Archive for January, 2012
Posted by arudou debito on 30th January 2012
In line with the current theme of the GOJ targeting NJ, here’s some idea of just how ignorant Japanese are of what happens to foreigners in Japan, e.g., Gaijin Card Checks. This is an excerpt of a variety show called “Manaberu News” (date unknown, sometime in 2010) discussing new laws to catch illegal aliens in Arizona (permanent carrying of ID and criminal penalties if caught not doing so) signed into law in April 2010, which critics have argued increases the probability of racial profiling and wanton detention of suspects. The show mentions the requirement for foreigners in Arizona to carry ID 24/7, and how they could be arrested for not doing so. We get gasps all around at how “kibishii” this is.
COMMENT: I find this amusing, less because the ditzy Japanese panelists don’t seem to realize that once outside of Japan THEY become foreigners, more because nobody there seems to realize (or, for the purposes of balance in this admittedly short segment, have it pointed out) that this practice of random search with criminal penalties is already standard procedure in Japan. NJ have been profiled this way for at least two generations now, regardless of whether or not they’re tourists!
No shock/horror here except for the ignorance. Most people I’ve ever talked to in Japan (save for bureaucrats and employers of NJ) even know that there’s a Gaijin Card system in existence for tracking and targeting foreigners, not to mention a separate regime for registering (or not registering, as in Juuminhyou) them.
Lack of public awareness of this issue is part of the problem, and it enables the Japanese police, as we have seen on Debito.org, to feel like they can take liberties with their law enforcement as soon as a foreigner is involved. “Do unto others…” should also entail that regular Japanese folk consider what might happen to them if THEY were foreigners (but as this show demonstrates, for many that is simply pin to konai).
Posted in Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tourism, 日本語 | 45 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 27th January 2012
Something I’ve noticed about Japan’s anti-crime campaigns: 1) These campaigns are not temporary (as in, “the campaign expires on this date”), meaning inevitable future crackdowns are cumulative (see for example here and here), 2) they quickly take on a racist bent (as NJ are officially depicted as more likely to commit crime, or even just be criminals by existing, as potential “illegal visa overstayers”) and encourage racial profiling in practice (see here and here), and 3) a general lack of legal oversight over the Japanese police means the cops go too far, bending laws (see for example here and here) and in this case targeting politically-disenfranchised people (NJ) who can’t fight back through the system or the media, or even through their political representative (who are basically in on the gaijin bashing for political capital and budgetary gain).
These are all elements of a police state, and the systematic mistrust of foreigners in Japan enables the bureaucracy to carry out in microcosm what Submitter PS (a pseudonym) reports below. Fortunately this time, PS had the presence of mind to take photographs of these toughs from Immigration, who clearly felt their need to police gaijin overrode their need to treat people with respect and dignity (not to mention without resorting to physical force and with due process under the law).
Submitter PS: My name is PS. I’m a 45-year-old American living and working in Tokyo, where I’ve resided for the last 8 and a half years. I have a valid working visa, pay my Japanese taxes (both national and local), and have never had any unpleasant encounters with the authorities; that is, until last Thursday, Jan. 19. It’s something that I think you should know about.
That morning, an Immigration official showed up at the door of my apartment, unannounced, and demanded to see my passport. I was very suspicious that Immigration (not the police) would make a sudden home visit to do a spot-check, especially since I’ve lived in the same apartment since 2003, and since my address has been registered with the Shinagawa Ward office for over 8 years. Anyway, I asked this gentleman to show me his badge so that I could write down his name and badge number. He quickly flashed me some ID, but I pointed out that I didn’t have the opportunity to see, much less write down, the details. In a belligerent tone, he said in English, “Passport first!” I refused, bid him a good day, and started to close my door. It was at this point that things got out of hand.
The aforementioned gentleman physically blocked my door from closing, and we got into a shoving match that led to my door getting knocked off its tracks. Then, suddenly, four of his associates (2 men and 2 women), who’d apparently been hiding in the stairwell, appeared en masse. Things continued to verbally escalate, though with no further physicality, until one of them finally relented and let me take a photo of his badge. I took the further liberty of photographing the three “men” who were harassing me. The photos are attached. The person wearing the surgical mask in Photos #2 and 3 is the one with whom I tussled. The name stitched on his uniform was “S. Maeda.”…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 81 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 24th January 2012
JT: A Nepalese man died Monday after being assaulted on a street in Osaka early Monday by two men and two women, police said Tuesday. Bishnu Prasad Dhamala, 42, died at a hospital after being attacked in Abeno Ward.
