Mainichi/Kyodo: NJ crime down again, but once again only reported in English and apparently not in J Mainichi, Asahi, Yomiuri, or Sankei

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here we have the biannual report on NJ crime, as always used to justify further prevention and crackdowns on NJ as potential criminals (justifying all manner of NPA budgets and racial profiling).  But the news this time is good, in that NJ crime is down.  Significantly so.  Check this out:

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No. of crimes by foreigners in Japan drops 12.7% in 2011
Mainichi Daily News, February 23, 2012, Courtesy of JK
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120223p2g00m0dm011000c.html

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The number of crimes by foreigners uncovered by police across Japan in 2011 dropped 12.7 percent from a year earlier to 17,286, a preliminary National Police Agency survey showed Thursday.

The number of foreign nationals the police questioned, arrested and sent papers on to prosecutors last year also fell 15.2 percent from 2010 to 10,061. Both numbers have been on a declining trend after peaking in 2005, according to the survey.

Foreigners with permanent residence status are not included in the data.

Among the crimes committed by foreigners, the number of fake marriage cases soared 26.1 percent in 2011 to 193, with the number of foreign nationals investigated by police in those cases also rising 17.6 percent to 554.

Police have been clamping down on bogus marriages, believing they are creating the infrastructure for a host of other criminal activities, the survey said.

Of the total number of crimes committed by foreigners, violations of the Penal Code in 2011 dipped 10.2 percent from the previous year to 12,590, while infringements of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and other laws declined 18.8 percent to 4,696.

By country of origin, China topped the list with Japanese police taking action against 4,012 Chinese nationals, accounting for 39.9 percent of the total, followed by South Korea and the Philippines.

The number of foreign suspects who fled overseas in 2011 slipped 4.0 percent to 677, according to the survey.

(Mainichi Japan) February 23, 2012

ENDS

Same article (but better proofread) also at The Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120224a8.html

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Good.  But here’s the thing:  If it’s bad news (i.e., foreign crime goes up), then it gets splashed all over the place and a media panic ensues about a reemergent foreign crime wave.  However, when is good news (i.e., foreign crime goes down), one of three things happen:

1) The Japanese police find some way to portray it as a rise,

2) The Japanese media find some way to headline it as a rise (while even, famously, depicting it as a fall in the English headline),

3) They ignore it completely.  Foreigners can only ever be news if they’re criminals.

To support this last assertion, look how the above article was featured in the Mainichi online only in English, as a copy of a Kyodo wire.  And doing a Google news search in Japanese, (search terms gaikokujin hanzai and the newspaper title), I could not find a similar article on this news on the Mainichi, Asahi, Yomiuri, or Sankei Shimbun sites (search as of February 23, 2012):

Instead, you get Japanese sites, for example Zakzak News below, concurrently and ironically talking about how dangerous Japanese society has become due to foreign crime (despite it going down), and saying how having a “kokumin bangou” to identify all citizens by number is now indispensable (since, as Zakzak says below, foreigners now speak Japanese!!).  Fine, have that conversation if you want, but don’t blame it on foreign crime.

This perpetual criminalization of foreigners in Japan is nothing short of hate speech.  On an official scale.  And you get a regular fit of it twice a year regardless of what NJ residents do (or don’t do).  Arudou Debito

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

【日本の病巣】危ない国ニッポン“国民番号”は不可欠!
2012.02.16

http://www.zakzak.co.jp/society/politics/news/20120216/plt1202160847000-n1.htm
【拡大】

とうに亡くなっていた超高齢者に年金支給していた事件があったが、生死も分からぬ行方不明者は多い。オウム事件の平田信容疑者を匿っていた女性が、住民票もなく健康保険証を手に入れていたのもショックだ。

この国では、自分が何者であるかを証明しなくても生きていける。海外では身分証明書を携帯せずに生活することは難しいし、多額の支出はカードか小切手だ。アメリカでもかつては運転免許、最近は社会保障番号が何かと必要だ。

北朝鮮による日本人拉致事件の背景にも「成りすまし」の容易さがあったが、日本人が身分証明書なしで暮らせるようでは、日本語を話す外国人の犯罪も防止できない。

年金記録紛失なども国民番号制度がないから起きるし、間違いを発見するにも手間がかかる。いろんな制度が「何万円以上」などと階段を成すよう設計されているので、所得が増えるとかえって損になる逆転現象が起きる。だが、コンピューターが発達したので国民番号さえしっかりすれば、さまざまな要素を総合的に評価してきめ細かく公正な社会保障が可能なのに残念だ。

ようやく、社会保障と税についてマイナンバー制が実現しそうだが、レベルの高い社会福祉国家を実現するために必要不可欠のインフラであるにもかかわらず、「進歩的と称する人たち」が邪魔しているのは残念だ。

市民的自由の脅威という心配はもっともだが、制度設計と運用について意見をいう方が実質的だ。国民番号の不在は、民間での無秩序な情報集積や流出をもたらし、闇社会を利している。

日本人が病気や家族関係など、欧米ではあまり秘密にしないことまで隠してバレたときにかえって嫌な思いをするのは文化としても再考したい。

ただし、番号制度を使って旧悪を暴露して処罰するのはほどほどにしたい。若いころの不正行為がバレて解雇されたりするのは気持ちよくない。過去はモラトリアムで水に流す方が未来志向の改革を実現しやすい。

余談だが税制では、脱税を防ぐためにも、すべての所得について10%源泉徴収(あとで調整)と、資産額による差別なしで相続について1%相続税(現在の税に付加)を課税してはどうか。相続税が4%のケースだけ課税では、所得税と比べて再配分機能が不十分だ。

■八幡和郎(やわた・かずお) 1951年、滋賀県生まれ。東大法学部卒業後、通産省入省。フランス国立行政学院(ENA)留学。大臣官房情報管理課長、国土庁長官官房参事官などを歴任し、退官。作家、評論家として新聞やテレビで活躍。徳島文理大学教授。著書に「本当はスゴい国? ダメな国? 日本の通信簿」(ソフトバンク新書)など。

ENDS

Mainichi and JT: Nagoya mayor Kawamura repeatedly denies Nanjing Massacre, joins ranks of revisionist J politicians

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  This is hot news (or has been recently), so let me cut in with this issue and break the arc of immigration/labor issues.  Here’s another Japanese politician, Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi, playing to type (as in, playing to a Rightist historical revisionist base) by reportedly denying that the Nanjing Massacre in WWII China ever took place.  He’s not alone.  The Japan Times article below is particularly good, as it includes other deniers and their dates in Japan’s political discourse, showing there is a longstanding arc to this discourse.

There may be a political dimension.  As a commenter mailed me, “Because I have lived in Nagoya for over 20 years, Mayor Kawamura’s atrocious lack of tact really makes me cringe. We’ve seen it before with these old boys. They reach a certain age and feel they can afford to throw caution to the wind. However, there may be some background here that isn’t being aired. The Chinese apparently had their sites on a prime piece of land near Nagoya Castle and wanted to build a consulate or trade related facility of some kind. There is local opposition. So it’s possible that the Mayor deliberately wanted to piss them off.”  Interesting if true.  Let’s have that investigated.

