Proposal: Establishing a Debito.org YouTube Channel?

mytest

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Hi Blog. There has been discussion within a previous blog entry about establishing a YouTube channel that can screen information videos/vlogs/etc. on topics Debito.org is concerned about. This is not unusual, as many advocacy groups have their own YouTube channels (such as Sakura TV, dedicated to disseminating far-rightist and historically revisionist views).

My vision for a Debito.org would be information that NJ in Japan could use for improving their lives in Japan, such as What to do if… a cop stops you for an ID check — filming some Shokumu Shitsumon proceedings as has happened with Japanese citizens here, here, and here (my favorite). As submitter MJ wrote in to me privately (he has taken videos of cops who have backed off from harassing him once they realized they were being filmed):

fwiw:
– I’ve never had to follow through on threat to upload to youtube because they backed off without me showing ID.
– uploading video is relatively straightforward; a youtube/vimeo/etc. account will come with instructions
– edited versions are best, the shorter the better while leaving in the salient action
btw, you could make a youtube Debito channel…
(yes, a dedicated, Debito-supporting, internet-techie volunteer would be a nice thing ;-))

In other words, filming these proceedings in action may act as at least a primary information source, at best a deterrent.  The threat of accountability stops many a bureaucratic abuse.

For the record, my level of commitment to this project is lending the Debito.org brand to support pre-screened videos. But I sadly have neither have the time nor the expertise to establish or maintain a Debito.org Channel (maintaining Debito.org by itself is a full load). Sorry. So let me open this blog entry up to comments about interest, expertise, and commitment, and if people wish for me to get them in touch with one another off list, let me know. (If you wish to maintain your privacy, please use a pseudonym when communicating with each other, and please use a dedicated email address for this project.)

Alright, what say everyone? I personally think it’s a great idea and I’ll do what I can to help. Arudou Debito

NHK on Fukushima: Offering all-expense-paid junkets to NJ journalists, interviews for NJ residents who experienced disasters. What’s the catch?

mytest

Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. In an interesting development, NHK is offering opportunities for NJ (both journalist and resident) to give their views on the “The 2011 Great Tohoku, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami”. For example:

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

Job: Non-Japanese journalists to cover stories in the Tohoku region

POSTED BY  (Asia Chapter of the Asian-American Journalists Association) ⋅  ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
FILED UNDER  

NHK is looking for non-Japanese journalists to cover stories in the Tohoku region. All the expenses are paid by NHK. Anyone interested in this, please contact Ayako Mie at ayako.mie@japantimes.co.jp

Project Description

NHK Enterprises will soon start the production of a new series program. Its title is “Tomorrow: Japan, beyond 3.11”. NHK will air this series from April 2013 and NHK Enterprises will produce 30 episodes in one year. The synopsis of this series is as follows;
A huge disaster attacked Japan. It was as if it denied the civilization which we build in 20th and 21st century. But many new movements begin in all over Japan. They are about ecology, new energy, industry, education, community, mental care and etc. Many experts and scientists are working hard to build the future of Japan not only in Tohoku area but also all over Japan. They think they have to utilize the precious experience of disaster.In this series, a foreign journalist, presenter or editor of TV, radio, or website will visit the places where new movements begin. He or she will cover this and will meet the people who are involved in this movement. And this series will depict the process of his or her discovery and will ask his or her impression. It will tell us the new things which Japanese people have not recognized.

(28 minutes x 30, From April 2013 to March 2014)

We are now looking for journalists, presenters or editors who can come to Japan to cover the new movements in Tohoku area or in Japan. The criteria of the reporter and theme of the series are as follows;

  1. Journalists, presenters or editors of TV, radio, or website who can deliver their messages through the media to the broad audience in their countries.
  2. Those who have the concern for the new situation after the earthquake in Japan and those who want to meet key persons of the new movements in Japan.
  3. Themes of this serried are the nuclear issues, the new technology about the earthquake, new movements which began after the earthquake, new trends of business, volunteers and etc. They can be not only directly connected to the earthquake of nuclear crises but also about the broad movements of life style, culture, technology or business.

If you have any idea of the reporter in your country, please tell us the name and contact information. We’ll invite him or her and will coordinate the trip and research in Japan. And we’ll allow them to use the materials which we will shoot.

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

Now that’s a great opportunity for outsiders to come in on a junket and do some reporting. This opportunity is also being echoed within a call to GaijinPot for NJ residents to give their views:

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

“My 3-11″ – Voluntary Interviewee for the program

https://jobs.gaijinpot.com/job/view/lang/en/job_id/82360, courtesy of MB

ON AIR:
March 2013

CONTENT:
NHK is seeking to interview those who had experienced The 2011 Great Tohoku, Japan Earthquake & Tsunami while living in Japan. They will film your unique perspective and experience on the disaster, and it impacted your life in Japan. The interview will take place for the special documentary program in February to be aired in March.

CONDITIONS:
Please write your 3-11 experience in your cover letter
Currently reside in Japan (Preferred for the interview)
Those who previously posted your earthquake experience on GaijinPot
http://injapan.gaijinpot.com/japan-needs-you/my311/

EXAMPLE:
**** My 3.11 memory *****
“That night I walked home with what seemed like every other person in Tokyo. My abiding memory of that walk was the good spirits, friendly nature and calm resolve to get home shared by everybody.

I was working as the editor of a news website when the earthquake first struck. It had been an almost stereotypical slow news day when the office started to shake, then shook some more, and then kept shaking. That convinced us to prepare to leave. I had just enough time to write a one-sentence bulletin on a large earthquake being felt in Tokyo before having to leave….

***** What did I get / learn from your experience of 3-11? *****
I had my first sense of wide scale failure on 3.11 and the immediate aftermath. Authorities, some individuals and technology all cracked in some way. But I learnt how to conquer fears in a scenario such as that, how to deal with systematic failures around you and how to buck up and keep smiling.”

Some of examples in the above link;
– British Photographer, living in Saitama
– Software engineer, Pakistani
– Margarita, Swedish, Female, Fukushima
– Canadian, Chiba-ken, Male, English teacher
– Japanese-Egyptian
– Juliet M, Koriyama ,Fukushima, English Teacher
– United States, Ibaraki, Female, Assistant Language Teacher
– ALT American, in Kamaishi, Iwate
…and many other contributors.

Although NHK is only able to interview a small number of listed applicants, we appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and we will read (and possibly consider airing) no matter if you are selected as an interviewee or not.”

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

This invites a “where’s the catch?” reaction.  When I posted this announcement yesterday within a separate blog entry, one of the more cynical comments from a Debito.org Reader included:

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

Marcus:  @Debito (#19), how convenient that they give you a pre-made, “wa”-stressing example of what you should write. I understand that Japanese-style documentaries are almost exclusively not real, but scripted reality along these lines. The truth has to be hidden, unless it exactly fits the bigger scheme, I guess.

It kind of makes me want to submit an sarcastic entry like, “On 11/3 I was living the sweet gaijin life, getting drunk, doing drugs, and french kissing frozen tuna in Tsukiji, when suddenly the earth started to shake. Of course, I was completely freaked out by it because I am not as used to it as the noble Japanese. When the shaking got really strong I switched on CNN, which by the way is owned by the Chinese and therefore totally Anti-Japanese. I saw the Tsunami hitting Tohoku and realized that this might have be ‘The Big One’. So I did what all we Gaijin came to Japan to do: Go out onto the street to riot and loot, and try to overthrow the Emperor. I made it to Shinjuku and met an old, but really genki man on the street who seemed to suffer from really dry eyes. I was so impressed and intimidated by his antics that I gave up all my evil plans, and spent the rest of the day marveling at ‘the good spirits, friendly nature and calm resolve to get home shared by everybody.’

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

NHK in fact has a history of using NJ to advance an agenda, for example using a quite willing supplicant in Tarento Daniel Kahl to portray overseas media as being biased regarding reportage on Fukushima (something Debito.org has had opinions about in the past). Consider this five minutes (!!) of NHK airtime devoted to Kahl for the newsworthy gesture of making a grandstanding YouTube video:

After all, if even a native speaker (well, one, anyway, and a few others that agreed with Kahl with no dissenters included in the broadcast) says there’s something fishy about overseas reportage (despite, after all, Japan’s already fishy domestic reportage), my, that’s added credibility for NHK viewers! It’s hard to believe that the above proposals won’t be put to the same ends, which is why I created this blog entry to discuss it.  After all, I saw how Hokkaido Shimbun, for example, completely sanitized an article I wrote in 1995 about my experiences in Kobe as a post-earthquake volunteer there (see below) and still had the temerity to put my name on it! (see also here)

Debito in Kobe as an earthquake volunteer. “Everyone was such a hard trier (ganbariya).” Not my title, not my contents.

It’s not outside precedent.  I would even argue that “sanitizing opinion for domestic consumption” is standard operating procedure.

What say you, Debito.org Readers? Arudou Debito

Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids

mytest

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Hi Blog. Last November, Debito.org reported that a magazine named Chagurin (sponsored by the PTA and the JA Japan Agricultural lobby, and placed in Elementary Schools nationwide) featured a scare-mongering article entitled “Children within the Poverty Country of America”. This was reported by a NJ resident named Stephanie whose daughter read the article in public school, questioned its contents because she had overseas experience, and was allegedly rebuffed by her teacher with an unquestioning, “It is written so it must be true.”

The contents, which were scanned and featured on Debito.org in full, depicted America as an example of what Japan should not become, and focused on several social problems (such as homelessness, poverty, obesity, non-universal health care, flawed education, and poor diet) which do exist but were largely exaggerated — even in some cases falsified —  in the article; moreover with no grounding with comparative social problems in Japan. The author, Tsutsumi Mika (her website here), a bilingual journalist educated in the US who preaches critical thinking in her article’s conclusions, turns out to be someone who cranks out bestselling books in Japanese that don’t apply the same critical thinking to Japan (only to America, as a cautionary tale). I called the Chagurin article “propaganda”, not only because it was sponsored by a Japan Agricultural lobby famous for its dirty media tricks (see herehere and here), but also because it was disseminated to a young audience of sixth graders not yet trained in the critical thinking Tsutsumi so prizes.  It followed Robert W. McChesney’s definition of propaganda exactly: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” And it caught them while they’re young.

Even more interesting information about Tsutsumi then came out in Debito.org Reader comments:  She is married to a young Dietmember named Kawada Ryuuhei of the Minna No Tou Party; he is an HIV activist who preaches anti-discrimination within Japanese society, yet supports xenophobic arguments regarding revisions to Japan’s Nationality Law (ergo his anti-discrimination sentiments only apply to “Japanese”). They make for an interesting pair, espousing an interestingly self-serving (and un-self-reflective) ideology that defies critical thinking even for fully-grown, mature, and educated adults — especially unbecoming given their life experiences both in overseas societies and in matters of discrimination.  (In contrast to what many say about international experience opening up the minds of younger Japanese, these two indicate the opposite effect as they pander to their xenophobic markets.)

