Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the last comic for the holidays, thanks for reading.  We’ll end with a sweet one.  “Lile Lizard” (I think it’s a name, not a misspelling of “little”), a reptilian reprise of Adam and Eve, rendered by me aged seven in Second Grade.  Created by god, Lile offers us a story with marriage, babies, family values, and even a mate sent by air mail!  I think the note it ends on is a good way to finish the year.  We’ll get back to the nitty-gritty hardcore human rights issues tomorrow.  Thanks to everyone for reading Debito.org daily blog as it rounds off its fifth year in operation.  Comments follow comic.

NOTES:  The cover still demonstrates I’m in my phase of putting funny faces on things in the sky, in this case a cloud, accompanied by a spider who can defy perspective.  Looking at the renderings of Lile as the comic went on, I don’t think the cover lizard was drawn by me.  The head, tongue, and left arm were probably added by awful fusspot art teacher at the time Miss Gee, who had temper tantrums at the kids if they didn’t draw things her way.  She would do things like hold people’s artwork up in front of a whole class of grade schoolers as examples of what not to do, and give them a public dressing-down (get her to a psychiatrist, someone!).  I think I completed the right arm, hind legs, and back spine afterwards.

Also telling of Miss Gee’s control freakiness is the cover’s original title (pencil erasers didn’t seem to work back then), which looks like “Mike mossicq”, perhaps my attempt to tell a story about a mosquito.  There is one on the cover, but then the metaphorical Lizard-Queen-cum-art teacher comes in and eats him, and hijacks the story.  I guess I thought I better tell the rest of the story sweetly to avoid Miss Gee’s wrath.  (Besides, mosquitoes are harder to draw, not to mention spell!)

Also, I like how god has some sort of halogen flare (not merely a halo) over his hat, not to mention the electrifying powers of Zeus.  And the globe of the world below him shows quite clearly the Old Faithful geyser, which I had seen back in August 1970.  Also, I like on the “falling in love” page how the air-mail pigeon returns to Heaven in the clouds as god seems to be watching TV.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten

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Hi Blog. Continuing the holiday tangents for two more days, here is my rather interesting attempt to combine disaster movie with horror flick. “The Meat Eaters”, drawn by me back in around Fifth Grade, circa 1975, when I was ten years old. Comment follows comic.

NOTES: Although at the time records indicate I was drawing a lot of battle-oriented comics (WWI, WWII, and some space alien stuff), this is perhaps my read of The Blob. Summer idyll disturbed by a bolt from the blue, and suddenly carnivorous tribbles begin to devour humanity. But of course a hero emerges, tries to save the day (especially given the do-nothing president; perhaps that’s what I thought of President Ford), and this time does NOT get what he deserves — a happily-ever-after Hollywood ending where justice is served. Oh oh, I’m starting to grow up, it seems… Arudou Debito

Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten

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Hi Blog.  For today’s comic effect, here’s an effort by me to assimilate the experiences I was having by age ten:  Travel around Europe with my stepfather (family in England, conferences around Europe, including Germany, Czech, and Poland), drinking in lots of British comics (still do, but at that time I was reading war comics like Warlord and Victor, not to mention Hotspur and Wizard; the Brits in the 1970s still loved reliving the glories of the World Wars, and British comic books over the decades quite possibly killed cumulatively more Germans in print than on the battlefield), and watching movies like Airport (I had a longstanding fear of flying, what with either paranoid disaster flicks at the time or hijackings to Cuba).

In this ten year old’s world, here’s what comes out in the wash:  A turboprop flys Heathrow to Russia, via Paris, and over Germany, where the Nazis of course attack and put the flight in jeopardy.  But of course, a hero emerges… and, well, read the comic.  At least they made it to Warsaw.  Enjoy.  There’s even a Christmas message at the end, meaning I made this as a present for my parents.  Arudou Debito

From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven

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Hi Blog.  Thanks for indulging me this holiday season with archiving things that feel more precious the more I look at them.  Here is something even older than the first two entries:  “Penny the Hamster”, named after our Second Grade class’s pet, who had a history of escaping (and inspiring me to write).  The comic is more primitive in drawing (thanks to the younger age — I mean, seven years old?), but the narrative structure is, once again, still there.  Dedicated to classmate Steve Chilbert (with whom I’ve gotten back in touch with after nearly 27 years thanks to Facebook) at the bottom of the cover (until, it seems, we had some kind of fight and I tried to erase him).  Let’s see what travails await this main character in young David Aldwinckle’s world.  Arudou Debito

Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.

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Hi Blog. Continuing the Holiday Tangents (I just don’t feel like doing anything downer-ish as we round out the year), here’s another comic drawn by me probably around November 1973. “Steve Seed”. It’s from a photocopy, alas, but even I’m a little surprised at how developed the spelling and narrative structure are at this age. Refers to the circle of life, safety, and even reincarnation. And it’s doggone cute, darn it. If I could stick my arm into a time machine, I’d reach back and pinch my cheeks. Brief notes at bottom.

NOTES: Surprisingly developed concept of how plants and seeds work. And how “spray” keeps pests away (to the point of killing off the birds — my stepfather probably still claims that there’s no clear scientific evidence against the use of DDT). Clearly the result of being raised by a plant pathologist in Upstate New York, watching things go on at an experiment station where spraying plants is the norm. Prelude to irradiated food being kept fresh forever? Finally, to a little kid, a sunflower probably does look 100 feet tall.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight

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Hi Blog. Happy Boxing Day. For the holiday season, let me put up some rilly, rilly old stuff. I got a boxful of old comic books I made when I was a little kid. What follows is “Fred Fish”, from 1973. I was in second grade, just turned eight years old, and was in Mrs. Joseph’s class in North Street School, Geneva, NY, USA. I had been reading since I was about two years old (a LOT of comic books), and within five years I was producing some of my own. Mrs. Joseph saw me as reading at a level far above everyone else, she said years later, so she gave me class time to create whatever I wanted. That’s what I did — I sat down with pencil, paper, and a stapler and created what would turn out to be a pile of these mostly derivative but kinda cute works that fortunately got saved. 38 years later, here’s something for the blog, as a present and a diversion I hope you enjoy. Quick notes follow the story gallery.

NOTES:  The story ends most abruptly because I always made the books (one ream) ready stapled before I made the stories, with no advance planning.  I realized I had plenty of pages left by the time our protagonist goes to bed, so I segued into a bully story.  But justice has to prevail by the last two pages, so all is returned to normal, the end, by the last corner.  Also, I recall that people said my eyes (hazel) changed color with the light and mood (like those Mood Rings so popular in the late seventies, it was later said).  It was on my mind, so I incorporated it into the story and gave Fred Fish my eyes.  I remember my mother (who was, shall we say, quite reserved in her praise of anything I did) reserving her praise for that page in particular.  Hence this is the first comic going up on the blog — it was my first success with my harshest critic.  Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG END-YEAR POLL: “What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?”

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Hi Blog. As part of the end-year roundup, here are a few issues I thought would be interesting for discussion. Looking back, what do you think are the most influential events that affected NJ in Japan? Here are some of ones I thought were noteworthy, in no particular order:

What do you think are the top issues in 2010 that affected NJ in Japan?

  • Far-rightists question credentials of DPJ reformists by claiming they have NJ roots
  • Suraj Case of death during deportation
  • Long-dead Centenarians still registered as alive (yet NJ remain unregistered)
  • Nursing program only passes three NJ after two years
  • Hunger strike at Ibaraki Prison
  • GOJ apologizes to Korea for prewar annexation
  • “My Darling is a Foreigner” becomes a movie
  • Sumo Association decides to count naturalized wrestlers as still foreign
  • UN Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante’s critical Japan visit
  • NJ PR Suffrage Bill goes down in flames
  • Zaitokukai far-rightists get arrested for property damage to Zainichis
  • Child Abductions issue gathers steam with governments abroad, GOJ eyes Hague
  • The Cove engenders protests, get limited screenings anyway
  • Japan’s Kokusei Chousa pentennial census goes multilingual
  • Tokyo Police spying on Muslims
  • Futenma issue, with USG jerking GOJ’s chain
  • Renho becomes first multiethnic Cabinet member
  • Toyota’s mishandling of their runaway car recall, blaming foreign components and culture
  • Oita court ultimately rules that NJ have no rights to J pensions
  • Tourist visas eased for Chinese and Indians
  • Health insurance requirement removed from visa renewals

and/or

  • Something else

(Please tell us what you think got left out in the Comments Section below)

Please vote for three (we’ll get a decent average that way through the overlap) in the Polls section on the right-hand column of this blog.  Thanks.

If you’re celebrating, Merry Christmas Eve and Day, Debito.org Readers!  Arudou Debito

Kyodo: Stats for inflows & outflows: J exch students down, NJ up; NJ tourists also up, but none reaching GOJ goals

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Hi Blog. Some official numbers for who’s coming and going in and out of Japan on a temporary basis, and how they’re not meeting government targets. They were probably too ambitious to begin with, although as we noted yesterday, the numbers of J exchange students dropping is a pretty disappointing trend; Debito.org has already discussed why the NJ student inflows might be underwhelming earlier this year — lack of institutional support. Arudou Debito

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Fewer studying abroad
Record number of foreigners getting education in Japan
Kyodo News/Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, courtesy of Peach
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101223x2.html

…The number of Japanese studying abroad declined by a record level in 2008, while the number of foreign students currently studying in Japan reached a record high as of May, reports by the education ministry and an independent organization showed Wednesday.

The Japan Student Services Organization said in its report that a record-high 141,774 foreigners are studying in Japan, up 9,054 from the year before, while the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said the number of Japanese studying abroad totaled 66,833 in 2008, 8,323 less than the previous year.

The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been on the decline since peaking at 82,945 in 2004, while that of foreigners studying in Japan has been growing. In 2008, the number of foreign students in Japan was 123,829.

Education ministry officials said the current job recruitment process in Japan is apparently discouraging Japanese students from studying abroad for fear of missing out on opportunities to apply for jobs in a given period…

The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan from January to November hit a record high for the 11-month period, but the government’s annual target of attracting 10 million overseas visitors is unlikely to be achieved, a Japan National Tourism Organization survey showed Wednesday.

The number of foreign visitors during the reporting period surged 29.2 percent from the corresponding period last year to 7.963 million, according to the organization.

Achieving the government target of 10 million tourists would require an additional 2 million tourists in December. But considering that the largest number of visitors in a single month this year was the 878,582 recorded in July, it is highly unlikely the target will be met…

Still, it is almost certain the number of foreign visitors this year will surpass the record high 8.35 million marked in 2008.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101223x2.html

ENDS

Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore

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Hi Blog.  Another article making the case the Japan is withdrawing inwardly these days — with fewer Japanese students going abroad than even Singapore, and a prominent program to bring foreign exchange students to Japan being axed.  Arudou Debito

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Japan’s new educational isolation
By David McNeill.  Mainichi Japan, December 20, 2010, courtesy of EK

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/column/news/20101220p2a00m0na002000c.html

Would Mainichi readers be surprised to learn that Japan is preparing to ax one of the cornerstones of its higher education internationalization strategy?

