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  • Archive for January, 2011

    My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out tomorrow Feb 1, questioning JT article portraying naturalized citizens as “foreigners” and suggesting they reconcile and work with outsider status

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 31st January 2011

    In Dec. 28’s Japan Times, Charles Lewis wrote a respectful Zeit Gist column asking three fellow wise men (sumo wrestler Konishiki, musicologist Peter Barakan and Diet member Marutei Tsurunen) about their successful lives as “foreigners” in Japan. Despite their combined century of experience here, the article pointed out how they are still addressed at times like outsiders fresh off the boat.

    Their coping strategy? Essentially, accept that you are a foreigner in Japan and work with it.

    That is fine advice for some. But not for us all. I talked to three other wise men, with Japanese citizenship and a combined tenure of more than 50 years here, who offered a significantly different take…

    Read the rest tomorrow in the Japan Times!

    UPDATE: Here it is:

    Posted in Articles & Publications | Comments Off

    NYT: Japan society puts up generational roadblocks, wastes potential of young

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 31st January 2011

    Continuing with the recent theme of what reforms Japanese society needs to face the next century, here’s Martin Fackler from the NYT making the case about the structural barriers that waste the potential of youth in Japan. Bit of a tangent, but not really. Fresh ideas and entrepreneurial energy (regardless of nationality) should be welcomed as revitalizing, but as Fackler writes, the sclerotic is turning necrotic and people are seeking opportunities elsewhere.

    NYT: An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

    A nation that produced Sony, Toyota and Honda has failed in recent decades to nurture young entrepreneurs, and the game-changing companies that they can create, like Google or Apple — each started by entrepreneurs in their 20s.

    Employment figures underscore the second-class status of many younger Japanese. While Japan’s decades of stagnation have increased the number of irregular jobs across all age groups, the young have been hit the hardest.

    Last year, 45 percent of those ages 15 to 24 in the work force held irregular jobs, up from 17.2 percent in 1988 and as much as twice the rate among workers in older age groups, who cling tenaciously to the old ways. Japan’s news media are now filled with grim accounts of how university seniors face a second “ice age” in the job market, with just 56.7 percent receiving job offers before graduation as of October 2010 — an all-time low.

    “Japan has the worst generational inequality in the world,” said Manabu Shimasawa, a professor of social policy at Akita University who has written extensively on such inequalities. “Japan has lost its vitality because the older generations don’t step aside, allowing the young generations a chance to take new challenges and grow.”..

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 18 Comments »

    Weekend Tangent: compares GDPs of US states with whole countries

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th January 2011

    As a Weekend Tangent, here is The Economist with a fascinating chart comparing GDPs of US states with whole countries. Click on the Population button to do the same for country populations as well. Just thought I’d throw this up, as it is an interesting concept. Note that Japan (and China) are too big to included. Let’s hope Japan stays that way.

    Posted in Tangents | No Comments »

    Japan Times on what needs to be deregulated for Japan’s future as an Asian business hub

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th January 2011

    Japan Times Community Page: What do those companies need from you in addition to a secure environment in which to develop intellectual property? They need locations in Japan that are convenient to airports that provide access to a broad swath of Chinese cities. They’d also like those locations to be relatively near to urban centers that offer employees attractive housing, dining and entertainment options.

    They need those tax breaks you’ve offered, but they need greater assurance from your government that the deals they cut in establishing operations here will last longer than, well, your party’s likely tenure in power. The cost of setting up a regional research and development center makes the tax holiday you’re offering a very minor inducement, especially as your offer has an imminent expiration date.

    They need immigration policies that will let them decide what employees are required to staff their facility, and if you run into your counterparts at the ministries of education and justice, you might let them know that English- and other foreign language-speakers may be required, which may disqualify many of the Japanese citizens you’d like to see get jobs. And of course, they’ll need a streamlined visa procedure for any foreign workers, even if those workers are brown-skinned Asians.

    They need you to create a business environment that is quickly and easily navigable by foreigners, i.e. in English, and that is, above all, flexible. Businesses need to be able to do whatever they need to do to operate, survive and thrive, without stumbling over bureaucratic obstacles all the time.

    What they don’t need, Minister, is a Japan “that can say ‘no.’ ” Business investors need to hear “yes” and “no problem” and “we can get that done for you yesterday.”

    You can do it, I’m sure, and your efforts will pay large economic dividends for decades to come.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »


    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th January 2011

    Table of Contents:

    1) Japan Times Community Page on long-termer coping strategies in Japan,
    where even Dietmember Tsurunen seems to advocate accepting your foreign status and working with it
    2) Dietmember Tsurunen offers clarification and apology for calling himself a foreigner in Japan Times article
    3) Japan Times publishes reactions to their Dec. 28 article on Old Japan Hands accepting their foreigner status
    4) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Feb 1 critiques the “naturalized but still foreign” rubric
    5) AP video: Sting talks to Ric O’Barry on “The Cove” and dolphin slaughters
    6) Weekend Tangent: The future of Eikaiwa: AFP: Robots replace english teachers in SK