That’s the background. The news for today’s blog entry is that Chagurin magazine responded to Stephanie this month, who in November had sent in a complaint letter about the article.  Their reply acknowledged some errors within, even incorporated answers from Tsutsumi herself (who didn’t budge in her claims). I will translate it below with comments from Stephanie and myself, and enclose the original text (redacted to remove Stephanie’s last name).  Any translation errors are mine, and corrections are welcome. As Tsutsumi advocates, put on your critical thinking caps as you read it!

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

TRANSLATION BEGINS:

Salutations.  We received your letter regarding the “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article in the December 2012 issue of Chagurin.  Thank you for your interest in our magazine.  We apologize for the delay in our answer.

Chagurin was created as a magazine to report on the importance of farming, food, nature and life, and cultivate the spirit of helping one another.  The goal of the article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” was not to criticize America.  It was to think along with the children about the social stratifications (kakusa shakai) caused by market fundamentalism (shijou genri shugi) that has gone too far.

Let us now answer the four criticisms that you pointed out, incorporating the answers of author Tsutsumi Mika:

1) Your point that “In any town you might go” you will find parks full of [homeless peoples’] tents being untrue:

Indeed, saying that “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” might be considered an exaggerated (kochou) way to put it.

Author Tsutsumi writes this:

  • It is a fact that after the Lehman Shock, with bankruptcies driving people out of their homes, the people living in tents has gone up dramatically (kyuuzou).  These are called “tent cities”, and they have been reported in major news media as well as in world media such as the BBC.
  • That said, tents aren’t only in parks, so the expression “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” I think is a mistaken way to put it. [sic]

In light of this, in our upcoming March issue of Chagurin we will run the following correction:

  • “In any town you might go there are parks full of tents” is a mistaken expression, so we amend it to “there are tents in various places”.

2) Your point that “At a dentists. a filling (tsumemono) costs 150,000 yen [approximately 1700 US dollars]” being untrue:

Author Tsutsumi writes this:

  • A bill for a tooth’s treatment will easily exceed 1000 dollars, especially in the cities.
  • Even if you are insured, there are cases where the insurance company refuses to pay.
  • If you are not insured, there are many cases where they take advantage of your weakened position (ashimoto o mirarete) and demand high prices.

[NB: With remarkable serendipity, I have a friend who just had dental work for a root canal for a cracked tooth and a cap on top.  The entire root canal came to about 1000 dollars, and the cap about 800 dollars.  So total that’s about what Tsutsumi claims is the market price for a filling, in a city like Honolulu.  And yes, fortunately, the insurance company paid for most of it.  So obviously your mileage may vary from Tsutsumi’s claims.]

In regards to points 1 and 2, the author did extensive on-site research, and this is grounded upon information with sources.  Saying it as an “everything and all” absolute beckons overstatement, and for giving rise to misunderstandings we apologize.

Regarding point three, about the the picture of the boy with cavities in fact wearing fake Hallowe’en teeth:

chagurin4teethcrop

We checked with the photo agency from whom we borrowed this photo, and found out that they are fake teeth.  This was a mistake by our editorial department, and we apologize for putting up the wrong photo (ayamatta shashin o keisai shita koto).

In light of this, in our upcoming March issue of Chagurin we will run the following correction:

“Regarding the photo of the image of the boy with bad teeth, these were not cavities, these were false teeth used as a costume, and we apologize and correct this error.”

4) Your point about the column being so negative:

Regarding that, the last page of the article states that it is calling for children to independently (jishuteki) choose data for themselves (jouhou no shusha sentaku), so as a project (kikaku) in itself we think this is a positive thing.  Author Tsusumi is of the same opinion.

There are many things in this world that we want children to learn.  Unfortunately with the way the world is now, there are many problems, not limited to poverty and social inequality, but also food supply, war, etc.  In regards to these problems, we would like to positively take up these issues and include Japan’s problems as well.

Thank you very much for your feedback.  We will take them under advisement in our upcoming articles, and not make mistakes like these again by paying attention to fine details.  We appreciate your reading our publication very much.  

Signed, Chagurin Editors Iwazawa Nobuyuki and Mogi Kumiko

ENDS

CHAGURIN REPLY SCANS (two pages):

chagurinreply1 chagurinreply2

ENDS

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  While both Stephanie and I appreciate the fact that the magazine admitted to some mistakes (let alone answered her at all; although Tsutsumi clearly didn’t budge from her claims), the fundamental points I raised in my November post on this article and the treatment of the issues remain unaddressed:

 – It is testament to our educations that we as readers with critical faculties can see that the points raised [within Tsutsumi’s article] are real social problems [in the United States]. The point of this blog entry, however, is how a) they are presented b) to a young audience without significant training in the critical thought the author is advocating, c) couched as a contrast to how Japan is (or is becoming) as a cautionary tale, and d) in a way unsophisticated enough to present these conditions with the appearance of unmitigated absolutes e) about a foreign society that isn’t going to answer or correct the absolutes. Then we get to the sensationalism (e.g., the allegedly fake teeth in the illustration and the misquoted prices) and the subterfuge (the odd linkage to international trade/TPP as the source of problems, etc.)…

Finally, consider the shoe on the other foot — if an article of this tone and content appeared in an overseas grade-school level newspaper funded by the farming lobby and endorsed by the PTA with the same type of content about Japan, the first people banging on the publisher’s door in protest would be the Japanese embassy.  Then the internet denizens will follow with accusations of racism and anti-Japaneseness. The fact that not a single poster on Debito.org has cited anti-Americanism as the author’s motive (in fact, a few comments I did not let through were explicitly anti-American themselves; moreover with no substantiation for claims) is testament again to the sophistication of our audience here: We can acknowledge problems in societies of origin without glossing over them with blind patriotism.

Stephanie herself added (dated January 15):

I received a response from the editor of Chagurin magazine. I sent them a letter in November and when I did not hear back I thought they would not respond. I was surprised when this letter arrived a few days ago. And to admit any kind of mistake or wrong…I think that is a big step. […]

Yes, I thought missing the core issue of this being a propaganda piece aimed at children is what happened in their response (my daughter translated the letter for me). I’ve lived half my life in locations that were not exactly warm to my being caucasian or my being American. With that I have learned the frustrations of not being able to “make” someone see a different viewpoint or a view beyond what they narrowly have allowed themselves. Growing up, “Where are you from?” I never knew quite what to answer, I’m a “third culture kid”. My mom is [a native of one European country] and my dad is [a native of another European country], I have dual citizenship.

Still, that Chagurin admitted anything wrong — was surprising. I’m still hoping that gradually, with people willing to write and speak out that there will be a change and an ability to focus on the true points of concern in these very important issues. And yes, if the shoe were on the other foot it would have been a huge deal!

I did follow the article and discussion after you posted it. I very much enjoyed the discussion and was glad that the majority of those sharing understood the overall concern –not, as you mentioned an anti-American issue. […]

I want to thank you again for the site you maintain that provides awareness and support for so many people — thanks.

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

Alright, Debito.org Readers: We have been formally encouraged to think independently by Chagurin and Tsutsumi, so let’s use some critical thinking about this publication, the author, the tack, and the points/evidence raised therein. Problem solved with this apology and retraction? Arudou Debito

Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)

mytest

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BOOK REVIEW
At Home Abroad: The Contemporary Western Experience in Japan“, by Adam Komisarof. Reitaku University Press, 2012. 251 pages, ISBN: 978-4-892025-616-1

athomeabroadcover

(Publisher’s note:  On sale in Japan through Amazon Japan, in North America through Kinokuniya USA)
Review exclusive to Debito.org, January 20, 2013
By ARUDOU DEBITO (updated version with errata corrected and Robin Sakamoto’s photo added)

At Home Abroad” is an important, ambitious academic work that offers a survey, both from academics in the field and from people with expertise on living in Japan, of theories on how people can assimilate into foreign culture both on their own terms and through acquisition of local knowledge. Dr. Komisarof, a professor at Reitaku University with a doctorate in public administration from International Christian University in Tokyo, has published extensively in this field before, his previous book being “On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan” (Reitaku University Press 2011). However, this book can be read by both the lay reader as well as the academic in order to get some insights on how NJ can integrate and be integrated into Japan.

The book’s goal, according to its Preface, is to “address a pressing question: As the Japanese population dwindles and the number of foreign workers allowed in the country increases to compensate for the existing labor shortage, how can we improve the acceptance of foreign people into Japanese society?” (p. 1) To answer this, Komisarof goes beyond academic theory and devotes two-thirds of the book to fieldwork interviews of eleven people, each with extensive Japan experience and influence, who can offer insights on how Westerners perceive and have been perceived in Japan.

The interviewees are Japan literary scholar Donald Keene, Japan TV comedian Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, columnist about life in rural Japan Karen Hill Anton, university professor Robin Sakamoto, activist and author Arudou Debito, Japan TV personality Daniel Kahl, corporate managing director of a Tokyo IT company Michael Bondy, Dean of Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies Paul Snowden, Tokyo University professor and clinical psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, politico and business executive Glen Fukushima, Keio University professor Tomoko Yoshida, and Japan scholar Donald Richie (photos below).

As Komisarof acknowledges in his section on caveats (pp. 11-2), these people have a “Western cultural heritage” (as nine are from the US) and are mostly Caucasian; he notes that he confines his analysis to “Westerners”, and does not “presume to address the experiences of Korean permanent residents of Japan or people from developing countries,” as “both deserve to have entire books written about their experiences, which are in many ways quantitatively different from non-Japanese who have moved here by their own volition from affluent nations” (ibid). To counter this, Komisarof taps into “other types of diversity among the interviewees in terms of ethnicity, profession, and gender” (ibid) (e.g., Anton is African-American, Murphy-Shigematsu and Fukushima are of Japanese descent, and Yoshida is a Japanese raised abroad; three — Sakamoto, Arudou, and Murphy-Shigematsu — were naturalized Japanese at the time of their interview).

