GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

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Hi Blog. Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them“, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. It’s taken a while to report on this since The Cabinet took their time putting the meeting’s materials online, but here is the cover page for proceedings, courtesy of http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/dai3/sidai.html

(click to expand image)

Once again, let’s walk through the materials provided. First up, the people (the yuushikisha “people of awareness” experts, presenting their views to the GOJ.  Here are the links:

1.開会
2.中川大臣挨拶
3.議事
  外国人が生活する「現場」での課題、取組について
  (有識者からのヒアリング)
  • 鈴木康友氏 (静岡県浜松市長)
  • 中山弘子氏 (東京都新宿区長)
  • 田村太郎氏 (多文化共生センター大阪代表)
  • 坂本久海子氏(NPO法人愛伝舎理事長)
4.閉会
【配付資料】
 資料1 鈴木氏提出資料
 資料2 中山氏提出資料
 資料3 田村氏提出資料
 資料4 坂本氏提出資料
 参考資料1 第2回検討会議(6月1日)における主な発言
 参考資料2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料3 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料4 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料5 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

As noted in my June 10 post, these are the backgrounds of the presenters:

Mr Suzuki Yasutomo is Mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories; here’s his “manifesto” linked, with emphases on NJ children’s education, proper communication between Hamamatsu gaikokujin shimin (thank you) and the regular sort, and facilities).  Ms Nakayama Hiroko is the Kuchou of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where the famed “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; however, here’s her very well organized and readable “manifesto” for the next four years, which has decent mentions of, yes, “multicultural coexistence” and some proposals to back them up (see policies 51-53)).  Mr Tamura Taro is representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues).  Ms Sakamoto Kumiko is head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.).  They all seem informed and on the level, albeit there is weighting towards dealing with Nikkeis rather than just NJs.  Now let’s look at what they presented to the GOJ:

ITEM ONE:  Hamamatsu Mayor Suzuki’s powerpoint:

Mayor Suzuki opens with an overview of the major changes in the makeup of NJ since 1990, with the doubling of the NJ population and then the drop after the “Lehman Shock” and Fukushima.  Particularly noted was the drop in their (local) Brazilian population (which makes the GOJ’s focus on Nikkei NJ all that more puzzling, given the absence of the Chinese and Filipinas/nos, as the other top NJ (and growing, unlike the Brazilians) at this forum).  Suzuki makes the salient point that cities around Hamamatsu have been cooperating for more than a decade now to create policies helping their NJ residents (e.g., The Hamamatsu Sengen, up to now studiously ignored by the GOJ).  He gives the demographics of his NJ, particularly how long they’ve been here (nearly half for more than 15 years [!]), and that nearly half of them have Permanent Residency (and 83% have long-term visas).  He talks inter alia about Hamamatsu’s measures taken (e.g., Japanese language teaching, in which 89% of teachers are “volunteers” not assisted by the GOJ), and laments that there is no compulsory education for NJ children guaranteed by law [!!].  He also talks about the “lack” (ketsujo, the same word used when decrying a lack of common sense) of unified policy or promotion on the part of the GOJ (particularly singling out the Cabinet for treating NJ as “a laborer problem” and over-focusing on Nikkei [!!!] concerns), and an overall “lack of aim to accept NJ” (gaikokujin no uke ire houshin no ketsujo).  He proposes a) that a joint integrated social policy be created and promoted at the national level; b) that teijuu (Long-Term Residency, a quasi-PR visa hitherto reserved for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians) policies be expanded to all NJ; c) that a “NJ Bureau” (kyoku) be created in the short term, a “NJ Agency” (gaikokujin chou) be created in the medium term; d) that this “coexistence” series of meetings be made continuous; e) that a research council be established with more yuushikisha and people who have experience in education (gakushoku keikensha), and f) that a non-partisan politician group be created within the Diet to debate more on how to accept (uke ire) NJ. [!!!!]

(COMMENT:  Wow.  Let me just interject bowdlerized Hendrix here:  “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy!”)

ITEM TWO:  Shinjuku-ku Head Nakayama’s powerpoint:

Ms. Nakayama opens with a view “from the field” (genba de) of how NJ live their lives (I guess that’s somehow better than having NJ actually there at the meeting).  Her 14-page but very readable powerpoint goes through the statistics of the NJ under her mandate:  11% of all residents (appropriately now worded as juumin) are NJ, with the top three quarters  (37% each) Koreans and Chinese; fewer PRs than the national average (far more people, particularly close to half of all the Chinese, are there on “student” visas (ryuugaku; shuugaku) due to the local J language schools and Waseda), along with a jump (more than doubling) in the number of PRs; a quarter of all NJs live in the (traditionally Korean district) of Ohkubo, and a fifth are young, in their twenties.  Interesting stats, but….  Just when you think this presentation will end as a show-and-tell, we get a few slides on Shinjuku-ku’s attempts at multicultural coexistence policies:  Japanese language training (taught again by volunteers) at their Tabunka Kyousei Plaza, with a paid course (1500-4000 yen per semester) once or twice a week in ten locations, and a multilingual “consultation corner” in English, Korean, Chinese, Burmese, and Thai.  There is some Japanese language teaching for Grade and Jr. High schoolers both at the Ku-level and at some Ku-ritsu schools.  There some “guidelines” handbooks for life and disaster prevention in Korean, Chinese, English, and Japanese, and finally rah-rah the end of the presentation, where she says that we at the local level are doing lotsa stuff to help people, but there’s a limit to what they can do:  We have to come up with a unified philosophy (ri’nen) for how we’re going to systematize social welfare, employment, education, children’s upbringing, and lifestyles for NJ, etc., etc.  There were no grounded proposals beyond that, making Ms Nakayama’s presentation a definite anticlimax to Mayor Suzuki’s suggestions.  In the end, this felt like a bureaucratic presentation justifying budgets.

ITEM THREE:  Multicultural Center Osaka Head Tamura’s powerpoint:

Tamura also opens with the “genba de” view (sorry, must just be the title they were given by the bureaucrats, but Suzuki above shirked it), first introducing his NPO and what it does (promoting daibaashiti; okay, that sounds better to me than the hackneyed and misunderstandable “coexistence”) though its five centers nationwide.  Tamura was deeply involved in the volunteer efforts for relief and recovery in Tohoku area over the past year.  Comes off as a good egg.  Then he gets to his points about NJ residents:  He pointed out three “weak spots” (3 tsu no zeijaku sei) in how NJ live their lives as J residents:  1) a language and customs barrier (i.e., lack of instruction and access to policy), 2) legal recourse (little to no translation systems or personnel, or guaranteed access to education or boards of education), and 3) misunderstandings and prejudices on the part of Japanese society (e.g., “Hey, they came here of their own accord so they can fend for themselves”, or “the increase in NJ threatens our public safety”).  This results in their being excluded from education, employment, accommodation, and welfare.  NJ should not be seen as “weak” in themselves, but rather as in a weakened position in society.  He advocates inter alia that 1) NJ be seen by society not as “temporary stayers” but as “permanent citizens” (eijuu suru shimin — with an effective chart comparing the rise of PR Newcomers over the PR Oldcomers on page 4); 2) gentle and sophisticated (teinei) policies for coexistence be created reflecting the diversity in NJ based upon their specific areas of residence (with four sophisticated models proposed for a) major cities, b) places with high NJ populations, c) suburbs, and d) provinces, quite specific in detail; page 5); 3) four groupings for dealing with the major parties to this issue — the local governments, the national government, the local Japanese residents and industry, and — yes — the NJ communities (finally, an acknowledgment of a sense of domestic ethnic community without it being construed as a threat to Japan); again, quite detailed on page 6); 4) consider the future Japan with one million NJ PRs (nearly at that point already), and what should be done about it — inter alia:  a) consultations with NPOs and local governments, b) not seeing problems as specifically “foreign problems”, c) public acknowledging the good that NJ do for Japanese society, d) social workers that include NJ residents, and e) laws to back up any policies.  [!!!!!]  Very, very good stuff indeed!

ITEM FOUR:  NPO Aidensha Head Sakamoto’s powerpoint:

Sakamoto gave a very thick and academic series of essays that probably put the bureaucrats to sleep, opening with an organizational chart of how NPOs and NGOs relate to society at large in their activities.  She gave an over-detailed laundry list of the activities her NGO has carried out (including how find free computer courses and how to register e-messages; filter, Ms. Sakamoto!).  Amidst some very meaningful jobs Aidensha does (e.g., assisting people out of DV situations, finding housing, assisting with visa and social insurance issues, etc.) was the overwhelming chaff of giving case studies and telling stories about their hard work, when all the audience merely wanted was conclusions and advice.  Her points, when filtered of chaff, useless stats, and photographs were inter a lot of alia, 1) helping non-native speakers of Japanese get around and fend for themselves, 2) educating NJ children, 3) resolving employment and unemployment problems, 4) finding stable lives and residences, and, er… f) we should be nice and respectful to one another.  When we get into what I call “Kumbaya Territory”, you lose the bureaucrats.  I hope somebody patted her on the back for all her hard work, since that’s what it seemed like she wanted.

The other five items at the links above were recap:  Items 1) and 2) were the Minutes and Attendees from the previous meetings (which I covered in my blog entry here), 3) was the schedule of meetings previous and future (the next one will be July 3, with more yuushikisha, and the fifth one will be at a later date and feature interim thoughts on what concrete policies to pursue).  Item 4 tells us who are the scheduled yuushikisha for the July 3 meeting (including — gasp! — an actual NJ, or rather, former NJ, naturalized former Brazilian Angelo Ishi of Musashi University, along with three other regular Japanese academics from Tsukuba, Keio, and Dokkyou Universities).  The final Item 5 was a summary of the points under consideration so far regarding realizing a “Coexistence Society with Foreigners” all over again.  The problems listed therein were also recaps of ones covered in my previous blog entry.

COMMENT:  Alright, this is a positive series of developments, with inputs much better than the first two meetings (it’s a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions, such as Angelo Ishi, thrown in later down the line as an afterthought.  Nevertheless, it’s a good Third Act in this political theatre, where people who contributed to the June 15 Meeting have made their points, two of them saying things I would have said (down to the semantics).  Good.  Still, however, no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

More on the July 3 Meeting when it goes online no doubt in a few weeks.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

NYT: A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands; the overwriting of NJ legacies in Ogasawaras

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Hi Blog.  Many people sent me this important article, and I apologize for the amount of time it took to put it up.  Here we have a fascinating case study of how Japan still to this day decides to overwrite indigenous difference within its own land.  The case here is of the non-Wajin peoples (the Oubeikei, descendants of NJ sailors) on the outlying Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (technically part of Tokyo-to, believe it or not).  Not content to ignore the Oubeikei as minorities in Japan (despite having Japanese citizenship yet NJ ethnic diversity), the system (as witnessed in the non-preservation of history, see below) is now in the process of overwriting them as simply non-existent, thanks to the attrition of mortality.

It’s a common tactic within the “monocultural” meme in Japan:  Simply pretend that diversity doesn’t exist in Japan, and continuously assert that NJ are an exogenous force within Japan’s history with only gaiatsu as an influence (from Commodore Perry on down).  Meanwhile, Western media (and scholarship; don’t forget the legacy of Reischauer) parrots and proliferates this fiction through canards such as the “borrowing” theory, i.e., “Japan borrows ‘things’ [never people] from the outside world and uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them.”  This is how the legacies of NJ as resident and generational contributor to Japanese society are constantly downplayed and transmuted into, e.g., “temporary English teacher”, “temporary fad sportsman”, “temporary advisor/researcher” etc. — all memes that forever see NJ and their descendants as merely exceptional and subsumable with time (as was done with the postwar appearance of “konketsuji” children of US-Japanese liaisons during The Occupation).

And Japan wants the Northern Territories (Kuriles) back?  Imagine what will happen to the Russian residents there?  It’s no longer a world where people can ignore Japan’s past destruction of cultures (cf. the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Korean Kingdom, the indigenous Formosans), but neither can the GOJ simply assume that Asian-looking minorities can be rendered invisible (as many of the Russian residents are Caucasian) like the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese, etc.  have been  Nor can one assume that NJ will be allowed to assimilate properly into Japanese society while maintaining the dignity of diversity, even as the GOJ is now considering when advocating an actual NJ migration policy.  The SOP is still, as is being witnessed below on the Ogasawaras, one of willful ignorance and othering, subsumption, and overwriting of history.

It portends ill for Japan’s future prospects as an international, multicultural, multiethnic society.  Arudou Debito

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A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands
By MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times
Published: June 10, 2012, courtesy lots of people

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9504EED81639F933A25755C0A9649D8B63

CORRECTION APPENDED
CHICHI JIMA, Japan — Every morning, as the sun rises over this remote Pacific Island and its tiny port with typically Japanese low-slung concrete buildings, John Washington commits a quiet act of defiance against the famously insular Japan: he hoists an American flag over his inn.

Mr. Washington, 63, whose white skin and blond hair, which is turning white, mark him as something of an outsider, is a great-great-grandson of the island’s founding father, an American sailor named Nathaniel Savory who set sail in 1830 with a band of adventurers for this island, which was known as a lawless natural wonder.

These days, Mr. Washington’s attempt to evoke that history seems increasingly like an act of desperation. His community — descendants of those settlers — is vanishing as young people leave this isolated outpost, a 25-hour ferry ride from Tokyo in a chain once known as the Bonins, or assimilate, dropping the Anglican religion and English language of their forebears.

”I feel it will all die out with my generation,” Mr. Washington said. ”They don’t teach the history of the Bonin Islands to kids, don’t teach about Nathaniel Savory. The Japanese hide these things.”

And what they are hiding, he says, is a tale as colorful and lurid as it is disputed.

Since it was settled by Mr. Savory’s American and European followers — fortune seekers, deserters, drunkards — and their Hawaiian wives, the island has been pillaged by pirates, gripped by murder and cannibalism, and tugged back and forth between Japan and the United States in their battle for supremacy in the Pacific. There was a brief revival of the island’s Western culture after World War II, when it was ruled by the United States Navy.

Even the island’s V.I.P. visitor list seems outsized for a spit of land just five miles long. It includes Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who stopped here on the 1853 voyage in which he opened Japanese ports at gunpoint, and Jack London, who visited as a 17-year-old deckhand and later wrote about the Bonins.

Today, the island is a sleepy place. Its rhythms are set by the arrival once every six days of the ferry that makes the 600-mile journey from Tokyo, which has administered Chichi Jima as part of what are now known as the Ogasawara Islands, after the United States returned them to Japan in 1968.

About 2,000 people live here, mostly Japanese from the mainland who came after the transfer. Over time, they have overwhelmed the descendants of the original settlers — known here as Obeikei, or the Westerners — who are now estimated to number fewer than 200.

Most of the Obeikei are Japanese citizens. Most of those who still speak English and retain distinctly Western or Polynesian features are over the age of 50.

In a country that prides itself on its homogeneity and avoids tackling uncomfortable situations directly, many of Chichi Jima’s Japanese residents profess to having little knowledge of or interest in the Westerners. They instead focus on running the whale-watching and diving tours for the tourists drawn to a pristine island chain that last year was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Some Japanese residents say the Westerners have made their own lot by being standoffish, using both Western and Japanese names, and pining to return to the ”Navy time” after World War II, when they had the island virtually to themselves.

An old graveyard with Christian tombstones is one of the few visible traces of the Westerners’ history. And the official account of the island’s history, presented at the village-run visitor center, plays down the Westerners’ role in settling the island.

