kept saying.
But I checked my machismo at the door and went anyway…
Posted in Cultural Issue, Tangents | 17 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th September 2010
In one of my nights out here in Tokyo (we have a lot of deep conversations), friend HippieChris brought up an interesting question:
“If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about a society, what would that be?”
I thought I’d pose that to the blog. Rules are: What one thing would you change about Japan, and what one thing would you change about your society of origin, if different? Two places. (It’s a useful exercise. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to find something fundamentally changeworthy about your society of origin, since it’s hard for a fish to see the water in the fishbowl until s/he’s been out of it for awhile.)
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Tangents | 24 Comments »
Posted by debito on 11th September 2010
Good news. Former LDP kingpin (now in his own little Hokkaido-based Party of One) Suzuki Muneo, who was twice convicted in lower courts of corruption charges, has just been convicted a third time by having his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court.
This ‘orrible little man has been of concern to Debito.org for many years now, because he has shown just how some people (one of us Dosanko, no less) are above the law. His life as case study demonstrates how in Japanese politics, a bent LDP bigwig could manipulate public policy (he was once known as the Shadow Foreign Minister, establishing under-the table kickback relationships — using GOJ discretionary budgets — with places like Russia and Tanzania, putting “Muneo Houses” in places like the Northern Territories (which he claimed were within his electorate in Outback Hokkaido). Not only that, he could get reelected despite repeated convictions just by appealing to a higher court. See more on Muneo here, and here’s a contemporary essay from 2002 (shortly before his downfall) depicting what shenanigans he was up to in real time.
Well, it only took eight years since his arrest to get this guy properly sentenced, but there you go: That’s how slowly our judiciary moves. Muneo faces jail time and loss of Diet seat. Good. Sadly, we’re bound to see this guy turn up again like a bent yen coin in our pocket. He’ll be incarcerated for a couple of years, wait out his five-year ban on running again, and no doubt throw his hat back in the ring before he hits his seventieth birthday. Hokkaido people can be that desperate to elect this man (one of the most charismatic Japanese politicians I’ve ever met) and he’ll be back protesting the rapaciousness of the Public Prosecutor. Article excerpt from the Japan Times follows.
Posted in Good News, Japanese Politics, Lawsuits, Tangents | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 10th September 2010
Yesterday three friends and I visited the US Embassy in Tokyo to discuss employment and other issues of discrimination in Japan. The consular official who received us, a Mr Thomas Whitney, kindly gave us 90 minutes to give as much information as we liked for consideration in the US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights, an annual report given by the USG on individual countries that has in past years included information on even the Otaru Onsens Case (thanks). What follows are the summaries provided in advance of what we would say. Here’s mine, since it’s shortest:
The Japanese Government (GOJ) has a history of not abiding by its treaty obligations. With “Japanese Only” signs and rules in businesses nationwide (despite unlawfulness under both the Japanese Constitution and the UN CERD) and clear and present inequality towards non-Japanese in both the workplace and in protections under the law, Japan still has no national law with penalties against racial discrimination. The GOJ continues to make arguments to the UN against adopting one (i.e., freedom of speech and the efficacy of the Japanese judiciary for redress), while abuses towards non-Japanese and ethnically-diverse Japanese worsen (e.g., new and overt examples of hate speech and xenophobia, racist statements by politicians and media, even targeting of naturalized citizens for suspicion and exclusion). The GOJ has had more than a decade (having effected the CERD in 1996) to make legislative attempts to rectify this system, and its negligence presents ill precedent for abiding under future treaty signings (such as the Hague Convention on Child Abductions). Friends must help friends break bad habits, and gentle international pressure to assist the GOJ under a new reformist administration move in the right direction is a good thing for all concerned.
NB: Since our focus was on employment issues, I cited my experiences with TADD and Ambassador Mondale back in 1995 (See Ivan Hall CARTELS OF THE MIND), and the systematic full-time contracting of NJ in academia as witnessed through the Blacklist of Japanese Universities. I also mentioned that the GOJ has constantly refused attempts to release hard numbers on how many NJ academics in Japan have contracts vs tenure compared to Japanese academics getting contracts vs tenure (see more on this Academic Apartheid here). I also tied everyone’s presentations at the end with a request for USG visits to the Ministries of Education and Labor (following on Mondale’s precedent), to express awareness of the problem and the desire for proper enforcement of existing labor laws (if not the creation of a law against racial discrimination). Finally, I gave Mr Whitney the FRANCA handouts I gave the United Nations last March regarding general issues of discrimination in Japan (here and here).
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, FRANCA, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 9 Comments »
Posted by debito on 9th September 2010
My column on the JET Programme has gone viral. According to the Japan Times’ top-ten ranking of most-read articles (updated every three hours for three-hour segments of the day, see it on any page of the JT, right-hand column, in a tab above the website poll), the article was #1 all day on Tuesday, #2 most of the day Wednesday, and it bounced back UP to #1 this morning.
AFAIK this has never happened before to my JT articles, and I’ve been writing for the JT since 2002 with a monthly column since 2008. Although I’ve hit #1 for stretches before, few articles authored by anyone stay at the top for this long. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read it moreover passed it on to others. Here’s hoping it adds constructively to the debate.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Media | 6 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th September 2010
Japan Times: What kind of school subject involves hectoring its students? Obviously one improperly taught. If you teach adults, take a survey of your own class (I do every year) and you’ll find that a majority of students fear, if not loathe, English. Many would be perfectly happy never again dealing with the language — or the people who might speak it. Thus eigo as an educational practice is actually fostering antisocial behavior.
