Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 59, “Top Ten Human Rights Events for 2012”, out January 1, 2013

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Hi Blog. My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column will be coming out in a little over 24 hours. The topic: My annual round-up of the Top Ten Human Rights Issues that affected NJ residents in Japan in 2012. I do this every year, and it’s fun (although rather arduous, as I essentially have to write ten tiny stand-alone essays of under 200 words each, then put them in a hierarchy). I won’t give away what made the list this year (I also have five other issues that “bubbled under”).  Enjoy! Arudou Debito

UPDATE:  Here it is:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20130101ad.html

Japan now a place to avoid for international labor migration? NHK: Even Burmese refugees refusing GOJ invitations, electing to stay in Thai refugee camp!

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Hi Blog.  In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid.  As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down!  They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan.  And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.

That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.

Immediately below is the article I’m referring to.  Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots.  According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants.  Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan.  But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.”  This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted!  Why?  As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…  Arudou Debito

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

Japan to receive no Myanmar refugee this year
via NHK
Published on Wednesday, 26 September 2012
http://www.houseofjapan.com/local/japan-to-receive-no-myanmar-refugee-this-year

All 16 people on a list of Myanmar refugees preparing to enter Japan have dropped out of the program. They have decided to remain in a camp in northwestern Thailand.

The 16, from 3 families, said they were worried about life in Japan. They had already quit studying Japanese language and culture.

The Japanese government started the program 2 years ago to help refugees who escaped from conflicts and persecutions in their home countries.

45 people from 9 families have used the program to move to Japan.

One of those leaving the program this year said he wanted his children to study technology in Japan, but was concerned that he had no support network in the country.

He had planned to move to Japan with his wife and 4 children.

Myanmar’s democratization has convinced some refugees to return home.

The Japanese government says it plans to continue the program next year.

ENDS

Now for the political intrigue:

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JPRI Working Paper No. 60: September 1999
Japan’s “Burma Lovers” and the Military Regime (excerpt)
by Donald M. Seekins
http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

Japanese people often claim that their nation has a “special relationship” with Burma. Most older Japanese think of Michio Takeyama’s novel Biruma no tategoto (translated by Howard Hibbett as Harp of Burma), the story of Private Mizushima, a good-hearted soldier who is separated from his comrades and dons the robes of a Buddhist monk. When his unit is repatriated to Japan after the war, he refuses to go with them, staying behind to take care of the remains of the Japanese war-dead. As many as 190,000 Japanese soldiers died in Burma in 1941-1945, and groups of veterans regularly visit the country to relive old memories and pray at the graves of fallen comrades.[…]

The most important legacy of the Japanese occupation was the establishment of a powerful national army, Tatmadaw in Burmese, which grew out of the BIA and was largely modeled on Japanese rather than British lines. Many of its officers studied at Japanese military academies during the war. Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, a leading member of the military junta that has ruled Burma since September 1988, commented in November 1988, “We shall never forget the important role played by Japan in our struggle for national independence” and “We will remember that our Tatmadaw [army] was born in Japan.”1 Ethnic minorities like the Karens and Shans who have experienced the Tatmadaw’s counterinsurgency campaigns in the border areas claim that its brutal behavior was inspired by the Imperial Japanese Army.[…]

Postwar Economic Ties

Postwar relations between Japan and Burma were primarily economic in nature. Official ties began in 1954, after Tokyo and the U Nu government signed a peace treaty and a war reparations agreement, which brought the struggling young state some US$250 million in Japanese goods and services, supplemented by “quasi-reparations” amounting to US$132 million between 1965 and 1972. Tokyo allocated these additional “quasi-reparations” (jun baisho) on the grounds that the original funds were insufficient compared to those given other Asian countries.

During this period, many Japanese who went to Burma as diplomats or technical advisers fell in love with the country. Back home, they were called biru-kichi (Biruma-kichigai, “crazy about Burma”), a remarkable attitude given the condescension with which most Japanese officials regarded their poor Asian neighbors. Japanese were impressed by the professionalism and honesty of Burma’s civil servants, who used reparation funds conscientiously, in contrast to some other recipient governments.

Many Japanese also identified with the country because of shared Buddhist values, although the schools of Buddhism (Theravada in Burma, Mahayana in Japan) are different. Their social ethics are similar, however, stressing respect for elders and educated people, strong family ties, and a sense of mutual obligation. But while Japan had rapidly modernized and is losing many of these traditional values, Burma seemed to have preserved them uncorrupted by modernity.

According to the well-known business guru Ken’ichi Ohmae, who visited Burma in 1997 with a Japanese business delegation and was a quick convert to the biru-kichi mindset, “Even I, with much contact with many Asian countries, have seen no other country in Asia whose morality is so firmly grounded in Buddhism.”2 Ohmae compares Burma favorably with China where allegedly “they do everything for money.” Burma also evokes his nostalgia for Japan’s rural past: “Seeing the lives of the people in Myanmar [Burma], I remembered Japan in previous years. I was raised in the countryside in Kyushu, where children always walked around barefoot, the lights were not electric, and the bathrooms had no running water. The current Myanmar mirrors these memories of farming villages in Japan.” While biru-kichi is a refreshing alternative to the insular Japan-is-unique worldview, it is not unmixed with other motives, as the title of Ohmae’s November 26, 1997, article in Sapio (magazine) suggests: “Cheap and Hardworking Laborers: This country Will Be Asia’s Best.” […]

Many inside Japan’s business world–and their supporters in academia and the media–seem to share a common goal with the junta: discrediting Aung San’s daughter. Given her central role in the struggle for democracy, it is not an exaggeration to say that if she could be marginalized and lost the support of the international community, big corporations in Japan and elsewhere would find it easy to get their governments to snuggle closer to the junta. Without Suu Kyi, full economic engagement and recognition would surely follow swiftly.

Kazushige Kaneko, director of an obscure Institute of Asian Ethnoforms and Culture in Tokyo, repeats the junta’s racist charges that Aung San Suu Kyi sold out her country by marrying a foreigner, the late Oxford professor Dr. Michael Aris. He writes, “For example, if Makiko Tanaka [the daughter of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and today a member of the Diet] stayed in America for thirty years and returned with a blue-eyed American husband and children, do you think we Japanese would make her our prime minister?” (The Asia 21 Magazine, Fall 1996).

Nor is the attack on Aung San Suu Kyi confined to fringe figures. In an April 1995 article published in Bungei Shunju, Yusuke Fukada claims that Burmese are sending out a “love call” (rabu kooru) to Japan for economic assistance and that Suu Kyi is the only real obstacle to better relations. The reason she is so uncompromising with the military regime, Fukada argues, is her marriage to an Englishman. “If she had married a Japanese, she would have made quite different decisions.” In the June 1996 issue of Shokun, Keio University Professor Atsushi Kusano expresses amazement that Suu Kyi has become a figure of international stature, attributing it to a campaign by the mass media.8 […]

Two factors seem to account for Japan’s ambiguous Burma policy. One is the strength of its business interests, counterbalanced by pressure from Japan’s Western trading partners who take a less indulgent stance toward the junta. Some observers cynically suggest that Western governments, especially Washington, act as Tokyo’s “superego” on human rights, inhibiting it from pursuing its usual economics-first policies. But Liberal Democratic Party cabinets cannot ignore business interests, which have been stepping up pressure for full engagement since 1989, using means both fair and foul. The best of both worlds for policymakers in Japan would be a transition to civilian rule, either involving Aung San Suu Kyi or someone else. This could legitimize more active aid policies as well as greater investment by Japanese companies. But given the political situation, this is unlikely to happen soon.