A little academic expostulating, if I may:  One of the things that Japan has never undergone (as opposed to, say, Germany) is a postwar examination of its colonialist/imperialist past, as Postcolonialism as an analytical paradigm seems to have passed Japanese academia by (as have many rigorous intellectual disciplines, in favor of, say, the unscientific pseudo-religion that is Nihonjinron).  Even proponent Edward Said was blind to it, by binding us to an East-West divide when encapsulating his theory of lack of minority voices in the world’s historical discourse as “Orientalism”, meaning Japan became an “Oriental” country (as opposed to a fellow colonial empire builder) and thus immune to the analysis.  Partially because of this, Japan lacks the historical conversation (and is ignored overseas for not undertaking it) that would include and incorporate the minority voices of “sangokujin” (i.e., the former peoples of empire) et.al as part of the domestic discourse.

And this is one reason why fatheads like Kawamura are able to keep on reopening old wounds and refuse to face the dark side of Japan’s history — a history which, if an honest accounting of history is done everywhere, every country has.  Arudou Debito

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Nagoya mayor repeatedly denies Nanjing massacre

Mainichi Shimbun, February 23, 2012, courtesy of JK.

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120223p2g00m0dm019000c.html

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks to reporters on the morning of Nov. 26. (Mainichi)

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura speaks to reporters on the morning of Nov. 26. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura said Wednesday that no incident in which hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Nanjing, China, in 1937 took place, defending his earlier remarks in which he doubted the Japanese military’s massacre and rape of civilians there.

“Since I became a lawmaker I’ve said there was no massacre of hundreds of thousands” in Nanjing, Kawamura told a press conference in Tokyo. “It is better to say so openly, rather than saying it secretly.”

Asked why he doubts a massacre took place, Kawamura said, “The crucial reason is that there were no witnesses.”

His remarks about the 1937 massacre during the Sino-Japanese war have already had repercussions, with Chinese media reporting that Nanjing decided to suspend its exchanges with its sister city of Nagoya, and his latest statement could draw further fire from China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday morning that Nagoya and Nanjing should settle the dispute by themselves.

“It isn’t a matter for the state to interfere in as they have sister-city relations,” Fujimura said at a news conference. “The issue should be settled appropriately by the local governments of Nagoya and Nanjing.”

Fujimura added that Tokyo has not changed its view on the Nanjing Massacre, saying, “It cannot be ruled out that the killing of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred” following the advance of Japanese troops into the Chinese city.

China says the number of victims was more than 300,000, but Japanese academics cite various estimates ranging from 20,000 to 200,000.

The 63-year-old Nagoya mayor on Monday told Liu Zhiwei, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Nanjing City Standing Committee, he believes that only “conventional acts of combat” took place there, not mass murder and rape of civilians.

His comments immediately prompted Nanjing, which established a sister-city relationship with Nagoya in December 1978, to announce the suspension of exchanges on Tuesday.

Emphasizing that the Japanese city shares the same view on the Nanjing Massacre as the central government, a Nagoya government official said, “They were the mayor’s personal remarks and it is very regrettable if they are affecting the friendship” between Nagoya and Nanjing.

Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura on Wednesday called on Kawamura to correct his comments as soon as possible, saying, “It has become a diplomatic issue.”

Nagoya is the capital city of Aichi Prefecture in central Japan.

(Mainichi Japan) February 23, 2012

ENDS

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

The Japan Times Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

Nagoya mayor won’t budge on Nanjing remark

By JUN HONGO Staff writer (excerpt), courtesy of CG

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura on Wednesday refused to retract his contentious comments about the veracity of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and said he is ready to visit the city to explain his views.

News photo
Takashi Kawamura

Speaking Monday to a group of Chinese Communist Party members from Nanjing, Kawamura said he was skeptical about whether the Imperial Japanese Army actually raped and slaughtered thousands of Nanjing residents during the war.

The city of Nanjing responded by suspending exchanges with Nagoya, while Beijing assured him it had “solid evidence” proving the massacre took place…

Disputes over the Nanjing Massacre are a constant source of friction in Sino-Japanese relations, and Kawamura’s comments are merely another example of the skewed perceptions held by Japan’s politicans.

In May 1994, then Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano, a former chief of the Ground Self-Defense Force, said the Nanjing Massacre was a “fabrication.” Nagano, who played a key role in having references on the sexual slavery perpetrated by the Imperial army deleted from history textbooks, resigned after the comment caused outrage in China.

Three months later in August 1994, then Environment Agency chief Shin Sakurai stepped down after stating Japan “did not intend to invade” Asia.

Similarly in 1995, then Management and Coordination Agency chief Takami Eto said Japan did “some good deeds” during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, resulting in the veteran lawmaker being booted from the Cabinet.

However, Kawamura’s comments come at a crucial time in bilateral relations as the two sides prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties this year…

With Xi Jinping expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s new leader later this year, Tokyo is eager to avoid sparking any controversy with Beijing so it can present an amicable relationship.

Kawamura said Monday that only “conventional acts of combat” took place in Nanjing and that the likelihood that mass murder took place there was doubtful.

Nanjing, the former capital of China, fell to the Imperial army on Dec. 13, 1937. Beijing says 300,000 soldiers and civilians were slaughtered during the invasion.

But loss of historical records in both Japan and China has made the task of determining the number of victims elusive to this day. Most Japanese experts claim Beijing’s figure is off, but their estimates range from at least 10,000 to more than 200,000.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120223a5.html

ENDS

Yomiuri: Language hurdle trips up Indonesian nurses in 4-year-old GOJ EPA program, and they’re leaving. By design, methinks.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Speaking of GOJ visa statuses with high to insurmountable hurdles, here’s how the years-long (started in 2008) bilateral program to bring over nurses from The Philippines and Indonesia to work in Japan’s medical system is doing: As predicted.  Precisely due to “language barriers”, NJ are being relegated to lower-skilled labor and then sent home (or else, as you can also see below, going home by themselves after having enough of it all). Again, this is the point of Japan’s visa regimes — make sure migrants never become immigrants, siphon off the best working years of their lives, send them back for whatever excuse or shortcoming you can come up with, then bring in a new batch of dupes filled with false hopes. That way you keep the revolving-door labor market revolving, and never let NJ settle down here and get their due for their tax and pension payments.  How nice.  But as I’ve written before, it’s been the perpetual SOP for the GOJ.  Further comment from submitter JK follows article. Arudou Debito

Main

Language hurdle trips up Indonesian nurses

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 5, 2012) Makiko Yanada / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120104004687.htm

JAKARTA–More than half of 104 Indonesian nurses who came to Japan in 2008 through a bilateral economic partnership agreement to obtain nursing licenses have returned home, due mainly to difficulties meeting Japanese language requirements, it has been learned.

Through the EPA program, Indonesian nurses have been allowed to work in Japanese hospitals for three years as assistant nurses who take care of inpatients. They are all licensed nurses in Indonesia. The program requires they pass an annual national nursing certification test during their three-year stay.

However, only 15 of the first group of 104 nurses who came to Japan from Indonesia passed the national exam. Among the 89 who failed the exam, 27 were granted special permission to extend their stay if they wished to because they managed to score a certain number of points on the previous exam. These nurses will take the national exam again in February.

The remaining 62 returned to Indonesia by the end of August, though they were still eligible to take the national exam. Only four of them will return to Japan to take the February exam, meaning the remaining 58 have likely given up working in Japan.

