Kansai Time Out Feb ’08 on “Power and the People: Masaki Hisane keeps watch on Japan’s nuclear industry”

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Hi Blog.  Masaki Hisane offers this sobering report in the now-defunct Kansai Time Out, February 2008, in an article on the horrible safety record of Japan’s nuclear power industry.  Reprinted here as a matter of record only, since it the KTO archives seem to have disappeared.  FYI.  Courtesy of JK.  Debito

Columnist Dan Gardner: “Why Japan took the nuclear risk”: Quick-fix energy during 1973-4 Oil Shocks

mytest

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Hi Blog. Here’s a very thoughtful article from Ottawa Citizen newspaper columnist Dan Gardner on why Japan took its nuclear route. Dunno why this guy knows so much about a topic otherwise so esoteric on the other side of the world (but good research should make that irrelevant anyway). People who know more about this subject are welcome to comment, of course, but Gardner answered a number of questions I had.  Give it a read.  Note the citation of our new Japanese citizen applicant Donald Keene (now literally one of the movers with the shakers; sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) on Japan’s economic and emotional fragility.  Arudou Debito

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

Why Japan took the nuclear risk

When making choices about energy, there are no danger-free, cost-free solutions

BY DAN GARDNER, POSTMEDIA NEWS MARCH 18, 2011
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Japan+took+nuclear+risk/4462688/story.html#ixzz1HQsajk53

The Japanese government undertook a rapid expansion of nuclear power after the oil shocks of the early 1970s to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy, despite the high earthquake risk in the region.

Three Mile Island. Chernobyl. Now this. Within hours of the first reports of trouble at Japan’s nuclear power plants, calls for abolition could be heard around the world. “Time to shut down this nation’s nuclear energy program” wrote American pundit Keith Olbermann. Greenpeace and other environmental groups mobilized. “The nuclear risk is not a risk that can really be controlled,” said a French Green party politician. Nuclear power must go.

With Japan’s plants suffering explosions and officials struggling to avoid meltdowns, it’s hard not to agree. Nuclear power is a demonstrable hazard. In Japan, a land constantly rattled by seismic activity, where a disaster like Friday’s was literally just a matter of time, nuclear power is downright dangerous. Why risk it?

People who say that seldom mean it as a question. It’s a conclusion in drag. But let’s treat it instead as a genuine question. Why risk it? Why should we build and operate nuclear power plants knowing that they do pose real dangers, whatever the magnitude of those dangers may be?

And why, in particular, would Japan build nuclear power plants on land that so often buckles and heaves? The answer to this second question lies in recent history. It’s worth having a look because it’s also a pretty good answer to the first question.

As recently as the 1950s, Japan was a poor country with a huge and growing population. Some far-sighted experts looked ahead and saw misery and mass starvation.

But in the 1960s, Japanese manufacturing grew rapidly. Its success was based on keeping things cheap. Cheap labour. Cheap prices. Cheap quality. In the United States, the main Japanese market, “Made in Japan” meant the product cost little and was worth what it cost.

Japan got wealthier. Living standards improved.

In the late 1960s, the American economy stumbled and in 1971 the dollar was devalued. The yen shot up. But the quality of Japanese goods had improved and so Japanese manufacturing thrived despite the rising cost of its goods.

Nothing less than a miracle was underway. A nation was rising from poverty to the ranks of the wealthiest people on Earth. Some even imagined a day when Japan would lead.

Then, like an earthquake, the Arab oil embargo struck.

The Japanese miracle was built on a foundation of cheap energy -mostly oil, mostly from the Middle East. The oil embargo of late 1973 plunged the world into the frightening recession of 1974, and no one suffered worse than Japan.

“The recent period of Japanese glory, from 1969 to 1973, when it seemed a small, distant country would overtake the giants of the West, lasted longer than a dream, but it has ended with dramatic suddenness,” wrote Donald Keene, an American professor of Japanese culture, in the New York Times. It was March 3, 1974. “The same people who only a few months ago were talking and acting as if the future held unlimited possibilities of economic expansion now gloomily announce, not without a touch of masochism, that they live in a country completely at the mercy of others for survival.”

Many Japanese were sure their country would sink back into poverty. The old fears of mass starvation and environmental ruin returned. “Prophecies of disaster abound,” Keene noted.

The Japanese government responded with a sweeping, multi-pronged campaign to reduce Japan’s dependency on Middle Eastern oil. Conservation and energy-efficiency was a major component. So was a rapid expansion of nuclear power.

Of course the Japanese knew their seismological reality.

Indeed, Japanese earthquake science and engineering is the best in the world. But the Japanese also knew the danger of the status quo. It was a trade-off.

The transition worked. Japan’s rise resumed and within a decade it was one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It was also one of the most energy-efficient. And one of the top producers of nuclear power, with onequarter of its electricity coming from the plants the world is watching now. This story does not demonstrate that nuclear power is right for Japan, or anyone else. But it does show, I believe, that choices about energy always involve trade-offs.

Which risks are acceptable? How much risk? And what are we prepared to pay to avoid or mitigate threats? There are costs and hazards associated with every choice and so these questions are unavoidable. There are no risk-free, cost-free solutions.

Some deny this basic reality. Certain environmental groups claim to have plans which would allow us to do away entirely with coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power over the next several decades. Renewable energy would replace them all. The cost would be minimal. Indeed, it would spur innovation and produce millions of new jobs.

It would be wonderful if it were possible. Unfortunately, it’s not. One of the world’s leading energy experts, Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, has called these claims “not just naive [but] profoundly irresponsible.”

But Smil also criticizes those at the other extreme, who see nothing undesirable about the status quo and believe any significant shift to renewable energy would be prohibitively expensive.

We can do better. But it requires that we first understand basic realities, including the most basic: There are costs and risks in everything.

ENDS

Ekonomisuto gives better articles on effects of both NJ leaving Japan and tourists avoiding Japan

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Hi Blog.  The Ekonomisuto Weekly of March 26, 2011, devotes three pages to the effects of the Fukushima Disasters on both Japan’s tourism/export and NJ labor markets.  Scans below, courtesy of MS.  In the vein of how Japanese media coverage has been unsympathetic, even critical, of NJ leaving Japan, page three is of particular note.  It offers harder numbers of NJ departures (although again with no comparison with Japanese movement), does not stoop to a tone of blame, and even accepts that NJ have a choice to work in other countries, so Japan had better take some measures to make itself more attractive to NJ labor or else.  That’s more like it.

I have long found the policymaking attitude of “working in Japan should be its own reward, so we needn’t try to make things more hospitable for foreign labor” puzzling, so this article is refreshing.  I’ll be dealing with that attitude in part in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column, to be published in the Tuesday, May 3 edition of the JT.  Enjoy.  Arudou Debito

Mainichi: “Industries left short-handed after NJ workers flee Japan following nuke accident”

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another article tying together more pinpoint data of NJ leaving Japan, with a focus on Chinese.  Spare a tear for those poor, poor Japanese industries who took advantage of so many cheap temporary NJ workers, and are now crying because the NJ aren’t sticking around to be potentially irradiated as well as exploited.  Arudou Debito

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Industries left short-handed after foreign workers flee Japan following nuke accident
(Mainichi Japan) April 25, 2011, courtesy of MS
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110425p2a00m0na022000c.html

Tens of thousands of worried foreign workers left Japan shortly after a crisis at the nuclear power plant that was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, causing serious labor shortages in some industries.

After foreign governments lifted their temporary evacuation advisories issued in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, many Americans and Europeans started coming back to Japan, albeit gradually. But workers from neighboring countries such as China have yet to do so.

Chinese people in particular — mostly students and trainees — had occupied key parts of the workforce in many Japanese industries, and therefore if they continue to stay out of Japan for an extended period of time, they could have a grave impact on the industries and force firms to review their business strategies or cut production.

“We are closed for a while,” said a notice written in rather awkward Japanese pasted on the shutter door of a Chinese restaurant slightly away form the main street of Yokohama Chinatown, the biggest Chinese quarter in Japan.

According to the cooperative association of shop owners in Chinatown, of the total of 2,500 people working there, about 300 of them, mainly part-time workers and students from China, returned to their country. As a result, about 10 out of some 320 stores, including souvenir shops, had to suspend their business operations.

The number of visitors to Chinatown at present accounts for about 80 percent of figures before the disaster, according to Kensei Hayashi, head of the cooperative association. There are shops that have enough labor to conduct business now, but they are stretched. While Chinatown hopes to see more people visiting the quarter the way they used to, there are growing concerns that an acute labor shortage could hit the town hard.

At Yoshinoya, a major beef bowl restaurant chain in Japan, about 200 foreign part-time workers including Chinese students, or about one-fourth of the total number of such workers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, quit their jobs in the first week after the March 11 disaster. The restaurant chain has managed to continue to operate by sending its employees to the shops from stores in other areas and hiring new workers.

Lawson, a major convenience store chain in Japan, also saw a number of foreign students quitting their part-time jobs at its stores in central Tokyo, but it has managed to keep its stores open by dispatching employees from headquarters. One Chinese person who had been set to work for Lawson from spring turned down the job offer.

A large number of foreign companies operating in Japan urged their employees to evacuate to areas outside Tokyo or abroad in the wake of the nuclear disaster. But some signs are emerging now that the situation is subsiding. Those companies that moved their offices to the Kansai region or elsewhere temporarily have started moving their offices back to Tokyo.

At Berlitz, a major English conversation school in Japan, the number of foreign instructors dropped by 30 to 40 percent immediately after the earthquake, but it has come back to about 90 percent of the total workforce it had before the disaster.

In the case of Chinese workers, many of them are students or trainees, and therefore it is often difficult for them to secure enough money to return to Japan. There are cases of “worrisome parents not letting them return to the country,” said a Chinese resident of Japan. Such being the case, it is unlikely that they will return to their workplaces in Japan anytime soon.

Japan’s sewing industry, which had accepted more than 40,000 trainees from China, saw them returning to their country in droves in the wake of the nuclear crisis. The Japan Textile Federation says about 30,000 Chinese trainees remain in their home country. Each company in the industry is required to keep the number of Chinese trainees below about 20 percent of its total workforce, but if the current situation were to continue, the industry as a whole would likely be forced to cut production drastically.

If the sewing industry were to fall into stagnation, the entire textile industry, including clothing, yarn and dyeing sectors, would suffer serious damage. “While production is being shifted abroad, the domestic industry in Japan has been able to survive by making high-quality and high-value-added products. But the industry could fall apart due to the earthquake disaster and the nuclear accident,” says the Japan Textile Federation.
ENDS

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

Original Japanese story
原発事故:戻らぬ中国人労働者 縫製業は減産も
http://mainichi.jp/select/photo/news/20110425k0000m040086000c.html

東日本大震災と東京電力・福島第1原子力発電所事故の影響で、日本国内で働いていた外国人労働者が大量に国外流出した影響が深刻化している。原発事故後に一時、東日本や日本からの避難勧告を出した国々は勧告を解除し、欧米系の外国人は徐々に戻りつつあるが、中国など近隣のアジア系外国人の戻りは鈍いままだ。特に中国人は、留学生や実習生を貴重な戦力として活用していた業界が多く、長期化すれば営業体制の見直しや生産の停滞など大きな影響を与えかねない事態になっている。【小倉祥徳】

「しばらく休みしていたたきと申します」--。日本最大の中華街である横浜中華街(横浜市)。大通りから少し外れた場所にある中華料理店では22日、シャッターが閉じられ、不慣れな日本語で営業停止を告げる張り紙がしてあった。

中華街に出店する店舗経営者らで作る横浜中華街発展会協同組合によると、震災と原発事故の後、地域で働く中国人2500人のうち、アルバイトの留学生など約300人が帰国。その影響で、土産店などを含む約320店舗中、10店舗程度が営業停止を余儀なくされた。

来客数は「震災前の8割程度しか戻っていない」(同組合の林兼正理事長)ため、営業を続けている店も今は人繰りがついているが、綱渡りの状態だ。中華街としては来客数の早期回復を願うものの、人手不足が一気に問題化することへの懸念も広がっている。

大手牛丼チェーンの吉野家では震災後1週間で、中国人留学生など首都圏の店舗で働く外国人アルバイトの4分の1にあたる約200人が辞めた。同社は近隣店舗からの応援を出す一方、新たに募集を行い、何とか営業を維持している。コンビニエンスストア大手のローソンでも、東京都心部の店舗で一時、アルバイト留学生の帰国が相次ぎ、本部から応援要員を派遣して、営業を維持した。同社では今春入社予定の中国人正社員1人が入社を辞退している。

外資系企業でも原発事故後、首都圏外や日本国外へ社員を避難させる動きが相次いだが、一時関西などに移転していたオフィスを東京に戻すなど、沈静化の動きもみられる。英会話教室大手のベルリッツも、震災直後は外国人講師が3~4割減ったが、現在は9割程度まで戻っているという。一方で中国人の場合、留学生や実習生など若年層が多く、再渡航の費用確保が難しかったり、「親が心配して日本に戻さない」(在日中国人)ケースが多いとみられ、職場復帰の動きは鈍い。

4万人強の中国人実習生を受け入れていた縫製業界は、原発事故後に帰国ラッシュが起き、いまだに「約3万人が帰国したまま」(日本繊維産業連盟)の状態だという。各事業者の受け入れ人数は全従業員の約2割以下と上限はあるが、現状のまま推移すれば、業界全体として大幅な生産減は避けられない見通しだ。

縫製業が滞れば、生地や糸の製造、染色など繊維業界全体が大きな打撃を受けかねず、同連盟は「海外への生産移転が進む中、高級・高付加価値製品の生産で生き残ってきたのに、今回の震災と原発事故でまたガタガタになりかねない」と危機感を強めている。
ENDS

Donald Keene to naturalize, in a show of solidarity with the Japanese people, at age 88.

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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Hi Blog.  A bit of a break from charting the arc of how the J media is bashing NJ as deserters:

Octogenarian scholar and Japan specialist Donald Keene has announced his intention to become a Japanese citizen, and move to Japan in light of the Tohoku Disasters.  Well, good for him.

Submitter JK notes, “While I respect Keene’s accomplishments as an academic, I can’t help but feel that his writings are a reflection of a person inhabiting a self-constructed bubble Japan whose universe is made up of haiku masters, poets, and scholars.”  There are also a few comments on Japan Probe that make light of his (in)decision given his advanced age.

A bit harsh, but I do find the logic — of linking a show of solidarity in the face of a crisis with a decision as personal as changing one’s nationality (and in Japan’s case, abrogating one’s former nationality) — a bit discomfiting.  As per Keene’s comments below, he’s basically falling into the ancient bad habit (a la Lafcadio Hearn’s day) of treating the Japanese people as monolithic.  Plus he won’t have to live quite as long with his (last-minute) decision compared to younger people who really plighted their troth here and naturalized.  A nice, but oddly-reasoned, gesture on Keene’s part.  Arudou Debito

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‘I want to be with Japan’ / Donald Keene discusses plan to relocate, become citizen
Michinobu Yanagisawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
(Apr. 24, 2011) Courtesy of JK
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20110423dy02.htm

NEW YORK–Renowned expert in Japanese literature and culture Donald Keene, who recently announced his intention to gain Japanese citizenship and move permanently to Tokyo, wants to “be with the Japanese people,” he told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Keene, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, said the Great East Japan Earthquake had inspired the decision.