It says the island chain was discovered in 1593 by a samurai named Sadayori Ogasawara, for whom the chain was later named. The ”Euro-American natives” are presented as little more than squatters who occupied what officials say was already Japanese territory, despite a consensus among modern Japanese and Western historians that Ogasawara never visited the islands.

”They are not the same as indigenous natives who have been here for hundreds of years,” said Kazuhiko Ishida, the island’s vice mayor. He said that while no efforts are being made to preserve the Westerners’ culture, they are not mistreated, either.

Westerners agree, but even some of those with close Japanese friends and spouses say feeling marginalized is not much better.

”They call me foreigner,” said Sutanrii Minami, 64, a tour guide who also goes by Stanley Gilley and who looks Polynesian. ”I’m not a foreigner. I was born on this island.”

What is undisputed is that the island was left largely to rule itself until 1875, when Japanese settlers and officials took over in what the historian Daniel Long calls the first act of territorial expansion by a budding Japanese empire.

”Chichi Jima was probably the only case where the island was claimed by an Asian power and the natives were English-speaking Westerners,” said Mr. Long, who has written several books on the island.

It is also agreed upon that the island was untouched when sailors’ tales of an ”uninhabited paradise” drew the 35-year-old Mr. Savory and about 20 settlers. They eked out a living selling provisions to passing Yankee whalers and British warships.

Many visiting captains remarked on the lawlessness of the island, recording tales of murder and polygamy. It also proved vulnerable to pirates, who in 1849 made off with Mr. Savory’s gold — and his wife. Witnesses later told a passing captain that the abduction was a tall tale: they said the woman, who was much younger than Mr. Savory, eagerly joined the marauders, leading them to his hidden wealth.

Islanders say that such raids may have led the settlers to peacefully accept the Japanese as rulers, who treated them with benign neglect.

That changed with the approach of World War II. Although they were not interned, the Westerners were forced to take Japanese names and were watched as possible spies. In 1944, most were evacuated along with the Japanese residents to the mainland, where they say they suffered discrimination.

”We are loyal Japanese, but they treated us as enemies when they saw the color of our faces and our eyes,” said Aisaku Ogasawara, 81, an Anglican pastor who also goes by Isaac Gonzales.

During the war, some of the Western men entered the Japanese Army, joining the garrison that defended the island. They witnessed a different horror, historians say, when eight captured American airmen were beheaded and then eaten by the starving Japanese defenders.

After the war, the United States Navy used the island for a submarine base. The Navy allowed the Western-descended settlers to return in 1946, but Japanese former residents were barred from coming back — possibly because of the nuclear warheads that historians say were stored on the island.

When the island was returned to Japan in 1968, the Westerners were given a choice of becoming either Japanese or American citizens. Many left for the United States.

Some wish that Japan and the United States had allowed them to decide the island’s future themselves.

”This island was returned without our control,” said Rokki Sebori, 52, who also goes by Rocky Savory and runs the island’s cooperative supermarket. ”We still feel in our hearts that this is our island.”

ENDS
Correction: June 17, 2012, Sunday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A picture caption last Sunday with an article about the vanishing community of Americans on Chichi Jima, a remote Pacific island that was founded by an American sailor but turned over to the Japanese in 1968, misstated the given name of a Westerner who served in the American Navy and now runs a bar in the island. He is Rance Ohira, not Lance.
ENDS

Kyodo: Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt, complete with editorial slant blaming NJ for being fickle

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Hi Blog.  The Kyodo article below, on how Indonesian and Filipina nurses and caregivers (even those who have passed the arduous qualifying exam) are leaving Japan anyway, has been featured within the comments section of another Debito.org blog entry (here).  It seems to be gathering steam there, so let me post the article here as a stand-alone, and repost below it the subsequent replies from Debito.org Readers (the really good ones start doing the math, revealing there’s something fishy going on at the administrative level, beyond just blaming the NJ caregivers for not doing what they’re told after all the GOJ bullshit they’ve put up with).

My take on this Kyodo article is about the nasty little editorial slants and needles within.  Particularly nasty is how all otherwise qualified NJ caregivers are suddenly unworthy of emptying Japanese bedpans just because some decide they have a life outside Japan:

Quoth one professor with a PhD in nastiness at Todai (Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education): “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”

Moreover, Kyodo, is this news, or editorializing?  “Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia ‘for personal reasons,’ bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.”  Awww, diddums!

Submitter DeBourca further comments: Honestly, this article is jaw dropping. Care companies are actually upset that foreigners won’t accept indentured servitude on subsistence level wages? And where’s the balance and context? When you’re up against this kind of mindset, how do you go about dealing with it? Where do you even start?

Okay then without further ado, the Kyodo article, then the subsequent comments.  Thanks for making Debito.org a valuable resource for public critique, everyone.  Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt
So far five Indonesians who qualified have returned home
Kyodo
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120620f1.html

When 35 Indonesian caregivers undergoing on-the-job training passed Japan’s qualification examination this year, it was good news for their hosting facilities, which held high hopes they would continue providing much-needed manpower.

Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia “for personal reasons,” bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.

Many blame the government for failing to provide a clear and adequate explanation of the program when recruiting candidates under the free-trade agreement with Indonesia.

Tatsumi Nakayama, who runs a nursing home in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, recalled being astonished when a female Indonesian caregiver who had been training there and passed the exam suddenly said she wanted to go back to Indonesia because she was getting married.

The nursing home began hosting the Indonesian in 2008 as a prospective caregiver, providing on-the-job training as well as paying for her Japanese-language and test-preparation tutorials with the expectation that she would eventually contribute as a core member of its staff.

The total cost, including her ¥180,000 monthly salary, on par with that of Japanese college graduates, came to ¥30 million over four years, according to Nakayama.

While Nakayama said he had been told the foreign caregiver would be working for the facility once she passed the exam, the woman insisted this had not been explained to her and she took off for Indonesia last month.

An official involved in the program, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the government “did not do enough” to ensure thorough understanding of the program’s requirements and the obligations it entails.

Applicants are required to attend briefings held by the Indonesian government prior to coming to Japan, but back in 2008 they were not given any clear explanation regarding what they would be required to do after passing the exam.

Even basic rules, including that they could only continue to work in Japan beyond the four-year training period if they passed the test, had not been mentioned, according to the government official.

In view of the problem, the central government began in November to stipulate in briefing information kits for applicants that candidates are expected, in principle, to work in Japan for a prolonged period after passing the qualification exam.

To improve the low pass rate of foreign applicants taking the exams, the government also decided to grant them more time when taking the tests, starting this fiscal year, and to attach hiragana or katakana for all kanji used in questions.

Of the 104 Indonesian caregivers who came to Japan in 2008, 94 took the qualification exams for the first time in January. Among the 35 who passed, five have left Japan and three others have expressed their intention to do so.

While many cited personal reasons, such as returning home to care for ill family members, there was also one who planned all along to return home regardless of the exam result.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has indicated it plans to conduct a followup investigation but has been slow to act. It has been negative from the beginning about accepting foreign caregivers because they could affect the employment of Japanese workers.

The ministry’s attitude has led to distrust and discontent among many in the nursing business, which is suffering from a shortage of skilled and talented caregivers.

“With all the confusion over the latest issue, I’m worried that the countries that have concluded free-trade agreements (with Japan) will lose their eagerness to send prospective caregivers here,” one industry insider said.

“Perhaps we need to establish a new framework to resolve the issue of securing manpower.”

Commenting on the situation, Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education, said: “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”

Under the agreements concluded by Japan with Indonesia and the Philippines, nurses and caregivers from the two countries can undergo on-the-job training in Japan for several years and continue working in the country if they pass the national qualification exams within a designated period.

But the kanji and technical terms employed are believed to pose a considerable hurdle for foreign applicants, whose pass rates remain significantly lower than Japanese applicants.

ENDS

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COMMENTS 

Jim Di Griz Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 12:27 pm   edit

@ DeBourca #21

Very interesting article.
It’s the ‘this is Japan’ as veil for culture of abuse syndrome in action again.
They spent all that money training Indonesian nurses, then gave them a (wait for it) 180,000 yen a month salary (wow!), and then complain that the Indonesians ‘didn’t understand their obligation to Japan’ by going home, instead of staying for ‘a prolonged period’.
If they want workers to stay, the have to offer a salary and conditions that are attractive enough. Talking about ‘obligation’ is just empty words to reinforce (as the article comments) that these are non-Japanese nurses and therefore unsuitable in some way. Just excuses for lack of policy.

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DeBourca Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 4:19 pm   edit
@Jim
Thanks for the comments.What fascinates me is the mindset. Employers all over the world exploit their workers, but in Japan there still seems to be the view that the Victorian industrialists held; By providing employment, employers are providing vital services to society and individuals by keeping them “occupied”; Hell, we should be paying them!
There is a very good article by Philip Brasor (who occasionally posts here?) on the JT about an incidence of suicide-induced “karoshi” (that term is fascinating in itself) at the Watami company. It lifts the lid on policy regarding forcing employees to work inhuman amounts of overtime. The company president basically shrugged his shoulders and blamed the employee. He didn’t even see the need to publicly address the issue; What had he done wrong?
The questions in my previous post were not rhetorical BTW. I’m interested in trying to understand this mentality (pathology?) and why it is so accepted in Japan.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ds Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 8:20 pm   edit

Jim;

I think you read the article wrong. The 180,000 salary was paid during their training/studying for 4 years, not the wage offered upon graduation. Plus, as the article said, this was on par with what Japanese were paid for the same job. It seems a reasonable stipend to be paid while studying. Not far under what some eikaiwa teachers/ALTs make actually.

As for the ‘obligation’ to stay, this was poor management on the part of the Japanese trainers. The expectations needed to be written explicitly rather than implied. It’s only natural that a certain number of the caregivers (particularly women) would want to go home regardless of the result of their training and exams.

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

Jim Di Griz Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 10:49 pm   edit

@ DeBourca #23

Yes, you are right.
My opinion (very short version) is this;

Meiji-era Japan re-invented itself as a modern industrialized state, and the idea of working yourself to death for the company (and by extension, the country) was a duty to prevent Japan being colonized by the West, and to help Japan catch-up with the West. Patriotic duty. This mentality has left too large a mark on modern Japan. The collapse of Imperialist ideology saw the replacement of ‘catch-up’ with the West recast in terms such as ‘duty to rebuild the nation’ after the war. Why can’t they stop? Because ‘this is Japan!’ The headless chicken marches on…

Western nations (on the other hand) went through the industrialization process hand-in-hand with the democratization process that the oppressed workers demanded and fought for (see; Luddites and The Tollpuddle Matyrs). Any attempt by Meiji-era Japanese workers to protest for rights at work were crushed as being ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘due to traitorous external influences’, and therefore ‘not Japanese qualities’.

Someone wrote a good book about this that I read as an undergrad, if I remember the name, I will post it.

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

TJJ Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 11:45 pm   edit

“The total cost, including her ¥180,000 monthly salary, on par with that of Japanese college graduates, came to ¥30 million over four years, according to Nakayama.”

Well, the article fails to mention that that nursing candidate probably (almost certainly) had an Indonesian nursing qualification and experience already. So to compare them to Japanese college graduates in terms of salary is … unfair.

But the numbers are interesting. The total before tax income for the nurse would be 8,640,000 Yen over 4 years (2,160,000 per year). That leaves 21,360,000 of the total expenses, being 30,000,000 according to the article, unaccounted for. So over two thirds of the total cost goes to Japanese companies that ‘train’ etc. Business as usual in Japan.

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

Scipio Says:
June 22nd, 2012 at 9:29 am   edit

TJJ Says:
But the numbers are interesting. The total before tax income for the nurse would be 8,640,000 Yen over 4 years (2,160,000 per year). That leaves 21,360,000 of the total expenses, being 30,000,000 according to the article, unaccounted for. So over two thirds of the total cost goes to Japanese companies that ‘train’ etc.

Thanks TJJ, I was doing the math and was thinking that it must be me and my bad math because the figures looked absolutely crazy.

As others have said this mindset of the article was totally jaw dropping. ‘Those third world workers, how ungrateful they are after all we’ve done for them’.
Crazy, totally crazy…The slant in the article borders on the childishly subjective. ‘We Japanese were not the cause of the misunderstanding and we have bent over backwards to accomodate these trainees’ (Note. Most of these trainees were qualified caregivers in their home country before they came here).

I would like someone to interview these non-Japanese caregivers who passed the exam and have chosen to return to home home countries, and ask then for their reasons for returning. Rather than having an article of reported speech journalism in the third person, where others speak for them. Maybe the reason this hasn’t been done is that the Japanese might not like the answers.

As a final point, let’s not forget this is the foreign caregivers, not the foreign nurses, whose exam has a much lower pass rate.

ends

 

Japan Times LIFELINES guest columnist Dr Berger on “Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan”. Seems grounded in stereotypes.

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader Giantpanda sent the following as a blog comment, but let me open it up for discussion as a post of its own:

The Lifelines column in the Japan Times today features what could be an extremely interesting question – NJ dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan. However, the writer [psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Berger of the Meguro Counseling Center] seems to place all the blame on NJ who end up developing depression or other psychological problems as a result of social exclusion on the NJ themselves. General message seems to be: Can’t cope? It’s not any fault of Japanese society. You are just nuts, or not ‘resilient’ enough. Can’t make friends? Hang in there for a few more years and “keep your expectations in check”. Oh, and get yourself a girlfriend. Those are much easier to come by than Japanese friends.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120619ll.html

Did anyone else get the sense this was patronising to the extreme, and blames the victims for their own predicament?

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I’m afraid I did a bit. There seemed to be too much generalization of interaction based upon stereotypes of Japanese people (and the presumption that the inmates have not in fact taken over the asylum). I think the good Doctor has read too much Reischauer or Jack Seward (he lost me when he brought in the “saving face” cultural chestnut).  I know, I’ve commented at length before on friendships in Japan, but I hope I came off as a bit more sophisticated than Dr. Berger’s analysis.

What do others think?  I’m genuinely curious.  Opening this up for Discussion (meaning I moderate more loosely, remember), Arudou Debito

EXCERPT OF ARTICLE FOLLOWS:

The Japan Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

LIFELINES
Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan

By DOUGLAS BERGER
Q: As mental health professionals dealing chiefly with native English-speakers in Tokyo, do you often have to deal with people who feel isolated and excluded in Japan, e.g. long-termers who have failed to “fit in” here, as in they lack Japanese friends, despite knowing the language, culture and so on?

A: Anyone who has been in Japan for a while has met other foreigners who have been in the country a long time. Some of these people do well socially and psychologically over the years and some do not. Some of these individuals may indeed come to our clinic, and while the people we see usually have either had a depression from before coming to Japan or experienced a worsening of their depression while here, there are certainly others who have a general social isolation but are not necessarily depressed. What might separate those who do well from those that do not?

First, we can look at psychiatric illnesses like anxiety or depression. Those with such conditions often have an inability to enjoy things, low energy and concentration, and their sleep and appetite may be disturbed. These problems often run in families. While social success may help mitigate them, they may still affect anyone regardless of their length of stay in Japan, number of friends, or other aspects of social success. People with these conditions require some kind of intensive psychiatric intervention.

Among those who do not have a specific mental illness, some seem to do well generally being alone, while others seem desperate to connect with people. This may relate to attachment needs that everyone has and that are probably innate. We have all seen some toddlers who are happy to explore their environment and others who cry whenever they are separated from their mother. Attachment needs do not completely disappear in adults.

