Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions

mytest

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has long complained about how NJ (especially the “Trainees” being thrust into sweatshop and slave labor) were being exploited by ill-designed and unsupervised visa statuses in Japan. Let’s take a look at the American example and do a bit of triangulating. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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A Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor?
A Japanese woman’s poor working conditions as a Waikiki pastry chef illustrate the dark side of a visa program that brings thousands of temporary foreign workers to Hawaii each year.
April 7, 2015·By Rui Kaneya

http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/04/a-cultural-exchange-program-or-a-ticket-to-sweatshop-labor/

It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal.

She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m.

But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.

In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used.

When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear.

Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly.

Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away.

Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work.

“Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.” — Kathryn Xian, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

“At the time, I was confused and didn’t know what to do,” the chef said, recalling her ordeal in 2012. Civil Beat granted her anonymity and withheld the restaurant’s name at her request. She said she feared reprisals.

The chef’s story, recounted in an interview conducted in Japanese, provides a rare glimpse into the dark side of the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which was created half a century ago to foster “global understanding” through cultural exchanges but has since blossomed into the source of thriving, multi-million-dollar businesses.

But it’s virtually impossible to determine just how common these experiences are among about 2,000 J-1 visa holders in Hawaii.

That’s in part because the program, as a cultural exchange, isn’t subject to monitoring by the U.S. Department of Labor — unlike other guest worker programs.

The State Department, for its part, recently established a system to keep track of all complaints it receives, but spokeswoman Susan Pittman told Civil Beat that the tally for the entire program isn’t readily available, and a Freedom of Information Act request must be submitted before the data could be compiled.

Kathryn Xian, founder and executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says another reason the issue tends to fly under people’s radar is that the victims often choose to escape their situation by simply returning to their home country.

“What’s difficult about J-1 is that these people usually don’t seek help,” Xian said. “Because the J-1 terms are so restrictive, if they stop working for a day, they are out of status and deportable, so the employers hold all of the strings.”
‘Notoriety’ and ‘Disrepute’

Created under the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, the J-1 program was designed to give foreign students and young professionals a temporary work experience and expose them to the American way of life — at no cost to taxpayers.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people pay upwards of $10,000 in fees and insurance to enter the country under the program and work for four to 18 months. The State Department’s latest figures show that more than 297,000 J-1 visas were issued in 2012, including 2,021 visas for those heading to work in Hawaii.

But, in recent years, some participants — and their advocates — have complained that it’s being used as a source of cheap, foreign labor with little federal oversight.

The issue grabbed national headlines in 2012, when hundreds of J-1 visa holders working at Hershey’s packing plant in Pennsylvania staged a raucous protest. About 400 of them were staying in the country for “Summer Work Travel,” the biggest of the 14 categories of the J-1 program allowing students of modest means to work in a temporary job as a way of offsetting the costs of their travel to the U.S.

“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place. But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.” — Stephen Boykewich, National Guestworker Alliance

They were put to work, often on night shifts, lifting heavy boxes and packing chocolates on Hershey’s fast-moving production line — while being paid substantially below the minimum wage after deductions.

The troubling tales of the summer programs were nothing new to officials at the State Department. In 2010, an investigation by the Associated Press uncovered widespread abuse, finding that some students were taking home less than $1 an hour, while others were being forced to work as strippers — even though the regulations prohibit the students from taking on work that could “bring the Department of State into notoriety or disrepute.”

In response, the State Department conducted a systematic review of the summer program and eventually acknowledged that its “work component … has too often overshadowed the core cultural component.”

The department later issued new rules for the program that significantly reduced the types of jobs the students can perform — to keep them away from most warehouse, construction, manufacturing and food-processing work. The rules also tightened requirements on the sponsor organizations and their contractors that administer the J-1 program on behalf of the State Department, ensuring that students were matched up with jobs that are appropriate and safe.
Ripe for Exploitation

The changes haven’t rooted out all the unlawful labor practices in the J-1 program.

Last week, the Labor Department announced that a Waikiki-based wedding planner called Wave USA Inc. — aka Ka Nalu Wedding — agreed to pay more than $35,000 in restitution to a group of eight Japanese employees, all of whom were here on J-1.

According to the Labor Department, the eight were the company’s “front-line workers” from November 2012 to July 2014 and were paid full-time salaries that varied from $700 to $1,000 a month — a rate well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Stephen Boykewich, communications director at the National Guestworker Alliance, which helped organize the Hershey’s protest in 2012, said the problems persist because of the program’s flawed setup: The sponsor organizations and their contractors, which are responsible for vetting the hosting companies, are the ones tasked to monitor the working conditions. So, when any problem comes up, they have a vested interest in downplaying it.

“In theory, these sponsors are supposed to be helping keep participants safe and avoid exploitations of any kind to take place,” Boykewich said. “But, in reality, a fox is in charge of the hen house.”

In Hawaii, the issue is compounded by the fact that there are only seven sponsor organizations operating in the islands, and they only place participants into academic institutions — typically as scholars or physicians.

That means those looking for nonacademic work in Hawaii are forced to find their sponsor organization from the mainland, and this arrangement makes the regular, on-site monitoring of the working conditions a logistical nightmare.

John Robert Egan, an immigration attorney who once chaired the Hawaii chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the way the system is set up now works to the advantage of unscrupulous employers.

“Part of the problem is that they are bringing in people who don’t speak good enough English and are not familiar with the legal system and don’t know what protections are available. So that’s ripe for exploitation,” Egan said.

‘Alleged Bad Acts’

The Japanese pastry chef came to Hawaii hoping that her training here would bring her closer to realizing her dream of opening her own bakery.

To make her trip possible, she had to work with layers of contractors in Japan. First, she dealt with a company called Global Associates and its subsidiary, Hawaii Exchange Service. They then put her in touch with their affiliate — a Japanese company called the American Career Opportunity Inc. — to help her go through an English proficiency test and work with a California-based sponsor organization called the ASSE International Student Exchange Programs.

In all, she paid about $8,850 in fees and $1,300 for her medical insurance. And she spent thousands of dollars more to make living arrangements in Hawaii.

By the time she arrived and discovered her restaurant’s working conditions, her savings account had been tapped out. “I felt trapped as I had invested so much time and money to come to work on my J-1 visa,” she wrote in her 2012 affidavit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “I did not believe I could go home as I would realistically never have another opportunity to come back to the U.S.”

But going back to work for the restaurant wasn’t much of a choice for her, either. Luckily, a network of friends, victims’ advocates and pro bono attorneys came to her rescue and got her in touch with officials at the U.S. State and Labor departments.

“I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.” — Pastry chef from Japan

This, in turn, triggered a barrage of calls from officials at American Career Opportunity and Global Associates. They called her — and her mother in Japan — incessantly, trying to convince her to go back to work at the restaurant. When it became clear that she wasn’t going back, she said they tried to intimidate her into voluntarily returning to Japan.

Fearing that she’d be deported, she fled her apartment and went into hiding. At first, she stayed at the house of a married couple she had befriended during her first week in Hawaii. Then, Xian of the Pacific Alliance found her space at a shelter run by a local church.

As far as the chef knows, the investigations at the State and Labor departments are still pending — more than three years later. Meanwhile, with the help of attorneys, she applied for a T-1 visa, which is set aside for trafficking victims. After about a year, her application was approved, enabling her to stay in the country and start working again.

Ira Kurzban, general counsel for ASSE, says the company wasn’t notified about the case until federal authorities got involved.

“From our perspective, we did everything we could possibly do as soon as we learned that there was a problem,” Kurzban said, adding that the State Department “has never said” that the company engaged in “any of the alleged bad acts that were claimed to have happened.”

Officials from the State and Labor departments declined to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns.