Second, if Tokyo strongly supported the democracy movement in Burma, this would inevitably reflect on its policies toward other countries such as China and Indonesia, where the stakes for Japan are much higher. Some Americans have criticized their own government’s inconsistency on this matter: the Clinton Administration maintains sanctions on little-known Burma but maintains full economic engagement with the regime in Beijing.

Japanese elites are not used to and do not like open debate, especially on foreign policy. Some members of the Diet are interested in Burma, both pro- and anti-junta, but the issues are rarely discussed, even the junta’s misuse of debt relief funds for the procurement of weapons. Bureaucrats and LDP bigwigs keep policy initiatives to themselves, which means that their actions often appear incomprehensible or arbitrary to outsiders, including Japanese citizens. The flap over so-called humanitarian aid for Rangoon’s airport is an example of this. In a way, Tokyo’s Burma policy, deeply influenced by the sentimental Orientalism of the business world and its allies, says as much about the limitations of Japanese-style democracy as it does about the lack of democracy in Burma.

Full article at http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

ENDS

Good news: Rightist sentenced to a year in jail for harassing company using Korean actress in their advertising

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Hi Blog.  A bit of good news.  A member of a nasty Rightist group was sentenced to a year in jail for harassing a Japanese company for using a Korean actress in its advertising.  That’s hopeful, as we are seeing examples of xenophobia in Japan going beyond internet and political-arena bile (as well as signposted exclusionism) and into the street for race-bating and interpersonal confrontation.  Without some kind of brake like this court decision, it’s only a matter of time before somebody goes too far and we have race riots in Japan.

I would have liked to have seen a little more detail in the article below about the timeline of the harassment.  I can speak from personal experience that it can take a year or more between an event and a conclusive court decision in Japan, so how responsive is Japan’s judiciary being here?  Also, note that this case is not punishing somebody for hate speech against an ethnic group or a person in Japan — it’s protecting a Japanese company against threatening behavior, a bit different.  I will be more reassured when we have a (similarly criminal, not civil) case involving arrest, prosecution, and jail time for an individual threatening an individual on the grounds of his/her ethnicity/national origin.  But I don’t think that will happen under the current legal regime, as “the government does not think that Japan is currently in a situation where dissemination of racial discriminatory ideas or incitement of racial discrimination are conducted to the extent that the government must consider taking legislative measures for punishment against dissemination of racial discriminatory idea, etc. at the risk of unjustly atrophying lawful speech…

That assessment was made by the MOFA to the UN more than a decade ago.  Given what I see are xenophobic tidings in Japan these days, I think it’s time for an update.  Arudou Debito

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Nationalist sent to jail after harassing company using Korean actress in advertising
By Adam Westlake / December 18, 2012 / Courtesy JK
http://japandailypress.com/nationalist-sent-to-jail-after-harassing-company-using-korean-actress-in-advertising-1820111

A court in Japan has sentenced an extreme nationalist to one year in jail after he began a hate-based harassment campaign against a Japanese company that used a popular South Korean actress in its magazine and television advertising. The situation peaked when 44 year old Hitoshi Nishimura, along with three other men, forced their way into the Osaka headquarters of the pharmaceutical firm and demanded to know why the company was using someone with an anti-Japanese background.

Nishimura said the actress Kim Tae-Hee was a South Korean activist herself when he entered the Rohto Pharmaceutical building and began making angry threats. He stated Kim participated in activities that asserted Seoul’s claims over the disputed Dokdo / Takeshima Islands, which are located in between Japan and South Korea, and have been the source of tensions for decades. In video footage of the intrusion, Nishimura is seen as yelling at the company’s officials and claiming to represent “angry Japanese throughout the country.”

The court sentenced Nishimura to a one-year jail term for making threatening acts, but no information has been released on the other three men. While somewhat overshadowed by the eruption of escalating tensions between China and Japan, the latest round of the territorial dispute with South Korea was kicked off in August when President Lee Myung-Bak made an unexpected visit to the islands. This resulted in protest from the Japanese government, as well as back-and-forth displays of nationalism on both sides. In one example, a group of South Korean swimmers, including a celebrity athlete, swam in a relay to the islands. Vocal groups in Japan began criticizing television broadcasters that showed Korean dramas, and even recently Korean pop-music acts have been left out of events and getting less airtime.

[via My Sinchew]

ENDS

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and end-year 2012

Just a brief note (amongst the time zones — it’s currently first thing in the morning of Christmas here) to wish all Readers, fans, and yes, even opponents, of Debito.org the happiest Christmas/Boxing Day/End-Year Week imaginable with good tidings from all.

Although a quarter-century in Japan (where Xmas Eve is perhaps more celebrated than Xmas Day, and both are work days regardless) has gotten me out of the habit of Xmas cards, presents, and the regular consumerist trappings of the day, I for one am looking forward to some turkey roll (sans gravy or potatoes — diet!) cooked in the dormitory oven and some instant ginger snaps (okay, diet phooey!) today.  Let us know if you like what today holds (or yesterday held) for you in the Comments Section.

With best wishes to all, Arudou Debito in Honolulu, where he is not missing snow one whit.

Al Jazeera: “The mighty downfall of Japan’s tech giants” due to the lack of diversity in thought and innovation

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Hi Blog.  A bit of a diversion today, as we get into business issues.  The reason why this article is germane to Debito.org is the claim that the lack of diversity within Japanese company ranks, as well as within corporate outlooks, is partially to blame for two of Japan’s mighty tech giants being downgraded to “junk” status in terms of credit rating.  While I’m not an expert on tech business or marketing, I find the quote below by Gerard Fasol, that “even today, many of these Japanese companies have a complete focus on Japan. All the board members are Japanese men in their 60s and 70s. All the core members are Japanese and anybody who is not Japanese is automatically a second-class citizen in these companies,” rings true.  Especially in light of what happened to former Olympus CEO Michael “incompatible with traditional Japanese practices” Woodford.  Most of “traditional Japan” (which places great cultural value on hierarchy) reflexively will not surrender power to “a foreigner” under any circumstances.  And as this article seeks to point out, that habit stifles innovation as Japanese society ages.  Arudou Debito

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The mighty downfall of Japan’s tech giants
Credit ratings for Sony and Panasonic were recently downgraded to ‘junk’ status, showing how far the firms have fallen.
By Michael Penn.  Al Jazeera.com: 22 Dec 2012, courtesy of CC
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/12/20121218115851610878.html

Tokyo, Japan – Once the titans of electronic gadgetry, Japanese brands Sony, Panasonic and Sharp, have seen their fortunes dramatically change in recent years as their once-dominant technological innovation has dried up, a bad sign for an economy struggling to shake two decades of recession.