Getting back to being a foreigner in Japan, those people with high attachment needs who see that Japanese readily group together and seem to make close friendships with each other may be disappointed if they then have an expectation that they will also easily form these kinds of social circles, particularly if they do not first understand Japanese social structure and modify their interactions and expectations accordingly. This is because Japanese social structure works on a group-affiliation basis where formality, saving face and etiquette are valued highly, especially with guests. People who grew up together, who went to the same school or entered a corporation at the same time, or who have family ties, etc., have a basis to affiliate easily.

It is extremely difficult for a non-Japanese to fit into this social structure as few non-Japanese have these close affiliations and, by definition, none are in the superset group of being Japanese. It is very common to hear how well someone was treated at a welcome party or on a short trip to Japan and then later hear that they felt excluded. This is because they confused politeness and formality with deep warmth. Deep warmth and close friendship will require the person to engage with their Japanese circles for a long time.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120619ll.html

China’s crackdown on foreigners called “xenophobic” by CNN columnist. Yet Japan’s been overtly doing the same to its NJ for generations without similar criticism.

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Hi Blog.  Today’s post is about geopolitics and concomitant media attitudes.  Here we have an American media outlet (CNN) publishing a Old China Hand’s fears about the “specter of xenophobia” in China because of a crackdown on “illegal foreigners”.

Fine, make that case.  I would agree.  It does encourage xenophobia.

But note how what China is doing (and for what has been announced as a temporary amount of time, but nevertheless the precedent has been set) is what Japan’s been doing for years, if not generations, to its foreigners:  Random racial profiling street ID “spot checks”.  Police hotlines to report “suspicious foreigners”.  Preemptive measures during high-profile events to promote “public security”.  Public funds for ferreting out “foreign criminals” through “foreign DNA” testing research (oh, wait, AFAIK that’s just Japan).  The CNN author’s citations back to the Boxer Rebellion and public resentment towards “foreign devils” in Mao’s China may be a tad alarmist (and any historian could match those with Japan’s occasional ee ja nai ka anti-Christian demonstrations and the anti-foreign propaganda during WWII Japan (cf. Dower, War Without Mercy) — and then fear a backslide into bad habits), but the point is this:

Why does China get harshly criticized for this yet Japan once again gets a free pass?  Well, geopolitics, of course.  Japan is a trusted ally, China is an untrustworthy adversary.  CNN, your bias is showing.  But it would be nice if the media could see the parallels sometime and similarly admonish Japan away from its xenophobia.  Given Japan’s ultrasensitivity to foreign media opinion, it might even deter.  Arudou Debito

(PS: Note how China’s official media mouthpiece also treats non-citizens as “guests”.  Why isn’t that made an issue of?  Is the Guestism discourse that dominant and accepted even for our CNN columnist?)

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

China’s crackdown on foreigners raises specter of xenophobia – CNN.com
By Jaime A. FlorCruz, CNN
June 3, 2012 — Updated 0506 GMT (1306 HKT)
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/03/world/asia/china-foreigner-crackdown-florcruz/index.html?hpt=hp_c2
CNN.com, courtesy of MS and AJ

Editor’s note: “Jaime’s China” is a weekly column about Chinese society and politics. Jaime FlorCruz has lived and worked in China since 1971. He studied Chinese history at Peking University (1977-81) and was TIME Magazine’s Beijing correspondent and bureau chief (1982-2000).

Beijing (CNN) — “Does this mean I must now carry my passport everyday?” my wife Ana wondered aloud with a mix of bemusement and exasperation.

She was reacting to news reports that Beijing had started a 100-day campaign to “clean out” expatriates illegally living or working in the Chinese capital.

Until the end of August the Beijing Public Security Bureau has decreed that all resident foreigners are expected to show their passports for “spot checks” of visas and resident permits.

Hinting at stern measures for violators, a campaign poster features an image of a giant fist.

Police have conducted a sweep of communities where expatriates frequently congregate, like the university belt and the Sanlitun district of the city, which boasts an eclectic array of shops, restaurants and bars.

But finding violators may not be easy. There are almost 200,000 foreign residents in Beijing on short-term or long-term visas, according to the Beijing Morning Post, which quotes police sources.

Mood darkens amid crackdown on ‘illegal foreigners’

The campaign has enlisted the help of the Chinese public, who can call a telephone hotline to report “suspicious foreigners.” Violators will be fined, detained or even deported.

However, the crackdown has made the expat community in Beijing uneasy, with many wondering why the authorities have decided to take action now.

China watchers wonder whether this is simply a preemptive measure to ensure security and stability months before the Communist Party hold its once-a-decade leadership transition later this year. A similar sweep was conducted several months before Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Others see the high profile campaign as yet another hint of the xenophobic tendencies in the “Middle Kingdom.”

Days before the police campaign commenced, shocking videos purportedly showing a British national sexually abusing a Chinese woman went viral on cyberspace. It prompted an avalanche of angry posts on social-networking sites.

Soon after the campaign was announced, Chinese TV anchor Yang Rui poured gasoline onto the fire when he posted scornful comments on his microblog calling for the expulsion of “foreign scum.”

Some observers say China has good reason to go after law-breaking foreigners. “The crackdown makes sense in the light of the large number of illegal migrants that have made it into China, some of whom may have been involved in illegal or violent activities,” said David Zweig, a professor at Hong Kong University’s Department of Science and Technology.

But he said foreigners should be treated fairly and equally, according to law.

Crucially, the crackdown seems to be popular with many ordinary Chinese.

“Of course we should send home those foreigners who have entered illegally, just as we Chinese won’t be allowed in other countries without legal documents,” one Beijing resident told CNN.

“To be a strong nation, you need not just a good economy but also strong diplomatic policies,” said another. “That shows a nation’s self-respect and dignity.”

Another resident was more blunt: “China as a big nation should get tougher. We’ve been too soft for too long.”

As China’s economic and military might grow, the people’s pride and nationalistic feelings rise.

There’s nothing wrong with promoting patriotism, experts say, but they warn against chauvinism. “The Chinese have to be careful about underlying chauvinism which can lead them to behave inappropriately towards foreigners in the country, and in their foreign policy,” said Zweig.

During the last century, China experienced how nationalism led to xenophobia during the Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s — when groups of peasants banded together to rid the country of foreign influences — and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when Mao Zedong attempted to reassert revolutionary values in China by purging what he described as bourgeois influences.

No one wants to experience xenophobia. I have seen how ugly it can be.

Like most foreigners who lived in China in the 1970s, I saw a closed, xenophobic society riddled with ingrained racial stereotypes. Foreigners in Beijing were virtually quarantined.

While we enjoyed special privileges, such as access to special “friendship stores”, train compartments, hospital wards and beach resorts, we were cut off from spontaneous contact with ordinary people. Diplomats and journalists were segregated in gated “foreigners’ compounds”, which we use to call foreign ghettos.

Local residents resented such special treatment. They often targeted foreigners with scorn and disdain. Foreigners were disparagingly referred “waiguo guizi” (foreign devils).

Although infrequent, I do remember an anti-foreign backlash that led to occasional altercations and even rioting.

To be sure, China has changed significantly since Deng Xiaoping launched his market reform and open-door policies in 1978. Over the years it has gradually integrated into the global village through diplomacy, trade, tourism, academic exchanges and the media.

But some expatriates in Beijing still detect anti-foreign tendencies. “I find it difficult to understand why resentment is aimed at foreigners in general rather than at those who break the law or behave badly, regardless of nationality,” said one.

“There is definitely an issue of Chinese having stereotypical views on foreigners, and a very clear us-versus-them attitude,” said another. Neither person wished to be identified.

China scholars believe many Chinese still harbor racist tendencies and lack the open-minded tradition of self-reflection when they feel or express such views. “This lack of self-reflection,” Zweig opined, “allows for anti-foreignism to lurk under the surface.”

That partly explains why, in its long and checkered history, China has capriciously swung from a sentimental love-affair with things foreign to angry rejection — and back again.

Is xenophobia rearing its head again?

“This is not xenophobia,” a recent China Daily editorial stated. “It is people’s desire to live in a civilized society. Our government is under an obligation to make sure citizens live in a law-abiding country. The ongoing action against illegal immigration in no way compromises our hospitality to foreign guests.”

That is the kind of reassurance that expatriates in China badly need.

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

PRC’s response:

Home / Opinion / Editorials
Foreigners are still welcome
Updated: 2012-05-25 07:54 ( China Daily) Courtesy of MS and CNN
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2012-05/25/content_15384118.htm

Just as some in the West have wondered why most people here didn’t share their obsession with Chen Guangcheng, some people here have difficulty understanding the latest allegation that we are xenophobic.

Of course we feel wronged. We are anything but.

There are even some who feel that we have been friendlier to foreigners than to our own citizens.

If a few foreigners feel mistreated in China and conclude that we hate foreigners, or a few Chinese people feel that foreigners enjoy preferential treatment, it is only natural in a country with such diversity.

But when foreign media amplify such sentiments out of all proportion it is different, as normal public indignation at some foreign individuals’ misconduct is transformed into a “deep-rooted nationalistic hatred” for foreigners, and a routine crackdown against illegal immigration is castigated for being a crusade against all foreigners.

It is true the distasteful conduct of a couple of foreign nationals toward two Chinese women has provoked angry comments on the Web. And true, a nationwide action launched before the incident is still underway to clamp down on people who have entered the country illegally. But such occurrences are not unique to this country.

What is not true is the expat community in China is living in fear, as some overseas reports seem to suggest.

You would think that for those to whom the words “freedom of speech” come so readily to their lips would be tolerant of others’ words, even if those words seem less than friendly to their ears. But instead it seems such utterances are enough to incriminate the entire nation.

It is natural to criticize anyone who ignores basic social decencies and to prosecute someone who breaks the law.

And those countries accusing China of xenophobia for tackling illegal immigration should cast the beams out of their own eyes first as their immigration policies are a great deal harsher and stricter than ours.

Foreign nationals in China have nothing to fear as long as they have valid visas and do not break the law. Instead of receiving hostility or a cold shoulder as their home media try to suggest, they will continue to be treated as welcome guests.

China is not xenophobic, nor will it be because it aspires for more exchanges with others. Perhaps the overseas media’s portrayals of China’s hatred are really just a manifestation of their own xenophobia.

(China Daily 05/25/2012 page8)
ENDS

The Govinda (Mainali) miscarriage of justice murder case ruled for retrial after 15 years, so Immigration deports him. But there’s more intrigue.

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Hi Blog. Making headlines this past week has been the Govinda Mainali Murder Case, a cause celebre I’ve known about for years (thanks to a very active domestic support group with regular mailings in Japanese). It’s come to a head, where DNA evidence has finally cast enough doubt on the evidence behind the conviction (see Yomiuri article immediately below), and it’s come to light (see Japan Times editorial below) that the prosecution withheld (or didn’t bother to have tested) vital evidence from the court (yes, they can do that in Japan) that would have exonerated him. It also put him in double jeopardy, meaning trying him more than once for the same crime (technically illegal, but yes, they can do that in Japan), reversing a not-guilty decision in lower court. As if that wasn’t enough, note the date of the Yomiuri article below stating the negative DNA test (July 2011) — meaning it only took Japan’s criminal justice system about a year for him to finally get his retrial, on top of the 15 years he’s been incarcerated. And after all that, now that it looks like Govinda is going to have his name cleared, Immigration is just going to deport him. The police in Japan are sore losers.  (At least Sugaya Toshikazu, in a very similar situation to Govinda, got an apology in 2009 from public prosecutors, not deportation.)

Now, check out the details in Terrie’s Take below, where the plot really thickens because the murder victim, a prostitute in her off-hours, was an employee with TEPCO (yes, that TEPCO) with names of some high-level clients in her address books…

As Terrie Lloyd notes below (as have I in the Japan Times), the already prosecutor-heavy criminal justice system in Japan is even more so if the suspect is a NJ.  More and more it looks like Govinda Mainali was actually a patsy for the powerful because he was a convenient foreigner for the Japanese police to pin this on. I’ve already discussed in detail before how Japan’s criminal investigation system is fully stacked against NJ victims (start here with the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases, then progress to the Suraj Case, where the police have still gotten away with murder). The Govinda Case is yet another case study for everyone to remember for when the NJ are potential perps.  Can’t win either way once the Japanese police get their hands on you. Arudou Debito

////////////////////////////////////////
東電OL事件、再審の可能性…別人DNA検出
読売新聞 2011年7月21日(木)3時1分配信
Courtesy of CJ
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20110721-00000090-yom-soci

東京都渋谷区で1997年に起きた東京電力女性社員殺害事件で、強盗殺人罪により無期懲役が確定したネパール国籍の元飲食店員ゴビンダ・プラサド・マイナリ受刑者(44)が裁判のやり直しを求めた再審請求審で、東京高検が、被害者の体から採取された精液などのDNA鑑定を行った結果、精液は同受刑者以外の男性のもので、そのDNA型が殺害現場に残された体毛と一致したことがわかった。

「(マイナリ受刑者以外の)第三者が被害者と現場の部屋に入ったとは考えがたい」とした確定判決に誤りがあった可能性を示す新たな事実で、再審開始の公算が出てきた。

この事件でマイナリ受刑者は捜査段階から一貫して犯行を否認。同受刑者が犯人であることを直接示す証拠はなく、検察側は状況証拠を積み上げて起訴した。

2000年4月の1審・東京地裁判決は「被害者が第三者と現場にいた可能性も否定できない」として無罪としたが、同年12月の2審・東京高裁判決は逆転有罪とし、最高裁で03年11月に確定した。

マイナリ受刑者は05年3月、東京高裁に再審を請求した。

同高裁は今年1月、弁護側からの要請を受け、現場から採取された物証についてDNA鑑定の実施を検討するよう検察側に求めた。これを受け、東京高検が精液などのDNA鑑定を専門家に依頼していた。
最終更新:7月21日(木)3時1分

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

The Japan Times Friday, June 8, 2012
Mainali granted retrial, is let out of prison
DNA evidence of another man looks set to clear Nepalese
By MINORU MATSUTANI, Staff writer
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120608a1.html

The Tokyo High Court said Thursday it will retry Govinda Prasad Mainali, 45, a Nepalese man serving life in prison for the 1997 robbery-murder of a 39-year-old woman, because a DNA test in July contradicted the justification for its guilty verdict.

The high court also said Thursday Mainali’s sentence will be halted. He was later released from a Yokohama prison. He is expected to soon be placed in immigration custody for deportation, as he has been convicted of visa violations.

“We would like to express respect to the high court’s prompt and appropriate decision even though there was no room for doing otherwise,” Mainali’s attorneys said in a prepared statement.

“Prosecutors should comply with the decision, for doing so is in compliance with prosecutors’ philosophy: ‘Prosecutors must not regard guilty verdicts as their purpose and heavy punishments as their achievement.’ “

The Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office immediately filed an objection to the court’s decision, with deputy chief Toshihiko Itami saying the decision was “totally unacceptable.”

One of his lawyers quoted Mainali as saying, “I am glad I found a judge who believes my innocence and truth.”

His wife, Radha, 42, expressed her gratitude at a news conference in Tokyo. His daughter, Alisha, 19, said the past 15 years were “very long and dark.” They came to Japan with another of Govinda’s daughters, Mithila, 21.