The police said they arrested Hiroki Shiraishi, 21, a tattoo artist, and his acquaintance, Miyoko Shiraishi, 22, at the scene after receiving a report about the assault. The police are looking into the whereabouts of the other two assailants. [who were later arrested in Tokyo] The four and Dhamala are not believed to be acquainted and the police are trying to identify the cause of the incident.
COMMENT: This is clearly a hate crime. It is reportedly a random singling out of a NJ by a group of four J youths who beat him senseless — even dropped a bicycle on his head, smashing his skull on the pavement. Fortunately (after a chase), they have all been arrested, no doubt after the security camera footage (below) made any plausible deniability of the event impossible. (In statements to the police, according to the Japanese media below, one assailant even insinuated that he couldn’t believe he had actually killed a foreigner. Come again? That’s the ultimate in kubetsu plus denial.)
There is little more to be said except that this is hardly an isolated incident. We’ve already mentioned the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey probable homicides (“probable” only because the NPA essentially refuses to acknowledge that they were outright murders, and stonewalls attempts to release further data that would probably prove things conclusively). But go back a bit, and you’ll find the Herculano Case, where a 14-year-old Brazilian boy named Herculano Reiko Lukocevicius was similarly beaten to death on October 6, 1997 by a Japanese gang in Komaki, Aichi (information about a book on his case is here); he was afforded much less press coverage (I’m glad the Japanese media is on the ball this time, with far more coverage in Japanese than in English). And of course we cannot leave out the Suraj Case, which is even more insidious since his brutal death was at the hands of officialdom (and may be but the tip of the iceberg, given Immigration’s history of ill-treatment of NJ while in detention). And if we stretch the issue even further, how about that recent curious “suicide” of a NJ suspect, accused of murdering two other Taiwanese students, who was somehow allowed to have a knife and sufficient mobility while in NPA custody presumably despite searches? All curious lapses in standard procedure when a NJ is involved.
In sum, I think it is time to retire the myth that Japan is preternaturally “safe”. After all, public maintenance of this myth not only gets in the way of honest accounting, but also makes nationality an issue, as officialdom publicly states that foreigners commit more crime (and therefore, the logic eventually ensues, shouldn’t be here in the first place). Let’s face it: When properly accounted for, reported, and considered without the bias of nationality either of victim or perp, Japan has its fair share of criminal behavior. Therefore people should be careful of being the target of basic covetousness, wanton prejudice and scapegoating, or even just random hatred. After all, Japan has no effective laws to punish the last two (see here and here) if you have the misfortune to be existing while foreign here.
Posted in Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 37 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 21st January 2012
About a month ago Japan Times reporter Masami Ito contacted me for information about GOJ naturalization procedures (I’m honored; there are many other people out there who have done the same, and my information, more than a decade old, is by now probably a bit out of date). It appeared December 27, 2011 as the year’s last FYI Column. Excerpt follows. I enclose the original questions I was asked as well as my answers since they may be instructive.
JT: Nationality has long been a controversial issue in Japan. For most, it is something they are born with; for others, it is something they had to fight for. For some, nationality may be a source of pride, while for others, it may be the cause of discrimination. Meanwhile, citizenship may be something that they have to sacrifice in order to pursue their goals or dreams — like comedian and runner Neko Hiroshi, who made headlines last month after announcing he had obtained Cambodian nationality in the hope of competing in the 2012 London Olympics.
What are the conditions for obtaining Japanese nationality? …
Posted in Articles & Publications, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Practical advice | 9 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 18th January 2012
Last month I had an extensive interview with Victor Fic of the Asia Times on me, the Otaru Onsens Case, human rights in Japan, and the future. It went up last week. While long-term readers of Debito.org might not find much they haven’t heard before, it’s a good “catch-up” and summary of the issues for interested newbies.