Being self-aware of these caveats salvages the science, but the interviews (despite good questions from Komisarof) are uneven and do not always speak to the point. Donald Keene comes off as patrician and supercilious about his position in Japan (not to mention out of touch with the way that most NJ live in Japan) when he says: 

There is still a hard core of resistance to Japanese culture among foreigners living in, say, Minato-ku. […] All of their friends are non-Japanese — with the exception of a few Japanese friends who speak English fluently. They live in houses that are completely Western in every detail. They read the English newspaper, The Japan Times, and they know who danced with whom the night before. They are still living in a colony. But I think that colony has grown smaller than ever before and has been penetrated by new people who want to learn about Japan. If you read about Yokohama in 1910, it would have been a very strange family that thought it was a good idea to let their son or daughter to go to a Japanese school and learn anything about Japan. They would never think in terms of living here indefinitely. They would think, “When we finish our exile here, we will go to a decent place.” (23)

donaldkeenenhk
Donald Keene, courtesy of NHK

No doubt, this may have been true in Yokohama back in 1910. But that is over a century ago and people thought even interracial marriage was very strange; nowadays it’s not, especially in Japan, and I doubt many NJ residents see Japan as a form of “exile”. Keene remains in character by depicting himself as a Lawrence of Arabia type escaping his colony brethren to get his hands dirty with the natives (somehow unlike all the other people interviewed for this book; I wonder if they all met at a party how Keene would reconcile them with his world view).

pakkunmakkun

Patrick Harlan also comes off as shallow in his interview, mentioning his Harvard credentials more than once (as wearers of the Crimson tend to), and claims that he is sacrificing his putative entertainer career income in America by “several decimal places” for “a good gig here”.  Despite his linguistic fluency to be a stand-up manzai comic, he makes claims in broad strokes such as “Ethnic jokes don’t even exist [in Japan]. People are treated with respect.” (36)  He also talks about using his White privilege in ways that benefit his career in comedy (such as it is; full disclosure: this author does not find Pakkun funny), but makes assertions that are not always insightful re the points of assimilation/integration that this book is trying to address. Clearly, Dave Spector would have been the better interview for this research (although interviewing him might be as difficult as interviewing Johnny Carson, as both have the tendency to deflect personal questions with jokes).

karenhillantonRobinSakamotopaulsnowdenglenfukushima
(L-R) Karen Hill Anton, courtesy of her Linkedin Page; Robin Sakamoto, courtesy of Robin Sakamoto; Paul Snowden, courtesy of the Yomiuri Shinbun;Glen Fukushima, courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

Other interviews are more revealing about the interviewee than about the questions being broached by the book.  Both Karen Hill Anton and Robin Sakamoto, despite some good advice about life in Japan, come off as rather isolated in their rural hamlets, as does a very diplomatic Paul Snowden rather ensconced in his Ivory Tower. Glen Fukushima, although very politically articulate, and highly knowledgable about code-switching communication strategies to his advantage in negotiations, also sounds overly self-serving and self-promoting.

Daniel Kahl’s interview is the worst of the book, as it combines a degree of overgeneralizing shallowness with an acidulous nastiness towards fellow NJ.  For example:

I can read a newspaper and my [TV] scripts… I know about 2000 kanji, so I’m totally functional, and I think that’s a prerequisite for being accepted.  I hate to say it, but there are a lot of foreigners who complain, “I’m not accepted in society!”  That’s because you can’t read the sign that explains how to put out your garbage.  And people get mad at you for mixing cans with bottles.  Simple as it may seem, those are the little things that get the neighbors angry. (206)

danielkahljapanprobe
Poster of Daniel Kahl courtesy of Ministry of Justice Bureau of Human Rights, caption courtesy of Japan Probe back in the day.

Especially when Kahl says:

I think that a foreigner who comes here and makes the effort can definitely be accepted. If you feel that you are not, then you’ve already got a chip on yours shoulder to begin with. […] For example, do you remember the incident in Hokkaido when the Japanese public bath owners had a “No Foreigners” sign up in front of their buildings? I guess two or three foreign folks got really upset about that, and they sued the place. Why would you sue them? Why don’t you go talk to those people? Tell the, “Look, I’m a foreigner. But I’m not going to tear your place up. Could you take down that sign?” Then the Japanese might have explained that they weren’t doing it to keep out all foreigners, but to keep out the drunk Russian sailors who were causing all the trouble in the first place. I don’t know all of the details, but these foreigners thought that they were making a political and legal statement. It could have been made very effectively, though, without embarrassing that city or the public bath owners. The foreigners were trying to change the law, but it was a pretty confrontational way to do so. I can almost guarantee that those foreigners are going to have a hard time being accepted by the Japanese in general. (100)

 

Kahl is exactly right when he says, “I don’t know all of the details,” since just about everything else he says above about the Otaru Onsens Case is incorrect. For example, it was more than “two or three foreign folk” getting upset (Japanese were also being refused entry, and there was a huge groundswell of support from the local community); one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit mentioned is not foreign. Moreover, as Arudou mentions in his interview, they did “go talk to those people”: they spent more than fifteen months talking one-on-one with all parties to this dispute, until there was no other option but to go to court (which millions of Japanese themselves do every year).  Moreover, at least one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Olaf Karthaus, is very well assimilated into his community, having graduated two children (with a third in junior high) through Japan’s secondary schooling, becoming Director at the Department of Bio- and Material Photonics at the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology, and participating daily in his Sapporo church groups.  In any case, Kahl’s lack of research is inexcusable, since he could have easily read up by now on this case he cites as a cautionary tale:  There are whole books written in English, Japanese, or even free online in two languages as an exhaustive archive available for over a decade as a cure for the ignorant. There’s even, as of 2013, an updated Tenth Anniversary Edition eBook downloadable for Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble NOOK, moreover for a very reasonable price of $9.99 or yen equivalent.  One can safely conclude that Kahl chooses to be ignorant in order to preserve his world view.

michaelbondytomokoyoshidastephenmurphyshigematsu
(L-R) Michael Bondy courtesy of his Linkedin Page; Tomoko Yoshida courtesy of Keio University; Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu courtesy of Stanford University.

The best interviews come from Bondy (who offers much practical advice about getting along in a Japanese-hybrid workplace), Yoshida and Murphy-Shigematsu (both of whom have some academic rigor behind their views of the world, and express their measured views with balance, deep thought and intuition). But the best of the best comes last with Donald Richie, who shows that old people do not necessarily become as curmudgeonly as Keene. Just selecting one nugget of insight from his excellent interview:

If I could take away the things that I don’t like about Japan, then it wouldn’t be Japan anymore. So I’ve always made an attempt to swallow Japan whole — not to discriminate so much between what I like or don’t. This is not as important as, “Does this work or not?” or “Does this serve a wider purpose or not?” These are more important questions than whether I like them or not. I’ve never paid too much attention to what I don’t like and conversely what I do like about Japan. […] But what I do like is the sense of interconnectiveness. […] When workmen used to try to make a wall and a tree would get in the way, they would make a hole in the wall to accommodate the tree instead of the other way around. This used to be seen on a regular basis. Alas, it is no more. A lot of the things which I like about Japan have disappeared. If this symbiotic relationship was ever here, it is not here anymore. The Japanese have down terrible things physically to their country. That would be something which I do not like about Japan. But if I dice it into likes and dislikes, and I have difficulty doing that, there wmust be a better way to see differences. Indeed, in my wriitng, I try not to rely on like and dislike dichotomies. I rely more on what works and doesn’t work. (172)

donaldrichie
Donald Richie still courtesy of his film anthology

That said, Richie does careen into Keene territory when he carelessly compares NJ in Japan with autistic children in a kindergarten:

If an autistic child goes to a kindergarten, he becomes a legal member of that class, but he’s still an autistic child.  So he has double citizenship.  That is very much me — like any foreigner here.  He is put in a special class for autism, but at the same time,  he is given all of the honors and securities of belonging to this particular class.  He gets a double dose.  And if he is smart, then he recognizes this. (224)

This is not a good comparison, as it likens extranationality to a mental handicap.  And it also ignores the racialized issues of how somebody “looks” in Japan (as in “looks foreign”) with how somebody is treated (as a “foreigner”), when autism is not a matter of physical appearance.  It also assumes that people can never recover from or overcome a birth-based “autism of national origin” (this author’s paraphrase), becoming acculturated enough to “become a Japanese” (whereas autism is, as far as I know, a lifelong handicap).  This clearly obviates many of the acculturation strategies this book seeks to promote.  Richie may stand by this comparison as his own personal opinion, of course, but this author will not, as it buys into to the notion of surrendering to a racialized class (in both senses of the word) system as being “smart”.

In the last third of the book, Kamisarof takes these interviews and incorporates them into the following questions, answered with balanced input from all participants:

  1. When do Westerners feel most comfortable with Japanese people?
  2. How does Westerners’ treatment in Japan compare to that of immigrants and long-term sojourners in their home countries?
  3. Is there discrimination against Westerners in Japan?
  4. How does discrimination in Japan compare to that in Western countries?
  5. Is it right to play the Gaijin Card?
  6. Are Westerners accepted more by Japanese people if they naturalize to Japan?
  7. Can Westerners be accepted in Japan, and if so, what do they need to do to belong?
  8. Can popular public ideas about who belongs in Japanese society move beyond nationality?
  9. How are Japanese perceptions of Westerners changing?

After this remix of and focus upon individual strategies, Komisarof devotes his final chapter to bringing in academic discussions about general “acculturation strategies”, based upon attitudes and behaviors (both on the part of the immigrant and the native), putting them into a classic four-category strategy rubric of “Integration” (i.e., the “multicultural salad”), “Assimilation” (i.e., the “melting pot”), “Separation” (i.e., segregation into non-mixing self-maintaining communities), and “Marginalization” (i.e., segregation from mainstream society with self-maintenance of the non-mainstream community discouraged). In an attempt to choose the “best” acculturation strategy, Korisamof then builds upon this rubric into a sixteen-category “Interactive Acculturation Model” that may lose most non-academic readers. He concludes, sensibly:

“Merely increasing the non-native population in Japan without improving acculturation strategy fits is insufficient and may cause further problems. Instead, it is critical that a sense of BELONGING and PARTICIPATION, rather than mere coexistence, be shared between Japanese and the foreign-born residents in their midst… ” (237, emphases in original). “The underlying message of this book for all nations wrestling with unprecedented domestic diversity is that the inclusion of everyone is essential, but only through mutual efforts of the cultural majority and minorities can such inclusion become a reality. Creating living spaces where people can feel a sense of belonging and share in the benefits of group membership is an urgent ned worldwide, and it is happening, slowly, but surely, here in Japan. (239)

This has been a perpetual blind spot in GOJ policy hearings on “co-existence” (kyousei) with “foreigners”, and this book needs a translation into Japanese for the mandarins’ edification.

If one could point to a major flaw in the book, it would not be with the methodology.  It would be with the fieldwork:  As mentioned above, the interviews do not ask systematically the same questions to each interviewee, and thus the answers do not always speak to the questions about assimilation strategies Komisarof later asks and answers.  For example, Arudou’s typically rabble-rousing interview style offers little insight into how he personally deals with the daily challenges of life in Japan.  (For the record, that information can be found here.)  As is quite typical for people in Japan being asked what Japan is all about and how they “like” it, the interviewees answer in individually-suited ways that show myopic views of Japan, redolent of the fable about the Blind Men and the Elephant.  Not one of the respondents (except for, in places, Arudou) talks about the necessity for a sense of community building within NJ groups themselves, i.e., unionizing, creating anti-discrimination or anti-defamation leagues, or fostering the organizational trappings of the cultural self-maintenance that may be essential or is taken as a given within other non-Westerner transplant communities (although disputed by Ishi, 2008).  Instead, all we hear about (due to the lines of questioning within the fieldwork) are how atomistic people create their own psychological armor for “dealing with Japan”.