“Japan will surely resurrect itself from the disaster to become an even more splendid country than before, I believe,” the 88-year-old, speaking in Japanese, said in an interview held Friday at his home in New York. “So I’ll be moving to Japan in a positive frame of mind.”

Keene said he will shift to Kita Ward, Tokyo, where he has owned a home for more than 30 years, by September.

Born in New York in 1922, Keene attended Columbia University, where he became fascinated with Japanese culture after reading an English translation of “The Tale of Genji.”

He later served as an interpreter during the Battle of Okinawa in the closing days of the Pacific War.

Keene has traveled through the Tohoku region many times, including some research trips for “The Narrow Road to Oku,” his English translation of the classic work of literature “Oku no Hosomichi,” by haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644-1694).

While studying in Japan, “I was surrounded by many people who warmly extended a helping hand to me,” Keene said.

By obtaining Japanese citizenship, “I’d like to convey my sense of gratitude to the Japanese people, which I’ve so far been unable to do,” he said.

Referring to reactions in the United States to the earthquake, tsunami and aftermath, including the nuclear crisis, Keene said, “Not a few people in the United States have been moved to learn Japanese people are doing their utmost to rebuild.”

Even Americans who had no particular interest in Japan before March 11 have been impressed by Japanese people’s composure in the wake of the disaster, he said.

“Americans have never felt such a strong affinity with Japan before,” Keene pointed out.

“I’ve made up my mind to become a Japanese citizen to be together with the Japanese people. I believe although words are important, of course, action is even more important,” Keene said.

“My decision to become a Japanese citizen is the manifestation of my expectations and convictions,” he said, explaining that he had a positive outlook for Japan.

“When I returned to Tokyo eight years after World War II, Japan had revived to become a far different country from what I’d seen just after the war’s end. I’m convinced Japan will become an even more wonderful nation by weathering the hardships of this disaster,” he said.

Keene recalled a tour of the Tohoku region in 1955 to research “Oku no Hosomichi.” “The view of a cluster of islets from the second floor of an inn in Matsushima [in Miyagi Prefecture] was unforgettably beautiful,” he said.

“I think there may be no structure in the world as beautiful as the Chusonji temple [in Iwate Prefecture], so I wonder why UNESCO has repeatedly failed to designate the temple as a World Heritage site,” Keene said.

“I think how terrible it is that the Tohoku region, full of such beautiful places and temples, has been hit so hard by the earthquake and tsunami,” he lamented.

Looking back on his interaction with Japanese poets and writers, Keene referenced the poet and author Jun Takami. Near the end of the Pacific War, Takami wrote in his diary of being deeply moved by the sight of people waiting patiently at Tokyo’s Ueno Station, trying to get to the safety of the countryside.

“I want to live together with these people and share death with them, as I love Japan and believe in Japan,” Keene said, quoting Takami.

“I now feel better able to understand Mr. Takami’s feelings,” he said.

Keene said his lawyer has already begun procedures for obtaining Japanese nationality.

He stressed that living in Japan would bring the most meaning to the rest of his life. He plans to spend time writing biographies of Hiraga Gennai (1728-1780), a scholar of Western studies in the Edo period (1603-1868), and Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912), a poet in the Meiji era (1868-1912).

In the 1950s, Keene studied at the postgraduate school of Kyoto University. He forged friendships with such literary giants as Yukio Mishima, Junichiro Tanizaki and Kobo Abe.

In 2008, Keene was given the Order of Culture by the Japanese government in recognition of his contributions to promoting Japanese literature and culture in Europe and the United States.
ENDS

Nikkei reports on the effect of “nihon saru gaikokujin”, aka Fly-jin, with some pretty shaky journalistic practices

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s yet another article from a more reputable source, the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, talking about the phenomenon of NJ allegedly leaving Japan behind and having an adverse effect on Japan’s economy.

For the record, I don’t doubt that NJ have left Japan due to the Tohoku Disasters.  I just have my doubts that a) it’s any more significant than the Japanese who also left, yet get less nasty media coverage (I have yet to see an article comparing both J and NJ “flight” in terms of numbers), b) it’s worth blaming NJ for leaving, since Japanese overseas would probably do much the same if advised to do so by their government in the face of a disaster, and c) the media is actually doing their job investigating sources to nail down the exact statistics.  Let’s see how the Nikkei does below:

Some bogus journalistic practices unbecoming of something as trusted as the Nikkei, to wit:

  1. Providing a generic photo of people drinking at a Tokyo izakaya and claiming that they’re talking about repatriating NJ (that’s quite simply yarase).
  2. Providing a chart of annual numbers (where the total numbers of NJ dropped in 2009 in part due to the GOJ bribing unemployed Brazilian workers to leave), which is unrelated to the Tohoku Disasters.
  3. Relying on piecemeal sources (cobbling numbers together from Xinhua, some part-timer food chains, an eikaiwa, a prefectural employment agency for “Trainee” slave labor, and other pinpoint sources) that do not necessarily add up to a trend or a total.
  4. Finishing their sentences with the great linguistic hedgers, extrapolators, and speculators (in place of harder sources), including  “…to mirareru“, “… sou da“, “there are cases of…” etc.  All are great indicators that the article is running on fumes in terms of data.
  5. Portraying Japanese companies as victimized by deserting NJ workers, rather than observing that NJ thus far, to say the least, have helped Japan avoid its labor shortage (how about a more positive, grateful tone towards NJ labor?, is what I’m asking for).
  6. And as always, not comparing their numbers with numbers of Japanese exiting.  Although the article avoids the more hectoring tone of other sources I’ve listed on Debito.org, it still makes it seems like the putative Great Flyjin Exodus is leaving Japan high and dry.  No mention of course in the article of how many of these NJ might also be leaving Japan because they have no stake in it, i.e. are stuck in a dead-end or part-time job with no hope of promotion, advancement, or leadership within their corporate sector.

Once again, it’s pretty flawed social science.  The Nikkei could, and should, do better, and if even the Nikkei of all media venues can’t, that says something bad about Japanese journalism when dealing with ethnic issues.  Read the article for yourself.  Arudou Debito

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日本去る外国人労働者 原発事故を懸念
人手不足が問題に 外食やITなど幅広い業種
日本経済新聞 2011/4/9 22:39, courtesy of YK
http://www.nikkei.com/news/category/article/g=96958A9C93819691E2EBE2E2E48DE2EBE2E6E0E2E3E39C9CEAE2E2E2;at=DGXZZO0195164008122009000000 (free registry)

外国人の帰国急増で人手の確保が課題になっている(都内の居酒屋)

外国人の帰国急増で人手の確保が課題になっている(都内の居酒屋)

東日本大震災の被害の拡大を受け、外食や農業、IT(情報技術)など幅広い産業の分野で人手不足が問題になっている。福島第1原子力発電所の事故を不安視し、労働力の担い手だった中国人など外国人の帰国が増えているためだ。一時に比べると状況が落ち着き、再び日本に戻るケースも出ているが、企業などは想定外の「供給不安」に直面し、新たな対策が求められている。

法務省入国管理局によると、外国人登録者数は218万6121人(2009年末)。中でも約68万人と最も多い中国人は日本の少子高齢化に伴い労働力として役割が高まっていた。原発事故の発生後、帰国者が急増。3月20日の新華社によると、中国政府は航空便を増やし約9300人の中国人を自国に戻した。

成田空港では在留外国人が一時的な出国をする際に行う再入国許可申請に関する特別な窓口を設置し、3月11日から22日までの期間に約6千人の申請があった。多くは緊急避難を理由にした出国とみられる。

直撃を受けたのは接客スタッフに多くの外国人を雇う外食産業だ。ラーメンチェーン「日高屋」を展開するハイデイ日高では東日本大震災の発生後、約1500人いる外国人従業員のうちおよそ半数が母国などに一時帰国した。人繰りが難しくなり、一部店舗では営業時間を短縮した。

居酒屋のつぼ八でも韓国人や中国人などの外国人従業員が母国に戻るケースが続出。震災直後は客数が落ち込んでいたため、残りの従業員だけで営業を継続した。

外食や小売りは営業時間が深夜に及ぶなど労働条件の厳しさが目立ち、慢性的な人手不足に悩む。多くの企業では外国人が徐々に日本に戻ってきているものの、「今後、日本人従業員の採用に力を入れていく」(ハイデイ日高)。人手不足が長引けば、賃金の上昇にもつながりそうだ。

外国人の帰国問題は農場にも影を落とす。茨城県農業協同組合中央会の緊急調査によると、同県で農協が仲介して働いている技能実習生は3月10日に1591人いたが、そのうち387人は3月末までに帰国した。大半は中国人だ。

県農協中央会には生産者から「出荷間近で人手が欲しい」などの要望が殺到している。農場に残った日本人が、帰国した外国人に代わって長時間働くしかないのが現状だ。同中央会が働き手として期待するのは、地震で被災して生産を続けることができなくなった東北の生産者たち。「広域で人材を募集し、受け入れる仕組みが民間にはない。国の支援がほしい」(教育経営部)と訴える。

一定の技能を要する分野でも外国人の帰国による人手不足に見舞われた。

語学教室を展開するベルリッツ・ジャパン(東京・港)では東京地区の欧米を中心とした約800人の外国人講師のうち、震災直後に4割程度が帰国などで関東を離れたという。現在は徐々に講師が戻ってきており「教室運営に支障は出ていない」(同社)としているが、なお1割程度の講師が不在という。

インドと中国でシステム開発を手がけるあるIT企業は、現地の技術者と日本の経営層をつなぐ通訳のスタッフが放射線の影響を懸念して続々と帰国。海外での開発自体に遅れが生じている。開発拠点の海外移転に伴い人数を削減してきた日本人正社員の負担が増しているという。

ENDS

Zakzak headlines that NJ part-time staff flee Yoshinoya restaurant chain, and somehow threaten its profitability

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. More on the Open Season on NJ. Here is Internet news site Zakzak headlining that Yoshinoya, famous beef bowl chain restaurant, is being affected by the “big-volume escaping of NJ part-timers”.  It apparently has lost a quarter of its NJ staff (over 800 souls) fleeing from the fears of radiation from the Tohoku Disasters. Then Zakzak gives us the mixed news that Yoshinoya is still profitable compared to its losses the same period a year ago, but is expected to take a hit to its profits from the Disasters.

Not sure how that relates, but again, the headline is that NJ are fleeing and that it’s raising doubts about whether the company is still “okay”. Even though Zakzak notes that the company is filling in the gaps with Japanese employees (er, so no worries, right?  The Disasters, not the alleged NJ flight, are the bigger threat to solvency, no?).  So… journalistically, we’ll hang the newsworthiness of a company’s profitability on the peg of “escaping NJ”?

If we’re going to have this much NJ bashing, how about an acknowledgement of how much NJ labor has meant to Japan and how we’re thankful for it, so please don’t leave?

Nah, easier to bash them.  Takes the heat off the company for their own variably profitable business practices, and creates more attractive headlines for the media.  It’s a win-win situation against the bullied and disenfranchised minority.  Arudou Debito

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大量に逃げた外国人バイト…「吉野家」大丈夫か?
2011.04.15, Courtesy YK
http://www.zakzak.co.jp/society/domestic/news/20110415/dms1104151556016-n1.htm

こんなところにも震災ショックが!! 傘下の牛丼チェーン「吉野家」で働く首都圏の外国人アルバイトが、福島第1原発事故後の約1週間で約200人も退職した。放射性物質への不安から帰国した人が多かったとみられる。

吉野家ホールディングスの安部修仁社長が明らかにしたもので、退職したのは、首都圏で登録している外国人アルバイト800人強の4分の1に相当する。欠員はその後、新たに雇うことで補充しているという。

同社の2011年2月期の連結決算は、純利益が前年度の89億円の赤字から3億円の黒字に転じた。12年2月期の連結純利益予想は10億円で、震災がなければ22億円を見込めたという。こちらも震災の打撃を受けそうだ。
ENDS

Fukushima Japanese refused service at hotels etc., plus famous excluder/embezzler Toyoko Inn up to old tricks; requires guests unlawfully sign waivers just to stay

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Two articles of note for today.  One is from the Yomiuri about the Toyoko Inn, that hotel with a history of not only embezzling monies earmarked for Barrier-Free facilities for handicapped clients, but also wantonly racially profiling and unlawfully refusing entry to NJ clients.  Less than a week after the Tohoku Disasters, the Yomiuri reports, Toyoko Inns in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki Prefectures were requiring customers to sign waiver contracts, absolving Toyoko of any responsibility should disaster strike.  No signature means you couldn’t get accommodation, which is under the Hotel Management Law (and the Consumer Contract Law, mentioned below), unlawful.  What a piece of work Toyoko Inn is.  Again, hotels doing things like this deserve to be boycotted for bad business practices.

(One more article after this one.)

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誓約書にサインしないと泊まれない東横イン

読売新聞2011年3月18日 Courtesy MS

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20110318-OYT1T00535.htm

『大手ビジネスホテルチェーン「東横イン」(東京都大田区)が東日本巨大地震の発生直後から被災地の岩手、宮城、福島、茨城県のホテルで宿泊客に対し、天災時の損害賠償請求を放棄することを求めた誓約書へのサインを義務づけていることがわかった。

消費者庁企画課は「ホテルの都合で宿泊者に一方的な不利益になる条項は問題」としている。

同社の誓約書は、「天災による宿泊時の被害、損害等の自己責任について」と題したA4判の文書。文面には「天災による被害、損害を被っても自己責任であり、貴ホテルに対して損害賠償請求を行うことは一切ありません」と記され、チェックインの際に署名しないと宿泊を断られる。地震発生後の12日から実施している。岩手県内にある同チェーンのホテルの従業員は「本社の指示で地震の直後からサインがないとだめになった」と説明する。

消費者契約法では、事業者の損害賠償の責任を免除する条項や消費者の利益を不当に害する条項は無効としている。

東横イン本社広報部は、エレベーター停止や断水を想定した誓約書で、建物倒壊や備品落下によるけがなどへの賠償を免れる意味ではないとしており、「宿泊者に不快な思いをさせたら申し訳ない。各ホテルに丁寧な説明をするよう徹底する」としている。』

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Then there are the knee-jerk hotels in Japan who go into spasm to deny service whenever possible.  If it’s the case of NJ guests (27% of Japanese hotels surveyed, according to a 2008 GOJ survey, indicated they want no NJ guests at all), things get even more spastic:  Either a) they Japanese hotels get deputized by the NPA to racially profile their clients, refusing foreign-looking people entry if they don’t show legally-unnecessary ID, or b) they put signs up to refuse NJ clients entry because they feel they “can’t offer sufficient service” (seriously), or c) they refuse NJ because of whatever “safety issue” they can dredge up, including the threat of theft and terrorism, or even d) they get promoted by government tourist agencies despite unlawfully having exclusionary policies.  What a mess Japan’s hotel industry is.