Officials at American Career Opportunity did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment. Global Associates and Hawaii Exchange Service could not be reached.

The chef is trying to move past her bitter experience. With Xian’s help, she managed to recover the fees she had paid for her visa. And, last year, she got a cooking job at the Kahala Mall and has saved enough to move into her own apartment.

But there’s one thing she still can’t shake: “It’s been three years now, but, to this day, I’m terrified of running into the restaurant owners. I’m too scared; I still can’t walk alone in Waikiki.”

ENDS

Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)

mytest

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Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog.  Japan’s Gaijin Handlers (people well-versed in representing Japan overseas in ways placating USG fears about Japan’s ulterior motives) are still making the rounds of America’s foreign-policy forums.  Debito.org covered one in October 2013, where a deputy chairman of an Abe Administration advisory panel on Japan’s security, Dr. Kitaoka Shin’ichi, basically told policy wonks on a whistle-stop tour of the US (courtesy of the East-West Center) that Japan’s “collective self-defense” wasn’t a remilitarization of Japan that should cause any worry.

This time, brought to you by the Japanese Consulate General (see page three of questionnaire below), and hosted by the East-West Center and the Center for Japanese Studies at UH Manoa, an academic named Dr. Nakayama Toshiaki, of prestigious Aoyama Gakuin University, gave an hourlong presentation about the “Mind of Japan”, and what that “mind” thought about America.  Here’s his bio, text-searchable:

Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama
East-West Center
September 10, 2015
Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama spoke about Japan-U.S. relations especially in consideration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. An insight was given into America’s roles in the Asia Pacific and beyond through the eyes of a well-known professor, author, and columnist. Dr. Nakayama also shared his personal experiences in the context of this important relationship between the two allied nations.
Dr. Nakayama is Professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. He received his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (2001) from Aoyama Gakuin University, was a CNAPS Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution (2005-06), and has written two books and numerous articles on American politics, foreign policy, and international relations. He appears regularly in the Japanese media and writes a monthly column for Japan News. He was the recipient of the Nakasone Yasuhiro Award (Incentive Award) in 2014.

Here’s the original flyer:

NakayamaToshihiroEWCtalk091015

Here is his speech in its entirety:

America in the Mind of Japan: How Japan Sees America’s Role in the Asia Pacific and Beyond from East-West Center on Vimeo.

(May be slow playing on your browser.  Download the actual video to your computer from here: https://vimeo.com/140019513)

I attended, but thought even beforehand, based on the title of the talk, how scientifically problematic it is for someone to represent all of Japan as a “mind” so monolithically (I would expect it from a government representative, but not a trained doctorate-holding academic).  But Dr. Nakayama, as would befit people with an agenda who are employed by the right-wing Yomiuri (moreover rewarded by the likes of far-rightist and WWII sexual slavery organizer Nakasone Yasuhiro), fulfilled his role as Gaijin Handler very professionally:

First he softened up the audience, spending several minutes (in fact, a sizable chunk of his allowed time) convincing everyone how Americanized he is (with a number of anecdotes about his time as a youth going to school in New York City and South Dakota and asking American girls out to dance), giving the audience a number of familiar warm-fuzzy touchstones in terms of economics, politics, and culture in excellent English.  Then he switched smoothly into the “We Japanese” “us” and “them” rhetoric, no longer a non-dispassionate academic, now a government representative.  He clearly felt confident enough in his knowledge of both the US and Japan to feel that he could portray Japan authoritatively in a hive-minded fashion, while painting a picture of the US as a fractious pluralistic place with people like Donald Trump.  Seriously.

But after a rather pedestrian retelling of the US-Japan Relationship after WWII, Dr. Nakayama made the following statement right at the very end.  It was indicative of what kind of snake-charming narrative Prime Minister Abe wishes to wrangle the (USG) Gaijin with.  In regards to a question about Japan’s historical relationship with its immediate neighbors:

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Nakayama:  (From minute 1:02:00).  But as shown in Prime Minister Abe’s statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history.  But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible].  He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms.   

I don’t think that was his intention.  In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945.  Everything that happened before that is basically wrong.  That’s not how things turned out.  Yes, there was a disastrous four years.  If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that.  But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games.  And that’s a success case.  Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn’t mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945.  An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible]  that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance.  I think that was the message. 

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Wow.  Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas on a government-sponsored junket) were to argue today that “Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now.”  Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies).  No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan).  What happened before 1945 WAS basically wrong; and it wasn’t “also not wrong” for the reasons he gives.  Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within.

Further, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama’s case, Japan’s diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan’s national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences.  Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles.  Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Other overseas-policy-influencing pies that Dr. Nakayama has his fingers in:
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/events/young-japanese-scholars-program-new-views-politics-and-policy-tokyo-taiwan
See them in action: https://vimeo.com/89107591

Questionnaire given out at this EWC presentation further empowering Japanese Government presentation effectiveness in the US (click on thumbnail to expand):

GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015 GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015 1GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015pg3

Tangent: Economist on “Japan’s Citizen Kane”: Shouriki Matsutaro; explains a lot about J-media’s interlocking relationship with J-politics

mytest

eBooks, Books, and more from Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
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Hi Blog. A great little tangent from The Economist’s Christmas Special of 2012. This story is fantastic (in fact, it beggars belief), and it answers a number of questions I always had about the status quo in Japan (especially when it comes to the interlocking of politics and media). I thought Watanabe Tsuneo (of the same publishing empire; the Yomiuri) is one of Japan’s most morally-corrupt powerful men. This guy beats him. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Matsutaro Shoriki
Japan’s Citizen Kane

A media mogul whose extraordinary life still shapes his country, for good and ill
The Economist. Dec 22nd 2012 | From the print edition
http://www.economist.com/node/21568589/print

THE ECONOMIST’S office in Tokyo is in the headquarters of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s biggest-selling newspaper. Every day, as you walk past bowing guards and immaculate receptionists, set back in a corner you pass a bronze statue of an owlish man with a bald head and thick, round-rimmed glasses, poring over a paper. He is Matsutaro Shoriki (pictured), who acquired the paper in its left-wing adolescence in the 1920s, and turned it into a scrappy, sensational pugilist for right-wing politics. The statue is not flattering: with his potato-like head and beakish nose, he seems to be pecking at the newspaper rather than reading it.

Shoriki lurks in the background of much of 20th-century Japan, too. He created so much of what defines the nation today that it is a wonder he is not as well known as, say, William Randolph Hearst (one of his big Western admirers) is in America. Shoriki was as much the pugnacious, brooding, manipulative and visionary “Citizen Kane” as Hearst.

Before he took over the Yomiuri, Shoriki was head of Tokyo’s torturous secret police. Later, to help him sell papers, he introduced professional baseball to Japan. After the second world war he was jailed for alleged war crimes; upon his release he set up Japan’s first private television network. To cap it all, he was the “father of nuclear power”, using his cabinet position and media clout to transform an atom-bombed nation into one of the strongest advocates of atomic energy. That legacy now smoulders amid the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Victories of the spirit

Japanese history is peppered with stories of giants whom almost no one outside the country has ever heard of. Because of Japan’s reverence for humility, their tales tend to be subsumed within the companies or projects the individuals created. Shoriki is different. There is nothing humble about him: his is a story of ruthless ambition, bordering on megalomania.

He got a taste for power early, when he rose like a rocket through the police force. He was 28 when, in 1913, he joined the Metropolitan Police. He had recently graduated from the elite University of Tokyo, but was more interested in judo than studying, so had failed the civil-service entrance exams. Police work carried lower prestige, but it suited him. Within a year he was promoted to head a police station in Nihonbashi, the old heart of the city.