Another important issue remains fundamentally unaddressed by Komisarof:  How one must assume “good faith” and “reciprocity” on the part of Japanese society bringing in NJ to work, and how these assimilation strategies being offered must one day bear fruit (as the interviewee proponents claim they will.  Harlan:  “True acceptance comes when you are contributing to society as fully as anyone else.” (200)).  But what if your full contributions to Japan are not being fully recognized, with long-term friendships, promotions, equal access to social welfare, and even senpai status over Japanese?  As the links to each of these topics attest, this is not always the case.  Under Komisarof’s assimilation strategies, what do you do then?  Give, give, and give for many years and then just hope society gives something back?  What guarantees should there be for reciprocity?  There is only so much a mentally-healthy individual can contribute, sacrifice, and offer to “assimilate” and “integrate” into a society before feeling used and used up.

That said, if you want an insightful, thoughtful book that will introduce you to the global academic debate on transnational migration, assimilation, and integration, moreover tailored to the peculiar milieu of Japan, Komisarof’s “At Home Abroad” is it.

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

SOURCE:  Ishi, Angelo Akimitsu (2008), in David Blake Willis and Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Eds., “Transcultural Japan:  At the borderlands of race, gender, and identity.”  New York:  Routledge, pp. 122-5.

Copyright ARUDOU Debito 2013.  All rights reserved.

Interesting lawsuits: French “Flyjin” sues employer NHK for firing her during Fukushima Crisis, 8 US sailors sue TEPCO for lying about radiation dangers

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a couple of interesting lawsuits in the pipeline:  A French woman being fired from NHK (despite 20 years working there) apparently for leaving Japan during the Fukushima crisis, and eight US Navy sailors suing TEPCO (from overseas) for lying about nuclear fallout dangers and exposing them to radiation.

No matter what you think about the act of litigation (and there are always those, such as House Gaijin Gregory Clark or tarento Daniel Kahl (see Komisarof, “At Home Abroad”, p. 100) who decry anything a NJ does in court, saying “they’re suing at the drop of a hat like the litigious Westerners they are” — even though millions of Japanese in Japan sue every year), these cases have the potential to reveal something interesting:  1) Blowing the lid off the Flyjin Myth of “fickle NJ leaving their work stations” once again, this time in the Japanese judiciary; and 2) showing whether international effects of GOJ negligence (and irradiating the food chain both domestically and internationally counts as such) is something that can be legally actionable from afar.

Anyway, power to them.  I doubt the outcome of these cases will appear much in the J media, so keep an eye out for their potential appearance in the English-language media when the decisions get handed down within the next year or two.  Arudou Debito

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French woman who fled during nuclear crisis sues NHK for firing her
January 16, 2013 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130116p2g00m0dm023000c.html

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A French woman on Tuesday sued public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, for dismissing her after she left Japan in response to a French government warning issued during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Emmanuelle Bodin, 55, who had engaged in translation and radio work, said in a complaint filed with the Tokyo District Court that she had told her boss that she would return to work on March 30, 2011, but received a termination letter on March 22.

Two days after the earthquake-tsunami disaster triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11 that year, the French government advised its citizens to leave the Tokyo area.

Bodin, who is demanding her dismissal be rescinded and damages be paid, had worked at NHK for over 20 years as a contract staffer, renewing her contract every year, according to the complaint. She said in a news conference no other employee in the French language section who left Tokyo at the time was fired.

NHK said the termination of her contract was not made in an unfair manner but refrained from elaborating on reasons for the dismissal.
ENDS

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The Japan Times, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012

Eight U.S. sailors sue Tepco for millions for falsely downplaying Fukushima radiation exposure

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121228a3.html

Bloomberg — Tokyo Electric Power Co. is being sued for tens of millions of dollars by eight U.S. Navy sailors who claim that they were unwittingly exposed to radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns and that Tepco lied about the dangers.

The sailors aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan were involved in the Operation Tomodachi disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region and led to the nuclear catastrophe, according to their complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.

Tepco and the Japanese government conspired to create the false impression that radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 plant didn’t pose a threat to the sailors, according to the complaint. As a result, the plaintiffs rushed to areas that were unsafe and too close to the facility, exposing them to radiation, their lawyers said.

The Japanese government was “lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown” crisis, as it reassured the USS Reagan crew that “everything is under control,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in the complaint. “The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering.”

The sailors are each seeking $10 million in damages, $30 million in punitive damages and a judgment requiring the creation of a $100 million fund to pay for their medical monitoring and treatments.

“We can’t comment as we have not received the complaint document yet,” Yusuke Kunikage, a Tepco spokesman, said Thursday. “We will consider a response after examining the claim.”

In July, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund took control of Tepco in return for a ¥1 trillion capital injection after the disaster left the utility on the brink of bankruptcy. The utility received ¥1.4 trillion in state funds to compensate those affected by the disaster.

ENDS

Asahi: Media-fostered xenophobia forces prefectural countermeasures against NJ buying “strategic land”

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has reported in the past on how media fearmongering against foreigners (by the Yomiuri, natch) has caused people in the boonies to get paranoid about NJ purchasing land for apparently nefarious purposes (for who knows what they’ll do to the water table beneath them!).  Well, the Asahi below has surveyed this paranoia and exposed it for the bunkum it is.

It’s especially ironic when the New York Times does a story two days later (in their “Great Homes and Destinations” column, a promo piece on the buyer’s market for real estate in Japan) and buys hook line and sinker the assertion by vested interests that “Foreign buyers face no restrictions in Japan.”  Not anymore, and not for a little while now (Debito.org’s earliest story on this is from 2010!).  More under-researched bunkum posing as news.  Especially in this time of politically-motivated NJ Witch Hunts in Japan’s property market. Arudou Debito

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Local governments swallow scare stories over ‘foreigners’ buying strategic land
Asahi Shimbun December 25, 2012, courtesy of Yokohama John
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201212250046
By KOSUKE TAUCHI/ Staff Writer

A flap over “foreigners” buying Japan’s upland forests and potentially controlling the nation’s water resources has caused some local authorities to push the panic button and introduce heightened oversight of some land sales.

Four prefectural governments have written new rules and nine others are considering similar measures, which they say are intended to help protect the national nature of Japan’s water resources.

But The Asahi Shimbun has found limited evidence of foreigners buying Japan’s forests—and not a single confirmed case of them doing so with the aim of securing control of water.

Fears that foreign nations—notably, China—might buy up forest and deplete subterranean water caused a storm in political circles and the news media three years ago. At that time, China’s economic power was increasingly being viewed as a threat, amid acquisitions of Japanese enterprises and real estate by Chinese capital.

News reports fueled the scare. One suggested that China was looking to acquire headwaters areas in Japan. Another said investors from Hong Kong had purchased a forest in Hokkaido.

The Forestry Agency said in 2010 it had about 30 confirmed cases of forests being bought with foreign capital.

In March of this year, Hokkaido became the first prefectural government to approve an ordinance to counter such acquisitions. Saitama, Gunma and Ibaraki prefectures followed suit.

All four prefectures now require sellers and buyers of land in headwaters areas, both Japanese and foreign nationals, to notify the authorities in advance. Corporations and individuals who fail to do so, or ignore subsequent government recommendations, risk being publicly named.

“It will help curb foreign acquisitions,” said Kiyoshi Ueda, governor of Saitama Prefecture.

Seven other prefectures—Yamagata, Yamanashi, Nagano, Fukui, Gifu, Tokushima and Kochi—said they are considering similar moves. Two others—Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures—initially said they had no such plans when The Asahi Shimbun first contacted them in August, but their respective prefectural governors later said they would consider following suit.

In a survey of all 47 prefectural governments across Japan, The Asahi Shimbun found that foreign capital had purchased a total 1,234 hectares of forest. The sales were in eight prefectures. More than 80 percent of the forest concerned was in Hokkaido.

asahiforeignlandbuys122512

Source:  Asahi Shinbun 12/25/12

Acquisitions by Chinese capital accounted for 408 hectares, and most of those purchases were made with capital from Hong Kong.

Most purchasers gave their motivation as asset ownership or speculation in land prices ahead of likely resale. There was no confirmed case of a purchaser aiming to “secure water resources.”

In nine of the 13 prefectures that have either tightened rules or are considering doing so, there were no records—ever—of foreign purchasers buying forests.

The story appears to be a case of politicians exploiting sensitivity over Japan’s “homeland” and “territories”—and running one step ahead of reality.”

ENDS

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

INTERNATIONAL REAL ESTATE
House Hunting in … Japan
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Great Homes and Destinations column,
By NINA ROBERTS
Published: December 26, 2012 (excerpt)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/greathomesanddestinations/real-estate-in-japan.html

[…] MARKET OVERVIEW

Japan is a buyers’ market, said Erik Oskamp, the owner of Akasaka Real Estate in Tokyo. “Owning property in Tokyo is probably half or a third of the monthly price than if you rent,” he said, “and still people are not buying; that’s how depressed the market is. You always have to explain to people, ‘We’re still here, Japan still exists.’ “

The housing stagnation dates to 1991, the year that diminished expectations about Japan’s economy sent property values into a nosedive.

“During the 1980s, Japan became the financial center of the Asian region,” said Jiro Yoshida, an assistant professor of business at Penn State. “People had a really rosy expectation about the future of the Japanese economy.” With lowered expectations came “a huge drop in property prices,” Mr. Yoshida added, recalling that property prices fell by about 50 percent over the next decade.

The free fall abated in the early 2000s, and a gradual ascent began by 2006 and 2007, Mr. Oskamp said. Still, according to Mr. Yoshida, residential values remain about half what they were in 1991, and even 70 percent less in some areas. In resort areas like Minikami and Chiba, Mr. Oskamp said, values are down by as much as 90 percent.

That said, however, the global economic downturn did not have a huge impact on Japan because its banks had not expanded globally, Mr. Yoshida said.

WHO BUYS IN JAPAN

Almost no foreigners are buying primary residences in Japan, according to Mr. Oskamp. Some are buying as an investment or for use as a second home, but the number is minuscule. “Less than 1 percent of all real estate transactions in Japan involves a foreigner,” he said.

Compounded as it was by the 2011 earthquake and the resulting fear of radiation contamination, the financial crisis pushed many foreigners — especially the banking professionals who typically buy property — to choose Singapore or Hong Kong instead.

What few foreign buyers there are tend to be from China or Taiwan, said Yukiko Takano, the Japan Sotheby’s International Realty agent who has this listing.

BUYING BASICS

Foreign buyers face no restrictions in Japan. Hiring a lawyer for residential real estate transactions is not standard practice; instead, real estate agents typically handle the legal work, with the seller’s agent drafting the contracts. A judicial scrivener, or notary public, investigates the property’s history of ownership and registers its change.

Employed foreigners are generally able to obtain mortgages from Japanese banks. If a borrower defaults on a mortgage, the bank has the right to go after personal assets.