When the first batch arrived in 2008, the national exam was severely criticized, as non-Japanese applicants were disadvantaged by their difficulty in reading complex kanji used in the exam.

For example, the word “jokuso” (bedsore), which is difficult to read even for a Japanese if it is written in kanji, appeared in the exam.

The criticism prompted the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to simplify the exam last year. The ministry put kana alongside difficult kanji to indicate their pronunciation.

However, Indonesian nurses were discouraged by another aspect of the EPA program. As assistant nurses, they were not allowed to conduct medical treatments such as drip infusions and injections, treatments they had engaged in as licensed nurses in Indonesia.

In Japan, they were primarily in charge of services such as table setting and bathing inpatients. After leaving Japan, most of them found new jobs in medical institutions in Indonesia.

A 27-year-old Indonesian nurse who was a member of the first group and worked in a hospital in Wakayama Prefecture said, “My exam scores did not improve as I had hoped. Eventually, I didn’t want to see kanji anymore.”

The government has an EPA program with the Philippines, through which Filipino nurses are able to work in Japan. It plans to introduce a similar scheme with Vietnam.

(Jan. 5, 2012)

Submitter JK comments:

Now this is telling: “As assistant nurses, they were not allowed to conduct medical treatments such as drip infusions and injections, treatments they had engaged in as licensed nurses in Indonesia. In Japan, they were primarily in charge of services such as table setting and bathing inpatients.”

Let’s face it — language isn’t what’s really at issue here — the hurdle doing the tripping is the system in which the nurses ended up being mere care-givers instead of actual nurses.

What’s worse is that instead of improving the system to make better use of the NJ nurse’s talents, the GoJ is planning on rolling out a Vietnam version of the EPA!

The system cannot be fixed with the mere addition of furigana.

My prognosis is that rather than NJ 介護者, Japan needs NJ ‘nurses’ to help treat Japanese society. -JK

ENDS

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

UPDATE

Debito here. Just on a whim, I looked up 褥瘡 (bedsore) as referred to above.
http://dic.search.yahoo.co.jp/search?ei=UTF-8&fr=top_ga1_sa&p=褥瘡
http://dic.yahoo.co.jp/dsearch?enc=UTF-8&stype=0&dtype=3&p=褥瘡&oq=

The word is so obscure that Yahoo Japan Dictionary doesn’t even provide an English translation of it.

So for you naysayers that say, “nurses should be fluent for their job, so it’s the NJ’s fault”, obviously the standards have been set too high.

Besides, as has been pointed out, if the GOJ was really worried about kanji fluency, they could have gotten nurses from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, or Singapore, which still use (variants of) kanji. But no.

There’s obviously more to this issue than mere common sense in hiring practices. Try bilateral trade issues, which Japan doesn’t stand to gain much from when it comes to city-states (or as far as the GOJ is concerned, disputed territories), or (shudder) bring in MORE Chinese, as higher-skilled professionals!

ENDS

Asahi: Registered NJ population drops again in 2010, GOJ to institute policy of “points system” for future NJ visas this Spring

mytest

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

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Hi Blog. To kick off a salvo of blog entries on NJ migration/immigration to Japan, here are two articles from the vernacular press. The first one talks about the MOJ’s institution of a “points system” for future NJ visas, in order to encourage “foreign researchers, doctors, managers and people with specialized knowledge or skills” to come to Japan — with higher value accruing to those with good educational pedigrees, higher salaries, etc. “People with more than 70 points” will be considered “higher-degree people with capabilities” (koudo jinzai), with an annual quota of about 2000 souls. They’ll get special benefits like easier visa conditions for wives and children (something currently reserved for those here on foreign expat packages in the financial markets), and five-year waits for Permanent Residency (instead of the usual ten for those not married to Japanese), and no doubt more.  It’s scheduled to start from this Spring.

Fine, let’s have an objective and reviewable system for immigration (or in Japan’s case, just plain old inward migration), but there are two assumptions here, 1) that people are still simply beating a path to Japan now as a matter of course (when by now there are plenty of other rich countries in the region that are better at, say, foreign languages and import infrastructure, not to mention without an irradiated food chain), and 2) a guarantee of things that are fundamental to making a life here without harassment for being different (such as, say, oh, a law against racial discrimination, and checks and balances against a police force that sees racial profiling, street harassment, and even home invasion as part of its mandate). Japan has had plenty of opportunity to take some safeguards against this, and the fact that it won’t yet still wants to get people to live here anyway to offset its demographic crisis is just plain ignorant of reality.

The second article talks about the effects of a society with institutions that aren’t all that friendly or accountable for its excesses — the second drop of the registered NJ population in two years, after a rise over 48 straight years. I talked about this briefly in my January Japan Times column (as one of the Top Ten Human Rights Events for 2011), so for the record, here is a vernacular source.  I think, sadly, that people are starting to wise up, and realize that Japan isn’t all that open a place to settle.  Arudou Debito

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外国人の年収などを点数化 「高度人材」には優遇措置
朝日新聞 2011年12月28日, Courtesy MS
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1228/TKY201112280216.html

研究者や医師、経営者ら専門知識や技術を持つ外国人にもっと日本に来てもらおうと、法務省は出入国管理に「ポイント制」を導入する。学歴や年収に応じて点数をつけて高い人ほど日本に居やすくする仕組みで、平岡秀夫法相が28日、概要を公表した。来春にも始めることを目指す。

新しい制度では、外国人の学歴や職務の経験年数、年収などの項目ごとに点数を積み上げていき、70点以上で「高度人材」と認定する。年間約2千人が対象になる見込み。

高度人材と認められると、日本で原則10年以上暮らさないと受けられない永住許可を5年で得られるようになる。また、ともに来日する配偶者が仕事に就ける時間の制限(週28時間以内)を緩やかにするほか、3歳未満の子がいる場合には本人や配偶者の親も呼び寄せられる。いまは外資系企業の幹部にだけ認められている「家事使用人」を連れてくることも認める。
ends
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外国人登録者、2年連続減 法務省「長引く不況影響」
朝日新聞 2011年6月3日20時30分
http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0603/TKY201106030453.html

法務省は3日、2010年末現在の外国人登録者数は213万4151人で、09年末に比べ5万1970人減ったと発表した。毎年の統計をとり始めた1961年以降、09年に初めて減少に転じてから2年連続で減った。同省入国管理局は「世界金融危機後の不況が長引き、多くの日系ブラジル人らが出国した影響が大きい」とみている。

国籍別では、1位の中国が約6600人増えて68万7千人。2位の韓国・朝鮮(約56万6千人)は特別永住者の日本への帰化が進み、約1万2千人減った。3位のブラジル(23万人)は約3万7千人の大幅減少。4位のフィリピン(約21万人)は微減だった。
ends

http://www.e-stat.go.jp/SG1/estat/List.do?lid=000001074828
ENDS

Jeff Smith on Yahoo Japan auctioneer denying foreign bidders, and what he did about it

mytest

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

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Hi Blog.  Here we have some naked xenophobia and related intolerance in interpersonal internet auctions.  I have heard of numerous cases like these on Japanese internet outlets, where sellers simply refuse to sell to somebody with money if the buyer happens to be bearing money while foreign (and nothing would come of it from moderators).  But here’s a report of what one person, Jeff Smith, decided to do about it.  As he says, auction forums in Japan need to step up with rules to honor bona fide transactions, because that’s the entire point of money as a means of transaction — it is not foreign currency even if the buyer is foreign.  Let’s wait and see what Yahoo Japan decides to do about it, if anything.  Arudou Debito

