Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”

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Hi Blog. The resurgence of Japan’s import labor regime has resumed in earnest, reaching a record at least in the Postwar Era. (Remember that during WWII, Japan’s internal colonial population, as in workers imported from its colonies, was very high; people from the Korean peninsula alone in 1945 were more than two million.)  Now as of 2016, the NJ worker total has hit 1 million, according to Reuters below.

There is some fine print this article should have noted. This “record one million” is of workers, not registered residents alone (which is in fact more than twice the number, at 2.23 million as of 2015), since they have dependents (i.e., spouses with non-work visas and children). But within this one million are people who are not technically “workers” (roudousha), but “Trainees” (kenkyuusei or jisshuusei), who aren’t officially protected by Japan labor laws and are exposed to all manner of abuses, including slavery.

So calling them all “workers” is misleading both in terms of terminology and legal status. Especially since, as the article does rightly note, they are making up 20% of the total, or around 200,000 unprotected NJ laborers.  Now that their numbers have shot up by 25% over one year alone, we can expect that 70% of all their employers will likely expose them to labor abuses.

These are not happy statistics, and for the article to lack this degree of nuance (especially since Reuters itself has done marvelous exposes in the past, even calling “Trainee” employers “sweatshops in disguise”) is at this point an institutional memory problem.

Another problem is the article implying that there is any actual attempt to, quote, “open gates to immigrants”.  Immigration (imin) has never been part of Japan’s policy calculations (and I challenge the journalists researching this article to find that exact word in any of the cited policy directives; their citing a construction company manager, in the unlikely event that he actually used the word imin, is still indicative of nothing) — only temporary stopgap laborers who will give their best working lives and then be sent home at the first economic downturn.  As has happened before, most cruelly.

As much as the article might be trying to attract eyeballs by putting a superlative “record number of” in the headline (and once again sneaking in an angle of hope of actual “immigration” happening), the only change that has happened here is that more NJ are being processed by an exploitative system — one that has by design remained relatively unchanged for nearly three decades, and moreover has been expanded to exploit even more.  So many misdirected angles here.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito.

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NATIONAL
Foreign workers in Japan hit the 1 million mark for the first time last autumn: ministry
REUTERS/Japan Times JAN 27, 2017
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/27/national/foreign-workers-japan-hit-1-million-mark-first-time-last-autumn-ministry/

The number of foreign workers in Japan surpassed 1 million for the first time last year, as the labor-strapped country struggles to find enough Japanese workers.

Slightly over a million foreigners from countries such as China and Vietnam were working here as of October, labor ministry data showed Friday.

That was up nearly 20 percent from the previous year and a new record for the fourth straight year.

The figures suggest Japan is increasingly turning to overseas workers to plug its labor shortages despite its reluctance to accept them.

The country is facing its worst labor crunch since 1991 amid a shrinking and aging population, which has prompted calls from the International Monetary Fund for it to accept more overseas workers to boost economic growth.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the country should put more Japanese women and the elderly to work first before accepting immigrants, but policymakers are exploring ways to bring in more foreign workers without calling it “immigration.”

In December, the government expanded the scope of a system for accepting trainee workers from developing countries, while also creating a new visa status for nurses and domestic helpers.

It also aims to court highly skilled workers from overseas, such as academic researchers, by easing the path to permanent residency.

The labor shortage is especially severe in the construction sector, where demand has spiked ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and for rebuilding following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Over 41,000 laborers from abroad powered the construction industry as of last October, up from around 29,000 the previous year.

In November, there were over eight times as many job offers for putting together steel construction frames as there were workers, separate government data showed.

“We have on-site managers through our company, but the people who actually do the work, that’s where we lack skilled labor,” said a manager at a major construction company. “That’s where we have to find the people, and why we are trying to open gates to immigrants.”

Workers from China made up over 30 percent of the foreign labor force, rising 6.9 percent from the previous year.

Vietnamese workers were in second place, accounting for around 16 percent of the total foreign workers but up over 50 percent compared to the previous year.

A Reuters investigation last year showed how asylum seekers, some of whom are banned from working, are working on public works projects amid a shortage of Japanese construction workers.

The trainee system, whose aim is to train foreign workers so they can bring skills back to their home country, is often used by labor-strapped companies to secure workers. The program has been long dogged by cases of labor abuse including illegal overtime and unpaid wages, prompting criticism from Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department.

Nearly 20 percent of foreign workers were trainees as of last October, labor ministry data showed, rising by over 25 percent from the previous year.
ENDS

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

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Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!

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Hi Blog.  We have a really weird conceit going on in the foreign press (see Washington Post and BBC below) regarding sumo wrestler Kisenosato’s rise to yokozuna, the highest rank.  (Congratulations, and well done, by the way.)  They are portraying it as “Japan’s first sumo champion of 19 years.”

Well, guess what, guys.  Wrong.  Japan has had other sumo champions in the 19 years, as you mention.  Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.  There as also (oddly disgraced and scapegoatedAsashoryu as well.  Yes, they were born in Mongolia.  But guess what.  Who cares?

If you do care, does that mean you are subscribing to the racist theory (widely held in Japan, anyway, dating from the days of Akebono and Musashimaru) that because they aren’t Japanese, they don’t count as “real” sumo champions?  (Both Akebono and Musashimaru are naturalized Japanese, by the way, and were when they were yokozuna less than 19 years ago.  How ignorant of you not to mention that.)

Or are you subscribing to the tenet, as the Sumo Association does, that even naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers don’t count as Japanese?

Or are you subscribing to the tenets, as expressed by racist fans below, that sumo has somehow “lost something” because foreign-born wrestlers rose to the top?  Is sumo an ethno-sport?  The Sumo Association tried to make it into into an Olympic event, by the way.  And would that mean if Japanese do not medal, as happens in Japan-originated events such as Judo, that the event has “lost something”?

Foreign reporters, kindly don’t racialize the sport with these types of headlines and reports.  Herald the athletes for their physical prowess regardless of origin.  Because you know better.  Articles like these wouldn’t fly if you were writing about a sport in your home country.  Imagine England claiming (and you reporting as such) that soccer has no real champion every time it doesn’t win a World Cup!  Don’t succumb to a racist narrative just because it comes from Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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After 19 long years, Japan has a grand champion of sumo once more
By Anna Fifield. The Washington Post, January 25, 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-19-long-years-japan-has-a-grand-champion-of-sumo-once-more/2017/01/25/

TOKYO — After decades of scandals and humiliation at the hands of Mongolian wrestlers, sumo finally has Japanese grand champion again.

Kisenosato, a 30-year-old, 385-pound wrestler, was promoted Wednesday to the rank of yokozuna, the first time a Japanese competitor has been elevated to the highest tier in sumo in 19 years.

“The position of yokozuna is proof of much hard work and he’ll need to continue to work hard and protect the position like hell,” Nobuyoshi Hakkaku, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, told reporters when announcing the promotion.

Japan’s national sport has been in decline in recent years, partly the result of a generational shift towards sports like baseball, partly because of the health issues associated with the heft needed to wrestle, and partly because of the increasing dominance of foreigners.

All three of the current yokozuna, whose ranks Kisenosato now joins, come from Mongolia. Competitors from Brazil, Russia, China and even Hawaii have also been doing well in past years.

So Kisenosato electrified Japan at the weekend when he won the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, recording 14 wins and only one loss.

Usually, a wrestler is promoted to yokozuna after winning two tournaments, but the Yokozuna Deliberation Council Monday recommended that Kisenosato be elevated to the top rank after only one victory.

The Japan Sumo Association concurred Wednesday, making Kisenosato the first Japanese wrestler to be promoted to grand champion since Wakanohana in 1998.

“Kisenosato to end long drought of Japan-born yokozuna,” a headline in the Asahi newspaper declared. “Hopes are rising that this new Japanese yokozuna will reinvigorate the world of sumo,” a writer said in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Kisenosato had something of a reputation for fragility, failing to come through high-pressure matches on many occasions. But at the tournament on Sunday, something felt different, he said.

“I was not excessively tense and was able to fight while keeping my calm,” he told Japanese reporters. “In addition to my own power, I felt that some different power was working.”

