Reuters Expose: Japan’s ‘throwaway’ nuclear workers, including NJ “temporary temps”

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Hi Blog.  Here is a deep article from Reuters this month on how deep the rot goes in Japan’s labor market and safety practices regarding nuclear power.  It’s germane to Debito.org because even NJ workers have been hired and exposed to radiation in Japan — without proper recordkeeping.  Guess that’s one of the advantages of utilizing NJ laborers — they are the “temp temps” (my term) that escape any official scrutiny because imported labor “sent home” after use is somebody else’s problem.  Courtesy JV. Arudou Debito

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Japan’s ‘throwaway’ nuclear workers
REUTERS/IAEA/Handout
http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/AS/pdf/jpnuclear_2506mv.pdf
Incomplete article online at
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/06/27/japan-nuclear-re-idUKL3E7HR05220110627

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami revealed the heroism of Japanese workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. But it also exposed something else — a legacy of lax safety standards for nuclear workers.

Reuters, June 2011,special report
By Kevin Krolicki & Chisa Fujioka
FUKUSHIMA, Japan, June 24, 2011

A DECADE and a half before it blew apart in a hydrogen blast that punctuated the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was the scene of an earlier safety crisis.

Then, as now, a small army of transient workers was put to work to try to stem the damage at the oldest nuclear reactor run by Japan’s largest utility.

At the time, workers were racing to finish an unprecedented repair to address a dangerous defect: cracks in the drum-like steel assembly known as the “shroud” surrounding the radioactive core of the reactor.

But in 1997, the effort to save the 21-year-old reactor from being scrapped at a large loss to its operator, Tokyo Electric, also included a quiet effort to skirt Japan’s safety rules: foreign workers were brought in for the most dangerous jobs, a manager of the project said.

“It’s not well known, but I know what happened,” Kazunori Fujii, who managed part of the shroud replacement in 1997, told Reuters. “What we did would not have been allowed under Japanese safety standards.”

The previously undisclosed hiring of welders from the United States and Southeast Asia underscores the way Tokyo Electric, a powerful monopoly with deep political connections in Japan, outsourced its riskiest work and developed a lax safety culture in the years leading to the Fukushima disaster, experts say.

A 9.0 earthquake on March 11 triggered a 15-metre tsunami that smashed into the seaside Fukushima Daiichi plant and set off a series of events that caused its reactors to start melting down.

Hydrogen explosions scattered debris across the complex and sent up a plume of radioactive steam that forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents near the plant, about 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Enough radioactive water to fill 40 Olympic swimming pools has also been collected at the plant and threatens to leak into the groundwater.

The repeated failures that have dogged Tokyo Electric in the three months the Fukushima plant has been in crisis have undercut confidence in the response to the disaster and dismayed outside experts, given corporate Japan’s reputation for relentless organization.

Hastily hired workers were sent into the plant without radiation meters. Two splashed into radioactive water wearing street shoes because rubber boots were not available. Even now, few have been given training on radiation risks that meets international standards, according to their accounts and the evaluation of experts.

The workers who stayed on to try to stabilize the plant in the darkest hours after March 11 were lauded as the “Fukushima 50” for their selflessness. But behind the heroism is a legacy of Japanese nuclear workers facing hazards with little oversight, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former nuclear workers, doctors and others.

Since the start of the nuclear boom in the 1970s, Japan’s utilities have relied on temporary workers for maintenance and plant repair jobs, the experts said. They were often paid in cash with little training and no follow-up health screening.

This practice has eroded the ability of nuclear plant operators to manage the massive risks workers now face and prompted calls for the Japanese government to take over the Fukushima clean-up effort.

Although almost 9,000 workers have been involved in work around the mangled reactors, Tokyo Electric did not have a Japan-made robot capable of monitoring radiation inside the reactors until this week.

That job was left to workers, reflecting the industry’s reliance on cheap labor, critics say.

“I can only think that to the power companies, contract workers are just disposable pieces of equipment,” said Kunio Horie, who worked at nuclear plants, including Fukushima Daiichi, in the late 1970s and wrote about his experience in a book “Nuclear Gypsy”.

Tokyo Electric said this week it cannot find 69 of the more than 3,600 workers who were brought in to Fukushima just after the disaster because their names were never recorded.

Others were identified by Tepco in accident reports only by initials: “A-san” or “B-san.” Makoto Akashi, executive director at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences near Tokyo, said he was shocked to learn Tokyo Electric had not screened some of the earliest workers for radiation inside their bodies until June while others had to share monitors to measure external radiation.

That means health risks for workers – and future costs – will be difficult to estimate.

“We have to admit that we didn’t have an adequate system for checking radiation exposure,” said Goshi Hosono, an official appointed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to coordinate the response to the crisis.

BROAD ROAD TO DESTRUCTION

Fujii, who devoted his career to building Japanese nuclear power plants as a manager with IHI Corporation, was troubled by what he saw at Fukushima in 1997.

Now 72, he remembers falling for “the romance of nuclear power” as a student at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University in the 1960s. “The idea that you could take a substance small enough to fit into a tea cup and produce almost infinite power seemed almost like a dream” he said.

He had asked to oversee part of the job at Fukushima as the last big assignment of his career. He threw himself into the work, heading into the reactor for inspections. “I had a sense of mission,” he said.

As he watched a group of Americans at work in the reactor one day, Fujii jotted down a Bible verse in his diary that captured his angst: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.”

The basis for nuclear safety regulation is the assumption that cancers, including leukemia, can be caused years later by exposure to relatively small amounts of radiation, far below the level that would cause immediate sickness. In normal operations, international nuclear workers are limited to an average exposure of 20 millisieverts per year, about 10 times natural background radiation levels.

At Fukushima in 1997, Japanese safety rules were applied in a way that set very low radiation exposure limits on a daily basis, Fujii said. That was a prudent step, safety experts say, but it severely limited what Japanese workers could do on a single shift and increased costs.

The workaround was to bring in foreign workers who would absorb a full-year’s allowable dose of radiation of between 20 millisieverts and 25 millisieverts in just a few days.

“We brought in workers from Southeast Asia and Saudi Arabia who had experience building oil tankers. They took a heavier dose of radiation than Japanese workers could have,” said Fujii, adding that American workers were also hired.

Tokyo Electric would admit five years later it had hid evidence of the extent of the defect in the shroud from regulators. That may have added to the pressure to finish the job quickly. When new cracks were found, they were fixed without a report to regulators, according to disclosures made in 2002.

It is not clear if the radiation doses for the foreign workers were recorded on an individual basis or if they have faced any heath problems. Tepco said it had no access to the worker records kept by its subcontractors. IHI said it had no record of the hiring of the foreign workers. Toshiba, another major contractor, also said it could not confirm that foreign workers were hired.

Hosono, the government official overseeing the response to the disaster, said he was not aware of foreign workers being brought in to do repair work in the past and they would not be sent in now.

Now retired outside Tokyo, Fujii said he has come to see nuclear power as an “imperfect technology.”

“This is an unfortunate thing to say, but the nuclear industry has long relied on people at the lowest level of Japanese society,” he said.

PAY-BY-THE-DAY

Since the late 1960s, the Kamagasaki neighborhood of Osaka has been a dumping ground for men battling drug and alcohol addiction, ex-convicts, and men looking for a construction job with few questions. It has also been a hiring spot for Japan’s nuclear industry for decades.

“Kamagasaki is a place that companies have always come for workers that they can use and then throw away,” said Hiroshi Inagaki, a labor activist.

The nearby Lawson’s store has a sign on its bathroom door warning that anyone trying to flush a used syringe down the toilet will be prosecuted. Peddlers sell scavenged trash, including used shoes and rice cookers. A pair of yakuza enforcers in black shirts and jeans walks the street to collect loans.

The center of Kamagasaki is an office that connects day laborers with the small construction firms that roll up before dawn in vans and minibuses.

Within a week after the Fukushima disaster, Tepco had engaged Japan’s biggest construction and engineering companies to run the job of trying to bring the plant under control. They in turned hired smaller firms, over 600 of them. That cascade brought the first job offers to Kamagasaki by mid-March.

One hiring notice sought a truck driver for Miyagi, one of the prefectures hit hard by the tsunami. But when an Osaka day laborer in his 60s accepted the job, he was sent instead to Fukushima where he was put to work handling water to cool the No. 5 reactor.

The man, who did not want to be identified, was paid the equivalent of about $300 a day, twice what he was first promised. But he was only issued a radiation meter on his fourth day. Inagaki said the man was seeking a financial settlement from Tokyo Electric. “We think what happened here is illegal,” he said.

Nearby, several men waiting to be hired in Kamagasaki said they had experience working at nuclear plants.

A 58-year-old former member of Japan’s Self Defense Forces from southern Japan who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Jumbo, said he had worked at Tokyo Electric’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant for a two-month job. He knows others who have gone to Fukushima from are starting to come back as workers far from home seek the company of bar girls.

“It’s becoming like an army base,” said Shukuko Kuzumi, 63, who runs a cake shop across from the main rail station. “There are workers who come here knowing what the work is like, but I think there are many who don’t.”

Each morning, hired workers pile into buses and beat-up vans and set out from the nearly abandoned resort. More men in the standard-issue white work pajamas pour out of the shipping containers turned into temporary housing at the Hirono highway exit where residents have fled and weeds have overgrown the sidewalks.

They gather at a now abandoned soccer complex where Argentina’s soccer team trained during the 2002 World Cup to get briefed on the tasks for the shifts ahead. They then change into the gear many have come to dread: two or three pairs of gloves, full face masks, goggles and white protective the hiring line at Kamagasaki, he said.

THE ABANDONED SPA

In Iwaki, a town south of the Fukushima plant once known for a splashy Hawaiianthemed resort, the souvenir stands and coffee shops are closed or losing money. The drinking spots known as “snacks” are starting to come back as workers far from home seek the company of bar girls.

“It’s becoming like an army base,” said Shukuko Kuzumi, 63, who runs a cake shop across from the main rail station. “There are workers who come here knowing what the work is like, but I think there are many who don’t.”

Each morning, hired workers pile into buses and beat-up vans and set out from the nearly abandoned resort. More men in the standard-issue white work pajamas pour out of the shipping containers turned into temporary housing at the Hirono highway exit where residents have fled and weeds have overgrown the sidewalks.

They gather at a now abandoned soccer complex where Argentina’s soccer team trained during the 2002 World Cup to get briefed on the tasks for the shifts ahead.

They then change into the gear many have come to dread: two or three pairs of gloves, full face masks, goggles and white protective suits. More than a dozen Fukushima workers have collapsed of heat stroke, and the rising heat weighs more heavily on the minds of workers than threat of radiation.

“I don’t know how I’m going to make it if it gets much hotter than this,” a heavyset, 36-year-old Tokyo man said as he stretched out at Hirono after a day of spraying a green resin around the plant to keep radioactive dust from spreading.

The risks from the radiation hotspots at Fukushima remain considerable. A vent of steam in the No. 1 reactor was found earlier this month to be radioactive enough to kill anyone standing near it for more than an hour.

Tokyo Electric has been given a sanctionfree reprimand for its handling of radiation exposure at Fukushima. Nine workers have exceeded the emergency exposure limit of 250 millisieverts. Another 115 have exceeded 100 millisieverts of exposure. The two workers with the highest radiation readings topped 600 millisieverts of exposure.

For context, the largest study of nuclear workers to date by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found a risk of roughly two additional fatal cancers for every 100 people exposed to 100 millisieverts of radiation.

But several Fukushima workers say they have been told not to worry about health risks unless they top 100 or near 200 millisieverts of exposure in training by contractors.

Experts say that runs counter to international standards. The International Atomic Energy Agency requires workers in a nuclear emergency to give “informed consent” to the risks they face and that they understand danger exists at even low doses.

Tokyo Electric spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said the utility could not confirm what kind of training smaller firms were providing. “The subcontractors have a responsibility as well,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of briefing they are getting.”

Kim Kearfott, a nuclear engineer and radiation health expert from the University of Michigan who toured Japan in May, said authorities needed to ensure that safety training was handled independently by outside experts.

“The potential for coercion and undue influence over a day laborer audience is high, especially when the training and consent are administered by those who control hiring and firing of workers,” she said.

Tokyo Electric has been challenged before on its training. Mitsuaki Nagao, a plumber who had worked at three plants including Fukushima, said he was never briefed on radiation dangers, and would routinely use another worker’s dosimeter to finish jobs. Some doctors worry that the same under-reporting of radiation could happen at Fukushima as well.

Nagao sued Tokyo Electric when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, in 2004. His lawsuit, one of two known worker cases against a Japanese utility, was rejected by a Tokyo court, which ruled no links had been proven between his radiation and his illness. He died in 2007.

Some doctors are urging Japan’s government to set up a system of health monitoring for the thousands of workers streaming through Fukushima. Some also want to see a standard of care guaranteed.

“This is also a problem of economics,” said Kristin Schrader-Frechette, a Notre Dame University professor and nuclear safety expert. “If Japan wants to know the true costs of nuclear power versus the alternatives, it needs to know what these health care costs are.” (Editing by Bill Tarrant)

ENDS

2011’s annual GOJ Spot the Illegal Alien campaign enlists Tokyo Metro, deputizes general public with posters of cute and compliant 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. It’s that time of the year again, when the GOJ has its monthlong campaign to enlist the general public in spotting illegal aliens. Just to make sure that anyone can feel empowered to do Immigration’s job to spot check a NJ’s Gaijin Card (when, according to the Gaitouhou, only officials given policing powers by the MOJ are empowered to demand this form of ID), here we have a poster in a public place, issued by Tokyo Metro, with all sorts of cutesy NJ happily complying with the rigmarole. After all, the small print notes that that these NJ are causing “all kinds of problems” (well, at least they’re being less demonized this time; making them well dressed and cute was a nice touch). And also after all, the slogan is “ru-ru o mamotte kokusaika” (internationalization done by the rules); which is fine, except it would be nice if the police followed their own rules regarding enforcement of Gaijin Card checks. Poster follows, courtesy of MMT and here, received June 23, 2011.  Arudou Debito

M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall academic paper on “Shattered Gods” and the dying mythology of “Japaneseness”

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. What follows (and will take us up through the weekend) is an academic paper that changed my world view about Japan earlier this year. Written by friend M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall, and presented at the Association of Asian Studies annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 3, 2011, it talks about how Japan’s culture is dysfunctional and, put more metaphysically, unable to fill the need of a people to “deny death“. This will on the surface be difficult to wrap one’s head around, so read on, open the mind wide, and take it all in.  Reprinted here with permission of the author and revised specially for Debito.org.

A word of advice to those not used to reading dense academic papers: I suggest readers immediately skip down to the latter half of the paper (I suggest starting from the heading “A personal meditation on the “metaphysical malaise” of desymbolized postwar Japan”), and only go back and read the whole thing after that (even most academics don’t read the whole thing — they just want all ideas grounded in something and read deeper if they need the sources).  Read the conclusion, in any case, and then work backwards if your interest is piqued.

Concentrate. It’s like a dense episode of the X-Files. And it will raise fundamental questions in your mind about whether it’s worth one’s lifetime doing service to and learning about a dying system, which is ascriptive and exclusionary in nature, yet essentially serving nobody.  I have some comments at the very, very bottom.  Arudou Debito

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Shattered Gods: The Unresolved Cultural Consequences of Japan’s Post-1945 Desymbolization Crisis

M.G. Sheftall, Shizuoka University

Overview

In this paper, I will discuss the state of the “cosmological health” of modern Japanese culture. As I employ the term here, a “cosmology” is the formal symbolic codification of a culture’s core beliefs regarding “the nature of the universe, human society, and the individual’s (proper) relation to them” (Charton [undated website]). Throughout history, cosmologies have tended to be theologically canonized or at least to some extent mythologically framed.[1] In terms of pragmatic function, a cosmology legitimates authority structures within a given culture and, in return, rewards its constituents (i.e., those whose “consent of the governed” legitimizes those authority structures) with existential equanimity in the form of a “transcendent ethos to provide appropriate sense of purpose…(symbolic) anchorages that can provide stable meanings…” (Bell 1976: xcix). For obvious psychological reasons, it will behoove the constituents of any given culture to believe that their cosmology is firmly grounded in ontological authority and metaphysical validity, and to have faith that it affords them access to (if not outright exclusive proprietorship of) ultimate truths about the nature of the universe and their own proper individual and collective place in it. Accordingly, when faith in a cosmology’s authority and validity is compromised, for whatever reason, the affected cultural constituents will experience this development with psychological stress in the form of what theologian Paul Tillich called “spiritual anxiety” (1952) or, to use my preferred term, “existential dread”.

From the late 19th century until Imperial Japan’s defeat in the Second World War in 1945, the native constituents of Japanese culture inhabited a reassuringly secure and intensely Emperor-centric symbolic universe I call “the Meiji cosmology”, after the historical and political circumstances of its origin (i.e., Meiji Era Japan, 1868-1912). Tokyo-based British academic Basil Hall Chamberlain, writing as a contemporary eyewitness to the earliest official mass proselytization of the Meiji cosmology, claimed that the ideological campaign he had observed constituted an “invention of a new religion” created almost entirely from scratch with the two-birds-with-one-stone aim of 1) restoring existential equanimity to the general populace, whose centuries-old traditional native cosmology the Meiji founding fathers had essentially demolished in the zealous modernizing/industrializing/militarizing pursuit of their nation-building project; and 2) legitimating and rallying popular support for Japan’s new centralized Imperial regime (Chamberlain 1912).

Whether or not this cosmology formally qualified as a “religion”, per se, is an issue beyond the scope of our present discussion. Nevertheless, across the roughly six decades during which it was still functioning “as designed” – i.e., providing its constituents with a robust sense of individual and collective purpose in life and a sense of transcendent connection to (some never more than vaguely circumscribed formulation of) the eternal and divine – the Meiji cosmology certainly displayed many of the classic hallmarks of a religion (Fujitani 1996). First of all, it clearly possessed the ability to compel its constituents (its “faithful”) to extremes of devotion and self-sacrifice, largely through the manipulation of mythology, sacred symbols, and Imperial rescripts and edicts handed down “from on high” with all the pious ceremony and heavy portent of Papal bulls (perhaps stone tablets from Mount Sinai are a more apt metaphor). In addition, it held jurisdiction over the rigid circumscription of sacrosanct “off limits” areas of political discourse. It also provided public facilities and employed clergy-like professionals for the administration of cosmology-proselytizing/legitimating rites and devotional ceremonies (e.g. Shinto shrines and their administrators constructed and salaried, respectively, with public funds) (Garon 1997). Lastly, it oversaw the “policing of the ranks” of its cosmological constituency through frequent and very public excoriation of “heretics” and “apostates” (particularly during the early Shōwa Era, e.g., the harsh professional fate and personal trauma suffered by eminent prewar political scientist Minobe Tatsukichi, who had dared to define the Emperor’s political raison d’etre as “an organ of the state” earlier in his career [Bix 2000] ).

At the peak of its metaphysical centrality in the symbolic lifeworld (Habermas et al) of the general populace – arguably, and ironically, during the years of mobilization for, and prosecution of, the “total” war of 1937-1945 that would eventually result in its catastrophic invalidation – the Meiji cosmology possessed a firm enough “claim to definitive truth and unalterable moral certainty” (Lifton 1998: 11) to compel its constituents to great extremes of individual and collective self-sacrifice in its defense. The operant constituent mindset is clearly evident in virtually any sampling of textual artifacts of contemporary Japanese establishment rhetoric, as in this example from an essay by Shintō ultranationalist Kakehi Katsuhiko published in a 1938 issue of Chuō Kōron:

 

No matter how much of a wrongdoer, no matter how evil, a Japanese subject may have been, when once he has taken his stand on the field of battle, all his past sins are entirely atoned for and they become as nothing. The wars of Japan are carried on in the name of the Emperor and there they are holy wars. All the soldiers who participate in these holy wars are representative(s) of the Emperor; they are his loyal subjects. To put the matter of what kind of person he may be, (he) possesses the inherent capacity of becoming a loyal subject and of being empowered to put that loyalty into operation. The matchless superiority of the Japanese national life lies just here…(quoted in Skya 2009: 205).

 

Minus the Japan-specific cultural signifiers, the reader would be forgiven for mistaking Kakehi’s words for quotations from modern day Jihadist recruiting copy. The fact that text as metaphysically ambitious as this appeared in a respected organ of national intellectual debate demonstrates just how compelling – even to the point of “magical thinking” – the Meiji cosmology had become by this point in Japan’s modern history. And as that history also shows, this cosmology – in its most fanatic 1930s-1940s militarist-ultranationalist incarnation – was underscored and reified in the Japanese military’s resort to kamikaze attacks and other forms of suicide tactics in the final year of the 1937-1945 war (Sheftall 2008). However, ostensibly unbeknownst to its original crafters – and perhaps only first suspected by its custodians and constituents three generations later as it neared the effective end of its ideological life in 1944-45 – the Meiji cosmology harbored a congenital flaw of extreme sensitivity to falsification by worldly events. In the end, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, the Meiji cosmology turned out to be “a faith which could not survive collision with the truth”.

 

Theoretical framework of my concept of “cosmology”

According to the (relatively) new socio-psychological field of Terror Management Theory (TMT) (Greenberg et al 1986), from the ultimate reductionist perspective of evolutionary benefit, we human beings need cosmologies to protect ourselves against the potentially pathological existential dread that would otherwise assail us as sentient, intelligent beings conscious of our inevitable mortality and ever aware (on some level of conscious) of the possibility that the ostensibly “heroic” personal strivings and dramas of our lives may be, all things said and done, essentially “inconsequential in the cosmic scheme of things” (Raymo 1998: 110). Accordingly, when people find themselves in a position where they are unable to access a sufficiently robust cosmology – either because of individual mental health and/or philosophical crisis issues or, collectively, because their cosmology itself is for some reason no longer able to function “as designed” to provide its constituents with existential equanimity – the psychological consequences can be dire. As Sigmund Freud once wrote to one of his (many) acolytes, “The moment one inquires about the sense or value of life, one is sick” (quoted in Jones 1957: 465). When a cosmology is working “as designed”, it is supposed to inoculate its constituents against just this “sickness” Freud identifies here, which we are referring to in our present discussion as “existential dread”.

