Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article (UPDATED with news of another underreported NJ death)

mytest

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Hi Blog. Article first, then comment:

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

Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack
KYODO, STAFF REPORT
THE JAPAN TIMES, FEB 23, 2015, courtesy of JK
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/23/national/crime-legal/foreign-trainee-slain-colleague-wounded-rural-ibaraki-attack/

MITO, IBARAKI PREF. – Two Chinese men taking part in a foreign trainee program on a farm in Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, were attacked by a group of men with knives Sunday evening, leaving one dead and the other wounded, police said.

Sun Wenjun, 33, was pronounced dead at a hospital and the other man, identified only as being 32 years old, was being treated for his wounds, the police said.

They were attacked by several men, apparently non-Japanese, at around 9:50 p.m. near the farm. The two were riding bicycles on their way from the home of an acquaintance about 1.5 km from the farm.

A kitchen knife with bloodstains was found near the scene, NHK reported.

The surviving trainee was quoted as saying the men came out of nowhere, attacked with knives and left in a car.
ENDS?

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

COMMENT:  And that’s all we get?  It’s been a couple of days, and I have an unusually busy week with several deadlines, so let me ask Debito.org Readers to look around the Japanese and English-language media and see if there has been anything more afoot (especially since the article alleges that NJ were perps as well as victims).  Please place articles with links in the Comments Section below.

Or if you find little to nothing more in the media, that’s also a significant indicator — on how crime perpetrated against NJ is reported and handled in Japan, so please comment on that too.  This would be a much larger media scrum if Japanese were stabbed to death allegedly by NJ.  Thanks.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan Times: UK inspectors say Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers are like “prisons”. In fact, they’re worse.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Getting back to another issue in Japan that has long needed fixing — the judiciary (see also here) — here are some overseas experts talking in a comparative perspective about Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers (aka Gaijin Tanks) that they liken to “prisons”.

In fact, they’re worse than prisons, because they don’t come under the same judicial oversight for minimum standards that Japanese prisons do, and detainees, unlike the criminally-incarcerated, do not have a “prison sentence” with a limited time-frame attached to it. Not to mention Gaijin Tanks add a second layer of incarceration for NJ only, where even the NJ exonerated of a criminal offense get released from prison only to wind up in a Gaijin Tank for “overstaying” the visa they couldn’t renew because they were incarcerated. For people in Gaijin Tanks, detention can be perpetual, and that’s before we get to the horrible (even lethal) treatment they suffer from while in custody. Read on. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Immigration detention centers like prisons, U.K. inspectors say
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, STAFF WRITER
The Japan Times, FEB 6, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/06/national/immigration-detention-centers-like-prisons-u-k-inspectors-say/
Courtesy of SA

When British incarceration inspection expert Hindpal Singh Bhui last month paid his first visit to a Japanese immigration detention center, his overriding initial impression was that it looked like a prison.

“The fact that if someone comes to visit detainees, the starting point is that you’re behind a glass screen and you can’t touch someone — that feels quite restrictive,” Bhui, team leader for London-based Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, told The Japan Times during a recent visit to Japan.

“It’s something which perhaps is a prison-style approach and which was surprising to see in immigration detention centers,” Bhui said of his visit to the government facility in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Established in 1982, HMIP is an independent inspectorate with unchallenged authority to probe state-run institutions, from prisons to immigration and military detention centers.

The British system stands in contrast with Japan’s immigration inspectorate, which is poorly funded and regarded as having little independence from the government, Japanese lawyers say.

The HMIP’s underlying philosophy that detainees should enjoy “as much openness as possible” also sends out an important message to a nation where neglect is suspected in the successive deaths of two immigration detainees in recent years.

Although funded significantly by the British government, HMIP is nonetheless granted full autonomy to carry out “independent, rigorous” inspections, Bhui said.

Its team members can arrive at target institutions unannounced, go anywhere within the premises and speak to anyone they encounter. The organization also has “unfettered” ability to publish its findings and make recommendations both to center managers and the government entities in charge to urge them to rectify malpractice.

The group’s inspections over the years have led to significant changes in policy and “general improvement in treatment and conditions” at British immigration facilities, according to HMIP inspector Colin Carroll.

Unlike the past, the Home Office, which overseas immigration policies in Britain, no longer tolerates the use of physical force to deport pregnant women and children, Carroll said.

Also, detainees in Britain now can freely chat with visiting family members in an open lounge and hug and kiss them, Bhui said. They are also permitted to carry mobile phones and surf the Internet to stay in touch with their lawyers and keep abreast of developments in their home countries.

Some even watch movies, work on art projects or practice music with fellow detainees.

“People in immigration centers tend to be far more frustrated and dislocated, physically or mentally. They’re away from family, away from support. So the opportunity to make phone calls to the family makes a big difference,” Bhui said.

“Detention centers in the U.K. understand it’s better for the safety of their own center if detainees can contact people outside. Because (that way) they’re less frustrated, and if they’re less frustrated, they’re less likely to misbehave within the center.”

Detention inmates, Bhui continued, haven’t committed specific criminal offenses and are often trying to enter the country to make a better life for themselves and their families, which he said is a “laudable positive sentiment.”

“They’re not there to be punished. They’re not there because they’re criminals,” he said.