    7) QB House Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requires Japanese language ability for a haircut (UPDATE: Sign has been replaced)
    8 ) “To De-Sign or Not to De-Sign”: A debate about what to do re exclusionary signs
    9) Tangent: End of an era: Asahi Evening News presses to close
    10) TMC reports on TV Asahi “Super Morning” rupo re Shibuya Center Gai citizen patrols harassing buskers, NJ
    11) AFP: Otemon Gakuin Univ finally apologizes for Indian student suicide in 2007, still refuses to comment if racially-motivated bullying
    12) Tangent: BBC show QI gets scolded by J media and embassy for insensitivity re atomic bombings


    13) Suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, Ichihashi Tatsuya, publishes book about his experiences. Ick.
    14) Caroline Pover on protesting Gentosha Inc’s publication of Ichihashi’s book after Lindsay Ann Hawker’s murder
    15) DEBITO.ORG POLL: What’s your take on suspected murderer Ichihashi Tatsuya’s book on his experiences
    evading arrest for the homicide of Lindsay Ann Hawker? (Multiple responses OK)
    16) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun: A killing separation: Two French fathers suicide 2010 after marital separation and child abduction
    17) Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”
    18) AP: Japan population shrinks by record numbers in 2010. NYT: Its workers aging, Japan turns away immigrants.
    19) NY Consulate Japan’s Kawamura Yasuhisa offers more rosy picture of immigration to Japan in NYT Letter to the Editor
    20) offers microcosm of Nagasaki as example of Japan’s urban decline


    21) Kyodo: Tourism to Japan hits new record high in 2010
    22) Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan
    23) JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido
    24) MOFA now requiring consent of both parents for their child’s J passport renewal
    25) Hollywood Reporter: JT “Richard Cory” child abduction story optioned as possible movie/TV production
    26) Tangent: Elderly J activists sue GOJ to allow different last names after marriage
    27) Japan Times Suraj Case of death during deportation sent to prosecutors

    Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »

    Caroline Pover on protesting Gentosha Inc’s publication of Ichihashi’s book after Lindsay Ann Hawker’s murder

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th January 2011

    Caroline Pover: For anyone inclined to contact Gentosha (the publishers of Ichihashi’s book), you can do so by using the following:
    Phone from within Japan: 03-5411-6211
    Phone from outside of Japan: +81-3-5411-6211
    Email (general enquiries):
    Email (comments on their books):

    There is a woman there who speaks perfect English, and one of the men responsible for making the decision to approach Ichihashi’s representatives has been reachable, but both these people have refused to give their names. And yes, just to clarify, the publishing house initiated the publication of this book. Their website is

    Now I understand that there is human interest in this “story” and this book. I understand that human nature means that we are often interested in the sinister and the macabre, often for reasons we cannot explain and perhaps in a way we may not be particularly comfortable with. I understand that people are fascinated by how Ichihashi escaped and how he survived for so long on the run. I fully expected there to be a book at some point, and I don’t really blame the general public for wanting to read it.

    What I don’t understand is how this book has been allowed to be released now. BEFORE the trial. Only in the past few days have tentative dates for the trial even been set — surely the publishers must have approached Ichihashi’s representatives knowing that they could produce the book before the trial, and Ichihashi’s representatives possibly thought to seize the opportunity to gain public sympathy.

    Ichihashi has several defence lawyers, all of whom are working pro bono. A book like this will become a bestseller (and it will, make no mistake — and some scumbag is probably already on the phone right now asking for the movie rights). The Hawker family has repeatedly refused to accept any money from an individual claiming to be an Ichihashi supporter, and the family also refuses to accept any monies from the publication of this book. Ichihashi and his defence team may or not receive any money themselves, but the publisher certainly will. Ichihashi has been given the opportunity to tell his story, but shouldn’t that story be told in court?

    What will be told in court however is the REAL story of what happened to Lindsay Ann Hawker. The real story of what he did to her, with details that her parents and sisters will have to listen to and live with forever. And when THAT story is told, the Gentosha staff who worked on Until I was arrested: Record of a two-year and seven-month blank will feel utterly ashamed of themselves.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media | 12 Comments »

    Suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, Ichihashi Tatsuya, publishes book about his experiences. Ick.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th January 2011

    Here’s the next installment in the circus that is the Ichihashi Tatsuya manhunt and arrest for homicide. First the police royally bungle their dragnet, enabling Ichihashi to live on the lam for years. Then now that he’s finally been arrested, he’s able to come out with a book about his hardships (with the apparently reassuring disclaimer that he’ll donate the proceeds elsewhere — what would he do with the money anyway?) without coming clean about why he allegedly did it. Why do I feel we’ve got the beginnings of hero worship, with pilgrimages following his path, and future fans harping on the adversities this man suffered while evading arrest? Hey, if Ichihashi had eaten his victim in another country, he might have become a writer and traveling gourmet celebrity in Japan. Reactions get weird when things get morbid — and that goes for anywhere (cf. Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

    Again, I understand that the accused has the freedom to speak out about his case while in prison (a privilege you hear few people being granted while in Japanese incarceration), but somehow I get a sinking feeling about this. Deeply troubling. Let’s get a court verdict on this case, already. It’s been more than a year since his arrest.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, 日本語 | 43 Comments »

    JT on Rita Taketsuru, Scottish mother of Japan’s whisky industry, and her connections to Nikka’s factory in Yoichi, Hokkaido

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th January 2011

    What follows is a great story, of Rita Taketsuru nee Cowan, a NJ who comes to Japan, supports her husband on the quest for a great Japanese-made Scotch whisky, naturalizes, and lives out her life in a very different Hokkaido than I’ve ever experienced, gaining fans that salute her to this day. Have a read of the excerpt below. We should all be so lucky to leave a legacy such as this.