Now bring in the vicious circle: “We Japanese can’t speak English.” Many Japanese do survive eigo boot camp, enjoy English, and get good at it. They pop up occasionally as NHK anchors doing overseas interviews, or as celebrities with overseas experience. Yet where are the mentors, the templates, who can make English proficiency look possible? Stifled. Ever notice how the Japanese media keeps voicing over Japanese when they speak English proficiently, or picking apart their performance for comic value? Because eigo is not supposed to be easy — so throw up some hurdles if there’s any threat of it appearing so.
Conclusion: Better to remain shy and meekly say that learning a foreign language is too difficult, so everyone feels less inadequate. The eikaiwa schools love it, making a mint out of the unconfident who, convinced they’ll never overcome the barriers, settle for being “permanent beginners.”
The point is, JET cannot fix — in fact, was never entrusted with fixing — Japan’s fundamental mindset toward language study: the dysfunctional dynamic that forces people to hate learning a language, then exonerates them by saying nobody can learn it anyway. Untangling that would be a tall order even for trained professionals. But force that upon a JET, who comes here with an unclear mandate, has no control over class, and has a contract of only a few years before experience deepens? TOEFL scores will not budge.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 44 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th September 2010
Got this from friend MS yesterday, a monthly publication from the Tokyo Police letting us know what they’re up to regarding fighting crime. In this case, the Yakuza. Have a look:
I’m happier with this than usual. Yes, we have the regular report on the evils that foreign criminals get up to. But this time, it’s not a major focus, and it’s within a context of all the other evils that Japanese criminals get up to.
Fine. Go get the bad guys. Just don’t make it seem the bad guys are bad because they are foreign. As the past NPA notices have taken great pains (and taxpayer outlay) to make clear (archive here at Debito.org).
This is an improvement. It provides context as well as content. And the appropriate weight.
Posted in Good News, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, 日本語 | 4 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th September 2010
Sendaiben: Flying out of Narita on September 5th, I had a few hours to kill after connecting from Sendai. I was alone, reading on a bench in the restaurant area. After about 20 minutes, a young and very pleasant policeman came up and asked to see my passport in passable English. I replied in Japanese, and we had an interesting conversation. Unfortunately I was mentally unprepared for all of this, so gave him my passport from which he noted down all the details. I refused to provide a contact phone number, however…
Some important points:
1. It seems that the whole exercise is voluntary, something he mentioned when I refused to provide the phone number.
2. I reminded him of the law on the management of personal information, but he was unable to tell me why they needed my passport details or how long they would be kept on file.
3. He claimed it was a random check but that they asked ‘people who seemed foreign’. I asked him to ask some Asian people next, and he said he would
The whole thing seemed like a training exercise, down to the silent sempai observing from ten metres away…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ | 44 Comments »
Posted by debito on 4th September 2010
Here is my FRANCA report last March delivered to UN Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante, rendered into Japanese (English original from here).
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Human Rights, United Nations, 日本語 | No Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd September 2010
Japan is gearing up to take another big Census of the population come October. This time, fortunately, we have a flash site explaining what it’s all about in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and English.
Jolly decent of the GOJ to make the effort to explain what’s going on, if in prime Japanicana schoolteacher style.
As for the Census itself. I’ve always had a problem about it not measuring people (using optional questions) about their ethnicity (minzoku). Up until now, respondents were always asked about their nationality (kokuseki), never their roots, meaning someone like me can’t indicate anywhere that I’m ethnically an American-Japanese (amerika kei nihonjin). But I see that as political: This way Japan in government statistics officially remains the nondiverse Monocultural Society, with only 1.6% or so of the population as “foreign”. If anyone sees that being handled differently this time, please let us know. Not a lot of time right now to tool around the site. Thanks.
Posted in Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Media | 11 Comments »
Posted by debito on 1st September 2010
NYT: The [xenophobic] protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations.
Since first appearing last year, their protests have been directed at not only Japan’s half million ethnic Koreans, but also Chinese and other Asian workers, Christian churchgoers and even Westerners in Halloween costumes. In the latter case, a few dozen angrily shouting demonstrators followed around revelers waving placards that said, “This is not a white country.”
Local news media have dubbed these groups the Net far right, because they are loosely organized via the Internet, and gather together only for demonstrations. At other times, they are a virtual community that maintains its own Web sites to announce the times and places of protests, swap information and post video recordings of their demonstrations.
While these groups remain a small if noisy fringe element here, they have won growing attention as an alarming side effect of Japan’s long economic and political decline. Most of their members appear to be young men, many of whom hold the low-paying part-time or contract jobs that have proliferated in Japan in recent years.
Though some here compare these groups to neo-Nazis, sociologists say that they are different because they lack an aggressive ideology of racial supremacy, and have so far been careful to draw the line at violence. There have been no reports of injuries, or violence beyond pushing and shouting. Rather, the Net right’s main purpose seems to be venting frustration, both about Japan’s diminished stature and in their own personal economic difficulties…
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, ２ちゃんねる | 8 Comments »