Asia Times: When US-born Dave Aldwinckle became a Japanese citizen named Arudou Debito in 2000, two Japanese officials told him that only now did he have human rights in Japan. Such prejudice galvanized him into becoming a crusader against anti-gaijin(foreigner) discrimination after braving death threats to him and his family. Is Arudou throwing the egg of morality and legality against the rock of ancient bias? In this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic, he sees Japan turning inward.
Victor Fic: Did you ever think that you would become a Japanese citizen?
Arudou Debito: Hell no! I wasn’t even interested in foreign languages as a child. But I moved from my birthplace, California, to upstate New York at age five and traveled much overseas, learning early to communicate with non-native English speakers. I’d lived a lot of my life outside the US before I graduated from high school and wasn’t afraid to leave home. But changing my citizenship and my name, however, was completely off the radar screen. I didn’t originally go to Japan to emigrate – just to explore. But the longer I stayed, the more reasonable it seemed to become a permanent resident, then a citizen. Buying a house and land was the chief reason that I naturalized – a mortgage means I can’t leave. More on me and all this on my blog …
VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe?
AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column  I discuss the lack of “fairness” as a latent cultural value in Japan. Japanese tend to see foreigners as unquestionably different from them, therefore it follows that their treatment will be different. Everything else stems from that. My column gives more details, but for now let me note that a 2007 Cabinet survey asked Japanese, “Should foreigners have the same human-rights protections as Japanese?” The total who agreed was 59.3%. This is a decline from 1995 at 68.3%, 1999 at 65.5% and 2003 at 54%. Ichikawa Hiroshi, who was a Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, said on May 23, 2011, that people in his position “were taught that … foreigners have no human rights ” . Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement…
VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life?
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Injustice, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 2 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 15th January 2012
Relating to the current Debito.org topics of racial profiling, searches, horrendous detentions, and even killings of NJ in Japanese airports, here is a harbinger of future policy: More of the same. In fact, according to the Mainichi, a “strengthened” more of the same — affecting 10% of all air passengers. All in the name of anti-terrorism. Sounds jolly. It’s still in the “mulling” stage (but it’s at the bureaucratic level, so no doubt it’ll be smoothly rubber-stamped into law by politicians loath to “touch the controls” when the “safety of wagakuni, the kokutai and kokumin” (i.e., not foreigners) is at stake.
Proponents claim these searches will be “random”. Yeah, sure. Just like they have been so far. After all, GOJ official policy has long been that foreigners are more likely to be terrorists. So, find the foreigner, and Bob’s your uncle, yuppers; it’s a short cut. Narita Airport, a pretty crappy and inconvenient airport to begin with, sounds like it’s becoming a real funhouse.
Mainichi: The transport ministry is considering strengthening antiterrorism measures at international airports in Japan from as early as April by conducting body searches on randomly selected passengers, airport sources said Sunday.
Departing passengers who do not pass screening at walk-through metal detectors are currently asked to go through a body search. With the new inspection procedure, about 10 percent of passengers will be randomly selected for a body search and baggage check, the sources said. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism expects the reinforced inspection procedures to act as a deterrent to terrorism, including acts involving explosives and weapons which metal detectors do not pick up, they said.
The new airport security practice is expected to be introduced at Narita airport and some other international airports, the sources said. The ministry and airlines are discussing whether the longer time needed for the security inspection would cause significant delays in plane boarding.
Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Tourism | 17 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 12th January 2012
Last blog entry I talked about Amnesty International’s 2002 report on horrendous treatment and conditions of NJ detainees in Narita Airport. As a complement, here is Chris Johnson, photojournalist at venues such as CNNGo and The Japan Times, offering his unexpurgated experiences there last December. Despite having a valid visa, he was denied entry, he believes, due to his critical press coverage of TEPCO and government responses to the Fukushima disasters. He spent 30 hours in the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” (which he calls a gulag) before being forced to buy an overpriced one-way ticket and deported, and it changed his views dramatically on Japan’s legal and policing system.