Sony’s announcement this month that it is ending production of the Walkman, its iconic device first launched in 1979 and a testament to Japanese postwar ingenuity, symbolises the passing of an earlier era.

In this contemporary age of smartphones and tablets, the consumer electronics of Japan’s golden age of the 1980s look positively quaint, as no doubt the iPhone 5 will look to shoppers in the 2040s.

But one question that haunts people in this proud East Asian nation is whether a substantial portion of those future electronics giants will still be Japanese firms, or whether they will be largely supplanted by rivals in Asia and around the world.

The hard truth is that Japanese electronics companies have done nothing more than tread water for a decade and a half, as Gerhard Fasol, founder and CEO of Eurotechnology Japan, points out.

“If you just look at the sales, the top eight companies of the Japanese electrical sector have about $600bn in sales combined… but for 15 years they have had no growth… so it is very clear that their business model doesn’t work anymore.”

Economic stagnation

Public opinion polls say what Japanese voters most desire from their newly elected leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party is to revive the struggling national economy.

The most recent figures suggest that Japan has once again fallen into an economic recession in the second half of 2012, in spite of earlier projections that massive budgets for rebuilding the earthquake-and-tsunami-hit north would stimulate growth.

All of this comes on top of what the Japanese now routinely call the “two lost decades” of the 1990s and 2000s, in which their once world-beating technological prowess slipped into the middle of the pack as global firms such as Apple, based in the US, and Samsung of neighbouring South Korea now dominate the highest ranks of the electronics industry.

National champions such as Sony Corporation and the Panasonic Corporation recently suffered the indignity of having their credit ratings lowered to “junk status” by Fitch, a move that may be followed by other ratings agencies in the near future.

“People in Japan understand that the competitiveness of Japanese electronics companies has deteriorated, and this downgrade has strengthened that impression,” says Masamichi Adachi, executive director of economic research in Tokyo for JP Morgan.

Explaining its decision on Sony and Panasonic, Fitch analysts noted, “The future of both companies will depend on their ability to curb loss-making segments and re-discover the kind of technological leadership which historically enabled them to develop must-have products.”

Fasol is among the relative optimists, believing that Japanese electronics companies could recapture much of their former glory if they effectively restructure themselves, end their focus on the Japanese domestic market, and take better advantage of global scales of production.

As in so many other fields, Japan has defeated itself in the cutting-edge electronics sector through its habit of looking inward rather than embracing a genuine form of internationalisation. Fasol observes that “even today, many of these Japanese companies have a complete focus on Japan. All the board members are Japanese men in their 60s and 70s. All the core members are Japanese and anybody who is not Japanese is automatically a second-class citizen in these companies.”

Some analysts are now asking whether it may already be too late for Japanese electronics giants to make up the lost ground.

Cash-strapped Sharp Electronics Corporation is in the most desperate condition. This firm bet heavily on large-sized televisions and panels and has been losing billions as a result of sluggish sales in a highly competitive market.

On November 1, many were stunned when Sharp reported to the Tokyo Stock Exchange that there was “material doubt” about the company’s ability to survive over the next year. Since then, however, Sharp has recovered somewhat through the combination of a more favourable yen-US dollar exchange rate and help from foreign investors.

But even the more formidable companies like Sony and Panasonic are slashing jobs and selling off assets in order to improve their cash flow. Among the properties that Osaka-based Panasonic may let go of is its main building in the capital city of Tokyo.

Analysts agree that, in order to achieve a turnaround, Japanese electronics giants must develop next-generation products that enthrall consumers once again, rather than playing catch-up to companies like Apple and Samsung on already available technologies.

A major factor in Fitch’s decision to cut the credit ratings of Sony and Panasonic is a lack of faith that they still have the financial resources for research and development to match their larger rivals. As the Fitch analysts put it: “At the moment their weak financial performance does not enable them to invest in new technologies anywhere near the extent of their competitors.”

But Fasol believes that this analysis misses the most crucial point: The money is not as important as the people.

“They still think in terms of having big factories and having big friends in government,” he notes. “What they don’t realise is that the core is to have the best possible A-players around the globe [on your team], independently of whether they are Japanese or not.”

A related possibility suggested by Sandeep Tewari, the State Bank of India’s country head for Japan, is that Japanese companies may increasingly lend their highly recognisable brand names to lesser-known partners in other Asian nations, leading the Japanese giants to be “reborn in other countries”.

What these perspectives suggest is that Japanese electronics firms do indeed have a reasonable chance to become world-beaters again, but only if they can find the wisdom and courage to transform themselves into something less “Japanese” than they have been before.

In the end, that may prove too high a hurdle for the tradition-bound leaders of the last generation like Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp. But there may yet be hope for younger, emerging firms like Softbank, Rakuten, DeNA, Gree, and others whose names we have yet to hear.

ENDS

“Japanese Only” hospital Keira Orthopaedic Surgery in Shintoku, Tokachi, Hokkaido. Alleged language barrier supersedes Hippocratic Oath for clinic, despite links to METI medical tourism

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Hello Blog.  As part of a long list of “Japanese Only” establishments, which started with bars and bathhouses and has since expanded to restaurants, stores, barber shops, internet cafes, hotels, apartments, and even schools denying NJ service, has now taken the next step — denying NJ medical treatment.  Read on.  Comment and confirmation from me follows.  Forwarding with permission.

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December 17, 2012
Re: Advice regarding discrimination at a hospital

Dear Sir, My name is Hilary. I am originally from Canada and I’ve been employed by the Town of Shikaoi in Tokachi, Hokkaido as an Assistant Language Teacher for the past four years.

Today, I was experiencing a problem with my foot; I thought I broke a toe over the weekend. I spoke with a Japanese Teacher of English with whom I work with and she offered to call a clinic in neighbouring Shintoku and accompany me to the clinic after school for treatment. She made the telephone call in Japanese and was advised of their location and hours of business and took down their information. Once we arrived there, she spoke with reception and a man (presumably a doctor) motioned to me, making the “batsu” gesture and said (in Japanese) that the clinic’s system doesn’t allow for the treatment of foreigners because of our inability to understand Japanese. I looked at my colleague for confirmation on what I heard and she looked completely dumbstruck.

She turned to me and asked if I understood what they said. I said yes and repeated what the man said back to her in English. Her mouth just hung open and she said “I’ve never heard of such a policy”. The man leaned into my colleague and asked her if I understood Japanese, to which I replied, yes I do. He then said that he would check with the attending physician but doubted that I could receive treatment.

As he went to talk with the attending physician, a receptionist said to my colleague that she (the receptionist) explained the clinic’s policy to my colleague over the phone. My colleague started to tear up as the man returned and said that I could not receive treatment from this clinic due to the reasons he already stated. At that time, the receptionist told the man that she did explain that to my colleague over the phone. My colleague asked the man what we should do and he gave us the telephone number of another hospital in a different town and advised us to go there. I gripped my colleague by the arm and simply said “let’s go”. As we walked out of the clinic, my colleague was very distraught and she said to me “they never told me that on the phone”. I said to her “of course they didn’t. The receptionist was lying”.

We returned to our hometown and went to our local hospital. I received very good care from an English speaking doctor who told us not to worry about the other hospital. However, I was advised by an independent friend that you would be the best person to contact over such a situation.