As for Japanese guests?  Not always better.  Here’s the latest mutation:  The Yomiuri reports places are refusing Japanese people too from irradiated Fukushima Prefecture because they think they might be glowing:

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「福島県民お断り」入店・宿泊、風評被害相次ぐ

読売新聞2011年4月9日 Courtesy ADW

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20110409-OYT1T00054.htm

「福島県民お断り」――。

東京電力福島第一原子力発電所の放射能漏れ事故で多くの避難者が出ている福島県の災害対策本部会議で8日、風評被害の事例が報告された。

放射線に関する県の相談窓口に寄せられたもので、ある運送業者から「他県のガソリンスタンドに『福島県民お断り』との貼り紙があった」という相談があった。ほかにも、福島県民であることを理由に、「レストランで入店を断られた」「ホテルに宿泊できなかった」「車に落書きされた」などの被害があったという。

県によると、3月17日の窓口開設から8日朝までに計6967件の相談があり、うち162件が風評被害に関するもの。県は風評被害払拭のため、これまで国に対して正確な情報発信に努めるよう要請している。

(2011年4月9日09時14分 読売新聞)

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As the article lays out, it’s not just a hotel (although hotels have a particular responsibility, even under the law, to offer refuge and rest to the paying public).  A gas station reportedly had a sign up refusing Fukushima Kenmin (they must think Fukushimans spark!), while complaints came in to official soudan madoguchi that a restaurant refused Fukushimans entry and someone had his car defaced.  In all, 162 complaints reportedly came in regarding fuhyou higai, or roughly “damages due to disreputation” of being tarred by the disasters.  Now that’s an interesting word for a nasty phenomenon.

Good news is that these problems are at least being reported in the media as a social problem, and Fukushima Prefecture is asking the national government to address them.  Let’s hope the GOJ takes measures to protect Fukushima et.al. from further exposure to “fuhyou” and discrimination.  Might be a template for getting the same for NJ.

(Okay, probably not, but it’s still the right thing to do.)  Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 15, 2011

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 15, 2011
SPECIAL ON THE DISASTERS IN TOHOKU

Hi Blog. Here is a sampling of some of the articles that appeared on Debito.org (which took a break from hiatus briefly) regarding the March earthquake and the aftermath, particularly how it affected NJ in Japan.

Table of Contents:
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NJ PORTRAYED AS PART OF THE PROBLEM

1) Asahi Tensei Jingo (Vox Populi) Mar 20 offers ponderous column with gratuitous alienation of NJ
2) Wall Street Journal joins in bashing alleged NJ “fly-jin exodus”: “Expatriates tiptoe back to the office”
3) Tokyo Sports Shinbun blames closure of Tokyo Disneyland not on power outages, but on NJ!
4) Rumors of “Foreign Crime Gangs”; rapes and muggings, while tabloids headline “all NJ have flown Japan” etc.
5) SNA: “GOJ targets harmful internet rumors”, including the earthquake being caused by foreign terrorism
6) Tokyo Governor Election April 10 posts “expel the barbarians, Japan for the Japanese” openly xenophobic candidate, gets over 6000 votes

NJ AS PART OF THE SOLUTION

7) NJ helping Japan during this crisis: James Gibbs on his Miyagi Rescue Efforts
8 ) John Harris on how Coca Cola could help Japan save a nuclear power plant’s worth of power: Switch off their 5.5 million vending machines
9) Thinking of donating blood in Japan? Mutantfrog translates the regulations on who can’t.

RELATED ARTICLES OF NOTE

9) Tokyo Gov Ishihara calls the tsunami “divine punishment” to wipe out the “egoism” of Japan. Yet wins reelection.
10) The Nation.com on Tohoku Earthquake has shaken Japan Inc.
11) AOL News: WikiLeaks: Cables Show Japan Was Warned About Nuclear Plant Safety
12) Weekend Tangent: NYT: “Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job” in Japan’s nuclear industry
13) Japanese cartoon for kids depicting Fukushima nuclear issue as power plants with constipation!

… and finally…

14) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 38, April 5, 2011 on Tohoku: “Letting radiation leak, but never information”

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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org
Freely Forwardable

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NJ PORTRAYED AS PART OF THE PROBLEM

1) Asahi Tensei Jingo (Vox Populi) Mar 20 offers ponderous column with gratuitous alienation of NJ

Check out this Asahi Shinbun editorial (Japanese, then English), which offers an assessment of the victimization of Japan by 3/11, and insinuates that NJ in Japan are deserting us in our time of need:

Asahi Shinbun column Mar 20, 2011: This past weekend, there were fewer foreigners than usual to be seen in Tokyo’s typically busy Ginza and Omotesando districts. Not just tourists from abroad scrambled to leave Japan, but also business travelers, students and reportedly even diplomats.

While I am deeply grateful to people around the world for their moral and material support, I understand too well that rebuilding our country is ultimately the task of none but the Japanese…

Let us all believe that, and let us stand by our fellow citizens who survived the catastrophe. We have nowhere to go back to, except this country of ours, which we must rebuild again out of the rubble.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8713

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2) Wall Street Journal joins in bashing alleged NJ “fly-jin exodus”: “Expatriates tiptoe back to the office”

Here we have the Wall Street Journal joining in the NJ bashfest, publicizing the word “flyjin” for the Japanese market too (making one question the claim that the pejorative is restricted to the English-language market). Gotta love the Narita airport photo within that is deftly timed to make it seem as if it’s mostly NJ fleeing. “Good-natured hazing” is how one investment banker puts it below, making one wonder if he knows what hazing means. Anyway, here’s another non-good-natured article about how the aftershocks of the earthquake are affecting NJ.

WSJ: The flight of the foreigners — known as gaijin in Japanese — has polarized some offices in Tokyo. Last week, departures from Japan reached a fever pitch after the U.S. Embassy unveiled a voluntary evacuation notice and sent in planes to ferry Americans to safe havens. In the exodus, a new term was coined for foreigners fleeing Japan: flyjin.

The expat employees’ decision to leave is a sensitive cultural issue in a country known for its legions of “salarymen”: loyal Japanese employees whose lives revolve around the office, who regularly work overtime and who have strong, emotional ties to their corporations and their colleagues.

“There is a split between [the Japanese and foreigners] on where their allegiances lie. In Japan, the company and family are almost one and the same, whereas foreigners place family first and company second,” said Mark Pink, the founder of financial recruitment firm TopMoneyJobs.com, based in Tokyo.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8738

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3) Tokyo Sports Shinbun blames closure of Tokyo Disneyland not on power outages, but on NJ!

Debito.org is pleased to announce another Japan Official(TM) Open Season on NJ. We get these fads occasionally, like “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003), “NJ are criminals” (2000-4).

Now, with the advent of “Fly-jin” (or the variant “Bye-jin” — which is better, some might retort, than being “Die-jin”), it’s now “NJ are deserters”. And they can be conveniently blamed for various social ills. Here, I’ll anticipate a couple:

1) “Fly-jin” are responsible for Japan’s lack of English ability because they fled their posts as English teachers. (Not so far-fetched, since they have been blamed in the past for the same thing because conversely “NJ have been in Japan too long”)…

2) “Fly-jin” are responsible for our fruits and vegetables becoming more expensive, since NJ “Trainees” deserted their posts as slaves on Japanese farms and left things rotting on the vine…

3) “Fly-jin” are responsible for a further decrease in Japan’s population, since some of them took Japanese citizens with them when they deserted Japan…

4) “Fly-jin” are responsible for a downtick in Japan’s shipping industry, since NJ accounted for 90% of Japan’s maritime crews…

5) “Fly-jin” are responsible for diplomatic snafus, since our NJ proofreaders at national government agencies did a runner…

Okay, that’s still fiction. But who says people in Japan aren’t creative? I never anticipated NJ being blamed for the closure of Tokyo Disneyland, as the Tokyo Sports Shinbun does on April 14, 2011:

No, it’s not due to power outages or rolling blackouts or anything like that. They have to have NJ faces as dancers and people in parades, therefore no parade, no Tokyo Disneyland. We’re closed, and it’s your fault, NJ. Makes perfect sense, right? Enjoy the Open Season on you, NJ, while it lasts. I anticipate it’ll dissipate with the radiation levels someday.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8775

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4) Rumors of “Foreign Crime Gangs”; rapes and muggings, while tabloids headline “all NJ have flown Japan” etc.

As promised, here we have a record of how domestic media is either reporting on nasty rumors denigrating NJ, or circulating those nasty rumors themselves. The GOJ is taking measures to quell the clacking keyboards, but the tabloids (roundly decried for spreading exaggerated information overseas about the state of radioactivity from Fukushima) are still selling papers by targeting NJ regardless. (There’s a lot of text in Japanese below; keep paging down. Brief comments in English sandwiched between.)

First, the Asahi and Sankei report “dema” swirling about saying that foreigners are forming criminal gangs (echoes of 1923’s rumored Korean well poisonings, which lead to massacres) and carrying out muggings and rapes. Yet Sankei (yes, even the Sankei) publishes that there hasn’t been a single reported case (glad they’re setting the record straight):

The GOJ is also playing a part in quelling and deleting internet rumors, thank goodness: Still, that doesn’t stop other media from headlining other (and still nasty) rumors about how (bad) NJ are heading south towards Tokyo (soon rendering Ueno into a lawless zone). Or that NJ are all just getting the hell out:

Fellow Blogger Hoofin has made an attempt to mathematically debunk this alleged phenomenon of “Fly-Jin”, noting that the person to coin this phrase has since commented with a bit of regret at being the butterfly flapping his wings and setting this rhetorical shitstorm in motion (much like GOJ shill Robert Angel regretting ever coining the word “Japan bashing”). We have enough anti-NJ rhetorical tendencies in Japan without the NJ community contributing, thank you very much.

Besides (as other Debito.org Readers have pointed out), if the shoe was on the other foot, do you think Japanese citizens living overseas would refuse to consider repatriating themselves out of a stricken disaster area (and do you think the media of that stricken country would zero in on them with the same nasty verve?).

Meanwhile, xenophobic websites continue to rail and rant against NJ, since hate speech in Japan is not an illegal activity: Here’s but one example (which has escaped the notice of the GOJ as yet, calling for the execution of foreign criminals and throwing their bodies into the sea); I’m sure readers can find more and post them in the Comments Section below:

People always need someone to blame or speak ill of, I guess. I’ll talk more soon about how Japanese from Fukushima are also being targeted for exclusion. However, it seems that hate speech directed towards NJ is less “discriminate”, so to speak — in that it doesn’t matter where you came from, how long you’ve been here, or what you’re doing or have done for Japan; as long as you’re foreign in Japan, you’re suspect and potentially subversive. Just as long as one can anonymously bad-mouth other people in billets and online, one can get away with it. Again, this is why we have laws against hate speech in other countries — to stem these nasty tendencies found in every society.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8711

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5) SNA: “GOJ targets harmful internet rumors”, including the earthquake being caused by foreign terrorism

SNA: A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the March 11 disaster.

Specifically, these government organizations asserted in a press release that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and that the government must take steps against this trend for the sake of the public good…

The Telecom Services Association reveals that the following requests have thus far come from the government:

March 17: Erase descriptions of the earthquake as a man-made event
March 24: Erase descriptions about the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactors
March 28: Erase claim that the earthquake was caused by foreign terrorism…

COMMENT: Here we have GOJ agencies working to stem malicious rumors from proliferating online, including those targeting NJ. Good. It’s also presented (by a news blog) as a debate between those who feel they have a right to know (and feel betrayed by the official media as an information source) and those who feel they can say anything they like about anybody thanks to freedom of speech. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but I’m glad to see somebody official trying to tackle (or, rather, at least thinking about tackling) the issue of hate speech against NJ. But without clear legal guidelines about what constitutes “hate speech” (or for that matter, “immoral information”) in Japan, those who don’t trust the government will no doubt foresee a wave of official censorship.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8785

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6) Tokyo Governor Election April 10 posts “expel the barbarians, Japan for the Japanese” openly xenophobic candidate, gets over 6000 votes

Let’s now start looking at some aspects of what appears to be a Post 3-11 Backlash against NJ. Let’s start with the Tokyo Governor’s Election, due April 10.

We already have one overtly racist incumbent, Ishihara Shintaro, whom I’ve heard is alas the favorite to win, again. But also on the bill is this noticeably nasty candidate Furukawa Keigo, who advocates by his very slogan the expulsion of foreigners from his jurisdictions (pedants might counter that he’s only referring to Chinese and Koreans, but a) that doesn’t make it any better, and b) you think he’s only stopping there?).

Here’s Furukawa’s public campaign announcement:

Safeguard the capital. Safeguard Japan. Japan belongs to the Japanese people.

Now more than ever, we should resolutely expel the foreign barbarians

Eject foreigners from Tokyo.
(By foreigners, I mean mainly Chinese (the pejorative “Shinajin” used for this) and north and south Koreans. In other words, the foreigners who are thought to be causing harm to Japan.

1. Change the law so that foreigners cannot purchase land in Tokyo-to.
2. Absolutely opposed to voting rights for foreigners!!
3. Ban the the use of officially recognized Japanese aliases used by so-called “Zainichi” Koreans.
4. Make conversion of pachinko shop premiums into cash illegal…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8726

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NJ AS PART OF THE SOLUTION

7) NJ helping Japan during this crisis: James Gibbs on his Miyagi Rescue Efforts

As I shift the focus of Debito.org to how NJ residents are being bashed in Japan post 3-11 despite their best efforts, it’s first prudent to start giving an example or two of how NJ are actually trying to help. Others who are similarly helping out are welcome to submit their stories here either by email (debito@debito.org) or as a comment below. Well done, James. Debito

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

Report on the Miyagi trip this past Sunday after our Saturday fundraising efforts.
By James Gibbs. April 1, 2011

After holding a fundraising event on Mar.26, the following day we delivered donated items along with a fully-loaded van of food and clothes to Onagawa next to Ishinomaki City, which is just north of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. I’ve made the following brief report on the trip along with first-hand observations on the situation and suggestions for future assistance as I know everyone is wanting to do something to help…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8721

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8 ) John Harris on how Coca Cola could help Japan save a nuclear power plant’s worth of power: Switch off their 5.5 million vending machines

John Harris writes: Across eastern Japan we are experiencing rolling power cuts and train service cuts to compensate for the nuclear plant outages. This interruption of normal life hugely ramps up public anxiety.

In the midst of all this, the 5,510,000 vending machines across Japan* are still operating. According to a report I read years ago, these machines require electricity equivalent to the output of an entire nuclear power plant.

The most power-hungry are the soft-drink machines that have both refrigeration and heating (for hot canned coffee). Coca-Cola has perhaps the largest network of beverage machines across Japan. Unlike domestic rivals, as a global company Coca-Cola must listen to consumers around the world. So if concerned Americans, Canadians, Europeans and everyone else speak up forcefully, Coke must act. And Japanese domestic operators will be forced to follow suit.

So, please, spread this message via email, Twitter and Facebook to everyone you know. And please email Coca-Cola’s CEO asking him to pull the plug on his vending machines in Japan.

Coca-Cola knows they have a problem, as you can tell by the message on their corporate website:

http://www.debito.org/?p=8659

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9) Thinking of donating blood in Japan? Mutantfrog translates the regulations on who can’t.

Roy Berman at Mutantfrog translates the Japanese Red Cross’s regulations on who cannot donate blood in Japan. I can’t. So if you want to help bloodwise, check here first to make sure you don’t get disqualified for your trouble.

http://www.mutantfrog.com/2011/03/13/who-can-and-can-not-donate-blood-in-japan/

Debito.org Comments at
http://www.debito.org/?p=8636

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

RELATED ARTICLES OF NOTE

9) Tokyo Gov Ishihara calls the tsunami “divine punishment” to wipe out the “egoism” of Japan. Yet wins reelection.