TMT marked the opening of an important new field in social psychology when it first appeared during the 1980s as the brainchild of (then) doctoral candidates Sheldon Solomon, Jeffrey Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski. Originally inspired by the work of late cultural anthropologist and philosopher Ernest Becker (1924-1974), and since validated in hundreds of psychology and other social science discipline studies around the world (including Japan, cf. Mukai 2003; Kashima et al 2004; et al), TMT holds that a culture provides its constituents with existential equanimity by means of two mutually-supporting structural elements (which I subsume under the term “cosmology”). One of these is the culture’s “worldview” – a “social construction of ‘reality’” (Berger & Luckmann 1967) which is usefully thought of as providing a “stage” in symbolic space upon which the cosmology’s loyal constituents play out their lives in (what most cultures frame as) a fundamentally just universe where things happen for valid reasons and where virtue is rewarded. The second element in the cosmological dyad is the culture’s “hero-system(s)”, which – sticking to our dramaturgical metaphor – can be thought of as the “script” or “stage directions” for the playing out of those “meaningful” lives on their respective “worldview stages”. If all goes well, all involved in the production, performance and audience participation of this cosmological theater (if you will) will receive social feedback-reinforced self-esteem and thus a form of symbolic immortality as diligent participants in the (its constituents hope) immortal narrative of the grand cultural project itself (cf. Freud 1930, Rank 1932, Becker 1962, 1973, 1975, et al).

Regarding the taxonomic hierarchy of these terms, it is useful for our purposes to envision “hero-systems” as functioning within the context of their venue-providing “worldviews”, with both of these elements, in turn, subsumed (again, in my taxonomy) within a “cosmology”. This taxonomy reflects what I see as the relative affective scale of the respective components, and thus their relative importance to a culture. To wit, I believe that cultures can and do survive frequent “adjustments on the fly” to their respective hero-system(s) and cultural worldviews, as dictated by the constant flow of incoming new environmental information that behooves such adjustments (lest the culture “lose its grip on reality”, so to speak). Moreover, in all but the most rigid and isolated cultures, a cycle of constant hero-system and (in moderation) worldview tweaking and readjustment is the normal state of affairs, as the culture’s mores and standards of value naturally shift to accommodate social, economic, and technological changes emerging from generation to generation (e.g. the turbulent but not necessarily catastrophic effect of the decade of the 1960s on American and European middle class hero-systems and worldviews). Certainly, throughout its history, Japanese culture has repeatedly proven itself to be highly adaptable and flexible in this regard. But as both history and anthropology show us, the delegitimization of a cosmology – the ideological and ontological functions of a culture that gives its constituents’ lives meaning – is an ontological catastrophe that can have the direst consequences for the health of a culture (Wilson 1981, Mitscherlich & Mitscherlich 1975, Schivelbusch 2002[2001]). The reason for this is that when a cosmology is threatened, the normally culturally provided illusion of immortality, either symbolic (e.g., fame, glory, lasting achievements, membership in an “immortal” cultural project, etc.) or literal (as in belief in an “afterlife”, etc.) that is the basis of its constituents’ main psychological defense against existential dread is also threatened.

As long ago as Thucydides, students of human conflict have recognized that “human hopes…for immortality tend to overwhelm human fears, even of violent death” (Ahrendorf 2000:579). It is precisely these hopes that a cosmology’s concomitant array of worldview and hero-system(s) function to fulfill (immortality aspirations, after all, merely being mortality fears more heroically and romantically rephrased). Of course, in any era and culture, there will be certain individuals who will have attained the status of “heroes” in the most literal sense, both validating their respective cosmologies (and thus winning the gratitude and adulation of the constituencies of those cosmologies) through their personal glories and achievements and, in so doing, securing a level of symbolic immortality most of us can only dream about. That is all fine and well for such “immortals”, but what, one may ask (perhaps not without some trepidation), are all the rest of us “mere mortals” to do about our own existential equanimity needs? Denied even the Warholian “fifteen minutes of fame” that was supposed to be our birthright in this age of mass communications (YouTube and Facebook notwithstanding), what are we supposed to do about securing our own modest shred of symbolic immortality to leave our mark on this world before departing it forever?

“For the more passive masses of mediocre men”, in Ernest Becker’s rather blunt formulation (1973:6), the only symbolic immortality game left for us to play is diligent loyalty to the respective cosmologies into which we are born. We essentially live out our entire lives in this cultural bubble, utterly unaware that we are essentially ontological prisoners in the closed systems of our native cosmologies, each of which is itself merely one among a myriad of equally cosmologically valid culture-specific ideological modelings of reality enjoying the devoted loyalty of countless other human beings around the world and throughout history. Barring neurotic breakdown and/or catastrophic worldview invalidation by external agency (as per the case under examination in this study), most of us remain blissfully ignorant of our participation in the evolutionarily beneficial cosmological theater of worldviews and hero-systems, confident that our lives have meaning and cosmic significance simply because an accident of birth afforded us automatic congenital constituency in the one, single cosmology that just happens to possess exclusive interpretational rights to absolute truth and the ultimate secrets of meaningful human existence. Simultaneously emboldened and blindered by this illusion, we wake up every morning thanking the heavens for our good luck and pitying (while doing our best to mock, convert, kill, or just ignore) the benighted “infidels” in other cultures who are either too perverse, misguided, or just plain stupid (the poor saps!) to realize, as we do, that they live under bogus cosmologies.

While we are on the topic of effective ways of dealing with rival cosmologies, this is a good place to begin a discussion on the dangers of the mutually-reinforcing triangular relationship of: 1) cosmologies; 2) violence; and 3) the human need to feel significant. Becker terms the human need to feel significant “the problem of heroics”, an issue that is:

 

the central one of human life…it goes deeper into human nature than anything else because it is based on organismic narcissism and on the child’s need for self-esteem as the condition for his life. Society itself is a codified hero system, which means that society everywhere is a living myth of the significance of human life, a defiant creation of meaning (1973:7).

 

Unfortunately for past and current conditions – and future prospects – of the human species, the fighting of (and vigilant preparation for) war has spectacular utility in terms of addressing this “problem of heroics.” After McLuhan (1964), Gellner (1983) and Hobsbawm (1990), I would add that the traditional centrality of warfare in human cosmologies has attained a new urgency since the development of mass communication technologies and the increased lethality of industrialized armaments production facilitated the advent of new populist constructions of national subjectivity (with ideologically appropriate supportive cosmologies) in Western Europe and North America during the 18th century, followed by East Asia approximately one century later. This understanding of modern societies at war as superlative producers (as well as rabid consumers) of mass-disseminated, martially-valorized hero-systems darkly underscores Becker’s original formulation of “society” as “a symbolic action system, a structure of statuses and roles, customs and rules for behavior, designed to serve as a vehicle for earthly heroism” (1973:4). Now that an ever-increasing number of mutually antipathetic cosmological projects around the world are girding their loins with nuclear weaponry, humanity faces the ultimate irony that what must have seemed a great design solution for the problem of existential dread for our deity-inventing ancient ancestors now poses the ever-present risk of wiping us out. In other words, our cosmologies now pose the very real threat of someday ending up being the death of us all. In the next section, let us examine the background conditions and consequences of modern Japanese culture’s near-miss experience with such a fate.

 

A brief history of the Meiji cosmology

After many decades of postwar national psychoanalysis of Japan by scholars and public intellectuals both domestic and foreign, (by the way, I concur with historian Harry Harootunian in considering Japan’s “postwar period” to still be an ongoing condition), it is almost an academic truism to observe that Japanese culture has suffered two catastrophic cosmological upheavals in its modern history. The first of these was the Meiji “Restoration” of 1868, which itself had been triggered by the earlier crisis of the “opening” of Japan to the West in the 1850s. Although this development has tended to be glossed as a cultural triumph both in establishment interpretations and in popular consciousness of modern Japanese history, many astute pre-1945 Japanese observers – Meiji contemporary author Soseki Natsume, cultural anthropologist and folklorist Yanagida Kunio, and the thinkers of the pre-war “Kyoto School” of philosophers spring to mind as famous examples – were sensitive to the vast cosmological disruption the willfully-imposed chaos of the Restoration left in its wake, as have many postwar Japanese observers, as well (Kishida 1977, Oketani 1996, et al). The second of these upheavals – and one with a far more complicated (and still very much psychologically raw) presence in both establishment and popular consciousness – is the cosmological collapse Japanese culture experienced as a consequence of Japan’s 1945 defeat in the Second World (Asia-Pacific) War and during seven years of culturally intrusive postwar military occupation by the American-led Allied Powers (Kitahara 1984).

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, in his frequent writings on Japan, refers to the post-1868 and post-1945 cosmological upheavals as “historical dislocations”, times:

 

when (cultural) change is too rapid and extreme to be readily absorbed; it then impairs symbol systems having to do with family, religion, social and political authority, sexuality, birth and death, and the overall ordering of the life cycle…There is a loss of a sense of fit between what individuals feel themselves to be and what a society or culture, formally or informally, expects them to be…. At such times, our psychological viability as the cultural animal, or what might be called the “immortalizing animal” (they are virtually the same), is under duress – until new combinations can reanimate our perceived place in the great chain of being (1993: 14-15)

 

It is ironic to appreciate that the Meiji Restoration of 1867-1868 – the event generally recognized as marking the birth of modern Japan (Maruyama 1963[1956], Reischauer 1970, Gluck 1985, Morris-Suzuki 1998, Buruma 2003, Gordon 2003, et al) – and one that also gave birth to the superlatively compelling (but also immeasurably destructive and fatally falsifiable) Meiji cosmology – was itself a direct consequence of Japanese response to an earlier ontological/cosmological crisis, namely, the forced “opening” of Shogunate Japan by United States warships in 1853-1854. This American intrusion resulted in Japan’s abrupt emergence from two and a half centuries of self-imposed and near-total cultural and diplomatic isolation from the outside world, subjecting Japanese culture to what Lifton (1979) refers to as a crisis of “desymbolization” – that is, a period during which, in my terminology, a culture’s cosmology ceases to function properly and thus cannot provide its constituents with symbolic immortality robust enough to stave off existential anxiety.

The American interventions of 1853-1854 set in motion a fifteen-year-long chain of events that saw the collapse of the 265-year-old Shogunate regime in 1868 and its replacement by a centralized national bureaucracy (later joined by a legislature) that wielded sovereign authority under the tutelary aegis of the young Emperor Meiji (1852–1912). The society the new Imperial regime inherited from its Shogunate predecessors was one that was still, in many senses of the term, medieval. By any measure, Japan was at this point still woefully unprepared – socially, economically, culturally, and militarily – to interact from anything but the most humiliatingly obsequious subaltern position (one certainly not conducive to robust symbolic immortality provision!) with the dominant Western powers (rekkyō) that were so feared yet also so enthusiastically emulated by Japan’s new leadership (LaFeber 1997, Oguma 2002 [1996]).

Accordingly, from the outset of the great Meiji Era nation-building project, the ex-samurai running the new regime saw the correction of this unacceptably weak strategic position as Japan’s most urgent national goal. One major obstacle to this agenda was the fact that the largely uneducated rural proletariat  (Gordon 2003) that was the overwhelmingly dominant demographic cohort of this still medieval society inhabited pastoral, animistic, microscopically localized cosmologies that afforded little concept of national subjectivity beyond a catalogue of vague cultural foundation myths passed down through oral tradition by troubadours and local wise men. It is doubtful that many of the Emperor’s new subjects in 1868 even had a clear conception of the institution of the Imperial throne. But long years of huge national investment in educational policy eventually bore fruit. The Emperor’s new national subjects were given an almost entirely new cosmology for their new existence as “Japanese”, replete with a robust, internationally-aware, and pride-inspiring worldview and a network of compelling hero-systems mutually supportive of one another and, most importantly of all, of and for the greater glory of the new Imperial project.

The symbolic lynchpin of the Meiji cosmology – the careful crafting of which was indelibly marked by the influence of arch-conservative Imperial Japanese Army figures such as ex-samurai Field Marshal Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922) (Norman 1943, Smethurst 1974, Humphreys 1995, Yoshida 2002, et al) – was the notion of divinely ordained Japanese cultural infallibility manifest in the august person of the Emperor himself, from whose immortal ancestral bloodline all Japanese were descended, regardless of social station, and to whom all owed as a sacred debt their entire existence, being, loyalty, and destiny, both physical and symbolic. Proselytized with stunning efficacy by Meiji Japan’s national education system (cf. Gluck 1985, Morris-Suzuki 1998, et al) and the army (cf. Smethurst 1974), the Meiji cosmology embraced a hero-system ethos that valorized self-sacrifice for the national/cultural project as the pinnacle of symbolic immortality to which any loyal subject of the Emperor might ever hope to aspire – a somewhat more earthbound and figurative Japanese equivalent to the literal “afterlife” immortality aspired to by believers in the “revealed” faiths of Christianity and Islam. As subsequent overseas military ventures would soon prove, this was a supremely efficient ethos for the mobilization of a society in toto for the era of industrialized total war these Meiji ideologues foresaw – with a certain self-fulfilling prescience – as mankind’s glorious and terrible fate in the upcoming 20th century (Peattie 1975).

Prevented by native religious tradition and cultural pride from access to the ontological safety net (so hated by Nietzsche!) of the “revealed” (and thus unfalsifiable) theologically-based cosmologies (i.e., Christianity) animating the worldviews of Japan’s Western counterparts, the Meiji ideologues instead fashioned a self-reverential “god” out of their new formulation of Japanese national subjectivity itself. This formulation provided the theological mortar for the structure of their new cosmology. And as history would eventually prove (and as we have already observed), the new “god” of an infallible and invincible Japan these ideologues created turned out to be tragically vulnerable to falsification by worldly events – namely abject military defeat and the aforementioned humiliating and immeasurably traumatic experience of a lengthy and culturally intrusive Allied occupation that changed the political, cultural and psychological landscape of the nation forever. This fundamental flaw not only nearly pushed Japan to national extinction in 1944-45 as the culture’s constituents resorted to extreme measures to shore up their faltering cosmology in the face of impending collapse, but moreover, it left the Japanese people unprotected when that collapse finally came. The structure of the Meiji cosmology being what it was, the Japanese people had to absorb the full shock of shattering defeat without the back-up ontological “safety net” of a robust native religious tradition (having had that taken away after 1868) equipped with theological rationalizations for worldly human setbacks. The psychological aftershocks of this cosmological failure still rumble both beneath and above the surface of Japanese national subjectivity today (cf. Etō 1974, Katō 1995, Oketani 1996, Nathan 2004, et al).

 

Post-Meiji cosmology collapse Japan

The combined shocks of Imperial Japan’s defeat, surrender, and subsequent occupation by Allied forces proved fatal for the continued metaphysical validity of the Meiji cosmology, rendering it unable to provide for the metaphysical/spiritual needs and existential/psychological equanimity of its constituents. Nevertheless, despite (or perhaps, from a more sinister perspective, possibly because of) the Meiji cosmology’s broken condition, the Allied Occupation forces allowed its comatose body to retain a central symbolic position in the political domain of postwar national subjectivity, kept alive on a kind of ideological artificial life support system administered in turn by Occupation authorities, conservative Japanese establishment figures and institutions, and even yakuza right-wing underworld elements (Kodama 1951).

This aspect of Occupation policy was the consequence of a concatenation of several circumstantial exigencies. First was the strategic utility of promising the postwar continuation of the Imperial institution as a way of convincing hard line Japanese military leaders to accede to the Emperor’s decision to surrender to the Allies in August 1945. Another was the political consideration of the Allies appreciating the utility of the Imperial institution as an instrument of Occupation policy (including the prevention of Japan emerging from the ashes of its postwar cosmological collapse reincarnated as a communist state – a scenario which, in the Cold War era context of the times, it was in the interest of both the Imperial institution and the Allies to prevent being realized) (Matsuda 2007). Lastly, apparently, was a cultural and historical misinterpretation on the part of the Allied authorities – in large part a result of input from Japanese establishment figures in the confusion of the initial stages of the Occupation – that the basic structure of the Meiji cosmology was of such ancient and hallowed origins (as opposed to its actual late 19th century origins) that its retention would be central and indispensible to any formulation of national subjectivity that could possibly be psychologically acceptable to the Japanese populace (Dower 1999, Frank 1998, Bix 2000, Matsuda 2007)). That said, this “misinterpretation” may very well have been one of convenience, as these same Allied authorities were determined to see that while the postwar incarnation of the Meiji cosmology would of course be useful in preventing Japan from ever drifting into the Communist orbit, it would also never again be robust enough to inspire its constituents to become warriors against the West capable of the level of fanatic combat ferocity the American military had encountered on battlefields across the Pacific during the war. Appropriate measures were undertaken to ensure that the necessary ideological changes (or, as many postwar Japanese commentators have put it, ideological emasculation [Nonaka 1997]) would take place. Ostensibly, Japanese political authorities were so overcome with relief and gratitude at their country’s new occupiers’ decision to spare the central signifier of the dysfunctional Meiji cosmology – i.e., the Imperial institution – and so desperate to believe that all had not really been lost in defeat, that they failed to foresee the severe cost in terms of the metaphysical validity of Japanese culture (especially in terms of existential equanimity) this decision would end up exacting from both contemporary and later generations of Japanese.

Under pressure from Japan’s Allied occupiers, the effective metaphysical dismantling of the Meiji cosmology was personally acceded to and overseen by its primary custodians, i.e., the Emperor himself and his various relevant advisors and governmental ministries, through: deed (e.g., the infamous photograph of the Emperor visiting Occupation commander General Douglas MacArthur, published in all major national daily newspapers in September 1945) (Watanabe 1977); proclamation (e.g., the Emperor’s ningen sengen official announcement denying Imperial divinity, radio broadcast to the nation on January 1, 1946); policy (changes in national educational curricula, et al); and legislation (the largely American-written 1947 Constitution). Consequently, the Japanese populace as a whole appears to have effectively abandoned the cosmology’s more overt claims to metaphysical validity (Field 1993, et al) – a rejection motivated no doubt by the populace’s overall post-defeat psychological state of ressentiment and cultural disenchantment, but also motivated, it can probably be safely assumed, by a measure of disgust over the facility with which these custodians of the Meiji cosmology had accommodated the policies and wishes of the nation’s culturally alien Occupation Forces (Watanabe 1977).

In the aftermath of this rejection, however, the vast majority of postwar Japanese do not seem to have adopted any new cosmology to replace the dysfunctional Meiji variant they abandoned after their nation’s defeat. Although there are strong arguments (Reischauer 1970, Garon 1997, McVeigh 1997) that the phenomenal postwar popularity of the so-called “new religions” (shin shūkyō) of Sōka Gakkai, Perfect Liberty, etc., constitute just such an adoption of a form of “replacement cosmology” at the populist level, it cannot be claimed that these “new” religions – even in terms of their overall combined influence – come anywhere close to “filling the metaphysical shoes”, if you will, of the discredited Meiji cosmology.

Although most participants in Japanese political discourse from the far right-wing fringes continue to champion the metaphysically empty shell of the Meiji cosmology, it is very telling of its postwar condition of ideological impotence that these right-wing elements almost never make the cosmology’s metaphysical tenets a central element of their propaganda anymore. This is ostensibly because these discursive participants are astute enough to realize that doing so – in today’s Japanese discursive environment – would be both a waste of rhetorical airtime as well as counterproductive to their political agenda. The truth of the matter is that the dysfunctional Meiji cosmology simply is no longer capable of providing the great masses of Japanese culture’s constituents with any metaphysical benefit beyond its recognizability as a cultural signifier and the thin existential consolation of cultural/historical continuity inherent in the longevity of the Imperial institution itself. But even that thin comfort comes at the steep cultural price of successive generations shouldering the burden of various unhappy items of historical baggage associated with the tainted legacy of the Meiji cosmology’s complicity in war responsibility and/or the cultural humiliation of the 1945 defeat.

Nevertheless, the Meiji cosmology’s symbolic position in Japanese political space is still so salient, central, and sacrosanct that it prevents the emergence of any rival new cosmology to, again borrowing Lifton’s wording, “reanimate…a perceived place in the great chain of being” for the modern day constituents of Japanese culture that might serve as the foundation for a more metaphysically robust formulation of postwar Japanese national subjectivity. Moreover, the centrality and sanctity of the Meiji cosmology’s position has been regularly and spectacularly enforced by right-wing violence during Japan’s long postwar (e.g., the assassination of Japan Socialist Party chairman Asanuma Inejiro in 1960, the attempted assassination of the mayor of Nagasaki in 1989, regular violent attacks against staff of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other liberal rhetors, etc.) to the point where public discourse over the cosmology’s continuing validity (or lack thereof) would appear to have been effectively crushed by the weight of the so-called “chrysanthemum taboo” (Sugimoto 2010). It is my opinion that the resultant “metaphysical lacuna” in postwar Japanese culture has been kept frozen in place by fear, inertia, lack of imagination, sentimentality, and historically misinformed cultural loyalties. It is also my opinion that the resultant cultural condition has had, and is continuing to have, negative repercussions vis-a-vis the ability of modern Japanese culture to provide for the existential equanimity of its constituents over the six-decades-long postwar era, with commensurate negative effects on the ability, again, of postwar Japanese culture to serve as a framework for a more robust formulation of national subjectivity (Nosaka 1997, Kang 2008). Moreover, I believe that the inertia behind this stasis will not be budged as long as the Meiji cosmology maintains its privileged position of ideological political centrality. Any proposal for national revitalization coming from the Japanese establishment that does not take this into account will fail to accomplish anything beyond a rearrangement of the same old ultimately shallow and unconvincing postwar cultural window dressing.