    Japan Times: The men stood up and explained that this week was the 40th anniversary of Rita’s death and they were going to her grave to pay their respects. The owner of the locket opened his briefcase and showed me a foil-wrapped haggis he’d ordered especially from his butcher. Another of the men took out a packet of oatcakes and a jar of heather honey.

    They invited me to join them but the wind had returned with a vengeance and their drink had pasted me squarely to my seat. As they climbed out of the train, I asked them who they were. The three seemed sheepish for the first time since we’d met. Finally, the owner of the flask spoke up, “We’re the Rita Taketsuru Fan Club.”

    Posted in Food, History, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 1 Comment »

    Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 25th January 2011

    An article of personal import to me. The Japan Times reports on Johannes Braun, braumeister of Otaru Beer, who has come here and made the German-style brewing process a success. I drink with friends at Otaru Beer in Sapporo at least once a month (three to four times a month in summer), and think this development is good both for us as a local economy and for Japan as a place to do business.

    Japan Times: Otaru Beer in the port city of Otaru has continued to flourish since its inception 15 years ago, with output growing at an annual average of 10 percent. At its head is a man who hails from a village near Frankfurt with a population of just 500 people.

    Braumeister Johannes Braun, one of just two German nationals residing in Otaru, attributes the microbrewery’s success to a surprisingly simple recipe. “I brew beer — real beer, using only natural ingredients,” he says. “Many breweries in Germany still abide by a law governing beer production that dates back almost 500 years. I follow that law to the letter.”…

    “The taste gap (between ‘third sector’ beverages and mass-produced malt beers) has closed dramatically, to the degree that consumers can’t tell the difference and therefore naturally choose the cheaper option,” he says. “That’s the ideology of the big makers and that’s why the output of beer is dropping in recent years.”

    This is not such a big issue for most consumers in Japan who, Braun says, see beer as “little more than something to clear the throat” before moving on to something else.

    Indeed, “nodogoshi ga ii” — a phrase used to describe the smooth sensation of beer passing down the throat — is a quality that Japan’s major breweries frequently stress in promoting their products, while taste or body are given short shrift…

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Food, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies | 9 Comments » offers microcosm of Nagasaki as example of Japan’s urban decline

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th January 2011

    The Economist last week had quite a bleak article about Nagasaki, and used it as an example of Japan’s urban decline. Of course, it hints at the possibility of urban renewal through influxes of people (using the oft-cited policy panacea of “foreign students”). But again, not immigration. As far as is concerned, the best bit of the article is:

    Can Nagasaki pull out of the spiral? Historically, after all, the city is Japan’s most open, allowing in Dutch and Chinese merchants in the 17th-19th centuries when foreign trade with the rest of the country was banned. Nagasaki is one of the closest cities to China and South Korea, with opportunities for tourism and trade. The museum to the atom bomb and its victims is world famous. Nagasaki is the birthplace of Japanese Christianity. It was a cradle of insurrection against the last shogunate, helping to shove Japan into the modern age with the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

    To reverse the decline, Mr Sato has drawn up a plan with local officials that looks for overseas revenues to make up for falling domestic ones. That is hardly revolutionary. Among the goals are doubling numbers of foreign students, to 3,000; turning the shipyard into a tourist site; and bolstering sales of kamaboko, a rubbery fishcake. But asked about bolder measures such as encouraging foreign investment and skilled immigrants, Mr Sato says there is “not the right environment” for that yet.

    Still wondering if the “yet” ever expires, even as things go down and down.

    Posted in Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 4 Comments »

    AP video: Sting talks to Ric O’Barry on “The Cove” and dolphin slaughters

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd January 2011

    For another Weekend Tangent, we have rock star Sting being asked for an opinion of documentary “The Cove” and dolphin slaughters by activist Ric O’Barry. Sting gives an intelligent opinion without alienating his Japanese market (something he’s had a history of doing in the past).

    If you want to see Sting more in character vis-a-vis his outspokenness, have a listen to him playing “Murder By Numbers” with Frank Zappa some years ago.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings | 1 Comment »

    Weekend Tangent: BBC show QI gets scolded by J media and embassy for insensitivity re atomic bombings

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd January 2011

    As a Weekend Tangent (for the record, I have no particular stance on this issue), here’s another bit following yesterday’s about official GOJ reactions to overseas media: The BBC One show QI and its segment on the “unluckiest (or luckiest, depending on how you look at it) man in the world”: a survivor of two atomic bombings who died recently at the age of 93. It has engendered much criticism from the J media and cyberspace. Here’s a comment from Reader JS:

    “For the record, QI is a general knowledge quiz show with liberal doses of humour (points are awarded not for being correct, but for being “quite interesting”). They were actually quite complimentary about Yamaguchi and the Japanese resolve in the face of adversity, but apparently it was enough to merit a formal complaint and prime-time news coverage. Oh, and apparently Yamaguchi used to call himself “the unluckiest man in the world”, and he and his family laughed about it. I would say, as a Brit, that they’re laughing at the irony of the situation, not at Yamaguchi personally.”