WEB SITES

Japan Tourism: jnto.go.jp/

Tokyo Travel Guide: gotokyo.org/en/

Mount Fuji tourism: yamanashi-kankou.jp/

EXCERPT ENDS

NYT: Xenophobia in Environmental Ministry re exclusionary Fukushima decontam efforts: “Japanese soil is different”, “NJ assistance might scare local grandmas”

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Hi Blog. As part of a continuing series of how the Post-Fukushima Debacles have laid bare just how irredeemably broken Japan’s system is (see related articles here (item #2), here, here, herehere, here, herehere, and here), the NYT has just reported the latest on the Fukushima radiation cleanup effort.  Within, we can witness a wonderful fusion of corruption, xenophobia, and unaccountable bureaucratic culture that have been symptomatic of why Japan as a society cannot not fix itself (see items #1-3).  And this time, it’s a wonderful capsule summary of why foreign technology and assistance will lose out to featherbedded domestic interests (the Kensetsu Zoku, who are making a right mess of things).  And how there’s no hope of it getting better since the corrupt corporatists who facilitated this system in the first place (LDP under Abe and co.) are back in power as of December with a fresh mandate.  A choice excerpt from the NYT, very, very germane to the purview of Debito.org, follows:

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

NYT:  Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

(UPDATE:  Original Japanese question and answer, courtesy of Hiroko Tabuchi (thanks!):

質問:なぜ除染事業に海外の業者や技術が採用されてないのか。
環境省福島除染推進チーム次長 西山 英彦:
(ストリップペイント等の除染技術については)「海外で有効なものでも、日本は土が違ったりしますから」
(除染事業全体を海外の会社が請け負うことについて)「外国人が福島をうろうろしてたら、お年寄りのおじいちゃんおばあちゃんが恐がるでしょう」

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

(Here’s a picture of Nishiyama Hidehiko to burn into your memory cells, courtesy of Reuters:)

NishiyamaHidehiko

This is an incredibly racist insult to all the NJ who were both there and who went up there to help the victims of the disasters at great time, expense, and risk to their health — without scaring people.  I have two articles below the NYT from the WSJ which outline what a horrible little fellow this Nishiyama is, and how he keeps bouncing right back into power despite scandal within Japan’s unaccountable bureaucracy.

After that, I have some links to previous comments on this article.  I originally put this up yesterday as an addendum to a previous blog entry, but the comments there (see most of them in context here) are worth archiving here because they express the appropriate amount of outrage.  About a system that is, in the end, betraying everyone.  Kudos to NYT reporter Hiroko Tabuchi for uncovering this.  Arudou Debito

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In Japan, a Painfully Slow Sweep
The New York Times, January 7, 2013
By HIROKO TABUCHI
See photos at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/business/japans-cleanup-after-a-nuclear-accident-is-denounced.html

NARAHA, Japan — The decontamination crews at a deserted elementary school here are at the forefront of what Japan says is the most ambitious radiological cleanup the world has seen, one that promised to draw on cutting-edge technology from across the globe.

But much of the work at the Naraha-Minami Elementary School, about 12 miles away from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tells another story. For eight hours a day, construction workers blast buildings with water, cut grass and shovel dirt and foliage into big black plastic bags — which, with nowhere to go, dot Naraha’s landscape like funeral mounds.

More than a year and a half since the nuclear crisis, much of Japan’s post-Fukushima cleanup remains primitive, slapdash and bereft of the cleanup methods lauded by government scientists as effective in removing harmful radioactive cesium from the environment.

Local businesses that responded to a government call to research and develop decontamination methods have found themselves largely left out. American and other foreign companies with proven expertise in environmental remediation, invited to Japan in June to show off their technologies, have similarly found little scope to participate.

Recent reports in the local media of cleanup crews dumping contaminated soil and leaves into rivers has focused attention on the sloppiness of the cleanup.

“What’s happening on the ground is a disgrace,” said Masafumi Shiga, president of Shiga Toso, a refurbishing company based in Iwaki, Fukushima. The company developed a more effective and safer way to remove cesium from concrete without using water, which could repollute the environment. “We’ve been ready to help for ages, but they say they’ve got their own way of cleaning up,” he said.

Shiga Toso’s technology was tested and identified by government scientists as “fit to deploy immediately,” but it has been used only at two small locations, including a concrete drain at the Naraha-Minami school.

Instead, both the central and local governments have handed over much of the 1 trillion yen decontamination effort to Japan’s largest construction companies. The politically connected companies have little radiological cleanup expertise and critics say they have cut corners to employ primitive — even potentially hazardous — techniques.

The construction companies have the great advantage of available manpower. Here in Naraha, about 1,500 cleanup workers are deployed every day to power-spray buildings, scrape soil off fields, and remove fallen leaves and undergrowth from forests and mountains, according to an official at the Maeda Corporation, which is in charge of the cleanup.

That number, the official said, will soon rise to 2,000, a large deployment rarely seen on even large-sale projects like dams and bridges.

The construction companies suggest new technologies may work, but are not necessarily cost-effective.

“In such a big undertaking, cost-effectiveness becomes very important,” said Takeshi Nishikawa, an executive based in Fukushima for the Kashima Corporation, Japan’s largest construction company. The company is in charge of the cleanup in the city of Tamura, a part of which lies within the 12-mile exclusion zone. “We bring skills and expertise to the project,” Mr. Nishikawa said.

Kashima also built the reactor buildings for all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading some critics to question why control of the cleanup effort has been left to companies with deep ties to the nuclear industry.

Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.

At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.

In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.

The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.

“This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”

In some of the more heavily contaminated parts of Fukushima, which covers about 100 square miles, the central government aims to reduce radiation exposure levels to below 20 millisieverts a year by 2014, a level the government says is safe for the general public. But experts doubt whether this is achievable, especially with current cleanup methods.

After some recent bad press, the central government has promised to step up checks of the decontamination work. “We will not betray the trust of the local communities,” Shinji Inoue, the environment vice minister, said Monday.

There had been high hopes about the government’s disaster reconstruction plan. It was announced four months after the March 2011 disaster, which declared Japan would draw on the most advanced decontamination know-how possible.

But confusion over who would conduct and pay for the cleanup slowed the government response. It took nine months for the central government to decide that it would take charge of decontamination work in 11 of the heaviest-contaminated towns and cities in Fukushima, leaving the rest for local governments to handle.

In October, the state-backed research organization, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, announced that it was soliciting new decontamination technology from across the country.

By early November, the agency had identified 25 technologies that its own tests showed removed harmful cesium from the environment.

A new system to trap, filter and recycle contaminated runoff, developed by the local machinery maker Fukushima Komatsu Forklift, was one of technologies. But since then, the company has not been called on to participate in the state-led cleanup.

“For the big general contractors, it’s all about the bottom line,” said Masao Sakai, an executive at the company. “New technology is available to prevent harmful runoff, but they stick to the same old methods.”

The Japanese government also made an initial effort to contact foreign companies for decontamination support. It invited 32 companies from the United States that specialize in remediation technologies like strip-painting and waste minimization, to show off their expertise to Japanese government officials, experts and companies involved in the cleanup.

Opinions on the trip’s effectiveness vary among participants, but in the six months since, not a single foreign company has been employed in Japan’s cleanup, according to the trip’s participants and Japan’s Environment Ministry.

“Japan has a rich history in nuclear energy, but as you know, the U.S. has a much more diverse experience in dealing with the cleanup of very complicated nuclear processing facilities. We’ve been cleaning it up since World War II,” said Casey Bunker, a director at RJ Lee, a scientific consulting company based in Pennsylvania that took part in the visit.

“There was a little of, ‘Hey, bring your tools over and show us how it works.’ But they ultimately wanted to do it themselves, to fix things themselves,” Mr. Bunker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in a consultative relationship moving forward.”

Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

Some local residents are losing faith in the decontamination effort.

“I thought Japan was a technologically advanced country. I thought we’d be able to clean up better than this,” said Yoshiko Suganami, a legal worker who was forced to abandon her home and office over two miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”

Most of the clients at Ms. Suganami’s new practice in Fukushima city are also nuclear refugees who have lost their jobs and homes and are trying to avert bankruptcy. She said few expect to ever return.
ENDS

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

In Japan Rarity, Nuclear Spokesman Replaced After Affair Allegations

By Yuka Hayashi

Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2011, courtesy of JE

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2011/06/30/in-japan-rarity-nuclear-spokesman-replaced-after-affair-allegations/

Over the past few months, the world has been rocked by revelations of powerful men caught in sex scandals: Arnold and Anthony Weiner, to name a few. Now Japan has its own version, which this week claimed the scalp of Hidehiko Nishiyama, Tokyo’s former chief nuclear spokesman.

NishiyamaHidehiko
Reuters
Hidehiko Nishiyama was demoted from his role as the government’s chief nuclear spokesman on June 29 after rumors about an alleged affair with a young female employee unfurled.

Unlike the U.S., where online flirting costs politicians their jobs, the public in Japan is generally forgiving of powerful men involved in sex scandals. But not this time.

Mr. Nishiyama, a successful career bureaucrat at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, was abruptly pushed out of his role Wednesday, less than a week after a news magazine reported an alleged affair between him and a younger female staffer at the ministry. While Mr. Nishiyama, 54, denied having a sexual relationship with the woman through a ministry spokesman, the colorful details reported in the article became a source of incessant  gossip among the city’s elites.

Extra-marital affairs of politicians and business leaders are often viewed in Japan as they are in France – personal matters that should be left alone as long as they don’t interfere with their work — or dramatically offend people’s sensitivities. Some even consider such scandals as something the men should be proud of, as a sign of their power and personal charm.

Take Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In 1998, a news magazine reported his affair with a newscaster. He was called “You idiot!” by his wife, as he himself admitted, but suffered no lasting damage to his career. Paparazzi captured Goshi Hosono, a rising star of Mr. Kan’s ruling party, in a moment of passion with a TV reporter in 2006, but the 39-year-old married politician quickly put his career back on track; he just got appointed as Japan’s new nuclear minister on Monday.

Until recently, Mr. Nishiyama, who is married with two children, was known as a rising star within the ministry, but that hardly made him a public figure. That changed a few days after the March 11 disaster, when he was tapped to moderate the ministry’s daily briefings on the accident. With his articulate answers and knowledge of the power industry gained through his previous assignments, he became a familiar face on national television.

Mr. Nishiyama will now return to his pre-March 11 job in the ministry’s trade bureau, where his primary responsibility is to move Japan toward participating in a controversial regional trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I apologize if (the report) gave the impression or invited concerns that I was not fully committed to my job” Mr. Nishiyama said last week. Yukio Edano, chief government spokesman, said Wednesday Mr. Nishiyama was relieved of his responsibility due to “concerns that (the scandal) would interfere with his duties.”

ENDS

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

Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2011

Bureaucratic Fallout

By Yoree Koh and Yuka Hayashi

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2011/11/18/bureaucratic-fallout/

It has been a punishing day for Japan’s nuclear officials.

Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Friday he would forgo his monthly cabinet salary of Y1.5 million, or roughly $20,000, to take responsibility for an employee of his ministry dumping radioactive soil sent from Fukushima prefecture near his backyard in Tokyo’s suburbs.

As the minister also overseeing the cleanup of the nuclear crisis, Mr. Hosono said the insensitive behavior exhibited by his staff ultimately falls on his shoulders. (He will continue to collect his Y1.3 million monthly income as a member of parliament).

Penalties were also imposed on the environment vice ministers, who will face a 20% pay cut for two months. Others involved have been transferred to other positions and given stern warnings.

The penalties come the day after Mr. Hosono revealed that an environment ministry employee threw soil with trace amounts of radiation away in a vacant lot near his home last week. The soil was sent to the ministry from a Fukushima resident, who had asked the ministry to get rid of the soil. Tests of the soil detected radiation of about 0.18 microsieverts per hour – a low level deemed safe.

Looking ever more haggard since becoming the central government’s captain in charge of the Fukushima Daiichi accident soon after March 11,  Mr. Hosono said at a press conference Friday: “What is behind this is the feeling among Fukushima residents that the government has not been implementing its responsibility for handling contaminated soil and should be doing more. I do not think I will be able to gain understanding of people in Fukushima with something like this,” according to state broadcaster NHK.

Separately, the environment ministry has taken in a familiar face to help oversee the soil decontamination effort. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a former government nuclear spokesman disgraced by a sex scandal,  has been named deputy chief of a special team for decontamination of Fukushima, set up within the ministry of environment, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday.

Mr. Nishiyama, once a rising star at the METI, became a television star soon after the March accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant as a well-spoken, never-tiring spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the ministry’s nuclear regulatory body. But he lost the high-profile job in June after a weekly magazine carried a detailed account of his extramarital affair with a female staffer of the ministry. Mr. Nishiyama apologized at the time for the trouble the allegations had caused. On Sep. 30, the ministry formally suspended  the 54-year-old career bureaucrat for one month for having been engaged in “inappropriate” sexual conduct during working hours at the height of the nuclear crisis.

Mr. Nishiyama still remains an employee of the METI but will now be on lease to the environment ministry.  The 54-year-old elite bureaucrat joined the ministry in 1980 after graduating from Tokyo University. Mr. Nishiyama wasn’t available for comment.

ENDS

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

COMMENTS:

AB: Like the classic “gaijin skis won’t work on Japanese snow” absurdity van Wolferen (?) wrote about 20 years ago. Unbelievable this crappola is still going on. Only gonna get worse with LDP back in the saddle. To paraphrase de Tocqueville “a people gets the government it deserves”

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

CD: i wonder the extent to which this statement is a convenient misdirection. it’s much easier to spew out some xenophobic nonsense than to publicly admit that fukushima has been written off. i mean, the place was written off the moment they built the plants. but what japanese politician or bureaucrat is going to admit to that? much easier to say grandma and grandpa might get scared by gaijin.

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

AB: No one — at least no one IN JAPAN — is EVER going to admit this (even though it’s true). It’s like the same-old same-old — everyone afraid of being tarred with the “Hikokumin brush” and being called “defeatist” or a “dream-destroyer” (yume wo kowasu hito).

Same dynamic that kept everyone with half a brain enough to see what was going on otherwise silent as Imperial Japan lurched toward — then plunged into — a suicidal war in 1941.

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

EF: This is private life, [Nishiyama] does with his tin-tin whenever he wants. What concerns us is his racist profile and he attacking foreigners this way again after all foreigners have done for the victims in Fukushima because, at the time of the hard cleaning up, many foreigners were there removing the corpses along with the Japanese and no one seemed scared by our presence.

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

GH: [Nishiyama’s] comments are already noted on his Wikipedia page under 日本人論的・差別的発言.

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

IJ: Pathological racism. Just like how they couldn’t use the U.S. military’s rescue helicopters in Kobe. The Japanese air is different so the pilots might not have been able to fly in Japanese airspace… and the U.S. and French doctors might have scared the earthquake victims to death. But it was really the swiss search dogs that would have been the biggest problem. Japanese dog food is so different. LOL … What a frigging mess Japan is in. Gladder and gladder I voted with my feet years ago.

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

KL: So the local victims have to suffer because of the racism of the authorities?! But I guess the little people don’t matter…

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

MN: I know the real reason foreign companies were not invited to take part. I have a relative who works for a major general contractor (maybe even one mentioned in the article). He tells me that ALL (not some, ALL) of their business is carried out in cash for the single purpose of ensuring bribes go smoothly. Foreign companies are not above this. They just don’t know how to play the game.

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

JDG: Yet another microcosm for all that is wrong with Japan. If the J-public (especially the victims of the disaster) are going to persist in taking it lying down (and unlubricated!), then I can’t see much hope for the future.

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

GP: Instead, there are now armies of cheap laborers washing down buildings with water and scraping topsoil off schoolyards and dumping it in local rivers – simply spreading the contamination even further while they toil to line the coffers of companies with the juicy cleanup contracts – companies that just conveniently are linked to the nuclear industry. And this is a first world country?

The final comment from the environment ministry really said it all though. This almost reads like a sarcastic joke referencing the “Japan has different snow” tactics of yester-year, with a fine dash of xenophobia thrown in for good measure. Can’t have any nasty furriners scaring the oldies!! (Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that hundreds of foreigners if not thousands have already given their time, money and labor to cleanup and rebuild in Tohoku, and by all accounts their assistance was warmly welcomed).

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

JDG: ATTENTION APOLOGISTS!

Since you obsessively check this site, please read Debito’s post #23 and explain to me;

  1. How this is simply one small isolated case of government and business collusion in corruption, and does by no means indicate that ‘Japan Inc.’ is broken?
  2. How does this prove that the Fukushima situation is fully safe and under control, and being managed in a transparent fashion?
  3. How does the following statement;’“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”’, prove that rather than racism being endemic in the heart of the Japanese state, I am simply an over sensitive moaner who can’t understand Japan’s unique culture?
  4. How does this article prove that all Japan reporting is shoddy in nature, and biased unfairly against Japan?
  5. How does this statement by a displaced Fukushima resident; ‘“It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”’ clearly reek of unfair and scientifically unsound anti-nuclear lobby alarmism?

By all means, please take this opportunity to show us all where we have being getting it so wrong for all these years in our criticism of Japan.
=======================

ENDS

Call for help from JALT PALE group for Publications Chair

mytest

PUBLICATIONS CHAIR WANTED
HELP KEEP JALT PALE FROM POSSIBLE DECOMMISSIONING

Hey everyone.  Arudou Debito here.  I have been told that one of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s most important SIG groups, PALE (Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education), is in some difficulty at the moment.

The PALE SIG desperately needs a Publications Chair.  If it does not have one, then someone on the board will have to pick up the load, which has been the case the past year or so with disappointing results.  It is a fact, alas, that PALE is not a popular SIG due to its stands on controversial issues, and it should not be surprising that some would be happy to see it go.  It is still odd, since PALE is all about helping people find job stability and better employment conditions through being informed about labor law etc.  We are the group that acts as a safety net, one that people keep falling upon to when times get tough in the workplace. Decommissioning the group is an option for JALT.  One that we don’t think should happen, for everyone’s sake.

PALE has a long history of activism and assistance.  I was the editor of the PALE Journal for several years.  An archive of PALE activities and publications is available at http://www.debito.org/PALE

So if you a) are a JALT member (or are willing to become one), and b) are willing to join PALE (it costs a mere 1500 yen per year), and c) are willing to become Publications Chair, then please contact Tom Goetz right away at professor_goetz@yahoo.com.

Our latest project is to produce a PALE anthology.  But if our SIG is decommissioned at the next JALT EBM on February 2-3, or a later EBM, then access to PALE’s coffers becomes much more difficult and further subject to outside control.

Also, PALE needs new membership anytime, so please also contact Tom if you would like to become a member.

Please help out.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

US Senator Daniel Inouye dies, Mazie Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan; contrast with do-nothing self-gaijinizing Tsurunen

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Second in a series of two of prominent passings is American Senator Daniel Inouye, a notable Congressman who held on to his congressional seat longer than even legacy legislator Ted Kennedy.  As per the local obit excerpt below, he had a quite glorious career in the military as part of the groundbreaking 442nd (some veterans I’ve even met in Hawai’i), then was a pathbreaker for Asian-Americans as a public servant.

http://www.kitv.com/news/hawaii/Sen-Daniel-K-Inouye-dead-at-age-88/-/8905354/17808008/-/wsjrh/-/index.html
Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

But consider how he was able to do this, as pointed out by submitter PKU:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/442nd_Infantry_Regiment_%28United_States%29
President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (the “Go For Broke” regiment), saying, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.” Ultimately, the draft was instated to obtain more Japanese–Americans from the mainland and these made up a large part of the 14,000 men who eventually served in the ranks of the 442nd Regiment.

Now this is important.  Even as least AS FAR BACK AS FDR (the better part of a century ago), we had the United States at the highest levels of public office attempting to disentangle race/national or social origin from nationality.

This is something that Japanese society to this day has never accomplished (Japan’s Nationality Law still requires blood for citizenship, and from that derives the entanglement of race and legal status).  Nor is Japan really trying.  I speak from personal experience (not to mention court precedent) when I say that civil and political rights in Japan are grounded upon being “Japanese”, and “Japaneseness” is grounded upon phenotype (i.e., “looking Japanese”).  This MUST be untangled by Japan if it ever hopes to encourage people to come in and settle down as “New Japanese”, not to mention allow people of mixed heritage to breathe as people of color and diversity.  But I neither see it happening soon, nor are progressive steps even being taken towards it (I am in fact arguing that Japan in recent years has been regressing… see herehere and here).

As further proof of the helpfulness of a society with notions of citizenship disentangled from race/national or social origin, we have another Senator from Hawaii who just got elected, Mazie Hirono — and she wasn’t even born in the United States!  She was born in Japan.

Now, you might say that, well, Finland-born Caucasian Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei has also been elected to high office in Japan, so big deal.  But Tsurunen has been at his post for more than a decade now, and he’s squandered the opportunity by settling into it like a sinecure — doing just about nothing for the rights of NJ in Japan (such as not even bothering to attend or send a rep to a UN CERD meeting at the Diet on May 18, 2006).  In fact, Tsurunen has even gone so far as marginalize and gaijinize himself!  If one gives him the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but if), such are the effects of constant pressure of being socially “Othered” in Japan, despite his legal duty to uphold his constitutional status as a Japanese citizen and an elected official.