The government’s cost-cutting panel, which is trying to slash costs in a bid to trim the country’s runaway public debt, voted on Nov. 18 to abolish and “restructure” the Global 30 project.

Launched last year with a budget of 3.2 billion yen, Global 30 envisioned “core” universities “dramatically” boosting the number of international students in Japan and Japanese students studying abroad, said the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The ministry’s strict selection process, however, meant that just 13 elite universities made the initial grade. Now the project has been terminated.

Can Japan afford this? Fewer than 4 percent of Japan’s university students come from abroad — 133,000, well below China (223,000) and the U.S. (672,000). Just 5 percent of its 353,000 university teachers are foreign, according to Ministry of Education statistics. Most of those are English teachers.

At the opposite end of the education pendulum, students here are increasingly staying at home: Japanese undergraduate enrollments in U.S. universities have plummeted by over half since 2000. Numbers to Europe are also down.

Japan, in the view of many, may be entering another period of educational sakoku — or self-enforced isolation.

South Korea, with about half Japan’s population, sends over twice as many students to the U.S. At some American universities, such as Cornell, Japan is behind not just China and South Korea, but even Thailand and tiny Singapore.

Japan’s share of global research production, meanwhile, fell from 9.45 percent to 6.75 percent over the last decade, according to the latest Global Research Report. While the report noted “areas of excellence” in Japan’s profile, it blamed its faltering performance on a dearth of international collaborations.

Global 30 was supposed to partly remedy those ills, helping Japanese universities reach a government goal of 300,000 foreign students by 2020, while sending the same number of Japanese students abroad.

“We think those universities will set an example for other colleges by leading with good practice,” said Kato Shigeharu, deputy director of Higher Education Bureau at the ministry. “This practice will then diffuse to other colleges around the country.”

That interview came before the government decision.

With the worst public debt in the industrialized world — 900 trillion yen ($10.6 trillion) — Japan has much less fiscal leg-room than its competitors. So budget cutting may be inevitable, but why not intensify the effort to target useless dams or highways rather than education?

The decision has been greeted with dismay. “This government is destroying Japan,” said Yoshida Go, a professor with the Office of International Strategic Planning at Nagoya University — one of the 13 selectees.

“Quite honestly, Japan is late in the game of globalization in higher education. But the government’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is doing.”

(Profile)

David McNeill writes for The Independent and Irish Times newspapers and the weekly Chronicle of Higher Education. He has been in Japan since 2000 and previously spent two years here, from 1993-95 working on a doctoral thesis. He was raised in Ireland.

(Mainichi Japan) December 20, 2010

ENDS

Japan Times: Paranoia over NJ purchases of land in Niseko etc: GOJ expresses “security” concerns

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Hi Blog.  Now we have fears about NJ, particularly Chinese, buying up Japanese land — particularly if it involves forests or water tables!  As submitter JK put it, “This just drips with paranoia of NJ and reeks of hypocrisy.”  Or as Woody from Toy Story would put it, “Somebody’s poisoned the waterhole!”  Are we now going to get “Eco” arguments now for excluding NJ? Arudou Debito

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Fears growing over land grabs
Foreigners buying here; Japan may be tardy overseas
The Japan Times Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, Courtesy JK

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101218f2.html

By HIROKO NAKATA

When the news first broke in June that a Hong Kong-based investor had two years earlier purchased more than 50 hectares of forest in Kucchan, near the Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido, shock waves ran through local residents.

Then in September, the Hokkaido government confirmed that several other parcels covering more than 400 hectares were also in the hands of foreign investors.

Since then, fears have been growing that foreign interests are increasingly buying up aquifers in Hokkaido.

“Water is apparently one of their targets, along with lumber. But trees have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide and sustain biodiversity,” said Hideki Hirano of the Tokyo Foundation and the chief researcher behind two reports raising alarm bells about the increase in foreign ownership of Japan’s forests.

Such purchases have experts worried that Japan’s natural resources or even national security could be under threat. This nation has no law regulating land purchases by foreign interests and once an acquisition is made no one can infringe on the ownership, even if the land contains natural resources or is deemed crucial to national security.

With water and food security becoming a hot topic in recent years, aggressive land purchases by foreign interests are also taking place worldwide.

Many emerging economies, including China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, have reportedly snapped up farmland in Africa with the aim of producing crops there. Perhaps belatedly, Japan has also started investing in overseas farmland.

In Hokkaido, 29 contracts have been purchased by foreign interests, including Chinese, Australian, New Zealand and Singaporean enterprises.

It is a worrying issue not only for Hokkaido but for the rest of mountainous Japan.

Hirano said there is speculation that dozens of plots, including in Mie and Nagano prefectures, as well as on Tsushima, Amami Oshima and the Goto islands, are being targeted by Chinese and other foreign investors.

The growing sense of alarm finally prodded local governments, as well as officials in Tokyo, to start talking about ways to limit such purchases.

Last month, Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said a local ordinance is needed to force foreign interests to report an intended land purchase before the contract is signed.

At the national level, Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicated in October the possibility of restricting foreign ownership of land where it could jeopardize national security.

Rest of the article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101218f2.html

Fukui City now requiring J language ability for NJ taxpayer access to public housing. Despite being ruled impermissible by Shiga Guv in 2002.

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Hi Blog. Word broke out this month that Fukui City is now requiring Japanese language ability from NJ taxpayers before they can be allowed into public housing run by the government. Comment from me follows news articles.

A blogger writes, courtesy of PB:

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

Nihongo needed

Last April the city of Fukui adopted a “guideline” in its municipal public housing regulations that stated non-Japanese who applied for low-income housing must be able to “communicate in Japanese.” Applications for those who cannot will not be accepted. Since then various groups that work with foreigners in Japan have protested the guideline, but it still stands. Some of these groups have said that they are aware that some non-Japanese applicants, though they qualify for public housing otherwise, have been prevented from applying for housing due to the new guideline.

There are nine cities in Fukui Prefecture, but only Fukui City has such a rule. The city official in charge of public housing told a local newspaper that his office had received complaints from community associations (jichikai) of individual public housing complexes. These associations said that some non-Japanese residents were unable to communicate “very well” in Japanese, and thus it was difficult for them to understand and follow association rules regarding the “sorting of refuse” and “noise.” For that reason, the city government adopted this new guideline.

The criteria for acceptance in public housing is that the applicant’s income be below a certain level, that the applicant lives with “other family members,” and that the applicant has not been remiss or delinquent in paying his or her local taxes. Until April the only rules regarding non-Japanese applicants are that they possess either permanent resident status, “special” resident status (tokubetsu eijusha, usually people of Korean or Chinese nationality who have lived in Japan since birth), or permission to reside in Japan for at least three years. Now they also must have “Japanese communication ability.” However, there is nothing in the guideline that specifies how this ability to speak Japanese is to be assessed.

Japan’s Public Housing Law does not stipulate Japanese language ability as a requirement, but an official with the Construction Ministry told the newspaper that “individual regions can adopt their own criteria” and “local governments should make their own judgments” regarding how the law should be applied, so there is nothing legally wrong with the Fukui guideline…

Rest at http://catforehead.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/nihongo-needed/

Source:

市営住宅会話できぬ外国人除外 共生プラン逆行批判の声、福井
(2010年12月17日午前8時27分)
http://www.fukuishimbun.co.jp/modules/news0/index.php?page=article&storyid=25362&storytopic=2

福井市は今春から、外国人が市営住宅に入居する際、日本語によるコミュニケーション能力を欠く場合は申し込みを受け付けないとの規定を設けていることが、16日までに分かった。県内では県と9市のうち、こうした規定を設けているのは福井市のみ。実際、この規定を知り入居をあきらめた外国人もいた。国際交流関係者や専門家からは「言葉の問題だけをとらえ、入居できないのは行政としておかしい。外国人を排除する口実ではないか」などと批判の声が上がっている。

久保信夫・市住宅政策課長は「団地の自治会から、日本語をうまく話せない外国人と住人との間で、ごみ分別や騒音など生活ルールをめぐってトラブルがあると聞き、規定に盛り込んだ」と説明している。
同市は、本年度から多文化共生推進プランに基づく外国人と市民が安心して暮らせるための施策を展開しており、プランの趣旨に反するとの指摘も出ている。
市営住宅の入居は国籍を問わず、同居する親族がおり、市税滞納がなく、収入が一定額未満であることなどが条件。今年4月新たに「市営住宅入居事務取扱要綱」を施行、外国人の場合は▽永住者▽特別永住者▽外国人登録者で3年以上、日本に居住できると市長が認める者-のいずれかに該当し、「隣人とのコミュニケーションがとれる程度の日常会話ができる者」と規定した。
市市民協働・国際室によると、市営住宅入居を希望する外国人が6月に市役所を訪問。行政通訳員を通してこの規定を知り、「日本語を話せない知人はすでに入居しているのに、なぜ私はだめなのか」などと話していたという。
同プラン検討会の副座長を務めた県国際交流協会の高嶋起代子相談員は「プランでは外国人であっても行政サービスを受ける権利があると規定している。日本人と同じ条件で入居できないのなら分かるが、言葉を理由に排除するのは問題。団地住人との間でトラブルが生じていることは承知しているが、相互理解を深めるための支援を行うのが行政の役割ではないか」と話している。
公営住宅法は日本語能力を入居基準にしておらず、国土交通省の担当者は「ある程度、地域の実情に応じた入居基準の設定は可能だが、自治体には適切な判断が求められる」としている。
市住宅政策課によると、市営住宅は計1957戸(今年4月1日現在)あり、このうち75戸が外国人世帯。要綱施行後は外国人3世帯が入居した。福井市内の外国人登録者数は県内の自治体で最も多い3917人(12月1日現在)。
ends

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AH adds:

December 20, 2010

Debito, I’ve just seen this in the Spanish language press. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a local council putting a language condition on getting public housing. NJ also have to be Zainichi, permanent residents or at least registered in Fukui for more than three years. According to the council, three foreigners have got into public housing since this was introduced in April this year. I expect there’s something out there in English or Japanese, but it was news to me.

Cheers, keep up the good work! AH

Source:

Fukui prohibe ingreso de extranjeros que no hablen japonés en sus viviendas municipales

El municipio de la ciudad expuso como razones para tomar la discriminatoria decisión “problemas como el ruido y la manera de tirar la basura”.
International Press Publicado en 20/12/2010 17:31
http://www.ipcdigital.com/es/Noticias/Comunidades/Comunidad-General/Fukui-prohibe-ingreso-de-extranjeros-que-no-hablen-japones-en-sus-viviendas-municipales_20-diciembre-2010

El municipio de Fukui de la provincia de Fukui impide que extranjeros que no hablen japonés alquilen una vivienda municipal, informó el diario Fukui Shimbun. El controvertido requisito que rechaza la entrada de extranjeros comenzó a aplicarse desde abril del 2010 aduciendo “problemas como el ruido y la manera de tirar la basura”.