Kyodo: Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara apologized Tuesday for his remark that the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami last week represented “divine punishment” of the Japanese people who have been tainted with egoism.

COMMENT: This from a man who claimed in public a decade ago that foreigners in Japan would riot in the event of a natural disaster (er, such as this one?) and that the SDF should be deployed to round them up — and also questioned the kokutai loyalties of citizens who have foreign roots. It seems this time, by issuing an unusual retraction (you think he’ll ever retract the foreigner riots claim now that it hasn’t happened?), he realized that this particular Senior Moment was going too far.

But this old fool has long lost the mental software governing prudence befitting a person in high office. For a milder (but concrete) example, check out this video, where Ishihara gets all snitty because he was trying to make another speech about how the world was not going the way he wants it (when asked to offer a few seconds of encouragement to runners in this year’s Tokyo Marathon on February 27). Watch to the very end where you hear him characteristically grumbling about being cut off mid-rant:

http://www.debito.org/?p=8648

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10) The Nation.com on Tohoku Earthquake has shaken Japan Inc.

The Nation.com: But even as Japan was reeling from the disaster’s death toll — which is expected to surpass 20,000 — and growing increasingly frightened by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactor complex, there was growing unease at the lack of straight information from both the government and Tepco, a utility with a troubled history of lies, cover-ups and obfuscation dating back to the late 1960s.

The information gap became an international issue on March 16, when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory Jaczko openly contradicted the Japanese government by declaring that water in one of Tepco’s reactors had boiled away, raising radiation in the area to “extremely high levels.” He recommended evacuation to any Americans within fifty miles of the site — nearly double the evacuation zone announced by the Japanese government (which immediately denied Jaczko’s assertions). TheNew York Times piled on the next day with a major article that pilloried the Kan government. “Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more — and never has its weak, rudderless system of governing been so clearly exposed,” the reporters declared.

To be sure, Tokyo’s response to the disaster has been erratic, and the paucity of information about Fukushima was one of the first complaints I heard about the situation from my friends in Japan. But much of the criticism poured on Japan has obscured the many ways its political system has shifted since a 2009 political earthquake, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was swept out of power for the first time in fifty years. The changes, particularly to people who remember the government’s pathetic response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, which killed nearly 6,500, have been striking.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8732

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11) AOL News: WikiLeaks: Cables Show Japan Was Warned About Nuclear Plant Safety

AOL News: The Japanese government has said it is doing all it can to contain the crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was critically damaged in last week’s earthquake. But according to U.S. diplomatic papers released by WikiLeaks, that atomic disaster might have been avoided if only the government had acted on earlier safety warnings.

An unnamed official from the International Atomic Energy Agency is quotedin a 2008 cable from the American embassy in Tokyo as saying that a strong earthquake would pose a “serious problem” for Japan’s nuclear power stations. The official added that the country’s nuclear safety guidelines were dangerously out of date, as they had only been “revised three times in the last 35 years.”

Following that warning, Japan’s government pledged to raise security at all of its nuclear facilities,reports The Daily Telegraph, which published the cable. But questions are now being asked about whether authorities really took the nuclear watchdog’s worries seriously…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8689

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12) Weekend Tangent: NYT: “Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job” in Japan’s nuclear industry

NYT: Mr. Ishizawa, who was finally allowed to leave, is not a nuclear specialist; he is not even an employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the crippled plant. He is one of thousands of untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers who handle the bulk of the dangerous work at nuclear power plants here and in other countries, lured by the higher wages offered for working with radiation. Collectively, these contractors were exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times as high as the levels faced by Tokyo Electric employees last year, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the industry. These workers remain vital to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plants.

They are emblematic of Japan’s two-tiered work force, with an elite class of highly paid employees at top companies and a subclass of laborers who work for less pay, have less job security and receive fewer benefits. Such labor practices have both endangered the health of these workers and undermined safety at Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors, critics charge.

“This is the hidden world of nuclear power,” said Yuko Fujita, a former physics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a longtime campaigner for improved labor conditions in the nuclear industry. “Wherever there are hazardous conditions, these laborers are told to go. It is dangerous for them, and it is dangerous for nuclear safety.”

Of roughly 83,000 workers at Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants, 88 percent were contract workers in the year that ended in March 2010, the nuclear agency said. At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 89 percent of the 10,303 workers during that period were contractors. In Japan’s nuclear industry, the elite are operators like Tokyo Electric and the manufacturers that build and help maintain the plants like Toshiba and Hitachi. But under those companies are contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors — with wages, benefits and protection against radiation dwindling with each step down the ladder…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8755

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13) Japanese cartoon for kids depicting Fukushima nuclear issue as power plants with constipation!

Here’s a novel way to explain away the entire Fukushima debacle — as a problem of nuclear waste. See video below for kids depicting Fukushima as a constipated patient who can be cured by “doctors” and “medicine”. Note how radiation is depicted as “farts”, merely amounting to “a bad smell”. English subtitles included.

If only the diagnosis and cure were so simple. Or the metaphor more accurate.

Anyway, this is part of the process of lulling the Japanese public into complacency (keeping public calm and order as people in the path of the disaster merely wait for it to play itself out). How much more distortion and deception can an educated people take?

http://www.debito.org/?p=8679

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… and finally…

14) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 38, April 5, 2011 on Tohoku: “Letting radiation leak, but never information”

The Japan Times Tuesday, April 5, 2011

JUST BE CAUSE Column 38
Letting radiation leak, but never information
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110405ad.html
Debito.org Comments at http://www.debito.org/?p=8740

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

Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito

====================
Debito’s new novel “IN APPROPRIATE: A Novel of Culture, Kidnapping, and Revenge in Modern Japan”, now on sale.
Information site with reviews and ordering details at
http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html
If you like the information the Debito.org Newsletter brings you, please consider supporting Debito.org by buying a book.

====================
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 15, 2011 ENDS

SNA: “GOJ targets harmful internet rumors”, including the earthquake being caused by foreign terrorism

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Here we have GOJ agencies working to stem malicious rumors from proliferating online, including those targeting NJ. Good. It’s also presented (by a news blog) as a debate between those who feel they have a right to know (and feel betrayed by the official media as an information source) and those who feel they can say anything they like about anybody thanks to freedom of speech. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but I’m glad to see somebody official trying to tackle (or, rather, at least thinking about tackling) the issue of hate speech against NJ. But without clear legal guidelines about what constitutes “hate speech” (or for that matter, “immoral information”) in Japan, those who don’t trust the government will no doubt foresee a wave of official censorship. Arudou Debito

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

Japanese Government Targets “Harmful Rumors”
Shingetsu News Agency 2011.04.13, courtesy MS
By Makiko Segawa
http://shingetsublog.jugem.jp/?eid=75

SNA (Tokyo) — The Japanese government has now entered into the business of deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public.

A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the March 11 disaster.

Specifically, these government organizations asserted in a press release that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and that the government must take steps against this trend for the sake of the public good.

Specifically, the project team is sending “letters of request” to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they “take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information.”

The measures envisioned seem to relate primarily to erasing any information from internet sites written by members of the general public that the authorities deem to be harmful to public order and morality. People may also receive warnings.

When the SNA asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication to provide concrete examples of how the government tracked down “immoral” information on the internet, the official in charge of the telecommunications bureau said, “We have not carried out any enforcement actions yet. I cannot explain in detail how we are operating since the roles are partly divided according to the ministries involved.”

“What we, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, are doing,” the official added, “is to urge net providers such as NTT and KDDI to follow our guidelines.”

The Telecom Services Association reveals that the following requests have thus far come from the government:

March 17: Erase descriptions of the earthquake as a man-made event
March 24: Erase descriptions about the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactors
March 28: Erase claim that the earthquake was caused by foreign terrorism
April 1: Eliminate the pictures of dead bodies posted on blogs

The Telecom Services Association complied with some of the government requests.

Eri Watanabe, a member of FoE Japan, an international NGO dealing with environmental issues, fears that the government’s strategy is a first step to “justify censorship.”

“If the government had conveyed the correct information from the beginning,” she asserts, “then they would have headed off the spread of rumors. The media and the government have not been properly explaining the meaning of radiation level numbers.”

Kazumi Asano, a Tokyo-based blogger, exclaimed, “They are just afraid of people exposing their close connection with TEPCO!”

Ms. Asano claims that she knew in advance that the severity of the nuclear accident would be raised to a 7 because she heard it from friends who work as TEPCO engineers.

“It is the blogs that are revealing the facts to the public,” she contends.

“The government cannot track down all of us and eliminate the people’s freedom of expression!”

————————

 

 

 

Makiko Segawa is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency.
ENDS

Tokyo Sports Shinbun blames closure of Tokyo Disneyland not on power outages, but on NJ!

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Debito.org is pleased to announce another Official(TM) Japan Open Season on NJ. We get these fads occasionally, like “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003), “NJ are criminals” (2000-4).

Now, with the advent of “Fly-jin” (or the variant “Bye-jin” — which is better, some might retort, than being “Die-jin”), it’s now “NJ are deserters”. And they can be conveniently blamed for various social ills. Here, I’ll anticipate a couple:

1) “Fly-jin” are responsible for Japan’s lack of English ability because they fled their posts as English teachers. (Not so far-fetched, since they have been blamed in the past for the same thing because conversely “NJ have been in Japan too long“)…

2) “Fly-jin” are responsible for our fruits and vegetables becoming more expensive, since NJ “Trainees” deserted their posts as slaves on Japanese farms and left things rotting on the vine…

3) “Fly-jin” are responsible for a further decrease in Japan’s population, since some of them took Japanese citizens with them when they deserted Japan…

4) “Fly-jin” are responsible for a downtick in Japan’s shipping industry, since NJ accounted for 90% of Japan’s maritime crews

5) “Fly-jin” are responsible for diplomatic snafus, since our NJ proofreaders at national government agencies did a runner…

(Here, here’s what NJ have been blamed for in the past. Join in on the game.)

Okay, that’s still fiction.  But who says people in Japan aren’t creative? I never anticipated NJ being blamed for the closure of Tokyo Disneyland, as the Tokyo Sports Shinbun does on April 14, 2011:

Courtesy MS

No, it’s not due to power outages or rolling blackouts or the need to save power to show solidarity with the Tohoku victims or anything like that.  They have to have NJ faces as dancers and people in parades, therefore no parade, no Tokyo Disneyland.  We’re closed, and it’s your fault, NJ.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Enjoy the Open Season on you, NJ, while it lasts.  I anticipate it’ll dissipate with the radiation levels someday.  Arudou Debito

More J media regarding NJ within earthquake-stricken Japan: Rumors of “Foreign Crime Gangs”; rapes and muggings, while tabloids headline “all NJ have flown Japan” etc.

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. As promised, here we have a record of how domestic media is either reporting on nasty rumors denigrating NJ, or circulating those nasty rumors themselves. The GOJ is taking measures to quell the clacking keyboards, but the tabloids (roundly decried for spreading exaggerated information overseas about the state of radioactivity from Fukushima) are still selling papers by targeting NJ regardless.

(There’s a lot of text in Japanese below; keep paging down. Brief comments in English sandwiched between.)

First, the Asahi and Sankei report “dema” swirling about saying that foreigners are forming criminal gangs (echoes of 1923’s rumored Korean well poisonings, which lead to massacres), and carrying out muggings and rapes. Yet Sankei (yes, even the Sankei) publishes that there hasn’t been a single reported case (glad they’re setting the record straight):

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「外国人窃盗団」「雨当たれば被曝」被災地、広がるデマ
朝日新聞 2011年3月26日9時21分
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0325/TKY201103250527.html
All articles courtesy of MS

「あらぬうわさが飛び交っています」と注意を呼びかけるビラが避難所で配られた=25日午後2時45分、仙台市宮城野区の岡田小学校、金川雄策撮影
東日本大震災の被災地で、流言が飛び交っている。「外国人の窃盗団がいる」「電気が10年来ない」……。根拠のないうわさは、口コミに加え、携帯メールでも広がる。宮城県警は25日、避難所でチラシを配り、冷静な対応を呼び掛けた。
「暴動が起きているといったあらぬうわさが飛び交っています。惑わされないよう気を付けて下さい」
宮城県警の竹内直人本部長は、この日、避難所となっている仙台市宮城野区の岡田小学校を訪れ、被災者に注意を呼びかけた。チラシを受け取った女性(43)は「犯罪はうわさほどではなかったんですね」と安心した様子を見せた。県警によると、110番通報は1日500〜1千件程度あるが、目撃者の思い違いも少なくないという。
しかし、被災地では数々のうわさが飛び交っている。「レイプが多発している」「外国人の窃盗団がいる」。仙台市の避難所に支援に来ていた男性(35)は、知人や妻から聞いた。真偽はわからないが、夜の活動はやめ、物資を寝袋に包んで警戒している。「港に来ていた外国人が残っていて悪さをするらしい」。仙台市のタクシー運転手はおびえた表情をみせた。
流言は「治安悪化」だけではない。「仮設住宅が近くに造られず、置き去りにされる」「電気の復旧は10年後らしい」。震災から1週間後、ライフラインが途絶えて孤立していた石巻市雄勝町では、復興をめぐる根拠のない情報に被災者が不安を募らせた。「もう雄勝では暮らせない」と町を出る人が出始め、14日に2800人いた避難者は19日に1761人に減った。
健康にかかわる情報も避難者の心を揺さぶる。石巻市の避難所にいる女性3人には18日夜、同じ内容のメールが届いた。福島原発の事故にふれ、「明日もし雨が降ったら絶対雨に当たるな。確実に被曝(ひばく)するから」「政府は混乱を避けまだ公表していないそうです」と記されていた。女性の1人は「避難所のみんなが心配しています」という。
過去の震災では、1923年の関東大震災で「朝鮮人が暴動を起こす」とのデマが流れ、多数の朝鮮人が虐殺された。95年の阪神大震災では、大地震の再発や仮設住宅の入居者選定をめぐる流言が広がった。
今回はネットでも情報が拡散する。「暴動は既に起きています。家も服も食べ物も水も電気もガスも無いから」「二、三件強盗殺人があったと聞いた」。こうした記載がある一方で「窃盗はあるけど、そこまで治安は悪くない」「全部伝聞で当事者を特定する書き込みはない」と注意を促す書き込みもある。
東京女子大学の広瀬弘忠教授(災害・リスク心理学)は「被災地で厳しい状況に置かれており、普段から抱いている不安や恐怖が流言として表れている。メールやインターネットの普及で流言が広域に拡大するようになった。行政は一つ一つの事実を伝えることが大切で、個人は情報の発信元を確かめ、不確実な情報を他人に流さないことが必要だ」と指摘する。(南出拓平、平井良和)
ends