RELATED:  The case for internet anonymity in Japan, defended with inter alia “Japanese culture” (yep, “Japanese are shy…”)

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

Yahoo Auctioneer Denies Foreign Bidders
Documented by Jeff Smith (Osaka, Japan) February 15th, 2012

Something I came upon last night while looking for guitars on Yahoo Auctions, Japan. This individual ignoramus had the nerve to actually write in his or her auction that foreigners would be denied the right to buy said item once found to be foreign, NJ or otherwise:

○●○●○  商品詳細  ○●○●○
ESPのHORIZONⅡのノントレモロです。

中古品となりますが、傷も見受けられず、かなりの状態のいいものです。
状態はフルオリジナル、ネックのそりもなく、フレットもほぼ減っていません。

商品のスペックは
http://www.espguitars.co.jp/original/horizon/hrz_2_nt.html
よりご確認ください。

ESPのギグバッグが付属いたします。

発送はヤマト便で保険をかけて発送いたします。

○●○●○  支払詳細  ○●○●○
yahooかんたん決済
ジャパンネット銀行

○●○●○  発送詳細  ○●○●○
ヤマト便着払い

○●○●○  注意事項  ○●○●○
オークション終了後、落札通知をご確認ください。
最近新規の方で連絡の取れない方、マナーのない方が増えていますので、新規の方は48時間以内に連絡がとれて、その後48時間以内に入金可能な方に限りお取引いたします。
また、トラブル続出のため、外国人の方とは取引は取引実績が30以上ある方としかいたしません。
オークション終了後に取引相手が外国人と分かりましたら落札者都合で削除いたします。

The statement here is as follows in English:

“Winners please be aware of the message I send upon auction close. I will not accept new bidders who do not reply, or people with bad manners. New bidders are to respond within 48 hours, and those that do so will be allowed to pay for the item. In addition, due to troubles that have occurred, I am not accepting any foreign bidders with a score under 30 rating. [This was actually changed this morning, Feb. 15, 2012: originally it said I will accept NO FOREIGN WINNERS, period.]  If I find that the winner is a foreigner after the auction ends, I shall void the auction at my convenience.”

Amazed that this person could even have the gall to write in such a manner, I contacted the seller with a message as follows:
こんばんは。外国人とのトラブルがあったことは残念ですが、一切取り引きをしないと書かれるのが相当偏見で厳しい考えだと思います。
真面目なひともいますし、日本人でもトラブルを起こします。僕はそういう経験がありますが、日本人全員のせいにはしません。これからいい落札者が出現できるように。

English translation:
Good evening. It’s a shame that you have claimed to have had some trouble with foreigners, but to say that you will do no business with them is prejudicial thinking on your part. There are people on this auction who are serious, and Japanese people have caused trouble on auctions as well. I myself have had problems, and have not blamed all Japanese people for it. I hope you find a good bidder.

The auctioneer quickly replied with the following:
残念ながら言葉の通じないかたや、意志疎通のでないかたが多いので取引しないことにしています。

English:
“Because of lack of comprehension and inability to effectively communicate intentions on the part of the winners, I have decided not to do business with foreigners.” (意志疎通: ishisottsu; means this ability to communicate thoughts or intentions smoothly)

He or she then responded with a nasty jab:

気になることのであれば入札しなければいいだけではないでしょうか?いちいちこんなことを質問蘭に書かないでください。

English:
“If you (or someone else) doesn’t like it, just don’t bid, please. Also, please don’t put comments like this (actually these, because いちいち(ichi-ichi) in Japanese implies a nagging complaint, therefore someone else called this person out.) This person’s Japanese language ability isn’t all that great, either.

I reported this person to Yahoo Auction under 詐欺 (sagi:fraud), and possible trouble (トラブル可能性) which if you think about it, it is if someone is to deny someone their rights to buy an item if they are found to be foreign! The ridiculous comments from this person, such as the “inability to communicate intentions” just goes to show how xenophobes and racists use these lame excuses to cover up how they dropped the idiomatic “ball” and had bad experiences. Still, Yahoo Auction needs to have a clearer stance on their guidelines as to not tolerating this kind of behavior.

Be on the lookout for these types of idiots who think they can run auctions with impunity: don’t be afraid to call people out on it!

ENDS

Mainichi: NHK Press publishes book about NJ “underground reality” (e.g., prostitution, fake marriages and citizenships, profiteering). Contrast with interview with freewheeling cannibal Sagawa Issei.

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 Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Speaking of Japanese media profiteering off NJ by peddling images of them to the public (after in some cases killing them first, e.g., Ichihashi Tatsuya, Sagawa Issei — more on him below), here we have a quick book review of some author depicting NJ adding to the undercurrent of Japan’s crimes and misdemeanors (N.B., in two articles that are quite different in English and Japanese, as the Mainichi is quite prone to doing).

While I haven’t read the book to see if there is any element of, “If these guys had better opportunities in Japan, they might not resort to these trades” (i.e., it’s not because NJ are intrinsically predisposed to criminality, despite what other Japanese media has nakedly asserted), it still panders to the latent NPA-promoted public prejudices of “foreigner as criminal”, sensationalizing the lives of NJ residents in Japan.

Pity.  There is significantly less media about the regular lawful contributions NJ make to Japanese society.  But I guess a book about someone who does his or her day job, brings home the paycheck to put food on the table, spends the weekends playing with the kids, pays taxes on time, and takes on neighborhood association duties, isn’t fodder for selling scads of sensationalism.  But I betcha that’s much closer to the “reality” for far more NJ in Japan.  Arudou Debito

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

Writer talks of ‘underground reality’ of Japan’s foreigners in new book
(Mainichi Japan) February 1, 2012, courtesy of JK
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120201p2a00m0et010000c.html

The myth that Japan is a homogenous society lost its veracity long ago. With the growth of globalization, the sight of foreigners living and working in Japan is certainly no longer a rare occurrence.

However, how much do we know about the real lives of Japan’s foreigners?

This is the question that Kota Ishii, a spirited non-fiction writer, raises in his new book, “Nippon ikoku kiko — zainichi gaikokujin no kane, seiai, shi” (Journey through foreign Japan: The money, love, sex and death of foreigners in Japan).

“What happens with the bodies of foreigners if they die in Japan?”; “A Mie Prefecture island: A haven for foreign prostitution?”; “A South Korean church helping Japanese homeless — what is its real aim?” These are just a few examples of what Ishii tackles in his latest work.

Ishii, who has published several books on prostitution, slums and underground businesses in Asia, sheds light this time on different foreign communities in Japan.

The book introduces a South Korean who has conquered the Japanese sex industry by undercutting prices; an Israeli man with an expired visa who pays a Japanese woman to marry him to obtain Japanese nationality; Chinese who flee from the country after obtaining citizenship, and many other examples that portray the reality of “underground” foreign communities in Japan.

Because there are so many fake marriages initiated by foreigners in Japan, some international matchmaking companies even provide compensation to victims, Ishii writes.

The writer further introduces readers to a recent phenomenon among foreigners in Japan: jumping occupations.

Pakistanis opening Indian restaurants is one example from this trend, Ishii writes. Many construction company or factory employees who have lost their jobs are pushed into alternative businesses, the writer explains.