La ciudad de Fukui es el único lugar de la provincia que tiene este requisito y el diario local confirmó que existían personas extranjeras que no pudieron optar a una vivienda municipal por no cumplir este requisito.

Nobuo Kubo, jefe de la Sección de la Política de Vivienda Municipal del Municipio de Fukui, dijo: “El requisito se aplica después de haber tenido conocimiento de problemas entre residentes japoneses y extranjeros que no hablan bien el japonés, a causa del ruido, la manera de tirar la basura y el incumplimiento de los modales”.

Actualmente, para entrar en una vivienda municipal de la ciudad de Fukui se requiere vivir con familiares, tener un ingreso menor a una determinada cantidad (según el número o la composición de la familia) y estar al día en el pago del impuesto municipal.

Además, desde abril del 2010 ha entrado en vigor la “Línea Básica de Tratamiento Administrativo para el Ingreso a la Vivienda Municipal”, de acuerdo a ella, los extranjeros tienen que cumplir uno de estos tres requisitos: “tener la visa permanente”, “tener la visa permanente especial” o “llevar más de tres años registrado en el Registro de Extranjería del Municipio”.

Además de cumplir uno de ellos, hay que ser “capaz de tener una comunicación básica con los vecinos”. Fukui tiene 1.957 departamentos municipales, en 75 de estas viviendas moran familias extranjeras. Después de estar disponible la nueva regla, han entrado tres familias extranjeras, según el municipio.

Según el Ministerio de Justicia, en la ciudad de Fukui viven 4.214 extranjeros: 1.699 chinos, 1.174 coreanos, 364 filipinos, 356 brasileños, 69 estadounidenses, 53 peruanos y otros.
ends

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COMMENT:  I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening before.  Shiga Prefecture also banned NJ who do not “speak Japanese” from its public housing back in 2002.  However, the Shiga Governor directly intervened literally hours after this was made public by the Mainichi Shinbun and rescinded this, as public facilities (and that includes housing, of course) cannot ban taxpayers (and that includes NJ, of course).  Whether or not the Fukui Governor will show the same degree of enlightenment remains to be seen.  Maybe some media exposure might help this time too.  Arudou Debito

Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”.

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\" width=「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. More woolgathering on the past decade, as the end of the year approaches:

I’m hearing increasing discontent from the NJ Community (assuming quite presumptuously there is one able to speak with a reasonably unified voice) about living in Japan.

Many are saying that they’re on their way outta here.  They’ve had enough of being treated badly by a society that takes their taxes yet does not respect or protect their rights.

To stimulate debate, let me posit with some flourish the negative case for continuing life in Japan, and let others give their own arguments pro and con:

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

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to expect people to want to immigrate to Japan, given the way they are treated once they get here.

We have racial profiling by the Japanese police, where both law allows and policy sanctions the stopping of people based upon having a “foreign appearance”, such as it is, where probable cause for ID checks anywhere is the mere suspicion of foreigners having expired visas.

We have rampant refusals of NJ by landlords and rental agencies (sanctioned to the point where at least one realtor advertises “Gaijin OK” apartments), with the occasional private enterprise putting up “Japanese Only” signs, and nothing exists to stop these acts that are expressly forbidden by the Japanese Constitution.  Yet now fifteen years after effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination, Japan still has no law against it either on the books or in the pipeline.

With recent events both with the Northern Territories, the Takeshima/Tokdo rocks, and the Senkakus, we have a rising reactionary xenophobic wave justifying itself upon creating a stronger Japan to “protect sovereignty” through anti-foreign sloganeering. This is is very visible in the reaction to the proposed suffrage for Permanent Residents bill, which went down in flames this year and is still inspiring people to ask their local assemblies to pass “ikensho” expressly in opposition (I was sent one yesterday afternoon from a city assembly politician for comment).  Bashing NJ has become sport, especially during election campaigns.

We have people, including elected officials, claiming unapologetically that even naturalized Japanese are “not real Japanese”, with little reprisal and definitely no resignations.

We have had the NPA expressly lying and the media blindly reporting about “foreign crime rises” for years now, even as crime falls.

And we are seeing little future return on our investment: Long-term NJ bribed by the GOJ to return “home” and give up their pensions, and the longest wait to qualify for the pension itself (25 years) in the industrialized world. With the aging society and the climbing age to get it (I have little doubt that by the time I am old enough, currently aged 45, that the age will be around 70 or so), and Japan’s postwar Baby Boomers soon qualifying themselves, looks likely there won’t be much left in the public coffers when it happens.

Yet we still have little acknowledgment by our government of all that NJ and immigrants have done for this society.  Instead, the image of NJ went quite markedly from “misunderstood guest and outsider” to “criminal threat to Japan’s safe society” this decade.

Why stay in a society that officially treats its people of diversity with such suspicion, derision and ingratitude?, is a case that can be made.  Especially other NJ are getting the message and leaving — the NJ population dropped in 2009 for the first time since 1961.  As salaries keep dropping in a deflationary economy, even the financial incentives for staying in an erstwhile more hospitable society are evaporating.

That’s the negative case that can be made.  So let me posit a question to Debito.org Readers (I’ll create a blog poll to this effect):

Do you see your future as living in Japan?

  1. Definitely yes.
  2. Probably yes for the foreseeable future, but things might change.
  3. Uncertain, is all I can say.
  4. Leaning towards a probable no.
  5. Definitely no.
  6. Something else.
  7. N / A: I don’t live or will not live in Japan.

Let’s see what people think. I’ll leave this up as the top post until Tuesday or so, depending on how hot the discussion gets. Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010
Table of Contents:

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IMMIGRATION AND HEADS IN THE SAND
1) Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)
2) Economist.com special report on Japan: How it all comes back down to demographics
3) Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration
4) WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration
5) Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”
6) CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”
7) Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

WORKPLACE ISSUES
8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST SPECIAL: Speech by Neo Yamashita of EWA Osaka union on your contract labor rights
9) Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs
10) McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives
11) Tangent: NHK: GOJ enshrining more rights for handicapped. Hope for same for NJ?

SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY
12) Japan Times: “Darling foreigner” Tony Laszlo is “less passionate today” about discrimination against foreigners
13) “Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini
14) YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident
15) Yomiuri: ‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, NJ informants revealed

… and finally …

16) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce” (full text)

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By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates, discussions, and RSS feeds at www.debito.org
Freely Forwardable

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IMMIGRATION AND HEADS IN THE SAND

1) Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)

I gave two lectures a couple of weeks ago at Hokudai’s International Student Center on Japan’s multicultural future (a prognostication I find a bit weaker in recent years, what with the drop in NJ numbers in 2009 in all honesty, especially after the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe). So I went on a dig for the most recent GOJ stats on NJ residents, and think it appropriate for this weekend’s blog entry. Have a look. Six screen captures with commentary. For example:

COMMENT: Here we have the number of resident NJ by nationality. As of 2007, the Chinese residents overtook the Koreans (North and South and Zainichi) for the first time in history, and are significantly more numerous than before. Their numbers are not abating, whereas the Koreans and Brazilians are going down significantly. Up also are people from The Philippines. Peruvians and Americans down slightly, while people from “sono ta” other countries are increasing their percentage of the population by a few fractions of a percent every year. Vietnamese, Thais, Subcontinental Indians, and Nepalese are the most significant gainers in this categories, growing by more than 10,000 souls over the past decade.

COMMENT: Here we have registered NJ by Status of Residence again, showing us how the numbers have changed over time. Permanent Residents have increased significantly unabated, except that the Special PRs (Zainichis) keep dropping significantly, while the Regular (immigrants) keep increasing significantly both in number and percentage (8.4%) over 2009 (they crossed lines in 2007; there are now significantly more “Newcomer” immigrants than “Oldcomer” Zainichis). Meanwhile, the non-Permanents have dropped by nearly 5% over the past year. The largest drop percentages are the “Trainees” (generally Chinese working in factories, allegedly receiving training but often being used as slave laborers) by nearly a quarter, and the Long-Term Residents (Nikkei workers, again being offered bribes to go “home” and be somebody else’s unemployment statistic). Also significantly dropping are the “Entertainers” (often people working in the sex trades, again slavery except this time sexual), at 15.8% which to me is good news.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8032

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2) Economist.com special report on Japan: How it all comes back down to demographics

Interesting podcasts from The Economist London (November 20, 2010) on how Japan’s economic future all comes down to demographics. Links to podcasts:

Eight minutes:
Economist Editor: “Unless Japan takes dramatic steps to reenergize its shrinking, greying workforce, its economy will suffer.”

Henry Tricks: “When I set about writing this report, I didn’t start out by looking at population decline. I looked at all the other problems… but everything seemed to come back down to demographics.”

My interpretation: There is no getting around immigration. NJ will come. Whether they find a weakened elderly population in the near future, or an empty island in the far future, they will come. They had better be made into Japanese or there will be no more Japanese.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8064

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3) Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration

Economist: What can you tell us as far as what you know about the fiscal burden of immigration, and the fiscal benefits of immigrants?

Robert Shapiro, former Prez. Clinton advisor: Particularly in five or six states, where immigrants are highly concentrated, there’s a fiscal deficit. Much of that has to do with educating children of immigrants. That’s the single largest cost. But if you look at it more dynamically, immigrants tend to be aggressive about improving their conditions. Aggressive enough to leave their homeland. These are not the kinds of people who take life as it’s been given to them. They try to make the best of their lives, and so you would expect to see some income gains — whether they start out as a day laborer or as an entrepreneur. The whole issue of entrepreneurship is interesting, because we find that not only do you see a lot of entrepreneurship among educated immigrants, particularly from Asia — and this has been commented on: the large volume of Silicon Valley startups that were started by immigrants, particularly from India. You see this also among undocumented immigrants, who are generally low-skilled people. Now they’re different kinds of businesses they’re starting. But that’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s a software startup, or a small corner business…

[There is] another benefit of immigration — and a fiscal benefit. And that is, immigrants — and they generally come in early working age — they work their whole lives, if they stay here their whole lives, and then they retire. That’s the same as an American, except that the American working young worker has parents. Who claim social security and medicare. Immigrants come without their elderly parents, and in that sense we get a contribution to the labor force without having to pay out the benefits to the parent. When you’re talking about millions of people, that’s big money…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8059

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4) WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration

WSJ: A powerful group of politicians, academics and business leaders is set to launch an unusual campaign to urge Japan to pry open its doors to foreigners, saying the country’s survival hinges on revamping its immigration policy.