If needed, this is the clinic’s information:

keiraseikeigeka

Keira Orthopaedic Surgery (Seikei Geka Iin)
けいら整形外科医院
13 Jominami 5 Chome
Shintoku, Kamikawa District
Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
0156-69-5151

If you could advise me as to what, if anything, I should do, I would appreciate that very much. Best regards, Hilary

Hospital details (courtesy http://www.hokuto7.or.jp/medical/gbnet/shintoku/keira.php)
けいら整形外科医院
院長 計良 基治
診療科 整形外科
病床数 無し
所在地 〒081-0013 北海道上川郡新得町3条南5丁目
電話 0156-69-5151
FAX 0156-69-5152
URL 無し
診療時間
月、金曜日:8時から12時、13時30分から18時30分
火、水、土曜日:8時から12時
休診日
火、水、土曜日午後・木曜日・日曜日・祝祭日・年末年始

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COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I called Keira Seikei Geika Iin first thing in the morning JST on December 18, 2012, and talked to a man who did not give his name.  He apologetically confirmed that his institution does not take foreigners.  The reason given was a language barrier, and that it might cause “inconvenience” (meiwaku).  When asked if this did not constitute discrimination, the answer given was a mere repeat of the meiwaku excuse and apology.  When asked about having an interpreter along to resolve any alleged language barrier, the answer became a mantra.  I thanked him for his time and that was the end of the conversation.

Feel free to telephone them yourself if you wish further confirmation.  I think Hokkaido Shinbun should be notified.  For if even Japanese hospitals can get away with defying the Hippocratic Oath to treat their fellow human beings, what’s next?  I have said for at least a decade that unchecked discrimination leads to copycatting and expansion to other business sectors.  Now it’s hospitals.  What’s next?  Supermarkets?  And it’s not even the first time I’ve heard of this happening — click here to see the case of a NJ woman in child labor in 2006 being rejected by 5 hospitals seven times; it only made the news because it happened to pregnant Japanese women a year later.

Postscript:  Hillary fortunately did not have a broken toe.  It was chilblains.  Wishing her a speedy recovery.  Arudou Debito

Postpostscript:  The information site for this clinic has links to a METI-sponsored organization for international medical tourism, through a banner saying, “We support foreign patients who wish to receive medical treatments in Japan.”  Click here for more info.

2012 Election Special: Japan’s lurch to the right has happened, as predicted. DPJ routed, LDP and Ishihara ascendant in Dec 2012 LH Election

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Hi Blog. It’s been said that people get the democracy that they deserve.  Although unduly harsh, that rings true today, as the results of 2012’s election have absolutely routed the DPJ and placed the old-school LDP/Koumeitou alliance and the even older-school Ishihara Party, pardon, Japan Restoration Party (JRP) with a greater than 3/4 majority (LDP/KMT at 324, JRP 54) as a total in the 480-seat Lower House. (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This is well over the 320 votes necessary to override the Upper House’s vetoes, and essentially makes Japan’s bicameral legislature unicameral. This new parliamentary composition could very well squeeze out a revision to the Self-Defense Forces (calling it what it really is: a standing military that should be unconstitutional) as well as force a “revision of the pacifist American-made Japanese Constitution” out of this.  More on this below.

The DPJ, for its part, was completely and utterly routed. It went from 230 seats in the Lower House to, as of this writing, a mere 57. Even in my home area of Hokkaido, a bellwether DPJ stronghold, the DPJ lost *ALL* their seats in their 12-district electoral system (with only two DPJ, including long-standing career politician Yokomichi — as a legacy vote due to his status as current Speaker of the Lower House and former Hokkaido Governor — squeaking by on the Proportional Representation vote). (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This meant that eight Cabinet members lost their seats (two of them, Public Safety’s Kodaira and Health and Welfare’s Mitsui, from Hokkaido), which is by far a Postwar record (the previous record was only three in the 1983 Nakasone Cabinet). (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12).

The smaller fringe parties saw increases more favoring the right than the left (as of this writing, according to the Yomiuri, Communists are down yet another seat from 9 to 8, socialist Shamintou down from 5 to 2, DPJ ally Kokumin Shintou down from 3 to 1, and the shards of other parties Mirai no Tou down from 61 to 9!).  The quasi-libertarian but really all-over-the-map-just-vote-for-us-already Minna no Tou was up from 8 to 18.  And one-man-party Shintou Daichi, run by the utterly corrupt Hokkaidoite and Debito.org bogeyman Suzuki Muneo, was also down from 3 to 1.

How to interpret all of this? Former and future PM Abe Shinzo rather glibly offers the assessment that the voters were “saying no to the confusion of the past three years” (a confusion created by people like him, note). I’m sure others have their reads, and we’ll let the Comments Section below cover that. My read is that people were voting less a “yes” for Abe (who was one of Japan’s most useless PMs when he was last in office between 2006-7) and more a “no” to the DPJ, who have had some of the greatest (literally) seismic shifts in power on their watch (the Japan Times editorialists would agree). If the LDP had been ruling in their place when these disasters all happened (given that the decades of systemic corruption were bred under their watch), I doubt they too would have been immune from the rout. That said, yesterday’s strength of the showing for the JRP I cannot interpret as anything other than a reaction to fear, particularly of a xenophobic nature (cf. China and North Korea, who timed their actions perfectly for the likes of Ishihara to exploit).

If one must search for the silver lining out of this election, it is that the far-right JRP didn’t pick up as many seats as was initially projected (100-150), but that was always just an optimistic guesstimate. And since both leaders of the LDP and the JRP have inchoate urges to mold a “beautiful Japan” in their image (read: more willful ignorance of history and nationalistic excess in the name of a more xenophobic nation-state), the real silver lining is that they have to come to grips with the unelected bureaucrats that are even more powerful and less accountable than they are.

What’s next? Here’s what the Japan Times says:

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Both the LDP and the Japan Restoration Party are known for their hawkish attitude on constitutional issues. They call for revising the Constitution, including revision of the war-renouncing Article 9, and for exercising the right to collective self-defense.

The government’s traditional interpretation is that the Constitution prohibits Japan from exercising that right. If the right to collective self-defense is allowed to be exercised, Japan would be legally able to take military action to defend a nation with close ties with Japan if that nation is militarily attacked by a third party.

Attention must be paid to the fact that while a constitutional revision requires the support of two-thirds of the Diet members to initiate a national referendum on such a revision, changing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution related to the right to collective self-defense does not require such a procedure.

The LDP and other parties calling for the exercise of that right can enact a bill that will change the government’s traditional interpretation. Exercising the right to collective self-defense could open the way for putting Japanese nationals in harm’s way by involving Japan in military conflict not directly affecting it. This would violate Japan’s defense-only defense policy. Such a bill would completely gut the no-war principle of the Constitution.

The LDP calls for revising Article 9 to create a National Defense Force. Its draft revision states that the proposed NDF, under a specific law, can take part in international cooperative activities to help maintain peace and security in the international community — a concept that can be used to justify Japan’s participation in virtually any type of military mission abroad.