Indeed, Kisenosato has set another record: It took him 89 rounds of tournaments to become yokozuna, the slowest record in modern sumo history. And his victory Sunday came only after two Mongolian yokozuna pulled out of the tournament.

Some worry that Kisenosato has been promoted too quickly or that rules were bent to allow him to reach grand champion status.

“I like Kisenosato. Of course I want to see a Japanese yokozuna! And I believe his stable results in the past six tournaments were wonderful,” Ebizo, a renowned and outspoken kabuki actor, wrote on his blog this week. “But he became yokozuna with only one tournament win. I wonder if this could be an attempt to produce a Japanese yokozuna after such a long time.”

Yuki Oda contributed to this report.

ENDS

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

Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years
BBC, 25 January 2017, courtesy of JDG
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38721106

Japan has formally named its first home-grown sumo grand champion in almost two decades, in a boost to the traditional wrestling sport.

Kisenosato, 30, was promoted to the top-most yokozuna rank after his win in the first tournament of the year.

He is the first Japanese-born wrestler to make it since Wakanohana in 1998. Five wrestlers from American Samoa and Mongolia have made it in the interim.

Foreign wrestlers have come to dominate sumo, amid a lack of local recruits.

Kisenosato, who comes from Ibaraki to the north of Tokyo and weighs 178kg (392 pounds), has been an ozeki – the second-highest rank – since 2012.

After being runner-up on multiple occasions, he finally clinched his first tournament victory – and thereby his promotion to yokozuna – in the first competition of 2017.

“I accept with all humility,” Kisenosato said in a press conference after the Japan Sumo Association formally approved him.

“I will devote myself to the role and try not to disgrace the title of yokozuna.”

What is sumo?
PHOTO: Wakanohana (R) competes against Akebono (L) at the Sumo Basho in Vancouver (file image)Image copyrightAFP
PHOTO: Wakanohana (R), seen here fighting Hawaiian Akebono, was the last Japanese wrestler to be promoted to yokozuna

Japan’s much-loved traditional sport dates back hundreds of years.

Two wrestlers face off in an elevated circular ring and try to push each other to the ground or out of the ring.

There are six tournaments each year in which each wrestler fights 15 bouts.

Wrestlers, who traditionally go by one fighting name, are ranked and the ultimate goal is to become a yokozuna.

Many Japanese fans will be pleased to see a local wrestler back at the top of a sport regarded as a cultural icon.

As yokuzuna, Kisenosato, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara, joins three other wrestlers in sumo’s ultimate rank – Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu.

The trio all come from Mongolia, following a path forged by sumo bad-boy Asashoryu, who was Mongolia’s first yokozuna in 2003.

The last Japanese-born wrestlers to reach the top were brothers Takanohana and Wakanohana, who made it to yokozuna in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

In recent years, sumo has been hit by falling numbers of Japanese recruits, partly because it is seen as a tough, highly regimented life.

Young sumo wrestlers train in tightly-knit “stables” where they eat, sleep and practise together and are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in the belief that it will toughen them up.

In 2009, a leading coach was jailed for six years for ordering wrestlers to beat a young trainee who later died, in a case that shocked the nation.

Those at the top of the sport are also expected to be role models, showing honour and humility – and can be criticised if they get it wrong.

Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu led the sport for many years, but sumo elders were troubled by some of his behaviour

Sumo must also compete with the rising popularity of football and baseball, which have vibrant leagues that draw crowds of young Japanese fans.

But the sport is attractive to wrestlers from other nations, who can earn a good living. Wrestlers have come from Estonia, Bulgaria, Georgia, China, Hawaii and Egypt, as well as Mongolia and American Samoa.

As a child, Kisenosato was a pitcher in his school’s baseball club before he chose to train as a wrestler at a stable in Tokyo.

He made his debut in 2002 and, reported Japan’s Mainichi newspaper, the 73 tournaments he took to become a yokozuna are the most by any wrestler since 1926.

Speaking to reporters after the tournament victory on Monday that sealed his elevation, Kisenosato said he was pleased to be holding the Emperor’s Cup trophy at last.

“I’ve finally got my hands on it and the sense of pleasure hasn’t changed,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words but it has a nice weight to it.”

ENDS

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

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Book “Embedded Racism”, acclaimed as “important, courageous and challenging”, now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code LEX30AUTH16

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Hi Blog. My book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination“, acclaimed by prominent Japan Scholar Tessa Morris-Suzuki as “important, courageous and challenging“, by the Pacific Affairs as “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan“, and by the Japan Studies Association of Canada as “an important contribution to geography, cultural and area studies“, has been discounted 30% for a limited time to $34.99 in paperback and Kindle if bought through my publisher (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield) directly.

Go to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513906/Embedded-Racism-Japan’s-Visible-Minorities-and-Racial-Discrimination and use promo code LEX30AUTH16. (Japan residents have reported getting the book in about a week for $40 including quick shipping.)

More information and reviews on the book at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html.

Download a book flyer and order form at http://www.debito.org/EmbeddedRacismPaperbackflyer.pdf

More than 100 of the world’s major research libraries (including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia…) have in its first year of publication made “Embedded Racism” part of their collections (according to WorldCat).  Add it to yours!

Thanks very much as always for reading! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”

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Hi Blog.  Following the “foreign driver” stickers put on cars to stigmatize the NJ tourists (and NJ residents renting cars) in Okinawa and Hokkaido, now we have the Fukuoka Prefectural Police taking it upon themselves to associate bad driving with foreigners.  Based upon one cited accident (Japanese drivers, after all, never have accidents, right?), the police put up a multilingual sign to caution everyone, and apparently teach NJ how to drive all over again.  How presumptuous.  Let’s see what submitter XY has to say:

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

Date: August 22, 2016
From: XY

Hi Dr. Debito,
I am a long-time reader – and very occasional commenter – on your blog. However, this Obon I encountered a sign at a rental car office at Fukuoka Airport that was hard to ignore. The sign is attached.

The multilingual translations of everything BUT the warning up top [which specifically mentions “foreign tourists driving rental cars” (gaikokujin ryokousha no unten suru renta-ka-)] seem quite disengenuous to me, almost as if the intention of the author was to create a literal honne/tatemae on the page:

Tatemae: we want everyone to be safe on the road so we have put these reminders out for everyone’s good, even our foreign guests.

Honne: beware, there are dangerous foreigners on the roads of Kyushu. We are doing our omotenashi to remind them of the “common sense” of driving as you can see below, but you need to be extra alert because there is only so much we can do to control their foreign ways of driving

Not the best vibe to be giving off exactly 4 years before the Tokyo Olympics if you ask me.

By the way, a very cursory web search brought up this article, which I am pretty sure reports on the same accident that the poster describes:
http://qbiz.jp/sp/article/84684/1/

I cannot read to the end without an account, but my initial thoughts are:

– There are assumptions galore. The article mentions police making a poster to warn people of the “prohibited” act of dozing off behind the wheel, imploring them to take rests, etc. Incredibly, it implies that these practices are not common sense for people who are not experienced driving in Japan. This argument might hold a sliver of credibility if there was testimony from the driver proving that one of these factors was a cause of his accident. But the article gives no such proof.

– The article offers many statistics to show that the number of foreigners renting cars has indeed increased. Unfortunately, it does not bother to provide statistics proving that this has resulted in an increase in accidents (above and beyond the normal expected increase with more drivers on the road). Even if they did provide evidence showing an increase in accidents, they would still need to go a step further to show how this is directly related to foreign drivers and not something else (the rapid aging of licensed Japanese drivers, perhaps??).

When you take away the need to consider your foreign audience — this article being designed for domestic consumption only — it seems to me that this is another classic case of the Japanese authorities using foreigners as a punching bag for societal angst.