Japan has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world, and the debate over whether to allow more foreigners to settle in the country has long been a contentious, politically charged issue for the nation. But recently, calls to allow more foreign workers to enter Japan have become louder, as the aging population continues to shrink and the country’s competitiveness and economic growth pales in comparison with its neighbor to the west: China. A minuscule 1.7% of the overall Japanese population are foreigners, compared with 6.8% in the United Kingdom and 21.4% in Switzerland, according to the OECD.

The 87-member policy council of the Japan Forum of International Relations, a powerful nonprofit research foundation, will on Thursday launch a half-page advertisement in the country’s leading newspapers, urging Japan to rethink its immigration policy. They also submitted their policy recommendations to Naoto Kan, the country’s prime minister.

“If Japan wants to survive in a globalized world economy and to advance her integration with the burgeoning East Asian economy, she essentially has no other choice but to accept foreign migrants,” the advertisement says.

The policy council has issued several recommendations, including allowing more skilled workers to enter the labor market, particularly in industries where there are shortages of domestic workers, such as construction and the auto industry. Under economic-partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, Tokyo has allowed nurses and nursing-care specialists from these countries to enter Japan, but applicants are subjected to a grueling test in Japanese that only three people have passed. The council says these tests have to be made easier…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7929

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5) Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”

Japan Times: What does Japan gain by, in effect, rejecting my children and thousands of other young dual citizens living in Japan and around the world, at the very moment when they come of age and are at last able to become productive members of society?

Best as I can figure, the only virtue of the “one citizenship fits all” rule is simplicity.

What does Japan lose by rejecting dual citizenship? … One wonders if the existing policy of denying permanent dual citizenship to people who possessed the status as children is motivated by a concern that altering it would lead to dual citizenship demands by others, such as ethnic Korean residents of Japan or Brazilians of Japanese descent. Rather than risk facing such demands, government officials might have concluded that it is “better to leave well enough alone.” However, allowing people who already have Japanese citizenship to keep it will not inevitably lead to more far-reaching changes to Japan’s Nationality Law.

Given its dire demographic outlook, perhaps Japan should open a dialogue on radical changes to its Nationality Law, such as a U.S.-style “birthright” giving citizenship to all people born on Japanese soil, an Israeli-style “Law of Return” allowing the ingathering of all ethnic Japanese everywhere in their ancestral homeland, or an Irish-style “Grandparent Rule” granting citizenship to anyone who can document having one Japanese grandparent. But even if Japan is not willing to open its door that widely, it should at least stop slamming the door on some of its own citizens shortly after they reach adulthood…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8019

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6) CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”

CNNGo: Japan: The new melting pot?

Japan’s national government recently announced it is turning to travelers in a foreigner-friendly mission to boost diversity — at least in tourist spots — by paying them to provide feedback on how to increase accessibility for non-Japanese speakers.

David Askew, associate professor of law at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, identifies more profound changes.

In 1965, a mere 1 in 250 of all marriages in Japan were international, he notes. By 2004, the number had climbed to 1 in 15 across the nation and 1 in 10 in Tokyo.

According to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government, by 2005, foreign residents in the city numbered 248,363, up from 159,073 in 1990.

According to Askew, the upswing in diverse residents and mixed marriages has led to another phenomenon: between 1987 and 2004, more than 500,000 children were born in Japan with at least one foreign parent…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7995

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7) Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

LAT: “Similar to the census process in the United States, most people [in China] are given a standard [census] form with a few basic questions: 18 of them centering on names, ages, occupation. Ethnicity is also asked, but not religion, that being a sensitive subject in a communist country that is officially atheist. One-tenth of the population, meanwhile, was selected for a longer, 45-question form that includes queries about income, savings, the type of water one drinks (tap or boiled) and the number of bathrooms in the house…”

COMMENT: What’s interesting as far as Debito.org goes is that, despite some claims of Chinese homogeneity thanks to the Han majority, the PRC apparently DOES survey for ethnicity. Unlike the GOJ. Again, that’s the hegemony of homogeneity in Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7920

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WORKPLACE ISSUES

8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST SPECIAL: Speech by Neo Yamashita of EWA Osaka union on your contract labor rights

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST DECEMBER 1, 2010
PALE SIG Forum: Labor relations in Japan

Language: English
From recruitment through retirement (or dismissal), labor laws, court precedents, and labor unions affect educational workers. Educational workers, especially non-Japanese, however, are not well informed or even misled about this. For example, though Westerners want written contracts, Japanese labor advocates recommend not signing contracts in some cases to protect employment rights. This recommendation is based on labor law and court precedents. Accordingly, labor unions play a more crucial role in protecting worker rights than some think.

Neo Yamashita, Vice Chair of the Education Workers and Amalgamated Union Osaka (EWA), gives us his decades of expertise on November 20, 2010. Podcast listenable from here. 87 minutes. No cuts.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7968

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9) Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs

JT: In October 1999, 19 Chinese trainees came to the Takefu city office pleading for help. In their first year in Japan as interns, the women had been promised JPY50,000 a month, but scraped by on JPY10,000. The next year, as technical trainees, they should have received JPY115,000 a month. After health insurance, pension, rent, forced “savings” and administrative fees for the staffing agency in China were deducted, what they got was JPY15,000. The women walked for five hours from their workshop in the mountains of Fukui Prefecture to talk with the director of their placement organization at his home. Instead of receiving answers, they were turned away with harsh words — and even blows.

The incident was discussed in the Diet and became a symbol of the profound problems with the trainee system. Shortly afterwards, citizens’ groups formed to protect the rights of trainees and organizations already working to protect foreigners’ rights found a new focus. More than 10 years later, leaders of these groups say they have seen some positive changes, but abuses of the system are still endemic…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8006

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10) McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives

McNeill: I’ve talked about Japan’s reluctance to embrace mass immigration in this column before. Here’s something else to consider: Japan’s boardrooms are still almost completely devoid of foreigners — and females.

Women make up just 1.2 percent of top Japanese executives, according to business publisher Toyo Keizai; gaijin board members on Japan’s roughly 4,000 listed companies are as rare as hens’ teeth.

The exception is a handful of troubled giants, notably Sony Corp., which made Welshman Howard Stringer its chairman and CEO in 2005, and Nissan Motor Co., where Brazilian Carlos Ghosn has been in charge for over a decade.

That lack of diversity worries some bosses. Last year the Japan Association of Corporate Executives published the results of a two-year survey that called on its members to revolutionize boardroom practices.

“Japanese firms are terribly behind in accepting diversity,” said association vice chairman Hasegawa Yasuchika. “They should radically transform their corporate culture to provide the same opportunities to employees all around the world.”

Easier said than done, perhaps. Ever since Japan’s corporations began moving overseas in the 1970s, they have followed a tried and tested formula: Whatever happens in transplants and local operations abroad, control stays in the iron grip of the all-Japanese boardroom back home…

http://www.debito.org/?p=7948

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11) Tangent: NHK: GOJ enshrining more rights for handicapped. Hope for same for NJ?

We might have the image of the DPJ being too bogged down in politics to get much done. But as NHK reports below (be sure to watch video too from the link), we have some pretty impressive lawmaking being done by a more liberal government for one underprivileged segment of Japanese society — the handicapped.

The committee’s deliberations are saying the things we want guaranteed vis-a-vis human rights for human beings — including protections enshrined in law. With this precedent and degree of enlightenment, can we but hope that they could someday stretch it to include non-citizens? The linkage, however tenuous, is there. Have a read:

http://www.debito.org/?p=7936

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SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY

12) Japan Times: “Darling foreigner” Tony Laszlo is “less passionate today” about discrimination against foreigners

Japan Times: Apart from writing, Laszlo taught for a few years at Japanese universities, and has also set up an nongovernmental organization, Issho Kikaku, in 1992. Through this NGO, he put on theatrical shows related to multicultural issues, and later, dealt with social issues such as discrimination against foreigners.

“In those days, personally, I felt a strong desire to avoid a simple dichotomy between Japanese and non-Japanese, male and female, family and friends, handicapped and nonhandicapped,” he said. Today, he said he is less passionate about the issues, and that the group’s activities have become more low-key…

COMMENT: Low key? I’ll say. This “issho kikaku” has a one-page website which hasn’t changed for years — moreover has done away with hundreds of pages of works from other NJ and Japanese activists that were a priceless archive of domestic activism from the late 1990’s-early 2000’s. In fact, this “issho kikaku” was never an NGO at all. Never registered as one, in fact, yet still reported as extant by a too-trusting reporter. So “low-key” is an understatement: how about “no-key” or “delete-key”?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8071

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13) “Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini

Here’s a letter from cyberspace on another potentially offensive marketing campaign portraying African features as black-bread Afros to sell food.

No doubt we’ll get the defenders of this sort of marketing, e.g. “Japan has so few black people it has no sensitivity to this sort of thing”, “it’s not racist, at least not intentionally”, “lighten up guys, and stop foisting your cultural values on the Japanese”, or “it’s a Japanese character, not a real black character, so it’s not a problem”. Any other naysaying? Oh wait, yeah, “you just don’t get Japan”. Anyway, check this out:

XY: My name is XY, Founder and Director of [….] a marketing consultancy in [Japan] that researches Japanese consumer behavior on behalf of our international clients like Coca-Cola, VISA credit cards etc. As such, I often peruse the shelves of convenience stores to see what the latest trends are. I was shocked to find in my local Mini-Stop the all-new campaign for “black melon pan”, a bread that parodies a black man’s afro on the package. This is no small thing. Mini-Stop is a very large and growing combini chain and this is a signature campaign prominently advertised and displayed on their shelves…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8045

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14) YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident

AT: Hey Debito, you gotta check out this YouTube video showing a prime example of the incompetence of the Japanese police. A guy riding a bicycle gets stopped by a police officer for no reason, which happens a lot in Japan. As the officer is asking him questions (which the guy is under no obligation to answer), we can hear an obvious traffic accident take place in the background just around the corner, and both the police officer and the bicyclist hear it. A reasonable police officer would realize that that was a traffic accident and that people may be injured and need first aid, etc. But no, this cop continues to question the bicyclist as if nothing happened. At one point he even denies that it may be a traffic accident. After the bicyclist convinces him to do so, he notifies dispatch of the traffic accident, and then continues to question the bicyclist rather than tending to the possibly injured! This cop neglected to tend to a possibly serious and fatal traffic accident, all so he can perform shokumu shitsumon (voluntary questioning) on a bicyclist!

http://www.debito.org/?p=8050

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15) Yomiuri: ‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, NJ informants revealed

This breaking news from the weekend compounds just how sinister the activities of the Japanese police can be. First spying on people in the name of combating terrorism because they’re Muslims or connected to Muslims, then losing control of the information to the point where it becomes a book on sale to the public. Shame on you, Metropolitan Police Department. Imagine how big a scandal this would have been if Japanese people had been treated similarly.