This notion of openness, however, appears nonexistent in Japanese immigration centers, where detainees frequently go on hunger strikes or attempt suicide to protest what critics describe as their almost inhumane living conditions behind closed doors.

The lack of adequate medical services, in particular, has taken a tragic toll on detainees in recent years, highlighting the nation’s doctor shortage.

In the past two years, a man from Sri Lanka and another from the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar who were detained at the Tokyo Immigration Regional Bureau in Shinagawa Ward died in separate incidents after staff failed to respond promptly to their medical emergencies. Two others died at the immigration center in Ushiku last March.

Bhui declined to comment directly on each of these cases, but added: “We have a system in the U.K. where if there is any death in detention, there will be an inquest by a coroner, who can call witnesses. Also, the ombudsman will do its own separate investigation into any death,” he said.

Bhui further noted that HMIP will follow up with detention centers to see if they have implemented preventive measures as recommended by the ombudsman. He called it a system to “identify problems, see why death happened in the first place and try to prevent that from happening in the future.”

“I think if there were system like that (in Japan), that would be good.”

Shortly after the death of the Sri Lankan man, the Tokyo Bar Association issued a statement in which it condemned the Justice Ministry’s repeated failure to identify the cause of detainees’ deaths and stressed the need for a third-party inquest system to prevent them.

Japan’s own inspectorate, or “nyuukokusha shuuyoshoto shisatsu iinkai” in Japanese, is under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, despite its purported third-party status. Every aspect of its visits to immigration centers is rigidly controlled and pre-arranged by the ministry, according to Koichi Kodama, a lawyer well-versed in foreigners’ rights.

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/06/national/immigration-detention-centers-like-prisons-u-k-inspectors-say/
ENDS

Good JT article on historically-ignorant blackface on Japanese performers and “modern-day minstrel shows” in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  I had heard about this issue of blackface in Japan (a la other racialized “gaijin” characteristics in Japan, including blond wigs and stuck-on big noses) but wasn’t sure how to raise it (Debito.org was embroiled enough in the Japartheid issue enough over the past few days).  However, Baye McNeil does it instead, and better than I could.  The part of the article I like best is about the lack of historical research these performers (such as Rats & Star) who profess to love the people they so carelessly imitate:

Doo-what?: An image that went viral on the Internet shows members of male doo-wop group Rats & Star and idol group Momoiro Clover Z blacked up backstage during the filming of a show for Fuji TV scheduled for broadcast on March 7. | THE JAPAN TIMES

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

McNeil: All of which speaks directly to this racist bullsh-t — I mean, this cultural misunderstanding — one that could have been avoided in the 30-some-odd years this band [Rats & Star] has existed if, while they were researching the music, costumes and other aspects of black music and performance, they had simply taken a second to see if what they wanted to do with blackface had ever been done before. You know, just a little proactive research about the industry they would spend the next three f-cking decades profiting handsomely from.

But alas, when I saw this story on the Net the other day — that they were going to be on Fuji TV alongside popular girl group Momoiro Clover Z, who would be similarly blacked up — all I could say was, “Mata ka yo?” (“Jeezus! Again?”), suck my teeth and click away. To me, it’s not shocking to see blackfaced bands here. With the attitudes and ignorance encountered here regularly, the only shocking thing is that there aren’t more of these groups. A Ku Klux Klan-themed idol group wouldn’t even surprise me here.

I’m still, however, pleasantly surprised when non-Japanese people in Japan get worked up over something important. They’re a beautiful sight to see! Like when Julien Blanc was spreading his misogynistic garbage about Japanese women. Remember how the Japanosphere responded? They damn near shut down the Internet with their furor over his antics. Of course, everything he said could be heard in any gaijin (foreigner) bar in Tokyo or Yokohama on any given day, but it was still great to see people get activated for a good cause. Not to mention that, let’s say, inappropriate ANA advert that got a lot of people upset and resulted in Japan’s biggest airline re-editing a television commercial advertising new flights.

And even Japanese get worked up when they want to. Like back in 2011, when the Japanese Embassy in London sent a letter to the BBC complaining about A-bomb jokes on an episode of a British TV comedy quiz, leading the BBC to apologize for offending Japanese sensibilities. And very recently, conservative Netizens in Japan campaigned to keep Angelina Jolie’s biographical movie about a former American POW from opening in theaters here because of its depictions of Imperial Japanese Army brutality. All beautiful acts of activism, right?

Well, I say, if ANA and the BBC can be made to change their tunes, and if Blanc can be shut down, so can these guys…
//////////////////////////////////////

Read the entire article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/02/18/our-lives/time-shut-modern-day-minstrel-show/. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Debito.org quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid

mytest

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Hi Blog. Story still ongoing, and we got quoted in the SCMP. Hopefully all this attention from the outside world will make the Sankei Shinbun (or maybe even the author) recant and retract the story. I will be pleasantly surprised if it does, but bigots of this age group rarely do, and after all the recent Asahi Shinbun bashing after admitting they ran a badly-sourced story the Sankei probably doesn’t want to admit they were wrong either. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Top Japanese author Sono backs racial segregation saying it’s ‘impossible to live alongside foreigners’
Ayako Sono, 83, suggests that a version of South Africa’s apartheid could work in her country

February 15, 2015, by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1713536/top-japanese-author-sono-backs-racial-segregation-saying-its-impossible

A well-known Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has sparked outrage by claiming foreigners should live in separate areas from Japanese people.