Cheers, XY

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

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JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets

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Hi Blog.  I’ve heard that people are worried I’m getting more easygoing in my old age (just turned 52), and that I’m settling for less (cheering on the baby steps) while not spading the spades enough.  Well, in my defense, I’m generally doing more big-picture stuff these days — signs of the times that indicate future trends and policy directions.  But this time, let’s do some Classic Debito, where I’m taking an isolated incident (such as a single article by a journalist lacking in self-awareness) and parse the text to find hidden subtextual meanings.  I’d generally do this for government documents (since they more likely express official attitudes of a committee), but let’s have fun with the article below.  Maybe you will see that I haven’t lost the verve, and that even Bowie could rock well into his fifties.  Here goes.  Article follows, with my comments in nonboldface:

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NATIONAL
Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants
BY ANNA MASUI, KYODO NEWS/JAPAN TIMES
JAN 17, 2017, courtesy of JDG
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/17/national/japans-shared-dwellings-evolving-meet-diverse-needs-tenants/

PHOTO: Residents dine together at a Tokyo share house run by Borderless Japan, which ensures an equal number of Japanese and non-Japanese tenants. | KYODO

The face of share house living is changing in Japan as operators are stepping up efforts to meet a variety of needs among residents.

COMMENT:  From the opening line, we’re set up to see that we’re diversifying qualifications to rent an apartment, which is very welcome given how strict some landlords in Japan can be.  Fine, but… look how it’s contextualized in the very next sentence.

A two-story share house in a residential area in the western Tokyo city of Chofu allows residents to keep pets.

COMMENT:  Oh, pets.  Okay, so this is an article about allowing pets in with the paying humans?  The next paragraphs remain in that groove:

In late November, residents gathered in the 23-sq.-meter living area to share nabe hot pot fare, with their small pet dogs playing around them.

The home costs much less than other share houses for residents with pets, said Natsumi Yamada, 37, who moved there with her dog in March.

Yurina Wakatsuki, 25, began to live in the house in July to “interact with someone else because I used to only commute between my home and company.”

“I now enjoy going to a nearby cafe with my dog,” she said.

COMMENT:  Okay, but wait for the pivot:

The house is owned by House-Zoo, which was founded in 2016. The Tokyo-based company currently operates 12 share houses in the capital and Saitama Prefecture, allowing residents to keep up to two small pets, including dogs, cats, birds and rabbits, each.

COMMENT:  “House-Zoo”, eh?  So we’re talking about inter-species relationships, eh? Go on.

While share houses that permit residents to keep pets usually charge lease deposits equivalent to several months’ rent, House-Zoo demands a deposit of only ¥30,000. Some 70 people have lived in its share houses.

“It is costly to live in cities with pets,” said Muneki Tanaka, president of the company. “Share houses can lower costs and we will continue to provide environments where people can live with animals around them.”

COMMENT:  So far, so good.  About half the article has contextualized Japanese living with their pets.  But suddenly, the pivot:

Borderless Japan Corp. in Tokyo operates share houses where Japanese and foreign nationals live roughly on a 50-50 basis, accepting residents between 18 and 35 years of age.

COMMENT:  Huh?  We’ve gone from living with dogs and other pets to living with foreigners?  (And note the age cap.)

The operation began in 2008 as a spinoff from support services for foreign nationals unable to lease rooms partly due to the absence of guarantors.

COMMENT:  And also partly due to the issue of racist landlords simply unwilling to rent to a foreigner.  Because it’s not illegal to refuse accommodations (or entry in general) to foreigners on the basis of nationality or race in Japan.  According to the Asahi, 42% of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward alone encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52% of that was in finding apartments.  Racism, not a lack of guarantor, is generally the first slammed door a newcomer NJ faces.  How nice of this to be glossed over in the article.

The company has 70 “borderless houses” in Tokyo, Saitama, Osaka and Kyoto, having some 5,000 residents. People from the United States, France, Sweden and other Western countries account for a large portion of the residents.

COMMENT:  This should not be news.  “Borderless” houses should be the norm.  The fact that they are not the norm should be one focus of this article.

Despite residents keeping the houses in order by rotating cleaning duties, problems occasionally occur due to differences in living practices and cultures.

COMMENT:  Ah yes, another box checked off on my “Japanese media BINGO card”:  No article or discussion on foreigners in Japan (including even those on business, corporate safety, immigration, and of course garbage sorting) is complete without mentioning intrinsic and allegedly inevitable J/NJ problems due to “cultural differences”.  Not because certain people as individuals are untidy or aren’t used to their mommies not doing their laundry for them…

Ah the joys of dorm life.  Except in many societies, dorm residents don’t put conflicts down to “culture”, and just accept that some individuals are dicks.

Nevertheless, non-Japanese residents said they feel welcome thanks to the presence of Japanese friends, while Japanese welcome opportunities to learn differences in values and to improve their foreign language ability.

COMMENT:  As written that sounds like quite a nice trade off.  NJ get put to work enlightening them about their “differences” and teaching them gaikokugo, while Japanese just honor them with their presence.  Sounds like a better deal for the Japanese resident.

Meanwhile, real estate company Oakhouse manages Social Residence share houses, promoting interaction among residents who offer skills and information in their specialty to other residents through regular events such as cooking lessons.

Oakhouse now owns 17 share houses in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, some of which are equipped with studios for yoga, dance and music.

COMMENT:  Sounds like a lot of work just to be a resident.  Remember the age cap of 18-35 mentioned above?  Well, this is clearly not a place where people, especially middle-aged professionals, can just live and be left alone.  Come back home from a hard day’s work, and there’s still more work to be done?

Well, you might say, if you don’t like communal living, then don’t choose to live there.  But remember, Japanese have a lot more choice.  NJ don’t, in Japan.  So it sounds like NJ are being forced to be social in order to live there.  Kinda like camp counselors, in charge of keeping the camp kids entertained, except without the power to set the camp agenda.

“I have come to enjoy communal life through my experience of traveling abroad,” said Ikuya Yoshizawa, 23, who lives in Oakhouse’s residence in Kodaira, Tokyo.

“Events are enjoyable and opportunities to learn what I don’t know are stimulating,” he added. ENDS

COMMENT:  I wonder how a NJ resident feels.  Oh, we didn’t get a quote from them. The only residents who count, by the grace of their presence, are the Japanese who need to be stimulated.  An article written by a J reporter for a J audience, clearly, with NJ being treated as exotic animals being studied in their imported-native habitat.

CONCLUSION:  While I think we can assume that these places are run by well-meaning people just trying to put a roof over people’s heads, this article is written without much self-awareness.  Especially by couching NJ-friendly housing in the context of pet-friendly housing (“House-Zoo” is a dead giveaway), I think we can infer that the subconscious attitude of the reporter is that foreigners are entertainers there for the pleasure of the Japanese residents.  Like a pet cat or a dog.

But that’s, again, indicative of a bigger-picture trend.  Consider all the tokenism found in Japanese companies (especially during the Kokusaika Era, which I experienced first-hand) in hiring young, genki gaijin to “internationalize” their company, and then putting them to work in temporary, trite, and expendable jobs so that they could give the company smiles but never get promoted to a post with any power.

All this, and the reporter ignoring the fact that racist landlords (not the lack of a guarantor) are the primary reason why “no pets, no foreigners” apartments exist.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

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Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”

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Book Review in Pacific Affairs Journal
http://www.pacificaffairs.ubc.ca/book-reviews/book-reviews-2/forthcoming-book-reviews/ (page down)

EMBEDDED RACISM: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination. By Debito Arudou. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015. xxvi, 349 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$110.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4985-1390-6.

Arudou’s book is a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan. It comes on the heels of both the Japanese government’s 2014 official claim that an anti-racial discrimination law is not necessary (third combined report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD]), and recent developments in Japan that have politicized the issues of dual nationality and hate speech, and even the Miss Universe Japan pageant.

Arudou draws on a quarter-century of research involving personal interviews, action research, and cataloguing, to highlight micro-level observations that illuminate the broader macro-level structural workings of the racialized dimensions of what it means to be “Japanese” in Japan. The contribution of this book is not only in its richness of information, but also in Arudou’s focus on a paradoxical blind spot in both the quotidian status quo understandings of and academic discourses on racialized social dynamics in Japan: the invisibility of visible minorities. Borrowing from Critical Race Theory (CRT), and applying its analytical paradigms present in Whiteness Studies to the case of Japan, Arudou argues that “the same dynamics can be seen in the Japanese example, by substituting ‘White’ with ‘Japanese’” (322-323). He introduces the concept of embedded racism to describe the deeply internalized understandings of “Japaneseness” that structurally permeate the psyche and sociolegal elements of Japanese society, resulting in systemic discriminatory treatments of individuals based on visible differences.