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

「流言飛語」被災地で深刻化 デマがニュースで報じられる例も
2011.4.1 22:03 産經新聞
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/affairs/news/110401/dst11040122040072-n1.htm
被災地で治安情勢などをめぐる「流言飛語」が深刻化している。出所の大半はインターネットの掲示板や転送を呼びかけるチェーンメールで、中にはデマが事実としてニュースで報じられた例もあった。警察庁は「被災地域で凶悪事件は起きておらず、惑わされないで」と注意を呼びかけるとともに、サイト管理者への削除要請にも乗り出している。
警察庁によると、特に多いのは被災地の犯罪情勢に関するデマで、具体的な地名を挙げたうえで、「外国人窃盗団が暗躍している」「強盗や強姦が多発している」「略奪が横行している」など。「○○の水道水が危ない」といった放射能絡みも目立っている。
被災地や原発周辺では、自宅を空けて避難している人が多く、こうしたデマやうわさに不安を感じ、警察に相談したり、パトロールの強化を訴えたりする例が続出。しかし、震災後に被災地域で外国人を窃盗容疑で摘発したことはなく、強盗や強姦などの凶悪犯罪が起きたという報告は1件もないという。
また、偽の給油整理券と引き換えに現金を詐取される被害が発生しているといううわさが流れ、テレビや地元紙がニュースとして報道。しかし、警察が後で調べたところ、被害事実は確認されなかった。
このほか、実在しない報道機関を名乗った架空のニュースが掲示板に書き込まれたりするケースもあった。警察庁はこれまでに約30件の悪質なデマの削除を依頼したといい、「被災者の不安や混乱をあおる行為は見過ごせない。今後も監視を強化する」としている。
ends
///////////////////////////////////////

The GOJ is also playing a part in quelling and deleting internet rumors, thank goodness:

///////////////////////////////////////
総務省の「デマ削除要請」 「言論統制」というデマに?
J-cast.com 2011/4/7
http://www.j-cast.com/2011/04/07092510.html?p=all

ネット上のデマについて、削除を含めた適切な対応を事業者に求めた総務省の要請が波紋を呼んでいる。どうやら、言論統制ではないかと拡大解釈されたらしいのだ。
「インターネット上の流言飛語について関係省庁が連携し、サイト管理者等に対して、法令や公序良俗に反する情報の自主的な削除を含め、適切な対応をとることを要請」
総務省は「言論統制」の意図否定

拡大解釈で波紋
総務省がサイト上で2011年4月6日に載せた文面には、こうある。ネット事業者らでつくる電気通信事業者協会など4団体にこの日要請した内容だ。その理由として、「東日本大震災後、地震等に関する不確かな情報等、国民の不安をいたずらにあおる流言飛語が、電子掲示板への書き込み等により流布している」ことを挙げている。
「表現の自由に配慮」とうたってあるものの、デマについての削除要請を含んでいたため、ネット上で大騒ぎになった。2ちゃんねるや情報サイトなどで、これが国の「言論統制」を意味するのではないかとの憶測も出ているほどだ。2ちゃんでは、「平成の治安維持法」「ネットの流言飛語を『取り締まり』」といった揶揄さえ出た。
これに対し、同省の消費者行政課では、そうした意図を全面的に否定する。
「ネット事業者には、ユーザーの方に注意喚起してもらい、約款で削除できる情報なら削除してほしいということです。例えば、業務妨害といった法令違反やプライバシー侵害などになる情報です。しかし、個別具体的な流言飛語の内容については、想定していませんし、触るつもりもありません。改めて、今まで通りの対応をするように呼びかけただけです」

誤解されない、分かりやすい説明が必要
要請のきっかけになったのが、警察庁が2011年4月1日にサイト上などで明らかにしたデマの具体例だ。
「被災地では強盗や強姦が増えている」
「ナイフで武装した外国人窃盗グループが被災地を荒らし回っている」
総務省では、こうしたデマが流れているとのことから、政府として何かできないかと考え、ネット事業者らに対応の徹底を呼びかけたそうだ。
もっとも、こうした呼びかけが、結果として、表現の自由に抵触する可能性を指摘する向きもある。
日経の田原和政編集委員は、7日付記事で、国の要請が「情報統制につながる危うさ」も指摘した。「『自主的な』という断りが入っているが、行政の直接要請は事実上の介入効果を及ぼす」というのだ。
要請された各団体では、「約款などによる判断は難しいかもしれませんが、場合によっては削除もありえます」(テレコムサービス協会)「ガイドラインに基づいて、名誉毀損などの例があれば、削除していきます」(電気通信事業者協会)と言っている。
いずれにせよ、総務省によるデマ削除要請そのものが拡大解釈され、デマのように広がったのは皮肉なことだ。こうしたときこそ、誤解されないよう細心の注意を払った、分かりやすい説明が求められそうだ。
ends

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ネット狙い撃ち? 総務省の「流言飛語」削除要請
response.jp 2011年4月7日(木) 15時02分
http://response.jp/article/2011/04/07/154488.html

6日に総務省がインターネット事業者に対して行った要請は、インターネットを狙い撃ちした言論統制の色が濃い。
要請は、政府の「被災地等における安全・安心の確保対策ワーキングチーム」で決められた「被災地等における安全・安心の確保対策」に基づき、総合通信基盤局によって示された。
このワーキングチームそのものが、各省の審議官クラスだけが参加する閉ざされた会議体。その議事の公開も形式だけだ。
そもそも総合通信基盤局は、何を流言飛語というのかという明確な指針を示していない。判断は事業者任せだ。その理由は「国が表現に踏み込むことはできない。我々が削除しろということは、憲法違反になる」(同局担当者)からだという。
事業者が利用者の書き込みを削除することは、法律上の問題はない。異議があれば「削除された人が裁判することは可能です」(同前)という姿勢だ。
震災後の状況下で、何を流言飛語とするかの判断は、かなり難しい。十分な知見もない通信事業者が判断することは、利用者とのトラブルを増やすだけではないのか。
だが、総合通信基盤局の仕事は、電気通信事業の競争促進や情報通信インフラの整備、環境改善だ。ただのお願いと受け止める通信事業者はいない。監督官庁が「自主的な削除」を求めている以上、それと思うものを削除するしかない。
担当者は、「我々も表現の自由の侵害になることには危惧しているので、電話やメールで事業者に直接伝えた。ご懸念のようなことはないと思う」と話す。
なぜインターネットだけなのか。総合通信基盤局は「(新聞や雑誌など)そのほかは所管していない。雑誌などは発行人などが明記されているため、その必要はないのではないか」と、答えた。
《中島みなみ》
///////////////////////////////////////

Still, that doesn’t stop other media from headlining other (and still nasty) rumors about how (bad) NJ are heading south towards Tokyo (soon rendering Ueno into a lawless zone).  Or that NJ are all just getting the hell out:

(SPA Magazine Issue dated April 12, 2011)

(Nikkan Gendai April 11, 2011)

Despite the (uncriticizing) domestic reports of Japanese also leaving Tokyo?

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

疎開家族でホテル満室 「休みたい」首都圏離れ

産經新聞 2011.3.19 15:39, Courtesy MD

福島第1原発事故への不安、長引く停電や物不足などの不自由にたまりかねて首都圏から名古屋、大阪、福岡など遠隔地のホテルに「疎開」する家族が増えている。「この連休だけでもゆっくりしたい」という短期組から、1週間滞在予定の人まで期間はさまざま。週末は多くのホテルが満室となっている。

18日深夜の新大阪駅では、東京都江東区の男性会社員(42)が「余震や停電で気が休まらなかった。たまった疲れを取りたい」と急ぎ足。3連休は大阪市内のホテルで家族で過ごすという。

札幌グランドホテル(札幌市)や東急ホテル名古屋(名古屋市)では長期滞在する首都圏からの家族連れが目立つ。どのホテルも地震直後にキャンセルが相次ぎ、15日前後から新規の予約が一気に増えた。「もし空き室があれば連休の後も予約できるか」と訪ねる客もいるという。

ends

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

Would NJ going to a hotel in another city have been okay then?  Or is the problem an assumption that NJ are allegedly more likely to flee, and fly overseas at that?

Fellow Blogger Hoofin has made an attempt to mathematically debunk this alleged phenomenon of “Fly-Jin”, noting that the NJ to coin this phrase has since commented with a bit of regret at being the butterfly flapping his wings and setting this rhetorical shitstorm in motion (much like GOJ shill Robert Angel regretting ever coining the word “Japan bashing”).  We have enough anti-NJ rhetorical tendencies in Japan without the NJ community contributing, thank you very much.

Besides (as other Debito.org Readers have pointed out), if the shoe was on the other foot, do you think Japanese citizens living overseas would refuse to consider repatriating themselves out of a stricken disaster area (and do you think the media of that stricken country would zero in on them with the same nasty verve?).

Meanwhile, xenophobic websites continue to rail and rant against NJ, since hate speech in Japan is not an illegal activity: Here’s but one example (which has escaped the notice of the GOJ as yet, calling for the execution of foreign criminals and throwing their bodies into the sea etc.); I’m sure Readers can find more and post them in the Comments Section below:

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

http://fishingelmo.blog.ocn.ne.jp/americanlure/2011/03/post_c5a7.html
2011/03/20, courtesy TG
【S.O.S!!】 日本のマスメディアが故意に報道しない真実 “外国人犯罪” 『被災地でレイプ・強盗・窃盗が多発!!』 東日本大震災で何が起こっているのか?【被災者にとっては、生き残ってからが「本当のサバイバル」!!】 ええぇ?!『日本の国会議員なのに、93人が外人?!』 今こそ、すべての日本人は危機感を共有すべき!! 追記:「続々々 福島第一原発で何が起こっているのか?」
[…]
犯罪外人は射殺して海に捨てろ!あるいは福島原発に裸で縛っとけ!

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

People always need someone to blame or speak ill of, I guess.  I’ll talk more soon about how Japanese from Fukushima are also being targeted for exclusion.  However, it seems that hate speech directed towards NJ is less “discriminate”, so to speak — in that it doesn’t matter where you came from, how long you’ve been here, or what you’re doing or have done for Japan; if you’re foreign in Japan, you’re in a weakened position, suspect and potentially subversive.

As long as one can anonymously bad-mouth other people in billets and online, one can get away with this.  Again, this is why we have laws against hate speech in other countries — to stem these nasty tendencies found in every society.  Arudou Debito

Wall Street Journal joins in bashing alleged NJ “fly-jin exodus”: “Expatriates tiptoe back to the office”

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Hi Blog.  Here we have the Wall Street Journal joining in the NJ bashfest, publicizing the word “flyjin” for the Japanese market too (making one question the claim that the pejorative is restricted to the English-language market).  Gotta love the Narita airport photo within that is deftly timed to make it seem as if it’s mostly NJ fleeing.   “Good-natured hazing” is how one investment banker puts it below, making one wonder if he knows what hazing means.  Anyway, here’s another non-good-natured article about how the aftershocks of the earthquake are affecting NJ.  Arudou Debito

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

Wall Street Journal March 23, 2011
REPORTER’S JOURNAL

Expatriates Tiptoe Back to the Office

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704461304576216301249128570.html

By MARIKO SANCHANTA

TOKYO—Life in Japan is showing tentative signs of returning to normal, but a fresh challenge may be facing the expatriates and Japanese who left and are now trickling back to their offices: how to cope with ostracism and anger from their colleagues who have worked through the crisis.

One foreigner, a fluent Japanese speaker at a large Japanese company, said that his Japanese manager and colleagues were “furious” with him for moving to Osaka for three days last week and that he felt he was going to have to be very careful to avoid being ostracized upon returning to work in Tokyo.

Survivors’ Stories

Japan Quake’s Effects

See a map of post-earthquake and tsunami events in Japan, Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast.

The flight of the foreigners—known as gaijin in Japanese—has polarized some offices in Tokyo. Last week, departures from Japan reached a fever pitch after the U.S. Embassy unveiled a voluntary evacuation notice and sent in planes to ferry Americans to safe havens. In the exodus, a new term was coined for foreigners fleeing Japan: flyjin.

The expat employees’ decision to leave is a sensitive cultural issue in a country known for its legions of “salarymen”: loyal Japanese employees whose lives revolve around the office, who regularly work overtime and who have strong, emotional ties to their corporations and their colleagues.

“There is a split between [the Japanese and foreigners] on where their allegiances lie. In Japan, the company and family are almost one and the same, whereas foreigners place family first and company second,” said Mark Pink, the founder of financial recruitment firm TopMoneyJobs.com, based in Tokyo.

The head of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, at a news conference Tuesday, expressed his disappointment that so many foreigners—from the U.S., France, the U.K., China and Hong Kong, among others—had been urged to leave the country by their governments and by worried families. Their flight was at least in part due to the more alarmist tones the foreign media took in coverage of the disaster, compared with the local news that emphasized how problems were being addressed.

“Many countries arranged for planes to bring their people back home. In some embassies, they sent messages to their nationals in Japan that the situation is very dangerous, while at some companies, top executives have come to Japan to provide reassurance,” said Atsushi Saito, head of the TSE. “It may be part of TSE’s role to put down rumors and to transmit to foreign nations what a great country Japan is.”

One expat in Tokyo, who runs his own small business, decided to go to London last week with a business partner. “It has been the right thing to do from a work-productivity point of view, as we have a big deadline to meet at the end of the month,” he said. “That said, I don’t feel very good about leaving and I’m sure people will perceive it as cowardly, and I won’t object to that.”

European Pressphoto AgencyPassengers, among them foreign nationals, checking in for flights departing from Narita International Airport, near Tokyo, on Sunday.

JTENSION

JTENSION

Those foreigners who return will find life in Tokyo is largely back to normal, with trains crowded during rush hour and men in suits packing restaurants during lunchtime in the city’s main financial district. But signs of disruption linger: Many shops close at 6 p.m. to conserve electricity and many stores are still out of basics such as milk and toilet paper.

One foreign investment banker in Tokyo says he wasn’t surprised that so many employees left. “We don’t hire people into the financial industry to risk their lives—this is investment banking and we hire investment-banker types,” he said. “We are trying to avoid ostracism for those who come back—there is no upside in that—but there is good-natured hazing.”

To be sure, most foreign senior-level managers leading teams in Tokyo stayed in the capital or relocated their entire offices to other locations in Japan, according to several managers interviewed Tuesday. In most cases, the expats who left are stay-at-home mothers, their children and those workers who don’t have staff reporting to them and can work remotely from Hong Kong and Singapore. Some Japanese, of course, also left Tokyo, though mainly women and children going home to their families in other parts of Japan, while their husbands stay in behind to work.

“If I had left as the president, my role as a leader would have been diminished,” said Gerry Dorizas, the president of Volkswagen AG’s operations in Japan, who has been in that role four years. “We’ve been very transparent.”

VW Japan has moved all its staff, including 12 expats and 130 Japanese staff and their families, to Toyohashi in Aichi prefecture.

Boeing Co., which has operated in Japan for more than 50 years, says the majority of its 30-strong staff in Tokyo have remained, despite an offer to work in Nagoya, or for expats to take a home leave.

Christine Wright, managing director of Hays in Tokyo, one of the country’s leading recruitment firms, said: “I saw no reason to leave; if you have a commitment to your staff, you stay there.”

Some said the expats would likely find local colleagues to be more understanding than expected. They say a decade of deflation and economic hardship has changed the Japanese mindset. “I think the Japanese had more of the group mentality decades ago, but not so much now,” said Shin Tanaka, head of PR firm Fleishman Hillard’s operations in Japan. “I think most [Japanese] people are staying because they think there is little risk.”

A Japanese employee at a foreign investment bank said he wasn’t bothered by the fact that some of his colleagues left last week. He felt the gap was narrowed by technology, anyway, allowing some who left to do their share. “It hasn’t really been a problem,” he said. “They’re working remotely out of other countries in Asia.”

Still, the return of the “flyjin” to Tokyo and other areas of Japan will likely be an issue for management to grapple with one way or another in the coming weeks.

“Most companies are trying to give some space to people on both sides to adjust: the people who feel they were abandoned and the foreigners who are coming back and feeling some initial tension,” said Mr. Pink. “Within a week or so that may resolve itself.”

—Alison Tudor and Kana Inagaki contributed to this article.

東京の職場に復帰する外国人の不安-同僚の視線

  • 2011年 3月 23日  10:45 JST

【東京】恐る恐る日常を取り戻しつつある当地で、いったん離れた職場に復帰する外国人や日本人を新たな問題が待ち構えている―自分が避難していた間も働き続けていた同僚の怒りを買っていたり、仲間外れにされたりしたらどうしよう。

日本の大手企業で働くある外国人は、先週3日間大阪に移動したことについて、上司や同僚が怒り心頭であり、東京の職場に戻る際には仲間外れにならないよう細心の注意を払わなくてはならないと語った。

Bloomberg News成田空港でチェックインを待つ人たち(17日)

避難する外国人(「外人」)が目立ったのは東京のオフィスだ。先週、米国大使館が自国民間人を他の安全なアジア地域に航空機で退避させるための準備を進めていると発表した後、日本出国が最高潮に達した。出国する外国人を表す”flyjin”(fly + gaijin)なる言葉まで登場した。

生活が会社中心の「サラリーマン」集団で知られる国での避難は文化的に微妙な決断だ。

金融業界の求人情報を提供するトップ・マネー・ジョブス(TopMoneyJobs.com)のマーク・ピンク氏は「何に忠誠であるかについて、(日本人と外国人の間に)差がある。日本では、会社と家族はほぼ一つで同じだが、外国人はまず家族、次が会社だ」と述べた。

東京証券取引所の斉藤惇社長は、22日の会見で、外国人の大量出国を残念に思う気持ちを表明すると同時に、「大丈夫だと言ってわざわざヘッドが東京に人を連れて入ってきたような参加者の会社もある」と強調。「日本はすばらしい国だとしっかり外国に伝え、あまり風評が出ないようにするのも東証の役割かもしれない」と訴えた。

小さな会社を経営する東京のある外国人は先週、事業パートナーとともにロンドンに行くことを決めた。「労働生産性の点からみてこうするのが正しい。月末に大きな期限を控えている」ためだという。「ただ、出国に大満足というわけではない。臆病だと思われるのは確かだし、反論はしない」

職場に戻った外国人は、東京の生活がおおむね通常に戻ったと感じるだろう。ラッシュ時の電車は満員、昼時の飲食店はサラリーマンでいっぱいだ。ただ、混乱が完全には収まっていないことが所々に表れている。節電のため午後6時で閉店する店が多いほか、牛乳やトイレットペーパーといった必需品が品切れの店も多い。

投資銀行に勤めるある外国人は、これほど多くの会社員が出国しても意外ではないと語る。「命を危険にさらさせるために人を雇っている訳ではない。ここは投資銀行であり、われわれは投資銀行家タイプを雇う」という。「復帰した従業員を仲間外れにしないよう心がけている。そんなことをしてもいいことはない。ただ、善意のいじめもある」

確かに、22日にマネジャー数人にインタビューしたところ、東京でチームを率いる外国人マネジャーの大半は東京にとどまるか、国内の別の場所に職場ごと移動している。出国したのは専業主婦、その子ども、部下がおらず香港やシンガポールなど遠隔地で働ける従業員が大半だ。東京を離れた中には日本人もいるが、実家に帰った女性や子供が中心で、夫は東京にとどまっている。

フォルクスワーゲン・グループ・ジャパンの代表取締役社長に就任して4年のゲラシモス・ドリザス氏は「社長の自分が(東京を)離れていたら、リーダーとしてのわたしの役割が損なわれていただろう」と述べた。同社は外国人12人、日本人130人の全従業員と家族を愛知県豊橋市に移した。

一方、ボーイングは、名古屋での勤務、外国人には帰国も提案したが、30人のスタッフの過半数が東京にとどまっているとしている。

日本人の同僚は外国人が予想している以上に理解を示すだろうとの見方もある。長年のデフレと景気低迷で日本人の考えは変わったという。フライシュマン・ヒラード・ジャパン代表取締役社長の田中慎一氏は「数十年前の日本人はもっと集団主義的だったが、いまはそうでもない」と説明。「リスクがほとんどないと思っているから避難しない日本人が大半」との考えを示した。

ある外資系投資銀行の日本人従業員は同僚数人の避難について、迷惑ではないと語った。技術の進歩のため遠隔地とのギャップが狭まり、自分の分担をこなせる者もいる。避難した同僚はアジアのほかの国で働いているという。

それでも、経営陣は今後数週間何かにつけflyjinの東京その他地域復帰に対応しなくてはならなくなりそうだ。

ピンク氏は「大半の企業が、見捨てられたと感じる人と、戻ってきた当初に緊張を感じる外国人の双方に調整の余地を与えようとしている」と語った。ただ、「1週間ほどで自然に解決するかもしれない」という。

記者: Mariko Sanchanta

 

Weekend Tangent: NYT: “Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job” in Japan’s nuclear industry

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog. I have heard before about the migrant labor force in the nuclear industry worldwide. Here’s substantiation of Japan’s example. The nuclear industry is running out of excuses. Arudou Debito

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

Japanese Workers Braved Radiation for a Temp Job
The New York Times
By HIROKO TABUCHI
Published: April 9, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/world/asia/10workers.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

KAZO, Japan — The ground started to buck at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and Masayuki Ishizawa could scarcely stay on his feet. Helmet in hand, he ran from a workers’ standby room outside the plant’s No. 3 reactor, near where he and a group of workers had been doing repair work. He saw a chimney and crane swaying like weeds. Everybody was shouting in a panic, he recalled.

Mr. Ishizawa, 55, raced to the plant’s central gate. But a security guard would not let him out of the complex. A long line of cars had formed at the gate, and some drivers were blaring their horns. “Show me your IDs,” Mr. Ishizawa remembered the guard saying, insisting that he follow the correct sign-out procedure. And where, the guard demanded, were his supervisors?

“What are you saying?” Mr. Ishizawa said he shouted at the guard. He looked over his shoulder and saw a dark shadow on the horizon, out at sea, he said. He shouted again: “Don’t you know a tsunami is coming?”

Mr. Ishizawa, who was finally allowed to leave, is not a nuclear specialist; he is not even an employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the crippled plant. He is one of thousands of untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers who handle the bulk of the dangerous work at nuclear power plants here and in other countries, lured by the higher wages offered for working with radiation. Collectively, these contractors were exposed to levels of radiation about 16 times as high as the levels faced by Tokyo Electric employees last year, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which regulates the industry. These workers remain vital to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plants.

They are emblematic of Japan’s two-tiered work force, with an elite class of highly paid employees at top companies and a subclass of laborers who work for less pay, have less job security and receive fewer benefits. Such labor practices have both endangered the health of these workers and undermined safety at Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors, critics charge.

“This is the hidden world of nuclear power,” said Yuko Fujita, a former physics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a longtime campaigner for improved labor conditions in the nuclear industry. “Wherever there are hazardous conditions, these laborers are told to go. It is dangerous for them, and it is dangerous for nuclear safety.”

Of roughly 83,000 workers at Japan’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants, 88 percent were contract workers in the year that ended in March 2010, the nuclear agency said. At the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 89 percent of the 10,303 workers during that period were contractors. In Japan’s nuclear industry, the elite are operators like Tokyo Electric and the manufacturers that build and help maintain the plants like Toshiba and Hitachi. But under those companies are contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors — with wages, benefits and protection against radiation dwindling with each step down the ladder.

Interviews with about a half-dozen past and current workers at Fukushima Daiichi and other plants paint a bleak picture of workers on the nuclear circuit: battling intense heat as they clean off radiation from the reactors’ drywells and spent-fuel pools using mops and rags, clearing the way for inspectors, technicians and Tokyo Electric employees, and working in the cold to fill drums with contaminated waste.

Some workers are hired from construction sites, and some are local farmers looking for extra income. Yet others are hired by local gangsters, according to a number of workers who did not want to give their names.

They spoke of the constant fear of getting fired, trying to hide injuries to avoid trouble for their employers, carrying skin-colored adhesive bandages to cover up cuts and bruises.

In the most dangerous places, current and former workers said, radiation levels would be so high that workers would take turns approaching a valve just to open it, turning it for a few seconds before a supervisor with a stopwatch ordered the job to be handed off to the next person. Similar work would be required at the Fukushima Daiichi plant now, where the three reactors in operation at the time of the earthquake shut down automatically, workers say.

“Your first priority is to avoid pan-ku,” said one current worker at the Fukushima Daini plant, using a Japanese expression based on the English word puncture. Workers use the term to describe their dosimeter, which measures radiation exposure, from reaching the daily cumulative limit of 50 millisieverts. “Once you reach the limit, there is no more work,” said the worker, who did not want to give his name for fear of being fired by his employer.

Takeshi Kawakami, 64, remembers climbing into the spent-fuel pool of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during an annual maintenance shutdown in the 1980s to scrub the walls clean of radiation with brushes and rags. All workers carried dosimeters set to sound an alarm if exposure levels hit a cumulative dose limit; Mr. Kawakami said he usually did not last 20 minutes.

“It was unbearable, and you had your mask on, and it was so tight,” Mr. Kawakami said. “I started feeling dizzy. I could not even see what I was doing. I thought I would drown in my own sweat.”

Since the mid-1970s, about 50 former workers have received workers’ compensation after developing leukemia and other forms of cancer. Health experts say that though many former workers are experiencing health problems that may be a result of their nuclear work, it is often difficult to prove a direct link. Mr. Kawakami has received a diagnosis of stomach and intestinal cancer.

News of workers’ mishaps turns up periodically in safety reports: one submitted by Tokyo Electric to the government of Fukushima Prefecture in October 2010 outlines an accident during which a contract worker who had been wiping down a turbine building was exposed to harmful levels of radiation after accidentally using one of the towels on his face. In response, the company said in the report that it would provide special towels for workers to wipe their sweat.

Most day workers were evacuated from Fukushima Daiichi after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which knocked out the plant’s power and pushed some of the reactors to the brink of a partial meltdown. Since then, those who have returned have been strictly shielded from the news media; many of them are housed at a staging ground for workers that is off limits to reporters. But there have been signs that such laborers continue to play a big role at the crippled power plant.

The two workers who were injured two weeks ago when they stepped in radioactive water were subcontractor employees. As of Thursday, 21 workers at the plant had each been exposed to cumulative radiation levels of more than 100 millisieverts, or the usual limit set for nuclear plant workers during an emergency, according to Tokyo Electric. (That limit was raised to 250 millisieverts last month.)

The company refused to say how many contract workers had been exposed to radiation. Of roughly 300 workers left at the plant on Thursday, 45 were employed by contractors, the company said.

Day laborers are being lured back to the plant by wages that have increased along with the risks of working there. Mr. Ishizawa, whose home is about a mile from the plant and who evacuated with the town’s other residents the day after the quake, said he had been called last week by a former employer who offered daily wages of about $350 for just two hours of work at the Fukushima Daiichi plant — more than twice his previous pay. Some of the former members of his team have been offered nearly $1,000 a day. Offers have fluctuated depending on the progress at the plant and the perceived radiation risks that day. So far, Mr. Ishizawa has refused to return.

Working conditions have improved over the years, experts say. While exposure per worker dropped in the 1990s as safety standards improved, government statistics show, the rates have been rising since 2000, partly because there have been more accidents as reactors age. Moreover, the number of workers in the industry has risen, as the same tasks are carried out by more employees to reduce individual exposure levels.

Tetsuen Nakajima, chief priest of the 1,200-year-old Myotsuji Temple in the city of Obama near the Sea of Japan, has campaigned for workers’ rights since the 1970s, when the local utility started building reactors along the coast; today there are 15 of them. In the early 1980s, he helped found the country’s first union for day workers at nuclear plants.

The union, he said, made 19 demands of plant operators, including urging operators not to forge radiation exposure records and not to force workers to lie to government inspectors about safety procedures. Although more than 180 workers belonged to the union at its peak, its leaders were soon visited by thugs who kicked down their doors and threatened to harm their families, he said.

“They were not allowed to speak up,” Mr. Nakajima said. “Once you enter a nuclear power plant, everything’s a secret.”

Last week, conversations among Fukushima Daiichi workers at a smoking area at the evacuees’ center focused on whether to stay or go back to the plant. Some said construction jobs still seemed safer, if they could be found. “You can see a hole in the ground, but you can’t see radiation,” one worker said.

Mr. Ishizawa, the only one who allowed his name to be used, said, “I might go back to a nuclear plant one day, but I’d have to be starving.” In addition to his jobs at Daiichi, he has worked at thermal power plants and on highway construction sites in the region. For now, he said, he will stay away from the nuclear industry.

“I need a job,” he said, “but I need a safe job.”
ENDS

Asahi Tensei Jingo (Vox Populi) Mar 20 offers ponderous column with gratuitous alienation of NJ

mytest

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New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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Hi Blog. Check out this Asahi Shinbun editorial (Japanese, then English), which offers an assessment of the victimization of Japan by 3/11, and insinuates that NJ in Japan are deserting us in our time of need:

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

2011年3月20日(日)朝日新聞 天声人語

http://www.asahi.com/paper/column20110320.html
いつもの週末に比べて、銀座や表参道の外国人は目に見えて少なかった。観光客ばかりか、出張者や留学生、外交官までが日本脱出を急いでいるらしい。物心の支援に感謝しつつ、この国は自らの手で立て直すしかないと胸に刻んだ▼大震災の被害はいまだ全容を見せず、避難所や病院で力尽きるお年寄りが後を絶たない。福島の原発では、四つの原子炉が悪さを競うように日替わりで暴れている。津波と原発事故。二つの怪物を伴うこの災いは、10日目を迎えてなお「発災中」の異様である▼3月11日をもって、大小の非常が始まった。関東では輪番停電が常となり、スーパーの空き棚も目につく。ガソリンや電池の買いだめは関西でもというから、国中がすくんでいるのだろう▼がれきの街には、愛する人の記憶をまさぐり、泥まみれの面影を抱きしめる姿がある。「泣きたいけれど、泣けません」。被災者ながら、現地で体を張る看護師長の言葉である。戻らぬ時を一緒に恨み、足元の、そして来るべき苦難に立ち向かいたい▼地震の1週間後、東京スカイツリーが完成時の高さ634メートルに届いた。この塔が東京タワーを超えた昨春、小欄は「内向き思考を脱し、再び歩き出す日本を、その高みから見てみたい」と書いた▼再起のスタートラインは、はるか後方に引き直されるだろう。それでも、神がかりの力は追い込まれてこそ宿る。危機が深いほど反発力も大きいと信じ、被災者と肩を組もう。大戦の焼け野原から立ち上げたこの国をおいて、私たちに帰るべき場所はない。

Official English translation:

VOX POPULI: Japanese survivors have nowhere to flee to
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201103210105.html
2011/03/22

This past weekend, there were fewer foreigners than usual to be seen in Tokyo’s typically busy Ginza and Omotesando districts. Not just tourists from abroad scrambled to leave Japan, but also business travelers, students and reportedly even diplomats.