In an opinion piece for the conservative Sankei newspaper last week, Ayako Sono, 83, suggested that the infamous apartheid system that was practised in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 would be appropriate for Japan.

“It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them,” Sono wrote.

“Ever since I learned of the situation in South Africa some 20 or 30 years ago, I have been convinced that it is best for the races to live apart from each other, as was the case for whites, Asians and blacks in that country,” she said in the piece.

She cited the case of an apartment block in Johannesburg that was, under apartheid, reserved for white families. As soon as the laws were changed, she said, the property “fell to pieces” because black people have large families.

“Ever since learning of this, I have said that humans can do many things together – business, research, sports, to name but a few – but when it comes to living, this is one area where the races must live apart.”

Sono was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education panel in 2013.

Her comments have provoked anger among human-rights activists.

“It’s a stunning cognitive dissonance. After calling the apartheid system ‘racial discrimination’ in her column, she advocates it,” said Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is foreign.

“Is it no longer racial discrimination in a Japanese context?” he asked. “Or does she think racial discrimination is not a bad thing?

“I hope – and I stress hope – this will be dismissed as the wistful musings of a very old lady who is way out of touch,” he added.

“But she occupies a position of authority, and I fear her attitudes are but the tip of the iceberg in Japan’s ultra-conservative ruling elite.”

Internet users have also weighed in on the argument, with tens of thousands of messages on Twitter and other online forums condemning Sono’s comments.

“The problem is not that this woman exists or holds these views,” wrote one commentator. “After all, every country has its far-right misanthropes, neo- Nazis, etc.

The problem is that this woman holds these views while being somewhat revered, even decorated.”

Another asked how Sono, or the Japanese government, would react if another country advocated rounding up Japanese nationals and segregating them purely because of their nationality, while the Sankei was criticised as a “vile, racist paper”.

Arudou said he intended to continue fighting for the rights of foreign nationals living in Japan, adding: “There is a widespread tautological feeling that foreigners don’t deserve human rights because they’re foreigners.

“It begs the question about whether a society can see non-citizens as fellow humans,” he said.
================================================

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as “Outrage as top author backs racial segregation”
ENDS

Sankei columnist Sono Ayako advocates separation of NJ residential zones by race in Japan, cites Apartheid South Africa as example (UPDATED)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another one for the Debito.org archives.  Sono Ayako, famous conservative novelist, has just had a ponderous opinion piece published in the reactionary right-wing Sankei Shinbun daily newspaper.  This is the same newspaper that last decade serialized professional bigot Ishihara Shintaro’sNihon Yo” columns (which, among other things, saw Chinese as criminal due to their “ethnic DNA” (minzokuteki DNA)).  This is what the Sankei is getting up to now:  Publishing opinion pieces advocating Japan institute an Apartheid system for foreign residents, separating their living areas by races.  Seriously:

SONO:  “I have come to believe, after 20-30 years knowing about the actual situation in Republic of South Africa, that when it comes to residential zones, the Whites, Asians, and Blacks should be separated and live in different areas [in Japan].”  

She describes how Black Africans have come to despoil the areas (particularly infrastructurally) that were reserved for Whites in the RSA, and feels that “immigrants” (imin) would do the same thing to Japan.  And there’s lots more to mine from a remarkable capsule of bigotry and ethnic overgeneralizations that only cantankerous eldsters, who live in intellectual sound chambers because they are too old to be criticized properly anymore, can spew.  Huffpost Japan and original article below, followed by one more quick comment:

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

曽野綾子さん「移民を受け入れ、人種で分けて居住させるべき」産経新聞で主張
The Huffington Post Japan, courtesy of SH
投稿日: 2015年02月11日 11時53分 JST 更新: 2015年02月11日 11時53分 JST SANKEI

2月11日付の産経新聞コラムで、作家の曽野綾子さんが、日本の労働人口が減少している問題について触れ、移民を受け入れた上で、人種で分けて居住させるべきだ、と主張した。

(Entire column; click on image to expand in browser)

sonoayakosankei021115

「近隣国の若い女性たちに来てもらえばいい」と今後需要の増える介護について移民を受け入れる一方、「移民としての法的身分は厳重に守るように制度を作らねばならない」とした上で、

もう20〜30年も前に南アフリカ共和国の実情を知って以来、私は、居住区だけは、白人、アジア人、黒人というふうに分けて住む方がいい、と思うようになった。

(産経新聞 2015/02/11付 7面)
と住居の隔離とも取られかねない主張を展開している。

さらに、南アフリカでアパルトヘイト(人種隔離政策)の撤廃後、白人専用だったマンションに黒人家族が一族を呼び寄せたため、水が足りなくなり共同生活が破綻し、白人が逃げ出したという例を出し、「人間は事業も研究も運動も何もかも一緒にやれる。しかし居住だけは別にした方がいい」と締めくくっている。

このコラムに、ツイッター上では批判が集中している。
Rest of article at

http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2015/02/10/sankei_n_6657606.html

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COMMENT:  While I hope (and I stress:  hope) that nobody is going to take seriously the rants of a octogenarian who has clearly lost touch with the modern world, it is distressing to see that this was not consigned to the regular netto-uyoku far-right internet denizens who regularly preach intolerance and spew xenophobic bile as a matter of reflex.  Shame on you, Sankei, for adding credibility to this article by publishing it.  Let’s hope (and I stress again:  hope) that it is not a bellwether of public policy to come.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

PS: More on Sono Ayako’s hypocritically misogynistic (yes!) rantings here in a separate article in the Japan Times.