Instead of defining the Self/Other binary in oft-conceptualized terms of citizenship, he uses an original Wajin/non-Wajin heuristic. By original Wajin, he refers to visually identifiable “Japanese” who are members of Japan’s dominant and privileged majority, and for non-Wajin he refers to both invisible (e.g., ethnic minorities who can pass as “Japanese”) and visible (Gaijin, foreigners and naturalized Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese”) minorities who are not members of Japan’s dominant and privileged majority. He uses this heuristic to parse out the nuanced sociolegal-structural logics that differentiate between not only citizens and non-citizens, but also non-citizens who can phenotypically pass as “Japanese” and citizens who cannot, in which the former is often given preferential sociolegal treatment, and the latter is often subject to overt racial discrimination.

More specifically, the book opens with a theoretical primer on race and the universal processes of racialization and nation-state formation. The author then critiques how studies on Japan often suffer from flawed conceptualizations of foreignness, viewing it as a function of either ethnic differences within the Asian-phenotype community or legal membership status, thereby overlooking overt discrimination against visible minorities that are racial in nature.

The first chapter contextualizes racial discrimination in Japan and explicates Arudou’s usage of the concept of visible minority and his theory of embedded racism in the context of Japan. The second chapter then addresses the historical roots of extant racialized understandings of “Japaneseness” by tracing national self-image narratives that Arudou argues undergird the dynamics of present-day treatments of foreigners in Japan. The next chapter surveys approximately 470 cases of establishments that have engaged in racialized refusals of entry and services and three civil court lawsuits, to demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is determined by racialized paradigms such as physical appearances (37–38).

In chapter 4, Arudou explains how Japanese nationality laws, family and resident registries, and policing regulations/practices constitute the legal underpinnings of the racialized “Japanese” identity, and asserts that Japan’s legal definition of a “Japanese citizen” is closely intertwined with “Japanese bloodlines” (11). The following chapter shifts the focus to how “Japaneseness” is enforced through exclusionary education laws, visa (residence status) regimes, and racial profiling in security policing. This chapter is supplemented with chapter 6, which highlights differential judicial treatments of those who are seen as “Japanese,” and those who are not. Chapter 7 details how media representations of “foreigners” and “Japanese” as well as the criminalization of “foreigners” popularize the racialized narratives of “Japaneseness” established by the processes discussed in chapters 4 to 6.

Chapter 8 shifts gears as Arudou turns his attention to domestic civil society and international criticisms of Japan’s embedded racism, and discusses the government’s passive reactions. Arudou traces the correspondence between the government and the (CERD) before and during its first two CERD report reviews in 2001 and 2010 (but not the most recent CERD review in 2014). Chapter 9 then takes two binaries that can be used to understand how sociolegal distinctions of “Japaneseness” are often made—by nationality (citizen/non-citizen) and by visual identification (Wajin/Gaijin)—and superimposes them to form a heuristic matrix of eleven categories of “Japanese” and “foreigner.” The author thus drives his point across that social privilege and power in Japan are drawn along lines that straddle conceptual understandings of and assumptions about both legal and phenotypical memberships. The book concludes with a final chapter on the implications of embedded racism for Japan’s future as an ageing society, and argues that Japan’s demographic predicament could be mitigated if Japan can begin eliminating its racism to create a more inclusive society for all.

The book does not touch on the voices and local/community advocacy initiatives among and on behalf of visible minorities, and stops short of systematically testing how the proposed heuristic matrix and its combinations of characteristics empirically lead to differential treatment. However, it does cover a lot of ground, and would be of interest to a wide audience, from the casual reader interested in learning about the racial dynamics in Japan, to researchers with area studies interests in Japan and/or substantive field interests in international migration, ethnic and race studies, citizenship and human rights, and advocacy politics at both the domestic and international levels. Arudou argues that Japan’s passive stance to addressing racial discrimination is “the canary in the coal mine” regarding its openness to “outsiders” (xxiii), and by starting this conversation, he addresses “the elephant in the room” that needs to be reckoned with for Japan to navigate its way through its impending demographic challenges.

— Ralph Ittonen Hosoki, University of California, Irvine, USA

Ends


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Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice write-up about a group called the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which is doing a very important thing:  Helping NJ help each other.  Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan, even though, however well-intentioned Wajin are, many if not most have little idea what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan, or understand practically what it’s like to become a member of society when they always have been one.  Now this group is having longer-term NJ help shorter-term NJ learn the ropes.  It’s far better than the alternative frequently found in many NJ tribes, particularly the elite ones that enjoy Wajin Privilege, of oldcomers cutting newbies no slack — because apparently nobody ever cut the oldcomers any.  Fine, but that’s not helpful at all.  Let’s hope groups like the APFS break that vicious circle, and enable NJ to control their own agenda and thus their own lives in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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

Group drawing on long-term foreign residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
by Tomohiro Osaki, Staff Writer
The Japan Times, Jan 10, 2017 (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/

Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways, but they are by no means powerless nor on their own, says Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS).

In a recently launched program series, the organization is nurturing a new group of volunteers it calls “foreign community leaders” who will assist fellow non-Japanese trying to navigate life amid a different and foreign culture.

“Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan,” says Jotaro Kato, the head of APFS. “I want people to know that there are foreigners out there who can speak perfect Japanese” and who can provide guidance if needed.

Targeting long-term foreign residents with a high level of proficiency in the Japanese language, the 30-year-old organization is spearheading the project to groom such veterans so they can help newcomers overcome a variety of everyday obstacles, such as dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.

For its part, APFS has organized a series of lectures and workshops that are currently taking place every other Saturday in a community hall in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, in which experts from many different fields discuss topics important to foreign residents. The issues covered include visa problems, labor laws, the welfare system and translation problems. […]

Particularly thought-provoking, she said, was a lecture on Japanese school education, which taught the class that the government essentially discriminates against foreign pupils by not making their enrollment compulsory, but merely “allowing” them to go to public school on a voluntary basis.

“This is the root of many problems, I think,” she said.

Further details are available at http://www.apfs.jp/

Full JT article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/
========================

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Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Print version at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/

Version with links to sources follows

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10)  Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years

We’ve named and shamed this before (“Downloadable Discrimination,” Zeit Gist, March 30, 2004). From Feb. 16, 2004, Japan’s Immigration Bureau had websites where anyone could anonymously rat on foreigners for any reason whatsoever — including (as a preset option) the xenophobic “repugnance and anxiety” (ken-o fuan). This occasioned calls for abolition from rights groups, including Amnesty International, and government leaders. As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations pointed out in 2005, “The program has ordinary citizens essentially spying on people suspected of being illegal aliens, which serves only to advance prejudice and discrimination toward foreigners.”

Yet Japan’s police “see no evil” when it suits them. According to the Asahi in 2015, the sites were being inundated with hate emails “slandering” Japan’s Zainichi generational Korean community. Immigration suddenly realized that false leads from trolls were a waste of time. Yep, we told you so more than a decade ago. Glad it sunk in.

9 Priyanka Yoshikawa wins Miss World Japan

This year showed us that 2015 was not a fluke. In 2015, multiethnic American-Japanese Ariana Miyamoto won the Miss Universe Japan competition as Japan’s first biracial national beauty queen. In 2016, Indian-Japanese Priyanka Yoshikawa was elected to represent Japan despite protests about whether she is a “real” Japanese. Although these events are cheer-worthy because they demonstrate that “Japaneseness” is not purely a matter of looks, they’re more important because the women’s stories of being “different” have highlighted their struggles for acceptance. When the domestic media bothers to report them, that is.

The discussion has mostly been a shallow one about “looks.” Sadly, this is par for the course. As I said to ABC NewsRadio Australia, “Why do we keep doing these 19th-century rituals? Demeaning women by putting them on a stage, making them do debasing things, and then saying, ‘This is a standard of beauty that is or is not Japanese?’ How about we just call it what it is: incitement to superficial judgment of people not as individuals but by physical appearance?” Progress made, yes, but the real progress will be when beauty pageants stop entirely.