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Humor, Japanese Government, Media, Tangents, 日本語 | 38 Comments »

    NY Consulate Japan’s Kawamura Yasuhisa offers more rosy picture of immigration to Japan in NYT Letter to the Editor

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 21st January 2011

    GOJ NY Consulate director Kawamura: “Despite Shortage, Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor” (“The Great Deflation” series, front page, Jan. 3) oversimplifies a complex situation and seems to present foreign labor as a cure-all for Japan’s aging and declining population.

    The article also appears to embrace clichés about Japanese homogeneity without pointing out recent policy changes. Japan is not walling itself off; quite the opposite is true.

    In its new growth strategy, the Japanese government recognized the value of skilled foreign workers and their contributions to economic growth. Japan aims to double its skilled foreign work force by 2020 and to double the number of students from abroad that it welcomes, up to 300,000.

    This policy reinforces the encouraging growth in the number of registered foreign residents. Despite a recent drop noted in your article, over the past 10 years registered foreigners in Japan have increased by almost 40 percent (from 1.6 million to 2.2 million). Japan faces tough economic and demographic challenges. But Japan will continue to find the policy mix that works best for our society and our economy.

    COMMENT: Have a beer, Mr. Kawamura. You’ve discharged your duty well. As is good gaiatsu media policy, when we have somebody saying something discomfiting about Japan in overseas media, the GOJ’s Gaijin Handlers will step in to present the “Official View” (would be interesting if, say, the USG did more of that in Japan’s media). Here’s the Japan Consulate in New York doing just that…

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Media, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »

    Hollywood Reporter: JT “Richard Cory” child abduction story optioned as possible movie/TV production

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th January 2011

    Hollywood Reporter said last month that the story of Richard Cory will be optioned for development into a media event (movie or TV). This is a pseudonymous story of a NJ father in an international marriage in Japan, who reported in a series of articles for the Japan Times Community Page about his hardships getting access to his children — after his wife went AWOL, then nuts. His case particularly highlights the systematic barriers that fathers and NJ face trying to get a fair shake in custody hearings, even when the J spouse is certifiable.

    The optioning is good news, in the sense that the issue of “Left-Behind Parents” (LBP, to those of us who are) deserves plenty of exposure. Systematic Child Abduction and Parental Alienation after separation and divorce in Japan affects not only NJ, but LBPs who are Japanese as well.

    A reality check at this juncture, however. Something being optioned does not necessarily mean something gets made. Especially when the market concerns the darker aspects of Japan: Robert Whiting’s best book, TOKYO UNDERWORLD, has languished for many years in production hell. SOUR STRAWBERRIES got made in part thanks to German government funding. FROM THE SHADOWS is still looking for investors. And even the goofy airy-fairy movies about NJ in Japan, such as Oguri Saori’s MY DARLING IS A FOREIGNER, was a flop — grossing less than $7 million bucks to become only the 71st-grossing movie in Japan last year. The more successful yet serious-in-tone movies about foreign treatment in Japan, like LOST IN TRANSLATION, are anomalous. Good luck to Richard Cory.

    Posted in Child Abductions, Good News, Media | 1 Comment »

    Japan Times publishes reactions to their Dec. 28 article on Old Japan Hands accepting their foreigner status

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th January 2011

    The Japan Times yesterday published letters to the editor regarding Charles Lewis’s December 28 article in the Japan Times, on old Japan hands Konishiki, Peter Barakan, and Tsurunen Marutei, and their coping strategies for living in Japan long-term.

    The letters remind me of the parable of the blind men feeling up the elephant and describing what it looks like: One feels the trunk and thinks an elephant is like a snake or a tree branch, one feels the legs and thinks an elephant is like a pillar, one feels the tail and think it’s like a rope, one feels the ears and thinks it’s like a fan, one feels the tusk and thinks it’s like a pipe, one feels the belly and thinks it’s like a wall, etc. It’s a great metaphor for not getting the big picture.

    As for the letters, each author gives the article a feel and offers their take, and it’s a bit of a mess…

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 11 Comments »

    Dietmember Tsurunen offers clarification and apology for calling himself a foreigner in Japan Times article

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 18th January 2011

    In response to the feedback regarding his statements to the Japan Times last December 28, where in an article he calls himself a foreigner despite his Japanese citizenship, Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei sends this public statement through his office (not an official translation):

    “I wish to thank everyone for their comments. As people have pointed out, my use of the English word ‘foreigner’ was inappropriate. I was trying to express that I am not a ‘Japan-born Japanese’ and used ‘foreigner’, but strictly speaking I should have said ‘foreign-born person’, or as I said in the article ‘Finn-born Japanese’.

    “I regret using expressions that gave rise to misunderstandings, and I would like to offer my apologies.”

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 16 Comments »

    Kyodo: Tourism to Japan hits new record high in 2010

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th January 2011

    I’m busy working on my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out February 1, addressing concerns I have, and other naturalized Japanese citizens have, when other long-term and naturalized residents called themselves “foreigners” in the Japan Times December 28). So for today, a short entry, and it’s good news. Record numbers of tourists coming in last year and pumping money into our economy:

    Kyodo: “The number of foreign nationals arriving in Japan last year rose 24.6% from a year earlier to a record-high 9,443,671 due to the economic recovery in Asia and the relaxation by Tokyo of visa regulations for Chinese tourists, government data shows.”

