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  • Archive for February, 2012

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th February 2012

    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.

    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).

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, 日本語 | 13 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th February 2012

    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.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 22 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd February 2012

    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.

    Yomiuri: 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.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 24 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th February 2012

    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.

    Posted in Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 37 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th February 2012

    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.

    Jeff Smith: 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: 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…

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 38 Comments »

    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.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th February 2012

    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), 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.

    Mainichi: 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)… 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.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, GAIJIN HANZAI mag, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, 日本語 | 14 Comments »

    Mainichi: NJ held by immigration sharply down after reviewing rules

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th February 2012

    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).

    Mainichi/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… 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…

    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 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.

    Posted in Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Injustice, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, United Nations | 9 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th February 2012

    JT: 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 (for example, 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 Fukushima)? 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:

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Discussions, Good News, Humor | 10 Comments »

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 5, 2012

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th February 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

    Posted in Newsletters | No Comments »

    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”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th February 2012

    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.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 23 Comments »

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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd February 2012

    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.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Tangents | 16 Comments »