PPS:  This article just made it into The Japan Times, with more details on how Sono was appointed to a PM Abe panel on education reform in 2013, demonstrating how deep the rot goes.

UPDATE FEB 13:  A protest letter in Japanese and English from the Africa-Japan Forum hits the media.  Self-explanatory.  Let’s see if this results in a retraction of the article.

UPDATE FEB 14:  South African Ambassador to Japan protests Sono Ayako’s pro-Apartheid column <産経新聞>曽野氏コラム、南ア大使も抗議文 人種隔離許容(毎日新聞) – Yahoo!ニュース http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20150214-00000077-mai-soci

sonoayakoprotestletter021315

sonoayakoprotestletterj021315

Courtesy of the Mainichi Shinbun and MS.  http://mainichi.jp/graph/2015/02/14/20150214k0000e040192000c/001.html

UPDATE FEB 20: Gaijin Handlers intervene to rein in Japan-Studies intelligentsia by portraying Sono as somehow culturally-misunderstood:
http://www.debito.org/?p=13061#comment-831044

ENDS

Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable

mytest

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Hi Blog. As a tangent to what Debito.org usually takes up, let’s consider something interesting that affects everyone in Japan: the pretty insane work ethic.

Caveat: Having a society that works hard pays out enormous benefits in terms of convenience. Who can grumble about being able to, say, get a good meal at any time from a convenience store, or have bureaucrats and postal workers working on weekends? Well, those people working those kinds of jobs. And while I see a similar erosion of working hours in the United States (according to the OECD, both Americans and Japanese work fewer hours per year in 2013 than they did in 2000, but Americans still work more hours than Japanese — not surprising seeing how inhumane the amount of time people in retail have to work, especially here in Hawaii), one big issue is the ability to take vacations. I see people working full-time around here able to take sick days and even vacations without much blowback from their colleagues. Not in Japan, according to the article below. That’s why the GOJ is considering making the vacations mandatory.

This is good news. However, a closer consideration of the stats given below show an disturbing tendency: Western Europeans take almost all of their mandatory paid holidays off (up to more than a month), while Japanese take less than half of the half of the paid holidays days off they possibly could (i.e., around nine days a year, according to the article below). And what are the labor unions pushing for? Eight days. How underwhelming. Earn your dues, unions!

I think anyone reading Debito.org (since so many of us have worked for Japanese companies) understands why Japanese workers take so few days off and sometimes work themselves to death — peer pressure. Hey Kinmu Taro, how dare you duck out of the office for a vacation and thereby increase the workload for everyone else? How dare you even try to leave “early” on a daily basis. After all, “early” is defined as ahead of anyone else — you even have to embarrassingly announce “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” (“Excuse my rudeness for leaving ahead of you.”) as you walk out the door as an apparent show of good manners (it’s more a mutual policing strategy). So you work late, even if that means you just sit at the office until 7 or 8 PM waiting for the boss, who often has no real interests outside of the company, to leave first (or ask you out for drinks, although that Bubble-Era experience is probably a dying phenomenon). So you find make-work or skiving strategies to look busy, and thus the company soaks up the overwhelming majority of your waking hours, for six or even seven days a week.  To the point where the overwheming majority of Japanese workers are reportedly bored to bits on the job. I’m not saying anything here you probably don’t know already.  I’m just explaining why I opened this blog entry with calling Japan’s work ethic “insane”.

So of course, what with all this embedded bullying, making the holidays mandatory is the only way to go. If it’s enforceable, that is: you’ll have to be brave enough to take it up with the Labor Standards Bureau if your employer won’t play ball (given how many people already work on national holidays anyway, employers don’t). So this development is good news for everyone, except that it’s not really asking for more than what the average person takes off anyway. Not until people demand Western-European standards of vacationing culture will things change.  Clearly even Japan’s worker-representative labor unions are not about to do that (especially given the argument that the United States works even more hours).

I think Japanese corporate culture has immense trouble understanding that working longer does not equal working harder. Being able to take proper vacations is important in understanding how to work smarter — in order to increase worker productivity during the actual hours worked.  By being able to duck out for a vacation recharge when necessary without the stress of guilt interfering, I think the Americans have a bit more leeway to do that.

Labor productivity studies is not exactly my field, and I’m sure plenty of Debito.org Readers have their own opinions and experiences about the work ethic in Japan.  Opening this topic up for discussion.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days
Japan Times/AFP-JIJI, FEB 4, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/04/business/workaholic-japan-considers-making-it-compulsory-to-take-vacation-days/

Who wouldn’t want a holiday?

In Japan, plenty of workers fail to take their paid vacation allowance. The Abe administration is now considering making it compulsory for workers to take at least five days of paid holiday a year, in a bid to lessen the toll on mental and physical health.

Workers typically use less than half their annual leave, according to a survey by the labor ministry that found employees in 2013 took only nine of their 18.5 days average entitlement.

A separate poll showed that one in six workers took no paid holidays at all that year.

