Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed (PLUS article on J athletes’ shortened lifespans due to the pressure)

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Hi Blog.  Aaand, the inevitable has happened:  Japan’s apparently underperforming athletes (particularly its ice skaters) have invited criticism from Japan’s elite.  Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori Yoshiro, one of Japan’s biggest gaffemeisters when he served an abysmal stint as Prime Minister, decided to shoot his mouth off about champion skater Asada Mao’s propensity to choke under pressure.  But more importantly, as far as Debito.org is concerned, about how the American-Japanese skating siblings Cathy and Chris Reed’s racial background has negatively affected their performance:

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

Oh.  But wait.  They’re not naturalized.  They always had Japanese citizenship, since their mother is Japanese.  And how about Japan’s other athletes that also train if not live overseas (such as Gold Medalist Skater Hanyu Yuzuru, who now hails from Toronto)?  Oh, but he won, so that’s okay.  He’s a real pureblooded Japanese with the requisite yamato damashi.

In fact, the existence of people like Mori are exactly the reason why Japan’s athletes choke.  As I’ve written before, they put so much pressure  and expectation on them to perform perfectly as national representatives, not as individuals trying to achieve their personal best, so if they don’t medal (or worse yet, don’t Gold), they are a national shame.  It’s a very high-stakes game for Japan’s international athletes, and this much pressure is counterproductive for Japan:  It in fact shortens their lives not only as competitors, but as human beings (see article by Mark Schreiber after the Japanese articles).

Fortunately, this has not escaped the world media’s glance.  As CBS News put it:  “Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!”  But expect more of this, for this is how “sporting spirit” is hard-wired in Japan.  Because these types of people (especially their invisible counterparts in the media and internet) are not only unaccountable, they’re devoid of any self-awareness or empathy.  If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don’t they try doing it themselves?  Then she was taken off the team, never to return.  ARUDOU, Debito

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WINTER OLYMPICS
Tokyo 2020 chairman Mori critical of Asada, ice dancing brother and sister
AP/Japan Today SPORTS FEB. 21, 2014, courtesy JDG, Bob, and Dosanko
http://www.japantoday.com/category/sports/view/tokyo-2020-chairman-mori-critical-of-asada

TOKYO —The head of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic organizing committee has criticized Japanese figure skater Mao Asada’s performance in the women’s short program at the Sochi Olympics.

The two-time world champion finished 16th in Wednesday’s short program after falling on her opening triple axel. Asada was a silver medalist at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she finished second to South Korea’s Yuna Kim.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who became the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s chairman last month, said Asada has a habit of “always falling at the most critical time” of a competition. He blamed Asada’s short program shortcomings on her participation in the earlier team event at Sochi.

Asada performed sensationally in the free skate on Thursday night, however. She landed her trademark triple axel and wound up with a season’s best of 142.71. That gave her a total of 198.22.

“I thought I could do it,” Asada said through a translator. “I tried my best, and everything went according to practice.’

While in office, Mori had a reputation for making contentious comments. And his appointment to the Tokyo 2020 committee was criticized by some analysts who believe the 76-year-old former PM is too old to hold such a position.

Asada was selected for the inaugural team competition in the hope Japan would win a medal, but she also fell on the triple axel and Japan placed fifth.

“We shouldn’t have taken part in the team competition,” Mori said. “The psychological damage Asada incurred must have remained,” for the short program.

Mori was also critical of Japanese ice dancers Chris and Cathy Reed, who were born in the United States but compete for Japan.

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

==========================================
Also featured in USA Today, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Metro Montreal, The Japan Times, and others.  As CBS Sports put it:

Mr. Mori wasn’t done yet, taking a shot at Japanese ice dancers Chris Reed and Cathy Reed, the children of a Japanese mother and American father who were born and raised in the U.S. but renounced American citizenship in order to compete for Japan.

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!