The victim, a Tokyo Electric Power Co. employee whose name was withheld and who engaged in prostitution at night, was found dead March 19, 1997, in a vacant apartment in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Mainali, who lived nearby, was arrested four days later on suspicion of overstaying his visa. He was later charged with murdering and robbing the woman, after police learned that Mainali was an acquaintance of hers, had a key to the flat and because a used condom found in the toilet at the scene contained semen that matched his DNA.

The district court acquitted Mainali in April 2000 because prosecutors failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A urologist also testified that the semen in the condom greatly predated the day of the slaying. The court added there were several unclear points, including two strands of hair found on the victim that came from a third party.

However, when prosecutors appealed his acquittal, the Tokyo High Court found Mainali guilty in December 2000 and sentenced him to life behind bars even though no new evidence was presented. The high court said “it is difficult to think someone other than” Mainali brought her to the vacant apartment where she was slain and called his testimony unreliable.

The Supreme Court finalized the sentence three years later.

Mainali’s coming retrial is based on DNA tests carried out on semen found in and on the victim. It was that of another man and matched the hair fibers.

Prosecutors often appeal lower court-meted acquittals because they imply the case will be brought before a high or the Supreme Court, and thus do not violate the law against double jeopardy.

Japan, like many nations, bans double jeopardy, but the judicial system considers district court, high court and Supreme Court trials of the same party for the same alleged offense to be separate trials, unlike in other countries where the verdict in the trial of first instance stands.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120608a1.html

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

The Japan Times Tuesday, June 12, 2012

EDITORIAL
Don’t delay justice any longer
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ed20120612a1.html

The Tokyo High Court on June 7 decided to retry a Nepalese man serving a life sentence for the 1997 robbery-murder of a 39-year-old woman in Tokyo on the strength of new evidence and he was released at the court’s order. But the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office immediately filed an objection. The prosecutors office should refrain from any further moves to delay the start of the retrial because the high court decision is based on DNA evidence that suggests that the perpetrator was not Mainali.

A female employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. was found dead in a vacant apartment in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya Ward, on March 19, 1997. Govinda Prasad Mainali, now 44, living nearby, was arrested four days later based on the fact that he had a key to the apartment and that semen left in a condom found in the apartment’ toilet matched his DNA. Mainali has consistently denied the charges.

The Tokyo District Court in April 2000 found him innocent. It said that it was not clear whether the condom was used at the time the crime was committed and that two strands of hair found on the victim came from a third party. But the Tokyo High Court in December the same year found him guilty primarily on the grounds that a notebook owned by the woman, who meticulously kept records on men she had sexual intercourse with, contained no reference to the condom in question.

Semen was also found inside the woman’s body. Its blood type matched that of another man, but the prosecution did not carry out a DNA test on the grounds that the amount was so small, and given the technological limits at the time, a DNA test was impossible.

In hearings to request a retrial for Mainali, his defense counsel called for a DNA test on the semen. A DNA test in July 2011 found that it did not match Mainali’s DNA, but that it did match the DNA of a strand of hair left on the carpet at the scene and a blood stain on the victim’s coat. These findings suggest that a different man was in the apartment when the crime was committed. The high court said that the findings constitute enough new evidence for a court to overturn the original guilty ruling against Mainali and render a not-guilty ruling.

Long after Mainali was found guilty, it was revealed that the prosecution had withheld critical evidence concerning the semen, the bloodstain and saliva found on the victim’s breast. A law should be enacted that requires the prosecution to reveal all its evidence to the court and the defense lawyers, and to punish all public prosecutors who do not comply. A system also should be devised to preserve evidence indefinitely for future testing if needed.

ENDS

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

Order issued to deport Nepalese man granted retrial over 1997 Tokyo murder
TOKYO, June 11, 2012 Kyodo, courtesy of JK
Order issued to deport Nepalese man granted retrial over 1997 Tokyo murder
http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2012/06/163137.html

Immigration authorities on Monday issued an order to deport a Nepalese man who has been granted a retrial after the Tokyo High Court decided last Thursday to reopen the case of the murder of a Japanese woman in Tokyo in 1997.

Godinda Prasad Mainali, 45, who arrived in Japan in 1994, was convicted of overstaying his visa in 1997. Ongoing deliberations for a retrial will continue even with his absence from Japan.

On the order issued by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, Mainali is expected ot soon leave Japan along with his wife Radha, 42, and their two daughters Mithila, 20, and Alisha, 18, who came to Japan from Nepal last week.

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

Mainali to be deported soon

NHK World June 12, 2012, courtesy of JK

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/20120611_24.html

A Nepalese man who was granted a retrial in the murder of a Japanese woman 15 years ago will leave for home soon.

Japan’s Immigration Bureau issued a deportation order for Govinda Prasad Mainali on Monday.

Mainali was released from prison and sent to an immigration facility in Yokohama after a Tokyo court granted his retrial. He had been serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder that took place in the capital.

Sources say Mainali wants to return to Nepal at his expense together with his wife and 2 daughters. The three came to Japan last week.

The Immigration Bureau plans to deport Mainali as soon as he is issued a passport by the Nepalese Embassy and his plane tickets are ready.

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

Nepalese Man Granted Retrial Ordered to Leave Japan

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2012061100400

Tokyo, June 11 2012 (Jiji Press)–The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau’s Yokohama branch issued a deportation order Monday to a Nepalese man who was granted a retrial and released Thursday after being jailed for the murder of a Japanese woman in 1997.
Govinda Prasad Mainali, 45, has been in custody at the immigration office as his prison sentence for the killing of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. <9501> employee was halted. [sic]
Mainali is expected to return to Nepal on Tuesday at the earliest.
The office decided to deport Mainali, convicted of violating the immigration control law, as he wished to return home in an interview, officials said.
He is to return to Nepal after the Nepalese embassy in Tokyo issues a passport which he has sought.
(2012/06/11-13:40)

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

Japan Times Monday, June 11, 2012
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120611a3.html

Mainali faces difficult readjustment after 15 years in prison
Kyodo
KATHMANDU — The elder brother of a Nepalese man granted a retrial in Japan after serving 15 years in prison for the 1997 murder of a Japanese woman expects his sibling’s rehabilitation to be a challenge.

Indra Mainali, 54, who is waiting for Govinda Prasad Mainali’s return to Nepal, said while the Tokyo High Court’s decision on Thursday to grant a retrial has ended a chapter in Govinda’s suffering, another chapter of less tangible suffering is about to begin.

Govinda’s daughters felt during conversations with their father last week that 15 years of imprisonment have inflicted heavy psychological and emotional damage on their father, Indra said.

Mithila, 20, and Alisha, 18, met their father twice last week, the first time in prison and the second time at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau’s Yokohama office, where he is currently in custody awaiting deportation. Including these meetings, the daughters have met their father only three times over the past 15 years.

After his long imprisonment, Govinda, 45, seemed very worried about how he will adjust to his family and social life, said Indra, who took over responsibility of Govinda’s family after his arrest and conviction in Japan.

Indra said his brother had not expected that he would leave prison the day he was granted a retrial.

According to Indra, prison security personnel suddenly told Mainali late afternoon on Thursday to pack his things and get ready.

They did not allow him time to say goodbye to other inmates.

They did not tell him that he was being released. Later, a police officer arrived at the prison and drove him to the immigration office.

“We expect in him a number of psychological (problems) and problems related to his rehabilitation in family and society…We will just try our best to bring him back to normalcy,” Indra said.
Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120611a3.html

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

TERRIE’S TAKE

TT-665 — Govinda Mainali – Justice 15 Years Too Late, ebiz news from Japan
http://www.japaninc.com/tt665_Govinda_Mainali–justice_15_years_too_late

Last week something happened that we never expected to see:
the release of Govinda Prasad Mainali, a Nepalese who has
been in prison on and off since 1997. Mainali was released
to Immigration authorities, who are going to deport him for
overstaying his visa back in 1997, because the Tokyo High
Court finally agreed to a retrial of Mainali after new DNA
evidence.

Japan has an extremely high conviction rate for many
reasons, including some not to be proud of. One of these is
the willingness of the courts to hear prosecution testimony
with greater belief than anything the defense may say.
Particularly problematic is the acceptance of “induced”
confessions as if they were fact, even if the other
evidence is not sufficiently supported by actual facts.

Further, the conviction rate of foreigner suspects (you
definitely don’t want to be one) is a foregone conclusion,
with seemingly little or no interest by the courts about
who actually committed the crime when a foreigner is offered
up as the perp. There are a number of recorded cases where
the courts have actually SAID there has been insufficient
evidence for an ordinary conviction, but none-the-less
have convicted the defendant anyway, simply because the
prosecutors said they did it.

Unfortunately the Japanese police, immigration, and
prosecutors have the ability to “disappear” suspects for
days or even months while they mercilessly interrogate them
so as to extract a confession. This is not just a foreigner
thing. The abuse of this system became so bad that several
years ago new laws were pushed through that now require
prosecutors to record their interrogation interviews.
However, this doesn’t force them to treat the suspect
humanely and there are still lots of ways for them to
induce a confession outside of the actual interrogation.
And, well, the recorder could always just run out of
batteries…

The case of Govinda Mainali is particularly distressing,
and reminds all foreigners that through seemingly innocent
circumstances we could just as easily be caught up in a
similar situation. Reading about his case makes you feel
like we’re living in an emerging economy in the Middle East
rather than a first-world country like Japan. In
particular, we feel that his is a case where his race and
foreignness played a large part in how he was treated. At
the same time we concede that Japan does not have a
monopoly on unfair treatment by the courts. There are
plenty of examples in the UK and USA to compare.

The background to his case is that he was a restaurant
worker in Shibuya and who shared an apartment with four
others. Unfortunately for him, he started seeing a local
hooker, Yasuko Watanabe, and struck up a relationship with
her. By all accounts they didn’t see each other often, but
at some point he helped her get access to a vacant
apartment near his, and she used to take her customers
there — four men a night, virtually every night. What is
weird is that she was leading a double life and by day was
a highly paid researcher for Tokyo Electric Power Co.
(TEPCO). When she was found murdered in the vacant
apartment, Mainali became the prime suspect by virtue of
the fact that he had a key to the apartment and that his
name was in her diary.

The problem for Mainali is that he lied initially, saying
he didn’t know her, which of course made the police
suspicious. At some point he changed his story and agreed
that he’d slept with her, but the damage was done. The fact
that he lied wasn’t surprising, considering he was an
overstayer and was no doubt fearful of what might happen to
him, but once he started down that slippery slope, the
prosecutors pieced together all the circumstantial evidence
and decided they had their man.

Mainali had good lawyers, however, who decided there was
an injustice being done and made a crusade out of getting him
freed. In 2000 his case was thrown out by the Tokyo
District Court for lack of evidence. At that point, if he
was a Japanese he would have been let go, but because the
outstanding deportation order, the Prosecutor’s office
successfully had him kept in jail while they appealed to a
higher court. With the second trial he was found guilty and
sentenced. A subsequent Supreme Court appeal also failed.

It was only after 15 long years of appeals by Mainali’s
lawyer and a change of judge, that the prosecutor’s office
was forced to admit they had untested sperm samples in
a freezer. Just recently they reluctantly and finally
tested the DNA from the victim and they found — guess what
— the DNA wasn’t his.

What is interesting is that Yasuko Watanabe kept meticulous
records of her customers, and on that list was one of her
bosses at TEPCO, where she worked. Who else was she seeing?
Was Mainali a fall-guy for something deeper and darker?
There are various Japanese websites that speculate that
Watanabe in her day job, having written a number of damning
internal reports about nuclear power risks at TEPCO,
coupled with an affair with one of her bosses (possibly the
current Chairman of the company), meant that she was
silenced by the Yakuza on the behalf of “someone”.

Another key point, and the reason for Mainali’s release was
the fact that the Prosecutor’s office seemingly never
revealed to several appeal courts (the High Court and the
Supreme Court) that they didn’t do a DNA test on sperm
inside the victim’s body. Given how crucial it was to the
case, how is that even possible?

Anyway, Mainali is now going to be deported. No word yet on
whether he is going to be allowed back to represent himself
at the re-trial, and certainly if we were him, we wouldn’t
be planning to come back to Japan, ever. However, at that
hearing, if he is found not guilty through lack of
evidence, as he was back in 2000, then there is the small
issue of compensation. If he was in some other countries,
he might be able to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars
in mental anguish, physical hardship, and lost earnings.

But this is Japan, and in one case a South American woman
who was arrested by the Chiba Prefectural Police was
illegally confined at a hotel for 10 days until they got an
arrest warrant (god knows what actually went on at the
hotel). She was awarded JPY2m in compensation for wrongful
detention. It didn’t do her much good, though, as the court
still imprisoned her on her hotel confession even though
she retracted it once they properly charged her. She got 8
years and has no doubt been deported by now…

We wish Mainali the best of luck with the rest of his life,
and hope that his case knocks some sense into the Japanese
courts and the Prosecutor’s Office, since it’s apparent
that they were highly embarrassed by the turn of events.
But the fact is that a foreigner falling afoul of the
Japanese legal system doesn’t have a hope in hell of
getting a fair trial. In our opinion, the first step in
getting Japan to address the obvious inequalities towards
foreigners in the legal system is to pass a law making
prosecutors who hide/withhold evidence open to legal
charges themselves.

Secondly, racial discrimination against non-Japanese should
be illegal, especially by law enforcement bodies. According
to a book from Mainali’s supporters, in 1997, 76.1% of
Japanese suspects were held in custody, whereas for
foreigners the number was 99%. Apart from being a overdue
concession to human rights, equal treatment would also give
overstayers a foothold to appeal on the grounds that they
should get the same level of legal consideration that any
Japanese would expect.

Thirdly, Japan also needs to recant the death penalty.
We’re not sure why Mainali wasn’t put on the death row, but
he did get the second most harsh sentence — that of
indefinite life imprisonment. If he had been on death row,
it’s possible that after the 2003 Supreme Court appeal
failed, that he would have been hanged. Too late, then, for
apologies later.

Lastly, it is also obvious that Japan needs stricter
suspect detention rights rules, such as giving prisoners
access to legal advice and protection from abusive law
authorities, and habeus corpus procedures that require the
police and immigration to prove that they actually have
legal right to hold someone. These are obvious and simple
rights that most first-world citizens and residents take
for granted. Many people would be shocked if they knew just
how primitive the system is in Japan, and how easy it is
for foreigners in particular to fall into the legal
system’s maw.

References:

* Background to the case — http://bit.ly/KbSqwv
* Defense group’s indictment of the pathetic decision made
by the Supreme Court in the face of fresh evidence —
http://bit.ly/Kcb2wj
* Wikipedia account by Japanese — http://bit.ly/MwCPDe

ENDS

GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them

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Hi Blog.  We have an important announcement courtesy of academic listserv H-JAPAN:

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

H-JAPAN
May 31, 2012
Date: Thu, 31 May 2012
From: JFMorris
Subject: Multiculturalism in Japan

Dear List members,

A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL.

http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html

The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.

John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University

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

COMMENT:  Many thanks to John Morris for the link.  I wish he would have elaborated on the contents of the summaries, so I will.

As concerns the goals of Debito.org (inter alia the promotion of multiracial/multicultural tolerance and and of diversity in Japanese society), here are some points of note:

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

SUMMARY:  This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level).  Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development.  However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking:  a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated.  Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below.  In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re Non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan.  More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.