This issue deserves more attention. Extralegality may be the norm in Customs and Immigration Zones around the world, but extreme treatment is exactly what happens when policing is unfettered and unmonitored. It is, to put it mildly, unbefitting a society such as Japan’s, with official pretensions towards respecting the rule of law. Especially when you read about Chris’s experience with the private security goons, who seem to have gone beyond any plausible mitigation (“just following orders”) by Milgram. Were these the people who killed Abubakar Awadu Suraj in 2010 while deporting him, and to this day have not been charged with any crime?
CJ: When you line up to get your passport stamped at Narita international airport outside Tokyo, look to your right toward a set of “special examination rooms.” That is where the trap door into Japan’s secretive gulag begins.
Most travellers, who regard Japan as a safe country of civilized people, have no idea that thousands of foreign arrivals — just like them — have fallen down that trap door into windowless dungeons in the bowels of the airport. From there, foreigners of all nationalities — seeking a pleasant vacation or a better life in Japan — have vanished into a horrific network of “detention centres” imprisoning thousands of innocent foreigners in appalling conditions.
Most red-eyed foreign arrivals also don’t realize that the immigration officers taking their fingerprints and scanning their passports are working with xenophobic colleagues who have deported on average about 20,000 foreigners every year since 2005, and who have been on trial for themurder of a longtime foreign resident of Japan last year at Narita.
They also don’t realize that airlines, according to the Immigration Bureau, are technically responsible for providing nightmarish dungeons and hiring “security guards” accused of human rights abuses — everything from extortion to theft, torture and denial of rights to call embassies, lawyers or family…
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime | 91 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 10th January 2012
AI Report Introduction: Foreign nationals entering Japan may be at risk of ill-treatment by immigration authorities during interrogations at Special Examination Rooms and by private security guards in detention facilities located at Japanese ports of entry, including Narita Airport.
During the period after denial of entry into Japan and before they were issued ”orders to leave” or issued deportation orders, foreign nationals have allegedly been detained in detention facilities located within the airport premises known as Landing Prevention Facilities (LPFs) or at an ”Airport Rest House” outside the airport site. Amnesty International has found evidence of ill-treatment of detainees at LPFs. It forms part of a pattern of arbitrary denial of entry to foreign nationals and systematic detention of those denied entry – a process which falls short of international standards. Amnesty International has received reports of detained foreign nationals being forced to pay for their ”room and board” and for being guarded by private security agencies that operate the LPFs. Foreign nationals have allegedly been strip-searched, beaten or denied food by security guards at these facilities if they have been unwilling to pay. The LPFs have detention cells that have no windows and there have been reports of foreign nationals being detained in these cells for several weeks without sunlight(1)and not being allowed to exercise.
Asylum-seekers have also had their requests for asylum rejected with no or inadequate consideration of the serious risk to their lives they face on deportation. These asylum seekers have been denied access to a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure; they are frequently not allowed access to interpreters and lawyers. Furthermore, they are forced to sign documents in languages they do not understand and of the content of which they have not been adequately informed. These documents may include a document signed by the deportee waiving his or her rights to appeal against decisions made by the immigration officials such as denial of entry into Japan. Amnesty International believes that the lack of access to independent inspections and the secrecy that surround LPFs and other centres of detention in Japan make them fertile ground for human rights abuses. Detained foreign nationals in the LPFs or immigration detention centres are not informed adequately about their rights.In particular, they do not always have prompt access to a lawyer or advice in a language they understand. The Japanese government should recognize the rights of people in detention to information, legal counsel, access to the outside world and adequate medical treatment. Those who had sought to contact United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have had their request turned down. In many cases, detainees at LPFs have been refused medical treatment by staff of security companies and by immigration officials. Decisions and actions of immigration officials and staff of security companies reveal a widespread lack of awareness of international human rights standards.
COMMENT: Sadly, this AI report is now ten years old and underreported; I was alerted to this situation by a journalist who underwent this procedure (including the extortion) over the past year. It’s not merely a matter of turning somebody away at the border — it is in my view a matter of prison screws extracting a perverse satisfaction (as will happen, cf. Zimbardo experiment) by lording it over foreigners, because nobody will stop them. And that’s Narita. I wonder how the situation is at Japan’s other international ports of entry. Sickening.