In comparison, the hurdles Hirono overcame were significant but not insuperable.  Even though she was nowhere near as articulate or politically thoroughbred as her Republican opponent, former Hawai’i Governor Laura Lingle, Hirono still grossed nearly double the votes (261,025 to 155,565) last November 6 to clinch the seat.  Further, if the legacy of Inouye is any template, I think Hirono will do more than just settle for being a symbolic sphinx in her role as a legislator.  Because she can — in a polity which can elect people for life despite their foreign (or foreign-looking) backgrounds, she has more opportunities in society than Tsurunen ever will — or will make for himself.

My point is, the disentanglement of race/social origin from nationality (i.e., rendering clearly and politically at the highest levels of government) is something that every state must do if it is to survive as a nation-state in future.  Given its demographics, especially Japan.  Arudou Debito

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

November 6, 2012, 10:59 PM JST
Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan
By Yoree Koh
http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2012/11/06/japanese-born-woman-set-to-make-u-s-election-history/

Associated Press, Courtesy of CC

UPDATE: U.S. Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono defeated former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday night, according to the Associated Press. Ms. Hirono becomes the Aloha State’s first woman senator as well as the first Japan-born immigrant to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

As Japan’s politicians jockey over when to hold the next general election, one of Japan’s own is on the cusp of making U.S. election history.

Recent polls show Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono is favored to win the open Senate seat in Hawaii when voters cast their ballots Tuesday. If successful, Ms. Hirono will usher in a wave of firsts. She will be the first Japanese immigrant to be elected senator. She will also be the first Buddhist and Asian-American woman. She will be the first woman senator to represent the Aloha State, and is already the first foreign-born woman of Asian ancestry to be sworn into Congressional office.

The 65-year-old congresswoman was born in Fukushima, the northeastern prefecture where the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. When she was 8 years old, her mother moved the family to Hawaii. Ms. Hirono once said the immigrant experience and being raised by a single mother in economically difficult circumstances made her a “feisty and focused” lawmaker. She became a naturalized citizen in 1959, the same year Hawaii became a state.

Regardless who wins, Hawaii will get its first woman senator. Ms. Hirono, currently serving her third term in the House of Representatives, is up against former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican and long-time political rival to whom Ms. Hirono lost the 2002 gubernatorial race. The two women are chasing the seat opened up by Hawaii’s 88-year-old junior senator, Daniel Akaka, a Democrat. After a 36-year career, Mr. Akaka, the Senate’s only Chinese American, announced his retirement last year.

Scores of Americans of Japanese descent have been elected to public office since World War II. Case in point: If Ms. Hirono wins, both senators from the Aloha State will be of Japanese descent. Senior senator Daniel Inouye, who is also a Democrat, made his own imprint on Asian American history as the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and later, the Senate. The 88-year-old Mr. Inouye has been a senator since 1963, making him the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history.

There have been only five Asian American senators until now. Four have represented Hawaii and one has represented California.

But no Japanese-born–or any Asian-born for that matter–has been elected to the Senate. According to the U.S. Senate Historical Office, of 1,931 senators who have been sworn in since 1789, there have been 58 born outside the U.S. Most immigrated from Ireland (16), England (12) and Canada (10). One each came from Cuba, Mexico, Antigua and Sweden. People who have been U.S. citizens for at least nine years are eligible to be senator.

Ms. Hirono is a familiar face among Hawaii’s Democratic establishment. Since returning from the mainland after earning a law degree from Georgetown University, she served for 14 years in the state legislature, eight years as lieutenant governor and is currently in her fifth year in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her one election failure was her bid to become governor in 2002. But it raised her profile, both at home and in Japan. State broadcaster NHK covered her campaign extensively and had plans to televise the 2002 election live, according to a Chicago Tribune story.

Ms. Hirono, whose immigrant story seems to resonate with Hawaii’s diverse voting population, has campaigned fully backing President Barack Obama’s platform, casting her opponent as a Republican lackey. The Hawaiian-born president recently recorded a radio ad for Ms. Hirono, noting that she once worked with his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.

“So Mazie isn’t just a reliable partner of mine in Washington; she is part of my ohana at home in Hawaii. Now, I need Mazie’s cooperative style and commitment to middle-class families in the U.S. Senate,” said the president in the ad released Saturday. “Mazie is a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education. A staunch defender of Medicare and Social Security.”

Ms. Lingle’s campaign challenges Ms. Hirono’s past claims of support for the middle class. “Contrary to her rhetoric and her efforts to portray herself as caring about working people, Mazie Hirono’s actions clearly illustrate either that her words are just talk or that she simply does not understand the impact of her votes,” said Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Ms. Lingle’s campaign manager, in a statement on Oct. 23.

In the final days of campaigning, polls indicated Ms. Hirono breaking away from her opponent with as much as a 22-percentage-point lead.

ENDS

Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

mytest

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Hello Blog.  Let me devote this blog entry (one of two, next one in three days) to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated.  Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding:  Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property).  A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken.  NYT obituary enclosed below.

A few Debito.org-esque comments:  One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous.  That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here).  (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced.  One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).  The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24.  Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap:

genderpaygapasia2005
Screen capture courtesy ILO, “Work, Income, and Gender Equality in East Asia“, page 34.

Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work.  Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”.  We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only.  We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education.  Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments.  And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing.  My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.  Arudou Debito

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

Beate Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: January 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/world/asia/beate-gordon-feminist-heroine-in-japan-dies-at-89.html
Courtesy of lots of people, particularly DY and CRF

Beate Sirota Gordon, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who at 22 almost single-handedly wrote women’s rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and then kept silent about it for decades, only to become a feminist heroine there in recent years, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Nicole Gordon, said.

A civilian attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s army of occupation after World War II, Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

If Ms. Gordon, neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar, was indeed an unlikely candidate for the task, then it is vital to understand the singular confluence of forces that brought her to it:

Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.

Nor would she have been apt to embark on her later career as a prominent cultural impresario, one of the first people to bring traditional Asian performing arts to audiences throughout North America — a job, pursued vigorously until she was nearly 70, that entailed travel to some of Asia’s most remote, inaccessible reaches.

The daughter of Leo Sirota and the former Augustine Horenstein, Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) Sirota was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Vienna, where her parents had settled.

When she was 5, her father was invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo, and the family moved there for a planned six-month stay. Mr. Sirota soon became revered in Japan as a performer and teacher, and they wound up living in Tokyo for more than a decade.

Beate was educated at a German school in Tokyo and, from the mid-1930s on, after the school became far too Nazified for her parents’ liking, at the American School in Japan. In 1939, shortly before her 16th birthday, she left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Her parents remained in Japan.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became impossible to contact Japan. Beate had no word from her parents, and no money.

She put her foreign language prowess to work: by this time, she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Obtaining permission from Mills to take examinations without having to attend classes, she took a job at a United States government listening post in San Francisco, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo. She later worked in San Francisco for the United States Office of War Information, writing radio scripts urging Japan to surrender.

Beate Sirota received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Mills in 1943 and became a United States citizen in January 1945. At war’s end, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead.

For American civilians, travel to Japan was all but impossible. She went to Washington, where she secured a job as an interpreter on General MacArthur’s staff. Arriving in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve 1945, she went immediately to her family’s house. Where it had stood was only a single charred pillar.

She eventually found her parents, who had been interned in the countryside and were malnourished. She took them to Tokyo, where she nursed them while continuing her work for General MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s first priorities was drafting a constitution for postwar Japan, a top-secret assignment, begun in February 1946, that had to be finished in just seven days. As the only woman assigned to his constitutional committee, along with two dozen men, young Beate Sirota was deputized to compose the section on women’s rights.

She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

The new Constitution took effect in 1947; the next year, Beate Sirota married Joseph Gordon, who had been the chief interpreter for American military intelligence in postwar Japan.

In the 1950s, Ms. Gordon joined the staff of the Japan Society in New York, becoming its director of performing arts. In that capacity, she introduced many Japanese artists to the West, including masters of traditional music, dance, woodblock printing and the tea ceremony.

In 1970, she became director of performing arts at the Asia Society in New York. She scoured Asia for talent, bringing Balinese gamelan ensembles, Vietnamese puppeteers, Mongolian dancers and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. She retired in 1991 as the society’s director of performances, films and lectures.

Ms. Gordon’s husband, who became a real estate developer, died last August. Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

For decades, Ms. Gordon said nothing about her role in postwar Japan, at first because the work was secret and later because she did not want her youth — and the fact that she was an American — to become ammunition for the Japanese conservatives who have long clamored for constitutional revision.

But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.”

In recent years, amid renewed attacks on the Constitution by Japanese conservatives, Ms. Gordon spoke out ardently in its defense.

Ms. Gordon was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a high honor bestowed by the Japanese government, in 1998. But perhaps the greatest accolade she received came from Japanese women themselves.

“They always want their picture taken with me,” Ms. Gordon told ABC News in 1999. “They always want to shake my hand. They always tell me how grateful they are.”
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this article in the Top Ten Most Read once again for most of New Year’s Day (and to the JT for distinguishing this with another “Editor’s Pick”). Great illustrations as always by Chris Mackenzie.  Here’s hoping I have more positive things to say in next year’s roundup… This version with links to sources. Enjoy. And Happy New Year 2013.  Arudou Debito

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

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10

By ARUDOU DEBITO

Back by popular demand, here is JBC’s roundup of the top 10 human rights events that most affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan in 2012, in ascending order.

10. Keene’s naturalization (March 7)
News photo

This should have occasioned great celebration in Japan’s era of crisis, but instead, scholar Donald Keene’s anointment as a Japanese citizen became a cautionary tale, for two reasons. One was his very public denigration of other NJ (despite their contributions as full-time Japan residents, taxpayers and family creators) as alleged criminals and “flyjin” deserters (JBC, Apr. 3), demonstrating how Old Japan Hands eat their young. The other was the lengths one apparently must go for acceptance: If you spend the better part of a century promoting Japanese literature to the world, then if you live to, oh, the age of 90, you might be considered “one of us.”

It seems Japan would rather celebrate a pensioner salving a wounded Japan than young multiethnic Japanese workers potentially saving it.

9. Liberty Osaka defunded (June 2)
News photo

Liberty Osaka (www.liberty.or.jp), Japan’s only human rights museum archiving the historical grass-roots struggles of disenfranchised minorities, faces probable closure because its government funding is being cut off. Mayor Toru Hashimoto, of hard-right Japan Restoration Party fame (and from a disenfranchised minority himself), explicitly said the divestment is due to the museum’s displays being “limited to discrimination and human rights,” thereby failing to present Japan’s children with a future of “hopes and dreams.”

In a country with the most peace museums in the world, this politically motivated ethnic cleansing of the past augurs ill for cultural heterogeneity under Japan’s right-wing swing (see below).

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10619 http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

8. Nationality Law ruling (March 23)
News photo

In a throwback to prewar eugenics, Tokyo District Court ruled constitutional a section of the Nationality Law’s Article 12 stating that a) if a man sires a child with a foreigner b) overseas, and c) does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.