Japan’s economy was booming. The first world war was a godsend for a country that was undergoing breakneck modernisation. After its own military victories against Russia and China, and the annexation of Korea in 1910, Japan was puffed up with pride at being one of the world’s colonial powers. But the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 brought a ferment of new ideas—including the demand for wider male suffrage in Japan—which the police and the patrician old guard viewed with alarm. Shoriki was put in charge of suppressing student demonstrations at Waseda University, then one of Tokyo’s most liberal institutions. He later introduced a masseur, masquerading as a communist, to entrap three radical professors. To this day, Waseda’s left-wingers loathe him.

In 1918 he astutely predicted the spread of rice riots from Toyama, the rural prefecture where he was born, to Tokyo. When he marched among the rioters, his sword tethered to his side to show he did not mean violence, a jagged stone hit him on the head. His courage in persuading the mob to calm down, with blood streaming down his face, appears to show him at his best. In “Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan”, a biography published in 1957 (and regarded by some as a ghostwritten auto-hagiography), Edward Uhlan and Dana Thomas, two American journalists, describe the moment in which he “dispersed a frenzied mob without raising a finger” as the greatest “victory of the spirit” in his life.

But he was no saint. As communist agitation spread in the early 1920s, and Koreans in Japan increasingly rebelled against colonisation, Shoriki was promoted to be chief of staff of the Metropolitan Police, which in effect made him head of the secret police. He had responsibility for infiltrating labour and Korean groups and rooting out the “red menace”.

Then in September 1923, shortly after the Japanese Communist Party had been formed, Tokyo and nearby Yokohama suffered a devastating earthquake that, coupled with the ensuing fires, killed more than 100,000 people. An orgy of opportunistic anti-Korean slaughter followed, which Shoriki may have stoked and then diverted into an attack on socialists.

When, a few months later, professional catastrophe struck, his extensive political connections rescued him. On his watch, a young socialist tried to kill the Crown Prince (later Emperor Hirohito), an event for which Shoriki was given the harshest sanction: “disciplinary dismissal”. Thrown out of work, it occurred to him that newspapers might be an influential business. The Yomiuri Shimbun was struggling, having just built a new headquarters that collapsed in the earthquake. Shoriki needed ¥100,000 ($20,000 then) to buy it out; he turned to one of his contacts, a leading right-wing politician, for financial support. It was a shrewd investment: Shoriki turned the Yomiuri into an establishment crusader.

Evidence of the personality that he quickly stamped upon it can be found in the Yomiuri’s sixth-floor library. You need to borrow the librarian’s magnifying glass to read the tight old kanji, or Chinese script, in which the paper was written. But it is quickly apparent that under him it was a much livelier read than the staid stuff it serves up nowadays. This was Japan’s “Taisho era”, a rare time of democratic upheaval and self-indulgence, summed up in the phrase eroguronansensu, or erotic, grotesque nonsense. That quickly became Shoriki’s sales pitch for the Yomiuri, though because he spoke not a word of English he mangled the terms into “grotic” and “erotesque”.

Never mind: it worked. Next to lurid stories about adultery and photos of flapper-era mogas (modern girls) are advertisements for clinics treating the consequences (“Before the parties at the end of the year, you should sort out your gonorrhoea”). There are pages about hit songs from the new craze of radio that was sweeping the country, a trend that Japanese newspapers had until then ignored. In 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria, Shoriki seized the moment to go head-to-head with his bigger Tokyo rivals, the Asahi and the Mainichi, by launching an evening edition to bring readers sizzling China-bashing updates from the front.

Two years later, in 1933, comes an episode of vintage Shoriki. His editors had noticed the rising incidence of suicide; one popular method was for couples to hurl themselves hand-in-hand into a fiery volcano called Miharayama, on a Pacific island a long boat ride from Tokyo. In one year 944 people had taken the plunge: at a time of growing militarism, this was not regarded as a very patriotic endeavour.

Into the volcano
The Yomiuri decided it should warn people what they were throwing themselves into. With a flurry of publicity, the paper told its readers it would separately lower an editor and a photographer towards the molten furnace in a gondola. But first the paper sent down two animals to test for poisonous gases, eliciting the priceless headline: “Monkey paralysed. Rat dead.” When the gas-masked journalists did make it, they descended 415 metres, which the Yomiuri claimed was a world record. One of them relayed sightings of corpses to the surface by jerry-rigged telephone. It made for wonderful copy, but did nothing to stop the suicides.

This cloak of supposed public interest, wrapped around gory sensationalism, sent the Yomiuri’s circulation soaring. Between 1924 and 1937 it rose from 58,000 to 800,000, a feat that made the Yomiuri the biggest newspaper in Tokyo.

Banzai Babe

The melding of commercial pragmatism with ideological dogma shaped much of Shoriki’s career. But another factor also defined the second half of his life: his relationship with America.

Baseball was its first manifestation. Shoriki was no baseball fan, but he knew he could use the sport to sell newspapers. The trouble was that Japan had no professional baseball teams. So, on the advice of a rival newspaper proprietor, he set out to bring Babe Ruth, the legendary Yankees slugger, to Tokyo. At first, Ruth was too busy: he did not join the all-star team that came out to Japan to play for capacity crowds in 1931. But in 1934, past his prime and noticeably overweight, he finally arrived.

It was a tense time, both within Japan and in its diplomacy. Soldiers burning with fascist zeal were assassinating government moderates in a bid to rekindle the traditional “spirit” of Nippon. The visit was controversial, coming just as Japan appeared to be turning its back on the outside world. But Shoriki’s intuition worked: ordinary Japanese went mad for Ruth and his team. Tens of thousands packed the streets of Ginza to see them parade in open-top cars. People thronged the Meiji stadium to watch them play, most barely minding (though Shoriki did) that the home sides usually lost.

Ordinary Japanese went mad for Ruth and his team. Tens of thousands packed the streets of Ginza to see them parade in open-top cars. People thronged the Meiji stadium to watch them play, most barely minding (though Shoriki did) that the home sides usually lost.
Not everyone was so thrilled: a madcap group called the “War God Society” protested at the Americans’ “defilement” of grounds sacred to the Meiji emperor. Not long afterwards Shoriki was stabbed in the neck with a Japanese sword by an ex-policeman who professed to hate his pro-Americanism. He lost a litre of blood and nearly died. Undeterred, Shoriki founded the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, which has dominated the sport in Japan ever since.

This relationship with America would be twisted by war. The Yomiuri, like all its rivals, was a fervent cheerleader for Japan’s Pacific conquests; as the imperial army advanced south, so the Yomiuri set up offices and newspapers around South-East Asia. When the war ended in 1945 the charge-sheet against Shoriki looked strong: he had been a director of the quasi-fascist Imperial Rule Assistance Association, set up in 1940, which promoted war. His newspaper was suspected of being a propaganda organ of the militarists. Damningly, many of the strongest accusations of fascism that were made against him came from his own writers and editors.

The Yomiuri was in revolt at the time. At the end of the war, encouraged by the liberal ideas of the American occupation, a group of left-wing journalists staged a coup at the paper. For months the internal battle spilled onto the front pages. Headlines branded Shoriki a war criminal, even as he continued to show up as publisher each day. By December he was locked up in Sugamo Prison with the rest of Japan’s suspected warmongers, charged with Class A war crimes.

The nuclear option

Prison was a bitter ordeal. Shoriki took to meditating for many hours a day, while pulling every string he could to clear himself. In the digital dossiers of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, which are published online by the University of Virginia, he even at one stage begs for his release on the ground that “the life of the Yomiuri Shimbun is at stake”.