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

Here is the cover of the anchor site for this policy debate (click to enlarge):

The goal written therein is interesting:  “This deliberative meeting on ‘a society coexisting with foreigners’ has been set up so that related government ministries can deliberate comprehensively in close cooperation with one another, regarding the various problems related to environmental preparations (kankyou seibi) for realizing a society where we can coexist with foreigners who have livelihoods in Japan, in order to promote the undertaking of related policies at all levels of government.” (my translation)

Okay, we’re coordinating something regarding “policy issues” (which is good, since in Japan’s tate-wari bureaucracy the ministries don’t coordinate much with each other).  So who’s attending?  According to the attached konkyo kouseiin for the May 24, 2012 meeting (click to enlarge):

It’s all governmental vice ministers (fuku daijin) from The Cabinet, Internal Affairs & Communications (Soumusho), Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education, Health & Welfare, Agriculture, Forests & Fisheries (how are they related?), METI, Posts and Communications, and the National Police Agency (there as a jichou).  The chair is former Education Minister Nakagawa Masaharu (under the interestingly-named title of “State Minister in Charge of the Foreign Laborer Problem” (gaikokujin roudousha mondai o tantou suru kokumu daijin), meaning semantically we’ve already problematized a latent “problem” of foreigners into foreign laborers). (More on Nakagawa in Japanese at the renewed Noda Cabinet Profiles here)

Note that there is not a single Non-Japanese (NJ) involved anywhere at the agenda-setting stage.  (Not even the token Gregory Clark, who never misses an opportunity to claim how open-minded the Japanese must be because officials insert him on blue-ribbon shingikai deliberation councils and committees.  Maybe that’s for the better this time, since we really don’t need bigoted geriatric liars with an incredible sense of entitlement telling the GOJ what to do about NJ residents who have completely different socioeconomic statuses to his.)  Anyway, it seems the government obviously knows best what to do with the “foreign laborer problem” from the outset.  Who needs foreign residents’ involvement when it’s a Japan issue?

Note how there is some vital lack of definition.  What does “coexistence” mean exactly — tolerance, acceptance, gated communities, patchwork cultural neighborhoods, or complete subsumption of “foreign cultures” in favor of “Japanese culture” (douka)?  Nor is the “kankyou seibi” made all that clear.  For example, does this this include a law (with actual penalties for offenders) against racial discrimination?  People won’t leave home without it.

You can see the materials submitted to participants in the first meeting, including several reference materials from each ministry from the following links (this was clearly a meeting planned well in advance; good):

【配付資料】
 資料1-1 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について
 資料1-2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(開催要綱)
 資料1-3 当面の検討会議スケジュール(案)
 資料1-4 有識者ヒアリング候補者(案)
 資料2 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)
 資料3 法務省提出資料
 資料4 厚生労働省提出資料
 資料5 文部科学省提出資料
 資料6 警察庁提出資料
 資料7 内閣府提出資料

Material 1-1 is interesting in that the main goals are listed as:

  1. What form a society coexisting with foreigners will take
  2. What “environmental preparations” (kankyou seibi) will be undertaken to realize this society
  3. How to enliven (kasseika) the national debate (kokumin teki giron) which will also include the acceptance (uke ire) of foreigners
  4. What other topics and issues of special attention (ryuu i ten) will be involved in realizing this coexistence with foreigners

Those goals are elaborated in greater detail within Material 1-1 (more below).  Prima facie, these are all positive directions, especially the national debate bit to get the public on board to convince them that NJ are also a part of society. However, unclear (as always) is the word “uke ire“, which can run the gamut of meanings from “acceptance and embracement” to “just letting them cross the border into Japan” (as in the yahoo dictionary definition example:  “この国は移民の受け入れに年間2,000人の枠を設けている The quota of immigrants to be received [acceptedinto this country is set at 2,000 per year.”)  Given Japan’s record on immigration policy (and the fact that even the word “imin” (immigrant/immigration) doesn’t seem to be appearing anywhere, this word does not conjure as positive an example of acceptance *as Japanese residents and Japanese citizens* as one would like.

Material 1-1 also mentions in that greater detail the two steps that this plan will take:  1) GOJ deliberations on the kankyou seibi, 2) public debate on how to “accept foreigners”.  However, this will take place ONLY AFTER the kankyou seibi are firmly established.  The policy aim also stresses that it policy is not to be expanded to accept more foreigners (uke ire kakudai), but rather it is important first “to improve the many problems of foreigners who are actually living in our country”, listed as issues of lifestyles, education, labor conditions etc..  Kankyou seibi must be done first, however.  Then, however, if I’m not somehow misunderstanding this, it stresses in the next paragraph how our country must increase its attractiveness and appeal as a place that will “draw foreigners in to revitalize our society” (wagakuni shakai ni katsuryoku o motarasu gaikokujin o hikitsukeru).  Somehow I have the feeling I’ve heard this before.  And again, a “smooth public debate” is fine.  But how about seibi-ing that legal environment to outlaw discrimination?  Not clear.

It’s not any clearer when you read the finer print.  Material 2 above lists these as the problems to be addressed already (paraphrases):

  1. Our country needs high-quality people (koudo jinzai) to keep us vibrant in this era of globalization and aging/falling Japanese population, so for that dynamism we need foreigners.  
  2. There have been “social costs” (shakaiteki kosuto) to bringing foreigners into our country before, particularly in regards to lifestyles, education, and labor, so this should not be broadened due to [and I’m seriously translating this bit:] “being opened up as an international society will probably lead to our country’s reputation being downgraded” (kokusai shakai ni okeru hirakareta kuni to shite no hyouka o teika saseru koto ni mo tsunagaru). [Moodys, are you listening?]
  3. We want to attract “better foreigners” (again, koudo jinzai), given what happened with the Nikkei South Americans and NJ residents living here so far, with more systematic policies to bring them in and maintain our country’s reputation.
  4. We need these plans to be medium- and long-term, given the demographics.
  5. We need to keep our people (kokumin) in the debate loop and build consensus for the future about bringing in foreign labor.

Wow, what paroxysms of grief those lackluster NJ entrants up to now have put Japanese society through!  That said, these are the things (page 3) this panel is thinking about regarding how to treat NJ (in other words, its not just what we can take from NJ, but also what we need to give them):

  1. Policies that will make them functional in Japanese (e.g., promotion of J language learning in local areas, with appraisals, encouragement of teachers, and possible requirement (gimu zukeru koto) [for visa renewals?])
  2. Educating their children (e.g., stopping school absenteeism, putting in qualified J language teachers in public schools, assisting NJ children into higher-quality education, promoting education in NJ schools [!!!], promoting J language education for their parents, offering NJ children other educational opportunities, etc.)
  3. How they will be hired and will work (e.g., not merely treating them as cheap labor but improving their working conditions and social insurance, with job training in sectors such as nursing, agriculture etc., through bringing in higher-skilled workers, and even think about a “foreign employment law” (gaikokujin koyouhou) [!!!]  This would not be limited to the Nikkei South American workers [was it implicitly before?])
  4. How they will have medical treatment and social security (e.g., get them on Social Insurance, get their kids covered, and think about to set up an effective translation system)
  5. Stable places for them to live (e.g., offer basic information about how and where to live, and take measures to alleviate the fears of private-sector landlords afraid of NJ)
  6. How to deal with “public safety” problems (e.g., how to police NJ in this age of globalized crime)
  7. How to make information available in several languages (e.g., multilingual internet sites, more information sent overseas [??], one-stop information and assistance centers, multilingual disaster information, multilingual traffic information and driver license tests)
  8. Mutual respect for each others’ culture and promoting understandings (e.g., multicultural education, and thinking about introducing an integrated program for Japanese studies as soon as people enter Japan)
  9. How to work in coordination with local governments and burden-share (e.g., have local governments understand the needs of their local NJ and offer them concrete and customized service)  Etc.

There are further clarifications for each subject from page 4 onwards (listed in parentheses afterwards).  This is some very heady and prescient stuff (I can see why bureaucrats don’t want sweaty-headed public debate meddling until they get the “environment” set up first), and something which if carried out will be a great improvement over the past.  However, unclear again is how some issues (such as apartment refusals) will be enforced through the existing legal/administrative framework, or how the present system will be changed to make jobs more secure and equal in treatment (such as in Japanese academia (which I happen to know a bit about), which advertises that it wants foreign PhDs but then only offers them limited-term contracts, not tenure or an equal collegial footing).  Nice to have this wish list.  Better to say, however, that we need legal structure (hou seibi) to back it up, even at this drawing-board stage.

The MOJ’s brief (Material 3 above) starts out with bare stats of who and how many NJ are here and what they are up to.  But then on page 7 they get into how NJ should be administered (kanri — natch, that’s their job).  But it uses the hackneyed kokusaika (internationalization) of Japan just in terms of numbers without (as usual) indicating an understanding about what true internationalization really means (as in making NJ into Japanese).  Instead, the MOJ focuses (as usual) on how little control they have over NJ once they pass through Japan’s borders, and advocates the quick implementation of policy carrots and sticks — carrots portrayed as keeping tabs on NJ’s social welfare and children’s education (as if that’s within their mandate), and sticks meaning visa overstayers get rooted out ever more efficiently.  We’ve seen this in action in the upcoming end of the Gaijin Cards (in favor of remotely-trackable Zairyuu Cards (mentioned on page 8 ) that link visa approval to enrollment in Japan’s insolvent pension schemes), and it’s pretty plain to see who’s engineered that future fiasco.  If you’re ready for a giggle, check out the smiling “example NJ” on page 9 being subjected to this proposal, complete with white skin and blue eyes (even though most of the NJ these labor policies will attract are probably not White people — because they never have been).  In sum, the MOJ offers nothing new except more policing.

The Health & Welfare Ministry’s brief (Material 4 above) offers the background information on what NJ are up to again, but has on page 2 a special focus (over half the page) on how to care for Nikkei NJ (displaying once again that GOJ focus on offering more assistance “to the family” linked by Japanese blood).  The measures proposed are decent (mentioned in the Material 2 outline above).  For the the garden-variety NJ, however, it’s not clear what’s to be done as discrimination by nationality in working conditions and in introductions to jobs is already “outlawed” (kinshi) (as if that’s made much difference up to now).  But the Ministry points out (page 3) how there’s no clause in the laws guaranteeing equal treatment regardless of nationality in the social insurance system, and wants improvements made regarding how foreigners are employed.  The solution to this Ministry is the upcoming revisions in the registry rules to make everyone accountable under the pension and social welfare systems.  Not much new here — no mention of how to stop J employers screwing their NJ workers out of social insurance by not paying their half of the required contributions, for example.  A newer idea, however, is on page 4, where they outline the policy for attracting higher-quality NJ (again, koudo jinzai), i.e., a “points system” (itself highly problematic) for which came into effect May 7 of this year; the Ministry wants 300,000 “shitsu no takai” foreign students etc. to be handled under “job matching” systems at Hello Work unemployment agencies nationwide.  It also wants GOJ assistance with post-university job searches and internships, and reformed personnel management with clearer hiring practices for international workers.  Okay, decent stuff, but let’s wait and see if any of this comes to fruition.

The Ministry of Education’s brief (Material 5 above) is brief indeed, with a rehash of what they say they concluded in May 2010:  Deliberation of how to institute Japanese language education environments in Grade School and Junior High, and allowing NJ schools in Japan to become educational foundations [!!!].  More details are on page 2, where details of note include an increase of Japanese-language teachers by 350 souls (to a total of 1385 people nationwide) since 2009, making and distributing educational guidebooks, yada yada.  Also notable is the lumped treatment of J “returnee children” (rendered as kikoku/gaikokujin jidousei) as foreigners.  No mention of reforming the Basic Education Law (kyouiku kihon hou) to also guarantee education to non-citizens (given the restrictive kokumin clauses already within it, which still enables Japanese schools to refuse NJ children).  No anti-bullying discussions, either, or possible sensitivity training workshops for teachers if not students.  MoE’s assumptions within its lackluster proposals seem to be that if you make some motions to teach foreigners (and somehow by extension returnee Japanese) the Japanese language, they’ve done their job and all’s resolved nationwide.

The National Police Agency’s brief (Material 6 above) is even briefer, with one page of crime stats (which has dramatically fallen across the board yet they managed to squeeze in a crime rise somehow — i.e., NJ as collaborators with Japanese in Japanese crimes) with fingers pointed at Chinese, Vietnamese, Peruvians, and Brazilians as inter alia thieves and marriage visa defrauders.

They offer no proposals whatsoever.  Why are they even in on this discussion?  (The MoJ is already offering enough policing.)  Do we get the police involved on every social policy reform council, or is it just because we’re dealing with inherently untrustworthy criminal NJ?

The Cabinet’s brief (Material 7 above) offers a full overview of “our own” — with seven pages concentrating solely on Nikkei NJ.  Aside from this more-than-just-a-little offensive blood-fixation prioritizing of foreigners in Japan, we have observations about how these days Nikkei cannot get jobs or get Japanese language skills, their kids cannot get an education, and how they’ve taken emergency policies since January 2009 (as opposed to the GOJ’s emergency airlift of Nikkei — only — back to South America from April 2009?).  The rest of the proposals are basically as above, in what seems to be a summary of everyone’s positions.

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

Future discussions (a total of five meetings, through July, according to Material 1-3 above) will involve a hearing with experts in the field on “the shape of the NJ coexistence society” (Meeting 2, June 1, details below); another meeting with those experts “about taking on the issues ‘in the field’ (genba de) where NJ have their livelihoods” (Meeting 3, June 15, preliminary details below); yet another meeting with those experts about accepting those NJ (regarding “views” (shiten) and “issues warranting special attention” (ryuu i ten) in accordance with realizing that co-existence society) (Meeting 4).  And finally, the last scheduled meeting for now will bring the previous meetings’ discussions together to consider a 25-year tentative plan for realizing those concrete policies for kankyou seibi.

It’s a better-formed plan and timetable for discussing these issues than I’ve ever seen before (and it’s also been opened to public scrutiny).  All good, but here’s your scrutiny:

I still have no idea what kankyou seibi is (neither do they, I think; that’s why they’re getting together to discuss it).  But the inputs are as usual limited to people (presumably no women, no young people, and no working-class people) who will never be directly affected by this policy because they have never been foreigners in Japan.  I’m probably reading too much into the following, but semantically, NJ are seen as almost a different breed of animal that needs to be studied in their natural habitat.  Still no sign of any of those NJ animals being let in on any GOJ meetings to speak for themselves.

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

Meeting Two was held very promptly afterwards, on June 1, 2012, and for what looks to have been a longer time (two hours on paper).  Here’s the cover page (click to enlarge):

Now involved are three “persons of awareness” (yuushikisha), who are a Mr. Ikegami Shigehiro (a full professor from Shizuoka’s University of Art and Culture, who writes a lot about Indonesian culture and migrant Indonesians; even uses the word “emigrants”), a Mr. Iguchi Yasushi (a former bureaucrat at the Ministry of Labor turned full professor at Kansai Gakuin University, whose specialty is the unemployed and labor migration; here’s his CV in English), and a Mr Satou Gun’ei (Vice Dean at Tokyo Gakugei University’s Center for Research in International Awareness, whose specialty is on transnationals and Japanese language education, particularly Japanese children overseas).

Again, these people are no doubt well-intentioned and well-researched about situations facing NJ in Japan.  But they are not NJ, with “NJ awareness”; there is no substitute for that.