    I may have had some cross words here in the past about how NJ tourists are being treated once they get here, but why speak ill of this development? Bring them in and show them a good time — everyone wins. Let’s just hope that people will see sense and not decide to exclude NJ from their business just because there’s nothing legally stopping them from doing so.

    Posted in Good News, Tourism | 4 Comments »

    Weekend Tangent: The future of Eikaiwa: AFP: Robots replace english teachers in SK

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 16th January 2011

    AFP: Almost 30 robots have started teaching English to youngsters in a South Korean city, education officials said Tuesday, in a pilot project designed to nurture the nascent robot industry.

    The machines can be an efficient tool to hone language skills for many people who feel nervous about conversing with flesh-and-blood foreigners, he said.

    “Plus, they won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.”

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Labor issues, Tangents | 18 Comments »

    Weekend Tangent: Elderly J activists sue GOJ to allow different last names after marriage

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th January 2011

    Reuters: Tsukamoto is one of five people planning to file a lawsuit against the government and local authorities as early as February, saying the civil code that requires married couples to register under the same surname violates equal rights among married couples, as well as personal rights.

    Men are allowed to take their spouses’ name, but it is rare.

    The group will seek compensation for what it says is the legislature’s failure to enact change, the first such case to be debated in open court in Japan, the only country in the Group of Eight major industrialised nations with such a surname rule.

    Hopes grew that the government would submit a bill to amend the civil code after the Democratic Party of Japan, which has advocated letting married couples keep separate names if they wish, took power in 2009. But opposition from a coalition ally caused the plan to stall.

    “There were expectations that it could be enacted but unfortunately this did not take place. They do not want to wait any longer,” said Fujiko Sakakibara, lead lawyer for the group.

    Grauniad: The movement for change gathered pace in the 1980s when more women entered the workplace. Many complained that changing their names after marriage was detrimental to their career prospects and affected relationships with colleagues.

    Yet the Japanese are divided over the issue: in a 2009 survey 49% said they supported a change in the law, while 48% were opposed.

    Women still have to use their registered surnames on official documents such as passports and health insurance cards.

    Many companies allow married women to retain their maiden names at work, but for Tsukamoto, who married in 1960, unofficial acceptance is not enough.

    “Now I am 75, and I was shocked to realise that I can no longer do the things I was able to do even last year,” she said. “That’s when I thought, I am Kyoko Tsukamoto … and I want to die as Kyoko Tsukamoto.”

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Lawsuits, Tangents | 5 Comments »

    MOFA now requiring consent of both parents for their child’s J passport renewal

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th January 2011

    It looks like the GOJ has pinched one of the essential avenues for Japanese overseas looking to abduct their children back to Japan after separation or divorce — the ability for a Japanese citizen to get their child’s J-passport renewed at any Japanese embassy or consulate without the consent of both parents. Somewhat good news, although commenter Getchan below points out that there are still loopholes in this development.

    MOFA: To Parents with Children of Japanese Nationality:
    Notice: Passport Application for Japanese Minors

    Under Japanese civil law, those under the age of 20 are regarded as minors. When a Japanese minor applies for a Japanese passport, one parent/guardian must sign the “Legal Representative Signature” section on the back of the passport application. An application signed by one parent will be accepted under the assumption that the signature is a representation of consent from both parent(s)/guardian(s)…

    Posted in Child Abductions, Good News, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 10 Comments »

    Alleged “mistranslation” at Kyodo News of AKB48 ingenue’s anti-crime activities: Asking nationality of perp SOP for 110 calls?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 13th January 2011

    RY: I stumbled across your website several years ago and began following you again recently. Thank you for your work. I found this article on the Japan Today site [about an AKB48 member doing public service for the NPA:

    Quote: She calmly asked, “Is anybody injured? What nationality was the culprit?” to gauge the situation before passing the information on to a nearby patrol car. When asked about her impressions of the experience, Maeda replied, “You’ve got to ask the right questions and get the information to officers as quickly as possible, and that it is not as easy as it sounds.”]

    I read it to my husband who is Japanese and he replied “It must be in the manual”… I personally find it cumbersome to try to remember the difference for when to call 110/119 but now we are supposed to determine the nationality of the perp as well!? Why not easier questions such as gender/height/build/hair color?”

    COMMENT: Making it more interesting is that afterwards Kyodo News and Japan Today removed this bit about questioning nationality, called it a mistranslation, and rendered it “How many suspects were there?” Sorry, I don’t buy it. NPA, your racial-profiling slip is showing. Nice try keeping it out of the media.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, 日本語 | 8 Comments »

    “To De-Sign or Not to De-Sign”: A debate about what to do re exclusionary signs

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 12th January 2011

    There’s a debate going on between Reader OG Steve and myself that is too good to leave buried in a Comments Section. It was occasioned by a recent blog entry about a sign, up at an outlet of bargain haircutter QB House in Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requiring Japanese language ability for service. OG Steve made the point that he was happy to see an exclusionary sign up that proclaimed clear and present exclusionism (as opposed to the hedging wording of “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”), which in his view actually made discriminatory policies harder to stamp out. I disagreed, as in my view clear and present exclusionary policies, especially in the form of signs like these, encourages proliferation and copycatting, institutionalizes the discrimination, and further weakens civil society’s ability to take action against exclusionism. OG Steve replied that it makes the evidence and case clearer, and thus strengthens the hand of people who wish to take judicial action. I replied… well, read on. Then we’ll open the floor to discussion. It’s a worthy topic, so let’s have at it, and see if we can get some conclusive arguments from other Readers as well.