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

Here are some Japanese articles with the original quotes:

森元首相 リード組に「五輪出場の実力はなかったが…」
「負けると分かっていた」 講演する森元首相
講演する、東京五輪・パラリンピック組織委員会会長の森元首相
Photo By 共同
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/02/20/kiji/K20140220007629530.html
[ 2014年2月20日 17:05 ]

東京五輪・パラリンピック組織委員会会長の森喜朗元首相は20日、福岡市での講演で、ソチ五輪・フィギュアスケート団体について「負けると分かっていた。浅田真央選手を出して恥をかかせることはなかった」と述べた。

また、フィギュアスケート・アイスダンスのキャシー・リード、クリス・リード組について「米国に住んでいる。(米国代表として)五輪出場の実力はなかったが、帰化させて日本選手団として出した」と語った。

浅田が団体でトリプルアクセル(3回転半ジャンプ)を成功させれば、アイスダンスの劣勢を盛り返し、銅メダルを獲得できるとの期待が日本チームにあったとの見方を強調。「(団体戦で)転んだ心の傷が残っているから(SPで)転んではいけないとの気持ちが強く出たのだろう」との同情も示した。

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

森元首相の真央らへの発言要旨
日刊スポーツ [2014年2月20日19時20分]
http://www.nikkansports.com/general/news/f-gn-tp0-20140220-1260348.html

森喜朗元首相は20日、福岡市での講演で、ソチ五輪フィギュアスケート団体について「負けると分かっていた。浅田真央選手を出して恥をかかせることはなかった」と述べた。さらに女子ショートプログラム(SP)で16位だった浅田選手を「見事にひっくり返った。あの子、大事なときには必ず転ぶ」などと評した。

森喜朗元首相の講演でのフィギュアスケートに関する発言要旨は次の通り。

頑張ってくれと見ていましたけど(浅田)真央ちゃん、(ショートプログラムで)見事にひっくり返りました。あの子、大事なときには必ず転ぶんですね。

日本は団体戦に出なければよかった。アイスダンスは日本にできる人がいない。(キャシー・リード、クリス・リードの)きょうだいはアメリカに住んでいるんですよ。(米国代表として)オリンピックに出る実力がなかったから、帰化させて日本の選手団として出している。

浅田さんが(団体戦に)出れば、3回転半をできる女性はいないから、成功すれば3位になれるかもとの淡い気持ちで出した。それで、見事にひっくり返ってしまった。

その傷が残っていたとすれば、ものすごくかわいそうな話。負けると分かっている団体戦に、浅田さんを出して恥をかかせることはなかった。

転んだ心の傷が残っているから、自分の本番の時には、何としても転んではいけないとの気持ちが強く出たのだと思いますね。勢いが強すぎて転んでしまいました。(共同)

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

See also http://sankei.jp.msn.com/smp/sochi2014/news/140220/soc14022019180058-s.htm

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Japan Sports Pressure and Shortened Lifespans

(forwarding, courtesy of the author–Arudou Debito)

This Mainichi article, based on a piece that appeared in Flash four years ago, is about the sad fate that seems to befall Japan’s Olympic athletes. I thought I’d recycle it today. Mark

Star-studded sportsmen speed swim the Styx
Flash, 10/31/2000
By Mark Schreiber (translated by the author)

Researchers have announced findings that compared with ordinary people, their lives are shortened by six years, asserts Kunihiko Kato, an assistant at Tokyo University’s department of physical science.

To whom is Kato referring? Chain smokers? Heavy boozers? People who live in houses under high-tension power lines, or those who refuse to pay protection to gangsters?

Indeed, what activity is scientifically recognized as being so hazardous, it threatens to send otherwise robust citizens of the world’s longest-lived nation to an early grave?

The answer, reports Flash, is to earn a place on the Japanese Olympic team. Or perhaps even worse, to win a medal.

Tragic examples are legion. Take Masatoshi Nekota, a member of the volleyball gold medalist at the 1972 Munich Olympics, who succumbed to cancer at age 39. Or three other outstanding athletes, who also died in their 39th year: 1968 Mexico City men’s gymnast and bronze-medal winner Takeshi Kato, a cancer victim; steeplechase runner (Mexico) Takeshi Endo, who died of heart failure; and broad jumper Hiroomi Yamada (Mexico), who suffered a fatal stroke.

Sports glory and public acclaim failed to bring any peace of mind to marathon runner Kokichi Tsuburaya, who took the bronze medal at Tokyo in 1964. Psychologically tormented when injury forced him to miss the games four years later, he committed suicide. The note he left read, simply, “Cannot run any more.” He was 27.

“Just at Japan Steel Corporation, where I was employed, seven former olympians have already passed away,” marathon silver medalist Kenji Kimihara (Mexico) tells Flash. “Overall, I’d say about 30 or so have died.”