You can see their submitted materials here (along with other materials from that meeting) from these links:

【配付資料】
 資料1 池上氏提出資料
 資料2 井口氏提出資料
 資料3 佐藤氏提出資料
 参考資料1 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料2 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料3 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料4 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

Another brief summary of the materials above:

Mr Ikegami (Material 1) offers an overview that goes beyond Nikkei to include Chinese and Filipinas/nos too.  Aside from overviews of the economic forces at work on NJ labor, he saliently proposes (of note): 1) officially defining “multicultural coexistence” (tabunka kyousei), 2) coordinated entry and social integration procedures, 3) regional coordination that includes NJ, etc.  He also endorses an awareness of “transnational livelihoods”, not dividing the issue into “Japanese and foreigners”, etc.  His heart’s in the right place, but proposals are still at the slogan stage.  I assume he elaborated on his points orally.

Mr Iguchi (Material 2) has a five-pager that still resorts to the divisive “wagakuni” (our country) invective, but still endeavors to portray NJ as deserving something more than just a ticket home.  He stresses the issue of “social integration” (shakai tougou).  He writes a bit of fluff here and there that the bureaucrats are probably not interested in (such as the treatment of Burmese refugees), but does overturn a few unconsidered stones:  how the mixed bag of overseas policies towards foreign “cultural identities” have resulted in potential backlashes if they are not respected; how “multicultural coexistence” is not an imported concept in Japan’s case, but one generated from Japan’s grassroots — i.e., from Japan’s local governments, such as when Kawasaki City passed policies in the 1990s benefiting “foreign-national residents”; how important language is for not only communication, but also for securing permanent residency and citizenship [!!]; how NJ rights must be respected and enforced through Hello Work and local governments [!!], etc.  He advocates immediately 1) the GOJ use the July NJ registration reforms as an opportunity to get Hello Work and local governments helping NJ enlisted in employment insurance and social insurance, as well as to promote secure jobs for them, and 2) get employers to properly insure their NJ employees and ensure flexibility towards covering their families.  He advocates that within the next five years NJ get up to speed in Japanese through standardized education, evaluation, and systematic accreditation of J language teachers.  Beyond that, mid-term suggestions include 1) proper technical accreditation for young NJ trained technicians aimed at properly matched markets, 2) periodic lists of vocations in desperate need of workers and training programs for NJ to fill them, 3) exchanges through educational accords with other countries at the university level to bring in foreign researchers and students (as well as beef up language accreditation for imported NJ workers, with targeted language education for them; example cited being the plight thus far of foreign nurses and health care workers).  His final, underlined conclusion was that to restore Japan’s economic vitality, it is essential to bring in NJ (specifically high-quality foreign labor, Nikkei, technical trainees, and refugees [!!] for specific industries, and to accomplish that, concrete policies are necessary to encourage proper administration of NJ as well as encourage social integration at the national, regional, and local levels.  Surely true.  The attitude, however, is still one of “we’re going to wipe the slate clean and start treating foreigners better from when they enter at the border”, not one of making things better for the NJ already here.  Ah well, gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

Mr Satou (Material 3) offered a bullet-point summary, focusing on 1) the present state of NJ children’s education, 2) evolution of the characteristics of educational policies towards NJ children, 3) issues within those education policies, and 4) future issues with a view towards multicultural coexistence.  Quite frankly, it was jolly difficult for me to understand within which was an observation and which was policy advice.  Some points made that don’t overlap Ikegami’s and Iguchi’s, to wit:  1) education of NJ has not developed into talk of reform of the education system to accommodate them, but rather of how individuals will cope with their education, 2) basic principles of guarantees of rights from the perspective of multiculturalism must be made clear before proper “acceptance” (uke ire) can take place, 3) Japanese children should be schooled in tolerance of others as fellow residents (shimin — rendered later as “citizens” (as in shiminsei no kyouiku, “citizenship education”)).  Good stuff and better constructs included, especially the new civics lessons, but in the end, this came off as a laundry-list outline/survey of issues and problems with relatively unclear proposals.

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

Meeting 3, according to Material 1-4 distributed May 24, 2012, says that the June 15 hearing will involve the mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories), the unnamed head of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; I assume a bureaucrat?), a Mr Tamura Taro, representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues), and a Ms Sakamoto Kumiko, head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.)

Again, all no doubt well-intentioned people.  A bit top-heavy on the Nikkei Brazilian front, again.  I guess Chinese aren’t prioritized as highly due to a lack of blood ties, and where are the Peruvians, Filippinas/nos, and other NJ?

The remaining materials were essentially repeats of the earlier materials.  Enough; my eyes are tired.  Points I missed or got wrong, please feel free to correct.  Thanks for reading. Arudou Debito

UPDATE JUNE 27, 2012:  MEETING THREE OF JUNE 15, 2012 CRITIQUED HERE:

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 5, 2012: Guestists, Haters, the Vested: Apologists take many forms

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Hi Blog. This month saw another side-by-side Community Page with my argument made and a rebuttal, this time from a person I respect mightily: Colin P.A. Jones. It’s worth a read, as always. His point in crux and excerpt:

========================
“Here we come to the reason why I felt compelled to write a response to Debito: Microaggression is disturbingly familiar to what I perceive to be the Japanese government’s strategy (a term that credits it with more thought than is actually involved) of “protecting” human rights by trivializing them. With definitions of harassment, abuse and even violence that are so broad that they can be applied to just about any type of behavior that makes someone unhappy, everyone can be a victim, but everyone is a potential human rights violator too.

“Perhaps the government devoting significant resources to identifying causes of unhappiness is a good thing. At the same time, however, if you have ever worked for a Japanese institution and witnessed the vast number of hours of otherwise productive people’s time that can be diverted to addressing a single person’s baseless claims of persecution, you can’t help but wonder if the life energy of everyone involved wouldn’t be better spent on other endeavors…”
========================

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120605a1.html.

Meanwhile, my column this month made the Top Ten Most Read again, thanks, and also because an “Editor’s Pick” (also thanks!) Have a read. Arudou Debito

justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
Guestists, Haters, the Vested: Apologists take many forms
By ARUDOU Debito
Zeit Gist Column 59/Just Be Cause Column 52 for the Japan Times Community Page
To be published June 5, 2012
DIRECTOR’S CUT: Restoring a paragraph deleted from the print article (in parentheses)
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120605ad.html

Last month’s column on “microaggressions” was my most debated yet. Thanks for reading and commenting.

So this month, let’s explore how the microaggression dynamic works in all societies, and why some people live in denial of it. Brace yourself for a bit of theory …

All societies, when defining themselves, decide who is “us” and who is “them.” So do countries. In the name of sovereignty, nation-states must decide who is a member (i.e., a citizen) and who is not (i.e., a foreigner). (If they didn’t, there’d be no point to citizenship.)

Nation-states also perpetuate themselves by creating a feeling of community for their citizens — national narratives, invented traditions and official shared histories. So the concept of “Who is ‘us’?” gets created, reinforced and generationally encoded through the media, public policy, primary education, etc.

What about encoding “Who is ‘them’?” It is by nature a process of differentiation. Foreigners by definition have different legal, civil and political rights in any society. (They usually cannot vote, for example.)

But differentiation is also codified in everyday interaction. To determine their community’s borders and clarify their identity within it, people tend to contrast themselves with outsiders. This is a process of socially “othering” people.

Eventually the presumptions of “Others” as “different” become normalized into mundane assumptions, such as stereotypes.

Herein come the microaggressions. They keep life simple by enforcing (consciously and unconsciously) the stereotyping. For example, “This person looks Asian; he can use chopsticks.” “This person looks Caucasian; she needs an English menu.” They are not necessarily grounded in hatred — only in presumed difference.

This means that even well-intentioned people, trying to be kind when offering those chopsticks and menus, tend to view the person standing before them not as a unique individual, but as a collection of socially encoded characteristics assigned to that individual’s presumed group. Then they react accordingly.

That’s why microaggressions are so invisible, powerful and difficult to fight. For why would anyone resist someone trying to be kind? But people do — even in Japan, where they grumble about arigata meiwaku (nuisance niceness).

In Japan, however, microaggressions towards non-Japanese (NJ) are especially difficult to counteract for three reasons.

One is that Japan’s encodings are extremely standardized. Japanese basic education and social science (JBC, Sept. 7, 2010) are grounded both in stereotypes and in a cult of Japan’s difference (“uniqueness,” in fact). They inculcate convictions that, say, all non-Asian foreigners cannot use chopsticks or can understand English. Doubt that? Walk by a schoolyard and count the inevitable “harou!”s.

A second reason is that Japan’s encoding for what makes “us” and “them” is so strong that it is insuperable, precluding possible exceptions. Take, for example, the case of a person who naturalizes and becomes a Japanese citizen. Surely such people prove that it’s possible to jump the wall from The Other to become part of The Self?

Legally, yes. But not always socially. As “Japanese Only” signs and rules make plainer, “real” Japanese have to look Japanese. We are far from a “tipping point” where multitudes of multiethnic Japanese demonstrate that language ability and manual dexterity are unrelated to phenotype.

But the third, more insufferable reason is a lack of cohesiveness, especially within Japan’s English-speaking NJ community (JBC, June 7, 2011).

Instead of asserting themselves as unique individuals, many NJ buy into the stereotypes behind microaggressions and enforce them on each other.

Let’s call the accepters, defenders and enforcers of the status quo “Apologists” for short. Why do they do it?

For some, it’s a matter of “guestism,” as in, “Japan is for the Japanese, so I can’t tell them what to do.” However, Guestists also assume anyone who appears to be foreign are also “guests” and should likewise shut up.

To justify their mindset, Guestists not only invoke grandiloquent theories like “cultural imperialism” (i.e., foisting “our” Occidental values on “their” insular, inscrutable Oriental society), but also cook up delusions such as that one person’s protests “spoil” Japan for everyone.

Unfortunately, they too validate the “guilt by association” meme underpinning racialized stereotypes. Not only do they endorse NJ being treated differently as human beings, they also demand NJ disenfranchise themselves.

For other Apologists, it’s a matter of vested interests. They’ve lived here long enough to reach mental equilibrium in their fishbowl. Life’s too short — why cloud their day by going against the flow?

After all, many of the Vested have Japanese spouses, kids in school, a mortgage, and a job they can’t just leave. Their Japanese families rarely empathize with any resistance anyway. So their attitude becomes, “Leave me alone. What can I as one person do to change, oh, a bent bureaucracy, an irradiated food chain, and everyone poking my stomach and saying how fat I’ve gotten? Shikata ga nai.” And they acquiesce.

Still other Apologists are either blind or relativistic towards microaggressions because their mind is closed. They’ll criticize even recognition of the concept of microaggression as “oversensitivity,” “paranoia,” “political correctness,” or “seeing racism everywhere!” One sniped, “Somebody said ‘nice weather’ to me! Microaggressor!”

Well, try opening your mind: Let’s go back to that “English menu for Caucasians” example. A commenter excused this as an act of kindness, for how could a waitress possibly tell what language he could read? Was he to pore through an unintelligible menu just to prove a point?

No. The waitress should assume that any customer gets the same menu, unless advised by the individual customer of a different preference. Deciding his preference for him is arigata meiwaku.

Switch shoes: Let’s say a waitress in a Western country is told to give anyone who “looks Asian” a menu in Chinese.

How would that sit? Not well. Because people know that there are many kinds of “Asians” (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, American, Canadian, etc.). Assuming that any “Asian” is a Chinese is just wrong.

Paragraph deleted by editor:  (And how do we know it is wrong? Because overseas “Asians” grumble aloud about being “microaggressed” like that, over time raising public awareness of the problem.)

So what should have happened? The commenter takes the standard menu from the waitress and, if unable to use it, asks if one exists in a language he can read (in his case, English). Simple.

But that’s the power of microaggressions: so invisible that the aforementioned commenter endorsed the stereotype that all “visibly foreign” people in Asia read English. That’s plain wrong.

Finally, there are the “Hater Apologists” who mysteriously launch into ad hominem attacks fueled by visceral animosity. I think I’ve finally figured them out.

Have you ever noticed that, if they are not the “Team Japan” Japanese defending the nation (even its wartime atrocities) under any circumstances, the Haters are generally white people?

Think about it. Since colonialism and the Enlightenment, whites have been the dominant racial group in the world order. Because whites have historically had “no color” (remember, everyone else is “colored”), they are often oblivious to the processes of racialization.

Brace yourselves for a little more theory: Current postcolonialist/postmodernist analysis of racialization generally holds that people are systematically differentiated, othered, then subordinated. This is how nation-states unified their peoples under national narratives of “Self” and “Other.”

For centuries now, the whites (who created the modern nation-state paradigm replicated around the world) advantageously ranked everyone else below them by race (see “social Darwinism”). Whites have never been a subordinated racial minority on a national scale in any “First World” country.

Except, of course, in Japan. So whites seek to elevate their social standing here by using whiteness to their advantage — as “sensei.” And they use pandering techniques so normalized they are practically invisible.

For example: 1) offering the “honorary white” status that Japan covets in the world order by teaching them English (witness how “real English speakers” are sold in Japanese media as white); 2) feeling lucky or smug that they aren’t lower on Japan’s ethnic pecking order (they aren’t blacks, Koreans, South Americans, etc.); 3) playing Uncle Tom to offset themselves as “good gaijin” (they aren’t low-wage migrant workers, “illegals,” criminals or “flyjin”) and claim extra privileges; or 4) shouting down anyone who threatens to upend the sensei status quo (even though whites, after slotting everyone else in a racial hierarchy for centuries, should not be allowed to claim they are now an exception to it).

Furthermore, consider what kind of whites are generally attracted to Japan: socially awkward, tech-savvy, nerdy dorks. (I know. I’m one too.) 

[Click on the photos for more information.]

With chips on their shoulder after childhoods of being bullied, the Dorks are at last extracting their revenge on the Lucky Beautiful People (e.g., prom queens, football captains, or anyone with a talent — like writing — they were not born with) by tearing them down.

But in Japanese society (itself culturally rife with dorky, techie, socially awkward people), Dorks are further empowered by the Internet (and Japan’s blind eye towards bullying) to attack people anonymously. And they can coast within a well-established narrative of “cultural relativism” to camouflage it.

Don’t like these stereotypes I’m creating? Alright, Apologists, fight them for a change. But you’d miss the bigger irony.

The Apologists, by reflexively denying the existence of microaggressions (substantiated in decades of social science as a fundamental means for policing social identity), are hurting themselves. They are reinforcing their status of The Other in Japan by supporting the stereotypes that subordinate them. And all for maybe a crust of white privilege.

The final thought I want to leave you with this month is, “Why we fight.” Who is all this protest for?

Not for us, actually. For our children in Japan.

Many Apologists point out, “We chose to come to Japan. If you don’t like it, leave!”

Well, how will that sit with your Japanese children, who didn’t choose, and who might want the choice later of what society to live in as adults — and maybe even have some control over their identity within it?

Are you going to let Japanese society “microaggress” them into The Other, “gaijin” category, just because they look more like you than your Japanese spouse?

What kind of future are you helping create for them? One of tolerance?, Or one of constant differentiation, othering and probable subordination?

So think seriously before you disparage the activists trying to make Japan a better place for everyone regardless of how they look.

This is not arigata meiwaku. This is advocating The Other become part of The Self.

1695 WORDS
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 4, 2012

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 4, 2012

Hi Newsletter Readers. Before I get to the table of contents, advance word about my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. It follows up on my JBC column last month on “Microaggressions“ (see below), my most hotly-debated column ever (with >5200 Facebook “Likes” and nearly two weeks in the JT “Top Ten Most Read” online (nearly a week of that at #1)), an entire HAVE YOUR SAY reader response page, and a JT Poll on the subject that occasioned more than 6000 responses. Thanks very much for the debate, everyone. Opening paragraphs:

============ EXCERPT BEGINS ============
APOLOGIAS OF APOLOGISM (title submitted to editor)
Japan Times JBC #52 June 5, 2012, by ARUDOU, Debito

Last month’s column on “Microaggressions” was my most debated yet. Thanks for reading and commenting.

So this month let’s explore how the “microaggression” dynamic works in all societies, and why some people live in denial of it. Brace yourself for a bit of theory:

All societies, when defining themselves, decide who is “us” and who is “them.” So do countries. In the name of sovereignty, nation-states must decide who is a “member” (i.e., a citizen) and who is “not” (i.e., a foreigner). (If they didn’t, there’d be no point to citizenship.)

Nation-states also perpetuate themselves by creating a feeling of “community” for their citizens – national narratives, invented traditions, and official shared histories. So the concept of “Who is ‘us’?” gets created, reinforced, and generationally encoded through the media, public policy, primary education, etc.

What about encoding “Who is ‘them’?” It is by nature a process of differentiation…
============ EXCERPT ENDS ============

Now on with the Newsletter:

Table of Contents
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
“MICROAGGRESSIONS”
1) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column May 1, 2012, “Yes, I can use chopsticks: the everyday ‘microaggressions’ that grind us down”
2) Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column solely devoted to the May 1 JBC column on “Microaggressions”
3) Japan Times May 1, 2012 JBC “Microaggression” column now translated into Taiwanese Chinese.

OTHER INTERESTING OPINIONS
4) Baye McNeil’s “Loco in Yokohama” blog brings up uncomfortable truths in the debate on racism in Japan
5) Iida Yumiko on the nation-state, and how it includes people in the national narrative for its own survival (or in Japan’s case, how it doesn’t)
6) USG Asst Sec of State links post-divorce Japan child abductions with DPRK abductions of Japanese
7) Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

DEEPLY FLAWED OPINIONS
8 ) JT Editorial: Tokyo Metro Govt fuels “Flyjin” myth with flawed survey; yet other NJ who should know better buy into it
9) Yomiuri scaremongering: Foreign buyers snap up J land / Survey shows foreigners use Japanese names to hide acquisitions
10) WSJ: “‘Expats’ Say Goodbye to Gaijin Card”, needs more research beyond “Expat” conceits
11) Kyodo: Municipalities to deny services to illegal NJ; Kuchikomi: Rising NJ welfare chiselers “social parasites”

… and finally…

12) Commemorating the Japan Times Community Page’s 10th Anniversary, a brief column by Arudou Debito, May 8, 2012
/////////////////////////////////////////////////

By ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
Freely Forwardable

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

“MICROAGGRESSIONS”

1) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column May 1, 2012, “Yes, I can use chopsticks: the everyday ‘microaggressions’ that grind us down”

JBC: Microagressions, particularly those of a racialized nature, are, according to Dr. Derald Wing Sue in Psychology Today (Oct. 5, 2010), “the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to (visible minorities) by well-intentioned (members of an ethnic majority in a society) who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated.”

They include, in Japan’s case, verbal cues (such as “You speak such good Japanese!” — after saying only a sentence or two — or “How long will you be in Japan?” regardless of whether a non-Japanese (NJ) might have lived the preponderance of their life here), nonverbal cues (people espying NJ and clutching their purse more tightly, or leaving the only empty train seat next to them), or environmental cues (media caricatures of NJ with exaggerated noses or excessive skin coloration, McDonald’s “Mr. James” mascot (JBC, Sept. 1, 2009)).

Usually these are unconscious acts grounded in established discourses of interactions. Nobody “means” to make you feel alienated, different, out of place, or stereotyped.

But microaggressions are also subtle societal self-enforcement mechanisms to put people “in their place.” For NJ, that “place” is usually the submissive status of “visitor” or “guest,” with the Japanese questioner assuming the dominant position of “host” or “cultural representative of all Japan.”

It’s a powerful analytical tool. Now we have a word to describe why it gets discomfiting when people keep asking if you can use chopsticks (the assumption being that manual dexterity is linked to phenotype), or if you can eat nattō (same with taste buds), or if you’ll be going “home” soon (meaning Japan is just a temporary stop in your life and you don’t belong here). It can even help you realize why it’s so difficult for the NJ long-termer to become a senpai in the workplace (since NJ subordination is so constant and renewed in daily interaction that it becomes normalized).

Now let’s consider microaggression’s effects. Dr. Sue’s research suggests that subtle “microinsults and microinvalidations are potentially more harmful (than overt, conscious acts of racism) because of their invisibility, which puts (visible minorities) in a psychological bind.”

Rest of the article and continuing commentary at
http://www.debito.org/?p=10168

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2) Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column solely devoted to the May 1 JBC column on “Microaggressions”

The Japan Times on May 22 devoted its entire community page column section to reader responses regarding my May 1, 2012 Just Be Cause column on “Microaggressions”. (And yes, most listed were actually quite positive.) I think that’s plenty today for a blog entry. Have a read starting from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120522hs.html and feel free to comment on them below (if you wish to comment on the article itself on Debito.org, go here). And yes, the old column once again got put back in the JT Online Top Ten Most Read Stories! Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone!

http://www.debito.org/?p=10240

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3) Japan Times May 1, 2012 JBC “Microaggression” column now translated into Taiwanese Chinese

Someone in Taiwan named “Chopsticks Master” said they got a lot out of my most recent Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column on “Microaggressions”, and kindly translated it into Taiwanese Chinese. Thanks very much! I can’t read the Chinese myself, but FYI, pass it around if you like. Any more languages out there people want to translate it into?

I won’t excerpt it here due to potential mojibake. See it and the discussion on it here:

http://www.debito.org/?p=10233

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OTHER INTERESTING OPINIONS

4) Baye McNeil’s “Loco in Yokohama” blog brings up uncomfortable truths in the debate on racism in Japan

Since the debate on “Microaggressions” and racialized treatment of people in Japan went into full swing over the past month, one other blog has been offering a good deal of insight as to how people are ultracentrifuged for special treatment in Japan by race, and how those people being ultracentrifuged likewise treat each other in a racialized manner. Such are the habits fostered by this dread social disease called racism, and in Japan’s case it’s good to have a different take on it at last.

Baye McNeil, author of the new book “HI, MY NAME IS LOCO AND I AM A RACIST”, has a dynamic blog called “Loco in Yokohama” I think you ought to check out. He writes about racism in Japan with a fresh brazenness that I think many Debito.org Readers might find interesting. His 4-part (so far) series entitled, “Why do Gaijin Clash Over the Issue of Racism in Japan” is what drew me in.

Links and quick summaries of those four parts below, and you should read the posts in order. If you’re at all interested in how you (and your multiethnic children) are being slotted in the subordinated “gaijin” category in Japan not only by Japanese, but by other NJ, you will want to read these and have a think.

Also interesting is our respective positions in the blogosphere. As Baye himself points out, I’m White, and he’s Black (or whatever label you want to use: Caucasian/African-American etc.), and how we get treated by NJ as vehicles of the debate is a facet little covered in discussion (case in point: the “Tepido” Stalkers are friendly towards him, natch — ‘cos they don’t to be branded as “racists”). So let’s read some Baye and cue up on that issue before we get into my next Japan Times Just Be Cause Column (out June 5), where I will offer “Microaggressions Part Two”.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10248

NB: The “Stalker Site” went defunct soon after this blog post came out.

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5) Iida Yumiko on the nation-state, and how it includes people in the national narrative for its own survival (or in Japan’s case, how it doesn’t)

Simplifying Dr. Iida’s points: Every country has to convince the people who live within it to accept that a) there is a country that they are members of, and b) that there are rules they have to follow in order to be members (obeying the laws, paying taxes, potentially giving up one’s life to defend it, etc.). When power becomes this unquestioned, it becomes (to use Gramsci’s word) “hegemonic”, in other words, normal enough to be invisible and generally unquestioned. Almost all people on this planet, born into a nation-state, accept that they are members of one country of another (by dint of having a passport, a tax home, accountability before the law etc.) and play by the rules because that’s how they were socialized.

But there is a give-and-take here. The nation-state must give its members four things in order for them to adopt the rules of play and pass them down to the next generation. These are, according to Iida above:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all,
2) A sense of community, with moral obligations to it,
3) A world view that makes sense,
4) Hope for the future that other people share.

Fine. Now, as this relates to Debito.org: What do NJ in Japan get? None of this, really. And that’s why NJ are given incentives not to stay: It goes beyond mere “alienation” — it is a fundamental, egregious, and probably fatal flaw in Japan’s nation-state dynamic of eliminating newcomers from the national narrative.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10215

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6) USG Asst Sec of State links post-divorce Japan child abductions with DPRK abductions of Japanese

Some news on the Japan Child Abductions Issue, where Japan has long set itself up as a safe haven for one parent to abscond with their child following separation or divorce (regardless of whether the marriage was international or domestic), what with no joint custody and no guaranteed child visitation in Japan. Thanks to the Koseki Family Registry system, the divorced couple becomes strangers to each other, and children go on only one parent’s koseki (with the other parent losing all legal title and access to their kids unless the custodial parent approves). In cases of international/intercontinental separation or divorce, the Japanese partner can abduct their child to Japan (since Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, and the Japanese embassy does not enforceably require the permission of both parents to issue a Japanese child a Japanese passport), and that’s it — the kids are gone. Japanese courts have always ruled that the absconder has established “habitual residence” in Japan by dint, so who dares wins. Meanwhile, despite international protests about the GOJ not being a signatory to the Hague, Japan has been dragging its feet for years now on signing (and as I have argued in the past, will probably caveat its way out of enforcing it anyway, as it has done with other treaties (like the CERD and the ICCPR)).

Finally, enough has become enough for sensible people. According to articles below, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has once again come out in public making a link between the irony of all the tragedymaking regarding Japanese being kidnapped decades ago by the DPRK (which is indeed a tragedy, yes), yet the lack of tragedy over Japanese still kidnapping international kids. Good. We’ve made that comparison before here on Debito.org, and were roundly condemned by the usual suspects for doing so. (And, as a related tangent, I’ve probably criticized the most by people misquoting me as advocating that foreigners shouldn’t marry Japanese. No, for the record, I’m saying NOBODY, Japanese or NJ, should get married and have children under the insane family law system in Japan; the risks are too great if parents separate).

As per articles below, the Japanese press is of course rallying the public behind the home team via editorial camouflaged as news (it’s hard to discern even what Campbell actually said). It’s even trying to instruct the Japanese public how English is different than Japanese. You see, if a North Korean kidnaps a Japanese, its “abduction” (rachi). But if a Japanese kidnaps an international child, its “tsuresari” (taking along and disappearing). But you see, the English language is inflexible — it only has one word for this action: “abduction”. So it’s all one big “linguistic misunderstanding”. Even though, in either case, abduction is what it is.

And if you really want to take this issue to the next level of linkage, consider this comment from a friend:

“As noted in Wikipedia, “In 1944, the Japanese authorities extended the mobilization of Japanese civilians for labor to the Korean peninsula. Of the 5,400,000 Koreans conscripted, about 670,000 were taken to mainland Japan . . .” And the Japanese have the audacity to complain about 20 or so Japanese abducted to North Korea? The Japanese government should apologize and compensate the 5 million Koreans conscripted 70 years ago before uttering a single word about the actions of North Korea 35 years ago.”

So underlying all of this is an issue of hypocrisy, and now the GOJ is probably going to have to resort to its only real defense when cornered on an issue: agonistic posturing and outrage — trying to derail the issue in favor of maintaining “The Relationship”. People have fallen for this before (after all, the US wants to keep its military bases and its market to sell inter alia weaponry). But I’m not sure this issue is really big enough (I think Masumoto has an inflated sense of his own power) to do that. Let’s keep our eyes on this one, since it’s a good case study of gaiatsu and GOJ policy in the making.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10191

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7) Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

Rustom: It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done. So without further ado, let’s start:

http://www.debito.org/?p=10229

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DEEPLY FLAWED OPINIONS

8 ) JT Editorial: Tokyo Metro Govt fuels “Flyjin” myth with flawed survey; yet other NJ who should know better buy into it

The Japan Times came out with an editorial last Sunday, entitled “Flyjin rather few,” which talked about a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government survey of NJ in Tokyo, carried out to ascertain how many stayed or left after the disasters of March 2011 and beyond. The survey was trying to see if the “Flyjin” phenomenon really happened, and in doing so, the JT notes, potentially resuscitated the invective of Japanese media and xenophobic pundits branding NJ as deserters.

The JT editorial is a doozy. Not only does it demonstrate that “the vast majority of foreigners in Tokyo stayed right where they were — in Tokyo”, it also castigates the whole thought process behind it: “The survey did little to focus on what can be done to ensure that all residents of Tokyo be given clear information about conditions and constructive advice about what to do in the event a similar disaster strikes in Tokyo in the near future.”

“The ‘flyjin’ issue, besides being a derogatory term, was always a tempest in a teapot. Surveys that find information to help improve communications are important, but it is the actions that follow that really count. The metropolitan government should prepare a means to give all residents of Tokyo, whatever nationality they are, trustworthy information during emergencies so safe, sensible decisions can be made.”

In other words, the JT was easily able to see through the stupid science (e.g., the singling out of NJ, the small sample size, limiting it to Tokyo residents, the lack of clear aim or rigor in methodology, and ultimately its lack of conclusion: “The survey did little to better understand all Tokyoites’ complicated reactions to the crisis.”)

Yet people who should know better, and who should be advocating for the needs of the NJ Communities in Japan, are already citing this survey as somehow indicative. Japan Probe, for example, states that this survey “confirms Post-3/11 “Flyjin” Phenomenon / 25 Percent of Tokyo’s Foreign Residents Fled”, and apparently “deals a major blow to certain bloggers who have claimed that the “flyjin” phenomenon was a myth”.

One of those certain bloggers indeedy would be me. And I gave much harder and rigorous numbers from all of Japan and from the central government and for the entire year, clearly exposing the “Flyjin” phenomenon as myth in my April Japan Times column. Hence, there’s no clearer interpretation of Japan Probe’s conclusion than the will to live in obtuse denial.

But that’s what keeps hatenas hovering around my head. Wouldn’t it be nicer if online resources like Japan Probe (which calls itself “The web’s no.1 source for Japan-related news and entertainment”) would work for the good of the NJ communities it purports to inform? It did do so once upon a time, for example, during the whole GAIJIN HANZAI mook debacle, where Japan Probe was instrumental in helping get the racist magazine on foreign crime off the shelves and the publisher bankrupted. But now, why try so hard, as the Japan Times Editorial above saliently notes, “to exaggerate the extent of foreigners leaving the country and impugn their motives for leaving”?

http://www.debito.org/?p=10181

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9) Yomiuri scaremongering: Foreign buyers snap up J land / Survey shows foreigners use Japanese names to hide acquisitions

Dear Debito: Just found the article linked below on Yomiuri’s website which gives some food for thought. The article comments on Yomiuri’s own survey in which prefectural governments were asked “about the number of land acquisitions by foreigners and the size of the land acquired” The article also includes the usual ingredients for fear mongering, starting with:

“In one example in which a Japanese name was used to disguise a land transaction, a Chinese in his 40s living in Sapporo bought 14 hectares of mountain forest and other lands near the Niseko area in Hokkaido last autumn. For this transaction, he used the name of a Japanese real estate company.”
and concluding with:
“It’s necessary to establish an ordinance on land transactions at a local level so that local governments are fully aware of the owners of land and water sources,” said Makoto Ebina, a professor at Otaru University of Commerce who participated in a discussion on the ordinance in Hokkaido.”However, as many land transactions are unclear because names are borrowed, it’s important to carefully check out each transaction,” Ebina said.