8 Japan’s multiethnic citizens score at 2016 Olympics

Similarly, Japan’s athletes have long been scrutinized for their “foreignness.” If they are “half” or even naturalized, their “foreignness” becomes a factor no matter what.

If they do badly, “It’s the foreigners’ fault.” As seen when Japan’s men’s rugby team lost in 2011 and the nation’s rugby union criticized coach John Kirwan for using “too many foreign players” (including naturalized former NJ). The team was then ethnically cleansed. When multiethnic Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed underperformed in 2014, Tokyo 2020 Olympics Chair Yoshiro Mori essentially labeled them leftovers, bashing them (mistakenly) as “naturalized citizens” who couldn’t make the U.S. Team.

But if they do well, they get celebrated. Remember October 2015, when Brave Blossoms, the men’s rugby team, scored an upset over South Africa, and their players’ enhanced physical strength was attributed to their multiethnicity? Suddenly the fact that many players didn’t “look Japanese” (11 were even born outside Japan) was no problem.

Same when Japanese athletes did well in Rio last year. Prominent performances by multiethnic Japanese, including Mashu Baker (Gold in Judo); members of Japan’s Rugby Sevens (the men’s team came in fourth); other members of Japan’s soccer, basketball and athletics teams; and most prominently, runner Asuka Cambridge (who missed out on Gold only to Usain Bolt) made it clear that hybrid Japanese help Japan in sports. If only people would stop putting up the extra hurdle of attributing success or failure to race.

7 Renho Murata takes helm of the Democratic Party

After years of tired leftist politics with stale or uninspiring leaders, last September the main opposition Democratic Party made young and dynamic Taiwanese-Japanese politician Renho Murata its leader. It was the first time a multiethnic Japanese has ever helmed a major party, and immediately there were full-throated doubts about her loyalties. Media and politicos brought up Renho’s alleged ties to untrustworthy China (even though Taiwan and China are different countries; even the Ministry of Justice said that Taiwanese in Japan are not under PRC law), or that she had technically naturalized (Renho was born before Japanese citizenship could legally pass through her mother) but had not renounced her dual citizenship, which wasn’t an issue when she was a Cabinet member, nor when former Peruvian President and dual citizen Alberto Fujimori ran for a Diet seat in 2007 (Zeit Gist, May 5, 2009).

Whatever. Renho has proven herself a charismatic leader with an acerbic wit, ready to ask difficult and pointed questions of decision makers. She famously did so in 2009, during deliberations to fund the “world’s most powerful computer,’ when she asked, “What’s wrong with being number two?” The project still passed, but demanding potential boondoggles justify themselves is an important job. The fact that Renho is not cowed by tough questions herself is good for a country, which with 680,000 Japanese dual citizens deserves fresh unfettered talent with international backgrounds.

6 Abubakar Awudu Suraj case loses once and for all

This has made the JBC annual Top 10 several times, because it’s a test case of accountability when NJ die in official custody. In 2010, Ghanaian visa overstayer Abubakar Awudu Suraj was so “brutally” (according to this newspaper) restrained during deportation that he was asphyxiated. Suraj’s widow, unsuccessfully seeking justice through Japan’s criminal justice system, won civil damages from the Immigration Bureau in a 2014 Tokyo District Court decision. However, last January, the Tokyo High Court overturned this, deciding that the lethal level of physical force was “not illegal” — it was even “necessary” — and concluded that the authorities were “not culpable.” Suraj’s widow took it to the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected last November.

Conclusion: Life is cheap in Japan’s Immigration detention systems (Reuters last year reported more NJ deaths in custody due to official negligence). And now our judiciary has spoken: If NJ suffer from a lethal level of force — sorry, are killed by police — nobody is responsible.

5 2016 Upper house elections seal Shinzo Abe’s mandate

Past JBC columns on Japan’s right-wing swing anticipated that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would capitalize on the left’s disarray and take Japan’s imagined community back to an imagined past. Sure enough, winning the Upper House elections last July and solidifying a majority in both houses of Parliament, he accomplished this hat trick. Since then, Abe’s popular support, according to the Asahi, remains at near record-highs (here and here). There’s even talk of changing the rules so he can be PM beyond his mandated five-year term.

That’s it then, really. Everything we feared his administration would do since 2012 is all coming to pass: the dismissing of universal human rights as a “Western concept,” the muzzling and intimidation of the press under a vague state secrets act, the deliberate destabilization of East Asia over petty territorial disputes, the enfranchising of historical denialism through a far-right cabal of elites, the emboldening of domestic xenophobia to accomplish remilitarization, the resurgence of enforced patriotism in Japan’s education system, the further exploitation of foreign workers under an expanded “trainee” program, and the forthcoming fundamental abrogation of Japan’s “Peace Constitution.”

Making Japan “great” again, similar to what’s happening in the United States under President-elect Donald Trump, has been going on for the past four years. With no signs of it abating.

4 Next generation of “Great Gaijin Massacres” loom

In April 2013, Japan’s Labor Contracts Law was amended to state that companies, after five years of continuous contract renewals, must hire their temporary workers as “regular employees” (seishain). Meant to stop employers from hiring people perpetually on insecure contract jobs (“insecure” because employees are easily fired by contract nonrenewal), it is having the opposite effect: Companies are inserting five-year caps in contracts to avoid hiring people for real. Last November, The Japan Times reported on the “Tohoku University job massacre,” where 3,200 contract workers are slated to be fired en masse in 2017.

JBC sees this as yet another “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” scenario (ZG, July 8, 2008). This happened in Japanese academia for generations: Known as “Academic Apartheid,” foreign full-time scholars received perpetual contract employment while Japanese full-time scholars received permanent uncontracted tenure from day one. This unequal status resulted in the “Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-4, where the Ministry of Education (MOE) told National and Public Universities not to renew the contracts of foreigners over the age of 35 as a cost-cutting measure. Then from 1997, the MOE encouraged contract employment be expanded to Japanese full-time educators. From 2018, it will be expanded to the nonacademic private sector. It’s a classic case of Martin Niemoller’s “First they came …” poem: Denying equal rights to part of the population eventually got normalized and applied to everyone.

3 The government surveys NJ discrimination

Japan has been suddenly cognizant of “foreigner discrimination” this year. Not “racial discrimination,” of course, but baby steps. The Asahi kicked things off in January by reporting that 42 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward encountered some form of discrimination, and nearly 52 percent of that was in finding apartments. Glad to have the stats, albeit localized.

Then the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Human Rights conducted its first-ever nationwide survey of discrimination toward longer-term NJ residents by mailing them a detailed multilingual survey (available at www.debito.org/?p=14298), asking questions specifically about unequal treatment in housing, employment, education, social situations, etc. It even mentioned the establishment of “laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination against foreigners” (not a law against discrimination by race, natch).

Although this survey is well-intentioned, it still has two big blind spots: It depicted discrimination as 1) due to extranationality, not physical appearance, and 2) done by Japanese people, not the government through systemic racism embedded in Japan’s laws and systems (see my book “Embedded Racism” for more). As such, the survey won’t resolve the root problems fundamental to Japan’s very identity as an ethnostate.

2 Blowback involving NJ tourism and labor

Japan’s oft-touted sense of “selfless hospitality” (omotenashi) is an odd thing. We are seeing designated “foreigner taxis” at Kyoto Station (with a segregated stop), “foreign driver” stickers on Hokkaido and Okinawa rental cars stigmatizing NJ tourists (and NJ residents touring), and media grumblings about ill-mannered Chinese crowding stores, spending scads of money (diddums!) and leaving behind litter. (Japan’s tourist sites were of course sparkling clean before foreigners showed up. Not.)

Then there’s the omnipresent threat of terrorism, depicted for years now by the government as something imported by foreigners into a formerly “safe Japan” (although all terrorist acts so far in Japan have been homegrown). To that end, 2016 was when Japan’s Supreme Court explicitly approved police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion. (What’s next? Surveilling foreign residents due to their extranationality?)