Kimihara, now 60, is particularly saddened when recalling those who perished by their own hand. In addition to fellow marathoner Tsuburaya, these include swimmer Ryoko Urakami and 80 meter hurdler Ikuko Yoda.

“Everyone showed them respect, but they felt stigmatized by the title “olympic team member” attached to everything they did subsequently,” sighs Kimihara. “I suppose it just became too much of a burden.”

But while mental pressures took a toll on Japan’s olympians, the sheer physical abuse can’t be disregarded either.

“After driving myself so hard during my teens, I wanted to just go back to being a normal person,” recalls Mexico City weight lifting silver medalist Masaru Ouchi, now 57. “But I’m a physical wreck. When I reached my forties, I felt like I was already sixty.”

Tokyo University’s Kato is convinced scientific data contradicts the general image of olympians and professional athletes as superb physical specimens. “Intense activity causes stress to build up, and excessive secretion of Corticotropin releasing hormone result in lowered immunity. Resistance to disease declines. There’s a greater likelihood of developing cancer.”

“Exercise causes oxygen consumption to increase, generating a toxic substance called free radicals that are harmful to the body,” Kato adds.

One side effect of too much activity may be osteoporosis. Citing data on 13 female long-distance runners, Kato notes that the average bone density of eight was 90 percent or below the normal values, and four had bone density levels equivalent to women in their seventies.

“We believe this was caused by the intense training, which lowered the volume of fat in their bodies, causing loss of calcium because they did not secrete sufficient female hormones.”

“Upholding Japan’s national honor was a heavy burden for those olympic athletes in the past,” says Kimihara. “When today’s athletes feel pressured, I’d like to see them channel their stress into constructive outlets.”

With so many depressing stories, Flash wonders, will “Q chan” — petite and personable Sydney marathon winner Naoko Takahashi — be all right?

FORWARDED ARTICLE ENDS

Bloomberg column: “A rebuke to Japanese nationalism”, gets it about right

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Hi Blog. Although I have been commenting at length at Japan’s right-wing swing, I have focused little on the geopolitical aspects (particularly how both China and Japan have been lobbying their cases before the congress of world opinion), because Debito.org is more focused on life and human rights in Japan, and the geopolitics of spin isn’t quite my specialty. That said, I’m happy to cite other articles that get the analysis pretty much right. Here are two, one from Bloomberg, the other from Reuters. After all, Japan can take its constant “victim” narrative only so far, especially in light of its history, and that distance is generally its border.  These articles highlight how outsiders are increasingly unconvinced by the GOJ’s behavior and invective, despite the longstanding bent towards giving Japan the benefit of the doubt as a regional ally.  ARUDOU, Debito

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A Rebuke to Japanese Nationalism
By The Editors Bloomberg News, Feb 16, 2014
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-16/a-rebuke-to-japanese-nationalism.html?cmpid=yhoo.view
Courtesy of Baudrillard

A series of recent blunt statements from U.S. officials have left no doubt that Washington blames China’s maritime expansionism for rising tensions in Asia. Now, America’s main ally in the region needs to hear a similarly forthright message.

Japan had been clamoring for the U.S. to speak out more forcefully after China imposed an “air-defense identification zone” over a set of islands claimed by both countries. Officials in Tokyo have warned that any hint of daylight between Americans and Japanese only encourages further bullying from the mainland. For that same reason, U.S. officials have tempered their criticism of statements and actions by Japanese leaders that irk China, not to mention other victims of Japanese aggression during World War II.

This circumspection is becoming counterproductive. Since China imposed its air-defense identification zone in November, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the deeply controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors, along with millions of fallen soldiers from various conflicts, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II. What’s more, several of Abe’s nominees to the board of the state broadcaster NHK have made appallingly retrograde comments that Abe has declined to disavow. One claimed the horrific 1937 Nanjing Massacre never took place, while another pooh-poohed complaints that the Japanese military had exploited thousands of women from Korea and elsewhere as sex slaves during the war. Other Abe allies are busily trying to rewrite textbooks to downplay Japan’s wartime brutality.