While I am deeply grateful to people around the world for their moral and material support, I understand too well that rebuilding our country is ultimately the task of none but the Japanese.

We haven’t yet got a total picture of the extent of damage wrought by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Elderly people continue to die at evacuation centers and hospitals. At the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, four reactors are taking turns in acting up.

The megaquake occurred 10 days ago, but it is still tormenting its victims, having unleashed twin monsters of a gigantic tsunami and a nuclear crisis.

On March 11, normal life fell apart in many ways, big and small. Rolling power outages have become routine in the Kanto region, where supermarket shelves are noticeably bare. Even in the Kansai region, which suffered no damage, people are reportedly hoarding gasoline and batteries. All over Japan, people are scared.

In towns that have been reduced to rubble, survivors mourn their lost loved ones, hanging on to what they remember of them before the muddy tsunami waves claimed them.

“You want to cry, but you can’t,” said a head nurse at a hospital. A survivor herself, she is risking her own life to save others.

Time is irreversible, and I feel the pain of these people. I will stand by them in spirit as they face further hardship in the days to come.

One week after the earthquake and tsunami, the Tokyo Sky Tree, now under construction in the capital’s Sumida Ward, reached its full height of 634 meters. When it surpassed Tokyo Tower in height a year ago, I noted in this column, “From that height, I would like to see Japan outgrow its introverted mentality and start moving again.”

The starting line will have to be moved back considerably. But just as people experience a sudden surge of superhuman power when their backs are against the wall, the deeper our country is steeped in crisis, the greater our ability will be to rebound.

Let us all believe that, and let us stand by our fellow citizens who survived the catastrophe. We have nowhere to go back to, except this country of ours, which we must rebuild again out of the rubble.

–The Asahi Shimbun, March 20, 2011.  ENDS

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

COMMENT:  Now, some may excuse this as a strained column created by a tired journalist during a time of great national stress.  But my point is that it’s interesting what stress brings out in influential public forums — in this case, a knee-jerk belief that NJ in particular (with the assumption that Japanese are constrained from fleeing themselves) are fleeing, not helping, and have no investment in this society.  How insulting, especially in light of how many NJ are also pitching in.  Also, the clear and nasty assertion that it’s only the Japanese who can rebuild Japan (made also by PM Kan in his speeches) seems not only callously ethnocentric, but also in error in light all the assistance Japan has been gratefully accepting from the world.

Funny isn’t it?  We want NJ to come here, pay taxes, live under a legal regime that does not guarantee equal protection for extranationals under the law or protect against racial discrimination and hate speech, have them pick our strawberries and shovel our pig sties, and keep our strained labor markets cheap (while insinuating that they’re only here to profit off our rich society).  Yet as soon as disaster strikes — be it a financial crisis or a devastating earthquake — NJ are suspected as poisoners of the well (1923) or involved in criminal gangs (I’ll get to that in a later blog post), even offered tax monies for plane tickets home. Or, now in this case, decried as apparent deserters when they do leave.  Can’t win, can we?  Arudou Debito

Tokyo Governor Election April 10 posts “expel the barbarians, Japan for the Japanese” openly xenophobic candidate

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IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
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Hi Blog. Let’s now start looking at some aspects of what appears to be a Post 3-11 Backlash against NJ. Let’s start with the Tokyo Governor’s Election, due April 10.

We already have one overtly racist incumbent, Ishihara Shintaro, whom I’ve heard is alas the favorite to win, again. But also on the bill is this noticeably nasty candidate Furukawa Keigo, who advocates by his very slogan the expulsion of foreigners from his jurisdictions (pedants might counter that he’s only referring to Chinese and Koreans, but a) that doesn’t make it any better, and b) you think he’s only stopping there?).

Here’s Furukawa’s public campaign announcement, put in every Tokyoite’s mailbox through public monies:

Furukawa’s Campaign Video here:

http://tokyo2011.cswiki.jp/index.php?古川圭吾

His profile page:

http://profile.ameba.jp/yasukuni-de-aou/

Platform (from Campaign Video page, translation courtesy MS):
Safeguard the capital. Safeguard Japan. Japan belongs to the Japanese people.

Now more than ever, we should resolutely expel the foreign barbarians

Eject foreigners from Tokyo.
(By foreigners, I mean mainly Chinese (the pejorative “Shinajin” used for this) and north and south Koreans. In other words, the foreigners who are thought to be causing harm to Japan.)

1. Change the law so that foreigners cannot purchase land in Tokyo-to.
2. Absolutely opposed to voting rights for foreigners!!
3. Ban the the use of officially recognized Japanese aliases used by so-called “Zainichi” Koreans.
4. Make conversion of pachinko shop premiums into cash illegal
5. Do not relocate the Tsukiji fish market
6. Permit opening of casinos in Toyosu
7. Continue with tuition-free high schooling. Abolish the school district system.
8. No need for Tokyo to host the Olympic Games
9. Merge Tokyo’s two subway corporations. Run the trains round the clock.
10. Revize Metropolitan Tokyo’s Ordinance No. 128 (law controlling public morals)
11. Provide more public housing
12. Revise construction safety regulations in Tokyo.

首都を守る。日本を守る。日本国は日本人のものです。
今まさに、攘夷を決行すべきである。
東京から外国人排除する。
【外国人といっても主に支那人、南北朝鮮人。つまり日本国に害を及ぼすと思われる外国人。】
1.東京都の土地を、外国人は買えないように法整備をする。
2.外国人参政権 絶対反対!!
3.所謂『在日』の通名の使用禁止
4.パチンコ店の景品換金禁止
5.築地市場は移転しない
6.豊洲にカジノを
7.高校無償化継続。学区制の廃止。
8.東京オリンピックはいらない
9.東京メトロと都営地下鉄の合併。そして24時間運行
10.都条例第128号(風俗営業等の規制及び業務の適正化等に関する法律施行条例)の見直し
11.都営住宅の充実化
12.東京都建築安全条例の見直し

COMMENT:  Although diverse elections will always contain crank candidates (after all, they have to represent their portion of the crank public), a question to be raised is what kind of people (and electoral system) would allow a campaign advocating the expulsion of taxpayers who have lived here for generations? Submitter MS says poignantly, “I’m royally pissed at having my tax money used on a document published and distributed by Met Tokyo that bears a prominent advertisement by a right-wing wacko candidate that advocates my expulsion.”

MS provides the mailing address of the office that oversees the gubernatorial election, FYI.

Secretariat to Election Administration Commission
(Senkyo Kanri Iinkai Jimukyoku)
39th Floor, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No. 1
8-1, Nishi Shinjuku 2-chome
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-8001

This issue is admittedly a bit tangental; these campaign stumps were probably written and submitted before 3-11, so they are but riding sentiments that were already lying latent before they could surf the current wave of public opinion. How well Furukawa does on April 10 is quite possibly a bellwether of how sentiment is turning anti-NJ (or not) in the face of the “Fly-Jin” or “Bye-Jin” pejoratives.

More on how the J media has been bashing NJ as pseudo-deserters tomorrow. Arudou Debito

NJ helping Japan during this crisis: James Gibbs on his Miyagi Rescue Efforts

mytest

IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog.  As I shift the focus of Debito.org to how NJ residents are being bashed in Japan post 3-11 despite their best efforts, it’s first prudent to start giving an example or two of how NJ are actually trying to help.  Others who are similarly helping out are welcome to submit their stories here either by email (debito@debito.org) or as a comment below.  Well done, James.  Debito

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

Report on the Miyagi trip this past Sunday after our Saturday fundraising efforts.
By James Gibbs. April 1, 2011

After holding a fundraising event on Mar.26, the following day we delivered donated items along with a fully-loaded van of food and clothes to Onagawa next to Ishinomaki City, which is just north of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. I’ve made the following brief report on the trip along with first-hand observations on the situation and suggestions for future assistance as I know everyone is wanting to do something to help.

We collected three boxes or donated items from guests. The food preparer, Paul, had stayed in the kitchen Saturday night rather than come to event and prepared 30kg of shephard’s pie meat/vegetable mix for the trip. We spent about Y60,000 on food, which was mostly crates of fresh vegetables, fruits, 10 cases of canned coffee, and 20kg of ready to eat meat including spiral hams along with other items and another Y15,000 on accessories like paper plates, bowls, chopsticks, plastic glasses, soap, cleaning alcohol, paper towels, toilet paper, plastic bags, etc.

Early Sunday morning I drove to Maple English School in Shinurayasu where the students had gathered about ten large boxes of clothes, diapers and other supplies. With the van loaded front to back all the way to the ceiling and riding low on the back tires from the weight, I set out for Miyagi with a long-time friend, Ian Cunnold, who runs Maple English School. Our destination was Onagawa Houiku Senta (Onagawa Public Health Center) in Onagawa, which is next to Ishinomaki City, in Miyagi Prefecture. This is a small fishing village that had been mostly destroyed. A Maple student, who was the main organizer of the school’s boxes, had a relative in that particular facility and had requested us to visit there. Thus, it was selected among the hundred or so evacuation facilities. Depending on their needs we were going to unload there or move on to another facility.

Upon arrival at about 5:00p.m., the administrators, who did not know we were coming, were very happy to see us and receive the supplies. They very warmly invited us in for dinner, which was very simple but sufficient and satisfying. They also asked us to stay the night before returning to Tokyo. Roads were a little bumpy and maybe lacking street lights so we were quite happy to accept their offer. It was very cold but we had brought sleeping bags and managed to get some sleep. Our Plan B had been to sleep in the van if necessary.

At 7:30 the following morning I was awakened by a rather rough earthquake and another tsunami warning. It was an eerie feeling while lying horizontal in a sleeping bag in an evacuation center on a hill overlooking total devastation in Onagawa on one side and Ishinomaki on the other side. Later I learned that there was a nuclear power plant almost around the corner, but it was not the one having trouble. Another irony occurred when I also later learned that Onagawa/Ishinomaki was home port to some whaling ships. Driving back it was a comforting thought that we were able to make a good impression of foreigners with these people. Personally I’m not a big fan of whaling, but I stop short of militantly telling people they have to stop their livelihood. I just hope for a more moderate gradual solution to that issue.

There were about 1,500 people in three buildings at that evacuation facility. All things considered the mood among the people we met was upbeat and cheerful, but we heard that some people were starting to get irritable as the situation would tax anyone’s spirits. One young lady we spoke with described having water rushing into her car and barely escaping with her life. Her family was all safe, but two of her friends were missing and two other friends had family members missing. At one point another lady in the office was having an emotional break down, crying and retelling her ordeal as an administrator held her in her arms.

About the supplies and the need for things: There was already plenty of food, water and clothes at this shelter along with lots of cooking equipment and several large human-size gas tanks. But the food was mostly rice, dried and canned items. The kitchen staff was very excited about every other box we opened. Some things were needed and others were not needed. They were particularly happy to see the fresh fruit and vegetables, hams, shepherd’s pie mix, orange juice, paper plates, chopsticks, etc. while they said they had plenty of rice, canned foods and most of the clothes they needed. We asked them to distribute the unneeded items to the other shelters and they said they would.

My overall impression of the situation was that very basic things were needed the first week, while at the two-week mark (when we arrived), those things were in supply while more fresh items like fruits, vegetables, meat, juices, milk, eggs, etc. were needed. With the roads open and gas shortages ending, supply lines should start flowing with no real shortage of things at the three-week mark. Therefore if you are thinking about sending anything by takyubin, please do so only after contacting one of the honbu centers and after confirming their specific requests. It seems that a surplus of things is starting to accumulate and cash donations to the Red Cross might be more useful as they can probably better manage distribution.

People were just barely starting to clean up with the removal of debris. Probably the next several months will involve clean up followed by the start of rebuilding this summer. Therefore my advice to people who want to help is to send cash donations (rather than items) to the Japan Red Cross and specifically to their fund for cash payments for survivors.

Volunteers will likely be needed for debris removal and rebuilding but please find an established group for such participation before going down there to volunteer. I am still looking for a proper organization that can introduce evacuees with people who can offer their apartments as I think this would be a very effective way for individuals to help. If anyone can recommend such a bulletin board or organization please let me know.

I would also like to add that I think the government deserves an A or an A- for their handling of the tsunami relief. There was about a 50km section of road around Fukushima that had been ripped apart in 30 or 40 places with quick spot paving done, which were minor speed bumps. The fast repair of these roads was short of a miracle. Gasoline was supplied and available on the highway with only moderate lines and in the tsunami area albeit with longer lines. The police and self-defense forces were everywhere and blocking people without proper business from entering. Without any documentation the police gave us a permit and let us enter after we said we were bringing supplies. There was no bureaucratic interference at all. There was no highway charge for the Tokyo to Sanriku trip when we exited the highway. On the way back we showed our permit from the police and again there was no highway charge. This was a very pleasant surprise as we had spent considerably more on the food than the money we collected. The roads were open, and even the neighborhood grids in the tsunami area had been cleared. The shelters had food, water and blankets, and people were being taken care of. It was very clear that a lot of people had been working very hard. Everything went as it should have. All of this was no small accomplishment for the government to manage, and it should receive some credit.

Please note that these are personal observations from the area we visited and the Onagawa shelter complex. The actual situation in different areas may vary.

There were four or five people who contributed extra money and a lot of supplies, which helped make the delivery possible. It really was a group effort with a lot of people coming together. The needs up north are massive, and our delivery on Sunday was only a drop in the bucket. But there tens of millions of people in Japan who are doing things and hundreds of millions, including overseas assistance. With everyone doing a little it will surely add up to make a big difference and help the people in Tohoku recover.

I know there are so many people out there who want to do something to help. I hope these personal first hand observations will help people in better directing their donations and assistance.

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 38, April 5, 2011: “Letting radiation leak, but never information”

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IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito

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justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times Tuesday, April 5, 2011
JUST BE CAUSE Column 38
Letting radiation leak, but never information
By ARUDOU DEBITO

Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110405ad.html

March 2011 has shaken Japan to the core. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident in Fukushima have given the world cause to pause and reflect on the fragility and hubris of human existence. My condolences to the victims, and their families and friends.

But it’s time for some assessments, however premature.

First, some praise. I thought the government did a much better job than in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Back then, several days passed before Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and the military arrived on the scene, due to collapsed infrastructure and communication snafus. Yet while thousands of people lay dying in rubble, our government famously rejected aid from overseas. They refused provisions and medicine from nearby American aircraft carriers, even tying up Swiss sniffer dogs in quarantine. People died from the bureaucracy’s belief that Japan was too rich and developed to need foreign help.

This time, however, Prime Minister Naoto Kan was on the scene with rescue teams almost immediately. Although Kan did resort to traditional rhetoric of “We Japanese saving ourselves” in his speeches (a callously ethnocentric way to ask Japan’s residents to dig deep emotionally), overseas aid was accepted with fanfare and gratitude. I thought Kan did the best he could, given the information at the government’s disposal.