Yet foreigners are a necessary evil. Japan still needs them to do its dirty work in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishery and nursing sectors. So this year the foreign “trainee” work program was expanded, along with measures against abuses. About time — bad things, including NJ slavery and child labor have been happening for decades, with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry acknowledging that about 70 percent of employers hiring “trainees” engage in illegal labor practices. Omotenashi has been counterweighted by government-sponsored exploitation of NJ, and now with the upcoming 2020 Olympics, there’s plenty more dirty work out there.

And after all this, 2016 offered one big bright spot:

1 Hate speech law gets passed — and enforced

Japan’s first law protecting “foreigners” from group denigration in public was passed nationwide in May. JBC (Feb. 1) heralded it as a step in the right direction. Critics quickly pointed out its shortcomings: It doesn’t actually ban hate speech, or have penalties for violators, and it only covers people of overseas origin “who live legally in Japan” (meaning “foreigners,” but not all of them). Plus it skirts the issue of racial discrimination, natch.

However, it has had important effects. The law offered a working definition of hate speech and silenced people claiming the “Western construct” of hate speech didn’t exist in Japan. It also gave Japan’s bureaucrats the power to curtail haters. The Mainichi Shimbun reported that this year’s xenophobic rallies, once daily on average somewhere in Japan, had decreased. Rallies also reportedly softened their hateful invective. Since Japan’s outdoor public gatherings need police and community approval (ZG March 4, 2003), even an official frown on hatred can be powerful.

Official frowning spread. The National Police Agency advised prefectural police departments to respond to hate speech demos. A court banned a rally in a Korean area of Kawasaki for “illegal actions that infringe upon the personal rights for leading a personal life.” Another court ordered hate group Zaitokukai to compensate a Zainichi Korean for public slurs against her. Both judges cited the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination, which has been ignored in lawsuits against “Japanese only” establishments.

These are remarkable new outcomes in a society loath to call “No Foreigners Allowed” signs discriminatory, let alone order police to take them down. Progress to build upon.

Bubbling under the top 10

11 Population of registered NJ residents reaches record 2.23 million despite significant decreases in recent years.

12 “Special economic zones” expand to the aging agriculture sector, and want “skilled foreigners” with college degrees and Japanese-language ability to till fields on three-year visas. Seriously.

13 The Nankai Line train conductor who apologized to passengers for “too many foreigners” on an airport-bound train is officially reprimanded, not ignored.

14 Osaka sushi restaurant Ichibazushi, which was bullying foreign customers by deliberately adding too much wasabi, is forced by social media to publicly apologize.

15 Debito.org’s archive of human rights issues in Japan celebrates its 20th Anniversary.

——————–
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

Books, eBooks, 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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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

============
Book “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books), acclaimed as “important, courageous and challenging”, now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code LEX30AUTH16
http://www.debito.org/?p=14096
============

Happy New Year to Debito.org Newsletter Readers! After a pretty rotten 2016 for many people, let’s start off with an excerpt from my latest Japan Times Just Be Cause Column, which actually found bright spots last year:

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

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

10) Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/
Debito.org anchor site for discussion at
http://www.debito.org/?p=14441

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

Now on with the Newsletter:

Table of Contents:
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GOOD NEWS
1) Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains
2) MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)
3) Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. But unclear how it’ll be enforced.
4) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices

NOT SO GOOD
5) Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!
6) JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws
7) Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org
8 ) CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ
9) Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

… and finally…

10) Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016
11) Tangent: James Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College
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By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletters are freely forwardable
Subscribe/Unsubscribe at www.debito.org

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GOOD NEWS

1) Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains

First up, this piece of good news that shows that targeting of foreign passengers (on an airport train, no less) is officially not cool — either from the passengers’ point of view or from the train company’s:

Mainichi: A Nankai Electric Railway Co. conductor was dealt a verbal warning after apologizing to Japanese passengers for crowding on a train heading to Kansai International Airport with a large number of foreigners, it has been learned. […] “Today there are many foreign passengers aboard and it is very crowded, so we are inconveniencing Japanese passengers,” the conductor was quoted as stating in the announcement. After the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station, a Japanese woman questioned a station attendant about the announcement, asking whether it was within the bounds of company rules. When questioned by the company, the conductor was quoted as replying, “I heard a male Japanese passenger at Namba Station yelling, ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’ so I made the announcement to avert trouble. I had no intention of discriminating.”

Then the Grauniad coupled the above story with another one about “wasabi terrorism”:

Grauniad: The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly. The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy. “Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.” It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.

COMMENT: The fact that these incidents made news, and (Japanese) social media thought this was worth criticizing is a good thing. Corporations acknowledged and apologized. There is lots to bellyache about when it comes to how NJ are seen and treated in Japan, but when people (especially Japanese people, who are often not all that quick to leap to the defense of NJ, since what happens to NJ does not affect them) stand up against this, this is progress. Credit where credit is due.

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14257

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2) MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)

Submitter XY: I have recently read on debito.org about that human rights survey the ministry of justice is conducting right now, and today I got the survey documents in Japanese and English. In your blog you ask for scans of these documents to check the nature of this survey. Here they are (downloadable PDFs):

Debito: Debito.org has focused on the GOJ’s biased surveys regarding human rights and NJ in the past, and found the science to be very bad. This poor science has even been found in surveys of NJ residents at the national (here, here, and here) and local levels (Tokyo and Urayasu, for example). It’s amazing how quickly common human decency and equal treatment evaporates from Japan’s social science just as soon as “foreigners” are brought into the equation.

So that’s why I approached these new surveys for “Foreigners Living in Japan” (as opposed to “Non-Citizen Residents of Japan”) from the Ministry of Justice Human of Human Rights (BOHR), Center for Human Rights Education and Training, with some trepidation. Especially given the BOHR’s longstanding record of unhelpfulness and abdication of responsibility (see also book “Embedded Racism”, pp. 224-231). But let’s take a look at it and assess. Here is a sampling of pages from the English version in jpg format (the full text in Japanese and English is at the above pdf links).

Conclusion: In terms of a survey, this is an earnest attempt to get an official handle on the shape and scope of discriminatory activities in Japan, and even mentions the establishment of anti-discrimination laws as an option. Good. It also includes the first real national-level question about discrimination in housing in Japan, which hitherto has never been surveyed beyond the local level. I will be very interested to see the results.

That said, the survey still has the shortcoming of the GOJ not accepting any culpability for discrimination as created and promoted by officials, including Japan’s police forces, laws, law enforcement, or legislative or judicial processes. It still seems to want to portray discrimination as something that misinformed or malicious individuals do toward “foreigners”, without getting to the root of the problem: That the real issue is racial discrimination embedded within Japan’s very identity as a nation-state (as I uncover and outline in book “Embedded Racism”). Here’s hoping that research helps inform their next survey (as my research informed the Cabinet’s previously biased survey questions back in 2012).

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14298

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3) Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. But unclear how it’ll be enforced.

Here’s a little something that may or may not matter in future. As the Abe Administration seeks to expand the NJ “Trainee” sweatshop and slave-labor program out of the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and fishery industries and into nursing (not to mention the “special economic zones” so that foreigners with college degrees and Japanese language ability will have the privilege of tilling land and weeding crops on Japanese farms; seriously), we finally have a law to prevent the widespread abuses of NJ not covered by labor laws. Abuses so widespread, as the article says below, that “about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws,” according to the GOJ. That’s quite a stat.

Now will this law be enforced? Remains to be seen. I’m not sure how this governmental “body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers” will work in practice. We’ve already seen how ineffectual other human-rights organs for “counseling” (such as the Ministry of Justice’s Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights) are in Japan. And there are all manner of institutionalized incentives (and decades of established practice) for people to turn blind eyes. After all, the only ones being hurt by this slavery program are foreigners, and they can just go back home if they don’t like it. (Except that they can’t.) Debito.org will keep you posted on developments.

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14308

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4) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices

At the end of Debito.org’s 10th Anniversary as a blog (and 20th Anniversary as a website archive), here’s the best Christmas gift ever: a facelift and a cleanup! (Thanks for that!) You probably noticed how slowly Debito.org loaded in recent months. That was because we had issues of memory and backlog buildup over a decade (to the tune of 55GB of it), as well as a customized WordPress theme that was so obsolete it alone took fifteen seconds to load! That’s why the revamp of the site’s appearance. Of course, we kept the “Debito.org” typeface banner (that’s always been there, however crufty), but hopefully the site is easier to load and read now.