Japanese officials seem unconcerned with the impression all this creates abroad, arguing that relations with China and even with fellow U.S. ally South Korea can hardly get worse, and in any case are unlikely to improve so long as nationalists remain in power in those countries. A more conciliatory Japanese attitude, they are convinced, would only prompt endless humiliating demands from Beijing and Seoul.

Worse, Japan seems to be taking U.S. backing for granted. Abe went to Yasukuni even after Vice President Joe Biden quietly urged him not to. Details of their conversation were then strategically leaked, presumably to showcase Abe’s defiant stance. In private, Japanese officials snipe about the Barack Obama administration’s alleged unreliability. Anything other than unstinting support for Japan is taken as a lack of backbone.

The U.S. should push back, and less gently than usual. President Obama’s trip to Asia in April is an opportunity for the White House not only to reaffirm its disapproval of Chinese adventurism but also to make clear that Abe’s provocations are threatening stability in the region, and damaging the U.S.-Japan alliance.

This won’t change many minds inside Abe’s inner circle, of course. But most Japanese are acutely sensitive to any hint of U.S. displeasure. (Nearly 70 percent of respondents to one poll called on Abe to heed the negative reaction to his Yasukuni visit, which included a mild expression of “disappointment” from U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.) Voters threw out Abe once before when he let nationalist obsessions distract him from minding the economy. Sustained domestic pressure is needed to rein him in again.

Abe is not necessarily wrong to want to make Japan a more muscular nation — to rejuvenate its economy, open up its society and normalize its self-defense forces. A more robust Japanese military could play a bigger role in promoting global and regional stability — whether through anti-piracy patrols or peacekeeping missions — and come to the defense of its allies. Inflaming Chinese and Korean sensitivities helps achieve none of those goals.

All it does is raise the likelihood of conflict in the region. That Abe’s recent actions and comments may be less dangerous than China’s adventurism is beside the point. He’s eroding the international goodwill that Japan has built up over decades as a responsible democracy — all for no good reason. If he can’t see that for himself, perhaps the U.S. — and his own citizens — can help him.
ENDS

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NATIONAL / POLITICS & DIPLOMACY
Abe put Japan on back foot in global PR war with China
BY LINDA SIEG AND BEN BLANCHARD
REUTERS, FEB 17, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/17/national/abe-put-japan-on-back-foot-in-global-pr-war-with-china

Japan risks losing a global PR battle with China after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a controversial shrine for war dead and comments by other prominent figures on the wartime past helped Beijing try to paint Tokyo as the villain of Asia.

Sino-Japanese ties have long been plagued by territorial rows, regional rivalry and disputes stemming from China’s bitter memories of Japan’s occupation of parts of the country before and during World War II.

Relations chilled markedly after a feud over disputed East China Sea isles flared in 2012.

Beijing, however, has stepped up its campaign to sway international public opinion since Abe’s Dec. 26 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honors leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals with millions of war dead.

That strategy has helped China shift some of the debate away from its growing military assertiveness in Asia, including double-digit defense spending increases and the recent creation of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea that was condemned by Tokyo and Washington, experts said.

“Right now, this is a real war,” said Shin Tanaka, president of the FleishmanHillard Japan Group in Tokyo, a communications consultancy.

“Japan and China are using missiles called ‘messages’ and the reality is that a lot of damage is already happening in both countries,” he added, warning of a mutual backlash of nationalist emotions and potential harm to business ties.

Abe has repeatedly said he did not visit the shrine to honor war criminals but to pay his respects to those who died for their country and pledge Japan would never again go to war.

Getting that message across is not easy, communications and political experts said. Abe’s Yasukuni visit “gave China the opportunity . . . to attack Japan and send the message that China is the good guy and Japan is the bad guy,” Tanaka said.

Some Japanese diplomats and officials dismissed any suggestion they were worried, saying Tokyo’s rebuttals and the country’s postwar record of peace would win the day.

“Their Goebbelsian PR binge — repeat it 100 times then it becomes true, ungrounded or not — shows all the symptoms of a Leninist regime still remaining in the 21st century,” Tomohiko Taniguchi, a councilor in the Cabinet secretariat of the prime minister’s office, said in an email.

He was referring to Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda from 1933 to 1945.

“Yes we feel annoyed, but the next moment we relax for we have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Still, experts said Abe’s shrine visit had made it easier for Beijing to try to link Abe’s plans to bolster the military and loosen limits on the pacifist Constitution to Japan’s militarist past.