Suddenly, it seems, his American jailers decided that most of the accusations against Shoriki were of an “ideological and political nature”, made by striking employees who deserved little credence (America was growing nervous of the left-wing unionism it had inadvertently nurtured). On August 22nd 1947 a recommendation was made to free Shoriki, and he walked out after 21 months inside. Though still purged from public life, he would later claim that his spell at “Sugamo University” was an ideal networking opportunity. It gave him access to right-wingers who would come back to rule the country, with Shoriki’s help, just four years after America finally signed a peace treaty with Japan in 1951.

But by this stage Shoriki was 62, and had an enormous cliff to climb to achieve what he most passionately craved: political power. He used two means to get there: television, then nuclear energy. Both enterprises involved a man whose influence hangs over Shoriki’s later years, Hidetoshi Shibata. He was the main source for another biography of Shoriki, by Shinichi Sano—the premise of which is that Shoriki stole most of his ideas from his underlings, and jealously took all the credit for himself. But in Shibata’s case, at least, the two seem to have used each other.

Shibata, a news reporter, heard of a plan put forward in America to use television to spread anti-communist propaganda around the world, with the former enemies West Germany and Japan as the bases. He brought the idea to Shoriki, who offered to help finance a new station—if the Americans helped persuade the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to lift his blacklisting. Using Shibata’s American contacts, Shoriki browbeat the government to end the monopoly of NHK, the state broadcaster. His purge duly lifted, he raised more than ¥800m to establish Japan’s first private network, Nippon Television, in 1952. Today it is the most popular TV station in Japan.

But television was only the next stage in his journey. By 1954 Japan was in the grip of anti-American hysteria. After the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American H-bomb testing in the Pacific Marshall Islands blanketed 23 Japanese tuna fishermen with radioactive ash. After one of the men affected died, anti-nuclear passions soared. Shoriki, as well as America’s CIA, was terrified at the thought that the Soviet Union and China might take advantage of the uproar to displace American influence in Japan.

He hit upon another remarkable plan, this time to use nuclear energy as a tool of pro-American leverage. Yet another biographer claims this was a CIA plot—an idea pooh-poohed by other scholars, who believe that Shoriki exploited the Americans at least as much as vice versa. Dwight Eisenhower had recently made his “Atoms for Peace” speech, promoting the spread of nuclear energy to counter the stigma of nuclear weapons. In December 1954 John Jay Hopkins, president of General Dynamics, a pioneering nuclear conglomerate, suggested an “Atomic Marshall Plan” for Japan.

Shoriki pressured Hopkins to travel to Tokyo to deliver the message in person; at the first hint of assent, the Yomiuri splashed the news on its front page. With all the hoopla that had heralded the arrival of Babe Ruth more than 20 years earlier, the paper played up the visit in May 1955. Shoriki used giant screens artfully erected on street corners both to spread the pro-nuclear message and to boost the fledgling NTV’s ratings.

At the same time he and some of his pronuclear cronies in parliament were pulling strings, with results that still resonate. He won a Diet seat on a nuclear-energy platform, then helped form the Liberal Democratic Party. It ruled Japan for almost all of the next 55 years (and is now returning to power). In January 1956, as a cabinet member of the first LDP government, he was appointed president of Japan’s new Atomic Energy Commission. To the surprise and horror of some of the scientists on the commission, his first announcement was that Japan would have a reactor within five years. He never let practicalities get in the way of a story.

This was not quite the end. Ultimately, Japan got its reactors (ironically, the first was British, not American). But Shoriki could not secure his biggest goal, the premiership, and perhaps it was this shortcoming that ultimately racked him with a sense of failure. The end of his life story is told by Yasuko Shibata, the 82-year-old wife of his former right-hand man, who lives in a sumptuous retirement home in Yokohama. She giggles as she recalls how Shoriki once offered her a thick envelope of cash, after her husband had stormed off following one of the two men’s many rows. To her, at least, he was neither a monster nor a patsy. “It doesn’t matter whether you like Shoriki or not, he was not the kind of small guy that the CIA could push around,” she insists.

Mrs Shibata tells a story of Shoriki’s final days in 1969 that reveals, like Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane”, how tortured he was at the end. His own wife had died, and he had moved into a dingy room in Tokyo with his mistress. Lying in her arms and approaching death himself, he heard revellers drinking outside and, in a feverish state, thought it was Shibata threatening to kill him unless he was given the credit he deserved. Shoriki need not have worried about his own legacy. For good or ill, it lingers on.

From the print edition: Christmas Specials
ENDS

Nikkei interview with Japan’s most famous naturalized former Zainichi Korean: SoftBank’s Son Masayoshi

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Hi Blog.  One person I have kept some track of over the years is the leader of SoftBank, Son Masayoshi.  While I don’t really see his sensitivity towards minorities in Japan translating into flexibility towards NJ residents in SoftBank’s business practices (SoftBank, like NTT DoCoMo, demands a deposit from its NJ customers (to the tune of 100,000 yen) in order to get an iPhone subscription (something not mentioned on its Japanese site).  I also have a friend from overseas who, during his monthlong journeys around Japan, had his phone hacked into, and was saddled with a $1400 internet bill on his credit card when he went back; protests to the company were met with a, “You’re a foreigner, so you must have misunderstood how to use our phone; you’re just trying to skip out on paying your bill,” reception from SoftBank.  This despite SoftBank having him on record renting the very same phone five times before and paying without incident.), Son is being interviewed below as a discrimination fighter.  This is the first I’ve heard of him doing this (and I hope this article also came out in Japanese), so let’s hope he continues in this vein.  And that SoftBank knocks off its hypocritically discriminatory business practices.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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SoftBank’s Son stands up to anti-Korean bigotry in Japan
Nikkei Asian Review August 27, 2015 12:00 am JST, Courtesy of AA

TOKYO — SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has long been discriminated against by Japanese because he is ethnically Korean.
http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20150827-THE-GREAT-FALL/Business/SoftBank-s-Son-stands-up-to-anti-Korean-bigotry-in-Japan

Even in his early childhood, he was attacked verbally and physically by Japanese classmates. In kindergarten, he was jeered at for being Korean. Once, another child cut his head open with a stone.

Today, he finds himself the target of malicious comments on the Internet. In a recent interview, Son talked about his experiences and his decision to be open about his background.

Q: Why did you choose to use your Korean family name instead of your Japanese one?

A: I used to go by Masayoshi Yasumoto before I went to the U.S. at the age of 16.

After I returned from the U.S. and decided to start a business, I had a choice before me — whether I should go with the Japanese family name Yasumoto, which all my family and relatives use, or the ancestral surname Son.

It is undoubtedly easier to go by Yasumoto when living in Japanese society. A number of celebrities and professional athletes use Japanese family names in their chosen professions. It is not my intention to criticize such a practice. But I decided to go against the tide and become the first among my relatives to use Son as my family name.

I won’t go into the reasons and the origin of this issue, but if you are born into one of those families of Korean descent, you are subject to groundless discrimination. There are many children who undergo such hardship.

When I was in elementary and junior high school, I was in agony over my identity so much that I seriously contemplated taking my own life. I’d say discrimination against people is that tough.

Then you might ask why I decided to go against all my relatives, including uncles and aunts, and started to use the Korean family name, Son.

I wanted to become a role model for ethnic Korean children and show them that a person of Korean descent like me, who publicly uses a Korean surname, can achieve success despite various challenges. If my doing so gives a sense of hope to even just one young person or 100 of them, I believe that is a million times more effective than raising a placard and shouting, “No discrimination.”

Q: Your coming out as an ethnic Korean risked involving the rest of your family, right?

A: I met with fierce objections from my relatives, who had hidden their real family name to live their lives in a small community. One of my relatives said, “If you come out as a Son from among us, that will expose all of us.”

People would start saying things like “They are ethnic Koreans” or “Your nephew is a Son, not a Yasumoto. So, you, too, are part of the kimchee clan.” That’s why they tried to dissuade me. But I told them: “What I will do may disturb you all, uncles and aunties. If so, you don’t need to say that I am a relative of yours. Just pretend that I am not related to you.”