But here endeth the praise. As Fukushima’s nuclear reactors become Japan’s perpetually burning tire-yard fire, they have laid bare the fundamental flaw of Japan’s “nanny state”: the assumption that “father knows best” and that the public are children incapable of dealing with potentially dangerous situations. The reflexive, obsessive control of information has done our people a great disservice.

Let’s start with the Tokyo Electric Power Co. They kept us woefully underinformed (to put it mildly) about the stricken reactors. Some may say that leaking limited information is standard operating procedure for the nuclear industry worldwide (justified under “avoiding public panic”), but this was not mere lipstick on a wasteful political boondoggle — it was a potential China Syndrome (or would that be South Atlantic Syndrome in this case?). And since the fallout could not be contained domestically, the story came under more demanding global standards of scrutiny.

Tragically, Tepco kept such a tight lid on information that not only was our government kept in the dark, but so were worldwide nuclear experts. This caused burgeoning speculation, a slow-breeder panic and a media meltdown poisoned by gross mutations of logic.

The increasingly senile governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, called the disaster “divine intervention” for Japan’s “egoism” (he later apologized; now let’s have a public retraction of his 2000 speech claiming that heinous foreigners would riot during natural disasters like these). Governments began to disagree on the definition of “safe distance” from Fukushima, while Japan adjusted “safe levels of radiation exposure” to suit political expediency.

While Japan’s media cartels as usual skimped on investigative journalism, overseas and online media, running on fumes, had no choice but to fill in the gaps. When some foreign reportage became sensationalist, proponents of nuclear power utilized it to sow doubt and dissent. Commentators were derided as fearmongers for presenting the heresy that nuclear power might not be so safe after all. Eventually, if the information had not been sourced from the nuclear industry itself, it was interpreted as suspicious, culturally insensitive, even anti-Japanese.

Criticism shifted from those who caused this incident to those who wanted to do something about it. People moving to a safer location were treated as deserters. The exasperated public began to tune out and adopt a sense of futility and fatalism, even as radiation levels rose and contaminated the food chain.

Fortunately, given time, all this should pass. But one lingering afterglow will be a feeling of betrayal of the public trust.

We were told that nuclear power was safe. One assumes, not unreasonably, that this means no leaks. Zero emissions. Hence, the public should have zero tolerance for any man-made radiation. We should reject ex post facto reassurances that this amount of millisieverts is insignificant, the same as an X-ray, an airplane flight, etc. Sometimes the government’s advice was so unscientific that it tried the patience of an educated society. (In a land of poorly insulated housing, being told to “just stay indoors” is clearly stopgap.)

My point is that the public has been kept in the dark for generations about the risks of nuclear power, settling for cute cartoon characters that deliberately and persistently underinform us. Yet when the industry screws up, who takes the fallout?

Not Japan’s nuclear firms. Tepco, remember, similarly botched things after radiation leaks at Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 1999 and the Kashiwazaki- Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture in 2007. Yet these Homer Simpsons remain in charge, despite, according to Wikileaks, repeated warnings from overseas specialists about their outmoded and lackluster safety standards (in a land of extreme seismic activity, no less). In a society that, if anything, overcompensates in the name of safety, why is nuclear energy such a glowing exception?

Nor will the government be held accountable, despite abetting coverups, preventing more leaks of information than of radiation, and rarely coming clean about nuclear power’s dirty secrets. Part of it is due to the lack of class-action lawsuit mechanisms in Japan’s judiciary, and the fact that judges almost never rule against the government.

But most of it is rooted in one simple historical fact: The state always wins in Japan. Because it always has.

This is a society, remember, that has never experienced a popular grassroots revolution in its history. The result is that less cultural value is placed on fairness and social justice, more on personal perseverance and knuckling under — even if that means the environment gets poisoned and people die, either as volunteer fire department heroes or as silent victims after long-term radiation exposure. Afterward, we’ll salute and mourn those who sacrificed themselves for the system, feeling sad for them but grateful that it didn’t happen to us. It’s a cost of living in Japan.

One would hope that Fukushima would occasion review and reform. But I doubt it will. Fukushima has illuminated how the biggest problems facing Japan will not get fixed — because the public cannot or will not force the state to take responsibility for its mistakes. Ultimately, this is what breeds Japan’s undying fatalism.

Debito Arudou’s new novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale; see www.debito.org/inappropriate.html. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp

NB: Comments are open, but comments that do not stick to the points raised in this article, or add anything substantially new to the previous discussions on these issues we’ve had on Debito.org in the past, will not be approved. Sorry.

The Nation.com on Tohoku Earthquake has shaken Japan Inc.

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Hi Blog.  As Debito.org starts to emerge from vacation mode, I think the focus will be on something very much within this blog’s purview:  How the events since 3/11 have affected NJ residents of Japan.  But before that, here is an interesting piece on a topic that I take up in part in my most recent Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out today, read it here):  How the quakes and the aftermath have exposed the flaws of Japan’s corporatist governance.  Arudou Debito

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

Naoto Kan and the End of ‘Japan Inc.’

By Tim Shorrock, Courtesy of TTB

http://www.thenation.com/article/159596/naoto-kan-and-end-japan-inc

On March 13, forty-eight hours after Japan’s Tohoku region was rocked by a catastrophic earthquake, a ferocious tsunami and partial meltdowns at several nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked his citizens to unite in the face of “the toughest crisis in Japan’s sixty-five years of postwar history.” Emperor Akihito underscored the gravity of the situation by announcing his “deep concern” for the nation in his first public speech since ascending the throne in 1990. His address brought back sharp memories of his father, Emperor Hirohito, who ended World War II in a famous radio address in August 1945 that asked Japan to “endure the unendurable.”

But even as Japan was reeling from the disaster’s death toll—which is expected to surpass 20,000—and growing increasingly frightened by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactor complex, there was growing unease at the lack of straight information from both the government and Tepco, a utility with a troubled history of lies, cover-ups and obfuscation dating back to the late 1960s.

The information gap became an international issue on March 16, when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Gregory Jaczko openly contradicted the Japanese government by declaring that water in one of Tepco’s reactors had boiled away, raising radiation in the area to “extremely high levels.” He recommended evacuation to any Americans within fifty miles of the site—nearly double the evacuation zone announced by the Japanese government (which immediately denied Jaczko’s assertions). TheNew York Times piled on the next day with a major article that pilloried the Kan government. “Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more—and never has its weak, rudderless system of governing been so clearly exposed,” the reporters declared.

To be sure, Tokyo’s response to the disaster has been erratic, and the paucity of information about Fukushima was one of the first complaints I heard about the situation from my friends in Japan. But much of the criticism poured on Japan has obscured the many ways its political system has shifted since a 2009 political earthquake, when the ruling  Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was swept out of power for the first time in fifty years. The changes, particularly to people who remember the government’s pathetic response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, which killed nearly 6,500, have been striking.

Back then, “the central government was paralyzed, and the city, prefectural, and national police, fire brigades, water authorities, highway authorities, and Self-Defense Forces were shown to be unreliable,” the Australian historian Gavan McCormack wrote in his seminal 1996 book  The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence. McCormack, who has lived in Japan for decades, documented that only twenty of sixty-two offers of foreign assistance were accepted; a US offer to dispatch an aircraft carrier as a floating refugee camp was refused; foreign doctors were initially rejected because they lacked proper registration; and “sniffer” dogs that could have been searching for victims were held for days in airport quarantine. Japan’s bureaucratic response was “cold and more concerned with the preservation of its own control” than with humanitarian relief, McCormack concluded.

Kan, who rose to fame as an opponent of Japan’s turgid bureaucracy, has been far more decisive. After a few days of delay and confusion—not surprising, given the magnitude 9.0 quake, the largest in Japanese history—his government moved swiftly on many fronts. Military relief helicopters and ships were dispatched to the worst-hit areas. A US Navy armada was welcomed to the coastal areas hit by the tsunami (although the ships have since moved far away to avoid fallout from the radiation). Foreign offers of resources, including medical and relief teams, were welcomed and teams dispatched within days. Kan’s spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, has constantly been on the air, briefing reporters and the public (including on  Twitter). Kan himself flew by helicopter to view the stricken reactors and took personal charge of the nuclear crisis.

As the situation at the reactors deteriorated and Tepco’s explanations became increasingly opaque, Kan quickly lost patience. “What the hell is going on?” he was overheard asking on the phone to Tepco after one frustrating briefing. On March 16 Kan shifted responsibility for the crisis from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Tepco to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Tepco “has almost no sense of urgency whatsoever,” he complained. By this time, too, many Japanese had grown weary of the alarmist warnings of foreign governments and journalists. One group even posted an online “Wall of Shame” to document the “sensationalist, overly speculative, and just plain bad reporting” from foreign journalists.

* * *

That reporting, and the fact that so many media organizations had to fly journalists to Japan, underscores how much that country has disappeared from our political discourse since the early 1990s, when Japan’s economic juggernaut was halted by a financial and banking crisis that led to two decades of stagnation. At the same time, some of the US criticism of Kan seems to stem from nostalgia for the years when the LDP ruled supreme through a system in which—in the Times reporters’ words—“political leaders left much of the nation’s foreign policy to the United States and domestic affairs to powerful bureaucrats.”

That is extremely misleading. Beginning in the early 1950s, the LDP was financed heavily by the CIA as a bulwark against the once-powerful Japanese left, and successive LDP governments acted as a junior partner to the United States in the cold war. While Washington provided the weapons (and the soldiers) to fight communism, the Japanese elite provided military bases and profited by funneling economic aid and investments to US allies in South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere.

At home, the LDP and its corporate backers fought ferociously to suppress labor unions and civic groups that organized to protect workers, human rights and the environment. The end result was an LDP-created “Japan Inc.”—an undemocratic, corporatist state in which bureaucrats blessed and promoted nuclear power and other industries they were supposed to regulate, and then received lucrative jobs in those industries upon retirement—a system known as  amakudari.

But during the ’90s the LDP-style of governing came crashing down. A key turning point—and the one that brought Naoto Kan to prominence—came in 1996 over a notorious scandal over tainted blood. The scandal began in the early ’80s, when the US government, warning that blood supplies were corrupted by HIV, licensed the production of heat-treated blood (which killed the virus) for use in transfusions. The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare learned of the contamination problem as early as 1983 but publicly dismissed the threat to the public. As a result, hundreds of people, primarily hemophiliacs, received transfusions of unheated, corrupted blood; more than 500 died. The Japanese public later learned that the Health Ministry deliberately refused to license heated blood for several years, not out of health concerns but because it was available only from foreign companies (“To have licensed its use before domestic firms had set up production would have significantly affected market share,” the London Independent reported at the time). Worse, the ministry’s chief adviser on blood transfusions and HIV received large sums of money from Green Cross, one of the companies that supplied unheated blood. And, in a classic form of amakudari, Green Cross hired several former high-ranking ministry officials in senior positions while the tainted blood was still an issue.

These facts were unearthed in 1996 by Naoto Kan when he was minister of health and welfare in a brief coalition government of the LDP and several small parties. Outraged by the scandal, Kan forced ministry officials to release documents showing that they had allowed public use of HIV-tainted blood, and he publicly apologized to the victims. As a result, Kan became wildly popular and at one point was dubbed “the most honest man in Japanese politics.” I was working as a journalist in Tokyo at the time and vividly recall how his embrace of accountability and sharp critique of the bureaucracy surprised and delighted the Japanese public.

But Kan, who became prime minister in June 2010, is also unusual because he isn’t part of a political dynasty. Unlike many Japanese politicians, he emerged from a middle-class family and (like President Obama) first made his mark as a civic activist for progressive causes. In 1997 he was elected to lead the Democratic Party, an amalgam of disillusioned LDP members, trade unionists and the remnants of the left-wing Social Democratic Party. As the party leader in 2003, he took on LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for sending military forces to back up President Bush in Iraq, at one point calling Bush’s war “mass murder.”

Kan’s Democratic Party finally took control of Japan when it scored a landslide victory over the LDP in the August 2009 parliamentary elections. That contest was won by then–party leader Yukio Hatoyama, who campaigned on a plan to strike a line in foreign policy more independent of the United States. His first order of business was to scrap a 2006 agreement with the Bush administration to relocate Futenma, a US Marine Corps air base in Okinawa, to another site on the crowded island, and to send a large contingent of the Marines to Guam. By a wide majority, the people of Okinawa, home to about 75 percent of US bases in Japan, backed Hatoyama’s counterproposal to Washington, which involved removing the Marine base from Japan altogether.

To the Pentagon, however, Hatoyama’s initiative was a nonstarter. As soon as Obama took power, US officials launched a full-court press to dissuade Japan’s new ruling party from scrapping the 2006 agreement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued relentlessly that the Marine presence in Okinawa (which has been continuously occupied by US forces since 1945) was critical, not only to Japan’s security but to US global strategy as well, and insisted it was particularly important in repelling threats from North Korea and China. Last May, Hatoyama gave in. He withdrew the proposal, reaffirmed the agreement with slight modifications and apologized to Okinawa for failing to remove the base. That cost him the leadership of his party and allowed Kan—who’d resigned as party leader in 2004—to take his place.

Kan has taken a softer line on the US bases, declaring that security agreements with the United States will remain a cornerstone of Japanese policy. But the difficulties of the US–Japan relationship were underscored a few days before the Tohoku earthquake when Kevin Maher, head of the State Department’s Japan desk, was quoted in a speech denouncing the people of Okinawa as “masters of manipulation and extortion”—apparently for their strong opposition to US bases. Maher was quickly removed from his post (he remains at State). But the incident is a sad illustration of America’s Big Brother approach to Japan and symbolizes a bilateral relationship that the lateChalmers Johnson once compared to the servile ties between the Soviet Union and East Germany. With the formerly compliant LDP out of power, US policy-makers are still trying to understand that they’re in a whole new ballgame.

But it’s unclear how Kan and his party will pull through. Just before the quake, Kan’s popularity had sunk to below 20 percent, largely as a result of a scandal involving illegal campaign donations from foreigners and stalled parliamentary negotiations over Japan’s budget; there had even been talk of new elections. In a poll published on March 27, however, Kan’s numbers rose to 28 percent, while a hefty 58 percent approved of his government’s handling of the disaster (but the same percentage disapproved of Kan’s handling of the nuclear crisis, and an astonishing 47 percent urged that atomic power plants be immediately abolished).

Meanwhile, the triple disaster continued to unfold as the smoldering reactors spewed high amounts of radioactivity into the environment and Japan began a rebuilding process that will continue for years. Despite the suffering, the Japanese press on, just as they did after World War II. A week after the earthquake and tsunami struck, my Japanese stepmother, Yasuko, who lived in Tokyo during the war, reminded me that her parents had met as Christian relief workers after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which almost wiped Tokyo off the map. “If it wasn’t for that earthquake, I wouldn’t be here today,” she told me. “Out of darkness, you know, there’s always hope.”

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST APRIL 1, 2011

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DEBITO.ORG PODCAST APRIL 1, 2011

This month’s offering is a recording of a speech given in English last December at Sophia University, Tokyo.  Their writeup:

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

Chris Pitts, 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 (NGO FRANCA)

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

Q&A included, with questions from the floor from the Sea Shepherd (yes, that Sea Shepherd).  One hour 40 minutes.  No cuts.  Enjoy.