Even without revising the Constitution, the LDP may try to enact a bill to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ activities overseas. Given Japan’s military aggression in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s and ’40s, the LDP’s posture would arouse suspicions about Japan’s true intentions among neighboring and other countries, thus destroying the international community’s trust in Japan. It could also lead to a fierce arms race and destabilization of relations in East Asia, endangering Japan’s security.
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Full editorial at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ed20121217a1.html

Fine words. But who’s listening anymore? Certainly not Japan’s voters at this time. Keep an eye on what happens from now, folks, because I think that once the sake cups have been drained and hangovers recovered from, these people are going to get to work with a vengeance. Because for this generation of old-schoolers (such as Ishihara), there’s not much time left for the Wartime Generation to undo all the Postwar liberalizations of Japan that have helped make Japan rich without overt remilitarization and aggression. For these fans of a martial Japan, who only value, respect, and covet a world in terms of power and hierarchy, revenge will be sweet. For as I have written before (Japan Times Oct. 2, quoting Dr. M.G. Sheftall):

“As a historian, it’s discomfiting having anything smacking of wartime ideology making a comeback while men who committed atrocities for the Imperial Japanese military still live. While they deserve some sympathy for what they endured under an ideology they were unable to resist or reject, I don’t they deserve the satisfaction of leaving this mortal coil feeling that Japan’s war has been historically vindicated.”

I think that is what this election has been all about. It’s just a pity that so many bad things had to happen to the Japanese public over the past three years to cause them to overlook this hidden agenda.  Arudou Debito

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PS:  As per the NJ-in-Japan bent of Debito.org, there is a decent assessment of how each party dealt with NJ issues before the election here.  Thus the winners of this election are clearly not pro-foreigner, and I bet NJ in Japan are going to be clouted as the pendulum swings to the right.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 58, Dec. 11, 2012: “Do Japan a favor: Don’t stop being a critic”

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Hi Blog.  Just wanted to thank everyone for putting this column in the Top Ten Most Read again this month (as it is every month for years now), and thank the JT Editor for choosing it as an “Editor’s Pick” this month.  Now up for commentary:

justbecauseicon.jpg

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 58
Do Japan a favor: Don’t stop being a critic
By ARUDOU Debito
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121211ad.html

Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.

This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.

In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.

Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.

“Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country.

But surely this is a case of mountains and molehills, a critic might counter — aren’t “like” and “dislike” harmless and inevitable facets of the human condition? After all, these two emotions inform so much of our lives, including choices of food, lifestyle, leisure, friends, lifetime partners, etc. Is it really that unsavory a thought process?

Of course not. My point is that reducing public debate to “like or dislike” is too unsophisticated for thoughtful social critique — especially when it is being enforced from above. I will even argue that this rubric fundamentally interferes with the constructive debate an ailing Japan desperately needs.

Consider this: Have you ever noticed how words not only affect our thoughts, but even limit their scope and expressibility?

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that they do (look up “cognitive linguistics” and its proponents Lera Boroditsky and George Lakoff). Publicly framing what should be a complex intellectual process as a “like or dislike” dichotomy vastly oversimplifies the shades of the emotional spectrum.

Now add on another layer that stifles dissent yet further in Japan: wa maintenance. Dissent frequently gets silenced to keep things calm and orderly. Remember the oft-cited axiom of “putting a lid on smelly things” (kusai mono ni wa futa o shiro) to explain away censorship and coverup? The more criticism something might invoke, the more likely it is to be suppressed. (How the Olympus and Fukushima fiascoes were handled are but two examples.)

It also engenders an element of self-censorship. If there is inordinate pressure to “like” things, then you’d better keep the “dislikes” to yourself. After all, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all,” right?

Non-Japanese (NJ) readers of this column know this dynamic well, because the pressure on NJ to “like” Japan is relentless.

Ever notice how you are supposed to say “I like Japan” at every opportunity? Mere hours or minutes off the airplane, someone wants to hear how much you like Japan so far. As you begin to study Japanese, set phrases are less “Where is the library?” more “I like sushi, anime and Japan’s unique four seasons” and other pat platitudes.

Even years or decades later, thanks to the predominance of “guestism,” NJ “guests” are not to be overly critical of their “host” country (even if they are naturalized citizens, as letters protesting this column indicate just about every month). I was even compelled to devote an entire column (JBC, Feb. 6, 2012) to what I like about Japan. Why? Oh, just because.

And if you dare get critical? You face exclusionism, even from NJ themselves. The common retort to any criticism is, “Well, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?”

With reasoned argument debased to the level of “love it or leave it,” the “like or dislike” ideological prism effectively becomes an intellectual prison. The reaction towards critics of Japan is clear and immediate: Non-likers become disliked.

So why are people so quickly labeled han-nichi (anti-Japan), Nihon-girai (Japan-haters) or “Japan-bashers” just because they offer criticism? Because, linguistically, you can stigmatize and shut them up for walking on the wrong side of the dichotomy.

Thus, “like” leads to an enforcement of “like-mindedness.” It is ultimately an issue of power — a subtle means to disenfranchise any dissenter and empower the status quo. And that suits the Powers That Be just fine, thank you very much.

This dynamic is being used very effectively on the eve of a historic election. As Japan wilts economically, politically and demographically, ascendant rightwing demagogues are offering simplified slogans dictating how the public can better “like” Japan by “disliking” their leftwing opponents and critics.

Not to mention “disliking” outsiders — after all, the wolf at the door in many debates is a bullying China. Or anyone who hasn’t fallen in on “Japan’s side.”

Therein lies the fatal flaw of the “like or dislike” discourse in public debate, which critic-haters are invariably blind towards.

The act of criticizing a government is not the same as criticizing an individual, or a group of individuals, or even necessarily a society in general. A government is always — but always — fair game for critique. A government is power personified, and power must be constantly challenged. “Liking or disliking” a government is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

I should mention one more significant problem with this oversimplification process: If it is so easy in public discourse to talk about “liking” or “disliking” things without offering a reasoned argument why, it becomes just as easy to apply this to people.

As in “I like/dislike foreigners,” which one hears all too often in Japan. Healthy societies should not be this unsophisticated towards other human beings. But if normalized public discourse is this unsophisticated, what can you do but choose a side? Better “like” the side with the power, or else. It’s even patriotic.

That side, alas, will not favor fresh, new ideas put forth by the critics already labelled outsiders and excluded from the debate — and that’s ironic. As Japan’s rightists hark back to an (ahistorical) golden past of Japan’s preeminence and intellectual purity, they ignore the legacies of those outsiders: Pre-industrial Japan sent envoys overseas and imported foreign specialists to investigate how modern nations ran themselves, famously adopting outside models successfully.

Sadly, rightwing exclusionism is selling well these days because it’s offering, as usual, simple solutions to more complex issues, grounded in how much people love Japan and dislike other people.

We must get beyond this grade-school-level debate. That means being brave and brazen with critique. Don’t succumb to the pressure to say only “good things” about any society. It beggars meaningful conversation and defangs the debate necessary to make things better.

Criticism does not signal “dislike”; it indicates critical thinking. If critics didn’t care enough about a place to analyze it deeply, they wouldn’t bother. Critique is their — and your — civic duty.