The administration wants to boost the amount of paid leave used to 70 percent by 2020 and is planning to submit legislation in the current Diet session mandating holidays.

In early discussions, employers’ groups have proposed limiting the number of compulsory paid holidays to three days, while unions have called for eight.

The culture of long working hours and unpaid overtime is regularly criticized as a leading cause of mental and physical illness among employees.

The term “karoshi,” which means “death by overwork,” entered the lexicon a few years ago amid a surge in the number of people dying because of stress-related problems or taking their own lives.

According to a poll by the Japanese unit of Expedia, a U.S.-based online travel agency, workers in France enjoyed 37 paid holiday days in 2010 and used 93 percent of them.

Spain had 32 paid vacation days and Denmark 29, with the average employee using up more than 90 percent.

As well as the health benefits, days off encourage workers to spend money on leisure activities, thereby boosting the economy.

Japan has a relatively high 15 statutory holidays annually. In recent years there has been a move to shift the days so that they fall adjacent to the weekend, making domestic holidays more of a possibility.

This year for the first time there will be a five-day weekend in May and in September, to which it is expected some employees will add a few days’ leave to make their vacations longer.
ENDS

Japan Times JBC 84 Feb. 5, 2015, “At age 50, seeing the writing on the wall”

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Hi Blog.  Thanks to everyone for putting my seventh-anniversary Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (yes, JBC has completed 84 columns now) once again in the Top Ten Trending articles on the Japan Times online for the umpteenth month in a row.  Here’s the full article now with links to sources.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg
At age 50, seeing the writing on the wall
BY DR. DEBITO ARUDOU
THE JAPAN TIMES, FEB 4, 2015  

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/02/04/issues/age-50-seeing-writing-wall/

This past month heralded two timely events. One is the seventh anniversary of JBC, with 84 columns out and counting. The other was my 50th birthday on Jan. 13. To commemorate, please indulge me this musing on the passage of time. Just because.

I’ve lived more than half a century now. Fortunately last month, no sudden fear of mortality prompted me to have a mid-life crisis or buy a sports car. I’ve actually been aware of the aging process for decades.

I first noticed it in college, astounded that some supermodels were already younger than I was. It became impossible to ignore in my mid-20s, as my metabolism changed and I grew inexorably fatter despite all exercise. I later became alarmed when colleagues of a similar age and density were losing legs to diabetes and dropping dead of strokes. I dodged that bullet by shedding the weight a few years ago, but regardless, death amongst my peers became less anomalous and more normalized as I watched whole generations succumb.

Consider this: Anyone you see in a silent film is dead — and I mean long dead. So is almost everyone from any movie predating the 1950s. People from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans are now in their 90s. Close behind are the Korean and Vietnam War vets (my growing up in a country that habitually wages war offers easy milestones). Even the people who protested their actions, the famed hippies of the 1960s, are wrinkly and retiring. Soon it’ll be the Desert Storm vets, who are already into paunchy middle age, as time marches on.

I was born at an odd time. Just 13 days shy of what the media calls the baby boomers, people my age aren’t part of Generation X either. I don’t really understand, for example, why people insist on getting tattoos or body piercings, or find public humiliation funny (e.g., “Borat”? “The Office”?), but I do understand why they keep stealing from their elders’ music (rock, psychedelic and progressive — all genres I grew up with and still listen to). But it eventually dawns on us fogies just how derivative popular culture is, and always has been. Straddling two media-manufactured generations meant I more easily saw an arc.

Now permit me to make you feel old too: We are now well into the 21st century, 15 years since Y2K, over 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. No children in developed countries know a time without the Internet; some can’t imagine submitting their homework offline, and some are no longer learning cursive. Google a recent photo of any media personality you grew up with and you’ll see their wrinkles either starting or becoming well-pronounced. Then look in the mirror yourself and trace.

Despite what music CDs at Tower Records say, nobody remains “forever young.” Even ageless Keanu Reeves, Nicholas Cage, Takuya Kimura, Madonna or Prince — they’ll get theirs too. Just as timelessly beautiful but still old Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve and Raquel Welch did.

I’m no vampire, but I’m lucky in terms of aging: I’m still mistaken for somebody at least 10 years younger. Part of it is because I avoid stress and let my hair grow, and I am in a place where I can wear age-vague clothes, but I believe another part is down to not having seen proximate others change over time. I didn’t watch parents, siblings, wife, children, classmates or neighbors grow older.

My vocation has always involved college-age students, and I’ve never quite distanced myself from them mentally. I’ve rebooted my career and lifestyle many times — even changed my name — and never lived under one roof for more than eight years. Never being rooted to one spot meant I didn’t stick around to watch the trees grow and the paint peel.

Nevertheless, history will always catch up and remind me how many years have passed. I look at beat-up old coins in my pocket and see they are usually newer than 1965. Things I remember very well as part of my normal world — the Cold War, Nixon and Watergate, Iran-Contra, two Germanys, a jumble of European currencies, even a smoggy Tokyo — are already increasingly forgotten. They are being tersely rendered as boring history-book timelines, as remote as the Suez Crisis, the Amritsar Massacre or the Spanish-American War.