Even while he cuts deeply into the lives of Japan’s foreigners, lending a critical eye to their doings, Ishii manages to portray the people who fight hard to survive in a foreign land with compassion.

“Nippon ikoku kiko — zainichi gaikokujin no kane, seiai, shi” went on sale in January.
ends

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

“Original Japanese story” that was linked from this article:

読書日和:注目です アングラ在日外国人
毎日新聞 2012年1月31日 東京夕刊
http://mainichi.jp/enta/book/news/20120131dde012070018000c.html

日本が「単一民族」の国と言われたのは昔の話。グローバル化が進み、今や街中には外国人がたくさんいる。では彼らの暮らしぶりを、私たちはどれだけ知っているだろうか。

ニッポン異国紀行--在日外国人のカネ・性愛・死」(石井光太著・NHK出版新書・903円)は、外国人による独自のコミュニティーに光を当てている。風俗業界を価格破壊で席巻する韓国人。日本国籍を得るため、日本人女性に金を出して偽装結婚する不法滞在のイスラエル人。日本人と結婚して国籍を得ると、さっさと逃げる中国人もいる。そのため国際結婚紹介業界では「夜逃げ補償」があるとか。

ある現象の背景にも焦点を当てる。パキスタン人などが「インド料理」を作る店が増えている。建築現場や工場で働いていた人たちが、職を失ってやむなく転身しているのだ。

著者は77年生まれ、気鋭のノンフィクション作家。アンダーグラウンドの世界に鋭く切り込む取材力は相変わらずだ。そのまなざしは、ただ彼らを批判するのではなく、むしろ異国で懸命に生きる人々にエールを送っているようだ。【栗原俊雄】

ENDS

PS:  For the purposes of contrast, here’s a creepy interview with cannibal Sagawa Issei; overlook the somewhat questionable journalism, see him speaking after 1:14, and just try not to go slack-jawed…

Mainichi: NJ held by immigration sharply down after reviewing rules

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 Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Speaking of incarceration of NJ under unreviewed circumstances (start here), here is what happens when the GOJ suddenly starts, as encouraged by the United Nations and even domestic think tanks such as JIPI, to actually REVIEW its own rules:  They discover that not as many NJ need to be incarcerated.  Quite a few of not as many.  Very high percentages, even.

Well, how about that.  Glad this happened, and got some press too.  May it happen more often, so that the NPA and Immigration realize that there are some boundaries to their power of interrogation and incarceration, even if (and especially if) the incarcerated happen to be NJ (who are even, according to here as well as the article below, committing suicide rather than take any more of this inhumane treatment).  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////
Foreigners held by immigration sharply down after reviewing rules
(Mainichi Japan) February 4, 2012, courtesy of JK
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120204p2g00m0dm013000c.html

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The number of foreign nationals detained one year or longer by Japanese immigration officials dropped significantly after a review of procedural rules for a more flexible approach in response to criticisms about the treatment of long-term detainees, data for last year showed.

As of August 2011, a total of 167 foreign nationals were held for at least six months at immigration facilities in Ibaraki, Osaka and Nagasaki prefectures, according to the Justice Ministry.

Many of them are believed to have overstayed their visas and were waiting to be deported to their native countries or undergoing procedures to seek asylum in Japan.

Those who were held for at least one year totaled 47, down sharply from 115 at the end of 2009. The Justice Ministry said it has been actively releasing those who are subject to deportation but it sees no need for holding in custody since July 2010.

The Japanese government came under fire for its long-term detentions in 2007 by the United Nations, which recommended that detention periods should be limited.

A large number of detainees staged hunger strikes as well, as a string of suicides ensued apparently over their dissatisfaction with how they were treated while in detention.

Support groups and lawyers’ associations have repeatedly called on the government to make improvements on the treatment of detainees.

Faced with claims that it was taking too long to conduct asylum reviews, the Justice Ministry has since adopted a policy to process them within six months in principle.

As a result, the number of cases without any decision to grant asylum after six months dropped to 35 as of March 31, 2011, a whopping drop from 612 at the end of June 2010.

Immigration officials also took an average 12.6 months to review asylum cases between July and September 2010 and 14.4 months between October and December 2010.

The periods were curtailed to 4.7 months and 5.2 months in the same periods the following year.

(Mainichi Japan) February 4, 2012
ends

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column #48: “These are a few of my favorite things about Japan”, Feb. 7, 2012

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 Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
justbecauseicon.jpg

Hi Blog.  This essay was again in the top five “most read articles” on the Japan Times all day yesterday, thanks everyone!  And according to my editor, I have pioneered the use of the word “turtle-heading” in the JT (aw, shucks!).  Enjoy!  Arudou Debito

The Japan Times Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE, Column 48

These are a few of my favorite things about Japan

The excellent illustrations, as always, by Chris Mackenzie.

The Just Be Cause column has been running now for four years (thanks for reading!), and I’ve noticed something peculiar: how commentators are pressured to say “nice” stuff about Japan.

If you don’t, you get criticized for an apparent “lack of balance” — as if one has to pay homage to the gods of cultural relativism (as an outsider) or tribal commonalities (as an insider).

This pressure isn’t found in every society. Britain, for example, has a media tradition (as far back as Jonathan Swift, William Hogarth and George Cruikshank) where critics can be unapologetically critical, even savage, towards authority (check out Private Eye magazine).

But in Japan, where satire is shallow and sarcasm isn’t a means of social analysis, we are compelled to blunt our critique with pat niceties. Our media spends more time reporting nice, safe things (like how to cook and eat) than encouraging critical thinking.

Likewise, Just Be Cause gets comments of the “If Debito hates Japan so much, why does the JT keep publishing him?” ilk — as if nobody ever criticizes Japan out of love (if we critics didn’t care about this place, we wouldn’t bother).

Moreover, why must we say something nice about a place that hasn’t been all that nice to its residents over the past, oh, two stagnant decades (even more so since the Fukushima nuclear disaster)? Japan, like everywhere else, has problems that warrant attention, and this column is trying to address some of them.

Still, as thanks to the readership (and my editor, constantly put off his beer defending me in bars), I’ll succumb and say something nice about Japan for a change. In fact, I’ll give not one, but 10 reasons why I like Japan — enough to have learned the language, married, had children, bought property, taken citizenship and lived here nearly a quarter-century.

Leaving out things like cars, semiconductors, consumer electronics, steel, etc. (which have been written about to death), Japan is peerless at:

 

News photo

 

10. Public transport

Overseas, I’ve often found myself saying, “Curses! I can’t get there without a car!” but even in Hokkaido I could find a way (train, bus, taxi if necessary) to get practically anywhere, including the outback, given a reasonable amount of time.

How many cities the size of Tokyo can move millions around daily on infrastructure that is, even if overcrowded at times, relatively clean, safe and cheap? Not many.

 

News photo

 

9. Seafood

Japan’s irradiated food chain notwithstanding (sorry, this has to be caveated), dining in Japan is high quality. It’s actually difficult to have a bad meal — even school cafeterias are decent.

World-class cuisine is not unique to Japan (what with Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian, French, etc.), but Japan does seafood best. No wonder: With a longer history of fishing than of animal husbandry, Japan has discovered how to make even algae delicious! Japanese eat more seafood than anyone else. Justifiably.