Posted in Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, United Nations | 6 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 7th January 2012
As the first real post of the new year, I thought we should start with a bit of unexpected good news. Let’s talk about the changes in Immigration’s registration of NJ residents coming up in July.
It’s been in the news for quite a bit of time now (my thanks to the many people who have notified me), and there is some good news within: NJ will finally be registered on Residency Certificates (juuminhyou) with their families like any other taxpayer. Maximum visa durations will also increase from 3 to 5 years, and it looks like the “Gaijin Tax” (Re-Entry Permits for NJ who dare to leave the country and think they can come back on the same Status of Residence without paying a tariff) is being amended (although it’s unclear below whether tariffs are being completely abolished).
But where GOJ giveth, GOJ taketh. The requirement for jouji keitai (24/7 carrying of Gaijin Cards) is still the same (and noncompliance I assume is still a criminal, arrestable offense), and I have expressed trepidation at the proposed IC-Chipped Cards due to their remote trackability (and how they could potentially encourage even more racial profiling).
Anyway, resolving the Juuminhyou Mondai is a big step, especially given the past insults of awarding residence certificates to sea mammals and fictional characters but not live, contributing NJ residents (not to mention omitting said NJ residents from local government population tallies). Positive steps to eliminate an eye-blinkingly stupid and xenophobic GOJ policy. Read on.
Posted in Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 35 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 4th January 2012
Here’s my fourth annual round-up of the top 10 human rights events that affected Japan’s NJ residents last year. Concluding paragraphs:
Generations under Japan’s control-freak “nanny state” have accustomed people to being told what to do. Yet now the public has been deserted, with neither reliable instructions nor the organization to demand them.
Nothing, short of a major revolution in critical thinking and public action (this time — for the first time — from the bottom up), will change Japan’s destructive system of administration by unaccountable elites.
2011 was the year the world realized Japan has peaked. Its aging and increasingly-conservative public is trapped in a downward spiral of economic stagnation and inept governance. It is further burdened by an ingrained mistrust of the outsider (JBC Oct. 7, 2008) as well as by blind faith in a mythology of uniqueness, powerlessness as a virtue, and perpetual victimhood.
Japan has lost its attractiveness as a place for newcomers to live and settle, since they may be outright blamed for Japan’s troubles if not ostracized for daring to fix them. Now, thanks to the continuous slow-burn disaster of Fukushima, anyone (who bothers to listen anymore) can now hear the doors of Japan’s historically-cyclical insularity slowly creaking shut.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 14 Comments »
Posted by arudou debito on 3rd January 2012
Table of Contents:
1) The System really is irredeemably broken: BBC: Tsunami relief funds diverted to GOJ whaling program
2) Japan’s Broken System Pt 2: H-Japan cites AFP, Reuters, Yomiuri. NYT on how bad GOJ ineptness and obfuscation re Fukushima fiasco is getting
WEIRD AND CAPRICIOUS J BUREAUCRACY
3) Tokyo Reporter: Bust of Gas Panic bars in Roppongi due to “poorly behaving” foreigners allegedly breaking J laws against “dancing”
4) Arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles for registering international marriages in Tokyo Edogawa-ku Ward office. Have things changed?
5) J on how Japan’s Immigration Bureau uses unlegislated bureaucratic guidelines to trump the letter of the law, in this case re obtaining Permanent Residency
6) Gaijinwife blog on her house check — is having authorities visit Permanent Residency applicant’s home and throughly photograph its interior now SOP?
7) How “religious” treatment of things Japanese allows for Japan to be kid-gloved through international public debate
8 ) Seidensticker in TIME/LIFE World Library book on Japan dated 1965. Compare and contrast with today’s assessments.
9) End-year Irony #1: Japan cancels free flights for NJ tourists, claims it’s “insensitive”, while funding GOJ whaling expeditions
10) End-year Irony #2: Japanese cast as Roman in “Thermae Romae” despite J complaints about Chinese cast as Japanese in “Memoirs of a Geisha”
11) DEBITO.ORG POLL: Agree or disagree: “2011 was a good year for me.”
… and finally…
12) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec. 6, 2011, on the effects of a lack of “fairness” as a strong cultural value in Japan (full text)
Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »