Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.

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Hi Blog. In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record.  And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 17, 2012
LIFELINES: LABOR PAINS
Courts back workers’ rock-solid right to strike (excerpt)
By HIFUMI OKUNUKI, professor of constitutional and labor law at Daito Bunka University and Jissen Women’s University
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

[…]

One large company recently lost its claim of ¥110 million in damages against its union and union executives (see “Berlitz Loses Suit Over Union Teacher Strikes,” Feb. 28, The Japan Times).

Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus.

The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes. While case law stipulates that prior notice must be given for a strike, it does not set a minimum time. Berlitz teachers often gave less than five minutes’ notice. This probably created a headache for management, because they had less time to send replacement teachers to cover the struck classes.

The school also claimed that a union executive, Louis Carlet (full disclosure: Carlet is the current president of Tozen Union), had admitted to wanting to damage the company in a Sept. 30, 2008, Zeit Gist column in The Japan Times (“Berlitz Strike Grows Despite Naysayers“).

Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan. The court rejected the company’s contention that the union was striking to destroy the company and agreed with the union’s assertion that the only purpose of the strikes was to realize its demands.

Management appealed the verdict and Tokyo High Court is currently overseeing reconciliation talks between the two sides.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

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

Related sites:

ENDS

Japan Times: “Ninjin-san ga Akai Wake” Book is behind bullying of mixed-race children; contrast with “Little Yellow Jap”

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Hi Blog.  Barring any unforeseen events of great import, I am planning to Summer vacation Debito.org for most of August, following the publication of my next Japan Times column on August 7.  So as we wind things down a little, here’s something I had in the archives for commentary someday.

How the media portrays minorities and people of differences in any society is very important, because not only does it set the tone for treatment, it normalizes it to the point where attitudes become predominant, hegemonic, and unquestioned.  This article in the Japan Times regarding a book that portrays blackness as “dirty” is instructive, in that it shows how people react defensively when predominant attitudes are challenged.  The dominant, unaffected majority use the inalienable concepts of culture and identity (particularly in Japan) as blinkers, earplugs, and a shield — to deny any possibility of empathy with the people who may be adversely affected by this issue.

And I consider this to be a mild example.  Remember what happened when Little Black Sambo was republished by Zuiunsha back in 2005, after years of being an “un-book” in Japan?  But Sambo was just seen as a “cute” character, with no provided historical context of the world’s treatment of the Gollywog (after all, Japan often does not consider itself “of the world” when it comes to racial discriminationsome even profiteer off it).  It was actually being used as a teaching tool in Saitama to impressionable pre-schoolers in 2010; nothing like forming Japanese kids’ attitudes early!  So I did a parody of it (“Little Yellow Jap“) to put the shoe on the other foot.  THEN the accusations of racism came out — but in the vernacular against me for parodying it!  (Here’s an example of someone who “got it”, fortunately.)  The same dynamic is essentially happening below.  Read on.  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
The Japan Times Tuesday, April 10, 2012
HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO
Book is behind bullying of mixed-race children (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120410hn.html

Dear Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hirofumi Hirano,

My three beautiful children were all born in Japan and went to Japanese public schools. Their mother is a native Japanese of Japanese ethnic background, and I am a Canadian citizen of African background.

Since my children are light brown, they were often teased by other kids because of the color of their skin. The culprits were cruel, directing various racial slurs. Among others, “black and dirty as burdocks” was one of the terms that often came up.

But, when I once ran across and brought home a picture book, “Ninjin-san ga Akai Wake” (“The Reason the Carrot is Red”) from the local library, my children got quite upset.

Written by renowned Japanese author of children’s literature Miyoko Matsutani, the story unfolds like this: A carrot and a burdock ask a white radish (daikon) out to a bath. The burdock jumps in the water but soon hops out because the water is too hot; it remains black. The carrot stays in the hot water longer and turns red. The daikon cools the bath with some cold water and washes himself thoroughly, which turns him shining white.

At the end, the three stand beside each other to compare their color. The burdock is black and dirty because he did not wash his body properly; the daikon is white and beautiful because he did.

When I was talking about this story during one of my lectures on human rights issues at a PTA meeting in Fukuoka, one of the participants, a Japanese mother of an African-Japanese preschool boy, started crying and saying that her son was taunted, ridiculed and called “burdock” after his pre-school teacher read the aforementioned book to the class.

When the little boy returned home that day, he jumped into the bathtub, started washing his body and crying, “I hate my light brown skin, I hate the burdock, I’m dirty and I want to be like the white radish!” How can this child have a positive image of himself?

We all felt sad after hearing this story, because the book associates the color black with dirt. The story’s underlying message is clear: “You’ll be black and dirty like burdocks if you don’t wash yourself well in the bath.” So children with darker skin will be victimized by the message it conveys.

How can such a book still be in libraries and preschool classrooms in increasingly multiracial contemporary Japan?

I called the publisher, Doshinsha Publishing Co., and demanded the book be recalled, saying it was racist. The publisher disagreed. My demand to meet with Matsutani to discuss revising the portions of the book I considered objectionable was also rejected.

Yoichi Ikeda, the editor of the book published in 1989, told me over the phone that the story was the author’s version of a Japanese folktale.

“Matsutani is not promoting racism, she was just handing down to Japanese children our rich culture,” he said. “And anyway, there are not many black children in Japanese preschools.”

Surprisingly, the book is quite popular and was even selected as one of the Japan School Library Association’s “good picture books.”

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120410hn.html

Yomiuri: Iwate town sponsors Vietnamese future doctor — and people reportedly react with trepidation

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Hi Blog.  In light of how NJ nurses under a national visa program have been treated in the face of a chronic careworkers shortage, here we have a case where even local sponsorship of a NJ doctor is also viewed (according to the Yomiuri, which may indeed in the interest of “balance” be conjuring up a tempest in a teapot) with suspicion because she is a foreigner.  After all, she might not stay!  Then again, so might not anyone else being trained on that scholarship program regardless of nationality.  Ah, but foreigners are different, you see.  They always represent a flight risk…  Anyhoo, good news tainted with an editorial bias of caution and trepidation just because the subject is NJ.  Arudou Debito

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

Town turns to Vietnam for future doctor
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 23, 2012), courtesy of JK
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120622004307.htm

ICHINOHE, Iwate — Facing a serious and chronic shortage of doctors, the town of Ichinohe felt it necessary to look overseas to find medical staff willing to live and work in the rural area.

The town plans to spend more than 10 million yen on school and living expenses for a Vietnamese woman on the condition that she will practice medicine in the town for at least seven years after obtaining her license.

The unusual plan raised eyebrows when the town ran it by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and some residents have questioned why the town is sponsoring a foreigner.

However, Ichinohe Mayor Akira Inaba believes the unprecedented plan is just what the town needs.

“The scholarship program for Japanese medical students hasn’t attracted enough applicants to meet its quota,” he said. “We have no other choice but to secure our doctors on our own.”

The foreign student the town plans to sponsor is 18-year-old Luu Hong Ngoc, who will graduate this month from Vietnam National University’s High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City. The school is one of Vietnam’s most prestigious.

Inaba visited Ho Chi Minh City after a local sewing plant began accepting Vietnamese vocational trainees. Ngoc’s grandmother served as the mayor’s interpreter in Ho Chi Minh City, and told him that her granddaughter hoped to become a doctor overseas.

Inaba asked to see Ngoc’s school transcript and requested other information about her. Her records showed her to be a qualified and enthusiastic student, and after receiving a letter of recommendation from Ngoc’s school, the town decided to invite her to Japan.

Municipalities in Iwate Prefecture run a joint scholarship program to support medical students, which Ichinohe participates in. The scholarship provides each student with 200,000 yen a month and pays a lump sum of up to 7.6 million yen when the recipient enters medical school.

However, for several years the scholarship has failed to fill its quota. The program also provides no guarantee the recipient will work in Ichinohe after receiving a medical license.

These difficulties are what pushed the town to decide to independently fund Ngoc’s medical education.

The entire process will take eight to 10 years and cost 10 million yen to 20 million yen. In return, the town will receive a pledge from Ngoc to work for at least seven years at the town’s prefectural hospital.

The town plans to allocate funds for Ngoc’s costs for this fiscal year in a supplementary budget to be submitted in September.

Inaba said Ngoc’s grandmother, who learned Japanese in Moscow, is “Japan’s No. 1 fan in Vietnam.”

The town has heard that Ngoc is telling people she plans to study other subjects besides the specialized course to help her become a better doctor.

Ngoc is scheduled to come to Japan by the end of the year. In the spring, she will begin studying for the medical school entrance exam at a national university while learning Japanese at a vocational school in Morioka.

However, some residents and members of the town assembly have raised concerns about the plan, such as what would happen if Ngoc decided to return to Vietnam before finishing the course, or why the town is sponsoring a Vietnamese person in the first place.

The town government has said it will take steps so the money will have to be returned if Ngoc does not fulfill the work agreement, possibly through a contract.

Ichinohe, population 14,000, has a prefectural hospital and four internal medicine clinics, with a total of 18 full-time doctors.

However, many people must visit hospitals in Morioka, about 100 kilometers away, because local facilities lack obstetrics and outpatient ophthalmology departments.

“I hope what we do will draw attention to the lack of doctors in rural areas,” Inaba said. “We’ll keep looking for more talented young people in Vietnam.”
ENDS

Weird Tangent: Panasonic campaign targeting and bribing NJ Facebook users in violation of Facebook privacy policy

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Hi Blog.  Something weird happening here from Panasonic Corporation, targeting NJ Facebook users in general (this time not just one Panasonic staff member who’s been targeting this blogger and his NJ readers in specific).  Thought I’d just pass it along.  FYI.  Arudou Debito

——————-

July 18, 2012

From:  XY

Dear Debito,

I recently received the following email which may be of interest to you. I have also included a few comments at the end.

——————-

From: Findateacher.Net_SenseiSagasu.com_Research info@senseisagasu-research.com
Subject: Findateacher.Net-Non-teaching Income Opportunity -Pa nasonic Olympic Promotion “SHARE THE PASSION”
Date: 07/17/2012
To: senseisagasu-research  info@senseisagasu-research.com

Hello,

Occasionally, we (findateacher.net) get offers for part time
non-teaching work for foreigners living in Japan.This time, we have
“Panasonic/Olympic online promotion – Share The Passion” Project.
Please reply to us as soon as possible since we don’t have much time.
And we will choose participants on first come first serve basis. Thank
you.

PANASONIC Olympic Campaign “SHARE THE PASSION” [For foreigners live in Japan]

*Required condition

1) Foreigners from UK, U.S.A, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who
speaks English.
2) You have a Facebook account.
3) You can let us check your activity on Face book.
(This is only for confirmation that your activities that you clicked
“like” and upload the photo)

*REWARD : 2,000 JPY
(We will pay in the beginning of September via Bank Account)

*STEPS
1. You log into Facebook and click “Like” button on “SHARE THE
PASSION” APP Page.
2. You will download “SHARE THE PASSION” Facebook APP and upload the
photos of you playing sports.
3. After we confirm that you clicked “Like” button on and uploaded the
photo on that APP, we will pay the reward.

[Date: TBA]

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THIS PROJECT, PLEASE REPLY TO
info@senseisagasu-research.com with SUBJECT “SHARE THE PASSION” with
the following information A.S.A.P.

1. Full name
2. Nationality
3. Age
4. Where do you live?
5. E-mail Address(Your registered email address)
6. Telephone number
7. Do you have Facebook account?
8. Can you allow us to check your activities on Facebook?
(For the confirmation of clicking “like” and uploading photo)

************* DEADLINE: July 19th 10:00am**************

Regards

Kana
—————–
Kana Sato
info@senseisagasu-research.com
satokana@findateacher.net
http://www.findateacher.net

FindaNet, Inc., K2 Building 1st Floor,
15-4 Maruyama-cho Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
〒150-0044
/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

——————-

COMMENT FROM SUBMITTER:  It appears that Panasonic, rather than advertise on Facebook the proper way, instead is targeting non Japanese living in Japan and offering 2,000 yen if they download the app and give Panasonic and Findateacher.net their Facebook passwords.

I believe this is not only against the privacy laws in Japan, Facebook has clearly stated it will consider taking legal action against companies that take part in this practice. Sharing one’s Facebook password, also give a company access to the private information of all of that user’s friends, violating the privacy of other Facebook users.

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/03/facebook-password-employers/

I thought I would bring this to your attention as it is targeting non Japanese ethnic groups.

Regards, XY

ENDS

H-Japan on “Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate”, Tohoku U Prof Yoshida’s demographic research methodologically excludes “foreigner births”

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Hi Blog.  One social statistic that is very politically-charged in Japan (along with the unemployment rate, which is according to some kept low due to methodological differences in measurement) is Japan’s birth rate.  I have already argued that Japan’s demographic science is already riddled with politics (in order to make the option of immigration a taboo topic).  But here is another academic arguing that how the birth rate is measured differs from time to time, sometimes resulting in not counting NJ women giving birth in Japan!  In other words, Japan’s demographic science is methodologically leaning towards only counting births of Japanese citizens, not of births of people in Japan — and a prominent scientist named Yoshida at Tohoku University is actually advocating that NJ births be excluded from Japan’s birth rate tally, for the purposes of formulating “appropriate public policy”!  Application of the Nationality Clause to demographics to systematically exclude them from public policy considerations?  The author of this piece from H-Japan calls it “apartheid”.   So would I.  Have a read.  Arudou Debito

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

Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate
From: JFMorris
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2012 
Venue: H-Japan Website, courtesy of LB

Dear List Members,

On 12th July 2012, Professor Yoshida Hiroshi of the Graduate School of Economics, Tohoku University, made a press release of research conducted under his direction. So far as I can ascertain, this press release was ignored by almost all mainstream media, but NHK reported the content of his team’s findings on its TV news programmes in detail, and featured a detailed interview with him on its evening radio news show.

The starting point for Professor Yoshida’s research is the discrepancy between the official birth rate announced by the Japanese government. The birth rate for years when a census conducted is higher than that for years when there is no census. The reason for this is that in census years, the birth rate is calculated on the basis of women of Japanese nationality resident in Japan, whereas in non-census years the birth rate is calculated using the total number of women in the relevant age cohort; i.e. including women of foreign nationality resident in Japan. Professor Yoshida recalculated the birth rate for 2011, a non-census year, excluding women of foreign nationality from his figures and compared it to the birth rate for 2010, a census year, for various levels of local governmental bodies across Japan. His press release demonstrates that when comparing 2011 and 2010, the official figures for the birth rate show either no change (10 prefectures ) or a decline across the prefectures of Japan, whereas when the 2 years are compared using his equivalent data, the birth rate shows a decline in only 8 prefectures (of which 5 are most likely affected by the events of March 2011), and actually shows an increase (albeit small) in 30 prefectures.

Professor Yoshida’s research is very important in any discussion of the birth rate and population issues in Japan. It is extremely important in formulating pubic policy on matters concerning population, and the related issue of women’s issues, especially at the level of local government, as regional discrepancies between the local birth rate and the national average are large. In his long radio interview with NHK, Professor Yoshida emphasised the importance of collecting statistically valid and meaningful data in order to formulate and evaluate the effectiveness of public policy, particularly in an issue so delicate as the birth rate.

So far so good. However, in the pursuit of statistical consistency, Professor Yoshida has committed a form of apartheid, and NHK by uncritically reporting the methodology and ‘significance’ of Professor Yoshida’s research, has amplified his methodological error across Japan, and given it quasi-official sanction by reporting it on the ‘national’ news network.

Professor Yoshida’s work contains two problems. If he wishes to point out the methodological inconsistency in the way the current Japanese birth rate is calculated, he has an important and very valid point. All scholars who use the official figures for the Japanese birth rate should be aware of his research. However, if he is going to claim (as he does in his press release and on public television and radio) that his figure are the objectively ‘correct’ figures for the Japanese birth rate, than his calculations are just as methodogically flawed as the governmental figures that he criticises. His calculations assume that all children of Japanese nationality born in Japan are born by women of Japanese nationality. The rate of marriages of Japanese men to women of foreign nationality has accounted for 3.2 to 4.6% of all marriages in Japan over the past 10 years or so. The overwhelming majority of children born from these marriages will be registered as ‘Japanese nationals.’ The gist of Professor Yoshida’s criticism of the official figures for the birth rate in non-census years is that they are lower than the reality. However, the figures that he claims are the objectively correct figures, by the same token, will always produce a figure for the birth rate that is higher than the reality, because it denies that there are children born to mothers of foreign nationality throughout Japan. If Professor Yoshida merely wished to demonstrate the inconsistency of the official figures for the Japanese birth rate then his research would be valid. However, to claim that his figures are objectively correct is not as invalid as the data that he criticises and for exactly the same reason that he criticises the government figures, the gross insult that he has committed by denying the existence of 10’s of thousands of women of foreign nationality married to Japanese men and bearing Japanese children is unforgivable.

To add insult to injury, Professor Yoshida in his radio interview claimed that statistics for foreigners resident in Japan should be excluded from all public calculations of population within Japan, in order to formulate appropriate public policy. The example he used to make his point was Gifu Prefecture, which has a relatively large concentration of foreign workers. After the depression following the Lehman Brothers’ Shock of 2008, the majority of foreign workers remaining in Japan are people who have lived here for 20 years or more, and are not likely to conveniently return to their home country. By claiming that foreigners/foreign workers should be excluded from all statistics for population in Japan and any formulation of policy based on these statistic, Professor Yoshida is doing nothing other than advocating a form of apartheid.

I have submitted a letter directly to Professor Yoshida pointing out the methodological shortcomings and social implications of his research and public statements. I have also submitted an email to NHK outlining the problems involved in their reporting, and have not received an answer from either.

John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University,
Sendai, Japan

For reference:
Tohoku Uni press release of Professor Yoshida’s research
http://www.tohoku.ac.jp/japanese/newimg/pressimg/tohokuuniv-press20120612_01.pdf

Professor Yoshida’s web site
https://sites.google.com/site/economicsofaging/

Official governmental figures on marriages by nationality within Japan
http://www.mhlw.go.jp/toukei/saikin/hw/jinkou/suii10/dl/s05.pdf
ENDS

Tangent: Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: MD notes ironies of different Japanese and English versions

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Hi Blog. We’re going to do a tangent now away from our regular focus of life and human rights in Japan, and talk about life and, er, human rights in Japan (except in general, not as they specifically impact on NJ). Debito.org has talked at length about the whole Fukushima Fiasco in the past (even asked fruitlessly for naysayer capitulation when our initial assertions of public corruption and coverup proved to be pretty much spot-on), but only in concentrated bursts, as it is something better discussed elsewhere. Nevertheless, Debito.org Reader MD sent me a poignant post involving “cultural ironies” that I thought deserved a wider audience, so here it is. A brief comment from me follows:

////////////////////////////////////////////
From:  MD
Date:  July 12, 2012
Dear Debito,

I dug up the following story during the weekend while having a enlighting Twitter discussion with a NJ-journalist friend living in Tokyo.

It appears that the NAIIC (National Diet of Japan Fukushiima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission) report on Fukushima deliberately added (or left-out depending on your Japanese / English reading ability) parts in the report.  (NAIIC official site here.)  Specifically only the English version of the report puts the blame on some made-up cultural characteristics like:

  • This was a disaster “Made in Japan”.
  • Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture, i.e., 
  • Our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.

Unfortunately the international media was once again quick to approve the findings of the NAIIC report, because it caters to their readers exotic orientalised idea of a strange Japan which outsiders can never fully grasp. I ran that story as an open letter to the editor (in German) on www.schnellinterkulturell.de yesterday, after some of Germany’s biggest media outlets decided to buy into NAIIC’s cultural uniqueness story.

Meanwhile lots of US-American and British newspapers followed suit and criticise the report. Even Gerald Curtis shared his thoughts on justifying the Fukushima incident by attaching some cultural myth to it. (Financial Times story here) (free registration required)

The Japanese media in turn also picked up on how the international media picked up on the story (does that make sense?). I especially like the Asahi headline “Western media: Don’t blame Fukushima on ‘culture'” and the quote from Kiyoshi Kurokawa head of the commission: When asked by reporters why the Japanese and the English version of the reports differ, Kurokawa said: “If you are Japanese, you would understand by reading the original version.” I suppose the irony of blaming the Japanese culture for the Fukushima incident, and how he used that myth to evade a straight answer was totally lost on him. (full Asahi article here: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/analysis/AJ201207120045)

Make of it what you will, but I call (linguistic) foul play on part of the NAIIC.

Best regards, MD

PS: So far the story in German can only found on my blog, feel free to link and use Google Translate! http://schnellinterkulturell.de/2012/07/15395/ein-offener-brief-an-martin-koelling-japan-korrespondent-handelsblatts/

ENDS

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

Western media: Don’t blame Fukushima on ‘culture’

The Asahi Shimbun, July 12, 2012

By DAISUKE NAKAI/ Correspondent
NEW YORK–British and U.S. media are not buying the Diet’s investigation commission’s report that Japanese culture was largely to blame for last year’s nuclear disaster.

They said the finding only helps to divert attention from the true lessons of the catastrophe.

The English-language version of the final report by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, released on July 5, said: “This was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.”

U.S.-based Bloomberg ran an editorial on July 8 titled: “Japan’s Unsatisfying Nuclear Report.” The article appreciated the report’s detail and its assertion that the disaster was “profoundly man-made,” but pointed out that it “does not identify which men (and this being Japan, there probably weren’t many women) failed.”

It went on to say: “It is both a cop-out and a cliche to fall back on Japan’s ‘groupism’ and say that ‘had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same.'”

Gerald Curtis, a professor of political science at Columbia University who is well-versed in Japanese affairs, also lambasted the cultural labeling in his contribution to Britain’s Financial Times.

“If culture explains behavior, then no one has to take responsibility,” he said. “People have autonomy to choose. At issue are the choices they make, not the cultural context in which they make them.”

Reporting from Tokyo on July 8, the Financial Times also raised concerns about labeling the disaster as “Made in Japan.”

“That, tragically, was the kind of conclusion that Japanese policymakers and engineers came to after the world’s last big nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986,” the article said. “It was easier to blame Chernobyl on Soviet shortcomings of design and operation, rather than to truly question the safety of Japanese plants. Other nations should not repeat the mistake.”

Many of the statements at issue appear in the “Message from the Chairman” section of the English-language report written by investigation chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa, but are found nowhere in the Japanese-language version.

Reporters asked the reasons for the differences between the Japanese and English versions during a news conference following the release of the report.

Kurokawa replied that, “If you are Japanese, you would understand by reading the original version.”

ENDS

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  This linguistic prestidigitation is par for the course due to, as I have written before, the institutionalized culture of lying in Japan.  Tatemae and honne — the two great ways to justify speaking differently out of two corners of one’s mouth — made clearer as never before, by having one official report on the world’s arguably worst (but definitely ongoing) nuclear disaster use the Japanese language as a code for domestic consumption, and its English translation to handle the gaijin.  And true to character, as was noted by the chairman, it’s the gaijins’ fault for not understanding our Japanese…!  And that’s before we get to the issues of the actual arguments being made within the report, as Gerald Curtis articulates so well below.  As I’ve said before, this system is irredeemably broken.  Arudou Debito

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

The Financial Times
Last updated: July 10, 2012 11:26 am
Stop blaming Fukushima on Japan’s culture
By Gerald Curtis

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/6cecbfb2-c9b4-11e1-a5e2-00144feabdc0.html

More than a year has passed since tragedy struck the Tohoku region of Japan. A huge earthquake and tsunami left 20,000 people dead and missing, hundreds of thousands homeless, and resulted in a nuclear accident at Fukushima that ranks with Chernobyl among the worst ever.

The tragedy cried out for a rapid policy response: the government failed to meet this challenge. The authorities’ incompetence is chronicled in the report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Commission released this month. Its sobering conclusion is that this was not a natural disaster but “a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. Its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.”

The report documents the failings of Tepco, the power company that ran the Fukushima plant, the bureaucracy with regulatory responsibility for the nuclear industry and the government of prime minister Naoto Kan. It describes a culture of collusion inside Japan’s “nuclear village” that put the interests of power producers ahead of public safety and wilfully ignored the risks of a major nuclear accident in an earthquake prone country.

But one searches in vain through these pages for anyone to blame. It “singles out numerous individuals and organisations for harsh criticism, but the goal is not to lay blame”. Why not? Because, the commission concludes, “this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the programme’; our groupism; and our insularity. Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same.”

I beg to differ. Had Mr Kan not stormed into Tepco headquarters and tried to exercise some authority over the company’s executives, the situation might have been far worse. If Tepco had had a more competent president, its communications with the prime minister’s office would have been better. People matter: one of the heroes in the Fukushima story was Tepco’s Masao Yoshida, the plant manager who disobeyed orders not to use saltwater to cool the reactors. Incredibly, Tepco’s management initially clung to the hope the reactors might one day be brought back to operation, something that would be impossible once saltwater was injected into them.

To pin the blame on culture is the ultimate cop-out. If culture explains behaviour, then no one has to take responsibility. This is indeed what the report concludes when it says that the results would have been the same even with others in charge.

Culture does not explain Fukushima. People have autonomy to choose; at issue are the choices they make, not the cultural context in which they make them. If obedience to authority is such an ingrained trait in Japan, how then is it possible for a group of Japanese to write a report that not only questions but lambasts authority, anything but an example of reflexive obedience? The culture argument is specious.

Prime Minister Noda promised to have a new independent nuclear regulatory commission up and running by April of this year. The parliament’s lower house finally passed a bill to do that just last week. The government has decided to go ahead and restart two nuclear reactors at a plant that services Osaka and surrounding areas despite widespread public opposition. But it is unlikely that any of Japan’s other 51 nuclear power reactors will be brought online until after the commission is established and new safety standards announced. Culture does not explain this painfully slow response; politics do.

Those inside the Japanese nuclear village do share a particular culture but it is hardly uniquely Japanese. What jumps out from this report are the parallels between the manmade causes of and responses to Fukushima and the “culture” that led to the financial meltdown in the US after the Lehman Brothers collapse and that continues to resist meaningful reform and the pinning of responsibility for this manmade disaster on specific individuals.

The Fukushima Commission report “found an organisation-driven mind-set that prioritised benefits to the organisation at the expense of the public.” Well, if that is Japanese culture, then we are all Japanese.

The writer is a professor at Columbia university
ENDS

Hurrah, the separate Alien Registration System is abolished after 60 years. Now let’s consider the GOJ give & take regarding tracking NJ under this policy

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Hi Blog. After many years of bureaucratic policy trial balloons and lots of advance warning, July 9, 2012 has finally come to pass, and the longstanding Alien Registration System, promulgated in 1952 to help the GOJ keep track of the pesky aliens (mostly former citizens of the Japanese Empire who were stripped of their Japanese citizenship) who wouldn’t go back to “their country” (staying on in Japan as Zainichi, generational “foreigners” born in Japan to this day), has been abolished sixty years later. In its place, NJ are now registered on Japan’s juuminhyou Residency Certificatesclosing up a ludicrous system where only citizens could be registered as “residents” (juumin) despite paying Residents’ Tax (yup, juuminzei), and teeth-grindlingly stupid moves such as local governments giving animals and fictional characters their own honorary “juuminhyou” despite untaxable status.  Now NJ can also now be listed with their Japanese (and non-Japanese) families properly as family members and heads of household (no longer excluded even from local population tallies for not being listed in the juumin kihon daicho). Finally, closure to that. Good riddance.

That said, the new system also includes new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado), which are higher-tech versions (I say remotely trackable due to the RFID technology inside, by design; see below) and still required under criminal law to be carried 24-7 under penalty of search, seizure, and possible incarceration for a week or three. That hasn’t changed. In fact I would now argue it’s gotten worse — since Japanese citizens (even if computer chip technology has also been introduced into J driver licenses and passports, which not all Japanese get anyway) are not required by law to carry any ID whatsoever at all times. Some historical links regarding the true intention of the ZRK (tracking and control of untrustworthy NJ, not convenience for them as is generally sold) follow.

Japan Times IC Chip Gaijin Card Pt 3: View of Bureaucrats: Control of NJ at all costs

Japan Times May 20, 2009: “IC you: Bugging the Alien” article on new Gaijin Cards

Bus. consortium to track Ginza shoppers, then IC Gaijin Cards?

Kyodo: GOJ proposes GPS tracking of criminals. SITYS.

Mysterious Asahi translation: “IC cards planned to track ‘nikkeijin’”

Japan Times on Japan’s emerging NJ policing laws. Nichibenren: “violation of human rights”

Follow-up: More on fingerprinting, tracking people electronically, and RFID technology

New Japanese driver licenses now have IC Chips, no honseki

Alright, I’ll paste some articles below and let’s see what the media has made of this. Feel free to tell us how the changes have been affecting you as well. Arudou Debito

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Alien system ends; foreigners to be issued resident cards
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 10, 2012), courtesy of JT
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120709004610.htm

A new management system for foreign residents in Japan started Monday. As part of the changes, the previous alien registration system will be abolished and a new resident card will be issued to foreign residents in Japan.

The new system is designed to reduce the number of foreign residents staying in Japan illegally and to be more convenient for bona fide foreign residents.

In the previous alien registration system that began in 1952, local municipalities issued alien registration certificates to foreign residents without examining their resident status. This enabled foreigners staying in Japan illegally to obtain the certificates.

Under the new system, the Justice Ministry will issue a resident card to foreign residents, excluding certain people such as diplomats, who have been granted a status of residence in Japan with a period of stay for more than three months. The card will hold information that includes the name, nationality, date of birth and address of the cardholder.

For special permanent residents such as Korean residents in Japan, a special permanent resident certificate will be issued instead of a resident card.

The period of stay limit for foreign residents has been extended from three years to five years. Under the new system, people leaving Japan will not be required in principle to obtain a re-entry permit if they hold a passport and a resident card and return to Japan within a year and before their period of stay expires.

Foreigners with a resident card or a special permanent resident certificate are included in the national resident registry and they will be able to obtain a copy of their certificate of residence from their local municipality.

On the other hand, those who stay in Japan illegally will not be included in the registry. This could prevent them from obtaining administrative services including education services and medical assistance because local municipalities will not be able to obtain necessary information, such as their address.
ENDS
////////////////////////////////////////////

The Japan Times Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Re-entry permits soon consigned to history
Foreigners flock for new residence IDs
By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer

A large number of foreign residents flocked to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau on Monday, the first day it is issuing new “zairyu,” or residence, cards to replace alien registration cards.

At 8:30 a.m., more than 100 people had lined up for the applications to obtain a new card, an official at the center in Minato Ward said.

Those who arrived at around 8 a.m. had to wait about two hours. People who didn’t bring a head shot measuring 4 cm by 3 cm also had to line up at the photo booths.

Eight regional bureaus, six district immigration offices and 63 branch offices across the nation are now issuing the residence card. Applicants can go to a bureau or office, fill out the application form and receive the card the same day.

“I feel like a part of society,” Yang Chunying, 52, a Chinese national, said after receiving her residence card at the Tokyo bureau. “I am glad to have the card because things will be more convenient.”

The new immigration control system that began Monday has unified the administrative work on foreign residents under the Immigration Bureau.

While some fear that controls on non-Japanese will be tightened, the government has made it more convenient for law-abiding foreigners by extending visa lengths to five years from the current three, and eliminating the requirement to obtain a re-entry permit before leaving Japan for any period less than a year.

The system is designed to be tougher on illegal residents, however.

Such people have been receiving various public services because municipalities usually don’t care about who is here legally or illegally, but this may not last under the Immigration Bureau’s watch.

Some 130 people, mainly Asians, held a demonstration Monday against the new immigration control system at Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, saying it is overly harsh on illegal residents.

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120710a1.html

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

First new residency cards for foreign nationals issued at Haneda
July 09, 2012 (Mainichi Japan)
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120709p2a00m0na013000c.html

Two people on a flight from the United States became the first to get Japan’s new foreign resident cards early on the morning of July 9, the first day of the Ministry of Justice’s new mid- to long-term residency management system for foreign nationals.

Late on July 8, staff from the Immigration Bureau — administered by the justice ministry — stood by at Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) in preparation for the switch to the new system. When the clock struck midnight, they changed the signs above the immigration counters, and those indicating card-issuance counters for mid- to long-term residents.

Two passengers from a flight from Los Angeles, California, were the first to apply for the new resident cards at around 4:30 a.m. on July 9. The first recipient was Carlos Shaw, a 37-year-old Tennessee native who was coming to Japan for the first time. Shaw, who is here to teach English at an elementary and junior high school in Yamagata, said he felt lucky to be the first recipient of the new card.

Because the alien registration certificates that had heretofore been issued are being replaced by the new resident cards, mid- to long-term residents already in Japan must exchange their old cards for new ones when they renew their visas. Foreign nationals residing in Japan illegally are not eligible for resident cards under the new system.
ENDS
Original Japanese

在留管理:新制度スタート 「カード」を交付
毎日新聞 2012年07月09日 10時14分(最終更新 07月09日 11時08分)
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20120709k0000e010074000c.html

3カ月以内の短期滞在者などを除く外国人正規滞在者(中長期在留者)に「在留カード」を交付する「新しい在留管理制度」が9日、スタートした。同日早朝、羽田空港(東京都大田区)の入国審査場では、米国籍の男性が同制度で初の在留カードを手にした。

羽田空港では、8日深夜から法務省入国管理局の担当者らが新制度への移行に向けて待機。日付が9日に変わると、入国審査ゲート上の看板の表示を新しくする作業を行い、カード交付用窓口の表示を「中長期在留外国人」に変えた。

9日午前4時半過ぎ、米ロサンゼルスからの航空機に搭乗していたうち2人が初めて在留カードの交付手続きを実施。第1号の取得者となった米テネシー州のカルロス・ショーさん(37)は「山形の小中学校で英語を教えるため、初めて日本に来た。今日から在留管理制度が新しくなることは知らなかったので、第1号だと聞いて、とてもラッキーな気分だ」と驚いていた。

新制度の導入により外国人登録証が失効するため、既に国内に滞在している中長期在留者は9日以降、在留カードへの切り替えを行うことになるが、不法滞在者は新制度の適用外で、カードを取得できない。【伊藤一郎】
ENDS

Weekend Tangent: Louis Vuitton Journeys Award shortlisted J movie short has multicultural couple

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Hi Blog. As a Weekend Tangent, here’s a letter from a Debito.org Reader who has appeared in a short film you might be interested in.  I’ll let him tell you about it:

///////////////////////////////////////////
July 4, 2012
Debito-san,

In late May 2012, I was approached by a young and passionate Tokyo guy. He asked me if I can act in a short silent movie. He said that he is shooting this movie to participate in Louis Vuitton’s Journeys Awards competition. The competition gives emerging artists/producers/directors an opportunity to get into limelight.

When he explained me the script, I could see why he approached me specifically. The story was about an Indian professional who was married to a Japanese woman. The Indian had to return to India … and the movie was about the moments of emotions after he told this to his wife. He was asking me to share the real moments of my life for his movie!

Please check the following link to watch the (5 minute) movie online.
http://www.journeysawards.com/en_US/shortlisted/Departure/

While this movie is not directly related to your core topics of discussion in debito.org, I think the selection of this movie in shortlisted 10 (from among 100s of submissions), proves two things in a very subtle way… two very important things.

SYNOPSIS (from site):  

DEPARTURE

A Japanese woman, Yuko is about to move out from Japan since her Indian husband got transferred to his own country India. In spite of having a great devotion and affection to her husband Yuko can’t stop feeling the anxiety to depart for her new life in India and the reluctance to be apart from her parents and her hometown. Impulsively running from the reality, she needs to find a faith for herself.

What does the movie’s shortlisting success prove? …

1) Young Japanese artists/producers/directors are open to multicultural Japan and they are willing to take a chance on Japan that is not homogeneous.

2) Multicultural Japan can compete just as effectively as monocultural Japan (there is another movie from Japan also in shortlisted 10!)

If you think that the above topic/note will be of interest to your blog readers, please feel free to post it.

===========

(And feel free to vote for it, Debito.org Readers, if you want. Arudou Debito)

ENDS

Suraj Case: Chiba prosecutors decide not to indict 10 Immigration officers in whose custody he died

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Hi Blog. Sad news. The Suraj Case, which has been covered in various media reproduced here on Debito.org, has wound up as predicted: With the Immigration officers getting off with no indictment and the GOJ getting away with murder (if not negligence leading to homicide while in official custody). Even the Japan Times called his death “brutal”. It’s bad enough when you have a criminal justice system where even citizens are victims of “hostage justice”.  It’s another when you can get away with killing somebody during deportation just because they’re foreign.  One more brick in the wall to demonstrate that once the Japanese police get your hands on you as a NJ, you don’t stand a Chinaman’s Chance, be it in Japan’s criminal investigations, incarceration systems, jurisprudence and standards of evidence, criminal court, or civil court afterwards. In a word, disgusting. Arudou Debito

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

Chiba prosecutors decide not to indict 10 immigration officers over death of Ghanaian man
Mainichi Shimbun July 4, 2012, courtesy of MD
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120704p2a00m0na006000c.html

CHIBA — The Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office decided on July 3 not to indict 10 officers of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau on charges of assault and cruelty resulting in a Ghanaian man’s death when they overpowered him aboard an aircraft.

In deciding to drop the case, the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office said, “There is no causal relationship between the action (by the immigration officers) and the death (of the Ghanaian man), and the action was legitimate.”

According to Chiba Prefectural Police and other sources, Ghanaian national Abubakar Awudu Suraji, who had overstayed his visa, became violent when he was taken aboard a plane for deportation at Narita Airport on March 22, 2010. The 45-year-old man passed out when immigration officials tried to restrain him with handcuffs, towels and other means. He was taken to a hospital at the airport but died shortly thereafter. The cause of his death remained unknown as a legal autopsy showed no noticeable bodily injuries.

The man’s Japanese wife filed a complaint with the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office in June 2010, arguing that “there is a high possibility that (her Ghanaian husband) died from a violent assault while being escorted.” In December 2010, the Chiba Prefectural Police sent papers on the case to the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office.
ENDS

////////////////////////////////////////
Original Japanese article

強制送還中に死亡:入管警備官10人 不起訴処分に
毎日新聞 2012年07月03日 22時41分
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20120704k0000m040091000c.html

成田空港で一昨年3月、強制送還中のガーナ人男性(当時45歳)が東京入国管理局の入国警備官の制止を受けた後に死亡した事件で、千葉地検は3日、特別公務員暴行陵虐致死容疑で書類送検された警備官10人を容疑なしで、いずれも不起訴処分とした。地検は「行為と死亡の因果関係はなく、行為は適法だった」と説明している。

千葉県警などによると、不法滞在していたアブバカル・アウドゥ・スラジュさんは10年3月22日、強制送還のため旅客機に搭乗した際に暴れ、警備官が手錠やタオルなどで制止した後に意識を失い、空港内の病院に搬送されたが死亡した。司法解剖の結果、目立った外傷もなく、死因も不明だった。

男性の日本人妻が「護送中の暴行で死亡した可能性が高い」として同年6月に地検に告訴。同12月、県警が書類送検していた。【黒川晋史】

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 July 3, 2012: “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for NJ”

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Hi Blog. My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 dated July 3, 2012, is on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective.  Have a read and a think.  Arudou Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 for the Community Page
By ARUDOU Debito
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120703ad.html

Last month the Japanese government took baby steps toward an official immigration policy. Ten ministries and several specialist “people of awareness” (yūshikisha) held meetings aimed at creating a “coexistence society” (kyōsei shakai) within which non-Japanese (NJ) would be “accepted” (uke ire).

This is a positive change from the past two decades, when Japan cultivated an unofficial unskilled labor visa regime that a) imported NJ as cheap work units to keep Japanese factories from going bankrupt or moving overseas, and then b) saw NJ as an inconvenient unemployment statistic, fixable by canceling visas or buying them tickets home (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009).

Yes, we’ve seen this kyōsei sloganeering before. Remember the empty “kokusaika” internationalization mantra of Japan’s ’80s bubble era?

But this time the government is serious. Sponsored by the Cabinet, these meetings are considering assimilationist ideas suggested by local governments and ignored for a decade.

Why? Attendees acknowledged that Japan needs NJ to revitalize its future economy.

Unusually, their discussions were open to public scrutiny (www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html) Thank you. And here scrutiny comes . . .

The good news is that the meetings’ heart is in the right place. A fuller analysis of the materials can be found at www.debito.org/?p=10271, but what they’re getting right includes:

• State-supported Japanese language education for all NJ.

• State-supported education for all NJ children (so they don’t wind up as an illiterate unskilled underclass).

• More multilingual information online and in public access areas.

• Proper enrolment for NJ in Japan’s health, unemployment and social welfare systems.

• More assistance with finding NJ employment and resolving unemployment.

• Some attention to “cultural sensitivity” and “mutual respect” issues (not just the one-way gripe of “how NJ inconvenience us Japanese on garbage day”).

• Better coordination between all levels of government for more comprehensive policies, etc.

Bravo. But there are some shortcomings:

First, definitions. What do “coexistence” and “acceptance” mean? Just letting people across the border? Gated communities? Official recognition of ethnic minorities and domestic “foreign cultures”? Acceptance of ethnic differences as “also Japanese”? Or repressing and overwriting those “foreign cultures” (a la the Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans and Taiwanese in Meiji Japan). Without making the terms of discussion clear, we can’t see ultimate intentions.

Second, hard-wired in the proceedings is a narrative that “offsets” and “others” NJ. We have the standard embedded policy invective of “our country” (wagakuni — but isn’t Japan the country of all its residents?), with the issue couched negatively as “the foreign laborer problem” (gaikokujin rōdōsha mondai). If NJ are not treated as intruders, then they are “guests” (as opposed to just human beings) being indulgently granted something from above.

Third, the ministries are considering vague “environmental preparations” (kankyō seibi) before more NJ get here. (But wait, aren’t NJ already here? Or are we somehow wiping the slate clean?)

OK, fine — semantics. But then you read how each ministry’s proposal further betrays an odd predisposition toward NJ:

The Justice Ministry complained that they can’t “administer” (kanri) NJ properly once they cross the border. But with upcoming reforms to NJ registration systems ferreting out more visa miscreants, that’s fixed, they added. Phew. Not much else was proposed.

The health ministry suggested making some important improvements to welfare and employment systems. But nothing too legalistic — after all, discrimination against NJ as workers is already forbidden (kinshi) by law (as if that’s made much difference so far). They also heralded the preferential treatment for “high-quality” (shitsu no takai) NJ from now on through a new “points system” (critiqued as problematic in my March 6 column).

The Cabinet talked exclusively about assisting nikkei — NJ of Japanese descent. Never mind residents from, say, China or the Philippines; bloodlines take priority.

The education ministry recycled old ideas, saying that we need to teach NJ the Japanese language and, er, not much else — not even any antibullying proposals.

Nothing at all from the attending ministries of foreign affairs, finance, trade and industry, transport and tourism, or forest and fisheries.

The most useless report was from the National Police Agency, who, with a single page of statistics cooking up a NJ crime rise (despite a dramatic fall across the board (JBC, April 3)), advocated more policing, much like the Justice Ministry did. (Funny thing, that: Are the police invited to every policy meeting on the treatment of Japan’s residents, or only for policies concerning those inherently untrustworthy NJ residents?)

The biggest problem was the lack of diversity. As this article went to press, all attendees were older Japanese men (OK, two women), with approximately the same socioeconomic status and life experience. Not one NJ attended.

Thus everyone relied on third-party “reports from the field” (genba de), as if NJ are exotic animals studied from binoculars in their habitat. Not even the token Gregory Clark (who never misses an opportunity within these pages to claim how open-minded the Japanese are because they plonk him on blue-ribbon panels) was shoehorned in.

If the people for whom this policy is being created are not present at the agenda-setting stage, the inevitable happens: blind spots.

Here’s the major one: Where is the legal apparatus (hō seibi) to back up those “environmental preparations”?

For example, where is a proposed amendment to the Basic Education Law (to remove the conceit of kokumin, or Japanese national) to ensure that Japanese schools can no longer refuse NJ children an education?

Where is a proposed punishment for the employer who treats his NJ workers unequally, such as by not coughing up their required half of social insurance payments?

What about that law against racial discrimination? Again, these meetings are a well-intentioned start. But I think the outcome will still be policy failure. For there is still no discussion about making NJ feel like they “belong,” as “members” of Japan.

Academic Yumiko Iida (a Japanese, so no claims of cultural imperialism, please), in her award-winning research about Japanese identity (see www.debito.org/?p=10215), argued that there are four things any viable nation-state must create to make its people feel like “members”:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all.

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations attached to it.

3) A world view that makes sense.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

Consider how NJ are denied these things:

1) NJ have little presence in Japan’s history (remember the old saw, “Japan merely borrows ‘things’ from overseas and then uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them”) so, as these meetings indicate by their very attendance roster, NJ are forever an exogenous force to Japanese society.

2) As discussed on these pages (JBC, June 5), NJ are systematically othered, if not completely ignored as even a minority community within Japan, and that will naturally discourage a feeling of moral obligation to Japan.

3) A world view that does not acknowledge the existence of entire minority peoples cannot possibly make sense to those peoples.

4) Hope for the future in a Japan in decline is a hard sell even for Japanese these days.

The point is, if this policy discussion is to go beyond political theater, the GOJ must now use the dreaded word “immigration” (imin). It must also prepare the public to see immigrants as members of Japanese society — as minority Japanese.

This committee has not. It had better start.

In this era of unprecedented opportunities for world labor migration, Japan must be more competitive. Above all, it must lose the arrogant assumption that people will want to come to Japan just because it’s Japan.

Japan must seriously think about how to be nice — yes, nice — enough to NJ so that they’ll want to stay. And that means making them feel equal in terms of importance and inclusion — as though they belong — with everyone else.

So you want to create public policy that reflects, not dictates, what NJ need? Then listen to those of us already here. The government has admitted you need us. Treat us as an exogenous force at your peril.

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

Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp. For readers’ views on last month’s column, please visit www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120703hs.html
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 2, 2012

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 2, 2012

Hello Newsletter Readers. My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 will be coming out tomorrow, July 3, 2012, on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective.
Sneak preview of the opening paragraphs at
http://www.debito.org/?p=10384

Now on with the Newsletter:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

///////////////////////////////////////////////
REOPENING THE IMMIGRATION POLICY DEBATE
1) GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them
2) GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre
3) Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”; a little out of date

WHY ANY IMMIGRATION POLICY MIGHT NOT WORK
4) NYT: A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands; the overwriting of NJ legacies in Ogasawaras
5) Kyodo: Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt, complete with editorial slant blaming NJ for being fickle
6) The Govinda (Mainali) miscarriage of justice murder case ruled for retrial after 15 years, so Immigration deports him. But there’s more intrigue.
7) Japan Times LIFELINES guest columnist Dr Berger on “Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan”. Seems grounded in stereotypes.
8 ) 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.

… and finally…

9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 5, 2012: Guestists, Haters, the Vested: Apologists take many forms
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By ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter arudoudebito)
Freely Forwardable

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REOPENING THE IMMIGRATION POLICY DEBATE

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

John Morris at H-JAPAN writes: 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.

SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: 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 NJ in Japan. More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10271

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

Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for ‘co-existence with foreigners’”, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. I offer summaries of each presenter’s materials below. My overall comment is that despite some fair-to-middling presentation styles (one a bit limply bureaucratic, another full of irrelevant chaff), all of them have their heart in the right place. Two of them I just wanted to hug the presenter afterwards for getting things right all the way down to the proper semantics (of seeing NJ as fellow “resident” with their own sense of “community”; they even overrode the potentially dichotomous “coexistence” meme for seeing NJ as perpetual outsiders to “handle and administrate”, which Japan’s sweaty-handed bureaucrats can never get beyond). How much of this advice will be taken is another issue, but at least the advice is being given. It’s a good Third Act in this political theatre. It’s just a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions thrown in later down the line as an afterthought. And there’s still no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10359

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3) Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”; a little out of date

Here’s some evidence of how the debate regarding Japan’s need for immigration is starting to percolate through USG policy circles — this time the Asia Pacific Bulletin. It’s another well-intentioned brief article for busy policymakers, but with a couple of mistakes: 1) “since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend” is not quite right since it was on a downward trend before 3/11 too (in fact, when I was debunking the “Flyjin” Myth in my Japan Times column I demonstrated how the decreasing trend in NJ numbers was largely unaffected by the multiple disasters); 2) the “stagnant policy discussion at the national level” has in fact been restarted and quite actively discussed starting from May onwards (perhaps after Mr. Menju sent the article to press, but the APB website notes their turnaround on articles is mere weeks), as has been discussed here in detail on Debito.org. But Mr. Menju does get some important things very, very right — as in the other J media-manufactured myth of NJ crime and social disruption (especially the NPA’s involvement in cooking the numbers), how this dynamic forestalls a healthy discussion on immigration policy, and Japan’s overall need for immigration despite all the years of active ignoring of local governments’ advice on tolerance and acceptance. Decent stuff, and worth a read.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10373

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WHY ANY IMMIGRATION POLICY MIGHT NOT WORK

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10337

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

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!

http://www.debito.org/?p=10340

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

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.

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9265

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10331

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8 ) 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.

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10269

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… and finally…

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

Zeit Gist Column 59/Just Be Cause Column 52 for the Japan Times Community Page
Published June 5, 2012
DIRECTOR’S CUT: Restoring a paragraph deleted from the print article (in parentheses)

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…

Rest of the article with links to sources at http://www.debito.org/?p=10276

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Alright, everyone, thanks for reading! ARUDOU, Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 2, 2012 ENDS

Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”

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Hi Blog.  Here’s some evidence of how the debate regarding Japan’s need for immigration is starting to percolate through USG policy circles — this time the Asia Pacific Bulletin.  It’s another well-intentioned brief article for busy policymakers, but with a couple of mistakes:  1) since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend” is not quite right since it was on a downward trend before 3/11 too (in fact, when I was debunking the “Flyjin” Myth in my Japan Times column I demonstrated how the decreasing trend in NJ numbers was largely unaffected by the multiple disasters); 2) the “stagnant policy discussion at the national levelhas in fact been restarted and quite actively discussed starting from May onwards (perhaps after Mr. Menju sent the article to press, but the APB website notes their turnaround on articles is mere weeks), as has been discussed here in detail on Debito.org.   But Mr. Menju does get some important things very, very right — as in the other J media-manufactured myth of NJ crime and social disruption (especially the NPA’s involvement in cooking the numbers), how this dynamic forestalls a healthy discussion on immigration policy, and Japan’s overall need for immigration despite all the years of active ignoring of local governments’ advice on tolerance and acceptance.  Decent stuff, and worth a read.  Arudou Debito

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Analysis:  Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 169
Publisher: Washington, D.C.: East-West Center in Washington
Publication Date: June 27, 2012
By Toshihiro Menju, courtesy VW
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/accepting-immigrants-japan’s-last-opportunity-economic-revival

BIO:  Toshihiro Menju, (Facebook profile here) Managing Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange, explains why “A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.”

Japan is very slowly beginning to recover from the enormous economic and infrastructural setbacks caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake. One reason for the slow pace of recovery is due to Japan’s shrinking and aging population, a phenomenon that is gradually and detrimentally affecting Japanese society as a whole. As of November 2011, Japan’s population totaled 128 million, ranking it tenth in the world after Russia. Historically, Japan’s large population has contributed to its dynamic economic output, providing a well-educated workforce along with a large domestic consumer market. However, since 2005 the total population has been in decline for the first time since WW II. Indeed, over the next decade it is expected to decrease by 5.3 million people, a significant decline of four percent, more than the entire population of Shikoku, Japan’s fourth largest island.

Unfortunately, Japan, unlike other developed economies, has only experienced two brief baby booms. The first baby boom, which occurred immediately after WWII, lasted just three years, until abortion became legal in 1949. Ironically, concerns over a sudden swell in population resulted in an increase in the number of pregnancy terminations. Furthermore, that post-WWII generation started a national trend where each subsequent generation has had fewer and fewer children, as evidenced by the brief baby boom in the early 1970s. As a result, today, the demographic decrease in Japan of children under the age of 15 is a serious national concern. Since 2003, over 400 public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools have closed every year directly as a result of demographics. It is estimated that between 2005 and 2025 the Japanese labor force–ages 15 to 64–will decrease by approximately 14 million, and at the same time citizens aged 75 and over will increase by 10 million. The economic, civil, and societal implications for such a dramatic and sudden demographic change are unprecedented.

Lack of Political Debate on Immigration
Currently, Japan has strict controls regarding foreign immigration, and there is no coherent national government policy or debate on how to utilize immigration to constructively address the issue of a declining population. Foreigners residing in Japan during 2010 totaled 2.13 million, almost two percent of the population. Currently 690,000 foreign residents are Chinese. Koreans rank second at around 570,000, of which 400,000 are direct descendents of Koreans who immigrated to Japan before WWII. The third largest group, at 230,000, is of Japanese-Brazilian descent, with a sudden increase in the early 1990s due to a relaxation in the immigration law for Japanese descendants living in South America. However, the number of Japanese-Brazilians living in Japan decreased rapidly after the 2008 global economic crisis. In addition, since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend.

There are three obstacles that hinder acceptance of immigrants or that even prevent starting a discussion at the national level on the subject of immigration. These three impediments are: the fear of social disruption attributed to immigrants as often witnessed in Europe and the United States; an increase in the rate of unemployment for Japanese citizens, especially among the youth; and an increase in the number of crimes committed by immigrants.

The first anxiety is a byproduct of the Japanese media’s coverage of immigrant issues in Europe, as well as in the United States. Japanese media coverage only presents the negative aspects of immigration in these countries; there is very rarely any coverage on the positive attributes of immigrants in these societies. The second apprehension is also unfounded, as Japan can tightly control the number and educational levels of incoming immigrants. The labor deficit within the agricultural, fishery, manufacturing, and service industries is a significant problem, combined with the fact that many Japanese youth refuse to work in these labor intensive and low-paying jobs.

The increase in crimes perpetrated by immigrants is also a misconception. Japan’s National Police Agency has, since 1990, featured a special section on crimes committed by foreigners in the annual Crimes in Japan report, and this has fueled the debate on the possibility of a spike in criminal activity due to an influx of immigrants. However, what is not widely discussed is that the number of crimes committed by foreigners has actually been steadily declining since 2005.

Healthy discussion on immigration is also inhibited by a number of other factors including ultra-nationalistic groups who are very vocal and unduly critical of neighboring countries. Furthermore, the perception in Japan of Imin–immigrants–is generally negative, with the public belief that if the door is opened, a flood of poor people from around the world will suddenly rush in. In reality, Japan is surrounded by a high language barrier that hinders non-serious immigrants.

Local Initiatives
However, in spite of the stagnant policy discussion at the national level, some local governments and grassroots organizations have been very active in accepting foreigners. This trend developed in the 1980s to help increase the number of foreign students in local communities, and the movement was boosted in the 1990s when Japanese-Brazilians suddenly increased from just a few thousand to 300,000 within approximately ten years. Tabunka-Kyosei–living together in a multi-culture–became the buzz word for these local movements. Local governments, including Toyota city (home town of Toyota motors), formed the Coalition of Cities with Foreign Residents in 2001. This coalition has campaigned for broader acceptance of foreigners living in Japan. Initiatives include submitting petitions to the central government for the establishment of a national immigration agency and provisions for the education of immigrant children. More recently, some rural mayors have begun openly discussing the merits of accepting immigrants into their communities, explaining that without these additions their communities will soon become ghost towns due to aging and depopulation.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan have already used their limited political capital working on controversial legislation to raise domestic tax rates and tackling the thorny issue of restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants. They will not take on another controversial topic such as immigration at this moment in time. However, pro-immigration grassroots movements will continue to grow and eventually their arguments will reach the national level.

But the question is when. If it takes too long, a healthy recovery fueled by new immigrants will be more difficult to achieve, and another opportunity for Japan’s economic revival will have been missed. A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.

========================
About the Author

Toshihiro Menju is Managing Director and Chief Program Officer at the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). He can be contacted via email at tmenju@jcie.or.jp.

ENDS