 

News photo

 

8. Onomatopeia

I am a Japanese kanji nerd, but that’s only the bureaucratic side of our language. Now try gitaigo and giseigo/giongo — Japanese onomatopoeic expressions. We all know gussuri and gakkari. But I have a tin ear for pori pori when scratching the inside of my nose, or rero rerowhen licking something, or gabiin when agape.

Japanese as a language is highly contextualized (say the wrong word and mandarins just sit on their hands) and full of confusing homophones, but the universe of expressiveness found in just a couple of repeated kana is something I doubt I will ever master. My loss.

 

News photo

 

7. Packaging

Stores like Mitsukoshi cocoon your purchase in more paper and plastic than necessary. But when you really need that cocoon, such as when transporting stuff, you’re mollycoddled. Japanese post offices offer boxes and tape for cheap or free. Or try the private-sector truckers, like Yamato or Pelican, whom I would even trust with bubble-wrapping and shipping a chandelier (and for a reasonable price, too).

If you don’t know how to pack, leave it to the experts — it’s part of the service. As Mitsukoshi demonstrates, if it’s not packaged properly, it’s not presentable in Japan.

 

News photo

 

6. Calligraphic goods

I’m used to crappy Bic ballpoint pens that seize up in the same groove (and inexplicably only in that groove, no matter how many times you retrace), which you then summarily discard like used toothbrushes. But in Japan, writing implements are keepers, combining quality with punctiliousness.

People prowl stationery stores for new models (with special buttons to advance the pencil lead, twirl cartridges for multiple colors, or multicolored ink that comes out like Aquafresh toothpaste) spotted in specialty stationery magazines (seriously!). Maybe this is not so mysterious considering how precisely one has to write kanji — but I know of only two countries that put this fine a point on pens: Germany (whose companies have a huge market here) and Japan.

 

News photo

 

5. Group projects

Yes, working in groups can make situations inflexible and slow. But when things work here, they really work, especially when a project calls for an automatic division of labor.

For example, when I was politically active in a small Hokkaido town, we would rent a room for a public meeting. Beforehand, without ever being asked, people would come early to set things up. Afterward, attendees would put everything back before going home.

I’ve done presentations overseas and the attitude is more, “Hey, you take care of the chairs — what are we paying you for?” Sucks.

It’s nice to be here, where pitching in often goes without saying, and everyone has a stake in keeping things clean and orderly.

 

News photo

 

4. Public toilets

Sure, public conveniences exist overseas, but they are frequently hard to track down (shoppers overseas must have enormous bladders) and when found, they can resemble a war zone.

Japan, however, generally keeps its toilets clean and unstinky. Comfortable, too. Sure, I hate it when I’m turtle-heading and can only find Japan’s squatter types, but I also hate being trapped overseas in a stall where strangers can see my ankles under the door.

Besides, whenever I need a public time-out, I head for the nearest handicapped toilet and bivouac. Ah, a room to myself; it’s a love hotel for my tuchus. And that’s before mentioning the washlets, bidets, warmed toilet seats . . .

 

News photo

 

3. Anime

I’ve been reading comic books since I was 2 years old, and have long admired Japanese animation and comic art. I can’t resist anime’s clean lines, sense of space and forcefulness, and storyboard style of narrative.

Once underrated overseas, Japan’s comics are now one of our coolest cultural exports. Resistance is futile — watch the knockoffs on Cartoon Network (love “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Samurai Jack”)!

Consider one knock-on benefit of a society so consumed by comic art: Japan’s average standards for drawing are very high. I came from a society with an enormous standard deviation in artistic talent: You either get stick figures or Pat Oliphants. In Japan, however, contrast with the following example.

I once tested my university students on spatial vocabulary. I drew a room on the answer sheet and said, “Under the table, draw Doraemon.” Amazingly, 98 of 100 students could draw a Doraemon that would infringe copyright — complete with propeller, collar bell, philtrum and whiskers.

Try getting people overseas to draw a recognizable Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat or even just Snoopy and you’ll see how comparatively under-practiced drawing skills tend to be outside Japan.

 

News photo

 

2. Silly cute

Nobody combines these two quite like Japan does — simultaneously campy, tacky and kitschy. Some pundits lament how the culture of cute has paved over genuine time-tested Japanese iconography. But if you avoid being a curmudgeon, you’ll wind up giggling despite yourself.

Where else are you going to get Marimokkori (algae balls with superhero capes and inguinal endowments)? Try resisting Hello Kitty when she’s affecting regional dining habits or clothes (I love Pirika Kitty and supertacky Susukino Kitty, both homages to Hokkaido). And all those cellphone mascots! And there’s plenty more crap out there, some finding markets overseas.

What’s the appeal? My theory is that the Occident just can’t do cute or silly without sarcasm seeping in (even Disney resorts to wise-cracking). Shooting for it include France’s Barbapapa (which comes off as “easy to draw,” not cute), Finland’s weird Moomins (with that evil-looking Little My character) and Britain’s even weirder Teletubbies (arguing its cuteness will give you a hernia; watch while stoned). They all could do with a cute J-makeover and a firm J-marketing push.

Look, campy, tacky and kitschy eventually become ironic, cheap and tiresome. But Japan’s brand of straight-faced silly manages to (thanks to that intrinsic lack of sarcasm) remain tirelessly unironic. As long as you keep developing new and unexpected permutations, you never quite get sick of it. Instead you just giggle.

People need that. Silly-cute makes life in Japan and elsewhere more bearable.

 

News photo

 

1. Onsens

Of course. If you can get in. Ahem.

Illustrations by Chris Mackenzie. A version of this essay appeared in the now-defunct Sapporo Source magazine in December 2009; an expanded version can be found at www.debito.org/?p=2099. Debito Arudou’s latest book is “In Appropriate” (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 5, 2012

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 Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 5, 2012

Table of Contents:

////////////////////////////////////////
TALK OF JAPAN’S FUTURE
1) CNN’s Zakaria: Japan’s economy “has run out of gas”: first trade deficit in 31 years shows J’s decline and “the end of an era”
2) Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future
3) Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito

SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM
4) Nepalese beaten to death in Osaka, 4 assailants arrested in apparent hate crime
5) PS on Gaijin Card Checkpoint at his apartment — Immigration doing door-to-door checks, using physical force (photos included)
6) Shock/Horror on Japanese TV show, where Japanese under new Arizona laws could be treated as foreigners, with ID checks! Kibishii!?
7) Changes to Alien Registration Act July 2012 — NJ to be registered on Juuminhyou Residency Certificates at last

OFFICIAL HARASSMENT OF NJ
8 ) Amnesty International 2002 report on human rights abuses, including extortion and physical abuse, at the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” detention center
9) Chris Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)
10) Mainichi: Transport ministry mulling random body search of 10% of all airport passengers at Narita etc. Random? Not likely.
11) Japan Today: GOJ ministries block foreign firms from helping tsunami-stricken Japanese, using bureaucratic stonewalling

And finally…

12) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 47, January 3, 2012: 2011′s Top 10 Human Rights Issues affecting NJ in Japan
////////////////////////////////////////

By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org)
RSS and biweekly blog updates at www.debito.org, Twitter arudoudebito
Freely Forwardable

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

TALK OF JAPAN’S FUTURE

1) CNN’s Zakaria: Japan’s economy “has run out of gas”: first trade deficit in 31 years shows J’s decline and “the end of an era”

Reader JD submits this as “Cliff Notes for Debito.org”. Quite so. It’s what we’ve been saying for a while now about Japan in decline. Only this time, we have something quantitative (and a major economic indicator) to demonstrate it:

CNN: This week marks a turning point – one of the world’s great export engines has run out of gas… For the first time in 31 years, Japan has recorded a trade deficit… Tokyo’s policymakers have failed its people – they could have opened up many of its closed sectors to competition, reformed its labor laws to make Japanese labor more attractive, cut pension benefits, and allowed more immigration. Its government could have put the country on a path to reduce its massive debt burden. Instead, we’re now entering an era where one of the great manufacturing nations of history faces a looming current account deficit. With its debt at 211% of its GDP, if the cost of its borrowing increases, Tokyo would face an even greater crisis: A default… [Japan] was unable to change its ways, reform, and get less rigid. The result was decline.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9931

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2) Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future

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 [1]…

VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe?

AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column [2] 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 ” [3]. Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement…

VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life?

AD: Sure…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9880

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3) Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito

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?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9822

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SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM

4) Nepalese beaten to death in Osaka, 4 assailants arrested in apparent hate crime

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9892

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5) PS on Gaijin Card Checkpoint at his apartment — Immigration doing door-to-door checks, using physical force (photos included)

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.”…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9900

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6) Shock/Horror on Japanese TV show, where Japanese under new Arizona laws could be treated as foreigners, with ID checks! Kibishii!?

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).

http://www.debito.org/?p=9919

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7) Changes to Alien Registration Act July 2012 — NJ to be registered on Juuminhyou Residency Certificates at last

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9718

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OFFICIAL HARASSMENT OF NJ

8 ) Amnesty International 2002 report on human rights abuses, including extortion and physical abuse, at the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” detention center

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9846

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9) Christopher Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)

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 the murder 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…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9868

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10) Mainichi: Transport ministry mulling random body search of 10% of all airport passengers at Narita etc. Random? Not likely.

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9796

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11) Japan Today: GOJ ministries block foreign firms from helping tsunami-stricken Japanese, using bureaucratic stonewalling

Japan Today: Red tape and rigid adherence to regulations stopped a number of foreign firms from providing help and specialist expertise in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 disasters in northeast Japan, while other firms say their efforts to render assistance to the homeless and destitute were frustrated because the markets here are effectively closed to outsiders.

Among those whose offers of help were dismissed, and who agreed to speak to ACUMEN, are British firms with experience in providing high- quality emergency shelter — that has been gratefully accepted in disaster zones around the world — as tens of thousands of people were living rough in school gymnasiums and municipal offices in the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. In addition, there are at least two UK firms that were eventually successful in securing contracts, after having endured frustrating delays and red tape, but they declined to be identified out of fear of jeopardising future deals.

The experience of trying to meet the demands of government ministries and prefectural authorities has left some British firms irritated or angry — in particular those whose members travelled to areas affected by the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered, and who saw for themselves the misery of the victims. The people who lost out due to officials’ inability to think outside the box, they say, were those who had already lost everything in the disasters.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9929

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And finally…

12) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 47, January 3, 2012: 2011′s Top 10 Human Rights Issues affecting NJ in Japan

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 47
Kim to ‘flyjin,’ a top 10 for 2012
By ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120103ad.html
Commentary and links to sources at http://www.debito.org/?p=9837

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All for this month! Thanks for reading! Arudou Debito
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 5, 2012 ENDS

CNN’s Zakaria: Japan’s economy “has run out of gas”: first trade deficit in 31 years shows J’s decline and “the end of an era”

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 Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Reader JD submits this as “Cliff Notes for Debito.org”. Quite so. It’s what we’ve been saying for a while now about Japan in decline (see for example here, here, and here). Only this time, we have something quantitative (and a major economic indicator) to demonstrate it: Japan’s first trade deficit in 31 years. Fareed Zakaria from CNN offers this crisp blog comment. Arudou Debito

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Zakaria: The end of an era for Japan
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN, January 29, 2012
http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/29/zakaria-the-end-of-an-era-in-japan/?hpt=hp_c2

Wherever you are in the world, you’ve probably used or coveted some Japanese product – a Honda four-wheeler; a Toyota Prius, a Sony, a Panasonic TV, a Nikon camera. Since the 1950s, Japan’s exports have flooded the world and fueled an economic miracle at home, making that country one of the wealthiest in the world. Well, this week marks a turning point – one of the world’s great export engines has run out of gas.

What in the world is going on?

For the first time in 31 years, Japan has recorded a trade deficit. In simple terms, that means Japan imported more than it exported last year. Now this is not that unusual for some rich countries: the U.S. has had a trade deficit since 1975, and yet we’ve grown. But the U.S. economy is not built on exports. Japan’s economic rise on the other hand, has been almost entirely powered by exports.

So what has changed in Japan?

The Japanese government would like to blame one-off events: Last year’s earthquake and tsunami crippled factories and shut down nuclear energy reactors. The offshoot of that was decreased economic output, plus they needed to import expensive oil from the Middle East. But natural disasters have only highlighted and accelerated existing trends in Japan: A decline in competitiveness and an ageing work force.

China and other East Asian countries can now produce cheaper products and in greater quantities. Add to that a rising Yen, and Japan’s exporters have been at a disadvantage globally. Toyota’s chief perhaps said it best last year: “It doesn’t make sense to manufacture in Japan.”

Then add to this Japan’s demographics. Between 1990 and 2007, Japan’s working population dropped from 86 to 83 million. At the same time, the number of Americans between the ages of 15 and 64 rose from 160 million to 200 million. In a global marketplace, this is a major handicap for Tokyo.

Between 2001 and 2010, Japan’s economy grew at seven-tenths of one percent – less than half the pace of America’s. It was also well behind Europe. Contrast that with growth per person – or GDP per capita – and Japan actually outperforms America and the Euro Zone.

So while Japan’s economy in aggregate has been hurt by this lack of workers, for the average Japanese worker income is still up and quality of life is still very high. That’s partly why the country has not felt the pressure to reform.

Now it’s easy to extrapolate from the data that Japan’s low growth is not a failure of economic policy, but just a reflection of its demographics. But that’s too simple. In reality, Japan’s industry is becoming less competitive and even per capita incomes will start slowing down.

Tokyo’s policymakers have failed its people – they could have opened up many of its closed sectors to competition, reformed its labor laws to make Japanese labor more attractive, cut pension benefits, and allowed more immigration. Its government could have put the country on a path to reduce its massive debt burden. Instead, we’re now entering an era where one of the great manufacturing nations of history faces a looming current account deficit. With its debt at 211% of its GDP, if the cost of its borrowing increases, Tokyo would face an even greater crisis: A default.