So do Japan some good: Offer some fresh ideas. Be a critic. Or else, as things get worse, you will only find more things to be critical of. Silently, of course.

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Arudou Debito and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 10, 2012

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 10, 2012

Table of Contents:

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GOOD NEWS
1) Updated 2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan now on sale

MORE BAD SOCIAL SCIENCE
2) PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms
3) NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time
4) SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy
5) Irony: GOJ pushes citizen ID law despite outcry over J privacy rights. Sadly, never similar concerns for NJ privacy, natch.
6) BBC: Japan’s pseudoscience linking personality traits to blood types. I say it dumbs society down.

DEBATES WITHOUT END
7) Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan
8 ) Interesting debate on martial arts as newly required course in JHS under Japan’s Basic Education Law reforms
9) Archiving Tottori’s 2005 Jinken Ordinance (the first and only one ever passed, then UNpassed, penalizing racial discrimination in Japan) to keep it in the historical record

… and finally…

10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 57, November 6, 2012: “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on”
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By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)
Newsletter Freely Forwardable

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1) GOOD NEWS

Updated 2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan now on sale

I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN is now on sale.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012. Get ready to get yourself a new copy! Or please pass the word along to people who need this information to get by. A table of contents, excerpt, more details on what’s inside, how you can get the book, and those rave reviews at:

http://www.debito.org/?p=10821

 

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MORE BAD SOCIAL SCIENCE

2) PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms

Contributor Stephanie: My daughter is a 6th grader at a small country public school here in Hokkaido. Every month they get a magazine called “Chagurin” (I think it may be JA sponsored). Anyways, she looks forward to reading these as they have interesting articles and ideas. But this month in the December issue there is an article called “Hikon Taikoku America no Kodomotachi” [Children of the Poverty Great-Power Country of America]. After reading it she told her teacher she did not think parts of it were true, the teacher said it was written so it is true.

She brought this article home to us and translated it. I am so … what is the word…disappointed, mad…it is just not right that this lady writes an article with so many false statements and big generalizations. There are parts of truth but presented in a negative way.

Basically saying America is not a good place and no matter where you go you will see people living in tents in the parks. Other points — the poorer you are the fatter you are (which implies people are fat because they are poor). The health care is poor and it costs 150.000 yen to get one filling! Because people can not afford this they do not go to the dentist they in turn can not bite right, have interviews or get jobs.

One more thing. If you take a look at the photo with the boy with the “bad teeth” — as soon as I saw this photo I doubted those teeth are real. They remind me way too much of the fake halloween wax costume teeth I always had growing up. I sent the photo to a dental hygienist who has been working in America 20+ years and she said “In my 20+ years I have never seen teeth like these. They look like the fake halloween teeth.” When I write the author of the article I will be asking her for the photographer’s info to clarify the facts behind this photo. I think you can glean more by reading this yourself so I will attach the article, front cover, and back page…

COMMENT: The plot thickens within the comments section, as the author, award-winning journalist Tsutsumi Mika, is outed as a xenophobic Dietmember’s wife with a long history of unjournalistic scaremongering…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10806

 

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3) NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time

I didn’t know the New York Times was in the habit of writing eulogies before their subject dies. But that’s essentially what happened earlier this month with their write-up on Donald Keene.

Frequent readers of Debito.org will remember why I take such a dim view of Keene’s ignominious actions at the twilight of an illustrious career. I’ve devoted a Japan Times column to how a scholar of his standing used poor social science in his public statements alluding to the “Flyjin Myth” and the fiction of foreigners as criminals. Despite this, Keene has still refused to acknowledge any of the good things that NJ residents have done (not only in terms of disaster relief “in solidarity” with “The Japanese”, but also on a day-to-day basis as workers, taxpayers, and non-criminals). Nor has Keene amended his public statements in any way to reflect a less self-serving doctrine — thus elevating himself while denigrating others in his social caste. In essence, Keene has essentially “pulled up the ladder behind him”, stopping others from enjoying the same trappings of what the NYT claims is “acceptance”. Thus, how NJ sempai in Japan (even after naturalization) eat their young to suit themselves is a fascinating dynamic that this article inadvertently charts.

This article represents a missed research opportunity for an otherwise incredibly thorough reporter (Martin has written peerless articles on Fukushima, and I simply adored his report on the Ogasawaras). How about this for a research question: Why else might The Don have naturalized? I say it doesn’t involve the self-hugging cloaked as some odd form of self-sacrifice. How about investigating the fact that while gay marriage is not allowed in Japan, adoption (due to the vagaries of the Koseki Family Registry system) is a common way for same-sex partners to pass on their inheritance and legacies to their loved ones — by making them part of their family. Naturalization makes it clear that there will be no extranationality conceits to interfere with the smooth transfer of claims. This article could have been a fine peg to hang that research on.

Not to mention the fact that even seasoned journalists at the NYT can fall for The Fame: Ever hear of the old adage that enables many a minority to receive the veneer of “acceptance” despite all the racialized reasons to deny it? It’s called: “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.” Yes, so many lovely “thanks” from strangers in coffee shops; but as I’ve written before, The Don sadly won’t be around for any denouement once The Fame inevitably fades.

Anyway, if one gives the NYT the benefit of the doubt here, I think the tack of the article should have been, “A person has to jump through THIS many hoops in order to be considered ‘one of them’ [sic] in Japan? Go through all of this, and you should be ‘accepted’ by the time you are, oh, say, ninety years old.” Instead, this development is portrayed as a mutual victory for The Don and Japan.

Why is this not problematized? Because this article is a eulogy — it’s only saying the good things about a person (not yet) departed, and about a society that will not realize that it needs New Japanese who are younger and able to do more than just feebly salve (instead of save) a “wounded nation”. That’s the bigger metaphor, I think, The Don’s naturalization represents to today’s Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10721

 

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4) SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy

As Readers of Debito.org know, Japan instituted its new Gaijin Cards (Zairyuu Kaado, or ZRK) from July 15, 2012, promising to promote the “convenience” of NJ residents by streamlining bureaucratic procedures. But as I have argued, the Ministry of Justice’s main interest is not the convenience of NJ (or else it would have not left NJ in legal limbo when Japan’s Postal Authorities arbitrarily decided not to honor the old Gaijin Cards as a valid form of ID any longer — even though the MOJ acknowledged the old Gaijin Cards issued by them were still legal for at most three more years). No, the MOJ’s interest is in policing NJ (well, “administering” (kanri) is how they benignly put it, as they explicitly noted in their Cabinet-level presentation last May about how to “co-exist” with NJ in future — essentially by cracking down on visa overstayers further).