Now, of course, since this is embarrassing to the police, the book (as per checks with Amazon.co.jp and an in-person check at Kinokuniya Sapporo yesterday) is no longer being sold. Good. But that sure was quick, compared to how much comparative time and effort it took for the Gaijin Hanzai Ura Files Mook in 2007 (which I believe the police contributed information to) to go off-market. Seems to me less the need to protect individual NJ than for the police to cover their collective ketsu. Whatever. The book is off the market. The materials for it shouldn’t have been collected in the first place.

Yomiuri: A Tokyo publishing house has released a book containing what are believed to be Metropolitan Police Department antiterrorism documents that were leaked onto the Internet last month.

Released by Dai-San Shokan Thursday, the book contains the personal information of Muslim residents in this country, such as their names and addresses.

Akira Kitagawa, president of the publisher, said he decided to put out the book “to raise questions about the laxity of the police’s information control system.”…

The 469-page book, titled “Ryushutsu ‘Koan Tero Joho’ Zen Deta” (Leaked police terrorism info: all data), is on sale at some bookstores, but several major publishing agents have refused to distribute it.

If the documents are authentic, the book contains the names and photos of foreign residents being monitored by the 3rd Foreign Affairs Division at the Public Security Bureau of the MPD, the names of people who have cooperated with the police, and the photos and addresses of police officers involved in terrorism investigations.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7961

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

… and finally …

16) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce”

JUST BE CAUSE
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce [not my title]
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Column 34 for Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101207ad.html
Version with links to sources and discussion at http://www.debito.org/?p=8010

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

All before the holidays start. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates, discussions, and RSS feeds at www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010 ENDS

Japan Times: “Darling foreigner” Tony Laszlo is “less passionate today” about discrimination against foreigners

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Hi Blog. As we wind down the year and the decade, we’ll start having more retrospectives on Debito.org. Kicking this off is a fluff piece from the Japan Times from “My Darling is a Foreigner” Tony Laszlo, and how he’s put himself out to pasture from an alleged human rights activist to a cunning linguist.  A paragraph of note:

(photo courtesy Japan Times Dec 14, 2010)

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WHO’S WHO
For writer, languages are his ‘darling’
Multilingual author and subject of ‘My Darling is a Foreigner’ comic celebrates joy of words
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010

…Apart from writing, Laszlo taught for a few years at Japanese universities, and has also set up an nongovernmental organization, Issho Kikaku, in 1992. Through this NGO, he put on theatrical shows related to multicultural issues, and later, dealt with social issues such as discrimination against foreigners.

“In those days, personally, I felt a strong desire to avoid a simple dichotomy between Japanese and non-Japanese, male and female, family and friends, handicapped and nonhandicapped,” he said. Today, he said he is less passionate about the issues, and that the group’s activities have become more low-key. Now it engages in research on issues concerning human diversity, language and culture.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101214ww.html

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

COMMENT: Low key? I’ll say. This “issho kikaku” has a one-page website which hasn’t changed for years — moreover has done away with hundreds of pages of works from other NJ and Japanese activists that were a priceless archive of domestic activism from the late 1990’s-early 2000‘s. In fact, this “issho kikaku” was never an NGO at all. Never registered as one, in fact, yet still reported as extant by a too-trusting reporter. So “low-key” is an understatement: how about “no-key” or “delete-key”?

But yeah, it must be nice to be the appendage-half of a very successful business partnership, one that became a social phenomenon (of debatable benefit) this past decade. It’s produced a person who reportedly once cared about helping the downtrodden in Japanese society, yet can still make media hay in places like the Japan Times just by indulging in idle sweetmeat pursuits.  I guess for him that’s better than actually losing hair being being passionate about issues that might benefit from a bit of tycoon philanthropy:   Helping people avoid that dichotomy between “Japanese and non-Japanese, male and female, family and friends, handicapped and nonhandicapped.”etc.

Better to be a Darling, and lick the buttered side of the bread.

Economist.com special report on Japan: How it all comes back down to demographics

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Hi Blog. Interesting podcasts from The Economist London (November 20, 2010) on how Japan’s economic future all comes down to demographics:

Eight minutes:

Economist Editor: “Unless Japan takes dramatic steps to reenergize its shrinking, greying workforce, its economy will suffer.”

A special report on Japan

12.5 minutes:

Henry Tricks: “When I set about writing this report, I didn’t start out by looking at population decline. I looked at all the other problems… but everything seemed to come back down to demographics.”

A special report on Japan

My interpretation: There is no getting around immigration. NJ will come. Whether they find a weakened elderly population in the near future, or an empty island in the far future, they will come. They had better be made into Japanese or there will be no more Japanese. Arudou Debito

Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration

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Hi Blog. Here is what Robert Shapiro, former economic adviser to President Clinton, says about the positive financial impact of new waves of immigration, in this case to the United States:

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

(Courtesy Economist.com Podcast June 23, 2010, from minute 1:44; typos mine)

Economist: Even in the best of economic times, there are concerns about the fiscal impact of immigration: How they’re using services, what they’re contributing in taxation… that’s obviously become more of a concern given the recession. What can you tell us as far as what you know about the fiscal burden of immigration, and the fiscal benefits of immigrants?

Shapiro: Particularly in five or six states, where immigrants are highly concentrated, there’s a fiscal deficit. Much of that has to do with educating children of immigrants. That’s the single largest cost. But if you look at it more dynamically, immigrants tend to be aggressive about improving their conditions. Aggressive enough to leave their homeland. These are not the kinds of people who take life as it’s been given to them. They try to make the best of their lives, and so you would expect to see some income gains — whether they start out as a day laborer or as an entrepreneur. The whole issue of entrepreneurship is interesting, because we find that not only do you see a lot of entrepreneurship among educated immigrants, particularly from Asia — and this has been commented on: the large volume of Silicon Valley startups that were started by immigrants, particularly from India. You see this also among undocumented immigrants, who are generally low-skilled people. Now they’re different kinds of businesses they’re starting. But that’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s a software startup, or a small corner business…

[There is] another benefit of immigration — and a fiscal benefit. And that is, immigrants — and they generally come in early working age — they work their whole lives, if they stay here their whole lives, and then they retire. That’s the same as an American, except that the American working young worker has parents. Who claim social security and medicare. Immigrants come without their elderly parents, and in that sense we get a contribution to the labor force without having to pay out the benefits to the parent. When you’re talking about millions of people, that’s big money…

Economist…Is immigration responsible for holding down wages in the US, or for slow wage growth?

Shapiro: If you look at the aggregate, there is no evidence that shows that immigrants have had any depressive effect on the average wage in the United States.  However, there are winners and losers. Immigration actually appears to be responsible for gains in wages for higher-skilled Americans.  The reason for this is that you have large numbers of relatively low-skilled immigrants that allow the expansion of organizations — because they can hire more people because they are less expensive.  That expansion requires more higher-skilled people to manage it, for all the ancillary services, advance services associated with a large organization. And so it seems be associated with putting upward pressure on the wages of highly-skilled people.  It also puts downward pressure on the wages of low-skilled Americans.

EXCERPT ENDS

YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident

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Hi Blog.  More word from cyberspace today, courtesy of AT:

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

December 13, 2010

Hey Debito, you gotta check out this YouTube video showing a prime example of the incompetence of the Japanese police. A guy riding a bicycle gets stopped by a police officer for no reason, which happens a lot in Japan. As the officer is asking him questions (which the guy is under no obligation to answer), we can hear an obvious traffic accident take place in the background just around the corner, and both the police officer and the bicyclist hear it. A reasonable police officer would realize that that was a traffic accident and that people may be injured and need first aid, etc. But no, this cop continues to question the bicyclist as if nothing happened. At one point he even denies that it may be a traffic accident. After the bicyclist convinces him to do so, he notifies dispatch of the traffic accident, and then continues to question the bicyclist rather than tending to the possibly injured! This cop neglected to tend to a possibly serious and fatal traffic accident, all so he can perform 職務質問 (voluntary questioning) on a bicyclist!

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COMMENT:  Yes, it happens aplenty to those riding while foreign in Japan, but as I’ve argued before (in my Japan Times article Gaijin as Public Policy Guinea Pig), things foisted upon the NJ population to increase police powers are soon foisted upon the Japanese population as well.  This video is evidence of that.  Since the Keystones cannot stop people ostensibly without probable cause, stopping people with bicycles (using the excuse that they might have stolen them) or with bags (they might have knives etc.) is one way for the NPA to put the people in their place (i.e., if you can’t avoid cycling or carrying any luggage in public, too bad; suffer our suspicions).  Of course, the Keystones need no excuse to stop NJ: being foreign-looking alone in Japan is probable cause of suspicion for a visa overstay.  Again, this fortifies my theory of Japan as Mild Police State.  One that I believe is trying to increase its power in the name of “making Japan the world’s safest country again“.  Even if, in this case, the safety of others in first-aid cases is subordinated to an individual cop’s power trip.  A bit of a tangent today, but it’s germane to Debito.org.  Arudou Debito

“Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a letter from cyberspace on another potentially offensive marketing campaign portraying African features as black-bread Afros to sell food.

No doubt we’ll get the defenders of this sort of marketing, e.g. “Japan has so few black people it has no sensitivity to this sort of thing”, “it’s not racist, at least not intentionally”, “lighten up guys, and stop foisting your cultural values on the Japanese”, or “it’s a Japanese character, not a real black character, so it’s not a problem”.  Any other naysaying?  Oh wait, yeah, “you just don’t get Japan”.  Anyway, check this out.  Arudou Debito

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

November 20, 2010:

Hi Debito, My name is XY, Founder and Director of [….] a marketing consultancy in [Japan] that researches Japanese consumer behavior on behalf of our international clients like Coca-Cola, VISA credit cards etc. As such, I often peruse the shelves of convenience stores to see what the latest trends are. I was shocked to find in my local Mini-Stop the all-new campaign for ブラックメロンパン, a bread that parodies a black man’s afro on the package. This is no small thing. Mini-Stop is a very large and growing combini chain and this is a signature campaign prominently advertised and displayed on their shelves.

I read your JT articles often and appreciate all of them. I figured you are the man to bring light to this latest scandal. I also read your article on the McDonald’s campaign and agree wholeheartedly… however this Mini-Stop campaign is just so much more overt and insensitive… even more so than the EMobile monkey monstrosity.

I have attached a couple photos below (click to expand in browser):


Best Regards, XY.