 

A personal meditation on the “metaphysical malaise” of desymbolized postwar Japan

One afternoon in 2003, approximately one year into an ethnographic study of Japanese survivors of the wartime Kamikaze Corps that eventually became my book Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze (2005), I was reading a slim but engaging volume on modern day Japanese culture by film critic Donald Richie titled The Image Factory (2003). As is usually the case with Richie’s work, much of the book is comprised of observations of the many absurdities and oddities of Japan today, replete with the expected riffs on hikikomori, kosupure, pachinko, etc., all written with the author’s characteristic “Quirky Old Japan Hand” mixture of acid wit, vast expertise, and sharp eye for capturing the unique pathos of modern day life in our mutual adopted home country. However, toward the end of the book, I came upon a passage that literally took my breath away – not because it revealed something to me I had never thought of before, but rather, because it encapsulated so perfectly something I had been thinking about for a very long time.

In a single paragraph of brutal candor, Richie verbalized a certain metaphysical malaise in the Japanese condition that I had been vaguely aware of since arriving in the country in 1987. Outside of the jeremiads and diatribes of right-wing pundits, this metaphysical malaise (or lacuna, as I have referred to it above) is generally kept politely hidden – like an embarrassing family secret jealously protected – although I had caught many glimpses and snippets of it here and there during my long years in Japan, most often and vividly in the sake-lubricated lamentations of older Japanese men (especially those old enough to remember life when the Meiji cosmology was still vibrant and functional). Moreover, it explained the grievously conflicted belief systems (i.e., torn between lingering loyalty to the Meiji cosmology vs. necessary adjustments to the undeniable realities of the postwar present) I had observed to more or less of a degree among virtually all of the Japanese war veteran subjects of my ethnographic project. My subjects had gradually revealed their lingering emotional turmoil over the collapse of the Meiji cosmology to me over our months and years of acquaintance with displays ranging from self-deprecating humor and passive resignation on some occasions, to painful and unrestrained expressions of profound grief, humiliation, and snarling hinekuri resentment on others. But it was not until I encountered Richie’s passage – which is worth quoting at length here – that I could really grasp the “pathology”, if you will, of this “metaphysical malaise”:

 

Richie:  “In the decades following the war Japan has vastly improved in all ways but one. No substitute has ever been discovered for the certainty that this people enjoyed until the summer of 1945…Japan suffered a trauma that might be compared to that of the individual believer who suddenly finds himself an atheist. Japan lost its god, and the hole left by a vanished deity remains. The loss was not the emperor, a deity suddenly lost through his precipitate humanization. It was, however, everything for which he and his whole ordered, pre-war empire had stood. It was certainty itself that was lost. And this is something that the new post-war world could not replace”(120-121).

 

Richie’s words haunted me for months (they still do today), becoming a central theme in my book about kamikaze survivors. But even as I was finishing writing the book, I realized that these words had, in the end, really left me with far more questions than answers. What, I wondered, does it mean for a culture to “lose its god”? What would be the psychological effect on someone who had been existentially cradled by a robust (even if eventually proved false) cosmological “certainty” in the early phases of his/her life, then be forced to live the remainder of that life bereft of that certainty? What multigenerational ramifications would be involved for a culture that loses “certainty itself”? How could such a culture provide its constituents with the “necessary illusion” of literal and/or symbolic immortality human beings in any culture need to maintain existential and psychological equanimity (Williams 1983: 221)?

Arriving as I did at the peak of the Bubble Era of the Japanese economy, it seemed to me at the time that the primary modern Japanese cultural solution to the existential issues of its constituents was to bang incessantly on the drum of the gaman/gambaru “nobility of suffering” Japanese cultural trope that psychologist George De Vos has termed “moral masochism” (1973). As far as I could tell, this cultural strategy appeared to function primarily by keeping its constituents so busy and exhausted all the time that they had neither the time nor the mental energy to expend consciously brooding over their postmodern angst. I am sure that this “quick and dirty” method of existential dread suppression will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent any portion of their life in military uniform.

During these days of my earliest first-hand experiences of Japanese culture, I was also aware of a secondary and somewhat more consciously ideological network of existential support. This was to be found lingering amidst the mass-produced, commercial, self-indulgent and even self-reverential immersion in kitschy cultural nostalgia I seemed to see every time I turned on the TV or opened a magazine or newspaper here or walked through a public space. This second, more consciously ideological support network seemed to be based on: 1) what Peter Dale (1986) termed “the myth of Japanese uniqueness” (which Freud would have recognized as a supreme example of his concept of “the narcissism of minor differences”); and 2) the illusion of cultural-historical continuity, homogeneity and connectedness provided by simple celebrations of “Japaneseness” for its own sake. Coming under the latter category would be the daily mass media fare of endless re-hashings of oddly self-Orientalizing cultural nostalgia tropes like samurai dramas, travel shows searching out “unspoiled pockets” of pristine natsukashii rural Japaneseness. More recently, a new trope in this rhetorical genre has been the (at least what I experience as) profoundly forlorn nostalgia boom for postwar Shōwa Era Japan (cf. Harootunian, Yoda et al 2006). Recent Japanese discourse along these lines often seek to evoke comforting Camelot-like nostalgic sentimentality even over the plastic kitsch-fest of the Osaka International Expo of 1970 – an event I actually see instead as iconic of the very postwar desymbolization crisis that is the topic of this paper. Recently, a somewhat bizarre variant of the Shōwa nostalgia genre is the so-called kōjō kengaku (“factory tour”) boom, which is characterized by sentimental waxings over the rusting hulks of 1950s-1970s industrial plant – reassuring iconography, it is assumed, of the last era in living memory when the majority of the residents of this archipelago experienced a (relatively) compelling sense of collective purpose (even as the hero-systems that sustained their existential equilibrium thusly poisoned their bodies with smog and mercury and assaulted their physical senses with some of the ugliest urban and suburban landscapes in the economically developed world).

Another key element of this “commodified cultural nostalgia” omnipresent in Japanese semiotic space today is the conspicuously ironic use of “traditional” and Edo Period (i.e., pre-Meiji desymbolization crisis)-evocative cultural signifiers in print and broadcast visual advertising copy. This very “postmodern”-flavored commercial usage of traditional cultural signifiers tends to vary in stance between unabashed self-reverence and self-parodying kitsch – and is perhaps at its most postmodern and hip when it can express both stances simultaneously.

But are these celebrations of Japaneseness a form of triumphalist cultural exclusivism, as so many critics of the Nihonjinron genre have charged over the years (Dale 1986, Van Wolferen 1989, Befu 2001)? Or are they more akin to camouflage – something to paper over and keep people’s minds off the very postwar “loss of certainty” Richie has identified?  Perhaps both of these functions are not mutually exclusive, and might even actually constitute one and the same cultural/psychological defense mechanism.

I have long suspected that the “celebrations of Japaneseness”/”commodified cultural nostalgia” angle must have a particular appeal for older Japanese (either consciously or unconsciously) confronted with two mutually reinforcing negative trains of thought: 1) the specter of the supposedly timeless Japanese cultural project to which they have contributed their whole lives now framed as faltering under the unstoppable forces of globalization – a message which is pounded into their minds by Japanese mass media day in and day out;[2] and 2) the unwelcome reality of their own rapidly approaching individual mortality. It seems a natural enough reaction in such a predicament to desire some conservative cultural champion to appear magically and, in William F. Buckley’s famous phrase, “stand astride history and yell ‘Stop!’” (citation needed). Perhaps one of the secrets of Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintarō’s electoral successes over the years is that he is the most visible Japanese today willing to take such a romantic hero-like stance in public, regularly bellowing reactionary opinions about the state of Japan and Japanese culture today that many of the governor’s compatriots apparently harbor in their hearts but are afraid to utter themselves.

Moreover, the “mortality salience” (Greenberg et al 1986) issues both generated by and, in turn, motivating and sustaining such discourse must no doubt be particularly relevant for those Japanese – certainly a substantial majority in today’s Japan – who are unable to avail themselves of the additional existential support of more robust religious faith as part of their psychological arsenal in their double-edged confrontation with the specter of a (possibly) faltering cultural project and (indubitably and inexorably) impending personal mortality. What, after all, are all those “culture centers” and kōminkan full of retirees taking up bonsai, tea ceremony, nagauta singing or buyō dancing if not facilities for the provision of some measure, however modest, of palliative existential reassurance – places where people can gather to be comforted by the idea of their culture surviving their own individual mortality with a reassuring catalogue of recognizable cultural signifiers and identity markers still in place? Such an arrangement might not afford the rock hard existential security – the literal immortality – of a belief in an afterlife in the “Heaven” or “Paradise” of other cultures’ unfalsifiable “revealed” religions, but it can nevertheless provide its patrons with a tepid sort of consolation prize symbolic immortality that is, after all, ostensibly better than having no faith in anything at all as one contemplates one’s own personal mortality.

But what is the broken postwar incarnation of the Meiji cosmology doing for young Japanese people? Can a cosmology bereft of more heroically transcendent claims to cosmic connection and significance – in other words, one bereft of a more compelling formulation of symbolic immortality – be vigorous enough to provide the younger constituents of Japanese culture with a sense of purpose in life and hopes and dreams for the future? From my personal perspective in dealing with Japanese young people (especially males) on a daily basis, it seems that they have precious little access to any cosmology more heroically compelling than video games, manga fantasies, online chat rooms, mindless consumerism, and exam-cramming for a now virtually non-existent job market. Under the circumstances, is there any wonder that so many of them seem to be tuning out, turning off, and dropping out of society, preferring the bleak sanctuary of their broadband-connected bedrooms rather than facing the world beyond their doorsteps? Is there any wonder the national birthrate is plummeting to all time lows? Who can be blamed for not bubbling over with enthusiasm at the prospect of bringing into the world new constituents of a cosmological project whose predominant milieu seemed to be one giant, mass repository for the mothball storage of the cultural signifiers and artifacts of a defunct cosmology – a national milieu that historian Harry Harootunian has recently termed “a vast theme park of bad cultural memory” (2009: 108)? I would like to think that this lack of youth engagement with the ongoing fortunes of the national project constitutes a passive-aggressive rejection of the Meiji cosmology on their part, rather than a complete loss of hope in their culture – or even in life itself. But I cannot say this is so with any confidence.

 

Conclusion

In recent years, I have been thinking a lot about Freud’s concept of libidinal economy in the context of Japan’s present impoverished cosmological condition. In Freud’s understanding of the self, “libido” – the life force behind not only sexual drive but also our greater natural organismic urge to self-expansiveness under which our reproductive drive is subsumed – is modeled somewhat like the hydraulics and thermodynamics of live steam in a closed network of pipes. When the pressure of the “steam” builds up beyond the ability of the “pipe network” to safely contain it, the “steam” must be “blown off” – action which in the organismic case corresponds to the expenditure of libidinal energy in the service of both reproductive and, in turn, destructive urges. But this “steam energy” is not a constant; it has a half-life, and it can be frittered away or, ultimately, it can just dissipate and die out on its own.

Regarding the condition of Japanese culture today from the standpoint of Freud’s libidinal economy model, it would appear that what we are looking at is a pipe system with decidedly low steam pressure. But the potential energy of this system has not been depleted through expenditure toward any cultural “organismic self-expansiveness”. Rather, it seems more the case that the “steam” has just fizzled, leaked away or recondensed into liquid water through a process of mature, melancholy, almost mellow cultural disenchantment that since 1945 has seen the Japanese cosmology abdicate any claim to ultimate truths about the human condition. Instead, outside of the well-regulated physical routines of their jobs and daily lives, the constituents of postwar Japanese culture seem to have been left to their own devices to carve some sense of transcendent meaning out of their existences (an existential vacuum skillfully exploited by the Japanese mass media and the primary beneficiaries of the Japanese consumer economy). There will be no culturally provided cosmological certainty “from on high” forthcoming as long as the defunct Meiji cosmology remains in place.

A reader familiar with postwar Japanese economic history might at this point be thinking “Well what about the kōdō keizai seichōki (“period of rapid economic growth” from 1955 to 1973) and the rocket sled economy of the Bubble Era? What about all those years when Ezra Vogel was telling us about “Japan as Number One”? What were those, if not great exertions of cultural libinal energy – great cultural manifestations of collective effort that put to shame even the self-expansive prowess of Imperial Era Japan? To such questions, I would answer that these were not “exertions” of cultural energy. Rather, they were evasions and denials; evasions of the culture’s unfinished “grief work” over the effective death of the Meiji cosmology and the subsequent cultural loss of existential certainty after 1945, and denials that Japanese culture and national subjectivity – in their postwar incarnations – need any functioning cosmology at all. But in the end, these evasions and denials have provided no cultural solutions to the existential issues faced by the constituents of Japanese culture today – people in need of existential equanimity just as much as humans anywhere are. The Meiji cosmology is both there and not there, sitting atop Japanese subjectivity today like a bitter old Dowager on her throne long past what should have been her natural lifespan (which should have ended in 1945) – and long past her usefulness (which did end in 1945), no longer able to generate cathexis-levels of loyalty in its constituents (certainly not its younger ones). The continued existence of this essentially libidinally dead cosmology has various implications for both current and future possible formulations of Japanese national subjectivity. For example, what historian David Williams has called Japan’s postwar “evasion of sovereignty” (2006) – an evasion which, as I have already argued, is unavoidable as long as the recognizable symbolic framework of the Meiji cosmology remains in place – will continue for the foreseeable future to severely constrain the range of Japan’s interactional possibilities in the community of other cultures/nations. I believe the ramifications here are particularly salient regarding Japanese national security policy; not even the most optimistic Japanese patriot today – certainly not one involved at present in the planning of national security policy – harbors even in his/her wildest dreams the expectation that the current formulation of Japanese national subjectivity could ever see this country – and this culture – mobilizing for war again, marching its young men off to die with brass bands and banzai cheers. Despite the most earnestly embraced fantasies of right-wing Japanese pundits today, the possibility of the Meiji cosmology ever being revalorized to the point where it could compel its constituents to such levels of devotion and self-sacrifice is effectively zero.

But then, I do not think that we necessarily have to regard this as an entirely negative development. As the constituents of a culture that in its recent history has experienced coming very close to being destroyed by its own cosmology, the Japanese people since August 1945 have perhaps been more painfully aware than anyone else of the existential conundrum posed by our survival as a species hanging on the Damoclean thread of the ability of 1) nuclear weapons and 2) cosmologies which valorize the pursuit of warfare as a means of securing symbolic immortality coexisting on this small planet. Ironically, conservative pundit Fujiwara Masahiko may be right; Japanese culture may just end up saving humanity from itself after all (Fujiwara 2006). Japan’s horrific experiences of August 1945 can sound a warning tocsin for all of us that our species has outgrown the violence-validating traditional formulations of cosmology we have depended on for our existential equanimity in fundamentally unchanged structure and function probably since the dawn of humanity, when our first existentially-challenged hominid ancestor realized that killing someone else can be a very effective way of making oneself feel heroic and immortal when one does not have any more compelling narratives to do the same existential trick. Considering that humanity no longer has the luxury of continuing to indulge such existential naiveté, maybe it would behoove all of us – not just the Japanese – to experience some “desymbolization crisis” of our own and bid farewell to cosmologies capable of compelling us to kill and die over. I believe that our descendents will have a much better chance of seeing the 22nd century if we can follow modern Japanese culture’s lead in making the mature commitment to learning to live with higher levels of existential uncertainty than our species has been accustomed to tolerating until now.

 

References

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[1] Several major cultural cosmologies adjusted to accommodate Marxism–Leninism during the 20th century have been notable exceptions to this.

[2] Of late, I have increasingly come to think that the incessant nature of this “cultural tocsin-sounding” is actually counterproductive, sowing more dismay and resignation among its audience than it motivates them to vigilant cultural defense.

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

COMMENTS FROM ARUDOU DEBITO AFTER FIRST READING THIS:

Arudou Debito February 28 at 8:42am
Well done, Bucky. Thanks for summarizing what I needed to know about the cosmology of cultures and the denials of death in less than 500 pages. Your paper read like one of those “mythology” episodes of X-Files, where you really had to concentrate to see where this was going, but the payoff was there all along.

Two comments:

 

1) Not enough time was spent on how the cosmology is not only inclusive and demanding of acolytes, but exclusive as well, demanding those acolytes not only adhere to certain beliefs, but also that they be of a certain blood. The resurgence I am feeling of Japanese be actual wajin in order to expect any benefits of the system (something I recently experienced when I was denied my sabbatical. Again. Despite having more than three times the workplace seniority of the person who did get it, and the added kicker of him lying about his letters of invitation) has always been a particular tenet of the system (from academic apartheid on down). This will doom the system in the end, as the best religions expand and cross borders, and as the Japanese economy and society goes to seed and collapses upon itself.

2) I felt you were trying to be a little too hopeful at the end. The need for cosmology in a society is very well taken. How the lack of one is making Japan act all funny for decades now is also well taken. A society losing its god is a very important point. But I don’t see it as a possibly useful alternative to cavemen hitting each other on the head to feel immortal. I see it, now that I’m really browned off at all the broken promises over the years simply on racial grounds, as an illness, not a template. I don’t think Japan is on the road to finding its way out of this existential uncertainty. I think other societies are doing a far better job shedding the need for a belief in a divinity and finding out, through encouraging individual choice, personal empowerment, and self-actualization, that it is possible for people psychologically, and not necessarily socially psychologically, to discover what they believe is their order and role in the universe without the need for national-goal-manipulated crutches. In sum, Japan is not a template. It is a society that is rotting from the inside out because individuals are being trained, even more so now than even in the Bubble Era, that the system is more important than the individual and nothing can or should change that; for the sake of national identity, knuckle under. The difference is that there is no longer a financial benefit even to back that up. So the system promises nothing except stability — although not mental stability. That is the fundamental promise of a social cosmology. In that sense, Japan’s permutation of existentialism is the biggest broken promise around. We know because we have been outside the fishbowl.

ENDS

Tokyo Gov Ishihara bids for 2020 Olympics through earthquake sympathy vote; also calls for Japan to have nukes, military conscription, and military-led government

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. Okay, Tokyo, you asked for this when you revoted in this creep for a fourth term last April. Now not only is racist xenophobe and Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro using the Tohoku Earthquake (which he originally called “divine retribution for Japan’s egoism“) as sympathy fodder for a renewed Olympic bid, but also, according to ANN News, he is calling for Japan to have nuclear weapons (in order to be taken seriously on the world stage, comparing it to a Mah-Jong game), military conscription, and even a military government!

Well, in my view this was only a matter of time, especially since Ishihara, if he’s not just flat-out senile, is of a generation (the Showa Hitoketa) which venerates Japan’s military past without actually serving in the military and experiencing the horrors of the Pacific War. He’s basically a warrior of words. And, again, the Tokyo electorate keeps putting him in a place where he can use those words for great effect and audience.  Including advocating siphoning off funds from disaster reconstruction for the purpose of circus.  Arudou Debito

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First the YouTube video from ANN News (June 20, 2011, 40 seconds):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcQuZtqyrfk&feature=player_embedded

http://youtu.be/QcQuZtqyrfk

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Let Olympic torch be lit as proof of recovery
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 20, 2011)
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/editorial/T110619002011.htm

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has expressed his intention to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

When announcing his plan, Ishihara said he would like the envisioned Tokyo Olympiad to be held to show the world that Japan has recovered from the ravages of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, which would be nine years in the past in 2020.

During a session of the metropolitan assembly Friday, Ishihara stressed the importance of Tokyo hosting the 2020 Games, saying the Olympiad “would be the best return for the friendship and encouragement extended to us from around the world” in the wake of the disaster.

If Tokyo wins the bid, the Games would be certain to serve as a key catalyst for invigorating the nation to rebuild from the disaster.

The venue of the 2020 Olympics is scheduled to be decided at a general assembly of the International Olympic Committee in 2013. We want to invigorate efforts for Tokyo to host the Games, so the flame of the Olympic torch will again be lit in this nation’s capital.

===

Clear-cut message key

Tokyo’s bid for the Games will follow its unsuccessful attempt to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo’s rival in that race, won by obtaining wide-ranging support for its call to have the Olympics held for the first time in South America.

The primary lesson from Tokyo’s failure in its bid for the 2016 Olympics is that the city lacked a clear-cut message about why it wanted to host the Games.

The message that Tokyo wants to host the 2020 Games as proof of Japan’s recovery from the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis–just as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were symbolic of the nation’s rebuilding from the ashes of World War II–will likely be able to obtain empathy from many countries.

To spur public opinion in favor of hosting the 2020 Olympics–unlike the lukewarm public support for the 2016 bid–it is important to clearly explain to the public the significance and advantages of hosting the Games.

The Tokyo metropolitan government still has a reserve fund of 400 billion yen accumulated in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Tokyo has superb infrastructure, including high-performance transportation networks and accommodation facilities. In addition, its public order and security are known worldwide.

Such elements will be major selling points in efforts to win the Olympic bid.

Also, there reportedly are plans to hold some Olympic events in disaster-hit areas. We strongly hope this will be realized.

===

Nation must be united

Rome has already declared its candidacy for the 2020 Olympics. To win the race to host the Games, it is indispensable for the entire nation to unite behind the bid.

Ishihara has said, “It is imperative to have public opinion surge in favor of hosting the Games by rallying the entire strength of the country, the strength of all spheres, including the government, the sports world and business communities.”

Incidentally, the Sports Promotion Basic Law, which stipulates encouragement of sports policies as one of Japan’s national strategies, was enacted by the Diet on Friday. The new law says the government should “take special measures” to ensure sources of revenue and other needs for such purposes as hosting and holding the Olympics and other international sports events.

We realize the government must currently place top priority on securing funds to finance restoration and reconstruction projects from the March 11 disaster. But sooner or later the government will need to clarify its stance toward hosting the Olympics in this country.

The government should proactively study the feasibility of hosting the 2020 Games in tandem with such bodies as the Tokyo metropolitan government and Japanese Olympic Committee.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 19, 2011)

ENDS

Bad social paradigms encouraging bad social science: UC Berkeley prof idiotically counts “flyjin” for H-Japan listserv

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. I have a real rib-tickler for you today. Here we have an academic employed at UC Berkeley trying to squeeze flawed data into an already flawed paradigm — not just that of “gaijin” [sic], but also of “flyjin” — as she goes around Tokyo counting NJ as if they were rare birds (or, rather, rarer birds, according to her presumptions under the rubric).

I raise this on Debito.org because it’s amazing how stupid concepts from Planet Japan somehow manage to entice apparently educated people elsewhere to follow suit, and… I’ll just stop commenting and let you read the rest. Courtesy of H-Japan’s online archives, accessible to the general public.  Arudou Debito

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Courtesy http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Japan&month=1106&week=c&msg=ZlvuE6%2bnxMsSGrzDqLzQvA&user=&pw=

From: H-Japan Editor
List Editor: H-Japan Editor

Editor’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E): The Great Fukushima Panic of 2011 / empirical evidence on “flyjin”
Author’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E): The Great Fukushima Panic of 2011 / empirical evidence on “flyjin”
Date Written: Sun, 19 Jun 2011 18:19:01 -0400
Date Posted: Mon, 19 Jun 2011 18:19:01 -0400
On-line editor: Janet R. Goodwin

H-JAPAN (E)
June 19, 2011

From: Dana Buntrock

For those of you who have not yet returned to Japan since 3/11, it may be helpful to understand how significant the absence of “gaijin” is in the capital, a point noted more than once on this list.

I am using the term “gaijin” here to refer to racially differentiated (non-Asian) individuals, including those who appear to be from the Indian subcontinent. If mixed-race children were with a non-Asian parent, I counted them. I also counted one woman in a version of the headscarf worn by Moslem women, seen from behind, and her child (in a stroller), because the attire was clearly non-Japanese in nature. That is, I tended to err on the side of counting individuals as being foreign.

I did a casual count Friday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19. The first two days, I went about normal activity, but the last day, I confess, I deliberately went to a tourist spot. I included those seen within my hotel, a nice business hotel that maintains a reservations web site in English and often has foreign guests.
___

Friday count: 22. (8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.) I went through 9 subway stations:
Akasaka, Meijijungumae, KitaSando, Shinjuku (Oedo at Minami Shinjuku), Aoyama Itchome, Gaienmae, Akasaka-Mitsuke to Nagatacho, and Kojimachi. I walked at least 6 kilometers: from my hotel to the first station (.6 km), from Kita Sando west for 1.2 km, from there to several floors, including the 6th, of the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Minami Shinjuku (1.8 km), from Aoyama Itchome to Gaienmae (.7 km) and from Kojimachi back to the Akasaka area (1.6 if done efficiently, which I did not).

—-

Saturday count: 135. About 15 under 5 years old.

I went through Roppongi twice, Hiro once, and Midtown twice. I went through three crowded shopping areas–Ebisu, Midtown, and Roppongi HIlls, plus the Photography Museum. I went to National Azabu (upstairs) on a Saturday.

I was out 8 and a half hours, and I went through Roppongi Station (10:30 a.m.), Ebisu (subway) Station, and HIro Station. I walked 1.5 km around Ebisu, and from Hiro to Roppongi HIlls (another 1.5 km) to Gallery Ma (another 1.5 km) to Midtown (600 meters) and back to the hotel (1 km). About 6 kilometers.

—-

Sunday count: 60. I counted 13 women; 4 were children.

Out at 9 a.m., walked from Akasaka to near the foot of Tokyo Tower via Ark Hills (1.9 km), continued on to Daimon Station, boarded a monorail to Tenozu Isle (1.5 km), Walked a very short distance from there, then boarded a cab back to Akasaka. Afterward, walked to Kasumigaseki (2 km), continued to the Imperial Palace Gardens (3 km), walked from there to Otemachi Stn (1.5), direct line back to Akasaka, and back to hotel (.5 km) about 6:30 p.m.

21 men and 8 women were seen in the area of the Imperial Palace, including joggers and apparent tourists. (Note: I attended an English-language church service, but did not count the congregants. There were about 45 people in the church, and between half and two-thirds were non-Asian. The church would normally have at least 50% more congregants, and often double.)

Walked about 10.5 km, was in three not-particularly-busy subway stations, but lingered around the Imperial Palace.
_______________________
DANA BUNTROCK

Associate Professor
Department of Architecture
University of California, Berkeley

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SOME RESPONSES

Courtesy http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Japan&month=1106&week=c&msg=9NxPdJQedAvmyzo4ZXFdhA&user=&pw=

From: H-Japan Editor
List Editor: H-Japan Editor

Editor’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E): The Great Fukushima Panic of 2011 (2 responses)
Author’s Subject: H-JAPAN (E): The Great Fukushima Panic of 2011 (2 responses)
Date Written: Mon, 20 Jun 2011 22:18:52 -0400
Date Posted: Tue, 20 Jun 2011 22:18:52 -0400
On-line editor: Janet R. Goodwin

H-JAPAN (E)
June 20, 2011

(1) From: Georg Blind

Re: empirical evidence on “flyjin” vs. “fryjin”; ample statistics available

This is both a response to an earlier question on this list, and a comment to Dana Buntrock’s post.

Concise entry and departure statistics are available from Ministry of Justice:
http://www.moj.go.jp/housei/toukei/toukei_ichiran_nyukan.html

The latest available tables are for March 2011. Total “gaijin” departures were about 1% down from March 2010. In contrast, US citizens were down about 20%; citizens of European countries about 5%.

As soon as available, April data will show the full extent of the exodus if corrected for overall fluctuation (e.g., from a comparison of February to April changes in 2010).

While interesting as an individual observation, Dana Buntrock’s gaijin counts, are methodologically highly questionable. The following – not too serious example – might illustrate this: let’s define “fryjin” as foreigners working in Japanese KFC restaurants. Let’s assume one would count fryjin presence in 10 different locations in Tokyo. Would that yield a reliable picture of the “fryjin” situation? 1. The mere count of “fryjin” would need to be compared to the number of Japanese staff. – How many Japanese did Dana Buntrock count during her survey? 2. How many “fryjin” were there one year ago; i.e., was there a change in the number of “fryjin”? – And putting 1. and 2. together, was there some change in the share of “fryjin”? 3. Are observations at Tokyo KFC restaurants representative for the whole country? In that sense, the church example is by far more telling than the street counts.

Best, Georg

____________________________

Georg Blind
Research Fellow and Lecturer
The University of Zurich
Institute of East Asian Studies
8032 Zurich
Switzerland

(2) From: Cecilia

With respect, I am not sure how constructive it is to be adopting the term “flyjin”. Though the term may appear to be cute and clever, in reality in the Kanto area in particular it is a loaded word that in some circles has become derisive and abusive. The term flyjin trivialises the reality that there is an evacuation zone in place and that there is a serious radiation problem – the extent of which is still not clearly determined. It also fails to consider that people who left were in many cases acting on embassy advice or company instructions. I have been in Tokyo since the earthquake, except for a Golden Week sojourn in Tohoku, with no thought of leaving but have been dismayed at the macho vitriol around who stayed and who left. It’s disappointing to see the term being picked up unproblematised in academic circles.

A spot count of conspicuous foreigners on the streets of Tokyo tells nothing about the numbers of people who have left Tokyo. In particular it ignores a distinction between residents (short and long term) and tourists. It also ignores the fact that most foreigners (both resident and tourists) are Asian. A spot count that has no control, defines foreigners in racial terms (which probably labels Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Singaporeans and many other SE Asians as Japanese) and conflates people that have actively left with people that decided not come, is meaningless. For the dip (plunge) in foreign visitor numbers the Ministry of Justice data is much more useful. http://www.tourism.jp/english/statistics/inbound.php

Cecilia Fujishima
Tokyo

————————————————————————

OKAY, ONE MORE COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  Bravo Ms. Fujishima.  It’s also disappointing to see the racial term “gaijin” thusly being picked up unproblematized in academic circles, but that’s a long-standing terminology that people just seem to laugh off as grounded in general use.  But see how it feeds into a general idiocracy and flawed paradigms vis-a-vis scholarship on Japan?  D.

ENDS

Adidas assesses the “history of poor treatment of migrant workers in Japan”, now monitoring JITCO in conjunction with other major overseas outsourcers

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog. Supplementing yesterday’s report from Terrie Lloyd, concerning the aberrations from Japan’s addiction to underpaid NJ labor, Adidas (yes, the sports goods maker) suggests, as submitter Crustpunker says, “It is more or less common knowledge what goes on here regarding migrant workers — I mean, ‘trainees’.”

Talk about an open secret. It only took about two decades for the GOJ to amend the laws, of course, so Japan’s industry (not to mention overseas sourcers) got away with plenty while the going was good. Nevertheless, no doubt we’ll soon have laments in the Japanese media about how our industry must now suffer since either a) Japanese are underemployed, or b) Japanese industry is being hurt by NJ labor refusing to be exploited anymore.  Sob away.

Anyway, here’s what Adidas has to say about Japan’s employment practices, and what measures, in conjunction with other major overseas outsourcers, they say they will be taking. Arudou Debito

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

Case Study 2010: The challenges of migrant workers in Japan

At the end of 2009 the decision was taken to change Japan’s status to a ‘Low Risk Location’ along with other developed countries in northern Europe, New Zealand, USA and Canada. This decision was taken because of Japan’s strong legislation and comparatively robust implementation of the law. It meant that from January 2010 there would be no more regular auditing of suppliers in Japan.

Migrant worker issues
However SEA continued to monitor the specific issue of foreign or migrant workers in Japan because we know that there is a significant risk of non-compliance in this area.

A series of random audits and interviews conducted during 2010 confirmed a range of non-compliances with respect to migrant workers. These include forced labour, withholding passports, not paying the legal minimum wage and lack of access to grievance channels.

The adidas Group Sourcing team in Japan acted on the audit information and sent a letter to all their suppliers calling for immediate improvements or enforcement action would follow. All 23 suppliers for the adidas Group that have technical interns from China and Vietnam will continue to be monitored by the SEA team in 2011.

Root causes
One of the underlying causes of the critical migrant worker situation in Japan is that officially the Japanese government does not accept foreign workers in their domestic market. Instead a Technical Intern Training Programme is used to bring foreign workers to Japan. This programme, led by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), has been widely criticised for discriminating against foreign workers. First-year trainees were not protected under Japanese labour law and it was unclear where recruitment fees and contracts were decided – the worker’s home country or Japan – and this lack of clarity meant workers were being exploited.

The Japanese government belatedly addressed the issue in 2010 when, after several delays, the new Immigration Control and Refugee Act came into force on 1 July. It promised greater protection to foreign and migrant workers in the Intern Training Programme. The new law addressed some major issues:

bullet The residence status of trainees was changed so they are now covered by labour law
bullet Contracts containing clauses with deposits and fines are prohibited
bullet Organisations effectively working as employment placement agencies have to register and are obliged to visit their trainees in the workplace and monitor working conditions.

Going beyond legislation
There is, regrettably, a history of poor treatment of migrant workers in Japan and it is not a situation which will change overnight, even with this new legislation. So we recognise that we have a role to play in improving the system for migrant workers. In collaboration with several other brands including Nike, Gap and Disney, the adidas Group has set up quarterly meetings with Japanese vendors, suppliers, government representatives and JITCO. Working together the brands are helping to bring more transparency to the Intern Training Programme and establish a standard for acceptable recruitment fees as well as offer capacity building and training on applying the immigration and labour laws.

ENDS

Terrie’s Take on how Japanese companies are too “addicted” to cheap Chinese “Trainee” labor to hire unemployed Japanese

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Received this this morning from Terrie Lloyd. Very much worth reading, as it shows the damage done by the market aberration (if you believe in free markets as the final arbiter of fairness) of holding labor costs artificially low — you get resistance to ever raising them again once business gets used to those costs as being “normal”. As wages and working conditions in Japan continue their race to the bottom, it seems that two decades of NJ “Trainee” near-slave and slave labor will come back to haunt the Japanese economy after all. Arudou Debito

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(
http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, June 19, 2011, Issue No. 618
Addicted to Chinese Trainees, e-biz news from Japan
Date: June 19, 2011 11:49:26 PM JST

According to an article in the Japan Times on Thursday,
quoting numbers from a Labor Ministry report released
earlier in the week, there are now 2.02m people in Japan
receiving welfare checks, more than any time since 1952.

“Welfare” in Japan is apparently defined as financial
assistance offered by the government to a household when
its total income falls below the national minimum.

Presumably a big contributor to this record number of needy
people has been the Great East Japan earthquake in March.
The level of joblessness has soared to around 90% of
employable survivors in the worst hit areas, and by
the end of May about 110,000 were out of work and applying
for the dole at various Hello Work offices in Iwate,
Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures.

So, one would think that with this excess capacity of
workers, many of whom are from the agricultural, fisheries,
and manufacturing industries, juxtaposed with the
phenomenon of disappearing Chinese trainee workers from
factories around the same regions, less than half of whom
are yet to return, that there would be a slew of local
hirings to make up the shortfall. Certainly after the
Chinese trainees fled the disaster areas, there were plenty
of news reports of employers grumpily saying, “We can’t
trust Chinese employees, next time we’ll hire locals.”

But are they following through with local hiring offers?
Our guess is “not”.

The reason is because a Japanese breadwinner from Iwate on
unemployment, or even welfare, can still receive 2-5 times
more than the Chinese trainees do for the same jobs. The
factory and farm operators may grizzle about their
“unreliable” Chinese employees, but without this source of
ultra-cheap labor, they have no way of being able to
compete with the flood of goods and produce coming in from
China itself. The fact is that thousands of small companies
all over Japan are addicted to cheap trainee labor from
China and elsewhere, and to go local they would soon go out
of business.

Thus, unless the government comes up with some kind of
subsidy system, the folks in Fukushima will stay unemployed
and the missing trainees will be replaced with new trainees
just as soon as the recruiters in the remoter regions of
China can find them.

We have mentioned before in Terrie’s Take (TT-399 —
Trainees or slaves?
), foreign “trainees” in Japan are paid
a pittance. On average they make about JPY60,000 a month in
the first year, then if they are lucky, around JPY120,000 a
month for the following two years, after which they have to
return to their home country.

One of our readers alerted us to an excellent report just
put out this month by a Hong Kong labor relations think
tank called the China Labor Bulletin. The report is called
‘Throw Away Labor — The Exploitation of Chinese “Trainees”
in Japan’ and is a encapsulation of the appalling
situation involving the virtual slave trade going on
between Chinese recruiters and small- to medium-sized
companies in rural Japan who need this cheap labor to
survive.

Get the report at: http://www.clb.org.hk/en/node/101071.
It’s a quick read.

The report chronicles the various miseries that Chinese
trainees experience once they get to Japan, including:
withheld wages, no or very underpaid overtime, withheld
passports, threats of law suits if they flee back to China,
unsanitary living conditions, extremely difficult working
conditions… well the list goes on. And of course it’s
debatable whether such trainees actually receive any
education worth taking home with them.

The problem is that when you have poor and relatively
uneducated people from the Chinese hinterland making just
2,000 yuan per month (JPY26,000), almost anything sounds
better than what they have, especially when a recruiter
mentions Japan. The report details how trainees are
inveigled into a contract, and once committed, how they are
locked in to delivering that contract under very harsh (and
real) threats of legal action back in China.

This cheap labor addiction represents the reality of the
Japanese rural labor market. No doubt we’ll see the media
highlighting how locals are landing construction jobs and
getting back on their feet — that makes for feel-good
copy. But with only a comparatively small number of such
jobs going, there may well be a larger number of new
“trainee” visas being issued so as to ensure that
the rural factories and farms stay in business for a while
longer.

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:
http://mailman.japaninc.com/mailman/listinfo/terrie

BACK ISSUES
http://www.japaninc.com/terries_take, or,
http://mailman.japaninc.com/pipermail/terrie/
ENDS
//////////////////////////////////////

FOR THE RECORD, TERRIE’S TAKE 399, REFERRED TO ABOVE:

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(
http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, November 12, 2006 Issue No. 399
Courtesy
http://www.japaninc.com/tt399

Earlier on this month, the Yomiuri newspaper carried an
article about an auto parts manufacturer in Akitakata,
Hiroshima, which is being investigated for hiring more
foreign “trainees” than allowed by the rules. The company
apparently padded the number of its regular employees, so
that it could bring on an additional 3 Chinese trainees
to add to the 3 already working there. The company had
discovered that not only were the trainees able to do the
same work as locals, they are more than 50% cheaper.

While this case may not seem like such a big deal, it is
the tip of a pretty ugly iceberg. The government’s foreign
trainee program, which started with the grand design of
helping to lift the basic skills of Japan’s neighbors, now
appears to have degenerated into being little more than a
pipeline of low-cost laborers to keep struggling small
manufacturers and farmers going.

The trainees work/train under near-slavery conditions and
the fall-out from this seems to be increasing. Last year
alone, 1,888 of them ran away from their postings, many
going on to become illegal workers elsewhere in the
country. Broken down by nationality, they numbered 3,516
Chinese, 2,629 Vietnamese, and 1,498 Indonesians — pretty
much the same ratios as the nationalities being brought in
under the program.

There are about 83,000 trainees accepted into Japan each
year, about 160,000 in total, of which just over 70%
(55,000 annually) are from China. They are allowed to work
(ummm, sorry, “train”) in 62 different types of industry,
such as agriculture, food processing, construction,
apparel, and animal husbandry.

The numbers in agriculture are a particular eye-opener and
foretell labor trends in this country. Young Japanese
really don’t want to work the land and thus there are now
about 9,000 foreign trainees bolstering the sector,
compared with just 2,200 Japanese high school graduates.
That means there is a 4:1 likelihood that next time you
want to buy a daikon or eggs directly from the farm, you’d
better be able to speak Mandarin.

The trainee system has been turned into a form of legalized
“slavery”. Most trainees for the duration of their 3 years
have virtually no employment rights (they are, after all
supposed to be trainees not employees) and are paid
unbelievably low compensation — just JPY66,000 (average) a
month plus accomodation in the first year, and a more
luxurious JPY118,000 (average) or so for the following two
years. Could you survive on this? We’d have problems…

The treatment some of these trainees are receiving is
pretty shocking. The “Association Tokushima”, a group
assisting Chinese laborers with problems in Japan, says
that they have documented a case of a 27-year old female
trainee working for a Tokushima-based food processing
plant, who received just JPY70,000/month for working 8
hours a day, 6 days a week, and an overtime allowance of
just JPY300/hour. Apparently she was working 14 hours a
day, then moon-lighting doing farm work on Sundays.

In another case, covered in the Asahi Shimbun back in
August, a Chinese female trainee arrived in Japan to learn
how to grow spinach and strawberries. But somehow she wound
up in a Forestry company. While there, she was required to
clean the company president’s home and even polish his
shoes. During her first year, in 2004, she received an
allowance of JPY50,000/month and JPY300/hour for overtime.

After she “graduated” from her first year and become a
so-called documented worker, her salary was supposedly
lifted to JPY112,000/month plus overtime. But in reality
the company deducted JPY90,000/month for rent, futon lease
(really!), washing machine lease, etc. To top it all off,
one of her managers had her apartment key and about 4
months into her traineeship started visiting and demanding
sexual services.

Conditions like these came to the notice of the press in
August, when a Chinese trainee at a pig farm in Chiba
complained about the harsh work conditions and was told
that his traineeship would be terminated. This of course
meant that he would be banished back to China — trainees
seldom get an extension unless the sponsoring company wants
them. In despair, he went berserk and stabbed 3 people,
including an official of the Chiba Agricultural
Association, the very organization that had brought him to
Japan in the first place. The official died. Since then,
the Ministry of Agriculture and other trainee
program-related ministries have started to review means of
enforcing the rules of the program that are supposed to
protect the trainees from these types of abuses.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare,
companies accepting foreign trainees and workers are mostly
small-scale businesses with less than 19 employees. There
were more than 180 documented cases of fraud or
mistreatment last year (2005) and it is suspected that a
lot more cases go unreported. In fact a Ministry of Health
survey found that of 731 reviewed companies, a full 80% of
them were violating the minimum wage law and labor
standards law for their 2nd- and 3rd-year trainees.
Obviously the problem is severe enough that the Ministry is
allocating JPY400m (US$3.38m) to its quango looking after
the placement of trainees, JITCO, for the purpose of
monitoring participating companies to make sure that they
stay compliant with the trainee program rules.

With the falling birth rate and migration of the domestic
workforce out of hard labor jobs, Japan clearly has to turn
to foreign workers to keep things going. The government
knows this and is infact planning to expand the trainee
system. Among the proposals are to increase the number of
trainees a company can employ from just one for every 20
staff, to an unlimited number, and to increase the variety
of jobs that a trainee can fill. Some employer
organizations are even calling for rule changes to make it
legal to bring in unskilled foreign workers in the same way
that they can already do with skilled ones.

But the expansion can’t go ahead until someone takes
responsibility for properly protecting the welfare of the
trainees. Although JITCO is being assigned this role, with
the increased number of inspectors, in fact, given that
they are a major player (they account for about 60% of
trainees) in sourcing and matching the trainees, and so it
seems like the current problems are in fact JITCO’s to solve.

Instead, we feel that the government should legislate to
keep traineeships to just one year and make sure that
classes from a local education institution — which need
new students — are incorporated. Once trained, graduates
should be allowed to become regular workers and enjoy the
benefits of a minimum salary, labor rights, and the ability
to get their visas renewed. Those that don’t pass their
first year should be sent home.

 

 

Already a step in the right direction is being taken, in
the way that semi-skilled Filippino health care workers are
to be handled. If they pass their language tests and gain
a solid record during their training period they will be
allowed to stay and work in Japan indefinitely…

[Note from Debito: Hah.]
ENDS

Weekend Tangent: The euphoria of collective attack and parental alienation syndrome

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog.  As a Weekend Tangent, and a corollary to yesterday’s blog post about the debate on definitions of Domestic Violence in Japan, here is a discussion from a psychologist on what sort of person will probably be most likely to take advantage of “violence” that is not physically violent in nature: a bully, who uses collective attack and parental alienation as a means to extract revenge on a spouse.  Under Japan’s increasingly blurry definitions of serious matters of violent behavior, this means that bullies will also be able to enlist the authorities’ help in carrying out their bullying. Courtesy AS, excerpted from http://mensnewsdaily.com/2010/02/26/why-parental-alienation-is-the-act-of-an-emotionally-abusive-bully/ Arudou Debito

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

EXCERPT FOLLOWS

The emotionally abusive bully who engages in mobbing (or parental alienation) revels in the excitement produced by their animosity. It produces a pleasurable buzz or rush in them. Westhues (2002) refers to this as “the euphoria of collective attack.”

Parental Alienation and Personality Disorders

People that have no compunction about using their kids to hurt their exes seem to fit the profile of the emotionally abusive Cluster B personality disorders (Borderline Personality DisorderNarcissistic Personality DisorderAntisocial Personality Disorder). These individuals play the professional victim as they emotionally bully anyone who confronts, challenges, or criticizes them. They don’t recognize appropriate boundaries, won’t accept personal responsibility for their actions—in fact, they blame you for the horrible things they do and always have an excuse to justify their indefensible behaviors.

If your ex is actively or passively alienating your child(ren)’s normal affection toward you, he or she was probably emotionally abusive while you were together. Parental alienation is her or his way of continuing to abuse and hurt you via remote access. Generally, most bullies don’t see themselves as such. If you confront your ex about this behavior, they’ll deny it and blame you for your deteriorating relationship with your child(ren), even as you make every effort to be a present and involved parent.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

ENDS

Child Abductions Issue: How Japan’s debate on defining “Domestic Violence”, the loophole in enforcing the Hague Treaty, is heading in the wrong direction

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Here is a report from a Debito.org reader who translates how the debate on Domestic Violence in Japan (being cited as a reason to create loopholes in Japan’s enforcement of the upcoming signatory status with the Hague Treaty on Child Abductions) is being stretched to justify just about any negative behavior (including non-tactile acts) as “violent”.  And note how the checklist of “violent” acts below approaches the issue with the woman as perpetual victim and the man as perpetrator.  If accepted as the standard definition, imagine just how much further this will weaken the fathers’ position in any Japanese divorce negotiation.  Yet another example of how clueless Japanese social scientists are when dealing with issues of human rights.  Courtesy of Chris Savoie, used with permission.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

June 16, 2011

Here is my cut of a translation that is being circulated by an influential NGO in Japan as the standard for recognizing Domestic Violence (“DV”) in Japan. Thanks CJ for finding and posting this!

Note that these standards or substantially similar standards will likely be applied under the new Hague implementation law to deny access and/or return of children to foreign (and Japanese) parents who are victims of parental abduction to and within Japan. Similar standards are already applied in Japanese family courts at present.

The original URL is below and this was a rushed translation, so if someone can clean it up or correct it, please do. Please feel free to forward this to folks involved with Congressional approval if HR1940.

http://saya-saya.net/toujisha/checklist.html

Please note for the avoidance of doubt that I am very much for the protection of both males and females from legitimate partner abuse and certain forms of behavior (like slapping) on this list are SERIOUS infractions, represent CRIMINAL acts and are to be condemned in the STRONGEST possible terms. However, certain of the conduct described below is a given even in otherwise healthy relationships and to include such conduct alongside actual physical violence or serious verbal abuse dilutes the very necessary efforts needed to protect actual abuse victims and for this reason, such ridiculous crap science does more to endanger domestic violence victims than to help them. For these reasons, such a list is highly contemptible. Best, CJS

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

CITATION BEGINS

The DV Checklist

“He is kind of scary. Is this even a ’DV’?” “’DV’ I mean, I often hear the term, but I do not know specifically what ‘DV’ is!”…

Often we hear about DV in daily life. If you do too, try completing the following checklist.

We have published this checklist by Dr. Numazaki Ichirou. The survey was designed for men and women, but for sexual minorities, please complete the exercise according to one’s role in the relationship.

Checklist for Women

Please check any of these if you have experienced them:

He sulks if I deviate in any way from what he has requested of me.

He quickly blames me whenever something goes wrong.

When I go out alone, he calls my cell phone regularly.

He is reluctant to associate with my friends and parents.

He is angry if I come home late.

He says I am “stupid” or “incompetent”.

He cops an attitude so that I don’t refuse to comply with his whims.

I do not want him to be angry so I reluctantly listen to him.

I always try to wear clothes that he likes.

He has not problem pointing out my shortcomings in front of other people.

He ignores me when I want to talk with him.

Also complains vocally about my idiosyncrasies.

I am relieved when he is not around.

If I have a temper tantrum, he responds by hitting walls, or throwing objects.

I have been slapped by him.

After he hits me, he is quickly kind and gentle to me and apologizes.

In order not to offend him I have given up a lot.

He insists on sex without taking care of my needs.

Source: by Numazaki Ichirou “Why Do Men Choose Violence?”

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

Checklist for Men

Please check any of these if you have experienced them:

I have yelled at her.

I wish that she would only have eyes for me.

Sometimes I don’t answer her when she wants to talk to me.

While speaking with her, I have stood up and got close to her.

She has thought that I made fun of her.

I think a woman should look up to her man.

I may have silently stared at her.

I am concerned when she is speaking with other men.

I have secretly checked her cell phone.

I have cheated on her.

I have told her “Don’t get smart with me.”

I may have lifted a hand to her.

I am annoyed when she talks back to me.

I have cussed at her.

I have called her a big mouth.

I feel restless if I am not with her all the time.

I feel hurt if she pushes back at me.

She incurred a debt for me without my permission.

Source: Dr. Numazaki Ichirou “Why Do men choose violence?”

According to Professor Numazaki, the producer of this list, a check mark next to even ONE item indicates a DV event. (For women who checked off one item, they have been a victim of DV and, for men, any checks indicate that that man was a perpetrator of DV.)

One of the items in the men’s list is “I wish that she would only have eyes for me.” One might question “How can ‘wishing’ or “thinking” something amount to violence?” Indeed, “just thinking” does not amount to violence. But if the thought “I think so” represents a strong belief, it is often followed by action. If one thinks “I want her only to have eyes for me” strongly, then the expression of power and domination (violence) is possible.

According to the results of a survey in 2008 by the Cabinet, “33,2% of married women over the age of 20 have been victims of DV.”

Defining DV:  http://saya-saya.net/dv.html

ENDS

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

JAPANESE ORIGINAL:

http://saya-saya.net/toujisha/checklist.html

DVのチェックリスト

「なんだか彼といると恐い。でもこれって『DV』なの?」 「『DV』っていう言葉はよく聞くけど、具体的にどういうのが『DV』なのかわからない」・・・。

私たちが活動をしていく中でよく聞く声です。そんな場合は、下記の「チェックリスト」をやってみてください。

このチェックリストは、沼崎一郎教授によるチェックリストを掲載させていただきました。女性用、男性用となっていますが、セクシャルマイノリティの方は、それぞれの関係の中での役割に応じて、チェックリストをやってみてください。

女性用チェックリスト

あなたが体験したことのある項目に、○をつけてください。

□ 彼の注文に少しでも疑問を示すと、すぐに不機嫌になる。

□ うまくいかないことがあると、すぐに私のせいにする。

□ 私が1人で外出すると、しょっちゅう携帯に電話してくる。

□ 私が友人や両親と交際するのを嫌がる。

□ 私の帰宅が遅くなると怒る。

□ 私に「バカ」とか「能無し」とか言う。

□ いつも彼の機嫌をそこねないように気を配っている。

□ 彼に怒られるのがいやで、言うことを聞いてしまう。

□ ついつい彼好みの洋服を選んでしまう。

□ 人前でも平気で私の欠点を指摘する。

□ 彼と会話がしたくても、非難されたり、無視されたりする。

□ 私のちょっとしたしぐさにもうるさく文句を言う。

□ 彼がいないと、なぜかホッとする。

□ 癇癪を起すと、壁をなぐったり、物を投げたりする。

□ 彼に平手打ちにされたことがある。

□ 私をたたいた後は、急に優しくなり、私に謝ってくる。

□ 彼を怒らせないために、あきらめたことがいろいろある。

□ 彼は、私の気分などおかまいなしにセックスを求める。

出典:沼崎一郎著「男は何故暴力を選ぶのか」より転載。

チェックリスト結果について

男性用チェックリスト

あなたが体験したことのある項目に、○をつけてください。

□ 彼女に大声を上げたことがある。

□ 彼女には自分だけを見ていて欲しいと思う。

□ 彼女が話しかけても返事をしないことがある。

□ 話の最中、立ち上がって彼女に近づいたことがある。

□ 彼女にバカにされたと思ったことがある。

□ 女は男を立てるべきだと思っている。

□ 黙って彼女をにらんだことがある。

□ 彼女が他の男と話していると気になる。

□ 彼女の携帯をこっそりチェックしたことがある。

□ 浮気をしたことがある。

□ 彼女に「なまいき言うな」と言ったことがある。

□ 彼女に手を上げたことがある。

□ 彼女に何か言い返されると腹が立つ。

□ 彼女をののしったことがある。

□ 彼女は口うるさいと思ったことがある。

□ いつも彼女と一緒でないとイライラする。

□ 彼女に反発されると、とても傷つく。

□ 彼女に無断で借金をしたことがある。

出典:沼崎一郎著「男は何故暴力を選ぶのか」より転載。

チェックリスト結果について

チェックリストの結果

このリストの製作者である沼崎教授によると、上記のチェックリストのうち「一つでも」チェックのついた人はDVとなっています(女性用でチェックがついた方は、DVの被害をうけており、男性用でチェックがついた方はDVの加害をしていることとなります)。

男性用チェックリストの中に「彼女には自分だけを見ていて欲しいと思う」という項目があります。「『思う』だけなら暴力ではないのでは・・・?」と反論があるかもしれません。たしかに「思うだけ」では暴力にはならないでしょう。でも「そのように思う」という強い信念は、しばしば「行動」となって現れます。「彼女に自分だけを見ていて欲しい」と強く思うことが、彼女に対する力と支配の行使(暴力)となる可能性があります。

「20歳以上の既婚女性のうち、33,2%の女性がDVの被害を受けたことがある」という結果が、内閣府によるアンケート調査(2008年度)で出ています。

DVについて、もっと詳しく知りたい方は「DVとは?」をご覧ください。

ENDS

Asahi: NJ Nurse trainees leave Japan despite 1-year extension to taking qualifying test

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  The GOJ is trying to plug the leak of NJ trainee nurses leaving Japan despite their best efforts on the qualifying exam.  But after all these years of insufficient institutional support, it’s too little, too late, and disorganized at that; according to the Asahi article below, morale is clearly low for them.  Mayhaps the jig is up, and word is getting round at last that the NJ nurse training program was after all just another guise for a revolving-door labor force?  Arudou Debito

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Nurse trainees leave Japan despite 1-year extension
Asahi Shinbun, 2011/06/15, courtesy of Yokohama John

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201106140168.html

Many Indonesian nurse trainees who failed their exams have returned home amid confusion over who would be allowed to stay for another year to retake the test.

The government decided to allow 68 of the 78 Indonesians who failed this year’s nursing exam to stay and take another exam next year. But 25 of the 91 Indonesians who took the exam in March have already left.

“I first heard about an extended stay some time ago, but I was not given any details,” said a woman in her 30s who failed the exam and left in April. “After all, I think we are not needed.”

Another woman in her 30s, who also left in April after working at a hospital in the Kansai region, said, “I might have reconsidered if the government had decided (on an extended stay) earlier.”

The woman, who failed in the exam by a slight margin, knew she could be allowed to stay. But she said she has lost her enthusiasm to work in Japan because of a lack of support from the government.

The two are among 104 nurse trainees who came from Indonesia in August 2008 under a bilateral economic partnership agreement. The trainees were expected to pass the Japanese-language nursing exam in three years. But only 13 passed the exam this year, on top of the two who passed last year.

The government decided in March to allow unsuccessful trainees to stay for one more year under certain conditions.

In early June, the health ministry notified medical organizations that had accepted trainees that those who had scored at least 102 points out of a possible 300 can stay.

“I will go at it because I want to work as a nurse in Japan,” said a woman in her 20s. “But I am afraid I might not be able to get enough support.”

A trainee who scored 202, one less than the lowest successful score, said it is difficult to maintain his motivation because he cannot prepare for the exam during working hours.

Ten Indonesian trainees whose score was below 102 points will have to leave in August.

“I was shocked because I wanted to take the exam next year,” said a 34-year-old woman working at a hospital in the Kanto region. “I couldn’t hold back my tears when I was told I could not stay. My heart is broken.”

She lost her mother to disease and became a nurse in Indonesia. She came to Japan because of the country’s advanced medical technology. Her score was below 100.

The hospital introduced a new training program in April, devoting two hours during working hours to Japanese language studies.

An official at the hospital acknowledged that there are problems with trainees who cannot score 102 after studying in Japan for three years.

But the official criticized the government for rejecting “people who could be polished into diamonds” simply by their test scores.

A health ministry official said the minimum score of 102 was decided out of consideration for relations with Indonesia.

“It was designed to prevent a diplomatic problem, by keeping a large number of trainees from going back to Indonesia,” the official said. “The Foreign Ministry made the decision, considering the number of trainees that would not lead to a problem.”

The Foreign Ministry told the health ministry that trainees should be allowed to stay if their scores were among the 81 highest scores from the top, including those of successful applicants, and the health ministry decided on the minimum score of 102.

The government conducted a hearing on trainees’ enthusiasm and their hopes to stay after the exam in March, but those who should leave were eventually determined by the scores.

Japan has accepted nurse trainees from Indonesia and the Philippines under economic partnership agreements.

Seventy-three have already returned to their home countries, with 43 during the three months through May.

“If things are left as they are, nurse trainees will leave Japan one after another,” an official at a hospital that accepted trainees said. “The government needs to fundamentally revise the system at an early date.”

A health ministry official said the system is designed to accept those who pass the exam, and that it cannot be helped that those who have lost their confidence leave.

Yuko Hirano, a professor of health and medical sociology at Nagasaki University’s graduate school, said the Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred immediately before exam results were announced, might be one factor.

“Nurse trainees might have become worried because I don’t think they were given sufficient information on the nuclear accident and other issues,” she said. “I suspect those concerns, coupled with dissatisfaction with the support provided, have led to their departures.”

ENDS

Donald Keene prattles on about why he’s naturalizing in SAPIO, even takes a cheap shot at 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Here we have Donald Keene, our newest future Japanese naturalized citizen at age 88, prattling on in Sapio about how nice and wonderful Japanese society and culture is (citing things that happened a generation or two ago), and how he’s happy to become part of a culture so rich and able to regenerate itself after the tsunami (despite, he laments, the lack of domestic interest in Japanese culture by Japanese people; clearly in Donald’s world, culture makes the man).

This is all excusable as harmless personal preference and geriatric navel-gazing except, at the bottom of the first page, his cheap and ignorant swipe at non-Japanese (who, allegedly after coming here to make money, flee in the face of danger).  Perhaps if he had had the same stake as younger people who live here full-time and languish in less elite jobs, he might understand better why some people didn’t stay in Japan, as I argued in this Japan Times column.  No matter.  (Oh, and we won’t deal with ongoing events and lies from Fukushima; criticism of Japan would annoy Donald’s hosts and spoil the Sapio article.)

I guess it just goes to show you that grumpy old men regardless of nationality have to latch onto the “good old days” somewhere; fortunately our Donald feels like he has a culture and a circle of friends here that encourage that.  Enjoy yourself here, Donald.  Just don’t bad-mouth other people who are also coming here and trying to make a life, even if eventually they decide that there are greener pastures and fairer opportunities elsewhere.  At 88, you won’t have to endure Japan’s non-academic workplace culture, let alone be on this mortal coil long enough, for any denouement.  Arudou Debito

Kyodo: Soccer S-Pulse coach Ghotbi wants to meet banned fans over racial banner

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  We have some proactive treatment against discrimination towards a NJ coach in Japan’s soccer leagues.  Witness the reaction of other fans towards a nasty fan banner singling him out by his nationality, attributing to him behavior that is unrelated and unwarranted:  criticism and the taking of responsibility.  Good.  Regardless of whether one might argue this actually constitutes “racism” or not, it is still indicative of the zero tolerance of discrimination that should be (and is, under FIFA) a hallmark of world sport leagues worldwide, including Japan’s.

I am, however, of two minds about manager Ghotbi meeting the nasty fans to somehow enlighten them.  It on one hand seems a good PR strategy — engage and convince the nasties that their targets are humans with feelings after all.  On the other hand, it may encourage other trolls who want attention (not to mention get a meeting with a famous NJ — just insult them and you get an audience) to do the same thing — and enough of these banners and people may start claiming “cultural misunderstandings” as justification (you get that with nasty slogans against NJ in Japanese baseball, e.g., the racist banners against Warren Cromartie).  In my experience it doesn’t always work to talk to discriminators (sometimes their names exposed to social opprobrium is enough), but sometimes it does, and at least there is social opprobrium and media attention this time.  Let’s keep an eye on this and see how it flies.  Hopefully buds get nipped.  Arudou Debito

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SOCCER
S-Pulse coach wants to meet banned fans over racial banner
Kyodo News/Japan Today Tuesday 07th June 2011, Courtesy of Dave Spector
http://www.japantoday.com/category/sports/view/s-pulse-coach-wants-to-meet-banned-fans-over-racial-banner

TOKYO — Shimizu S-Pulse manager Afshin Ghotbi has turned the other cheek toward two Jubilo fans who have been indefinitely banished from Iwata games for hoisting a racially motivated banner in the Shizuoka derby two weeks ago, wanting to meet them to try to raise international awareness throughout the J-League.

The two teenage Jubilo supporters were outlawed by their club on Monday after writing a banner that read, ‘‘Ghotbi, stop making nuclear weapons,’’ in the May 28 J-League contest between Shimizu and Iwata at Outsourcing Stadium. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Ghotbi, the ex-Iran national coach who is in his first season in Japan at Shimizu, is Iranian-American.

The banner has caught fire not only for its racist undertones, but because of its insensitivity toward the ongoing nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

Yet rather than further fry the two fans amid arguably the nastiest controversy between the Shizuoka-based clubs, the former assistant to Guus Hiddink on the South Korean national team wants a clear-the-air meeting with the pair to stamp out racism in the J-League for good.

‘‘I actually suggested a meeting between the two kids, to just sit down and maybe I can inform them that what they did is wrong,’’ Ghotbi told Kyodo News by phone on Monday. ‘‘Maybe that could be a great gesture. And also because they are young, it would give them an opportunity to do some right.

‘‘Iwata could ask them to do some service work on behalf of the J-League and Iwata for the community and charity, and earn them the right to come back to the stadium.

‘‘Nobody has said anything to me, but I would love for that to happen. I think by meeting them, it would be a great gesture that when mistakes are made, you have a chance to correct it, a chance to grow.

‘‘Maybe I can show them that I’m not so different than they are.’‘

The next Shizuoka derby is on Sept. 10 at Ecopa Stadium.

Ghotbi hopes he can face the two Jubilo supporters by then so that the game won’t be one of tension, but one of a carnival atmosphere—as a derby match ought to be in his opinion.

‘‘I know the S-Pulse fans are infuriated and very upset about it and before the next derby, I want to create a situation where our fans and their fans can become closer, make the derby more of a festival and celebration for the community,’’ he said.

For all his positive spin, nevertheless, the 47-year-old Ghotbi did say that he never expected to encounter a case of racism in the J-League, which he has raved about as it being the best championship in Asia.

‘‘I personally feel sad, primarily because I see the world as one,’’ said Ghotbi, who took Iran to the quarterfinals at the Asian Cup in January that was won by Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan. ‘‘I see all human beings the same, not divided by past or nationality. When I see behavior like that it only makes me sadder.

‘‘I also believe that particular sign by two young people is by no stretch of the imagination the vision or the behavior in Japan. It doesn’t reflect at all the way the Japanese people are and feel.

‘‘So it’s an isolated incident by two young emotional people who are misinformed, uneducated. I hope the J-League officials use this opportunity to help the J-League become even more global.’’

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 12, 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. Here’s the second of two Newsletters. This should get us all caught up.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 12, 2011

Table of Contents:

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EXCLUSIONISM AND RACIAL PROFILING
1) “Japanese Only” bar in Kobe, “Soul Bar”, Nishinomiya Yamanote Doori. Advertises the music of people they would no doubt exclude
2) Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport this week — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical
3) Exclusionary pottery shop in Doguyasuji, Osaka, refuses service to non-Asian NJ
4) Yomiuri: Muslims file suit over National Police Agency antiterror investigations
5) 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
6) Tangent: Historical comparison between contemporary social attitudes justifying racial discrimination in Japan and pre-Civil-War slavery in America
7) Foreign Minister Maehara resigns due to donations from a “foreigner” (a Zainichi, that is)

INJUSTICE
8 ) NCN: Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”
9) GOJ says it will schedule joining Hague Convention on Child Abductions this month. Wowee. Why I doubt that’ll mean anything even if signed.
10) Chris Savoie wins US court award of $6.1 million against ex-wife for breach of contract, emotional distress, and false imprisonment of his children in Japan
11) Yomiuri: Govt eyes international human rights complaint framework, where domestic claimants can take their issue to the U.N.
12) AFP: Britain now supports Japan’s bid for UN Security Council seat: How eyeblinkingly blind of GOJ history re unfollowing international agreements.
13) Tangent: Kyodo: 2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison

… and finally …
14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 7, 2011: “‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite”
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By Arudou Debito
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter arudoudebito
http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html
Freely Forwardable

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EXCLUSIONISM AND RACIAL PROFILING

1) “Japanese Only” bar in Kobe, “Soul Bar”, Nishinomiya Yamanote Doori. Advertises the music of people they would no doubt exclude

Guest writer: Hi Debito. On a visit to Kobe for Golden Week, I came across a bar worthy of your Rogues’ Gallery of exclusionary establisments. Ironically, it was a soul music bar called Soul Love, with a sign featuring album covers of soul artists, including prominent Motown acts, who presumably would not be welcome inside the bar.

The bar was located on Higashimon Dori, a prominent thoroughfare in Sannomiya, one of Kobe’s major entertainment districts.

Following are links to photos I took of their sign reading ‘Excuse me Japanese people only,’ as well as the main sign for the business, which includes a phone number…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8897

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2) Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport this week — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical

What follows is a report I received this week that left me feeling quite angry — at the NPA’s wanton disregard for their own rules and the laws that govern them. The common solutions suggested on Debito.org — that of carrying around and showing the police copies of the laws they must obey, and of demanding legally-entitled ID to keep the police officers accountable — seem to have been ineffectual yesterday at my local airport, Chitose New International (this after years ago having the same encounter myself there and deciding to make an issue of it with outside GOJ human rights organizations, again to no avail). I have no doubt in my mind that the NPA trains its police to racially profile, moreover to assume that NJ have no civil rights during questioning, as evidenced here. It’s a despicable and dangerous abuse of power, and unchecked it will only get worse. Read on.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9065

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3) Exclusionary pottery shop in Doguyasuji, Osaka, refuses service to non-Asian NJ

Jessica: In early June of 2011, I went to a pottery shop on Doguyasuji in Osaka. This particular shop only sells pottery and is in fact overflowing with pottery. They have too much to fit on the shelves so all the floor aisles have a row of pottery on each side, so that you have to walk very carefully so as not to kick any plates. I went into this shop twice and did not have any interaction with the salespeople the first time; the second time no salesperson approached me or seemed to take notice of me. The second time I picked out a bowl that was stacked on top of 2 others exactly like it and brought it up to the sales counter to purchase it. There were a couple salepeople there but none of them were looking at me, so I said “excuse me” in Japanese and held out the bowl to them, indicating I wanted to buy it. A saleswoman who appeared to be in her 30s looked at me, shook her head, pointed to a sign on the wall behind her (at the back of the store), turned away from me, and completely ignored me for the rest of my time in the store. Unfortunately I did not write down or take a picture of the sign, but it said in English something like, “It is not possible for us to sell any pottery because we do not have any in stock.” There was no explanation or even mention of ordering items for future pick-up either on the sign or by the salespeople. Again, this store was completely filled with pottery, and most pieces, including the bowl I wanted to buy, had identical ones on the shelves. This was definitely not a small artisan shop run by the potter, which might justify a desire to keep their personal pottery in the country; this was just a typical store that had pottery as its product. I watched for a little while and saw several Japanese people come into the store, browse a bit, pick something up off the shelf, and purchase it immediately. Nobody else had any extended discussion with a salesperson or filled out a form, and nobody appeared to come in and pick up pre-ordered pottery or get a large quantity of pottery off a shelf, as one would expect if this store was only selling to restaurant owners or only accepting pre-orders.

This is the street. http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/search/detail/shopping_5198.html It is geared towards restaurant owners, but the shops generally sell to anyone. I’ll look through my pictures and if I took one of this pottery shop I’ll send it to you, but it does stand out somewhat as the only one that is very small and overflowing with just pottery. I’m pretty sure it was the “scary shop” in this blog post. http://www.chekyang.com/musings/2010/12/30/day-9-osaka-douguyasuji/ Note that they did just buy things right off the shelves. According to their blog they were tourists, they’re from and currently live in Singapore, and they don’t speak Japanese and spoke English on that trip; the only difference between them and me is they look Asian…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9070

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4) Yomiuri: Muslims file suit over National Police Agency antiterror investigations

Yomiuri:  A group of 14 Muslims has filed suit against the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments, demanding 154 million yen in compensation for violations of privacy and religious freedom after police antiterrorism documents containing their personal information were leaked onto the Internet.

The lawsuit filed at the Tokyo District Court accused the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Police Agency of systematically gathering their personal information, including on religious activities and relationships, merely because they are Muslims.

The lawsuit also alleged that after the information was leaked last October, the MPD failed to take sufficient action to prevent its spread.

In late November, a Tokyo-based publisher released a book carrying the leaked documents.

After the leak, “The plaintiffs were presumed to be international terrorism suspects. They were forced to leave their jobs and live apart from their families,” the petition filed Monday at the court claimed…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8942

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5) 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

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.

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:

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.)

http://www.debito.org/?p=8768

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6) Tangent: Historical comparison between contemporary social attitudes justifying racial discrimination in Japan and pre-Civil-War slavery in America

Today I’d like to write about something that came to mind when I was listening to National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” podcast of February 21, 2011, which interviewed author and Columbia University professor Eric Foner for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery”. (NPR information site on this show, excerpt from the book, and link to audio recording here.)

It was an excellent interview, shedding insights on just how entrenched unequal treatment towards people was in a system that on paper and in its very declaration of independence proclaimed that all men are created equal. I found similarities in the attitudes that people have towards foreigners in Japan, based not only on recent confessions by a public prosecutor that criminal jurisprudence training seeks to systematically deny human rights to foreigners, but also consequent twitter comments that justified the status quo of unequal treatment for foreigners. It shows just how far Japan as a society (not to mention the GOJ’s Bureau of Human Rights, which itself misunderstands the very concept of human rights in its surveys and awareness raising efforts; see my Japan Times article, “Human Rights Survey Stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science”, of October 23, 2007) has to go before it understands that concepts of human rights are universal, not based upon citizenship.

Now for the disclaimers: I am aware that apparently linking the treatment of NJ in Japan to slaves in America is not an apt comparison (although Japan’s “Trainee/Researcher” system for importing cheap NJ labor has encouraged widespread labor abuses, child labor, and, yes, even slavery). I am aware that most NJ are in Japan of their own free will (if one ignores the forced labor of many Zainichi ancestors), whereas slaves were brought to the US by force. Et cetera. But the two concepts are related if not co-joined, as racial discrimination and justified unequal treatment is common to them both. What I want you to think about as you read the interview is how the contemporary debate arena and concepts of fundamental equality were blurred in both Pre-Civil-War USA and are still being blurred in contemporary Japan, tying the hands of even someone as able and firm in his convictions as Abraham Lincoln.

Excerpt of the interview follows. Quick comment from me below.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9020

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7) Foreign Minister Maehara resigns due to donations from a “foreigner” (a Zainichi, that is)

Japan Times: Foreign Minister Maehara admitted receiving JPY50,000 in donations from a South Korean permanent resident of Japan who lives in Kyoto. But according to the Liberal Democratic Party, which brought up the issue during a Diet committee last Friday, the donations total JPY200,000 over the past four years.

Maehara said at the press conference that total donations from the person came to at least JPY250,000 over five years.

The Political Funds Control Law stipulates that it is illegal for politicians to accept contributions from non-Japanese residents and foreign companies. If found guilty, the politician could potentially face up to three years imprisonment or a fine of up to JPY500,000, and also have his or her voting rights suspended.

COMMENT from Debito.org Reader: For one, it clearly demonstrates that foreigners with special status are STILL considered foreigners regardless, and two should draw attention to the fact that this rule is meant to prevent foreigners living in Japan from gaining political power through an activity like political (and in Maehara’s case possibly even a personal) donations — something that every politician relies on, no matter the country.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8615

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INJUSTICE

8 ) NCN: Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”

NCN:  The chief prosecutor in the Saga City Agricultural Co-op case, now known to be a frame-up, spoke at a symposium held in Tokyo on May 23, 2011, offering a revealing discussion of the surprising reality of the training he received when he joined his department. “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no human rights,” he disclosed, and “public prosecutors were taught to make up confessions and then have suspects sign them.” Describing how terrifying this warped training system is, he added that “after being trained in that way, [he] began to almost believe that this was natural.” The person making the statements about his erstwhile workplace was former public prosecutor Hiroshi Ichikawa…

Mr. Ichikawa was appointed to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office in 1993. He said that in his first year, a superior prosecutor taught him that “yakuza and foreigners have no human rights.” Describing his experiences, he mentioned that that superior said, “Foreigners don’t understand Japanese, so you can use whatever threatening language you like if it’s in Japanese.” The same superior also said that when investigating one foreign suspect, he held a pointed awl in front of the suspect’s face and shouted abuse at the suspect in Japanese. “‘That’s how you get them to confess,’ the superior said.”

In his third year, a superior taught him how to obtain a confession; this consisted of the prosecutor taking a document filled with whatever the prosecutor chose to say, threatening the suspect with it, and obtaining the suspect’s signature. What if the suspect refused to sign? “If the suspect resisted, my boss said, I should say that the document was my [investigation], not his [confession form],” said Mr. Ichikawa.

COMMENT FROM MARK IN YAYOI: The Twitter comments that follow [this article] are dispiriting — nobody seems to notice the fundamental incongruousness of discussing members of a criminal organization and people who happen to have different nationalities in the same breath. And then there are the other commenters who support the idea of certain people not having human rights. Others claim that foreign embassies should be the ones to guarantee the rights of immigrants. They miss the fundamental meaning of ‘human’ rights: rights are inherent aren’t handed down by the government! The government can restrict certain people’s rights, but the default state is not ‘zero rights’.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=8997

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9) GOJ says it will schedule joining Hague Convention on Child Abductions this month. Wowee. Why I doubt that’ll mean anything even if signed.

In light of Chris Savoie’s recent U.S. court victory (see immediately below), where his ex-wife was ruled guilty of inter alia false imprisonment of their kids in Japan, let’s look at the bigger picture — whether or not there will be official measures taken to stop this sort of thing happening again. One means is the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, to which Japan is not a signatory, and it shows.

Japan has once again made intimations (see JT article below) that it has plans to not only consider but even perhaps join the Convention, with a schedule of when it will perhaps join being announced this month.

This should be good news, but I’m not hopeful. Japan made similar intimations about joining this Convention more than three years ago (see Asahi article below that), so has clearly been less than keen. Moreover, during the domestic debates since then, lots of other intimations have been made that Japan will sign but will then create domestic laws and other loopholes so it doesn’t have to follow it.

This is within character. Japan has done precisely the same thing with other international agreements, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (signed by Japan all the way back in 1995), which has similarly been exceptionalized to the point where we have no national law in the criminal code outlawing or forbidding racial discrimination and hate speech.

The point is, I’m not hopeful. And I’ll say it again: Nobody, Japanese or NJ, should get married to a Japanese and have children under the current system in Japan. Divorce in Japan generally means one parent loses the kids. And I believe that will continue regardless of Japan’s agreeing to the Hague.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8912

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10) Chris Savoie wins US court award of $6.1 million against ex-wife for breach of contract, emotional distress, and false imprisonment of his children in Japan

Congratulations to Chris Savoie on his massive U.S. court victory against his ex-wife for, inter alia, false imprisonment of his children in Japan.

Debito.org has talked about the Savoie Case for quite some time now (do a search), but I devoted a Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to it back in October 2009. I’m personally glad he’s staying the course, and seeking judicial recourse that is amounting to legally-binding agreement. This is setting an important precedent regarding the issue of international child abduction, and drawing attention to a long-neglected problem. Arudou Debito

PS: Note the lame (if not just plain inaccurate) headline by the Japan Times/Kyodo News on this, “Wife fined for taking children to Japan”; makes it sound like she got punished for being a tourist. Get on the ball. Call it what it is: Child abduction.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8906

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11) Yomiuri: Govt eyes international human rights complaint framework, where domestic claimants can take their issue to the U.N.

Yomiuri:  The government will seek to introduce a system to enable people who claim to be victims of human rights violations to file complaints with the United Nations and other international organizations based on global treaties, sources said Thursday.

Details will be worked out among officials from relevant government bodies, mainly the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, and the government intends to obtain Cabinet consent on the matter by the end of the year, the sources said.

The individual complaint system is based on international treaties governing the protection of human rights. Under the system, when perceived rights violations are not addressed after an individual has exhausted all possible means under a country’s legal system, the person can file a complaint with certain international organizations. The relevant organization then issues warnings or advisories to the nation if it recognizes the individual’s case as a human rights violation.

After an international organization gives its opinion or recommendation to a signatory nation of the relevant international treaty, the country is asked to investigate the cases based on the international organization’s views and report back to it…

The government is considering accepting the system via Cabinet consent on the following treaties: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9009

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12) AFP: Britain now supports Japan’s bid for UN Security Council seat: How eyeblinkingly blind of GOJ history re unfollowing international agreements.

Here’s some news dovetailing with Japan’s unwillingness to abide by international treaty.

Japan, one of the United Nations’ largest financial contributors, has been pushing hard for decades now for a seat on the U.N. Security Council (last time in 2006), effectively to have a place at the table and more powerful voting rights with fellow big, rich, powerful nations. The GOJ has even signed treaties and created domestic laws, according to scholar John M. Peek (see below), just to make it look better internationally, i.e., more like a modern, responsible nation in the international arena. However, after signing these treaties, Japan has been quite constant in its unwillingness to actually create domestic laws to enforce international agreements (cf. the CERD), or when laws are created, they have little to no enforcement power (cf. the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which has done little after more than a quarter century to ameliorate the wide disparity in wages between men and women in Japan).

The fact is, the GOJ does this stuff for window dressing. Now once it accomplishes its goal of getting an UNSC Seat, it will have no further incentive to sign, abide by, or obey international treaties at all. We have stated this to the United Nations at every opportunity.

Which is why Britain’s sudden turnaround to support Japan’s bid is so eye-blinkingly blind. It seems we are milking our disasters (partially caused by our government’s malfeasance in the first place) to get an international sympathy vote now. How cynical and opportunistic.

Read on for an excerpt of a research paper I wrote citing Dr. Peek above, regarding the GOJ’s history of insincere negotiations vis-a-vis international human-rights agreements. I believe Japan will similarly ratify yet unfollow the Hague Convention on Child Abductions as well. And not even bother to ratify much else once it gets on the UNSC.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8876

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13) Kyodo: 2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison

This is a bit of a tangent, but what affects citizens will also affect non-citizens as well (especially so, actually), so here goes:

The Mainichi reported yesterday that two men who were wrongfully committed of a crime were finally released. The problem is that it was a 44-year ordeal for them, thirty years of it spent in prison. And they are not the only examples of this lack of due process. As the article says, “The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.”

I’ve said before (after experiencing now six civil court cases that have all been riddled with absolute illogic) that the Japanese judiciary is pretty f*cked up. So this is an example of how f*cked up the Japanese criminal justice system is. This deserves to be known about. So know about it. (You can also read about it in my novel IN APPROPRIATE.)

NB: Before all you relativists start looking for examples of wrongful convictions in other countries that were later overturned, don’t even bother. For a) it doesn’t justify it happening here, and b) How much of this rigmarole and unaccountability will happen in other healthy judiciaries? Thirty years is a sizeable chunk of a person’s life lost!

Is the Japanese justice system more concerned about looking like it never makes mistakes than about rectifying past ones and avoiding future ones?

http://www.debito.org/?p=8990

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… and finally …

14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 7, 2011: “‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite”

JT:  One would think that difficult times would occasion people pulling together to help. There has of course been plenty of that, but on balance there has also been, as I wrote last month, a particularly unhelpful tendency to bash and badmouth NJ as cowards and deserters (as neatly demonstrated by the new word “flyjin”).

But this is a mere complement to the perpetually uncooperative nature of many NJ in Japan, particularly in the English-speaking community. Despite its size and stature in this society, this community has not yet fostered a comprehensive interest group to look out for the civil or political rights of NJ.

Not for lack of trying. I personally have led or been part of several groups (e.g., UMJ, The Community, Kunibengodan, FRANCA), but none garnered enough support to be an effective lobbying force. I’ll take my share of the blame for that (I am more an organizer of information than of people), but my efforts did not stop other people from organizing separately. Yet 20 years after a groundswell in the NJ population, and despite the unprecedented degree of connectivity made possible by the Internet, minority interest groups and antidefamation leagues for the English-language community have been lackluster or lacking.

Contrast this with the efforts of other ethnic or language groups in Japan. The Zainichi Koreans alone have three different organizations, which over the past 60 years have wrung political concessions from the Japanese government. The Chinese too have powerful information networks, not to mention a neighboring economic hegemon often speaking on their behalf. Even the Nikkei South Americans have their own newspapers, grass-roots schools and local human rights associations.

It’s an important question: Why are some minorities in Japan less able to organize than others? Let’s focus on the English-language community, since this very forum is part of it…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9059

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Alright, that should do it for a little while. Thanks as always for reading!
Arudou Debito
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter arudoudebito
http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 12, 2011 ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 11, 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. It’s been awhile (about two months), and a lot of blog entries have piled up over the past two months. Sorry. Let me send you two Newsletters in quick succession over the next few days. Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 11, 2011

Table of Contents:
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TOPICS OF PERSONAL INTEREST
1) Warning to Debito.org Commenters about being cyber-stalked; don’t use your real name as moniker anymore
2) Post #2000! Special Discussion: Making “friends” in Japan, successfully?
3) FCCJ Book Break evening June 28 for my book IN APPROPRIATE in Yurakucho, Tokyo. Let me know if you want to go.
4) Review of IN APPROPRIATE and interview at JETAA-NY’s Examiner.com
5) IN APPROPRIATE now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
6) Donald Keene to naturalize, in a show of solidarity with the Japanese people, at age 88
7) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST MAY 7, 2011: Speech at Otaru Shoudai Dec 5, 2011: “The Otaru Onsens Case, Ten Years On”
8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JUNE 1, 2011

AFTERSHOCKS OF 3/11
9) Columnist Dan Gardner: “Why Japan took the nuclear risk”: Quick-fix energy during 1973-4 Oil Shocks
10) Kansai Time Out Feb ’08 on “Power and the People: Masaki Hisane keeps watch on Japan’s nuclear industry”
11) AFP: Japan tells tourists says ‘it’s safe’ to come back, with budgets to dispel “public misperceptions about the effects of the nuclear disaster”
12) Ekonomisuto gives better articles on effects of both NJ leaving Japan and tourists avoiding Japan
13) Nikkei reports on the effect of “nihon saru gaikokujin”, aka Fly-jin, with some pretty shaky journalistic practices
14) Mainichi: “Industries left short-handed after NJ workers flee Japan following nuke accident”
15) Zakzak headlines that NJ part-time staff flee Yoshinoya restaurant chain, and somehow threaten its profitability
16) JT/Kyodo: NJ key to Japan’s recovery, says Iokibe Makoto, chair of GOJ Reconstruction Design Council. Well, fancy that.
17) Nikkei Business magazine special (May 2, 2011) on the future and necessity of NJ labor to Japan
18) Sankei: MOJ proposes easier visas for importing “higher quality” NJ labor; neglects to offer NJ stronger civil or labor rights
19) Christopher Dillon, author of “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, on earthquake insurance in Japan
20) Mainichi: “American teacher in Sendai stays in Japan to help with volunteer efforts”
21) Mainichi: “Many foreign residents wish to stay in Japan despite disaster: survey”
22) Tangent: “Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply”

… and finally …
23) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 39: “Better to be branded a ‘flyjin’ than a man of the ‘sheeple'” (May 3, 2011)
(This is a culmination of all the articles cited above.)
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By Arudou Debito
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter arudoudebito
Freely Forwardable

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TOPICS OF PERSONAL INTEREST

1) Warning to Debito.org Commenters about being cyber-stalked; don’t use your real name as moniker anymore

Anonymous Debito.org Reader: Hi Debito, I just wanted to let you know that last week on ‘tepido naruhodos’ page, I saw a thread that included a large amount of communication between some posters about the posters on debito.org. They were discussing that of that date they had collectively identified 63 debito posters through e-mail addresses and social media sites.

I don’t know if you were aware of this, or if it was brought to your attention. The posts on that subject disappeared at some point around the weekend. Quite frankly, I think that they are a strange bunch. I think tepido naruhodo/Ken YN/LB lives in my area, but I can’t identify and confront him on this issue.

I don’t know if you might want to warn your readers that they might be stalked, or if you have ideas for other action.

COMMENT: I have been cyberstalked by these creeps (and others; there is even a site devoted to the possibility of my being Jewish merely because I’m an activist) for many years now. And I am sorry that these creeps are now trying to use the same tactics towards other posters on this site. How vicious. And hypocritical. These creeps decry their lack of freedom of speech on this blog (I no longer approve their posts here; one look at the tone and commentary on the Tepido et.al sites will give you an indication why), yet are taking action not only against me, but also against others who express themselves here, just because they don’t agree with Debito.org Readers or with me personally.

I’m no certified mental health specialist, but I would say that these anonymous creeps (who remain mostly anonymous, of course, to evade any semblance of responsibility or maturity) have an unhealthy obsession with me personally and the issues on this site. Makes one wonder if they devote any time to having a real life away from the keyboard.

I suggest that Debito.org Readers, when you post, from now on avoid using your real name. Choose a unique moniker and stick with it. Protect yourself from the shite I have to deal with on a daily basis.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8979

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2) Post #2000! Special Discussion: Making “friends” in Japan, successfully?

To commemorate May 15, Debito.org’s 2000th blog post since 2006 (yes, it’s been almost five years since Debito.org went daily as a blog), I would like to devote the next day or two to an important discussion regarding assimilation.

I got together with some old friends for beers some time ago (we do this whenever I’m in town), who all together have a combined tenure of more than a century of experiences living in Japan. We’re all English-native Caucasian males, for what it’s worth.

Our conversation suddenly took an interesting turn when one of our group asked a poignant question:

“How many of us have any Japanese friends with whom we can get together like this and talk as much in depth?”

There was a long pause, and we all realized, when it came to Japanese males, the answer was zero. Yes, zero.

We all said we had made Japanese female friends (we are guys, after all), finding J-women more curious and open-minded than their male counterparts (and that included relationships that weren’t all physical).

But not Japanese men.

Several theories abounded…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8933

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3) FCCJ Book Break evening June 28 for my book IN APPROPRIATE in Yurakucho, Tokyo. Let me know if you want to go.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS CLUB OF JAPAN (FCCJ)
Book Break

“IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan”
By ARUDOU Debito

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 from 6.15 pm to 8.30 pm
FCCJ, Yurakucho, Tokyo (directions via www.fccj.or.jp)
(The speech and Q & A will be in English)

If you would like to attend and are not a FCCJ member, please let me know via debito@debito.org (please put “Invitation to FCCJ Book Break” in subject line) and I will add you to the guest list. (Please be absolutely sure you can attend, because I have to pay for any no-shows out of my own pocket). Thanks.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9072

More on IN APPROPRIATE at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

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4) Review of IN APPROPRIATE and interview at JETAA-NY’s Examiner.com

Examiner.com: Divorce is tough, but divorce in Japan — especially if you’re a foreigner with kids — is a nightmare, explains Sapporo-based author Arudou Debito in his new book, “In Appropriate: A Novel of Culture, Kidnapping, and Revenge in Modern Japan”.