To that end, the ZRK has an embedded IC Chip with RFID technology, which, as I have argued for years now, is a means to remotely track NJ in a crowd and beef up racial profiling. After all, if the NPA scans a crowd and sees somebody walking while visibly “foreign”, they now have probable cause to stop them for one of their patented ID checkpoints formerly permitted under the Foreign Registry Law. Hey you, gaijin, why aren’t you showing up on our scanners? Woe betide the naturalized citizen or Japanese of international roots, who now have the burden of proving somehow that they are not “foreign”…

However, here’s where the SITYS (See I Told You So) comes in: People who should know better have constantly argued that I’m donning a tinfoil hat for saying that embedded IC Chips are remotely trackable, and will be used not only for identity theft (for NJ only, since only they are legally required by law to carry ZRK at all times or face criminal penalty), but also for enhanced policing. No amount of evidence presented (even “the scan-proof travel pouches” long on sale) has convinced them. So let’s try again:

Look, even the US Government acknowledges that their cards (in this case, my friends’ “Green Card” and Global Entry Card) need to be issued with Faraday Cage envelopes “to protect their privacy”. If these cards were not remotely trackable, why would the USG bother issuing them with the following instructions?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10750

 

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5) Irony: GOJ pushes citizen ID law despite outcry over J privacy rights. Sadly, never similar concerns for NJ privacy, natch.

As a follow-up to the Debito.org post a few weeks ago on putting trackable chips on all non-citizens, we have the same kind of push happening for Japan’s citizens (as per this old article that got buried in my draft blog posts, sorry) for very different express reasons (except for the oft-claimed “convenience” of those being identified, with the unescapable whiff of policing). That said, note how whenever there is an issue involving the infringement of civil/human rights for “citizens”, there is also an ameliorating push to protect those rights with legislation (see second article below). For “foreigners”, however, all civil, political, and human rights are essentially left to the mandate of the policing Ministry of Justice, which frequently makes a hash of things. But all this public concern over, say, privacy rights (whereas foreigners in Japan have had no guaranteed right to privacy in the Postwar Era, since the creation of the Foreign Registry Law)… Again, it’s one differentiation within Japan’s discourse that alienates Newcomers and Oldcomers, and sets the stage for making disenfranchised exceptions for people who don’t appear to be “Japanese”. Have a think about this dichotomy, and how the GOJ a) normalizes discrimination, while b) ironically tries to foist the same style of rights abrogations on the general public that have been long-tested upon the “gaijin guinea pigs”.

Japan Press: The Noda Cabinet approved bills at its meeting on February 14 that will assign an identification number to every citizen and every company, without regard to concerns over privacy abuse or to apprehensions about the possibility of having to pay more in taxes in order to receive better welfare services. The identification system will collate personal information currently administrated under different programs such as for pension, healthcare, and taxation. The government states that it wants to implement a national ID system in January 2015.

There is now growing concern that such a national identity system could lead to invasion of privacy issues and may also be used to restrict government social security payments. The government claims that a national ID system will provide easier access to social welfare programs for low-income families. If that is the aim, it can use other means to provide benefits. What is the government’s true motive?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10514

 

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6) BBC: Japan’s pseudoscience linking personality traits to blood types. I say it dumbs society down.

Here’s something that’s been on my mind for years, and probably on other Readers’ minds too: The emphasis on blood in Japan in determining one’s status in society.

The BBC below talks about the hegemony of discourse in Japan linking personality traits to blood types. Most of the developed world with any social science training has debunked this. There is of course other quackery of the same ilk (horoscopes/palmistry etc.), but they are hardly taken seriously (they don’t matter in, for example, job interviews). But “blood”-based conceits encourage much more dangerous habits. As noted below, they have historical connections with eugenics, Master-Race theories and Social Darwinism (i.e. that people can be sorted into personality “types” based upon birth-determined genotypical markers) which, in extreme cases, have led to pogroms and genocide.

Yet in Japan, blood-based theories of social behavior hold significant sway. In my opinion (based upon my current research), a conceit with “blood” not only legitimizes a lot of bad science (both physical and social), but also converts a lot of latent racializing tendencies into “old-school racism” (I say “old school” because most social scientists nowadays acknowledge that racism is a social construct, not a biological one). In some cases, for example, one has to be “pure-blooded” in order to be, for example, a “real” Japanese. Thus it doesn’t just allegedly determine personality — it determines one’s legal standing in society. More on that from me some other time.

In any case, in society such as Japan’s that has this amount of weight put on hierarchy, having a quack science like this (so normalized that people can profit handsomely from it) avails people with poor analytical skills of one more factor to “sort, categorize, typify, and even stigmatize” people for things that are simply not their fault. It’s one more way of taking the individual out of the equation for personal behavior.

Simply put, this pseudoscience fosters horrendously bad habits. For in Japan, once the “blood type” equation is expanded beyond the allegedly “uniform and homogeneous society” trope, people become more susceptible to engaging in racial profiling towards “foreigners” — once the invisible genetic markers get expressed as visible phenotypical ones.

In sum, dumb ideas with common currency dumb down an entire society. And personality typing by blood is one of the dumbest.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10728

 

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DEBATES WITHOUT END

7) Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan

The UN Human Rights Council has once again prodded Japan to do something to improve its record on human rights (and this time the GOJ, which must submit a report every two years, actually submitted something on time, not eight years overdue as a combined “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Report”). Here’s how the media reported on their interplay:

Kyodo: A panel under the U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed some 170 recommendations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including Tokyo’s handling of the so-called comfort women issue, the euphemism for the Imperial army’s wartime sex slaves…

Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town of Futaba, which found itself in the center of the nuclear storm since it cohosts the wrecked plant, had actively campaigned for the inclusion of this right. The report also called on Japan to abolish the death penalty after more than 20 countries, including prominent EU member states, objected to its continued use of capital punishment.

COMMENT: As you can see in the HRC’s press brief enclosed in this blog entry, once again the GOJ is avoiding the topic of creating a legal framework to protect people against racial discrimination — claiming it’s already forbidden by the Japanese Constitution (but as we’ve stressed here umpteen times, no explicit law in the Civil or Criminal Code means no enforcement of the Constitution). But all the UN HRC seems to be able to do is frown a lot and continue the talk shop. Further, the UN still chooses the word “migrants” over “immigrants”, which makes NJ (and their J children) who need these rights look like they’re only temporary workers — the “blind spot” continues. Meanwhile, Fukushima and the death penalty seem to have sucked all the oxygen out of the debate arena regarding other human rights issues. In this blog entry is an excerpt of what Japan submitted to the HRC for consideration, and a media brief of the HRC’ s recommendations. It’s basically cosmetic changes, open to plenty of bureaucratic case-by-case “discretion”, and amounting to little promise of fundamental systemic or structural changes.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10730

 

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8 ) Interesting debate on martial arts as newly required course in JHS under Japan’s Basic Education Law reforms

Something that came up on one of the mailing lists I’m on (a JALT group called PALE) is an interesting debate on physical education in Japan as part of cultural education in Japan — the new requirement for students to take a martial art in Junior High School as an attempt to “transmit tradition” and develop one’s inherent inner Japanese-ness.