Not only did this decision erode the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that granted citizenship to international children born out of wedlock, but it also made clear that having “foreign blood” (in a country where citizenship is blood-based) penalizes Japanese children — because if two Japanese nationals have a child overseas, or if the child is born to a Japanese woman, Article 12 does not apply. The ruling thus reinforced a legal loophole helping Japanese men evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10060 http://www.debito.org/?p=1715

7. No Hague signing (September 8)
News photo

Japan’s endorsement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction became a casualty of months of political gridlock, as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party blocked about a third of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s bills.

The treaty outlines protocol for how children of broken marriages can avoid international tugs of war. As the Community Pages have reported umpteen times, Japan, one of the few developed countries that is not a signatory, remains a haven for postdivorce parental alienation and child abductions.

Since joint custody does not legally exist and visitation rights are not guaranteed, after a Japanese divorce one parent (regardless of nationality) is generally expected to disappear from their child’s life. Former Diet member Masae Ido (a parental child abductor herself) glibly called this “a Japanese custom.” If so, it is one of the most psychologically damaging customs possible for a child, and despite years of international pressure on Japan to join the Hague, there is now little hope of that changing.

Sources:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html
http://www.debito.org/?p=10548

6. Immigration talks (May 24-August 27)
News photo

In one of the few potentially bright spots for NJ in Japan this year, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet convened several meetings on how Japan might go about creating a “coexistence society” that could “accept” NJ (JBC, July 3). A well-intentioned start, the talks included leaders of activist groups, local governments and one nikkei academic.

Sadly, it fell into old ideological traps: 1) Participants were mostly older male Japanese bureaucrats; 2) those bureaucrats were more interested in policing NJ than in making them more comfortable and offering them a stake in society; 3) no NJ leader was consulted about what NJ themselves might want; and 4) the Cabinet itself confined its concerns to the welfare of nikkei residents, reflecting the decades-old (but by now obviously erroneous) presumption that only people with “Japanese bloodlines” could “become Japanese.”

In sum, even though the government explicitly stated in its goals that NJ immigration (without using the word, imin) would revitalize our economy, it still has no clue how to make NJ into “New Japanese.”

Source:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10396

5. Mainali, Suraj cases (June 7, July 3)
News photo

2012 saw the first time an NJ serving a life sentence in Japan was declared wrongfully convicted, in the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali. The last time that happened (Toshikazu Sugaya in 2009), the victim was released with a very public apology from public prosecutors. Mainali, however, despite 15 years in the clink, was transferred to an immigration cell and deported. At least both are now free men.

On the other hand, the case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj (from last year’s top 10), who died after brutal handling by Japanese immigration officers during his deportation on March 22, 2010, was dropped by public prosecutors who found “no causal relationship” between the treatment and his death.

Thus, given the “hostage justice” (hitojichi shihō) within the Japanese criminal prosecution system, and the closed-circuit investigation system that protects its own, the Japanese police can incarcerate you indefinitely and even get away with murder — particularly if you are an NJ facing Japan’s double standards of jurisprudence (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=9265
http://www.debito.org/?p=10407
“Hostage justice”: http://www.debito.org/?p=1426

4. Visa regimes close loop (August)
News photo

Over the past two decades, we have seen Japan’s visa regimes favoring immigration through blood ties — offering limited-term work visas with no labor law rights to Chinese “trainees” while giving quasi-permanent-residency “returnee” visas to nikkei South Americans, for example.

However, after 2007’s economic downturn, blood was judged to be thinner than unemployment statistics, and the government offered the nikkei (and the nikkei only) bribes of free airfares home if they forfeited their visa status (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009). They left in droves, and down went Japan’s registered NJ population for the first time in nearly a half-century — and in 2012 the Brazilian population probably dropped to fourth place behind Filipinos.

But last year was also when the cynical machinations of Japan’s “revolving door” labor market became apparent to the world (JBC, March 6) as applications for Japan’s latest exploitative visa wheeze, “trainee” nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines, declined — and even some of the tiny number of NJ nurses who did pass the arduous qualifying exam left. Naturally, Japan’s media (e.g., Kyodo, June 20; Aug. 4) sought to portray NJ as ungrateful and fickle deserters, but nevertheless doubts remain as to whether the nursing program will continue. The point remains that Japan is increasingly seen as a place to avoid in the world’s unprecedented movement of international labor.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10010
http://www.debito.org/?p=10497
http://www.debito.org/?p=10340
International labor migration stats http://www.oecd.org/els/internationalmigrationpoliciesanddata/internationalmigrationoutlook2012.htm

3. New NJ registry system (July 5)
News photo

One of the most stupefying things about postwar Japan has been how NJ could not be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system (jūmin kihon daichō) — meaning NJ often went uncounted in local population tallies despite being taxpaying residents! In 2012, this exclusionary system was finally abolished along with the Foreign Registry Law.

Unfortunately, this good news was offset by a) NJ still not being properly registered on family registries (koseki), b) NJ still having to carry gaijin cards at all times (except now with potentially remotely readable computer chips), and c) NJ still being singled out for racial profiling in spot ID checks by Japanese police (even though the remaining applicable law requires probable cause). It seems that old habits die hard, or else just get rejiggered with loopholes.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=10414
http://www.debito.org/?p=9718
Remotely readable computer chips http://www.debito.org/?p=10750

2. Post-Fukushima Japan is bust
News photo

After the multiple disasters of March 11, 2011, there was wan hope that Japan’s electorate would be energized enough to demand better governance. Nope. And this despite the revelations in December 2011 that the fund for tsunami victims was diverted to whaling “research.” And the confusing and suppressed official reports about radioactive contamination of the ecosystem. And the tsunami victims who still live in temporary housing. And the independent parliamentary report that vaguely blamed “Japanese culture” for the disaster (and, moreover, offered different interpretations for English- and Japanese-reading audiences). And the reports in October that even more rescue money had been “slush-funded” to unrelated projects, including road building in Okinawa, a contact lens factory in central Japan and renovations of Tokyo government offices.

Voters had ample reason for outrage, yet they responded (see below) by reinstating the original architects of this system, the LDP.

For everyone living in Japan (not just NJ), 2012 demonstrated that the Japanese system is beyond repair or reform.

Sources:  http://www.debito.org/?p=9745
http://www.debito.org/?p=9756
http://www.debito.org/?p=10706
http://www.debito.org/?p=10428
http://www.debito.org/?p=9698
http://japanfocus.org/-Iwata-Wataru/3841

1. Japan swings right (December)
News photo

Two columns ago (JBC, Nov. 6), I challenged former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara (whose rabble-rousing bigotry has caused innumerable headaches for disenfranchised people in Japan, particularly NJ) to “bring it on” and show Japan’s true colors to the world in political debates. Well, he did. After a full decade of successfully encouraging Japanese society to see NJ (particularly Chinese) as innately criminal, Ishihara ratcheted things up by threatening to buy three of the privately-owned Senkaku islets (which forced the Noda administration to purchase them instead, fanning international tensions). Then Ishihara resigned his governorship, formed a “restorationist” party and rode the wave of xenophobia caused by the territorial disputes into the Diet’s Lower House (along with 53 other party members) in December’s general election.

Also benefiting from Ishihara’s ruses was the LDP, who with political ally New Komeito swept back into power with 325 seats. As this is more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes, Japan’s bicameral legislature is now effectively unicameral. I anticipate policy proposals (such as constitutional revisions to allow for a genuine military, fueling an accelerated arms race in Asia) reflecting the same corporatist rot that created the corrupt system we saw malfunctioning after the Fukushima disaster. (Note that if these crises had happened on the LDP’s watch, I bet the DPJ would have enjoyed the crushing victory instead — tough luck.)

In regards to NJ, since Japan’s left is now decimated and three-quarters of the 480-seat Lower House is in the hands of conservatives, I foresee a chauvinistic movement enforcing bloodline-based patriotism (never mind the multiculturalism created by decades of labor influx and international marriage), love of a “beautiful Japan” as defined by the elites, and more officially sanctioned history that downplays, ignores and overwrites the contributions of NJ and minorities to Japanese society.

In sum, if 2011 exposed a Japan in decline, 2012 showed a Japan closing.

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10854
New arms race:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20302604 (Watch the video from minute 5.30:  the Hyuuga, Postwar Japan’s first new aircraft carrier is now in commission, two new big aircraft carriers are in production.)

Bubbling under (in descending order):

• China’s anti-Japan riots (September) and Senkaku-area maneuvers (October to now).

• North Korea’s missile test timed for Japan’s elections (December 12).

• NJ workers’ right to strike reaffirmed in court defeat of Berlitz (February 27).

• NJ on welfare deprived of waiver of public pension payments (August 10), later reinstated after public outcry (October 21).

• Statistics show 2011’s postdisaster exodus of NJ “flyjin” to be a myth (see JBC, Apr. 3).

Sources: http://www.debito.org/?p=10055
http://www.debito.org/?p=10081

Debito Arudou 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.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 31, 2012

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 31, 2012

Hi Newsletter Readers. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season and the end of 2012. On this last day of the year in Japan (penultimate day for places around the globe reading this before midnight), let me send you advance notice of two things:

a) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 59, “Top Ten Human Rights Events for 2012″, comes out right on January 1, 2013 (as it falls on a Tuesday this year; no rest for us with journalists’ deadlines). That’s about 24 hours from now in Japan, so have a read! Also, if you’d like to speculate for fun on what events made the Top Ten (ten events plus five bubble-unders), visit http://www.debito.org/?p=10971

b) Our HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN, Second Edition, now has its own special public Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook, drop by and “Like” it if you like! At http://www.facebook.com/handbookimmigrants

Now on with the Newsletter:

Table of Contents:

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POST-ELECTION ANALYSIS
1) Japan’s lurch to the right has happened, as predicted. DPJ routed, LDP and Ishihara ascendant in Dec 2012 LH Election

UNSUSTAINABILITY

2) “Japanese Only” hospital Keira Orthopaedic Surgery in Shintoku, Tokachi, Hokkaido. Alleged language barrier supersedes Hippocratic Oath for clinic, despite links to METI medical tourism
3) Japan now a place to avoid for international labor migration? NHK: Even Burmese refugees refusing GOJ invitations, electing to stay in Thai refugee camp!
4) Al Jazeera: “The mighty downfall of Japan’s tech giants” due to the lack of diversity in thought and innovation

GLIMMER

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

… and finally …

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

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

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POST-ELECTION ANALYSIS

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

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. My synopsis of this election, and future prospects for the direction Japan is now heading, follow below.

In brief: 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10854

 

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UNSUSTAINABILITY

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

Submitter Hillary: 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…

COMMENT: 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.

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. If even Japanese hospitals defy 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10915

 

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

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…

http://www.debito.org/?p=10943

 

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

A bit of a diversion, 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10941

 

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GLIMMER

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=10924

 

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… and finally …

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

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
Version with links to sources and comments at
http://www.debito.org/?p=10842

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Alright, that’s all for this year. Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2013!
Arudou Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 31, 2012 ENDS