Q: I hope there will be more success stories like yours in Japan. What do you think is necessary for that to happen?

A: Currently, many Japanese companies are losing confidence. They are losing out to competition and have collectively become introverted. In such circumstances, even if we are the only one, SoftBank has risen to the occasion and taken on much bigger rivals in the U.S. And if we survive … that will create a ripple effect and inspire even one company or 10 companies. I think that’s a form of social contribution.

Son speaks before an audience. The slogan in the background says, “Challenge yourself and new horizons will emerge.”
Not just us, but Mr. Tadashi Yanai (chairman and president of Fast Retailing) and Mr. Shigenobu Nagamori (chairman and president of Nidec), and Rakuten, DeNA and other companies are working hard to challenge themselves. If young business leaders can set a couple of successful precedents, that could give a much-needed boost and help revive the Japanese economy.

While it is important to oppose a move toward widening the wealth gap and put in place a social safety net, I think there is no need to stand in the way of other people’s success. It is unnecessary to gang up and lash out at those who are successful.

Successful people can serve as a light of hope for others. Personally, I think it is important to create a society where we can praise success and successful people. That will help keep alive Japanese dreams and create Japanese heroes.

Interviewed by Nikkei Ecology staff writer Takahiro Onishi; Nikkei Business Online Editor-in-Chief Shintaro Ikeda contributed to this story.

ENDS

Yomiuri: More Japanese public baths OK tattooed visitors (particularly NJ) for 2020 Olympics: suddenly it’s all about showing “understanding of foreign cultures”

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Hi Blog. I have just emerged from several weeks of proofing and indexing my upcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. It will be out in 5-8 weeks. I will keep you updated on where you and your library can get a copy.

With that amount of busy-ness (sorry for the delay in posting to Debito.org), please let me turn the keyboard to Debito.org Reader JK:

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

Hi Debito: It looks this has grown legs and started walking, so if you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I’ll provide some overdue commentary:

=========================================
More baths OK tattooed visitors; stickers needed
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002362434
The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 25, 2015

Restrictions on tattooed customers at bathing facilities and resort swimming areas are being loosened around the country.

A number of facilities allow people with tattoos to enter if the tattoos can be covered by stickers. This is aimed at treating foreign tourists, many of whom consider tattoos a fashion item, differently from gangsters, some of whom sport elaborate tattoos.

With the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, some facilities are calling for greater understanding of cultural differences.

At Ofuro cafe utatane, a bathing facility in Kita Ward, Saitama, which is visited by about 250,000 people annually, the management decided to allow tattoos that can be covered with 12.8-centimeter by 18.2-centimeter stickers.

The new policy was started on a trial basis from Aug. 1. If no problems arise by the end of the month, the facility will officially implement the policy.

The manager of the facility, Toshiki Yamasaki, 32, is also director of the Nippon Ofuro Genki Project, an association of young managers of baths and other facilities.

“The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture,” he said.

Hoshino Resort Co., which manages 33 luxury hotel resorts and other facilities in Japan and abroad, has also decided to exempt customers from bathing restrictions if their tattoos can be covered by an eight-centimeter by 10-centimeter sticker starting from October.

A midsize hot spring resort in Niseko, Hokkaido, lifted restrictions on tattoos this spring.

The local ski resort is popular with foreign tourists because of the good snow quality.

“I believe we need to understand cultural differences with other countries,” the hotel manager said, adding that restrictions on gang members were still in place.

Baths, resorts and other facilities began banning all tattoos, including full-body irezumi tattoos, after the Antigang Law went into effect in 1992, though in practice some places admit tattooed customers.

The Japan Tourism Agency surveyed about 3,700 facilities nationwide in June to learn how the restrictions were affecting foreign travelers.

Tsuru University Prof. Yoshimi Yamamoto, an expert on tattoo issues, said: “The circumstances are such that facilities have no choice but to change their response. Easing restrictions can help shake up conventions.”

ENDS

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

COMMENT FROM JK:

1) Having a tattoo in Japan while being foreign AND not being a yakuza is an idea that is just now gaining traction?!

2) The (faulty) underlying assumption at work is that all yakuza have tattoos.

3) Suppose an NJ has several tattoos, or tattoos that cannot be covered by a single sticker, or even a full-body tattoo (surprise — just like yakuza, NJ get these too!), then what? More stickers? If so how may? Is ‘good enough’ coverage acceptable, or is perfection mandatory?

4) Despite the lack of a link to a Japanese translation, the idea being conveyed is that NJ with tattoos are outside of societal norms (read: betsuwaku), and so should not be treated as a yakuza since money can be made off them — this notion is beautifully illustrated by Mr. Toshiki Yamasaki who says, “The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture”.

5) Does the Antigang Law of 1992 actually have wording in it to the effect that onsen / sento operations are not permitted to admit persons with tattoos?

a) If not, then in the name of ‘understanding cultural differences with other countries’, let me into the Niseko hotel without requiring my tattoos to be covered!

b) If so, then put up a sign saying ‘No Japanese Gangsters Allowed’ and let me in with my tattoos uncovered — it’s not like such a sign would be breaking the law — to the contrary, it would be upholding it!!

6) Allowing the operator of a onsen / sento to determine someone’s ‘kakuzaness’ is akin to allowing them to determine ‘foreignness’ — in other words, the door is left open to abuse. -JK

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

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:

During the Otaru Onsens Case, where “Japanese Only” bathhouses were excluding customers because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough, one issue that was raised was, “Well, what about tattoos, then?” — and then conflated the two issues to muddy the debate with relativity (not to mention conflate the treatment of “foreigners” with the treatment of organized crime in Japan).  Debito.org has always seen tattoos as a different issue from skin color and other features determined from birth, as tattoos are something a person decides to put on themselves.  That said, this sudden “change of heart” (dressed up as a “respect for” and “understanding of” foreign cultures) is ahistorical and purely motivated by economics — i.e., the need for Japan to put on a good show for international events without the embarrassment of having bigots continue to cloak their exclusionary behavior with the specter of potential criminal activity (and there has been at least one case where “respect for foreign culture” involving tattoos didn’t matter one whit).

I conclude:  What’s at play here isn’t fair-mindedness.  It’s merely the phenomenon of “not in front of the foreigners”, especially since pretty soon there will be millions of them watching Japan.  I bet that once the Olympics pass, those open-minded rules will be rescinded and managers will revert to banning customers (particularly NJ) at whim all over again.  This isn’t the tack that JK is taking above, but that’s what I see.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JBC column 91 for the Japan Times Community Page
September 7, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/09/06/issues/japans-right-keeps-leaving-left-dust/

JBC has talked about Japan’s right-wing swing before. The news is, it’s swung so far that Japan’s left is finally getting its act together.

For example, over the past year historians inside and outside Japan joined retired politicians to demand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accurately portray Japan’s role in World War II during the 70th Anniversary commemorations last month. It didn’t work, but nice try.

Or how about the decimated Democratic Party of Japan submitting a bill to the Diet that would ban racial discrimination (yes!), hate speech and related harassment? Sadly, the bill has no hope of passing, or of being enforceable even if it does (what with loopholes for “justifiable discrimination” and no criminal penalties). But, again, nice try.

And we are seeing outdoor protest after protest, with ranks swelling to numbers not seen in decades.

That’s all fine — and about time, given that people repeatedly reelected these rightists in the first place. But let’s discuss why Japan’s left has basically always been out of power (leaving aside the geopolitical pressures from Japan’s sugar-daddy busybody — see “U.S. green lights Japan’s march back to militarism,” Just Be Cause, June 1).