We are still having issues with (beware, neophyte Geek Speak follows):
Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14423

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NOT SO GOOD

5) Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!

Onur, our local watchdog on Japan’s hotel policies towards “foreign guests”, has submitted another report, this time on hotels in Fukuoka. The last case he submitted exposed how police in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, were deliberately lying about the law to create notices requiring the racial profiling of all “foreigners” at hotel check ins. Now in Fukuoka the same thing is happening, only worse: Fukuoka Prefectural Police are creating erroneous signs in the name of local government authorities without the knowledge of those local authorities!

This is odious. Given the recent Debito.org report about racist check-ins at Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho, Tokyo (done according to the hotel itself “to provide safety for our guests”, whatever that means), and the fact that I uncovered this unlawful practice more than ten years ago in my Japan Times columns (“Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005; “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” JBC, July 6,2010), it seems the problem is nationwide and systemic. Our police forces continue to enlist the public in their racial profiling of “foreigners” (whether or not they are tourists or residents of Japan), whether or not the law or local authorities permit them to. (It doesn’t.)

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14305

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6) JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws

JT: Once, the hot jobs [in Japan] were high-income positions with finance firms or trading houses, but today’s youth are more sober, preferring a steady, grounded career path. A 2015 poll by Adecco Group asked children between 6 and 15 years old in seven Asian countries and regions what they wanted to be when they grow up. Children in Japan answered in the following order of popularity: 1) company worker; 2) soccer player; 3) civil servant; 4) baseball player. Note the perhaps unexpected answers ranking 1) and 3). “Government employee” made the top 10 only in Japan. […]

Amazingly, each type of civil servant has different labor rights in Japan. I ordinarily teach labor law that protects private-sector employees, so when I tell my students that the labor laws for civil servants differ by type of job, they express shock, particularly when they find out that civil servants have fewer rights than other workers…

COMMENT: Once again, the JT comes out with an insightful article about the difference between appearance and reality, especially in Japan’s labor market. Okunuki Hifumi tells us about how Japan’s most-coveted job — civil servant (!) — actually comes with at a price of fewer rights under Japan’s labor laws. Depending on your status, bureaucrats lack the right to strike, collectively bargain, or unionize (not to mention, as it wasn’t in this article, engage in “political activities”). And that can severely weaken their ability to fight back when labor abuses occur, or, as schoolteachers, to educate students about politics.

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14210

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7) Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org

Debito.org has talked at length about the “Great Gaijin Massacre of 1992-4,” where National and Public Universities decided to terminate en masse (at the urging of the Ministry of Education) their foreign faculty who were over 35 years old 1) as a cost-cutting measure, and 2) because they could — since most NJ were on contract employment (meaning one could be “fired” through a simple contract non-renewal), while full-time J faculty were almost always employed on permanent non-contracted tenure from day one. “Academic Apartheid” is what respected scholars such as Ivan Hall called it. And conditions have gotten no better, as (again through government design) more full-time Japanese faculty are being put on contract employment themselves, while far fewer NJ are being granted permanent tenure.

Now we have a new looming massacre. The labor laws changed in 2013 to require employers to stop keeping people on perpetual renewable contract status. After five years of employment, employers must switch them to permanent noncontracted status. Well, the five-year mark is April 1, 2018, meaning there is an incentive for employers to fire people before they hit a half-decade of employment. Debito.org said before that that would happen, and there were some doubters. But here’s the first published evidence of that happening, at Tohoku University, courtesy of our labor law expert at the Japan Times. After all these years of service, even less job security awaits.

JT: [Under] the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013, […] any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. […] The fact is, employers are using the amendment as an excuse to fire their workers or change their working conditions before April 2018. When the law was enacted, it was not grandfathered to entitle those who had already worked more than five years. That meant the clock started on April Fools’ Day, 2013, and that the first time it will be possible to use this purported job-security measure will be April 1, 2018. [..]

This month’s installment delves into the “Tohoku University massacre.” This prestigious, famous and respected college with a long history and tradition has revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees when they next come up for renewal. This kind of move — effectively a mass firing — is rare in Japan, and the plan has already had a huge impact in education and labor-law circles.

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14337

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8 ) CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ

Debito: Here’s a submission from Debito.org Reader CR, about the application of the “five year rule” of Japanese Labor Contract Law in Japan’s blue-chip companies. Although the 2003 revision in the law was meant to say, “five years of contract renewals means you must rehire the person as a regular employee (sei sha-in) without a contract” (which would end the exploitative system of unstable employment through perpetual contracting), it’s had the opposite effect: encouraging employers to cap the contracts at five years. Meaning that starting from April 1, 2018, five years since the revised Labor Contract Law took effect, we’re expecting to see a mass firing of Japan’s contract laborers.

This is precisely what has been happening to Japan’s non-tenured foreign academics for generations in Japan’s Academic Apartheid System, with the occasional “massacre” of older Japanese contracted academics just to save money, but now it’s being expanded systemwide to the non-academic private sector. We’ve seen rumblings of its application at Tohoku University for everyone. But of course we have to make it even worse for foreign workers: At Canon, one of Japan’s flagship companies, NJ are being given special “temp” employment categories with contracts explicitly capped at five years from the outset. One more reason to read your employment contracts carefully, if not avoid entirely the increasingly unstable and segregated jobs in Japanese companies.

As CR concludes, “It’s difficult to work in an environment where there are clear discriminations such as this. Note that while I believe the discriminations are racially-based, the only thing that is visible is based off nationality. I don’t know how the company handles NJ who have naturalized, or even if any naturalized Japanese citizens are among the employee ranks. It rankles even more because there are always various “Compliance”-related initiatives, announcements, and activities, to show employees how important it is to play fair, not discriminate, follow the rules and the law, etc. So, big, established, famous, international Japanese companies are already putting discriminatory clauses that violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law into the contracts of NJ. Also, this effectively puts the kibosh on any potential promotions of NJ; you cannot be promoted as a contract employee. The glass ceiling is alive and well.”

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14349

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9) Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

JT: I thought you might be interested in this issue that I encountered when using an automatic ticket machine in Hakata Station, Fukuoka. Because I don’t read Japanese so well, I changed the machine to English language. As I went through the menu I could not select the “nimai-kippu” (two tickets of the same type) option, which offers a discount. The only options I had were two individual tickets — if I recall correctly the price difference was ¥2,000. I canceled the sale and went to the counter and had a conversation with the clerk, who confirmed that once English is selected, the cheaper two-ticket option wouldn’t be offered. I was thinking how many hundreds of thousands of yen have been taken from people simply because they select English and don’t happen to know about the cheaper ticket options.

COMMENT: This is proof positive in a national newspaper of separate pricing schemes based upon language. And this at one of Japan’s flagship companies (Japan Railways), no less. Consider the parallels: A restaurant with menus with cheaper prices for customers if they can read Chinese (something frowned upon as discrimination elsewhere). Or travel agencies that reserve cheaper plane tickets for Japanese citizens only (see here). Japan’s train network in Kyushu is filtering customers by language ability and charging Japanese-illiterates a premium. This must stop, obviously, because it’s discriminatory.

Why can’t customers just be treated as customers, and their money for access be valued the same way, regardless of their language ability? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because to JR, it’s not a matter of fairness or equality. It’s a combination of setsuyaku and mendokusai. Making discounts multilingual would be costly, and then there’s the factor of profiteering from the extra fares. The incentive system is clear: Why pay more for a system that brings in less revenue? And besides, the foreigners won’t realize it (because foreigners obviously don’t read Japanese), won’t complain (because they’re so powerless, with no voice in Japan except, ahem, the Japan Times), or they aren’t organized in numbers big enough for a meaningful boycott (plus, as seen above, anyone calling for organized action will be called racist even by their own side — see reader comments under the JT article).