Originally raised in rural upstate New York as David Aldwinckle, Debito is a 23-year resident of Japan who obtained Japanese citizenship (and a name change) in 2000. As the Just Be Cause columnist at The Japan Times newspaper, his nonfiction books include Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants, and Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan.

A longtime watchdog for foreigners’ rights in Japan, Debito’s first English-language novel takes a scalpel to the polite, friendly facade that tourists typically experience. In Appropriate examines the downright ugly aspects of Japanese life when a father is cut from all ties with his children post-divorce, which is not only common in Japan, but upheld by 19th century law. In this exclusive interview, Debito discusses his personal experiences that inspired the book, his history as an activist, and his thoughts on the future of Japan.

Q: You’ve been known as an activist for over a decade and have published non-fiction works on the subject. What inspired you to write about child abduction in Japan, and what were your goals?

DEBITO: My goal with In Appropriate was to expose a dire social problem, as usual. But this time I thought fiction would be the better medium. Doing what I do, I hear a lot of stories about broken marriages in Japan, and having gone through a nasty divorce myself (seeing my children only about six times since 2003), I know a little bit about child abduction. What goes on in Japan beggars belief, but it’s hard to zero in on one non-fiction case and expect it to cover the scope of the problem.

Although international child abductions in other countries have gotten some press, the situation in Japan is much, much worse. Child abductions and parental alienation in Japan are, in a word, systematic — meaning they are hardly uncommon between Japanese, too (former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi is a famous example; he never saw one of his sons for nearly two decades). One parent after a divorce is generally expected to disappear, and have little to no contact with the children anymore. In Appropriate was meant as a primer to the issue.

Japan has no system of joint custody or guaranteed visitation rights, and under this system I cannot recommend anyone, Japanese or non-Japanese (NJ), get married under it and consider having children. The risk is too great. We need fundamental reform of the Family Registry System and the laws governing divorce and child custody first.

Q: Give us a basic overview on the phenomenon of kidnapping and left-behind parents in Japan…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8865

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5) IN APPROPRIATE now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

http://www.amazon.com/Appropriate-culture-kidnapping-revenge-modern/dp/1257026402/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1307193366&sr=8-2

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-appropriate-arudou-debito/1031214600?ean=9781257026401&itm=1&usri=arudou%2bdebito

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8824

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7) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST MAY 7, 2011: Speech at Otaru Shoudai Dec 5, 2011: “The Otaru Onsens Case, Ten Years On”

This month’s offering is a recording of one of my speeches given in English last December at Otaru University of Commerce, Hokkaido, Japan, sponsored by Dr. Shawn Clankie. Q&A included. It’s my standard presentation on the Otaru Onsens Case with some updates (especially given that the site of the famous standoffs with “Japanese Only” bathhouses took place in this very town) on how things have or have not changed.

Two hours 20 minutes (yes, I can speak for that long, and people seem to listen). No cuts. Enjoy. You can also watch it as a youtube video with my powerpoint presentation from here.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8884

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8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JUNE 1, 2011

In this podcast:

1. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 20, “Savoie Case shines spotlight on Japan’s ‘disappeared dads'”. (October 6, 2009)
2. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 21, “Demography vs. Demagoguery”, on how politics has pervaded Japanese demographic science, making the topic of “immigration” taboo for discussion as an option. (November 3, 2009)

Plus interim excerpts from Tangerine Dream “White Eagle” and an excerpt of another song from Duran Duran’s most recent album, “All You Need is Now”. Title: “Before The Rain”.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9041

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AFTERSHOCKS OF 3/11

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

Gardner: 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…

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 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…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8708

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

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

http://www.debito.org/?p=8853

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11) AFP: Japan tells tourists says ‘it’s safe’ to come back, with budgets to dispel “public misperceptions about the effects of the nuclear disaster”

AFP May 19: Japanese business leaders launched a campaign Thursday to woo tourists back to Japan after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that sent foreigners fleeing the country.

“I would like to say: Japan is safe,” said Atsutoshi Nishida, the chairman of Toshiba, told a high-powered gathering of travel and tourism executives and officials from around the world.

Accepting the group’s invitation to host the next Global Travel and Tourism Summit in Tokyo in April 2012, Nishida said he hoped to welcome participants to a Japan at “full strength” by then.

International travel to and from Japan plunged after the 9.0 magnitude quake March 11 off Sendai, Japan that sent a tsunami surging through nuclear power complexes along the coast, magnifying a disaster that killed 15,000 people. While tourism represents only a small part of economy impacted, it is an important bellwether of confidence in Japan.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the number of tourists arriving in the country dropped by more than 50 percent, and leisure travel collapsed by 90 percent, according to the Japanese Tourism Agency…

Japanese officials said their campaign to bring back tourism will begin with education campaigns to dispell what they say are public misperceptions about the effects of the nuclear disaster. Only later will they proceed to ad campaigns and the like to get tourists to come back, they said…

Nishida contended it was misleading to put the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, telling reporters the release of radiation in that meltdown “dwarfed” the amounts released in Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8974

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

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. 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8836

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

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:

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).

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8806

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

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:

Mainichi: 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8830

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8804

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16) JT/Kyodo: NJ key to Japan’s recovery, says Iokibe Makoto, chair of GOJ Reconstruction Design Council. Well, fancy that.

Get a load of this:

Kyodo:  Large numbers of foreigners will be needed to help revive the farming and fishery industries in areas damaged by the March 11 mega-quake and tsunami, the head of a reconstruction panel said Friday.

“It is important to draw human resources, including permanent foreign residents” to the hard-hit Tohoku region, Makoto Iokibe, chair of the Reconstruction Design Council, said at the Japan National Press Club.”

COMMENT: As submitter CJ commented: “What foreigner WOULDN’T leap at the opportunity to perform manual labor all day bathed in background radiation while being treated like a potential criminal and expected to leave when no longer needed, sacrificing pension contributions in the course of doing so?”

Touche. Especially since day laborers are now a hot commodity for hot radioactive reactor cleanups, see below. Get freshly-imported foreign workers doing this instead and you’ll have no family in Japan complaining…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8930

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17) Nikkei Business magazine special (May 2, 2011) on the future and necessity of NJ labor to Japan

here is an excellent series of articles on how important NJ labor has been and will be to Japan’s future. Eighteen pages on the whos, whats, and why-you-should-cares in the Nikkei Business magazine dated May 2, 2011.

After the cover (Title: Kieta Gaikokujin Roudou Ryoku: Nihonjin dake de shokuba o mamoreru ka, or “Disappeared NJ Labor Force: Can Japanese maintain the workplaces by themselves?”) and table of contents, we open with a splash page showing Chinese waiting for their bags at the airport carousel after returning to China.

Pages 20 through 23 give us an assessment of NJ labor in several business sectors: Restaurants, Textiles, Finance, Convenience Stores, Agriculture, IT, Education, Tourism, and Airflight, headlining that the NJ labor force has “evaporated”.

Pages 24 and 25 give us the raw data, noting that the majority of NJ (55%) work in small companies of less than 100 employees, and that the near majority of NJ laborers (44%) are Chinese. The point is that “a closed Japanese labor market is impossible”.

Pages 26 and 27 give us a close up about a farm that lost none of its workers, and even asked (for a change, given the Japanese media) what NJ thought. It was all part of the magazine’s suggestions about what should be done to improve things and give NJ a stake: Accountability, Bonds, Careers, and recognizing Diversity. Even offered suggestions about how to simplify Japanese.

Pages 27 and 28 are the “money shot”, where the article says most of the things that we have said all along here on Debito.org and in my Japan Times articles: You can’t keep on using people as simple throwaway labor and expect them to stay, and you can’t keep doing things like bribe people to go back (as was done with the Nikkei in 2009) or make hurdles too high to get over (as is being done with NJ nurses) and expect a sustainable labor force.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8945

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18) Sankei: MOJ proposes easier visas for importing “higher quality” NJ labor; neglects to offer NJ stronger civil or labor rights

The Sankei reports on May 25 that the Ministry of Justice will be loosening some of its strictures on NJ visas (the Sankei uses the word nohouzu in its headline; I’m not 100% sure of the nuance but it sounds like “a wild and endless expansion of favorable treatment regarding NJ entry visas”; rather snotty, but that’s the Sankei for ya).

The new Immigration policy is directed at NJ with very high skills (koudo jinzai — a good idea) and their families (who will also be allowed to work; wow, that’s a change!), will have a points system for evaluation (another good idea), will offer longer visa periods (5 years), and will loosen the specificity between work visas. It’s being touted as a means to make Japan more appealing to NJ labor (you had better!).

Sounds like a step in the right direction. But it’s still … What’s missing is GOJ guaranteeing some degree of protection of labor and civil rights after NJ get here. And what about qualifications? Just try practicing law, medicine, or most other licensed skills in Japan now without going through the rigmarole of domestic certification, with walls so high (cf. the NJ nurses from Indonesia and The Philippines over the past few years) that almost all NJ applicants fail (and, magically, have to return home as usual after three years, just like any other revolving-door “Trainee” or “Researcher” NJ laborer).

This isn’t the first time a points system etc. has been floated (only to die the death of a thousand meddling bureaucrats) either. I guess the mandarins are realizing what a fix Japan is in without NJ labor. But if this kind of policy is going to happen at all, the almighty MOJ has to be the one proposing it. Then perhaps the waters will part for Moses. Let’s wait and see.

But this is on balance “good” news. But not “great” news unless the GOJ also does something to force domestic actors to treat NJ nicely. Which is doubtful.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9004

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19) Christopher Dillon, author of “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, on earthquake insurance in Japan

Forwarding from Christopher Dillon, author of “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, which Debito.org recommended a year ago:

“Hi Debito, If your readers are interested in learning about the Japanese earthquake insurance system, I’ve put the insurance chapter of my book on-line here: http://dilloncommunications.com/blog/?p=2113

I’ve also included links to related information in English and Japanese. Stay safe, and congratulations on book IN APPROPRIATE.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=8665

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20) Mainichi: “American teacher in Sendai stays in Japan to help with volunteer efforts”

Mainichi: With the nuclear plant crisis and continuing aftershocks, many foreign assistant English teachers have left Japan to return to their home countries, but one assistant language teacher (ALT) here chose to stay behind and do what he could for volunteer efforts.

Greg Lekich, 31, is an American ALT who teaches English at a high school in Sendai. Together with around 10 others, he has been doing volunteer work such as shoveling mud and helping clean people’s debris-filled houses. He says that he has many friends and students he has taught in Japan, and has grown used to where he lives now. He says he does not have plans to leave the country any time soon.

Lekich was born in Philadelphia. He spent a year of college learning Japanese and came to the country in 2004. After teaching English in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and other locations, he started work as an ALT at Miyagi Hirose High School and Miyagiken Technical High School from 2007.

When the earthquake struck on March 11, Lekich was in the teacher’s room at Miyagi Hirose High School. It was his first experience of a large earthquake. Following the instructions of the school staff, he evacuated to the athletic field outside. After walking for three hours to return home, he used the Internet to check on the safety of his foreign friends.

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was added to the list of disasters, many foreigners in Japan began leaving the country. However, Lekich stayed in Sendai. His father, a former nuclear plant safety engineer, told him that under the circumstances, he didn’t think his son needed to worry so much about the radiation. His mother said she was worried, but asked him to do what he thought was right.

Lekich decided to volunteer. Together with other teachers in the prefecture, he made the website “Teachers for Japan,” through which he and the others have posted English videos of the disaster-hit areas and collected money for those orphaned by the quake or tsunami. He also helps with relief work such as cleaning debris in houses three or four days a week in Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai and the cities of Ishinomaki and Tagajo…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8890

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21) Mainichi: “Many foreign residents wish to stay in Japan despite disaster: survey”

Related to the debunkable claims of “Fly-jin” NJ deserting Japan in its time of need, here is an article in the media with a survey of how NJ are actually by-and-large NOT wanting to be “Fly-jin”. Good.

The problem is, it seems (after a short search) that this article has come out in English only — there is no link to the “original Japanese story” like many Mainichi articles have. So this may sadly may not be for domestic consumption. Or it may be available on Kyodo wire services (but again, not in Japanese for Mainichi readers). Sigh.

Mainichi: More than 90 percent of foreigners studying or working in Japan expressed willingness to continue staying in the country despite the March 11 disaster, according to a recent online survey by a supporting group for them.

The International Foreign Students Association conducted the survey between March 22 and 26, to which 392 people responded. Of the respondents, 60 percent were students and the remaining 40 percent were graduates, while more than 90 percent of them were from China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Those who are willing to stay in Japan said, “Because I like Japan,” or “At a time like this, I think I want to work together (with Japanese) to help the recovery,” according to the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8889

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22) Tangent: “Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply”

Faux News: Foreigners looking to adopt a Japanese child orphaned by the recent earthquake may be surprised to know their help, in that respect, is not wanted at the moment.

“I have been receiving many strange emails, from mostly U.S., and was asked, ‘I want girl, less than 6 months old, healthy child,’ Tazuru Ogaway, director of the Japanese adoption agency Across Japan, told FoxNews.com. “I honestly tell you such a kind of emails makes Japanese people very uncomfortable, because for us, sound like someone who are looking for ‘what I want’ from our terrible disaster.”

In the wake of the massive January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, countries around the world almost immediately began fast-tracking adoptions from the troubled country. The United States alone took in 1,090 Haitian children as part of a Special Humanitarian Parole granted immediately following the disaster, according to the State Department’s 2010 Annual Report in Intercountry Adoptions.

But Martha Osborne, spokeswoman for the adoption advocacy website RainbowKids.com, said Japan and Haiti couldn’t be more different when it comes to adoption.

“You see that in developing nations, there’s no outlet for these children and the people left in the wake of the disaster are completely impoverished and unable to care for them, and in that case even extended relatives often say that the best case for the child is to be adopted because there are no resources,” Osborne told FoxNews.com. “But in Japan that’s just not the case, it’s a fully developed nation that’s capable of caring for its own children.”

Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives.

“I don’t believe there’s going to be a true orphan situation in Japan in the wake of this disaster. I do not believe that there are going to be children without any ties to relatives — that extended family system is going to consider that child their child,” she said.

http://www.debito.org/?p=8706

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… and finally …

23) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 39: “Better to be branded a ‘flyjin’ than a man of the ‘sheeple'” (May 3, 2011)

This is a culmination of all the articles cited above:

JBC: The past two months have been uncomfortable for Japan, and for the country’s foreign residents. Non-Japanese (NJ) have been bashed in the media, unreservedly and undeservedly, as deserters in the face of disaster.

Consider the birth of the epithet “fly-jin.” A corruption of the racist word gaijin for foreigners, it appeared in English-language media as a label for NJ who apparently flew the coop in Japan’s time of need. The Japanese media soon developed its own variants (e.g., Nihon o saru gaikokujin), and suddenly it was open season for denigrating NJ…

I saw no articles putting things into perspective, comparing numbers of AWOL NJ with AWOL Japanese. Cowardice and desertion were linked with extranationality.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt that many NJ did move due to the Tohoku disasters. But my question is: So what if they did?… Why should Japan care if NJ are leaving? Japan hasn’t exactly encouraged them to stay…

http://www.debito.org/?p=8870
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Another Newsletter will be up here tomorrow, and then we should be all caught up. Thanks as always for reading!
Arudou Debito
debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 11, 2011 ENDS

FCCJ Book Break June 28 Tokyo for IN APPROPRIATE, contact me if you’d like to attend

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. Let me tell today about a presentation coming up in Tokyo on June 28, talking about my latest book, “IN APPROPRIATE”, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.

If you would like to attend and are not a FCCJ member, please let me know via debito@debito.org (please put “Invitation to FCCJ Book Break” in subject line) and I will add you to the guest list. (Please be absolutely sure you can attend, because I have to pay for any no-shows out of my own pocket). Thanks.  Arudou Debito

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

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS CLUB OF JAPAN (FCCJ)
Book Break

“IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan”
By ARUDOU Debito

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 from 6.15 pm to 8.30 pm
FCCJ, Yurakucho, Tokyo (directions via www.fccj.or.jp)
(The speech and Q & A will be in English)

IN APPROPRIATE is the story of Gary Schmidt, a small-town American teen, who meets a Japanese girl in college and follows her to Japan to start a family. Little does he know that his wife’s conservative Japanese clan has hidden agendas and secret intentions. Gary eventually realizes that he must escape their clutches – and convince his family to do the same before it’s too late!

IN APPROPRIATE is a book about child abductions in Japan, where after a divorce, a non-Japanese man comes back to Japan to retrieve his children back to America. Although a work of fiction, it is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and Left-Behind Parents in Japan.

The author adds, “IN APPROPRIATE is about more than just divorce: I wanted to describe how a person would find fascination in Japan and Japanese people, come over during Japan’s Bubble Era to find Japan ripe with opportunity, and watch as Japan’s economy goes sour over the past two decades. It was wonderful to recount this story as a Bubble-Era veteran — when in the late 1980’s Japan looked poised to take over the world — and see how, step-by-step, Japanese society would be squeezed and squeezed, waiting for a promised recovery that would never come. IN APPROPRIATE is thus a time capsule charting Japan’s descent into mediocrity and comparative international irrelevance.”

ARUDOU Debito, the Just Be Cause columnist for The Japan Times, notorious human rights activist for non-Japanese residents in Japan, and coordinator of award-winning information website Debito.org, has written other non-fiction books featured as FCCJ Book Breaks: “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (English and Japanese), and “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan”. Although IN APPROPRIATE is his first foray into fiction, he notes, “The only way I could do justice to the complex issue of international child abduction was to combine several non-fiction cases I have heard over the years. Everything that happens in the book is based upon a true story.”

The library committee is now offering a cocktail party – “meet the author” – starting at 6:15 pm, followed by dinner at 6:45 pm. Drinks can be ordered on a pay basis from the bar in the room. Book Break charges 2,000 yen (including tax) for the event. Sign up now at the reception desk (3211-3161) or online at http://www.fccj.or.jp/node/6676. To help us plan proper seating and food preparation, please reserve in advance, preferably by noon of the day of the event. Those without reservations will be turned away once available seats are filled.

Reservations cancelled less than 24 hours in advance will be charged in full.

Library Committee, THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB OF JAPAN
ENDS

Exclusionary pottery shop in Doguyasuji, Osaka, refuses service to non-Asian 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog. Here is another report of shabby treatment of NJ as customers, this time in Osaka. The writer, an exchange student in Kyoto, told me of her experience at an Osaka pottery store during my last speech, and I asked her to write it up. She did. Read on. Anonymized. Anyone nearby want to check this place out and see what’s bugging them? Arudou Debito

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

June 7, 2011

Hello, this is [Jessica] from the lecture to Michigan State University students at Doshisha this morning. I wrote up my experience at the pottery shop in case you wanted to check it out. Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

In early June of 2011, I went to a pottery shop on Doguyasuji in Osaka. This particular shop only sells pottery and is in fact overflowing with pottery. They have too much to fit on the shelves so all the floor aisles have a row of pottery on each side, so that you have to walk very carefully so as not to kick any plates. I went into this shop twice and did not have any interaction with the salespeople the first time; the second time no salesperson approached me or seemed to take notice of me. The second time I picked out a bowl that was stacked on top of 2 others exactly like it and brought it up to the sales counter to purchase it. There were a couple salepeople there but none of them were looking at me, so I said “excuse me” in Japanese and held out the bowl to them, indicating I wanted to buy it. A saleswoman who appeared to be in her 30s looked at me, shook her head, pointed to a sign on the wall behind her (at the back of the store), turned away from me, and completely ignored me for the rest of my time in the store. Unfortunately I did not write down or take a picture of the sign, but it said in English something like, “It is not possible for us to sell any pottery because we do not have any in stock.” There was no explanation or even mention of ordering items for future pick-up either on the sign or by the salespeople. Again, this store was completely filled with pottery, and most pieces, including the bowl I wanted to buy, had identical ones on the shelves. This was definitely not a small artisan shop run by the potter, which might justify a desire to keep their personal pottery in the country; this was just a typical store that had pottery as its product. I watched for a little while and saw several Japanese people come into the store, browse a bit, pick something up off the shelf, and purchase it immediately. Nobody else had any extended discussion with a salesperson or filled out a form, and nobody appeared to come in and pick up pre-ordered pottery or get a large quantity of pottery off a shelf, as one would expect if this store was only selling to restaurant owners or only accepting pre-orders.

This is the street. http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/search/detail/shopping_5198.html It is geared towards restaurant owners, but the shops generally sell to anyone. I’ll look through my pictures and if I took one of this pottery shop I’ll send it to you, but it does stand out somewhat as the only one that is very small and overflowing with just pottery. I’m pretty sure it was the “scary shop” in this blog post. http://www.chekyang.com/musings/2010/12/30/day-9-osaka-douguyasuji/ Note that they did just buy things right off the shelves. According to their blog they were tourists, they’re from and currently live in Singapore, and they don’t speak Japanese and spoke English on that trip; the only difference between them and me is they look Asian.

I really think that the sign was just a ridiculous fabricated justification in order to refuse to sell to non-Asian foreigners. There was nothing that denied me entrance to the shop, I just couldn’t purchase anything once in there. A professor in my study abroad program (a black woman) had a similar experience in Kyoto, where she was allowed into a used kimono store and allowed to browse, but the shopkeeper simply refused to sell her anything. We were already in the stores, so it’s not as if the presence of foreigners could hurt their business, and none of the other customers appeared to have a problem with us. I don’t speak Japanese so it was fairly obvious that I’m a true foreigner, but I was in no way disrespectful or a less than well-behaved customer, I was not provocatively dressed nor did I look like I would be unable to pay, and I was not trying to bargain or do anything other than just pay for the bowl. I have been in Japan a couple weeks and have traveled to 23 other countries before now, so I do have an idea how to behave acceptably, and while I may have accidentally breached some small bit of etiquette I am certain that I was not rude. It is as if the shopkeepers don’t want to acknowledge our existence even enough to bar us, or are avoiding alienating other customers as Professor [X., who also attended our lecture] suggested, but if we force them into an encounter by wanting to buy something then they respond with active discrimination. I would be interested to know their reasoning, if someone who speaks Japanese goes to the shop and can communicate with them.