Keeping a rich country competitive is very hard, especially in a democracy where interest groups keep asking for more – more benefits, more subsidies, more protections. They want to be shielded from competitive forces. It is happening in America, just as it happened in Japan. It’s easy to forget how powerful a growth engine Japan was in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

But eventually, it was unable to change its ways, reform, and get less rigid. The result was decline.
ENDS

Japan Today: GOJ ministries block foreign firms from helping tsunami-stricken Japanese, using bureaucratic stonewalling

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 Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Here’s a shocking development post-Tohoku disasters:  The bureaucrats interfering with international business assistance/opportunities in disaster relief unless Japanese firms could get a slice of the pie.  Which begs the question:  What’s more important — the lives, shelter, and comfort of stricken Japanese citizens, or maintaining the trade barriers around Japan Inc.?  I think I already knew that answer (given what happened in Kobe in 1995-9), but this article helps substantiate it.  Arudou Debito

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Foreign firms feel sidelined in post-quake rebuilding
By Julian Ryall for BCCJ ACUMEN, Courtesy of CB
Japan Today.com Jan. 30, 2012 
http://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/foreign-firms-feel-sidelined-in-post-quake-rebuilding

Red tape and rigid adherence to regulations stopped a number of foreign firms from providing help and specialist expertise in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 disasters in northeast Japan, while other firms say their efforts to render assistance to the homeless and destitute were frustrated because the markets here are effectively closed to outsiders.

Among those whose offers of help were dismissed, and who agreed to speak to ACUMEN, are British firms with experience in providing high- quality emergency shelter — that has been gratefully accepted in disaster zones around the world — as tens of thousands of people were living rough in school gymnasiums and municipal offices in the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. In addition, there are at least two UK firms that were eventually successful in securing contracts, after having endured frustrating delays and red tape, but they declined to be identified out of fear of jeopardising future deals.

The experience of trying to meet the demands of government ministries and prefectural authorities has left some British firms irritated or angry — in particular those whose members travelled to areas affected by the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered, and who saw for themselves the misery of the victims. The people who lost out due to officials’ inability to think outside the box, they say, were those who had already lost everything in the disasters.

“Our first reaction, on hearing of the disaster, was that we could help — and help very quickly — with low-cost, quickly assembled temporary housing and other raw materials for rebuilding,” said Colin Shea, managing partner of Sure Lock Homes.

The firm, a subsidiary of UK-based Convolvulus Ltd, manufactures solid- wood, interlocking buildings and has been operating for more than 25 years.

“We have the resources, the manpower and the technology to design, make and deliver 500 solid-wood temporary homes each month,” he said. “Each unit can be put up in a single day by two semi-skilled workers.

“We worked 24 hours a day for three days to complete the tender requested by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and I submitted it in person by the April deadline at the Shibuya offices,” Shea said. “It was immediately rejected as we did not have a Japanese partner with a construction license.”

Trade officials at the British Embassy Tokyo used all their contacts and skills to help UK firms get a toehold in the Japanese market, but to no avail.

“Even with their support, we could not get past the red tape”, said Shea, who complains that the experience of trying to offer assistance to Japan has left him deeply frustrated.

The Charles Kendall Group (CKG) had a similar experience.

Three members of staff from the firm’s offices in Kuala Lumpur were in Sendai within 48 hours of the tragedy striking and an operations room had been opened in Tokyo. The firm, which is a global end- to-end supply-chain management group based in London, immediately grasped that there would be a critical need for modular housing. That was confirmed in meetings with officials from the three prefectures most severely affected and the ministry.

CKG responded to the tender, partnering with Berkshire Hathaway’s Clayton Homes — the largest builder of homes in the world — offering 10,000 modular homes that met all the requirements of the ministry and the prefectural authorities. The homes would be manufactured in the U.S. and could have been installed in Japan within 60 days.

Not a single unit was accepted, said Hugh Mainwaring, who spearheaded the campaign to provide assistance.

“Once the tender had been submitted, before the 25 April closing date, the prefectures and the ministry became very distant and somewhat unthankful for the offer,” said Mainwaring. He was told that the local Japanese market would be able to meet the demand for emergency housing — but that was proved incorrect by the delays over the summer that saw families, the elderly and those with infants still living rough well into August.

The Japanese government initially promised to provide 30,000 temporary housing units for victims of the quake and the tsunami, as well as those who had to be evacuated from the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, by the end of May. The effort fell nearly 3,000 units short and it was not until the Bon summer holidays that emergency housing was available to the 110,000 people who had been in 2,000 shelters across northern Japan.

The ministry stipulated that foreign firms submitting tenders to provide emergency services or assistance needed to have a Japanese partner on the grounds that the three prefectures would find it difficult to communicate with non-Japanese firms. It also had a deadline of one week before tenders had to be submitted.

“As soon as the UK firms heard they had to find a Japanese partner and provide a tender—preferably in Japanese, as the ministry stated — most of them simply gave up,” said a UK Trade and Investment spokesperson at the embassy. “It was just impossible for them to do that.”

The official, who was instrumental in providing help and advice to a number of UK firms that decided to push ahead with the tender process, said the effort was almost certainly futile from the outset. “The ministry was, we believe, keen to show that it was doing all it could to help the people of Tohoku by opening up the opportunity to foreign trade and imports,” the official said. “For example, they relaxed the normal requirement for pre-registration as a government supplier to make it easier for foreign companies to participate. But the reality was that the need for local partners and for submission in Japanese meant that foreign companies were disadvantaged from the start.” But the problems were not limited to British firms and the construction sector.

A large amount of high-end children’s clothing was donated through the Embassy of Portugal in Tokyo during the summer, but was initially refused because the aid agencies said they already had enough, while another firm delivered boxes of gloves to a shelter in the disaster zone, only to be told that they could not be accepted as there were not enough pairs for everyone at the facility.

The barriers that foreign firms need to overcome may not be deliberately erected, and are more likely due to excess caution, inefficiency and Japan not keeping up with technological advances, believes Alison Murray, executive director of the European Business Council in Japan.

“We hope to change their mindset and, once they start removing some of the non-tariff barriers, I think there will be a significant shift in attitude,” said Murray. “They have to overcome the fear that they will be flooded with foreign imports that will be of inferior quality.

“We are not talking about not having any regulations, but we want rational regulations that meet global standards,” she said. “Where there are international standards that the EU and the U.S. use, then Japan should use those standards as well.”

The situation in Tohoku may have been exacerbated by the preference, among local authorities, for employing firms based in the region, in order to provide work for local businesses, she said, while the government has also been slow to draw up a master plan for the overall reconstruction of the affected area.

The hurdles that Sure Lock Homes’ Colin Shea came up against simply encouraged him to try to circumvent the red tape, with a degree of success.

In early November, Shea visited the Fukushima Prefecture town of Aizu Misato to meet the mayor and local town hall staff to discuss the donation of a community centre by information technology and communications services provider KVH Co Ltd for evacuees from the nearby town of Naraha-machi, which was devastated by the tsunami and lies within the exclusion zone around the nuclear plant.

Previously, Sure Lock Homes built a kindergarten in the town of Kamaishi, with the help of the local rugby team, the Kamaishi Sea Waves. The building was donated by Sure Lock Homes and the former CEO of Wedgwood Japan.

“I believe that the Japanese wanted to do everything in-house,” Shea said. “I get a sense of inflexibility.

“Anyone who visits the Tohoku region will see it is the people who are suffering; they are the ones losing out by far,” he added. “I shall never forget the look of hope and appreciation on faces of the people of Naraha on my visit to Aizu Misato. One little boy, curious as to why a foreigner was visiting the temporary home camp, said ‘Hello’ — I think it was his only English vocabulary. And I replied in English to encourage him.

“We will never give up and shall continue offering our building solutions to the Japanese people, especially children,” he added. “We will keep chipping away, so to speak.”

ENDS