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14343

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… and finally…

10) Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016

The Japan Times tapped me for an opinion on the US Elections and Trump’s ascendancy to the Presidency. So here’s my latest JBC a couple of weeks early. Excerpt:

The morning after the election, I woke up to Trump’s America. I’d watched the results from Hawaii, one of America’s bluest states, where our friend had organized a house party to ring in the predicted victory of Hillary Clinton and the continuation of local hero Barack Obama’s legacy. The first polls on America’s East Coast would be closing in our early afternoon. We’d see a clear outcome by dusk and go home happy. […]

And then, stunningly, Trump’s victory in the “rigged” (Trump’s word) Electoral College became a mathematical certainty. By the time the cameras turned to Clinton’s victory bash and showed delegates slinking out, I had too. Back home, I watched as Clinton conceded even before all the networks had called it for Trump. I felt betrayed. And insomniac.

JBC has commented on previous U.S. elections (“Hailing the tail end of Bush”, Dec. 2, 2008), so let me tell you: I searched for a silver lining to all this. I found none…

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14300

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11) Tangent: James Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College

Michener: “On election day 1968 the United States once again played a reckless game with its destiny. Acting as if it were immune to catastrophe, we conducted one more Presidential election in accordance with rules that were outmoded and inane. This time we were lucky. Next time we might not be. Next time we could wreck our country.

“The dangerous game we play is this. We preserve a system of electing a President which contains so many built-in pitfalls that sooner or later it is bound to destroy us. The system has three major weaknesses. It places the legal responsibility for choosing a President in the hands of an Electoral College, whose members no one knows and who are not bound to vote the way their state votes. If the Electoral College does not produce a majority vote for some candidate, the election is thrown into the House of Representatives, where anything can happen. And it is quite possible that the man who wins the largest popular vote across the nation will not be chosen President, with all the turmoil that this might cause.

“In 1823 Thomas Jefferson, who as we shall see had long and painful experience with this incredible system, described it as, ‘The most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit.’ Today the danger is more grave than when Jefferson put his finger on it.”

That was in 1969. Looks like, as of today, December 19, 2016, the catastrophe has finally happened.

Permalink: http://www.debito.org/?p=14362

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That’s all for this month! Thanks for reading! Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017 ENDS

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Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains

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Hi Blog, and welcome to 2017. And to start this year (which I am not at all optimistic about), let’s try to talk about two bright sides to 2016.

First up, this piece of good news that shows that targeting of foreign passengers (on an airport train, no less) is officially not cool — either from the passengers’ point of view or from the train company’s:

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Train conductor warned after apologizing for crowding due to ‘many foreign passengers’
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161011/p2a/00m/0na/003000c
October 11, 2016 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK

OSAKA — A Nankai Electric Railway Co. conductor was dealt a verbal warning after apologizing to Japanese passengers for crowding on a train heading to Kansai International Airport with a large number of foreigners, it has been learned.

The company said the male conductor, who is in his 40s, made the announcement on an express train bound for Kansai International Airport at around 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, a public holiday, after the train left Tengachaya Station.

“Today there are many foreign passengers aboard and it is very crowded, so we are inconveniencing Japanese passengers,” the conductor was quoted as stating in the announcement.

After the train arrived at Kansai-Airport Station, a Japanese woman questioned a station attendant about the announcement, asking whether it was within the bounds of company rules.

When questioned by the company, the conductor was quoted as replying, “I heard a male Japanese passenger at Namba Station yelling, ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’ so I made the announcement to avert trouble. I had no intention of discriminating.”

The company says it has received complaints in the past about the large pieces of luggage carried by foreign visitors, but the announcement made by the conductor was the first of its kind.

“Whether people are Japanese or non-Japanese, the fact remains that they are our passengers. Language that sets them apart is inappropriate,” a company representative said.

Japanese version:

車掌「多くの外国人で、ご不便を」
毎日新聞2016年10月11日 00時06分(最終更新 10月11日 12時32分)
http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161011/k00/00m/040/058000c

車内アナウンスして口頭注意 「差別の意図ない」と釈明
南海電鉄の40代男性車掌が10日、車内で「本日は多数の外国人のお客さまが乗車されており、大変混雑しておりますので、日本人のお客さまにはご不便をおかけしております」という内容のアナウンスを行い、口頭注意を受けていたことが同社への取材で分かった。

車掌は同社の聞き取りに「難波駅で車内の日本人男性客が『外国人が多くて邪魔』という内容を大声で叫んだのを聞き、トラブルを避けるために放送した。差別の意図はない」と説明したという。同社によると、これまでにも、車内の外国人観光客の大きな荷物に対する苦情が他の乗客から寄せられたことはあったが、この車掌が同様のアナウンスをしたのは今回が初めてという。

同社は「日本人でも外国人でも、お客さまに変わりはない。区別するような言葉はふさわしくない」としている。【井川加菜美】
ENDS
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Next up an article from the Grauniad, which coupled the above story with another one about some sushi itamae-san who took it upon themselves to wasabi-bomb some NJ sushi. Full article follows below, but pertinent excerpt:

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

The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly.

The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.

“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.”

It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.

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

Again, the fact that this incident made news, and (Japanese) social media thought this was worth criticizing is a good thing. The restaurant acknowledged and apologized.

There is lots to bellyache about when it comes to how NJ are seen and treated in Japan, but when people (especially Japanese people, who are often not all that quick to leap to the defense of NJ, since what happens to NJ does not affect them) stand up against this, this is progress. Credit where credit is due. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Full Grauniad article:
//////////////////////////////////////

Japanese train conductor blames foreign tourists for overcrowding
Rail company reprimands conductor who made announcement blaming foreigners for inconveniencing Japanese passengers
Justin McCurry in Tokyo Tuesday 11 October 2016
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/japanese-train-conductor-blames-foreign-tourists-for-overcrowding

A railway company in Japan has reprimanded a conductor who blamed the large number of foreign tourists on a crowded train for inconveniencing Japanese passengers.

The outburst will have done little to help Japan’s attempts to become a more welcoming destination for foreign visitors as it prepares to host the 2019 rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics a year later.

Japan’s successful pitch for the 2020 Games made much of the country’s reputation for omotenashi– traditional hospitality and service.

But there was precious little omotenashi on display when the conductor addressed passengers on a Nankai Electric Railway express train bound for Kansai international airport near Osaka on Monday morning.

“There are many foreign passengers on board today … this has caused serious congestion and is causing inconvenience to Japanese passengers,” said the conductor, a man in his 40s.

A Japanese passenger reported the incident to a station attendant at the airport, questioning whether the conductor’s wording was acceptable.

The conductor, who has not been named, later defended his choice of words: “I heard a male Japanese passenger at [another station] yelling: ‘All these foreigners are a nuisance,’” the Mainichi Shimbun quoted him as saying.

“I made the announcement to avert trouble and had no intention of discriminating [against foreign passengers],” he said.

A Nankai Electric spokesman told the newspaper that the firm had previously received complaints about foreign visitors with large suitcases, but added: “Whether people are Japanese or non-Japanese, the fact remains that they are our passengers. Language that sets them apart [from other passengers] is inappropriate.”

The incident follows an accusation by South Korean tourists that a sushi restaurant in Osaka deliberately smeared their orders with eye-watering quantities of wasabi, a pungent condiment that should be used sparingly.

The restaurant chain Ichibazushi apologised but denied accusations of racism, saying its chefs had decided to use excessive amounts of wasabi after other foreign diners had previously requested larger dollops for added piquancy.

“Because many of our overseas customers frequently order extra amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi, we gave them more without checking first,” the chain’s management said. “The result was unpleasant for some guests who aren’t fans of wasabi.”

It was not clear how many such incidents – labelled “wasabi terrorism” on social media – had occurred, but some disgruntled diners posted photos of sushi containing twice as much wasabi as usual.

Whether or not the incidents resulted from misunderstandings, the potential for friction between visitors and local people is likely to increase as Japan gains popularity as a tourist destination.

A record 2.05 million people visited the country in August, according to the Japan Tourism Agency, including 677,000 from China, 458,900 from South Korea and 333,200 from Taiwan.

Japan’s government hopes to double the number of foreign visitors to 40 million in 2020, and expects a tourism windfall of 8tn yen (£63bn).
ENDS
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