Thanks again for the talk today, it was very interesting and informative. Jessica
ENDS

UPDATE:  Debito.org Reader Level3 investigates the store in question, discovers this is all apparently a misunderstanding, as he is able to make to purchase there.  Read his full report here.

Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport yesterday — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical

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. What follows is a report I received last night that left me feeling quite angry — at the NPA’s wanton disregard for their own rules and the laws that govern them. The common solutions suggested on Debito.org — that of carrying around and showing the police copies of the laws they must obey, and of demanding legally-entitled ID to keep the police officers accountable — seem to have been ineffectual yesterday at my local airport, Chitose New International (this after years ago having the same encounter myself there and deciding to make an issue of it with outside GOJ human rights organizations, again to no avail). I have no doubt in my mind that the NPA trains its police to racially profile, moreover to assume that NJ have no civil rights during questioning, as evidenced here. It’s a despicable and dangerous abuse of power, and unchecked it will only get worse. Read on. Arudou Debito

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

June 8, 2011

Hi Debito, I want to share my story written below with you and your readers.

I would like to share the story that happened to me today (June 8th) at New Chitose Airport.

It was 11h55am, I was sitting in the waiting area of the domestic arrival floor, JAL-B-2, waiting for my mother to arrive about 5 minutes later.

A supposed-policeman came to me, flashed a card for less than a second, and asked me to show him my passport. I initially said that if it was voluntary, I would like to be on my way instead. After asking him several times “itte mo ii desuka?” he finally said that I was not free to go or to be on my own and that he requires seeing my ID.

I asked why I was targeted for a control, as I was not doing anything, nor carrying any luggage or any object. He replied that he was checking on me because I was the only foreigner around. He didn’t care about my remark that he had no way to know who is foreigner or not just by looking at people’s face.

The shocking part of the story starts when I required seeing his police ID with his registration number. Even though I asked many times he always refused, pretending that only I was required to show an ID. After I refused to go to the Koban, he asked another policeman, in uniform this time, to come.

After at least ten minutes of the same dialogs again and again, I finally agreed to lead them to my car, about 200 meters away, where I kept my ARC [Gaijin Card].

I took my ARC in my hands flashing it to the policemen, but that was not enough, as they wanted to copy every information written on my ARC.

I then said that I would comply as soon as I would be shown their police ID, with their number written, so I could I least formulate a complaint afterwhile about their behaviour.

They continued to refuse to show me anything, and started to pressure me more and more to let them copy information from my ARC.

As I was carrying my mobile at all time, the non-uniform policeman then accused me of taking pictures of them and requested me to put my mobile in my pocket. I asked many times whether it is illegal to have my mobile phone in my hands, and they replied yes.

After they finished copying my ARC’s info, they finally let me go to meet my mother who had arrived. However, it was not finished, as the un-uniformed policeman followed me, and then requested me (in front of my mother and other random people inside the waiting area) to show every picture from my mobile’s data, as he was scared that I could have taken a picture of him. This lasted about 10 minutes, as he was checking every picture in detail, and even checked each pictures two times.

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

I know some of you will say that I should just have obeyed and followed all their orders.

However, don’t you think it is very strange that the policeman was so scared of being identified, be it by a picture or by his police card?

I mean, if they were not doing anything wrong they would not care about it.

But now this leaves me with no info on the policemen, and even no proof that the control even happened?

Of course I would like to file a formal complaint about the un-uniformed policeman (he was the leader, and also touched me physically many times to prevent me from using my mobile phone) ; but how can I do it without his ID number ??

Anybody here could advice how I could ID him from now on and how should I proceed for complaining about this situation ?

Thank you all in advance for your input. Best regards, Rpl

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 7, 2011: “‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite”

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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The Japan Times Tuesday, June 7, 2011

(I just love this cartoon… had to include it, sorry JT:)

News photo
CHRIS MCKENZIE ILLUSTRATION

justbecauseicon.jpg

‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite

By DEBITO ARUDOU

There has been an ill wind blowing around Japan, and I don’t just mean the fallout after Fukushima. I’m talking about the nasty attitude non-Japanese (NJ) residents have towards each other, even in this time of crisis.

One would think that difficult times would occasion people pulling together to help. There has of course been plenty of that, but on balance there has also been, as I wrote last month, a particularly unhelpful tendency to bash and badmouth NJ as cowards and deserters (as neatly demonstrated by the new word “flyjin”).

But this is a mere complement to the perpetually uncooperative nature of many NJ in Japan, particularly in the English-speaking community. Despite its size and stature in this society, this community has not yet fostered a comprehensive interest group to look out for the civil or political rights of NJ.

Not for lack of trying. I personally have led or been part of several groups (e.g., UMJ, The Community, Kunibengodan, FRANCA), but none garnered enough support to be an effective lobbying force. I’ll take my share of the blame for that (I am more an organizer of information than of people), but my efforts did not stop other people from organizing separately. Yet 20 years after a groundswell in the NJ population, and despite the unprecedented degree of connectivity made possible by the Internet, minority interest groups and antidefamation leagues for the English-language community have been lackluster or lacking.

Contrast this with the efforts of other ethnic or language groups in Japan. The Zainichi Koreans alone have three different organizations, which over the past 60 years have wrung political concessions from the Japanese government. The Chinese too have powerful information networks, not to mention a neighboring economic hegemon often speaking on their behalf. Even the Nikkei South Americans have their own newspapers, grass-roots schools and local human rights associations.

It’s an important question: Why are some minorities in Japan less able to organize than others?

Let’s focus on the English-language community, since this very forum is part of it.

It might be a numbers or a longevity issue, since English-speaking residents might arguably seem to be comparatively few or staying a shorter time. But the Nikkei South Americans, for example, are relative newcomers (only two decades here), yet they’ve been powerful enough to get local governments to lobby on their behalf (starting with the Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001). Besides, given Japan’s historical “wannabe” relationship with the West, Japan pays attention to nobody else like it does the United States (when the Americans actually bother to get bossy about business or military bases).

Instead, it might be a class-consciousness thing, as in people not used to being linked by an economic or occupational union. But plenty of English-speakers are from countries with a history of strong labor unions (including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia), and therefore shouldn’t need to be convinced of the benefits of group action.

Or it might be due to the type of work done. Generally, English-speakers are in the white-collar industries (education, finance, IT, etc.) while other immigrant language groups are bluer (Nikkei in major export-oriented industries, Chinese in smaller factories and agriculture, etc.). Being “working class” may make organizing easier.

But I think there is a significant and overlooked factor at work: The self-awareness of a people as part of an “immigrant class” within a country. In other words, a diaspora.

By diaspora, I mean a group arising from a large movement of people out of their homeland, as in immigration. My definition goes beyond the original meaning of the Jewish Diaspora (since migration science now talks about a Chinese Diaspora, too). The effect is still the same: In the society where people have settled for generations, people tend to clump together by ethnicity to network with each other, even create miniature versions of their “homelands” overseas.

Case in point: There are Chinatowns worldwide, not to mention the Little Tokyos, Little Saigons, Little Manilas, etc.

But where are the Little Londons, Dinky Dublins, Mini Melbournes or Micro Angeles?

English-speakers don’t seem to clump together anywhere merely because they are in the same language group. I posit it’s because they don’t see themselves as a viable emigrant ethnic minority.

I co-wrote a chapter in a Japanese book series titled “The Global Disapora” (2009) where I question whether, for example, Americans have difficulty seeing themselves as an ethnicity (since “American” is a legal status, not an ethnic concept). I think Americans, even if abroad semipermanently, also have a hard time seeing themselves as an immigrant community — a diaspora.

This has political ramifications. When a people lack a sense of affinity with strangers despite potential ascriptive commonalities (be it language, culture or nationality), they are less likely to organize and agitate for their common benefit. In fact, given the cultural sensitivity training that is an intrinsic part of Western educations, it is often seen as distasteful and “culturally imperialistic” to lobby, as it apparently foists one’s value system upon a “host” society. Uncooperativeness is thus hardwired.

Then, as people cleave into an attitudinal spectrum — with “more Japanese than the Japanese” versus “my way or the highway” on opposite poles — we see fractiousness, infighting, bad-mouthing and self-interested rent-seeking. This only encourages further atomization, disenfranchisement and isolation.

This is not a criticism of how English-speakers live their lives in Japan. It is, however, an observation about one barrier to their organizing on a macro level, becoming effective lobbyists for improved civil rights and conditions. If the immigrants themselves are convinced they are not immigrants but temporary “guests,” it is no wonder they perpetually remain as such.

The lack of a self-aware English-speaking diaspora means that their voice will be comparatively less likely to be heard in Japan’s policy-making arenas. Long-term, many people will begin to despair at the lack of interest accrued on their promised stake in Japan, pull up stakes and move on.

Sadly, in Japan’s case, fellow NJ then pepper them with pejoratives (such as “flyjin”) to add insult to injury. This is a destructive dynamic.

If people ever want to settle into Japan, they had better accept their role as settlers and help each other settle. Cooperate or be isolated. It’s a conscious choice.

Debito Arudou’s new novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community page of the month. Send comments on this issue and story ideas tocommunity@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

My book “IN APPROPRIATE” now on sale at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online

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
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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Hi Blog.  In addition to my latest Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out today, read it here), I am very happy to announce that my latest book, “IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping and revenge in modern Japan“, is now available for purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

More on IN APPROPRIATE here.

Buy from Amazon by clicking this link. Or buy from Barnes and Noble by clicking this link.

FYI.  Thanks as always for reading.  Arudou Debito, speaking at Doshisha University law school this evening.

Mainichi: “American teacher in Sendai stays in Japan to help with volunteer 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  Here’s one that got lost in the shuffle between debates; was going to put it up around May 10.  My commentary is a bit old, but might as well put it up for the record:

In apposite to the debunkable claims of “Fly-jin” NJ, here is an article in the media with a survey of how NJ are actually by-and-large NOT being “Fly-jin”.  Good.  Hope these cases have sunk in with the Japanese public by now.  Arudou Debito

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

American teacher in Sendai stays in Japan to help with volunteer efforts
(Mainichi Japan) April 25, 2011

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20110425p2a00m0na011000c.html

PHOTO CAPTION:  Greg Lekich, far left, and other volunteers are pictured in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Greg Lekich)

SENDAI — With the nuclear plant crisis and continuing aftershocks, many foreign assistant English teachers have left Japan to return to their home countries, but one assistant language teacher (ALT) here chose to stay behind and do what he could for volunteer efforts.

Greg Lekich, 31, is an American ALT who teaches English at a high school in Sendai. Together with around 10 others, he has been doing volunteer work such as shoveling mud and helping clean people’s debris-filled houses. He says that he has many friends and students he has taught in Japan, and has grown used to where he lives now. He says he does not have plans to leave the country any time soon.

Lekich was born in Philadelphia. He spent a year of college learning Japanese and came to the country in 2004. After teaching English in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and other locations, he started work as an ALT at Miyagi Hirose High School and Miyagiken Technical High School from 2007.

When the earthquake struck on March 11, Lekich was in the teacher’s room at Miyagi Hirose High School. It was his first experience of a large earthquake. Following the instructions of the school staff, he evacuated to the athletic field outside. After walking for three hours to return home, he used the Internet to check on the safety of his foreign friends.

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was added to the list of disasters, many foreigners in Japan began leaving the country. However, Lekich stayed in Sendai. His father, a former nuclear plant safety engineer, told him that under the circumstances, he didn’t think his son needed to worry so much about the radiation. His mother said she was worried, but asked him to do what he thought was right.

Lekich decided to volunteer. Together with other teachers in the prefecture, he made the website “Teachers for Japan,” through which he and the others have posted English videos of the disaster-hit areas and collected money for those orphaned by the quake or tsunami. He also helps with relief work such as cleaning debris in houses three or four days a week in Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai and the cities of Ishinomaki and Tagajo.

He says that on the night of the earthquake, his Japanese girlfriend and her mother brought him food and water because they were worried. He says it made him feel strongly how people should help each other out in trying times.

Class at the high schools will start again at the end of the “Golden Week” break at the start of May. Lekich says that having class as always will help people return to their normal lives. He says he hopes the fact that he, an American, stayed where he was will bring courage to his students.

However, many ALTs have not stayed behind. According to the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), which every year mediates the contracts of around 4,000 ALTs at local authorities around the country, 44 ALTs quit their jobs after the earthquake. Over half of them were at schools outside of the hardest hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. At least one had been working in Kyushu.

From this spring, English will be a mandatory subject for fifth- and sixth-graders at elementary schools. Minato Ward in Tokyo, which employs ALTs at all of its schools, has been unable to secure a complete number of ALTs in April, which delayed the start of English class by a week.

At one ALT dispatching company in Tokyo, over 100 ALTs have returned to their home countries and not come back to Japan.

“We are searching for substitutes (for those teachers who left) 24 hours a day. Among teachers who have left Japan but want to come back, many seem to have been held back by family,” said a company spokesperson.

ENDS

Original Japanese story

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

東日本大震災:仙台を離れず 米国人ALT、支援に奮闘
毎日新聞 2011年4月23日 11時01分(最終更新 4月23日 12時39分)
http://mainichi.jp/photo/news/20110423k0000e040021000c.html

外国人の仲間たちとボランティアをするレキチさん(左端)=宮城県多賀城市で、本人提供
仙台市の県立高校で英語を教える米国人ALT(外国語指導助手)のグレッグ・レキチさん(31)は、被災地で英語教師ら約10人の仲間と一緒に家の片づけや泥かきのボランティア活動を続けている。「日本にはたくさんの友達や教え子がいる。住み慣れた街を離れようとは思いません」と話す。

レキチさんはフィラデルフィアの出身。大学4年で1年間日本語を学び、04年に来日した。静岡県沼津市などで英語教師をした後、07年から仙台市の県立宮城広瀬高と県工業高で指導助手を務めている。

3月11日の地震発生時は宮城広瀬高の職員室にいた。初めて体験する大きな揺れだったが、同僚が落ち着いて誘導してくれて、校庭に避難。3時間かけて歩いて自宅アパートに帰り、インターネットで外国人仲間の安否情報を集め始めた。

福島第1原発の事故も起き、日本に住む外国人は続々と脱出。しかしレキチさんは仙台にとどまった。原発の安全対策のエンジニアだった父から「今の状況なら、放射能のことはそれほど心配しなくていいと思う」、母親からも「心配だけれど、あなたが正しいと思うことをやりなさい」と言われ、被災者の支援に乗り出した。

県内の教師仲間と一緒にインターネットサイト「ティーチャーズ・フォー・ジャパン」(http://www.teachersforjapan.org/Japanese.php)を作り、震災遺児への寄付を募ったり、動画サイト「ユーチューブ」に、被災地の様子を撮影した動画を投稿して、英語で状況を伝えている。また、週3~4日間、同市若林区や石巻市、多賀城市で被災した家の片づけなどをしている。

地震の日の夜、日本人のガールフレンドと母親が心配して食べ物と水を持ってきてくれた。「彼女たちが落ち着いていたので、私もパニックにならずに済んだ。困った時に人間は助け合うものだという思いを強くした」

5月の大型連休明けには授業が始まる。レキチさんは「いつも通り授業をすることが、日常を取り戻す手助けになるはず。アメリカ人の私がここに残ったという事実が、生徒を勇気づけられるといいと思います」と語った。【中嶋真希】

◇帰国者多いALT 対応に追われる派遣元
ALTは英語の授業などで日本人の教員をサポートする。今春から小学5、6年生で外国語活動(英語)が必修化され、ALTの必要性が高まっている。一方で原発事故や余震を恐れて帰国するALTも多く、派遣元の企業や団体は対応に追われている。

全国の自治体に年間約4000人のALTをあっせんする財団法人「自治体国際化協会」(東京都千代田区)によると、震災以降44人が学校を辞めた。半数以上は東北3県以外の学校で働いていた人だ。勤務先が九州だった人もいる。補充を急ぐよう各地の教育委員会から要請があり、この夏からの就労予定者に前倒しでの来日を交渉しているという。

すべての区立小にALTを配置している東京都港区は、4月に必要な人数を確保できなかったため、新学期の英語の授業開始が1週間遅れた。

100人以上が帰国したまま戻らなかった都内のALT派遣会社は「24時間態勢で代わりを探しているが、本人が再来日したいと思っても、家族が引き留めるケースが多いようだ」と話している。【望月麻紀】

ENDS

Weekend Tangent: “Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply”

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. As a Weekend Tangent, let’s take a look at this oldie but a weirdie article from Fox News, about child adoption in Japan Post-3/11. Even if we can overlook the as usual careless sourcing (shall we scan the nation’s juuminhyou for an “Ogaway”, anyone?), it’s hard to take at face value the assertion that, “Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives…”, and that Japan’s “extended family system is going to consider that child their child.” Tell that to the kids in orphanages across Japan (which I have had brief contact with) who generally stay there for their childhood (there is an odd antipathy towards adoption in general in Japan; the common feeling I’ve heard is, “It’s not my kid, so I can’t trust what I would get. What if I adopt somebody who turns out to be a murderer? I’d have to take responsibility!” But anyway, this is nothing more than a throwaway article (under the category of the “Three E’s” that are a staple of Western reporting on Japan — Economics, Exotica, and Erotica) from a generally US/domestic-agenda-only news source. FYI. Arudou Debito

/////////////////////////////////////
World
Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply
By Diane Macedo
Published March 22, 2011
FoxNews.com, courtesy of A.
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/21/foreigners-looking-adopt-japanese-earthquake-orphans-need-apply/#ixzz1HQpoHcfL

Foreigners looking to adopt a Japanese child orphaned by the recent earthquake may be surprised to know their help, in that respect, is not wanted at the moment.

“I have been receiving many strange emails, from mostly U.S., and was asked, ‘I want girl, less than 6 months old, healthy child,’ Tazuru Ogaway, director of the Japanese adoption agency Across Japan, told FoxNews.com. “I honestly tell you such a kind of emails makes Japanese people very uncomfortable, because for us, sound like someone who are looking for ‘what I want’ from our terrible disaster.”

In the wake of the massive January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, countries around the world almost immediately began fast-tracking adoptions from the troubled country. The United States alone took in 1,090 Haitian children as part of a Special Humanitarian Parole granted immediately following the disaster, according to the State Department’s 2010 Annual Report in Intercountry Adoptions.

But Martha Osborne, spokeswoman for the adoption advocacy website RainbowKids.com, said Japan and Haiti couldn’t be more different when it comes to adoption.

“You see that in developing nations, there’s no outlet for these children and the people left in the wake of the disaster are completely impoverished and unable to care for them, and in that case even extended relatives often say that the best case for the child is to be adopted because there are no resources,” Osborne told FoxNews.com. “But in Japan that’s just not the case, it’s a fully developed nation that’s capable of caring for its own children.”

Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives.

“I don’t believe there’s going to be a true orphan situation in Japan in the wake of this disaster. I do not believe that there are going to be children without any ties to relatives…that extended family system is going to consider that child their child,” she said.

Tom Defilipo, president of Joint Council on International Children Services, said that stress on lineage also makes the Japanese society “very averse to adoptions.”

“Very few adoptions take place in Japan domestically and only about 30-34 last year internationally” despite having “about 400 children’s homes in the country and about 25,000 children approximately in those homes,” Defilipo told FoxNews.com. “Bloodlines are exceptionally important, so the whole idea of adopting or raising a child that’s not your own or isn’t part of your extended family is relatively unheard of.”

Still, Ogaway, Osborne, and Defilipo all agree that the children whose parents died in the earthquake will likely be absorbed into extended families. It is, they say, far too early for any of the children to be considered for adoption because Japanese authorities are still searching to find which children’s parents are just missing, which are confirmed dead and which of those children have other family to care for them.

“We can’t just place children without [verifying] she or he is a complete orphan,” Ogaway said.
Those looking to help Japan are instead directed to donate to organizations that are providing direct emergency relief there.

“We all want to help in whatever way we can,” Osborne said. “But Japan is very capable, unlike many undeveloped nations, of caring for its own.”
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JUNE 1, 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb

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debitopodcast

In this podcast:

  1. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 20, “Savoie Case shines spotlight on Japan’s ‘disappeared dads'”. (October 6, 2009)
  2. Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 21, “Demography vs. Demagoguery”, on how politics has pervaded Japanese demographic science, making the topic of “immigration” taboo for discussion as an option. (November 3, 2009)

Plus interim excerpts from Tangerine Dream “White Eagle” and an excerpt of another song from Duran Duran’s most recent album, “All You Need is Now”. Title: “Before The Rain”.

16 minutes.  Enjoy!

Yomiuri: Muslims file suit over National Police Agency antiterror investigations

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

UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  As a follow-up to what Debito.org covered last November, here is a Yomiuri article showing how those targeted by the Japanese police for investigation simply due to religious practices are taking action in court to defend themselves.  Here’s hoping the police are found culpable, for a change.  Big Japan Times expose on this issue here.  Arudou Debito

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Muslims file suit over antiterror investigations

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 18, 2011)
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110517004955.htm
Courtesy of JK

A group of 14 Muslims has filed suit against the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments, demanding 154 million yen in compensation for violations of privacy and religious freedom after police antiterrorism documents containing their personal information were leaked onto the Internet.

The lawsuit filed at the Tokyo District Court accused the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Police Agency of systematically gathering their personal information, including on religious activities and relationships, merely because they are Muslims.

The lawsuit also alleged that after the information was leaked last October, the MPD failed to take sufficient action to prevent its spread.

In late November, a Tokyo-based publisher released a book carrying the leaked documents.

After the leak, “The plaintiffs were presumed to be international terrorism suspects. They were forced to leave their jobs and live apart from their families,” the petition filed Monday at the court claimed.

The MPD has said it is highly likely the leaked documents included internal information from its Public Security Bureau, and has been investigating the leak on suspicion of obstruction of police operations since December.

At a Monday press conference in Tokyo, one plaintiff said: “It’s been six months since the leak, but there’s been no [official police] apology. I haven’t been able to see my family and my life is full of anxiety.”
ENDS