“The most fundamental thing they say is to assert that Japan is going on a path of militarism a la the 1930s. That’s just nonsense,” said Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. “But the problem is the Chinese are able to blur a lot of this stuff because of what Abe did.”

Recent remarks about Japan’s wartime past by the chairman of NHK and members of its board of governors have added grist to China’s PR mill.

Among those remarks were comments by new NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, who told a news conference last month that the “comfort women” — a euphemism for the vast number of females forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels — had counterparts in every country at war at that time. He later apologized.

NHK’s chief is selected by a board of governors that includes four Abe appointees.

Since the start of the year, Chinese ambassadors and other officials have targeted Japan 69 times in media around the world, the Foreign Ministry said in Tokyo. The campaign includes interviews, written commentaries and news conferences.

As of Feb. 10, Japan had issued rebuttals in 67 cases with the other two under review, Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said.

Asked if China had won over international opinion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said countries such as South Korea — where memories of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule run deep — had also criticized Tokyo.

“The mistaken ways of the Japanese leader have incurred the strong opposition of the international community,” Hua told reporters. “China is willing to work with other victims of the war and the international community to uphold historical justice.”

The verbal jousting has spanned the globe from capitals such as London and Washington to remote Fiji and South Sudan.

The best known exchanges are the “Voldemort attacks” in which China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, last month compared Japan to the villain in the Harry Potter children’s book series. In reply, Japan’s envoy, Keiichi Hayashi, said China risked becoming “Asia’s Voldemort.”

“We try to explain that Japan faces its history squarely and has expressed remorse . . . (and that) Japan will continue to pursue the path of a peace-loving country,” Sato said.

“Sometimes they try to link the visit to the shrine to security policy. That is a totally unrelated matter.”

Still, some in Japan fear that China’s PR blitz is having an impact on world opinion.

“A lie is repeated so that people are brainwashed and start to believe it,” Akira Sato, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s panel on defense policy, told Reuters.

Echoed a Western diplomat in Beijing: “China is being successful at getting its message across while Japan keeps saying stupid things like questioning the existence of comfort women. I think (China) has changed opinions.”

Tokyo’s mostly reactive approach, some PR experts said, was not enough to sway international public opinion, a worry some Japanese diplomats share privately.

“Japan is very worried that China is winning this propaganda war,” said an Asian diplomat based in Beijing. “Their diplomats have been asking how they can better put their side of the story and win people over in the West.”

That could be tough if Abe declines to say whether he will visit Yasukuni again or other prominent Japanese figures make contentious comments on wartime history, experts said.

Other matters, such as revisionist changes to Japanese textbooks to promote patriotism, could add fuel to the fire.

“Even if he doesn’t go to Yasukuni again, there are plenty of issues on their (the Japanese government’s) agenda,” Sneider said.

ENDS

Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired

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Hi Blog.  Still deep into my project at the moment, so I’ll be brief.  Going into my Drafts folder once more, I uncovered this little gem of “Pinprick Protest” from more than two years ago — the Papa John’s “lady chinky eyes case” where an individual took action against another individual (representing a corporation) for a racial slur at a pizza chain, and through the pressure of public outrage and social opprobrium made somebody take responsibility.  As in getting that idiot fired for making the slur.

Not sure this would happen as successfully (or at all) in Japan — where the tendency would be to dismiss this as some kind of cultural/linguistic misunderstanding (or else — shake your head — claim that this differentiation was meant in a positive light; hey, we like chinky lady eyes/big gaijin noses etc., and there was no intention to discriminate).

The best example I can think of right now where social opprobrium worked was in the Otaru Onsens Case, where media pressure got two racist bathhouses to remove their signs.  Eventually.  The third bathhouse, of course, left their signs up.  And it took a court case to get theirs down.  And there are lots more exclusionary signs and rules around Japan, so social opprobrium clearly isn’t enough.

Anyway, here’s the story.  I cite this as a template for nipping discriminatory speech in the bud.  Arudou Debito

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‘Lady Chinky Eyes’: Papa John’s Store Calls Woman Racial Slur In Receipt (PHOTO) (UPDATE)
The Huffington Post, Laura Hibbard
First Posted: 01/07/12 03:22 PM ET Updated: 01/08/12 12:08 AM ET

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/07/lady-chinky-eyes-papa-johns-store-uses-receipt-to-call-woman-racial-slur_n_1191434.html

Minhee Cho went to Papa John’s for some fast food goodness. Little did she know, she would get it served with a side of racism.