My basic objection with all this education on “what it means to be Japanese” (which reasserted itself with former PM Abe’s reforms of the Basic Law of Education in 2006 to foster “an attitude that loves the nation”) is that, given the binary approach to “being Japanese” (especially when defined as “being unique”, with an added contrast to “being foreign”), it encourages people of NJ roots to be excluded (or else to deny their own diversity as incompatible). But the debate on PALE added a new dimension — an unnecessary degree of danger, given how martial attitudes in Japan often invite physical brinkmanship in unaccountable sports coaches over their young athletes. It’s tangental to the discussion of diversity in Japanese education, but read on as it’s good food for thought.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10650

 

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9) Archiving Tottori’s 2005 Jinken Ordinance (the first and only one ever passed, then UNpassed, penalizing racial discrimination in Japan) to keep it in the historical record

Archiving something important today: The text of the first law explicitly against (inter alia) racial discrimination in Japan that was passed (and then subsequently UNpassed by a panicky public). Although I have already written about this subject before, let me give you the story in more detail, then finish with the text of the jōrei so it does not disappear from the historical record. The fact that this former law has been removed entirely from the legislative record of Tottori Prefecture’s website is a crime against history, and an unbefitting end to a template of human-rights legislation so needed in Japan. So let me, for the purposes of keeping a record of the casualty of this catastrophic event, blog the entire text of the Ordinance on Debito.org to keep it web searchable. First, however, the background:

On October 12, 2005, after nearly a year of deliberations and amendments, the Tottori Prefectural Assembly approved a human rights ordinance (tottori-ken jinken shingai kyūsai suishin oyobi tetsuzuki ni kansuru jōrei) that would not only financially penalize eight types of human rights violations (including physical abuse, sexual harassment, slander, and discrimination by “race” – including “blood race, ethnicity, creed, gender, social standing, family status, disability, illness, and sexual orientation”), but also set up an investigative panel for deliberations and provide for public exposure of offenders. Going farther than the already-existing Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yōgobu, which has no policing or punitive powers), it could launch investigations, require hearings and written explanations, issue private warnings (making them public if they went ignored), demand compensation for victims, remand cases to the courts, and even recommend cases to prosecutors if they thought there was a crime involved. It also had punitive powers, including fines up to 50,000 yen. Sponsored by Tottori Governor Katayama Yoshihiro, it was to be a trial measure — taking effect on June 1, 2006 and expiring on March 31, 2010. It was a carefully-planned ordinance, created by a committee of 26 people over the course of two years, with input from a lawyer, several academics and human rights activists, and three non-citizen residents. It passed the Tottori Prefectural Assembly by a wide margin: 35-3. However, the counterattack was immediate…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10762

 

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… and finally…

10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 57, November 6, 2012: “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on” 

As Japan lumbers towards an historic election with a looming far-rightward swing in but a few days, it looks as though Ishihara has indeed brought it on. He may even get a Cabinet post. Alright, here’s what I said when I first envisioned it happening…

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

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121106da.html or
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121106ad.html, whichever you prefer
By ARUDOU Debito
Column 57 for the Japan Times Community Page

Version with comments and links to sources at http://www.debito.org/?p=10733

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That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 10, 2012 ENDS

Irony: GOJ pushes citizen ID law despite outcry over J privacy rights. Sadly, never similar concerns for NJ privacy, natch.

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
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Hi Blog.  As a follow-up to the Debito.org post a few weeks ago on putting trackable chips on all non-citizens, we have the same kind of push happening for Japan’s citizens (as per this old article that got buried in my draft blog posts, sorry) for very different express reasons (except for the oft-claimed “convenience” of those being identified, with the unescapable whiff of policing).  That said, note how whenever there is an issue involving the infringement of civil/human rights for “citizens”, there is also an ameliorating push to protect those rights with legislation (see second article below).  For “foreigners”, however, all civil, political, and human rights are essentially left to the mandate of the policing Ministry of Justice, which frequently makes a hash of things.  But all this public concern over, say, privacy rights (whereas foreigners in Japan have had no guaranteed right to privacy in the Postwar Era, since the creation of the Foreign Registry Law)…  Again, it’s one differentiation within Japan’s discourse that alienates Newcomers and Oldcomers, and sets the stage for making disenfranchised exceptions for people who don’t appear to be “Japanese”.  Have a think about this dichotomy, and how the GOJ a) normalizes discrimination, while b) ironically tries to foist the same style of rights abrogations on the general public that have been long-tested upon the “gaijin guinea pigs“.  Arudou Debito

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2012 February 15 – 21 [POLITICS]
Cabinet pushes citizen ID law
Japan Press February 15, 2012, courtesy of MMT
http://www.japan-press.co.jp/modules/news/index.php?id=2728

The Noda Cabinet approved bills at its meeting on February 14 that will assign an identification number to every citizen and every company, without regard to concerns over privacy abuse or to apprehensions about the possibility of having to pay more in taxes in order to receive better welfare services.

The identification system will collate personal information currently administrated under different programs such as for pension, healthcare, and taxation. The government states that it wants to implement a national ID system in January 2015.

There is now growing concern that such a national identity system could lead to invasion of privacy issues and may also be used to restrict government social security payments.

The government claims that a national ID system will provide easier access to social welfare programs for low-income families.

If that is the aim, it can use other means to provide benefits. What is the government’s true motive?

Akahata reports that the true intention is the promotion of the idea that “social welfare is a benefit one pays for,” which contradicts the established idea of social welfare as a basic human right. The government, in essence, aims to cut back on its payments for social welfare benefits and increase social welfare premiums on the general public.

Democratic Party of Japan member of the Lower House Tamura Kenji during a Cabinet workgroup meeting candidly stated that the introduction of a national ID system is aimed at strengthening tax collection.

The DPJ has since 2009 called for a national ID system as “essential” to “avoid paying unneeded or excessive social security benefits.”

Japanese business leaders have also pushed for a national ID system. Chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) Yonekura Hiromasa said point-blank, “That’s for the purpose of cutting social security expenditures.”

An opinion poll conducted in November last year by the Cabinet Office shows that more than 80% of respondents “do not know” about the proposal to introduce a national ID system. The government should not be allowed to proceed with the plan to introduce such a system while keeping it secret from the general public.

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The “Jinken Kyuusai Houan” wends its way through political channels

民主部門会議、人権救済法案を了承 反対派の意見押し切り
産經新聞 2012.8.29 11:24 [民主党]
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/politics/news/120829/stt12082911250005-n1.htm

民主党は29日、法務部門会議(座長・小川敏夫前法相)を開き、人権侵害救済機関「人権委員会」を法務省の外局に新設する人権救済機関設置法案(人権救済法案)を了承した。今後、党政策調査会で了承され、今国会中にも閣議決定される見通しだが、与野党の多数派が衆参両院で異なる「ねじれ国会」のため成立する可能性は極めて低い。

同法案をめぐっては「人権侵害の拡大解釈で憲法21条の表現の自由が侵される恐れがある」といった反対論が党内でも根強く、今国会での閣議決定は見送られてきた。だが、野田佳彦首相は8月23日の衆院予算委員会で今国会での法案提出に向け「必要な作業を進めていきたい」と答弁し、立法化を促していた。

この日の会議で、小川座長らは「党内での議論をもっと丁寧にやるべきだ」といった、立法化に慎重な議員らの反対意見を一方的に押し切り、了承した。小川座長は会議後、記者団に「これ以上議論してもいずれ党内がまとまる雰囲気ではなく、このタイミングで結論を出した」と述べた。

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 ENDS

2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated

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

Hi Blog. I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012.

A table of contents, excerpt, and more details on what’s inside and how you can get the book here. Those rave reviews here.

Get ready to get yourself a new copy! Arudou Debito

(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)