ENDS

Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)

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Hi Blog. I gave two lectures a couple of weeks ago at Hokudai’s International Student Center on Japan’s multicultural future (a prognostication I find a bit weaker in recent years, what with the drop in NJ numbers in 2009 in all honesty, especially after the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe). So I went on a dig for the most recent GOJ stats on NJ residents, and think it appropriate for this weekend’s blog entry. Have a look:

Source:  Ministry of Justice website, press release dated November 10, 2010

http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri04_00005.html

COMMENT:  As you can see, the numbers of NJ have increased without fail every year (for 48 years, as a matter of fact) until last year, now standing at nearly 2.2 million.

Source:  Ministry of Justice website, press release dated November 10, 2010

http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri04_00005.html

COMMENT:  Here we have the number of resident NJ by nationality.  As of 2007, the Chinese residents overtook the Koreans (North and South and Zainichi) for the first time in history, and are significantly more numerous than before.  Their numbers are not abating, whereas the Koreans and Brazilians are going down significantly.  Up also are people from The Philippines.  Peruvians and Americans down slightly, while people from “sono ta” other countries are increasing their percentage of the population by a few fractions of a percent every year.  Vietnamese, Thais, Subcontinental Indians, and Nepalese are the most significant gainers in this categories, growing by more than 10,000 souls over the past decade.

Source:  Ministry of Justice website, press release dated November 10, 2010

http://www.moj.go.jp/content/000049973.pdf

COMMENT:  Here we have NJ by Status of Residence (visa status).  The red and white candy stripe area indicates Permanent Residents (both Regular (immigrant) and Special (Zainichi generational foreigners), who comprise more than 43% of all registered NJ in Japan.  Nearly half (and growing, as you will see in the next graph) of all NJ here can stay here forever.  Bubbling under are Spouse of Japanese (10.2%), Long-Term Residents (generally the Nikkei workers from South America, 10.1%), and Exchange Students (6.7%).

Source:  Ministry of Justice website, press release dated November 10, 2010

http://www.moj.go.jp/content/000049973.pdf

COMMENT:  Here we have registered NJ by Status of Residence again, showing us how the numbers have changed over time.  Permanent Residents have increased significantly unabated, except that the Special PRs (Zainichis) keep dropping significantly, while the Regular (immigrants) keep increasing significantly both in number and percentage (8.4%) over 2009 (they crossed lines in 2007; there are now significantly more “Newcomer” immigrants than “Oldcomer”  Zainichis).  Meanwhile, the non-Permanents have dropped by nearly 5% over the past year.  The largest drop percentages are the “Trainees” (generally Chinese working in factories, allegedly receiving training but often being used as slave laborers) by nearly a quarter, and the Long-Term Residents (Nikkei workers, again being offered bribes to go “home” and be somebody else’s unemployment statistic).  Also significantly dropping are the “Entertainers” (often people working in the sex trades, again slavery except this time sexual), at 15.8% which to me is good news.

Source:  Ministry of Justice website, press release dated November 10, 2010

http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri04_00005.html

COMMENT:  Here are the statistics on where NJ are being registered and the change over time.  Tokyo area is the most popular, rising 3.1%.  Second is Aichi (Nagoya), dropping significantly, then Osaka (also dropping slightly), Kanagawa (Yokohama) up a bit, and so on down.  Outside of the major metropolises, NJ numbers are going down significantly (-4.0%).

One more, since this is fun.  More raw numbers and rises and falls in the NJ population by prefecture:

Source:  Ministry of Justice website, press release dated November 10, 2010

http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri04_00005.html

Numbers in red indicate rises.  Hey, Hokkaido rose!  Arudou Debito

My speech at Otaru Shoudai Dec 6, 2010, “The Otaru Onsens Case 10 years on”, now on YouTube in six parts

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Hi Blog. I gave a series of speeches over the past week, the latest one at Otaru University of Commerce, on “The Otaru Onsens Case Ten Years On”. It’s in English (as it is a lecture series in English sponsored by the university for language students and exchange students), and available for view in several parts at the Otaru Shoudai Channel on YouTube. Have a look. Links to parts one through six below.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

Part One:

Part Two:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKz1fm5GdN4

Part Three:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p15Vrg0X_y0

Part Four:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyP2JFlvDzI

Part Five:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw-MZ-8s7jI

Part Six:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1quOHWZUBE

ENDS

Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”

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Hi Blog. Thoughtful letter on a serious issue in the Japan Times Community Page again this week (Tuesday’s paper is always worth the cover price). Speaking of identity and possibilities of a “Rainbow Society” (which has become a discussion on issues of being “haafu” in Japan in the Comments Section of a recent blog post), one essential issue is the acknowledgement of “doubles” in terms of legal status: Dual Nationality. Excerpting from this week’s Hotline to Nagatacho. Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO
Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy
(excerpt)

…What does Japan gain by, in effect, rejecting my children and thousands of other young dual citizens living in Japan and around the world, at the very moment when they come of age and are at last able to become productive members of society?

Best as I can figure, the only virtue of the “one citizenship fits all” rule is simplicity.

What does Japan lose by rejecting dual citizenship?

My daughters, for one thing (and that’s a big loss; I know, I know: oyabaka), along with many other repudiated young people whose capacity and willingness to contribute their talents, creativity, fluency in English and other languages, international experience, energy and human and financial capital to Japan as full-fledged members of society are suppressed, or snuffed out altogether, by continuing a short-sighted, anachronistic policy.

In an era of increasing global competition, a shrinking, aging and insular Japan needs all hands on deck. Japan should be actively recruiting these talented young people to come to Japan and lay down roots, not turning them away.

Some may contend that my daughters and others like them are still free to come to Japan as foreigners, procure visas and remain for as long as they like (or at least as long as they have a visa-qualifying job). But that’s a far cry from “being Japanese.”

It’s not just about avoiding the legal limits on what foreigners may do and how long they may stay in Japan. Citizens are more likely to be motivated to make the sacrifices, and take the risks necessary to improve society, such as through public service and entrepreneurial activity. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has often said, in a different context, that “no one in the history of the world has ever washed a rented car.” The same holds true here. Japan cannot repossess the title to the car — citizenship — from some of its people and fairly expect that those same people will still care enough to do what it takes to keep the car — Japan — in good working order or, better yet, to add some chrome and polish.

It is a well-known secret that the Japanese government does not actively enforce the citizenship selection rule. I was even told once — by a Japanese government official no less — that my kids should simply hold on to their Japanese passports after they reach 22 and renew them when they expire, without ever making an affirmative citizenship selection. Many people do just this. It’s the dual citizenship equivalent of the U.S. armed forces’ fading “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

This is a very Japanese approach, but it’s not a solution. It places all “shadow” dual citizens at risk of losing their Japanese nationality any time the Japanese government decides to change its current policy of benign neglect, or if a dual citizen trips up by presenting the wrong passport to the wrong immigration official at the wrong time. Long-term planning and commitment are impossible under these circumstances.

But, more importantly, this “winks and nods” policy of lax or non-enforcement sends precisely the wrong message. Instead of laying out the welcome mat, these young people are told to sneak in through the back door (and hope it’s not locked). Many won’t even try.

One wonders if the existing policy of denying permanent dual citizenship to people who possessed the status as children is motivated by a concern that altering it would lead to dual citizenship demands by others, such as ethnic Korean residents of Japan or Brazilians of Japanese descent. Rather than risk facing such demands, government officials might have concluded that it is “better to leave well enough alone.” However, allowing people who already have Japanese citizenship to keep it will not inevitably lead to more far-reaching changes to Japan’s Nationality Law.

Given its dire demographic outlook, perhaps Japan should open a dialogue on radical changes to its Nationality Law, such as a U.S.-style “birthright” giving citizenship to all people born on Japanese soil, an Israeli-style “Law of Return” allowing the ingathering of all ethnic Japanese everywhere in their ancestral homeland, or an Irish-style “Grandparent Rule” granting citizenship to anyone who can document having one Japanese grandparent. But even if Japan is not willing to open its door that widely, it should at least stop slamming the door on some of its own citizens shortly after they reach adulthood…

Full article at
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101207hn.html
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 34, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce”

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JUST BE CAUSE
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce [not my title]
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Column 34 for Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101207ad.html

My Japanese passport expired last month, meaning I’ve been a citizen here for a full decade now. Hooray.

This should have occasioned thoughts on what’s changed in Japan for the better. Instead I got to see how inflexible Japan’s bureaucracy remains. Consider what happened when I visited Sapporo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs branch to get that passport renewed.

I walked in with all the necessary documentation and filled out the forms. The friendly clerk gave everything a once-over (very professionally; no double-takes at a Caucasian applicant), and all was going smoothly . . . until he got to the rendering of my name in Japanese.

Clerk: “Er, about your last name. You wrote ‘Arudou’ on the form. Officially we only accept Hepburn-style Romanization, so you have to write it as ‘Arudo’ or ‘Arudoh.’ “

I sighed, and said, ” ‘Arudou’ is how it is spelled. My expiring Japanese passport also had it rendered as ‘Arudou.’ Clearly that was acceptable then and should be acceptable now.”

Clerk: “Yes, you can write ‘Arudou’ on the back of your application to indicate how you would like your name rendered on the passport itself. But for our bookkeeping purposes, you must render it as ‘Arudo’ on the front. We can only take Hepburn. Please remove that superfluous ‘U.’ “

I said I could do that, but then that person would not be me.

“The name is ‘Arudou.’ That is how I render it in my native language.”

We went back and forth for quite some time. Clerk cited precedent, I cited individual choice. By naturalizing, I had been given a rare opportunity to choose my own name and identity, and no damned “bookkeeping purposes” were going to change that.

Finally, Clerk patiently asked, “Why is this so important to you?”

“Well, um . . . it is my name, the most important thing a person can have. But I can think of three more reasons.

“First, my experience with a foreign name here before naturalization. Bureaucrats converted my former surname, Aldwinckle, from Roman letters to katakana at their whim. My name wound up in so many different versions that we had trouble tracking down my nenkin pension contributions from different jobs. This time, I want control over my public identity, including spelling.

“Second, the latent arrogance. On other official forms, I’ve even been admonished by bureaucrats how to write an Arabic number 5 ‘properly.’ ” (Straight line first, then cedilla as second stroke — as opposed to my education of writing it all as one stroke.)

“You want to tell me the stroke order of go (five) in kanji, fine. But you will not tell me how to write letters and numbers in my native language.

“The worst thing is your flawed version of Hepburn, without diacritics, which means — for your sacred ‘bookkeeping purposes’ — you are forcing Japanese names through a system that can make things less comprehensible to native readers.

“For example, names like Honma and Monma become the inaccurate ‘Homma’ and ‘Momma.’ What about a name like ‘Big Hill’ (ō-oka), which becomes ‘Ooka’ or ‘Ohoka’? Let’s have some sensitivity here, if not accuracy.”

Clerk nodded, and went to a back room for a long powwow with his bosses. He came back with a longer face.