    Posted in Discussions, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Lawsuits | 14 Comments »

    FCCJ No.1 Shimbun: A killing separation: Two French fathers suicide 2010 after marital separation and child abduction

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th January 2011

    Amid rumblings that Japan will sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions this year (the Yomiuri says it’s currently being “mulled”), here’s another reason why it should be signed — child abductions after separation or divorce are driving parents to suicide. Read on. The Yomiuri articles follow.

    FCCJ: The life and career of Arnaud Simon once could have exemplified the excellent relationship between Japan and France. A young French historian teaching in Tokyo, Simon was preparing a thesis on the history of thought during the Edo Period. He was married to a Japanese woman. They had one son.

    But on Nov. 20, Arnaud Simon took his own life. He hanged himself. He did not need to leave an explanatory note; his closest friends knew he had lost the appetite for living because his wife would not allow Simon to see his son after their marriage broke up. Simon apparently tried on multiple occasions to take his boy home from school, but the police blocked the young father each time.

    “The lawyers he met were trying to appease him, not help him,” one of his former colleagues remembers.

    Another Frenchman in the same situation, Christophe Guillermin, committed suicide in June. These two deaths are terrible reminders of the hell some foreign parents inhabit in Japan – and because of Japan. When a couple separates here, custody of any children is traditionally awarded to the mother. After that, the children rarely have contact with the “other side”; they are supposed to delete the losing parent from their lives…

    Posted in Child Abductions, Japanese Government, 日本語 | 5 Comments »

    TMC reports on TV Asahi “Super Morning” rupo re Shibuya Center Gai citizen patrols harassing buskers, NJ

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th January 2011

    TMC reports: I was watching television on Friday morning (January 7th) and caught a segment featured on TV Asahi’s Super Morning about a citizen patrol operating in Shibuya’s Center Gai district that acts in an aggressive and belligerent manner. First, this group is shown breaking up a live music performance by young Japanese. Unlike what you would expect from such patrols, their manner of enforcing ward bylaws was extremely rude and invited escalation of the situation. Instead of simply telling the musicians to discontinue and wait for their response, the oyaji in charge of this band of bullies screamed at the kids like a yakusa to stop playing and continued haranguing them as they were dispersing. In contrast, the young musicians were not shown being argumentative at all.

    The other disturbing scene occurred when this gang spotted an African male leaning on a guard rail. From a fair distance away, the patrol (composed of about six Japanese males dressed in their citizens patrol jackets) immediately went over, surrounded the guy and demanded that he pick up some cans that were on the ground next to him. Despite the fact that the African was doing nothing but leaning against a guard rail, they started barking at him (given their close distance to the African, their posture, numbers and tone, it could be perceived as very threatening). The African quite rightly took umbrage at the unprovoked intrusion and got into an argument that escalated into some pushing and shoving, with the African kicking some objects in the street. Eventually the police were called in to settle the dispute. Had it been some oyaji doing the same thing, I highly doubt the patrol would have done anything. In addition, I have so far never seen the police get that aggressive right off the bat in public…

    This use of aggressive vigilante groups that take liberties the cops generally don’t or can’t is disturbing. I think citizen patrols are great but strutting around like brownshirts targeting certain groups and causing trouble is definitely outside of their mandate.

    Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 14 Comments »

    Tangent: End of an era: Asahi Evening News presses to close

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th January 2011

    Weekend Tangent. It’s the end of an era: the demise of the Asahi Evening News. This means one less daily media outlet covering domestic Japanese news in English. And one less voice coming from and covering the NJ community in Japan.

    Consider what happened to the alternatives this past decade: the Mainichi Daily News went the way of the dodo some time ago. The Daily Yomiuri still exists, but essentially offers translations of its articles of right-wing bent, mostly avoiding criticism of Japan — and they have severely cut back on their full-time NJ staff anyway (they have more translators than actual NJ reporters, and they are being steadily replaced by mere proofreaders).

    Now it’s the Asahi’s turn. You might say that this is the natural outcome of the drop in print media revenues. But I think the Asahi had this in mind all along. Not only did they engage in union-busting activities this past decade (successfully — they axed lots of full-time NJ journalists), but they also isolated (I tried more than once to contact a few NJ reporters who had bylines in the paper through the Asahi switchboard; switchboard said they had no actual AEN division to connect to) and bled their English division so dry that someday there would be no other alternative but to get rid of it. And next month that’s what they’ll be doing.