The left keeps losing, and much of it is their own damned fault.

As an activist in Japan, I worked with the left (as in the self-proclaimed center-leftists, socialists and communists) and dealt with its right (the center-rightists, conservatives, populists and nationalists) for decades.

Since I advocate for minority rights here, I am simpatico with the left, given their comparative tendency to view people as individuals — as opposed to the right’s reflex of seeing people as groups that are ascribed characteristics from birth.

Of course, both sides have belief systems you must subscribe to for membership. (That’s precisely what a political camp is.) Both tell stories and maintain narratives to garner public appeal. And, naturally, their organizations are clubby and cliquey. Worse, in Japan, while membership might be instant, acceptance into leadership roles often takes many years (in case you are a spy or a subversive).

Nevertheless, the right has distinct advantages that the left should be aware of, if it wants to have any hope of playing the game better.

One advantage is simplicity of goals. Basically, the rightists (as conservatives) want things left the way they are — or apparently were. The left wants change, which means it has to argue harder for it. On the other hand, the right can simply invoke the almighty power of precedent.

This sets off a vicious circle. Japan is a land that craves precedent, yet the left has little leadership precedent to cite. They can never argue that Japan has been a socialist state (even though in many areas it is exactly that), and few dare display communist sympathies (even though Japan’s appeal to historical collectivism would fit right into any commune).

“Precedentophilia” also avails the right of a scare tactic: They can argue that the left would force Japan to chart unknown territory. Rightists, on the other hand, are merely citing the tried and true: “Hey, the system worked for our ancestors in the past, right?”

And there the debate usually dies. Whenever Japan harks to the past, an element of ancestor worship seeps in. This stifles critical thinking, for insinuating that our forefathers were somehow wrong is to disrespectfully question the essence of Japanese identity. You see that even with WWII war criminals — who would have led Japan into oblivion if they had continued to get their way — enshrined as heroes at public worship sites and in popular culture.

Then there’s the leftist ideological distaste for measuring everything in terms of money. That’s a fatal error in politics. Rightists have no trouble whatsoever doing so, since they have a lot more of it. And with money, of course, comes power — and the rightists have no trouble with that either. In their inherited world, being rich and powerful for generations has normalized their entitlement to the point where they claim it without shame or self-consciousness.

But the biggest disadvantage I see in Japan’s left is an intellectual snobbery.

First, if you want to join their ranks, you must prove your ideological worth. I remember numerous times asking for assistance from leftist groups in the quest for equal rights for all. We were on the same page, yet their Young Turks grilled me about whether I had read this author or that book. Essentially, I had to pass an entrance exam — be demonstrably schooled in their canon and their lexicon — or else I would get no support.

Then there’s the problem with narrative: Japanese leftists are oddly lazy about honing their talking points. Why? Because their ideals were handed to them in the postwar “peace Constitution.” Since then they have basically rested on their (un-won) laurels.

This became painfully obvious during the current debate on Japan’s remilitarization. Because Article 9 had been hitherto sacrosanct, the left didn’t think they had to talk about war anymore. It was simply inconceivable that Japan would ever fight one again.

The right, however, knew that undermining what leftists have taken for granted would be a multigenerational fight. And over time it got good at it.

Rightist victories have been gradual but significant, as seen in the policy creep of doublespeak — from the “Self-Defense Forces” all the way to today’s “collective self-defense.” The left just bleated that this was unconstitutional, without crafting a clearer narrative about the horror and excesses of war to capture the popular imagination. More effective were rightist scares about security threats from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.

With any multigenerational battle comes the grooming of young successors, and at this the right excels.

Despite being blue-bloods clinging to the class structure, rightists have been peerless when it comes to appealing to those outside their class, particularly Japan’s young. (Why do you think they suddenly decided to lower the voting age from 20 to 18?)

Rightists intuitively understand that if something is to be a talking point, you have to put it in manga or anime form. Then you’ll reach even the most disaffected shut-in (who will then go online to terrorize a newfound foe).

In comparison, leftists look more like doctrinaire fossils, sniffing at all this anti-intellectualism: “Who needs to tell lowbrow stories when we have abstract principles to adhere to?”

But the right knows it needs as many people as possible parroting its talking points — for a fundamental maxim of propaganda is that if enough people say something, it becomes true.

That’s why rightists lower their standards for admission. They take just about anyone as long as they parrot. Even their xenophobes will enlist foreigners! Take a broke retired journalist, a redneck Net ignoramus or a paramilitary spook for hire, and just put their names on inflammatory Japanese publications in a language they can’t read anyway. Plus, ferreting out foreign parrots makes the right’s talking points seem more worldly.

In essence, the rightists keep their eyes on the prize: money and power. In the game of politics, that gives you the advantage every time. And when you’re wielding patronage and privilege for this long, you get good at doling it out to the underprivileged, like soup at the breadlines.

The leftists? Well, hey, they can’t even talk to one another, let alone band together against this dynamic. Intellectual schisms are historically toxic, to the point of factions killing one other (think Kakumaru-ha vs. Chukaku-ha in the 1970s). Of course, the rightists aren’t all friends either, but at least they can be odd bedfellows following a narrative under the same religion — Japan.

And therein lies the ultimate power in this game: nationalism. It’s easiest to appeal to people by resorting to patriotism. Again, it blunts critical thinking. (Even Western media handle Japan’s most bigoted rightists with kid gloves, labeling them “nationalists,” “conservatives,” even “patriots”!)

This is all much easier than using slogans about impalpable “equality,” “democracy” and “peace.” After all, money and privilege offer tangible and immediate benefits, whereas peace is a public good you only appreciate when it’s gone. And few now remember it being gone. Like it or not, the simpler narrative sells.

If Japan’s left is ever to aspire to power, it must, ironically, learn to be more open-minded, cooperative and co-optive. It must learn how to get out there, welcome new blood and convince people with a compelling story of alternatives (rather than just sit back and wait for the enlightenment of the masses, followed by an ideological litmus test). Otherwise, Japan’s left will keep on losing to the right on a past-revering, precedent-based playing field naturally slanted against them.

Leftists: Stop only learning how to argue. Learn how to appeal. Learn narrative.

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

Debito Arudou’s next book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” will be out in November. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Monday Community Page of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 6, 2015

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 6, 2015

Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. First up, this month’s JBC column 91 talks about Japan’s Left, and why it keeps losing to Japan’s Right time and time again. Let me put it below the Table of Contents from now on so Readers don’t have to page down to see the TOC anymore:

Table of Contents:

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WWII ANNIVERSARIES AND FORGETFULNESS

2) Morris-Suzuki in East Asia Forum: “Abe’s WWII statement fails history 101”. Required reading on GOJ’s subtle attempts at rewriting East Asian history incorrectly
3) Tangent: Japan Imperial Rescripts declaring war and surrendering: Interesting (and scary) documents in terms of narrative
4) Mainichi: Unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims? Supreme Court decision due Sept. 8

UNHELPFUL PUBLIC POLICIES FOR NJ
5) More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces
6) Asahi: Supreme Court backs stripping children of Japanese nationality if parents lapse in registering their births abroad
7) Japan Times: Debate on anti-discrimination bill begins in Diet; sadly, doomed to failure
8 ) Thoughts: How does a society eliminate bigotry? Through courts and media, for example. Not waiting for it to “happen naturally”. Two case studies.
9) Reader TH: Refused treatment at neurological hospital by setting overly-high hurdles for J-translation services

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JBC 90: “Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more”, Aug 3, 2015

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

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WWII ANNIVERSARIES AND FORGETFULNESS

2) Morris-Suzuki in East Asia Forum: “Abe’s WWII statement fails history 101”. Required reading on GOJ’s subtle attempts at rewriting East Asian history incorrectly

Morris-Suzuki: [S]ome observers failed to notice that Abe had embedded these words in a narrative of Japanese history that was entirely different from the one that underpinned previous prime ministerial statements. That is why his statement is so much longer than theirs…

The story presented in Abe’s statement goes like this. Western colonial expansionism forced Japan to modernise, which it did with remarkable success. Japan’s victory in the Russo–Japanese War gave hope to the colonised peoples of the world. After World War I, there was a move to create a peaceful world order. Japan actively participated, but following the Great Depression, the Western powers created economic blocs based on their colonial empires. This dealt a ‘major blow’ to Japan. Forced into a corner, Japan ‘attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force’. The result was the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, and everything that followed. ‘Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war’.