At around 12:30 p.m. today, Papa John’s customer Minhee Cho tweeted a photo of a receipt she received at a Papa John’s restaurant in uptown, New York City.

In it, under the customer’s name section, the restaurant employee who rang up the order used the racial slur “lady chinky eyes” to describe her.

ladychinkyeyespapajohns2012
Minhee Cho @mintymin
Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t “lady chinky eyes” http://t.co/RLdj2Eij
January 7, 2012 5:06 pm via Twitpic

Cho posted the photo to her Twitter page, where it was quickly retweeted by hundreds of people. By 3 p.m., the photo had been viewed over 25,000 times.

When The Huffington Post reached the Papa John’s in question for comment, the assistant manager — who only gave her first name as Marjani — said she was unaware of the incident.

“I apologize,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm but some people will take it offensive.” She added that she “had an idea of who it was,” based on the time of the receipt.

Marjani went on to say that this was the kind of behavior that would result in disciplinary action, but declined to go into further detail on what she planned to do.

Papa John’s has yet to respond to the incident in a statement or its Facebook and Twitter accounts, but with such a PR disaster on their hands, they most likely will soon.

UPDATE: Papa John’s has responded to the incident on Facebook. A post on its official page reads:

We were extremely concerned to learn of the receipt issue in New York. This act goes against our company values, and we’ve confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately and that the employee is being terminated. We are truly sorry for this customer’s experience.

The company has also addressed the matter on its Twitter feed, tweeting to multiple people that “We have issued an apology, are reaching out to customer & franchise employee is being terminated.”
ENDS

Fun facts #18: More than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, will be nearly a quarter by 2028

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Hi Blog.  With some media outlets forecasting a rise in rents due to an alleged economic recovery Abenomics (somehow seeing rising fixed costs for businesses and people as a harbinger of something good), here’s an article stating that Japan’s depopulation (except in Tokyo, where any real opportunity for economic upward mobility is clustering) is probably going to render that moot.  Japan’s housing (as you longer-termers probably know, it’s already pretty crappy and not built to last) is also depopulating, as this fascinating article from the Japan Times excerpted below demonstrates.  Already more than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, and in less than a generation it will be nearly a quarter.  And yet there are forecasts for rents (okay, office rents) to rise again.  I smell another real estate bubble in the works, although media-driven instead of demand-pulled.  Should be some bargains out there for those who can find the realtors and renters who aren’t “Japanese Only.”

I put this under “Fun Facts” because these stats are surprisingly insightful statements on the way things are, or will be, in Japanese society. Those of you more in the know about Japan’s property market (I’ll ask Terrie Lloyd and see if he’ll comment), please feel free to prognosticate.  ARUDOU, Debito

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NATIONAL
Land tax loophole ensures unused, dilapidated firetraps stay standing, till they fall
Abandoned homes a growing menace
BY TOMOKO OTAKE
THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 7, 2014

As Japan’s population ages and shrinks, run-down, uninhabited properties like this are becoming more common. As of 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 7.57 million vacant homes, or 13.1 percent of all houses in Japan, up from 3.94 million in 1988 and 5.76 million in 1998, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The rate is expected to rise to 23.7 percent in 2028.

While these figures include second homes and properties waiting to be rented out or sold, more than a third of the 7.57 million vacant homes in 2008 were categorized as properties left unattended by owners or whose owners have died and are not taken care of at all. Many of these properties are now causing problems in their communities, experts say. As the structures age, the risk of collapse and fire increases. Some have leaked wastewater, damaging neighboring properties. They are also a magnet for criminal behavior, such as arson. 

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/07/national/abandoned-homes-a-growing-menace/

SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots

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Hi Blog. When looking through my “Draft” posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It’s another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or “See I Told You So”).

When the GOJ came out with its “Points System” in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that — in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn’t as attractive a labor market as Japan’s bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades.  And yes, as the article below substantiates, the “Points System” has failed — less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.

Sorry for the delay in postings these days (I have a monster project that I have to finish up, so blogging has to go on the back burner). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4), and I’ll put something different up tomorrow for discussion. ARUDOU, Debito

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NATIONAL
Initiative fails to lure high-skilled foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI
The Japan Times, DEC 24, 2013
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/24/national/initiative-fails-to-lure-high-skilled-foreigners/

After drawing too few applicants, a government-led initiative to attract “highly skilled foreigners” was overhauled Tuesday by the Justice Ministry.

Started in May 2012, the program is designed to shore up the thinning domestic labor force. Statistics from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research show the population will plunge to about 90 million by 2050 from 127 million at present.

Foreign applicants receive “points” based on such criteria as academic achievement, career background and annual income. More than 70 points earns access to a raft of visa perks, such as the right to work no matter the visa status, visas for parents and housekeepers to care for children, and a fast track to permanent residence. Examples of highly skilled professionals include researchers, university professors, corporate executives and engineers.

While the ministry believed 2,000 foreign residents in Japan a year would qualify, only 700 had applied as of September, immigration bureau official Nobuko Fukuhara said.

The system has been criticized as setting too high a bar for applicants. For example, those under 30 years of age had to earn at least ¥3.4 million annually to qualify, while those over 40 needed to exceed ¥6 million.

With the changes Tuesday, anyone earning over ¥3 million is eligible. The minimum income requirement will be scrapped altogether for academics, who are at a disadvantage due to their relatively lower income.

In another move to help academics, their scholarly achievements will be given more points.

Bonus points will also be added for applicants’ Japanese language skills and experience studying at Japanese schools.

“We’re fully aware just giving foreigners visa perks wouldn’t be such a big incentive for them to come to Japan,” said Fukuhara, who noted Japan needs to adopt more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries.
ENDS

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ONE MORE COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  The Coda is maintained at the very end of the article, reinforcing the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money…

Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!

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Hi Blog. Just got this interesting note from Debito.org Reader JDG:

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Food for thought…

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NATIONAL
Foreign workers in Japan hit record 717,504
JIJI, JAN 31, 2014, reprinted in The Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/31/national/foreign-workers-in-japan-hit-record-717504/

The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.

The increase reflected an improvement in the employment situation amid the economic recovery and Japanese companies’ growing moves to hire foreigners with special skills, according to the ministry.

The number of Chinese workers was the highest, at 303,886, or 42.4 percent of the total, followed by Brazilians at 95,505, or 13.3 percent, Filipinos at 80,170, or 11.2 percent, and Vietnamese at 37,537, or 5.2 percent.

The number of Chinese workers rose 2.5 percent. Filipino and Vietnamese workers increased 10.0 percent and 39.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilian workers fell 6.3 percent.

Of all foreign workers, 27.3 percent were in Tokyo, followed by 10.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture, 5.9 percent in Kanagawa Prefecture, 5.3 percent in Osaka Prefecture and 5.2 percent in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The government is considering accepting more foreign workers under its growth strategy and reviewing on-the-job training programs for foreigners.
ENDS
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JDG comments: The number of NJ workers in Japan has hit record levels, apparently.

Now, when I saw this, I expected to read lots of stern warnings about the danger of NJ *infiltration* into Japan, but the article claims that this increase is due to the J-gov’s amazing efforts to attract NJ with ‘special skills’ (and, of course, because *our great leader’s* economic policy is a godsend).

But hang on! I thought that the scheme to attract 2000 ‘elite gaijin’ a year was pronounced a failure?

Upon further reading it seems that most of these ‘gaijin with special skills’ are from asia (mainly China) leading me to suspect that their ‘special skill’ is their preparedness to work for minimum wage. Also,the biggest number is in Tokyo. So I suspect that rather than Tokyo being over-run with Chinese millionaire stock-brokers, it could be more accurate to deduce that these Nj are doing all the KKK jobs that the Japanese think they are too good for- combini’s and waitressing.

Interestingly, because this is being touted as a symptom (sorry, I meant ‘result’) of Abe’s economic policy, it will now be difficult for the NPA to announce the next ‘gaijin crime-wave’. I predict that when Abe throws a sickie, such an announcement will come. JDG
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COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに93万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.

ekonomisuto011508cover

I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as JDG notes. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years. If those new MOJ stats are out, somebody please feel free to track them down and repost (awfully busy at the moment). Thanks. ARUDOU, Debito

ENDS