“I regret to inform you that unless you cross that ‘U,’ I will have no choice but to refuse your passport application.”

I gave him an icy stare. “You would deny me my right to travel abroad because of a single letter? Who do you think you are?

“Look, how do you think I got ‘Arudou’ rendered as such on my expiring passport? Because I had this discussion with you in 2000 when I first applied, and again in 2006 when my name changed after a divorce. When your bosses realized I was not going to budge on this, they had me write out and sign a moshitatesho (a kind of affidavit) stating that if anything were to go wrong due to the spelling of my name, the responsibility would be mine alone.

“So check your records. If you find one document where I rendered my name as ‘Arudo’ before, then I will do it again. But you won’t. You accepted my application before — twice. Find that moshitatesho and abide by it.”

Some time later, Clerk came back, offered a deep bow, said he had found my moshitatesho, and that forthwith my application would be accepted with the “U” intact. It only took two hours in total this time.

“Thanks,” I said. “Now, will I have to go through this every 10 years?” Clerk said he didn’t know. “I’d put in a good word for you, but I think I’ll be retired by then. As you can see, my hair’s pretty gray.”

“Yes, and I’m sure people like me only make it grayer.”

We shared a laugh, and he said he would pass my case up through MOFA channels as feedback for reforms.

I appreciate that. But even after 10 years as a Japanese and two Mexican standoffs, I still had to face the same old bureaucratic idiosyncrasies — those that arise when our government decides that things within the domain of the individual are instead privileges granted at the whim of The State. To name a few: middle names and different last names after marriage (forbidden by the family registry system), minority names with alternate spellings (e.g., Ainu and Ryukyuan names) — and, in more extreme examples, parental rights to child access during marital breakdowns (Zeit Gist, Feb. 2) and even to the contents of a mother’s uterus (as the old saying goes, “The womb is a borrowed thing” (hara wa karimono)).
Source: Hara wa karimono is from Kittredge Cherry, WOMANSWORD, pg 87-8.

No matter how complicated and diverse Japanese society becomes, bureaucrats will still assert old prerogatives. In my case, they even threatened to take away my fundamental rights just for refusing to abide by a system designed basically for bureaucrats’ convenience.

Nertz to that. A name fundamentally defines a person’s identity. I will Romanize it as I please, thank you.

Time for Japan’s bureaucrats to allow for more diversity and learn to have more respect for individual dignity. MOFA, this means U.

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

ENDS

Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs

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Hi Blog. Here is more information and woe about something we’ve talked about on Debito.org umpteen times before: Japan’s “Trainee Visa” program — the GOJ’s way to get cheap NJ workers into Japan’s labor-deficient factories under slave-wages and conditions. Article from the Japan Times excerpted below. Arudou Debito

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THE ZEIT GIST
Abuse rife within trainee system, say NGOs
Foreigners report harsh job conditions, poverty-line pay, mistreatment under notorious program
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010 (excerpt)
By JODY GODOY

In October 1999, 19 Chinese trainees came to the Takefu city office pleading for help. In their first year in Japan as interns, the women had been promised ¥50,000 a month, but scraped by on ¥10,000. The next year, as technical trainees, they should have received ¥115,000 a month. After health insurance, pension, rent, forced “savings” and administrative fees for the staffing agency in China were deducted, what they got was ¥15,000. The women walked for five hours from their workshop in the mountains of Fukui Prefecture to talk with the director of their placement organization at his home. Instead of receiving answers, they were turned away with harsh words — and even blows.

The incident was discussed in the Diet and became a symbol of the profound problems with the trainee system. Shortly afterwards, citizens’ groups formed to protect the rights of trainees and organizations already working to protect foreigners’ rights found a new focus. More than 10 years later, leaders of these groups say they have seen some positive changes, but abuses of the system are still endemic.

Started in 1993, the aim of the Technical Intern Training Program is to “provide training in technical skills, technology (and) knowledge” to workers from developing countries, according to the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), which oversees the program. But in practice, say advocacy groups, the majority of both trainees and the companies who accept them think of the relationship primarily as regular employment. A convoluted placement system complicates the situation: Between the trainees — the majority of whom come from China — and the workplace where they end up, there are usually at least three intermediary organizations involved, in Japan and the participants’ native country.

Until 2009, the number of trainees in Japan had been rising steadily, with more than 100,000 participating in the program in 2008. The majority of trainees are brought in under the auspices of JITCO. After the global economic crisis, the number of JITCO-authorized trainees fell in 2009 to 50,064 (down from 68,150). According to the latest figures, the total for 2010 was 39,151 as of October.

The Tokyo-based Advocacy Network for Foreign Trainees has served as the national umbrella organization for trainee advocacy groups since 1999. The network’s members are 90 researchers, lawyers, journalists and other individuals, and 10 groups including labor unions and local trainee advocacy groups.

The network provides legal counsel to trainees in their own language, calls on unions to negotiate with companies and contracting organizations, finds lawyers to represent trainees in court, and provides shelter for trainees who stand up to their employers.

Yang Zhen (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) is one of five former trainees and interns living in the network’s shelter in Tokyo. He came to Japan from Dalian, China, in January 2007. Working as a plasterer, he was responsible for mixing large amounts of mortar for four other workers. As a result he developed an uncommon and painful collapse of the wrist bone called Kienbock’s disease. When he sought treatment, his employers pressured him not to reveal his working conditions. Yang is now applying for workers’ compensation with the help of the Zentoitsu Workers Union and the Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center, and is claiming ¥3 million in unpaid wages.

To support Yang and others like him, the advocacy network relies entirely on grass-roots support in the form of volunteers and donations. Like most of its member organizations, the network receives no funding from the government, and trainees usually hear of the groups via word of mouth. The network’s members exchange and compile information from cases they have dealt with locally every month, and meet once a year to draft recommendations to the government.

But information-sharing is often a one-way street, says Hiroshi Nakajima, one of the network’s organizers…

Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101207zg.html

Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec 7 2010 now up at JT site

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Hi Blog. It’s been a hectic past few days traveling and speaking around Tokyo. After a night on the town on Sunday at an Amnesty International benefit, I was offered a free room with a friend (thanks) only to find I had left my toiletry bag at my previous accommodations. So I flew back to Sapporo yesterday unshaven and unkempt, arrived at Chitose Airport a mere two hours and change before my next speech in Otaru (which I recorded and will have up as a podcast sooner or later), drove the 80 or so kms, stopped off home for a shower shit and shave, and got to Otaru Shoudai with fifteen minutes to spare to give another 2.5-hour speech (my third in five days). And then came home and just crashed. Now I have 9AM classes coming up in an hour, so must blog quickly again.

Anyhoo, here is a link to my latest Japan Times column (also completed while on the speaking tour this past week). On how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nearly refused me a passport just because I wouldn’t spell my name in English as I pleased.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101207ad.html

Have a read. I’ll have it up for commentary tomorrow. Arudou Debito

Speaking at Otaru Shoudai Mon Dec 6: “The Otaru Onsens Case, 10 Years On”

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Hi Blog. In what has been a busy week (two speeches and some other public get-togethers), I’m capping it off with yet another speech back in Hokkaido this coming Monday. Then an article in the Japan Times on Tuesday, but I’ll let you more about that tomorrow. Here are the details on the Hokkaido speech. Arudou Debito

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English Lecture Series #3
The Otaru Onsens Case-Ten Years On
Arudou Debito
Monday December 6th, 2010
4:30 p.m. Room 370
Sponsored by Otaru Shoudai

Did you know that Otaru once had onsens that said “Japanese Only”? They not only refused entry to non-Japanese residents, but also Japanese people with foreign roots, and even a naturalized Japanese citizen. Ten years later, what has changed? Come hear Arudou Debito speak about it.

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UPDATE:  The entire speech in English (as it is a lecture series in English sponsored by the university for language students and exchange students) is now available for view in several parts at the Otaru Shoudai Channel on YouTube. Have a look. Links to parts one through five visible from http://www.debito.org/?p=8023.

ENDS

CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”

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Hi Blog.  Speaking again today in a few hours, so let me post this one again for comment.  I’m not one to take CNNGo all that seriously as a source, but try this article on for size.  Arudou Debito

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Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?
Government statistics suggest multiculturalism is on the rise, but social organizations for mixed-race Japanese say ‘hafus’ still face challenges
By Tracy Slater 1 December, 2010, courtesy PKU

http://www.cnngo.com/tokyo/life/will-there-ever-be-rainbow-japan-341969#ixzz176ov3ZDy

Japan, which closed its borders from 1639 to 1854 and later colonized its neighbors, has an uneasy history with foreigners, national identity, and multiculturalism.

Yet government statistics and grassroots organizations say multiculturalism in the famously insular country is now on the rise.

Japan: The new melting pot?

Japan’s national government recently announced it is turning to travelers in a foreigner-friendly mission to boost diversity — at least in tourist spots — by paying them to provide feedback on how to increase accessibility for non-Japanese speakers.

David Askew, associate professor of law at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, identifies more profound changes.

In 1965, a mere 1 in 250 of all marriages in Japan were international, he notes. By 2004, the number had climbed to 1 in 15 across the nation and 1 in 10 in Tokyo.

According to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government, by 2005, foreign residents in the city numbered 248,363, up from 159,073 in 1990.

According to Askew, the upswing in diverse residents and mixed marriages has led to another phenomenon: between 1987 and 2004, more than 500,000 children were born in Japan with at least one foreign parent.

Celebrating diversity

A handful of new organizations are tied, at least in part, to the increase in multicultural marriages.

Groups such as Mixed Roots Japan and Hapa Japan, founded by children of mixed-Japanese couples, aim to celebrate the broadening scope of Japanese identity, both nationally and globally.

“There is a real need now to recognize that Japan is getting more multiracial,” says Mixed Roots founder Edward Sumoto, a self-described “hafu” of Japanese/Venezuelan ethnicity. “The Japanese citizen is not simply a traditional Japanese person with Japanese nationality anymore.”

The issue of the identity of hafu is also being explored in a new film titled “Hafu,” currently under production by the Hafu Project.

In support of multiracial families, Mixed Roots holds Halloween and Christmas parties, picnics and beach days.

The organization also sponsors a monthly radio show on station FMYY, and “Shakeforward” concerts in Tokyo and Kansai, accompanied by youth workshops and symposia.

“These events feature mixed-roots artists who promote social dialogue with their songs,” says Sumoto.

The next “Shakeforward” concert will be held on November 27 in Kobe.

One of Sumoto’s primary goals is to “enable mixed-race kids to meet and talk, so they know there are other people like them.”

Despite the statistics, achieving widespread recognition for Japanese diversity has been a struggle for Sumoto and other grassroots organizers.

“Mentally, do the Japanese think the country is becoming more multicultural?” asks Sumoto. “Possibly more than 20 years ago, because you see more foreigners, but people are still not sure what to do with it.”