Japan, on the other hand, constantly recycles yore as lore. For example, 70 years since WWII, it still defines itself in terms of a war with few eyewitnesses left, carefully filtering out the evil that inevitably happens in wartime and revarnishing the near-destruction of a nation-state as something glorious.

Japan’s media operate a powerful nostalgia mill for our growing population of conservative elderly. And they are receptive to it: Eldsters, I am discovering myself, find happiness by forgetting bad stuff that happened to them. What good is there in remembering things that make you unhappy?

Of course, that’s fine on an individual level. But for a whole society? The perpetual gerontocracy of Japan’s leadership has happily expanded that into a national narrative and redefined “history” as only “beauty.” Living in a meticulously sanitized past has its uses — even if that means you’re likely doomed to repeat its mistakes.

But back to the individual level. When I turned 40, I realized I had reached a new vantage point on life: I could look both backward to see where I had come from, and forward to envision where things would end. Now 50, I only look forward — to see how much time is left before my clock runs out.

For me, time is actually accordioning. I regularly skip a decade; 1990 feels like 15 years ago. The years are accelerating too, like a toilet paper roll that spins faster the closer you get to the end.

It’s understandable, really. In my 20s, I could not imagine living another 30 years because I hadn’t lived my first 30 yet. I had no sense of scale. Now I can imagine living another 50, because I already have. Sadly, I probably won’t, and I won’t be as genki even if I do. I have so much work to do and such limited time and energy left.

Let me leave you with an image: Watch Madonna and Justin Timberlake’s 2008 music video “Four Minutes” (hey, I’m hip!), where characters go about their lives oblivious to a black pixelated wall steadily encroaching and obliterating them.

That’s how I see time now. Read your college’s “class notes” about alumni (or for that matter, Facebook) and you’ll see that people who graduated in the 1960s and before mostly report on who’s died. In less than a decade, that will be the focus of the 1970s classes. Then it’ll be my decade’s turn. Then yours. That black pixelated wall is forever approaching.

I hope to keep writing for you until the end. Thanks for reading.

ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2015

mytest

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2015
50TH BIRTHDAY EDITION

Table of Contents:
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ON BIRTHDAYS AND BIRTHDAY PRESENTS

1) I turned 50 years old on January 13, 2015. Photo on the day.
2) A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss.
3) Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, so nothing came of it.

NOW BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL

EXCLUSIONISM
4) IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine)
5) Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign

MIXED MESSAGES
6) Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”
7) Fukuoka Subway Poster Contest winner: Rude Statue of Liberty “overdoes freedom”, takes space from J passengers

MISPLACED HOPE
8 ) Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!
9) Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns

…and finally…
10) My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014
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By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter @arudoudebito)
Freely Forwardable

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ON BIRTHDAYS AND BIRTHDAY PRESENTS

1) I turned 50 years old on January 13, 2015. Photo on the day.

This sort of thing only happens once, and it’s happening now in Japan (tomorrow in Hawaii), so I’ll enjoy 48 hours of birthday this year. I turn fifty on January 13. This is a personal milestone in many ways…

http://www.debito.org/?p=12983

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2) A debate I’ve been having on whether birthdays are to be celebrated or not. Discuss.

Did I mention it’s my birthday? Well, I’m the type of person who loves to be wished “Happy Birthday!”, so I even go out of my way tell people that today is the day. And as my Facebook shows, people very kindly respond with greetings and best wishes. Thanks!

But since I broached the subject , I’ve had interesting conversations yesterday and today with people who take a dim view of birthdays. No, it’s not for the reason you might think (i.e., growing older and more clearly one day, month, year closer to death). They put it down to modesty, even culture.

One friend I talked to today never advertises his birthday because he’s afraid that doing so will invite somebody to give him a present. Then he’d feel obligated to give something back and that causes him stress. He prefers his birthdays and his celebrations be immediate family affairs celebrated only by the people who care enough to remember it’s his birthday without being told. Telling other people kinda spoils something. He’d rather enjoy fruit fallen from a tree due to a windfall, not because he deliberately shook the tree.

Another friend talked about how birthdays are to him an artificial Western invention — who celebrated birthdays in days of yore, and in his Eastern culture? He also feels that a celebration of oneself on one day is silly, when every day that one is alive should be a cause for celebration. Why focus in on one day? To them I said…

http://www.debito.org/?p=12987

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3) Lawyer threatens Debito.org in 2009 re a 1993 article in The Australian Magazine on Japan pundit Gregory Clark. Had received reprint permission, so nothing came of it.

I’ve been sitting on this blog post for nearly six years, so I think it’s safe to say that nothing has come of this. Back in 2009, somebody claiming to be a lawyer representing the publisher of The Australian Magazine contacted me, claiming copyright infringement, and demanded that Debito.org remove from its archives a 1993 article concerning Japan pundit Gregory Clark (who writes articles occasionally so embarrassingly xenophobic and bigoted that at least one has been deleted from the Japan Times archive).

Funny thing is that once I reproduced an email from 2000 from The Australian Magazine that permitted reproduction of said article on Debito.org, that somebody and her threat vanished. Again, that was back in 2009. It’s now 2015, so let’s put this up for the record. Something tells me that Gregory Clark really doesn’t want you to read this very revealing article in The Australian about him, his modus operandi, and his motives in Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?p=7812

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NOW BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL

EXCLUSIONISM
4) IPC Digital et al.: Shizuoka Iwata City General Hospital doctor refuses care to Brazilian child, curses out parents and tells them to “die” (kuso, shine!)