The narrative of war that Abe presents leads naturally to the lessons that he derives from history. Nations should avoid the use of force to break ‘deadlock’. They should promote free trade so that economic blocs will never again become a cause of war. And they should avoid challenging the international order. The problem with Abe’s new narrative is that it is historically wrong. This is perhaps not surprising, since the committee of experts on whom he relied included only four historians in its 16 members. And its report, running to some 31 pages, contains less than a page about the causes and events of the Asia Pacific War…

Economic historians note that the Japanese empire was the first to take serious steps towards imperial protectionism. The slide into global protectionism had barely started at the time of the Manchurian Incident. Britain did not create its imperial preference system until 1932. The economic blockade that strangled the Japanese economy in 1940–41 was the response to Japan’s invasion of China, not its cause. This is not academic quibbling. These things really matter, and vividly illustrate why historical knowledge is vital to any understanding of contemporary international affairs…

http://www.debito.org/?p=13488

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3) Tangent: Japan Imperial Rescripts declaring war and surrendering: Interesting (and scary) documents in terms of narrative

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII-Pacific, I do a textual analysis of two interesting documents: The Imperial Rescript declaring War and the Imperial Rescript declaring surrender (well, not exactly). They are interesting not only because of the language justifying war and peace, but also how the narratives they promote (that of Japan as Asian liberator and later victim of of “world trends” and “a most cruel bomb”) can still be easily found today in Japan’s domestic WWII narratives.

The point is, the designers of these documents have managed to keep their legacy alive to the present day. The Rescripts don’t resonate as the “What the hell were they thinking back then?” sort of thing when horrible ideas are consigned to the ash-heap of history. In fact, they don’t seem all that out of place at all. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” doesn’t seem to apply here. Which is, quite frankly, scary.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13454

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4) Mainichi: Unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims? Supreme Court decision due Sept. 8

JK: Hi Debito. Here’s something you may not have considered — unequal treatment for foreign and/or foreign-residing A-bomb victims.

From the article below: “But separate from the law, the government sets an upper limit on financial medical aid to foreign atomic bomb sufferers.” And this: “Similar lawsuits were filed with district courts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the two courts rejected the demands from A-bomb sufferers living outside Japan.” Finally: “I want them (Japanese authorities) to treat us the same way as they do to A-bomb sufferers in Japan no matter where we live.”

There’s obviously plenty of fodder here for a blog entry on debito.org, but putting that aside for the moment, there’s something subtle I noticed when reading the article: In its June 2014 ruling, the Osaka High Court said that the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law “has an attribute of state reparations in which the state is required to take responsibility to give aid to A-bomb survivors. It is not reasonable to exclude medical expenses incurred abroad from the list of medical costs to be covered by the state.”

Did you catch it? It’s this: reasonableness / unreasonableness as the basis for legal opinion (i.e. unreasonable exclusion of foreign medical expenses). Does this ring a bell for you? Recall the legal opinion of a one Mr. Keiichi Sakamoto with regard to unreasonable discrimination [when ruling against you in the Otaru Onsens Case].

Now, I am no lawyer, but the problem I see with using the notion of reasonableness / unreasonableness in this way is that it leaves the door open to abuse (e.g. there may be a scenario where excluding medical expenses incurred abroad by foreign A-bomb victims is, in the opinion of the court, reasonable, or discrimination by an onsen refusing to admit NJ *is* reasonable, etc.). [Let’s see what the Supreme Court hands down on September 8.]

http://www.debito.org/?p=13471

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UNHELPFUL PUBLIC POLICIES FOR NJ

5) More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces

According the Japan Times re a new Bill submitted by the LDP to penalize “fraud visa holders”, Immigration and the NPA go beyond merely “resetting your visa clock” and making your visa more temporary due to bureaucratic technicalities. This time they’re going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices:

Consider how you could lose your current visa because you changed jobs from one arbitrary work classification to another? (Or worse yet, because your new employer messes up your paperwork?)

Consider how you could lose your Spouse Visa because, oh, you get a divorce or your spouse DIES! (Yes, people have lost their Spouse Visas because of that; however, until now, you had a grace period, meaning the remaining validity of the visa period to make life adjustments. Not any more, under this new system.)

Consider how vulnerable NJ become to any Japanese employer (or neighbor, ex-lover, or jilted person in a love triangle, for that matter), who can easily report you as a criminal (or at least put you through the horrible experience of criminal investigation in Japan) via anonymous Government “Snitch Sites” empowering the general public to bully NJ residents?

Which means you’re likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy). For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can’t renew your visa while in jail). Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan — simply because of an oversight or subterfuge. Yet more human rights being taken away from NJ residents.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13491

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6) Asahi: Supreme Court backs stripping children of Japanese nationality if parents lapse in registering their births abroad

Asahi: The Supreme Court confirmed that authorities can revoke the Japanese nationality of children born outside Japan whose parents fail to submit the proper paperwork within three months of their babies’ births. The top court’s ruling on March 10, [2015], said Article 12 of the Nationality Law, which defines the procedures to maintain Japanese nationality, does not violate the Constitution.

As a result of the ruling, 15 female and male children born in the Philippines to Japanese fathers married to Filipino mothers have lost their Japanese nationality. They had argued that the article was irrational and discriminatory against Japanese born abroad. […] According to the plaintiffs, their Japanese nationality was revoked because their parents did not know about the provision and failed to submit the documents to Japanese authorities within the designated three-month period.

COMMENT: This is what can happen if you dare give birth outside of the motherland and legally acquire a suspicious second passport. Debito.org has mentioned before how creative judicial interpretations of Japan’s Nationality Law Article 12 are a) systematically stripping children born to mixed-nationality couples of their Japanese citizenship simply for bureaucratic expedience (for if both parents were Japanese nationals, Article 12 did not apply); and b) effectively absolving Japanese men from taking responsibility for sowing their wild oats abroad.

Now according to the ruling reported to below, it looks like Article 12 now does apply even if both parents are Japanese nationals — you have three whole months to get registered, otherwise you clearly aren’t a real Japanese. Except that in the case cited, the exclusionism is again being enforced on mudblood kids simply because their parents slipped up with proper procedure.

It remains unclear if a Japanese mother who gives birth overseas (and would hitherto automatically retain Japanese nationality for her child) and does not register her child would void the Japanese citizenship, but the intent of the interpretation below is basically to prevent dual nationality, not honor jus sanguinis ties under the law. So this looks to be an affirmation and expansion of the 2012 Tokyo District Court case, a reversal of the 2008 Supreme Court case, moreover expanded to both parents regardless of nationality.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13144

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7) Japan Times: Debate on anti-discrimination bill begins in Diet; sadly, doomed to failure

JT: The Diet started deliberations Tuesday on a bill that would ban racial discrimination, including harassment and hate speech, and oblige the government to draw up anti-discrimination programs that report every year to lawmakers.

The bill, submitted to the Upper House by opposition lawmakers, was crafted to cope with a recent rise in discrimination against non-Japanese, in particular ethnic Koreans. However, it does not have punitive provisions and whether it will ever be enacted remains unclear, as lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reportedly remain reluctant to support the proposal….