The title of the article which reads ” Foreign buyers snap up land / Survey shows many people use Japanese names to hide acquisitions” already says it all actually. The only thing missing was a link to Ishihara’s bid for donations to buy the Senkaku islands which can be found here >> http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/INET/OSHIRASE/2012/04/20m4r200.htm and here http://www.chijihon.metro.tokyo.jp/senkaku.htm

COMMENT: One other thing I will point out is that although this has been made a fuss of before (back in 2010, particularly regarding water supply — after all, like domestic ethnic minorities were erroneously accused of doing during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, foreign buyers might poison it!), it’s ironic that now people are getting scared about foreigners buying up, say, Niseko — for that’s been going on for quite awhile, up to now a lot of Australians etc. (who for reasons unfathomable to me love snow ) making the purchases. While there were some expected grumbles from the locals, it wasn’t seen as “an issue of national security” until now.

Aha, but there you go. There are foreigners and then there are FOREIGNERS! In this case, it’s apparently those sneaky Chinese we have to fear. Gotcha. Makes perfect sense if you’re a Japanese policymaker, a xenophobe who thinks that Chinese are trying to carve up Japan, or an editor at the Yomiuri, I guess. Good company to be within.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10163

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10) WSJ: “‘Expats’ Say Goodbye to Gaijin Card”, needs more research beyond “Expat” conceits

Here we have the Wall Street Journal up to its old tricks: Representing the “Expat” community’s attitudes towards Japan, doing “Japan Real Time” research that is essentially navel-gazing about Japan from a skyscraper window (or a computer screen, as it were).

Even though the reporter, Sarah Berlow, parrots much of the net-researched stuff (courtesy of the GOJ, sharing the same blinkered viewpoint of life in Japan for NJ residents) accurately, check this bit out:

“New residents will instead be given a “residence card” similar to the ones Japanese citizens carry, except for a special marking designating the holder’s nationality.”
Err… wrong. Japanese citizens have no residence cards to carry, as we’ve discussed here on Debito.org for years.

And how about this: “These new changes come as the government attempts to increase this number [of foreigners entering Japan], to an “era of 25 million foreign visitors to Japan” by 2020, a goal established in 2011.”

Err… foreign tourists never had to carry Gaijin Cards in the first place (only people who had to register with residency visas of three months and up), so these changes have no connection and will have no effect. Does Ms. Berlow even have a residency visa in Japan so she might know about this from personal experience? If not, there are whole books on this, ones so easy even the busy-getting-rich-off-their-Expat-packages-and-enjoying-their-Expat-Bubble-Enclaves Expats can read them (cf. HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), so bone up.

And there is no mention of the RIFD Gaijin Card Chipping for the new “Gaijin Residency Cards” only, something I’ve made a fuss about in the past. Ms. Berlow uses the word “track” in regards to NJ within the article, which is appropriate, for reasons she probably didn’t research enough to anticipate. RFID enables remote tracking of people’s credit card numbers, to begin with.

And with technological advances, as I’ve argued before, it is only a matter of time and degree before it’s capable at long distances — if it’s not already. Don your tinfoil hats, but RFID technology is already being used in military drone guidance systems for long-distance precision targeting. You think the GOJ’s going to abdicate its wet-dream ability to keep physical track of potential foreign “illegal overstayers”, now that it has the ability to RFID chip every foreign resident from now on? Oh well, the “Expats” need not worry. They’re not in Japan forever.

Finally, what’s the reason I’m jumping on the WSJ so much? Because, as I’ve said, they’re up to their old tricks. Don’t forget, it was the WSJ who first broke (and legitimized in English and Japanese) the story about the fictitious “Flyjin” Phenomenon, setting the agenda to tar the NJ who left (or worse, stayed for the stigma). Thus the WSJ’s record of “spoiling things” for NJ in Japan is on par with what critics claim Debito.org does. Sorry, we might not have their media reach or legitimacy, but at least we do better research here, for free. That’s a deal even a non-”Expat” can afford.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10242

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11) Kyodo: Municipalities to deny services to illegal NJ; Kuchikomi: Rising NJ welfare chiselers “social parasites”

We’ve had a discussion recently as part of Debito.org Comments about one of the side-effects of Japan’s new residency-certificate registration (juuminhyou) coming up in July. People suspect that the GOJ is using this revision as a means not only to make sure that local governments aren’t being “soft” on NJ visa overstayers (by denying them benefits even the Kyodo article below acknowledges they are entitled to), but also to check whether all NJ residents are registered and paying into Japan’s social insurance system. This is controversial because plenty of Japanese also opt out of the system, and also because it will possibly become a means to say, “Pay in or no visa renewal,” something that citizens obviously cannot be threatened with.

This is yet another example of social Othering on a policy level (if you want to tighten things up, you should do it across the board for everyone in Japan, not just NJ), not to mention with some pretty stiff potential penalties (back paying into the system may run into the tens and hundreds of man yen, which can be financially insurmountable, and unjust especially when some employers in Japan have conveniently forgotten to pay in their half of the NJ employee’s social insurance when hiring NJ full time). Thus NJ get uprooted from Japan due to their employer’s negligence.

I for one haven’t done enough research on what’s going to happen in coming months under the new system (my scrivener colleague in the visa industry himself too is waiting and seeing), but when it becomes plainer it’ll be discussed here. What IS plainer is that the Japanese media is already gearing up to portray the perpetual scapegoats for Japan’s social ills — NJ — this time as welfare spongers and social parasites. See the second article below.

Note that all of the things that are being alleged against foreign “welfare chiselers” in that article I’ve heard and seen being done by Japanese too (especially the fake marriage bit — but what’s not covered in the article is how a NJ visa changes when a divorce occurs, so it’s not that “easy”). But one need not mention that inconvenient detail. NJ shouldn’t be here anyway if they’re going to commit, er, the same crimes that Japanese commit. Once again, social Othering and scapegoating of a disenfranchised minority is SOP in Japan for lots of social ills — and worse yet, the specter of “foreign hordes taking advantage of Japan’s overgenerous system” sells newspapers and alienates the aliens. Nothing less than media-bred xenophobia.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10135

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… and finally…

12) Commemorating the Japan Times Community Page’s 10th Anniversary, a brief column by Arudou Debito, May 8, 2012

As the very popular and quite influential Community Page at the Japan Times celebrated its 10th Anniversary this week, I was asked (along with their former editor and best reporter) to say a few words as their featured columnist (now for four years plus). Here’s what I said. There are links to other celebratory articles below that. Enjoy, and congrats Community Page. You’re doing great things. Thanks for being there for our writings, and for us.

ZG: Having been an infrequent contributor to other publications, I was impressed by the comparative professionalism at The Japan Times: I was never forced to toe any editorial line by the Community Page (unlike, say, the vanity projects that pass for English-language newspapers at the Asahi and Yomiuri, who tend to take criticism of Japan in English by NJ authors as a personal affront). It was also nice that the JT paid its contributors the amount as promised promptly, something relatively rare in this business.

Honesty has served the Community Page well. Over the past decade, we have had hundreds of contributors writing exposes on subjects few other domestic outlets would touch, including unequal hiring practices due to nationality, the merits of unionization, international divorces from the studiously ignored NJ partner’s perspective, the Japanese judiciary’s systematic discrimination against claimants based on race or social origin, the biased treatment of NJ crime by police and the media, public policies and government statements that latently and blatantly disenfranchise whole peoples in Japan, one’s rights under the law and revised visa regimes, and even new takes on the perennial debate over the epithet “gaijin.”

Where else in our domestic media could this motley collection of journalists, scholars, pundits, activists and general malcontents consistently splash their views across a page (now two) every Tuesday — and have their presence permanently recorded in this country’s best online archive of English articles on Japan?

For that matter, where else in Japan’s media does anyone even acknowledge that there is a “community” of NJ in Japan, or offer authoritative information specifically for the benefit of this community? Only here.

Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=10193

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That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading! May good debates continue!
Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 4, 2012 ENDS

Kyodo: Municipalities to deny services to illegal NJ; Kuchikomi: Rising NJ welfare chiselers “social parasites”

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Hi Blog. We’ve had a discussion recently as part of Debito.org Comments about one of the side-effects of Japan’s new residency-certificate registration (juuminhyou) coming up in July.  People suspect that the GOJ is using this revision as a means not only to make sure that local governments aren’t being “soft” on NJ visa overstayers (by denying them benefits even the Kyodo article below acknowledges they are entitled to), but also to check whether all NJ residents are registered and paying into Japan’s social insurance system. This is controversial because plenty of Japanese also opt out of the system, and also because it will possibly become a means to say, “Pay in or no visa renewal,” something that citizens obviously cannot be threatened with.

This is yet another example of social Othering on a policy level (if you want to tighten things up, you should do it across the board for everyone in Japan, not just NJ), not to mention with some pretty stiff potential penalties (back paying into the system may run into the tens and hundreds of man yen, which can be financially insurmountable, and unjust especially when some employers in Japan have conveniently forgotten to pay in their half of the NJ employee’s social insurance when hiring NJ full time).  Thus NJ get uprooted from Japan due to their employer’s negligence.

I for one haven’t done enough research on what’s going to happen in coming months under the new system (my scrivener colleague in the visa industry himself too is waiting and seeing), but when it becomes plainer it’ll be discussed here. What IS plainer is that the Japanese media is already gearing up to portray the perpetual scapegoats for Japan’s social ills — NJ — this time as welfare spongers and social parasites. See the second article below.

Note that all of the things that are being alleged against foreign “welfare chiselers” in that article I’ve heard and seen being done by Japanese too (especially the fake marriage bit — but what’s not covered in the article is how a NJ visa changes when a divorce occurs, so it’s not that “easy”).  But one need not mention that inconvenient detail.  NJ shouldn’t be here anyway if they’re going to commit, er, the same crimes that Japanese commit.  Once again, social Othering and scapegoating of a disenfranchised minority is SOP in Japan for lots of social ills — and worse yet, the specter of “foreign hordes taking advantage of Japan’s overgenerous system” sells newspapers and alienates the aliens. Nothing less than media-bred xenophobia. Arudou Debito

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Some municipalities set to deny services to illegal foreign residents: poll
Kyodo News Tuesday, April 24, 2012
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120424b6.html

Foreigners residing in Japan illegally could lose access to education and health care services when the revised basic resident registration law takes effect even though they are still entitled to receive them, civic groups said Monday.

According to the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan and other groups, dozens of the 72 municipalities that participated in the survey plan to deny services when the revision takes effect in July.

Four said they won’t allow children of illegal foreigners to be enrolled in public schools and 13 said they will not issue maternity health record books to pregnant foreign women who are residing illegally.

Another 12 said they won’t be able to subsidize delivery expenses for pregnant women in financial distress, while 33 said they will not vaccinate illegal foreigners against tuberculosis and other diseases, the survey said.

After the revision takes effect, foreigners will registered in the same residence system used by the Japanese.

In addition, illegal residents and asylum seekers will no longer be covered by the resident registry system, although the central government has repeatedly said they will continue to be entitled to basic services offered by municipalities.

The survey, which was conducted between January and March, highlighted misunderstandings on the part of local governments when it comes to providing basic services to illegal foreign residents. More confusion is expected to occur at municipal offices after the amended law enters force.

There were about 67,000 foreigners overstaying their visas as of January, according to Justice Ministry statistics.

Eriko Suzuki, an associate professor specializing in immigration policy at Kokushikan University, said the local governments polled mistakenly believe they cannot provide services to illegal foreign residents because they weren’t supposed to be in Japan to begin with.

The professor, who was involved in the survey, urged the central government to better inform municipalities about how to treat illegal aliens after the revised law takes effect.
ENDS
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Tabloid blasts growing numbers of foreign welfare chiselers
Japan Today.com KUCHIKOMI MAY. 29, 2012, courtesy of DR
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/tabloid-blasts-growing-numbers-of-foreign-welfare-chiselers

“Malicious Foreign Welfare Recipients Increasing Rapidly” screams the yellow and red headline emblazoned across the front page of Yukan Fuji (May 25). The accompanying banner, in inverse white characters on a red background, reads “meticulous investigation.”

“If there’s a way to receive something, I can’t understand why you don’t accept it. How stupid can Japanese be?” chuckles Mr A, a 26-year-old man who lives somewhere in the Kanto area. The son of parents from an unnamed southeast Asian country—making A the second generation to live in Japan—he works as a regular staff member of a manufacturing company.

A’s newly purchased car, a Japanese model, cost 3 million yen. He can afford such goodies because he, his wife and their three children receive extra “pocket money” from the government.

“My wife began receiving welfare payments from last year,” he tells the tabloid. “Including child support and other subsidies, she gets 200,000 yen per month. When combined with my take-home pay, we get over 500,000 yen per month, or about 6 million yen per year. “

In the past, recipients of welfare had been limited, by law, to “Individuals whose income from work is insufficient to meet necessary living costs,” and by virtue of this, A should not be eligible. So how does he get away with it?

“Easy,” he says. “I divorced my wife.” And he did, on paper anyway. They still live together, so it’s what one might call a divorce of convenience.

“My ex-wife went to the city office and claimed she lacked ‘sufficient income to care for the children,’ and she was promptly judged eligible and began receiving welfare payments,” A confesses.

Should the authorities send a case worker to investigate, they would find the wife residing in a separate apartment, which she rents. But actually she continues to live together with her “former” husband.

“Once a month, a case worker will pay a visit, but since notification is always made in advance, all my wife has to do is take the kids over to the rental apartment ahead of time,” he says.

Mr A tells Yukan Fuji that nearly all the inhabitants of the public housing development where he lives are foreigners.

“There are some Chinese and Indians, but people from my country are the most numerous, more than 300. Most of them are receiving welfare,” he says.

Yukan Fuji remarks that indeed there may be foreigners whose difficult situation warrants welfare, but in the case of Mr A, we’re looking at flat-out fraud.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, as of February 2012, 73,995 foreign nationals were receiving welfare payments—more than double the figure of 2000, when the average for foreign recipients in any given month was 32,858 recipients.

An official at the health ministry told the reporter that foreigners deemed eligible to receive such payments include “Permanent residents and residents who are preparing for permanent status, those with officially recognized refugee status and those with Japanese spouses.”

“There’s no doubt that the number of foreigners taking advantage of flaws in the system has been increasing,” says Professor Ryu Michinaka of Kansai University of International Studies. “Some take the form of spurious divorces or falsified documentation. Even in cases when the government offices suspect something illegal is going on, they’ll invoke the ‘language barrier’ and just pretend they don’t understand.”

The foreign welfare chiselers also share the tricks of the trade with their compatriots, and parents also give advice to their children, creating next-generation social parasites.

“There aren’t enough case workers to check out the applicants,” adds Michinaka. “One case worker might have to cover 80 families, or sometimes even twice that number. Ironically, the total incomes for some of the families might be more than the caseworker earns in salary.”

Japan needs to put its collective foot down and put an end this “haven” that makes it so easy for unscrupulous foreigners to feed at the public’s expense, the article concludes.
ENDS