Multiculturalism on the margins

Like Sumoto, Erin Aeran Chung, assistant professor of East Asian politics at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, sees the issue of Japanese multiculturalism as multifaceted.

Chung has written extensively on Japan, ethnicity and citizenship, especially as relates to Zainichi Koreans, descendents of pre-war immigrants, many of whom were brought to Japan as slave labor.

Zainichi literally means “staying in Japan temporarily.”

“The concepts of ‘multicultural coexistence’ (tabunka kyōsei) and ‘living in harmony with foreigners’ (gaikokujin to no kyōsei)” — catchwords for multiculturalism used by local government officials and NGOs — “are based on the idea that Japanese nationals, assumed to be culturally homogenous, can live together peacefully with foreign nationals, assumed to be culturally different from the Japanese,” Chung said in a series of interviews.

“Rather than expand the definition of Japanese national identity to include those who are not Japanese by blood or nationality,” Chung argues, “the concept of kyōsei suggests that Japanese nationals must rise to the challenge of living with diversity,” instead of as part of a group of diverse citizens belonging to a truly multicultural nation.

A recent move by the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) suggests not even citizenship guarantees acceptance as “truly” Japanese.

At a meeting last February, the JSA administrative board mandated limiting foreign-born wrestlers to one per stable. The upshot: even if a competitor born abroad becomes a Japanese citizen, he’s still considered the stable’s token foreigner.

The myth of mono-ethnicity

Underneath the debate over Japan’s willingness to embrace multiculturalism lies the question of how mono-ethnic the nation ever really was.

According to Ritsumeikan’s David Askew, “The idea of Japan as mono-ethnic is actually a postwar belief.”

The Ainu and Ryukyuan ethnic groups, engulfed by Japan during its prewar colonial movement, are examples.

As for Taiwan and Korea, they “were part of Japan until 1945, so you could hardly talk about a homogeneous population before then.”

“The conversation about multiculturalism today is one that focuses on accepting ‘foreign’ cultures, ignoring the broad range of cultural practices within Japan itself,” says Askew.

“Unless the Okinawas and Osakas of Japan are accepted as different cultures, the discourse will continue to promote the idea of a homogeneous Japan,” says Askew.

ENDS

Fiona Graham/SAYUKI speaks at Good Day Books Ebisu Sun Dec 5

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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Forwarding by request of the speaker:

http://www.gooddaybooks.com/contents/Booknotes
GOOD DAY BOOKS EBISU NEXT SPEAKER
Speaker: Fiona Graham

Topic: “The Japanese Company, Then and Now”
When: Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, 05 December 2010
Admission: Buy a copy of A Japanese Company in Crisis or Inside the Japanese Company from our shop

Fiona Graham is an Australian anthropologist and a producer/director of anthropological documentaries. She has directed and produced programmes for NHK – Japan’s national broadcaster – and has also worked on programs for National Geographic, Channel 4, and BBC. She was the first white woman to graduate as a regular student from Keio University. Subsequently she worked for one of the top ten Japanese insurance companies. She took her MBA and doctorate at the University of Oxford, has lectured at the National University of Singapore, and is currently lecturing at Keio University. She has done fieldwork in both the UK and Japan, in Tokyo’s night world, in Japanese companies, with Japanese traditional sports teams, and in the world of anime and popular culture. Her current fieldwork is on geisha and traditional Japanese culture. In 2007, she became the first white woman to debut as a geisha and is now a working geisha in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

She is author of: A Japanese Company in Crisis: Ideology, Strategy, and Narrative (Routledge-Curzon, 2005); Playing at Politics: An Ethnography of the Oxford Union (Dunedin Academic Press, 2005); and Inside the Japanese Company (Routledge-Curzon, 2003).

ends

McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives

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Hi Blog.  In between speeches today, and a quick visit to the Diet as well, so let me just put this article up for commentary.  Another insightful one from David McNeill.  Arudou Debito

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

PERSPECTIVES
David McNeill
Japan Inc. needs to loosen up
(Mainichi Japan) November 27, 2010, courtesy JK

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/news/20101127p2a00m0na002000c.html

I’ve talked about Japan’s reluctance to embrace mass immigration in this column before. Here’s something else to consider: Japan’s boardrooms are still almost completely devoid of foreigners — and females.

Women make up just 1.2 percent of top Japanese executives, according to business publisher Toyo Keizai; gaijin board members on Japan’s roughly 4,000 listed companies are as rare as hens’ teeth.

The exception is a handful of troubled giants, notably Sony Corp., which made Welshman Howard Stringer its chairman and CEO in 2005, and Nissan Motor Co., where Brazilian Carlos Ghosn has been in charge for over a decade.

That lack of diversity worries some bosses. Last year the Japan Association of Corporate Executives published the results of a two-year survey that called on its members to revolutionize boardroom practices.

“Japanese firms are terribly behind in accepting diversity,” said association vice chairman Hasegawa Yasuchika. “They should radically transform their corporate culture to provide the same opportunities to employees all around the world.”

Easier said than done, perhaps. Ever since Japan’s corporations began moving overseas in the 1970s, they have followed a tried and tested formula: Whatever happens in transplants and local operations abroad, control stays in the iron grip of the all-Japanese boardroom back home.

That’s partly for understandable reasons: I just watched a ridiculous CNN interview with U.S. bosses, who all said the key to the future is sacking thousands of workers. Japan rightly fears that foreign managers will bring that sort of slash-and-burn model of American capitalism to this country.

But the fact is that, in the view of many, the control-freakery of large Japanese firms is damaging their own interests.

“A lot of big companies like Toyota have to deal with very complex problems, involving foreign governments, legal processes and consumers,” says T. W. Kang, a South Korean national and one of the few foreigners to serve on a Japanese board.

“To think these problems can just be tackled with insiders is a mistake. An external director forces you to listen to external issues.”

Would Toyota have handled its recent recall problems better if it had a few non-Japanese on its board? — It’s worth thinking about.

And here’s more food for thought: What about the dearth of women? One reason why Japan still lags far behind in childcare and help for working women is that there are so few female bosses or policymakers.

Most Japanese politicians and bosses are married to someone who isn’t working. As one of my recent interviewees said, “They’re not seeing the problem because they’re not experiencing it.”

I know many conservatives here are against empowering foreigners with voting because of the changes that might bring. Empowering women is even more transformational.

Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been tried …

(Profile)

David McNeill writes for The Independent and Irish Times newspapers and the weekly Chronicle of Higher Education. He has been in Japan since 2000 and previously spent two years here, from 1993-95 working on a doctoral thesis. He was raised in Ireland.
ENDS

Speaking PGL 2010 Sat Dec 4 ICU on “Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents”

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PGL Conference 2010
International Christian University, Tokyo

The Conference
The 3 R’s: Resist Business as Usual, Reclaim Space for Peace,
Revolutionise Public Consciousness

Room Number & General Theme
Media – Room 252
Saturday, December 4, Session 3 (3.15 – 4.45)

Paper Presentation Titles
Folake Abass, Kyoto Sangyo University (30 mins)
Exploring Injustice

Arudou Debito, Hokkaido Information University (60 mins)

Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents

https://sites.google.com/site/pgl2010/home/schedule

1. Paper title

PROPAGANDA IN JAPAN’S MEDIA
MANUFACTURING CONSENT FOR NATIONAL GOALS AT THE EXPENSE OF NJ RESIDENTS

2. Abstract in English

Japan has one of the most vibrant and pervasive domestic media environments in the world. This media environment can also be significantly manipulated by the Japanese government, mobilizing Japanese public opinion towards national goals even at the expense of domestic minorities — particularly non-citizens. The degree of underrepresentation and disenfranchisement of Non-Japanese residents in Japan is clear when one studies the “foreign crime wave of the 2000s”, promoted by the government in the name of “making Japan the world’s safest country again”, justifying public policy against “foreign terrorism, infectious diseases, and crime”. The domestic media’s complicity in publicizing anti-foreign sentiment without analysis has caused quantifiable social dehumanization; government polls indicate a near-majority of citizens surveyed do not agree that non-citizens should have the same human rights as citizens. This presentation studies how language and media have been used as a means for disseminating propaganda in Japan, fostering social stratification, alienation, and xenophobia.

ENDS

Speaking Dec 2 at Sophia University on Liberal Democracy and Japanese Judiciary

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Liberal Democracy and the Japanese Judiciary System
Is Japan’s Judiciary System Befitting a Modern Democracy?

Chris Pitts (Kyoritsu Women’s University (共立女子学園)/ AITEN (Amnesty International Tokyo English Network)

Mr. Pitts will be examining the general framework of the criminal investigation procedure in Japan and the trial process; how these structures fail to protect the rights of the accused; and the extent that these shortcomings have been criticized by Japanese Federation of Bar Associations & the UN Committee on Torture.

Arudou Debito 有道 出人 (Hokkaido Information University (北海道情報大学)

The outspoken foreigners’ rights activist will then discuss the ways in which certain elements within a modern democratic judiciary system can work to undermine the civil liberties of the individuals within that democracy; and ask: Are there authoritarian elements within the Japanese judiciary system? And are they undermining the civil liberties of those living within Japanese society?

Sophia Political Society
Thursday, December 2, 2010
From 5:30-7:00 in Bldg 4 Rm 175

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I offer the standard disclaimers of “I am not a lawyer or a legal expert, just someone with some interesting experiences in the Japanese judiciary offering his opinions”, so don’t come expecting necessarily definitive views!  Will give it a go.  Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST DECEMBER 1, 2010: SPECIAL: Speech by Neo Yamashita of EWA Osaka union on your contract labor rights

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Hi Blog.  What follows is a recording the PALE SIG Forum, from our specialist group with in JALT concerned with issues of Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education.  Ancient archives here, current website here.

debitopodcast
DEBITO.ORG PODCAST DECEMBER 1, 2010

PALE SIG Forum: Labor relations in Japan

Context: General
Content area: Administration, Management, & Employment Issues
Format: Forum
Language: English

From recruitment through retirement (or dismissal), labor laws, court precedents, and labor unions affect educational workers. Educational workers, especially non-Japanese, however, are not well informed or even misled about this. For example, though Westerners want written contracts, Japanese labor advocates recommend not signing contracts in some cases to protect employment rights. This recommendation is based on labor law and court precedents. Accordingly, labor unions play a more crucial role in protecting worker rights than some think.

Neo Yamashita, Vice Chair of the Education Workers and Amalgamated Union Osaka (EWA), gives us his decades of expertise on November 20, 2010.  Podcast listenable from here. 87 minutes.  No cuts.

Neo Yamashita’s handouts from the day are downloadable from here (eight pages in English), so you can follow along with his speech.


Enjoy and be informed about your labor rights in Japan. Neo Yamashita’s union can be contacted at http://ewaosaka.org
Arudou Debito