IPC Digital via Google Translate (from Portuguese original): Video of alleged discrimination in hospital resonates with Japanese Internet:

The video shows a Brazilian accusing a doctor of refusing care and offended her daughter with curses, wishing his death (Kuso, Shine), reflected in forums of discussions and Japanese blogs. Dozens of posts in livedoor.biz blogs and other forums, highlighted the event… The vast majority of comments were against the alleged discrimination.

Some Japanese netizens pointed out that, despite the apparent exaltation of the father, the doctor should have attended the transfer request and that should never have used those words with the child. Even in anonymous forums where it is not necessary to identify to post a comment, most Internet users showed outrage at the perceived attitude of the doctor, saying that “certainly should be fired,” and that “the university should be responsible for the wrong attitudes of physicians.”

COMMENT: It has made the news. Unlike, say, this “Japanese Only” hospital reported on Debito.org back in 2012, which wound up being ignored by the local media. It pays to video these things — they go viral, and force apologies. Not sure how this will stop it from happening in future, but glad that somebody is paying attention this time. Portuguese videos first, then Portuguese article, Google translated version, and finally Japanese articles.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13026

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5) Khaosod (Thailand): Taxi Association Condemns ‘No Japanese Passengers’ Sign

Here’s something for the Shoe on the Other Foot Dept.: A “No Japanese Passengers” taxi in Thailand, refusing to take all “Japanese” passengers (sign courtesy of Khaosod English). Naturally, Debito.org condemns all exclusionism of this type, and encourages people to challenge it and have these signs and rules repealed. We have devoted much cyberspace to recording and archiving the converse, “Japanese Only” signs that exclude all “foreigners” (that unfortunately have gone largely unchallenged in Japan). not to mention the occasional “Japanese Only” establishment run for Japanese clientele outside of Japan (that excludes all “foreigners” in their own country, natch).

What’s important is how swift and decisive the challenge from society is, and whether it is effective. In the Thai taxi case below, according to media, the taxi driver (rightly) lost his license to do business at the airport, and quite a furore happened both online and in print media denouncing this act as wrong-headed, even racist. Good. A similar furore also happened when a hotel in India had “Japanese Only” rules (the Indian authorities did not brook this kind of discrimination either).

Now, if only the Japanese authorities would be so decisive about this kind of exclusionism in Japan (as Debito.org has demonstrated over these past twenty years, they generally aren’t; they even deny racial discrimination ever happens in Japan, quite counterproductively). Of course, some hay has been made about this Thai taxi on Japanese social media, with rightly-deserved (but unironic) condemnations of the “discrimination” against Japanese overseas.

One last point: Koki Aki, the Japanese gentleman who set this issue in motion by complaining online after being ripped off by a Thai cabbie (prompting the cabbie to exclude), subsequently defended himself against trolls who said he must not like Thailand: “I criticize Thailand, but I don’t hate Thailand.” Well put. Now, if only other debaters in Japan’s debate arenas would be so cognizant.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13007

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MIXED MESSAGES
6) Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shuji “Slave” Nakamura urges Japan’s youth to “get out of Japan”

RocketNews: In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.

If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave…

“In the world, Japanese people [have] the worst English performance,” he said. “Only they are concerned about Japanese life. That’s a problem.” He also said that lack of exposure to foreign cultures breeds a parochial ethnocentrism and makes young Japanese susceptible to “mind control” by the government.

COMMENT: Wow. “Slave” Nakamura not only refused to settle for the pittance regularly doled out to inventors in Japan that transform innovation and profit for Japan’s corporate behemoths (yes, he sued — millions of people do in Japan every year — and he won!), but also he wouldn’t settle for life in Japan as it is. He emigrated and now publicly extols the virtues of not being stifled by Japan’s insularity (and mind control!?). Pretty brave and bracing stuff. Bravo.

It isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened within Japan’s intelligentsia. How many readers remember the “Tonegawa Shock” of 1987? It set off a chain of events that led to the despotic Ministry of Education deciding to “enliven” (kasseika) Japan’s education system by doing away with tenure. Sounds great to people who don’t understand why tenure exists in an education system, but what happened is that the MOE first downsized everyone that they could who was not on tenure — the NJ educators on perpetual contract eemployment (ninkisei) — in what was called the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994 where most NJ teachers working in Japan’s prestigious National and Public Universities over the age of 35 were fired by bureaucratic fiat. It was the first activism that I took up back in 1993, and the underlying “Academic Apartheid” of Japan’s higher education system exposed by this policy putsch became the bedrock issue for Debito.org when it was established in 1996.

With this in mind, I wonder what reverberations will result from Dr. Nakamura encouraging an exodus? Hopefully not something that will further damage the NJ communities in Japan. But if is there more NJ scapegoating in the offing, you’ll probably hear about it on Debito.org. That’s what we’re here for.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13019

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7) Fukuoka Subway Poster Contest winner: Rude Statue of Liberty “overdoes freedom”, takes space from J passengers

This is a photograph of a subway banner last month designed by an eighth grader in a Fukuoka Junior High School, taking first place in a Fukuoka City Subway contest for “Riding Manners”. The caption: “Don’t overdo the freedom.”