COMMENT: Well, I’m heartened that somebody in Japanese politics these days still cares about the plight of Japan’s minorities, particularly its Visible Minorities in particular, who will be affected by, as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan put it, “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu). Sadly, it’s already front-loaded for failure…

http://www.debito.org/?p=13447

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8 ) Thoughts: How does a society eliminate bigotry? Through courts and media, for example. Not waiting for it to “happen naturally”. Two case studies.

One of the age-old debates about how to eliminate racial discrimination in Japan is a matter of process. Do you wait for society to soften up to the idea of people who are (and/or look) “foreign” being “Japanese”, or do you legislate and force people to stop being discriminatory? Critics of anti-discrimination activists often recommend that the latter apply the brakes on their social movement and wait for society in general to catch up — as in, “You can’t force people by law to be tolerant.”

Well, yes you can. History has shown that without a law (be it a US Civil Rights Act, a UK Race Relations Act, etc.) and active media campaigns to force and foment tolerance, it doesn’t necessarily occur naturally. As we have seen in the Japanese example, which is approaching the 20th Anniversary of its signing the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination without keeping its promise to pass a law against racial discrimination.

I submit to Debito.org Readers two interesting case studies of how tolerance towards a) same-sex marriage, and b) transgender issues have been promoted in the American example. The speed at which LGBT tolerance and legal equality in many areas of American society has been breathtaking. Why have walls come tumbling down so fast? Because proponents of marriage equality managed to back its opponents into such a corner that any other position they might have taken would have been seen as bigotry. And because proponents of tolerance have managed to achieve positions of power within media to make sure an accurate message gets out. Neither of these things have been true in the Japanese example, because bigotry is still a tenable position in Japan, and NJ are so shut out of Japanese media that they have no voice to counteract it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=13478

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9) Reader TH: Refused treatment at neurological hospital by setting overly-high hurdles for J-translation services

TH:  Hi Dr Debito, I thought you might be interested in my experience of trying to get an appointment at the top hospital for neurology in Japan. Basically they refuse to see me unless I pay for a specialist medical interpreter – they won’t even see me with a third party volunteer hospital interpreter.

I have a problem with a nerve at the base of my spine. It may or may not be caused by an accident I had early last year in which a taxi hit me when I was riding my bicycle. I got a referral to the 国立精神・神経センター from my clinic because my research said they were the best in Japan for neurology.

I called them up to organize an appointment. My Japanese isn’t great so they told me in Japanese that I need a Japanese speaker to call on my behalf to make an appointment. [… As] the appointment time is this Monday at 9:45 am none of my friends could come with me. I searched out a group that organizes a free medical interpretation service telephone line staffed by trained professionals. They were a great help, […but] the hospital refused to allow telephone based interpretation during my appointment. I must have a person come with me. I said ok.

The lady from the volunteer service organized a volunteer to go with me […but then] the hospital said they would not accept a layperson as a volunteer to accompany me. The hospital said that I must engage a professional medical interpreter. I thought this strange – they initially said that I need to come with a friend. A friend would undoubtedly be a layperson as well, so their refusal of a lay volunteer seems contradictory and petulant. At this point it is too much hassle and will become prohibitively expensive to go to this hospital. Is it legal to treat me like this?

http://www.debito.org/?p=13507

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… and finally…

10) Japan Times JBC 90: “Claiming the right to be Japanese AND more”, Aug 3, 2015

JBC: “A Japanese passport? You don’t look Japanese.” I get this all the time. Understandably: Most people don’t expect a Caucasian to have Japanese citizenship.

It’s just a shame they so carelessly articulate their surprise. No matter where I go, a natural curiosity about my background soon turns into vocalized judgment.

“What an unusual name. Where are you from?”
Me: “Japan” (or, “Born in the U.S., lived in Japan,” if I’m feeling chatty).
Their most common response: “But you don’t look Japanese.”

Or Customs and Immigration at any border: “What’s with the Japanese passport?”
“I’m a naturalized Japanese citizen.”
Again, “You don’t look Japanese.” (That’s the milder reaction. In Jamaica, officials took my passport around the office for a laugh. In the U.S., they rendered me to secondary for a few hours of waiting and inquisition until I missed my next flight. Seriously.)

Trying to dodge these questions by saying “It’s a long story” often doesn’t cut it. (American official: “Oh? We’ve got time.”) Having to school everyone about my background on a daily basis gets tiring, and biting my lip through many an intrusive and sometimes humiliating experience leaves psychological “triggers” after a while.

I realized that last month on vacation in Canada, when a bank teller asked for my ID. Passport presented, out it popped: “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.” I snapped back: “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.” […]

http://www.debito.org/?p=13436

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That’s all for September. See you next month, and thanks as always for reading!

Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 6, 2015 ENDS

Reader TH: Refused treatment at neurological hospital by setting overly-high hurdles for J-translation services

mytest

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Hi Blog. Submitted for your approval (cue Twilight Zone theme):

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Date: September 3, 2015
From: TH

Hi Dr Debito, I thought you might be interested in my experience of trying to get an appointment at the top hospital for neurology in Japan. Basically they refuse to see me unless I pay for a specialist medical interpreter – they won’t even see me with a third party volunteer hospital interpreter.

I have a problem with a nerve at the base of my spine. It may or may not be caused by an accident I had early last year in which a taxi hit me when I was riding my bicycle.

I got a referral to the 国立精神・神経センター from my clinic because my research said they were the best in Japan for neurology.

I called them up to organize an appointment. My Japanese isn’t great so they told me in Japanese that I need a Japanese speaker to call on my behalf to make an appointment. I guess this is because they couldn’t get all the info needed to set up the appointment.

I had my Japanese teacher call during a lesson of mine and set up the appointment for me. They told her that I couldn’t come alone because of my language level. If I did come without a Japanese speaker they would cancel my appointment on the spot and not see me. I was surprised at this and as I was put on the spot, I said that’s ok, I’ll get a friend to come with me.

I thought about it and as the appointment time is this Monday at 9:45 am none of my friends could come with me. I searched out a group that organizes a free medical interpretation service telephone line staffed by trained professionals. They were a great help. They have to be engaged from the hospital side so I called the hospital and said in Japanese that I couldn’t get a friend to come so I will need to use this volunteer service.

The lady from the hospital called the volunteer service. The lady from the volunteer service called me back and said that the hospital refused to allow telephone based interpretation during my appointment. I must have a person come with me. I said ok. The lady from the volunteer service organized a volunteer to go with me and then called the hospital to confirm.

The hospital said they would not accept a layperson as a volunteer to accompany me. The hospital said that I must engage a professional medical interpreter. I thought this strange – they initially said that I need to come with a friend. A friend would undoubtedly be a layperson as well, so their refusal of a lay volunteer seems contradictory and petulant.

At this point it is too much hassle and will become prohibitively expensive to go to this hospital.

Is it legal to treat me like this?

Kind regards, TH
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COMMENT: It is NOT illegal in Japan, and that is the problem. We have discussed numerous times on Debito.org about awful NJ hospital treatment (such as saying aloud that your NJ client should die; see here too) and outright NJ refusals (see here, here, and here, for example).  They call into question how well-regarded (or even enforced) the Hippocratic Oath is in Japan.

Moreover, claiming a language barrier as grounds of refusal is a common tactic amongst discriminators in Japan (it adds more plausible deniability than an overt “Japanese Only” sign), and it looks like that is happening in this event too.  But in the case of medical treatment, it is a much more serious issue, as it can be a matter of life and death.

Comments and assistance from Debito.org Readers is welcome below, and TH can respond with more details there as he sees best. Dr. ARUDOU Debito