    Last man standing (in English) is the Japan Times. And Kyodo News (as if there’s any comparison, as they also have few, if any, full-time NJ reporters). Long may they run.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Labor issues, Media, Tangents | 9 Comments »

    QB House Tameike Sannou, Tokyo, requires Japanese language ability for a haircut (UPDATE: Sign has been replaced)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th January 2011

    Here is the latest permutation of the “Japanese Only” signs nationwide. Instead of saying they refuse all foreigners, QB House, an international bargain barbershop chain since 1995, has a sign up in one of their Tokyo outlets saying they may refuse anyone who doesn’t speak sufficient Japanese. While some may see this as an improvement (i.e. it’s not a blanket refusal of NJ), I just see it as another excuse to differentiate between customers by claiming a language barrier (which has been the SOP at exclusionary businesses in Japan for years now). Who’s to judge whether or not someone is “able to communicate” sufficiently? Some panicky manager? I’ve seen it in practice (in places like Wakkanai), where a barber sees any white face, assumes he cannot communicate, and reflexively arms the X-sign at you. This time, however, QB House has managed to make an exclusionary sign in perfect English in one of the more international areas of Tokyo. How about catering to the customers instead of finding ways of snippily enforcing a “culture of no”? Photo of the sign and note from submitter follows:

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism | 60 Comments »

    AFP: Otemon Gakuin Univ finally apologizes for Indian student suicide in 2007, still refuses to comment if racially-motivated bullying

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th January 2011

    Here’s another reason why people ought to think carefully before attending Japanese schools as a student of diversity, and it’s not just because funding to being them over without sufficient institutional support afterwards is being cut. Bullying. Here we have a Japanese university apologizing for the suicide of one of their ethnic students (raised in Japan with Japanese citizenship, no less). It only took them three years. And yet, like the recent Uemura Akiko suicide, the possibility of it being racially-motivated is not dealt with by the authorities. Thanks for the apology, I guess, but this will hardly fix the problem for others. Hence think carefully.

    Hindustan Times: A Japanese university on Monday apologised to the family of an Indian student who committed suicide in 2007, after leaving a note saying he would kill himself because of bullying at school.

    The male student, then aged 20, at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka prefecture, jumped from a building three years ago, leaving a note saying: “The bullying I keep getting at school … Cannot take it any more.”…

    The university refused to comment on whether the abuse was racially motivated saying the specific nature of the bullying was not known…

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies | 5 Comments »

    Japan Times Suraj Case of death during deportation sent to prosecutors

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th January 2011

    Japan Times: Chiba police have turned over to prosecutors their case against 10 immigration officers suspected of being involved in the death of a Ghanaian deportee they had restrained and physically placed aboard a jetliner last March at Narita International Airport.

    The action Monday came six months after the man’s Japanese widow and her lawyers filed a criminal complaint demanding that prosecutors take action against the airport immigration officers who overpowered Abubakar Awudu Suraj to get him on the jet, where he subsequently died of unknown causes while handcuffed in his seat.

    The police turned their case against the 10 men, aged 24 to 48, who are still working, over to the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office. They could face charges of violence and cruelty by special public officers resulting in death, a Chiba police officer said… Handcuffed and his mouth covered with a towel, Suraj was found unconscious in the aircraft and confirmed dead at a hospital, Yoshida had quoted the officer as saying. The police were unable to pinpoint the cause of death…

    Posted in Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 8 Comments »

    Japan Times JBC/ZG Column Jan 4, 2010: “Arudou’s Alien Almanac 2000-2010″ (Director’s Cut)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th January 2011

    Director’s Cut with excised text from published version and links to sources:

    Top Five for 2010 (plus five honorable mentions):

    Top Five for 2000-2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
    5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)
    4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
    2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Sport, Tourism, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »

    Yomiuri on “Lehman Shock” and Japan’s foreign crime: Concludes with quote that “living in harmony with foreign residents might be just a dream”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th January 2011

    The Yomiuri is in full trumpet about foreign crime again — this time concluding (in an article that does develop the causes of some severe NJ suffering) with a quote from an elderly somebody about coexistence with foreigners being perhaps but a dream. A friend of mine offlist was quite critical of yesterday’s NYT article as an “anecdote-laden piece of fluff”. Okay, but check this one out: Nothing but anecdotes and nary a reliable stat in sight.

    One thing I’m not quite getting is the connection between Lehman and foreign crime. Is Japan’s economy so fragile that one event could ruin it? Don’t businesses make their own decisions, or sovereign countries have responsibility over their own fiscal and monetary policies? Or is this another way of pinning Japan’s woes on foreigners?

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 18 Comments »

    My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Jan 4: Ranks Top Ten issues affecting NJ in Japan for 2010 and 2000-2010. Probably my best yet.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th January 2011

    Just a quick word to let everyone know that my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column will be coming out tomorrow, January 4, 2010.

    For the third year since my JBC column started, I will once again be ranking the Top Ten human rights events that affected NJ in Japan for the year 2010.

    Not only that, I’ll be ranking the Top Ten for the decade 2000-2010 as well.

    I’m particularly proud of this one. It ties together all that I have been researching and writing about for the JT this past decade (first article for them was in 2002). I think it’s one of my best columns yet.

    Particularly suggested is getting a hard copy. The online version will get you the text, but we spent a long time laying out this page, and expert resident cartoonist Chris MacKenzie has been turned loose on the graphic design. On newsstands tomorrow (Wednesday in the provinces). I’m really looking forward to it.

    UPDATE: Here it is. It’s gorgeous! I think it’s our best yet.

    Download entire page as PDF (recommended) at

    Download Top Ten for 2010 at

    Download Top Ten for 2000-2010 at

    I will have it up here for commentary tomorrow.