December 25, 2014, Reader TJL remarks: Hmmm…Fukuoka is now jumping on the “ugly American” bandwagon by portraying a rude Lady Liberty taking up too much space and playing her music too loud…the poor old lady in kimono can’t sit down and the salary man is disturbed by the noise. My graduate student from Chile found this on the subway. So much for the kinder, gentler Japan welcoming visitors by 2020 for the Olympics.

COMMENT: First, praise. It’s a clever, well-rendered poster by a Junior High School student who at a surprisingly young age has a great grasp of space, color, perspective, and poster layout (I’ve done a lot of posters in my day, and I wasn’t anywhere near this quality until high school). I especially love the jutting out bare foot, the extra-spiky headdress, the update to include noisy iPod headphones, and the open flame of Liberty’s torch on the seat. The artist also displays careful attention to detail — he even remembered Liberty also carries a book (it’s on the seat by the torch).

Now, critique. It’s sad to see such a young artist with an image of seeing freedom as an American symbol that can be so abused in a Japanese context. Remember, just about anything humanoid could have been posed here taking up too much space, and comically too. However, as rendered, it comes off more as a cheap shot at something foreign…

http://www.debito.org/?p=12953

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MISPLACED HOPE
8 ) Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!

Yomiuri: In an effort to address population declines in provincial areas, the government plans to create a database to provide people thinking of moving from urban to regional areas with information about potential destinations, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The government hopes to encourage more urbanites to move to regional areas by making it possible for them to extensively search for information on such issues as residency and welfare services anywhere in the country…

The government plans to promote the development of robots for use in the service industry, such as at hotels and pubs, to cope with the industry’s worsening problems of labor shortages and heavy workloads, according to sources. In September, the government is expected to establish a panel dubbed the “committee for the realization of the robot revolution,” which will comprise manufacturers and users of robots, and plans to subsidize programs judged to have bright prospects.

COMMENT: Of course, the Yomiuri diligently types it down and offers it up uncritically, with the typical pride of showing off “Japan’s stuff”. The policy assumption is that if you offer people information, they’ll magically want to move out to the countryside — up to now they were just chary because they didn’t know where they could get an onigiri in Nakamura-son, Inaka-Ken.

That’s unrealistic. It’s not a matter of lack of information. It’s a matter of lack of economic opportunity for Japan’s largely white-collar labor force (the “potential migrants” being mentioned, of course, are Japanese) being offered out in The Boonies. Hasn’t the GOJ gotten the memo yet after more than a quarter century of Japanese turning their noses away from 3K blue-collar work? Not to mention the inevitable “Taro-come-lately” outsider treatment from the locals that greets many Japanese urbanites deciding to move out of the cities? Fact is, Japan’s ruralities are even giving their land away for FREE, and it’s not stemming the exodus from.

Moreover, how about that other proposal below of introducing more robots in service areas to produce the 3K stuff? Laced within that Industrial Policy is an appeal to national pride, as in Japan’s future as a world leader in robot use (without the actual substance of practicality behind it). Ooh, our robots can produce bentos? Can yours, France? Then what: build robots to consume what robots produce? No matter what, offering robots as replacements for humans in the labor market inevitably overlooks how this does nothing to revitalize Japan’s taxpayer base, because ROBOTS DO NOT PAY TAXES.

There is another option, the unmentionable: Immigrants assuming the mantle of Japan’s farming economy and rural maintenance. No, you see, that would be a security risk. Too high a local foreign population would mean those areas might secede from Japan! (Seriously, that is the argument made.)…

http://www.debito.org/?p=12609

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9) Japan Times: Japan’s “Omotenashi” (“selfless hospitality”) not in tune with what visitors want, NJ expert warns

JDG: Hello Dr. Debito, I wondered if you had chanced upon this article in the JT:
Now boastful Japan not really in tune with what visitors want, foreign expert warns | The Japan Times

Now boastful Japan not really in tune with what visitors want, foreign expert warns

It’s really interesting, since it was written about a guy who has no connection (AFAIK) to the debate about NJ human rights, and is not a scholar of Japan. However, he has independently reached a conclusion that you yourself have expressed several times on Debito.org; Japanese deciding amongst themselves what NJ want/need/have difficulty with, is a sign of cultural arrogance aimed at controlling NJ. I think this is important external reinforcement of your point of view. It shows that you are not alone and paranoid (as the apologists always try to portray you), but rather shows that in a totally different field of expertise, another observer has witnessed the same phenomena as you.

There are many interesting points that he raises, and I agree with him, but the main takeaway from the article is that the concept of ‘omotenashi’ is being used as a system of control over NJ in Japan (and we know how much the Japanese establishment believes that NJ need to be controlled), whilst at the same time serving a very racist nihonjinrongiron function of reassuring the Japanese themselves that they are unique and superior to NJ.

http://www.debito.org/?p=12966

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…and finally…
10) My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014

As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the Top Ten human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:

10) WARMONGER SHINTARO ISHIHARA LOSES HIS DIET SEAT
This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012), while gritting our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship. However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, he resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater…

Read the next nine and five bubble-unders below with links to sources:

http://www.debito.org/?p=12959

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That’s all for this month. Thanks everyone for reading Debito.org for now approaching twenty years! I hope to do it for at least another twenty. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2015 ENDS