    Posted in Articles & Publications | Comments Off

    AP: Japan population shrinks by record numbers in 2010. NYT: Its workers aging, Japan turns away immigrants.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd January 2011

    AP: Japan’s population fell by a record amount last year as the number of deaths climbed to an all-time high in the quickly aging country, the government said Saturday.

    Japan faces a looming demographic squeeze. Baby boomers are moving toward retirement, with fewer workers and taxpayers to replace them. The Japanese boast among the highest life expectancies in the world but have extremely low birth rates.

    Japan logged 1.19 million deaths in 2010 — the biggest number since 1947 when the health ministry’s annual records began. The number of births was nearly flat at 1.07 million.

    As a result, Japan contracted by 123,000 people, which was the most ever and represents the fourth consecutive year of population decline. The top causes of death were cancer, heart disease and stroke, the ministry said…

    Saturday’s report showed 706,000 marriages registered last year — the fewest since 1954 and a sign that birth rates are unlikely to jump dramatically anytime soon.

    NYT: Despite facing an imminent labor shortage as its population ages, Japan has done little to open itself up to immigration. In fact, as Ms. Fransiska and many others have discovered, the government is doing the opposite, actively encouraging both foreign workers and foreign graduates of its universities and professional schools to return home while protecting tiny interest groups — in the case of Ms. Fransiska, a local nursing association afraid that an influx of foreign nurses would lower industry salaries.

    In 2009, the number of registered foreigners here fell for the first time since the government started to track annual records almost a half-century ago, shrinking 1.4 percent from a year earlier to 2.19 million people — or just 1.71 percent of Japan’s overall population of 127.5 million.

    Experts say increased immigration provides one obvious remedy to Japan’s two decades of lethargic economic growth. Instead of accepting young workers, however — and along with them, fresh ideas — Tokyo seems to have resigned itself to a demographic crisis that threatens to stunt the country’s economic growth, hamper efforts to deal with its chronic budget deficits and bankrupt its social security system…

    Posted in Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 8 Comments »


    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd January 2011

    In this podcast:

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 16, “The issue that dares not speak its name”, how debate on the issue of “racial discrimination” is so effectively stifled in media and public debate, it’s no wonder we can’t legislate against it. (June 2, 2009)
    Japan Times ZEIT GIST Community Page Article 48/JUST BE CAUSE Column 17, “Cops crack down with “I Pee” checks”, on how the NPA’s not-so-random taking of urine samples (yes!) from NJ in Roppongi are in fact wanton stretches of the law. Ignore at your peril. (July 7, 2009)
    Plus interim excerpts from Tangerine Dream “White Eagle” and an excerpt of Duran Duran’s most recent single, from an album out on iTunes exclusively last December. It’s the title track: “All You Need is Now”.

    20 minutes. Enjoy!

    Posted in Podcasts | No Comments »

    Happy New Year 2011! Japan Times on long-termer coping strategies

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st January 2011

    Japan Times: The Japan Times talked to three well-known, popular foreigners who have made it to the top of their fields in Japan about their views on surviving and thriving as a foreigner in Japanese society.

    Peter Barakan is a British musicologist and commentator who arrived in 1974. Konishiki is a Hawaiian former sumo great who has spent 27 years in Japan. Tsurunen Marutei is the first foreign-born member of the Diet’s House of Councilors of European descent. Originally from Finland, he has lived here for 42 years.

    So how do these three Japan hands — who have racked up over a century in the country between them — stay sane under the barrage of compliments that can push even the greenest, most mild-mannered gaijin over the edge from time to time? What witty retorts do they have in their armory for when they are told they use chopsticks well?

    Tsurunen: “I say thank you.”

    It seems that while coming up against and confounding stereotypes — e.g. the awkward, Japanese-mangling foreigner — can make some foreigners feel they aren’t being taken seriously, seasoned veterans have learned to blow this off — or even revel in it…

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Immigration & Assimilation, Practical advice | 25 Comments »


    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st January 2011

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

    Holiday Tangents:
    2) Happy Boxing Day: From deep within the archives: “Fred Fish” comic book, 1973, drawn by me aged eight
    3) Holiday Tangent: “Steve Seed”, all drawed by me 1973, aged eight. C’mon, it’s kinda cute.
    4) From even farther back: “Penny the Hamster”, drawn in Second Grade when I was seven
    5) Tangent: Comic “The Flight’, drawn by me Christmas 1975 aged ten
    6) Tangent: “The Meat Eaters”: My first try at a movie storyboard, circa 1975, Fifth Grade, aged ten
    7) Last End-Year Tangent: “Lile Lizard”, written Second Grade aged seven, includes procreation!

    Business as usual:
    8 ) Kyodo: Stats for inflows & outflows: J exch students down, NJ up; NJ tourists also up, but none reaching GOJ goals
    9) Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore
    10) Japan Times: Paranoia over NJ purchases of land in Niseko etc: GOJ expresses “security” concerns
    11) Fukui City now requiring J language ability for NJ taxpayer access to public housing. Despite being ruled impermissible by Shiga Guv in 2002
    12) Discussion: As a person with NJ roots, is your future in Japan? An essay making the case for “No”

    … and finally …
    13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 4, 2011
    Double feature: The top ten events that affected NJ in Japan both for 2010 and for the entire last decade!

    Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »