Irish Times: Abe Admin in trouble due to ultranationalistic kindergarten Moritomo Gakuen, its perks, and its anti-Korean/Chinese racism

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a story that people have been talking about for quite some time in the Comments section of Debito.org (but sandbagged by other projects, I haven’t quite gotten to until now, thanks to this good round-up article by Dr. David McNeill):  Schools fostering ultra-rightist narratives even from a kindergarten age.

One thing I’ve always wondered about these nationalistic schools designed to instill “love of country” and enforce patriotism from an early age (which are, actually, not a new phenomenon, see also here):  How are they supposed to deal with students who are of mixed heritage, or of foreign descent?  As Japan’s multiethnic Japanese citizen population continues to grow thanks to international marriage, are these students also to be taught that love of country means only one country?  Or that if they are of mixed roots, that they can only “love” one side?

This sort of jingoism should be on its way out of any developed society in this increasingly globalizing world.  But, alas, as PM Abe toadies up to Trump, I’m sure the former will find plenty of things to point at going on in the USA to justify renewed exclusionism, and “putting Japan first” through a purity narrative.  Still, as seen below, the glimmer of hope is the charge that this school’s funny financial dealings (and their anointment of Abe’s wife as “honorary principal”) might in fact be the thing that brings down the Abe Administration (if it does, I’ll begin to think that Japan’s parliamentary system is actually healthier than the US’s Executive Branch).  And that Japan’s hate speech law has in fact bitten down on their racist activities.  An interesting case study in progress.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Japan’s Shinzo Abe under fire over ultra-right school
PM accused of giving sweetheart deal to school with ties to hard-right lobby group
David McNeill in Tokyo. The Irish Times, Feb 23, 2017
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/japan-s-shinzo-abe-under-fire-over-ultra-right-school-1.2986573

PHOTO: Shinzo Abe with Donald Trump: The Japanse prime minister has offered to resign if his involvement in the school controversy is confirmed. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times

Lingering suspicions about far-right ties to Japan’s government have surfaced again in a row about an alleged sweetheart deal for the operator of an ultra-nationalist kindergarten.

Under fire in parliament, prime minister Shinzo Abe, one of Japan’s longest-serving leaders, said he would step down if his involvement in the deal is substantiated.

The private kindergarten in Osaka has its 3-5-year-old students memorise a 19th-century edict that was used to indoctrinate youngsters during the second World War. Children at the school chant patriotic slogans in front of pictures of the emperor, including: “Should emergencies arise, offer yourselves courageously to the state.”

Its operator, Moritomo Gakuen, was recently investigated under hate speech laws after publishing ethnic slurs of Korean and Chinese people, who it dubbed shinajin – roughly meaning “chink”.

Opposition politicians have singled out the sale of a plot of land last year to Mr Gakuen [sic] by the government in Osaka Prefecture at a fraction of the appraised price.

A primary school is being built on the 8,770sq m plot. Mr Abe’s wife, Akie, will be its honorary principal when it opens in April. The prime minister’s name was allegedly used to solicit donations.

Below list price
Yasunori Kagoike, the president of the kindergarten, has denied that the million yen (€1.1 million) paid for the plot last June, far below its list price of million yen, was too cheap.

The school says the cost of cleaning up arsenic and other contamination found on the site explains the whopping discount. “We have done things open and above board,” Mr Kagoike said this week.

The controversy has thrown a spotlight on Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Charter, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to the government. Mr Kagoike leads a local chapter of the group.

About a third of the Diet (parliament) and more than half of Mr Abe’s 19-member cabinet support Nippon Kaigi. Mr Abe is a specialist adviser to its parliamentary league.

Like followers of US president Donald Trump, members of Nippon Kaigi want to “take back” their country from the liberal forces that they believe are destroying it. The group’s goals include building up the nation’s military forces, instilling patriotism in the young, and revising much of the pre-war Meiji constitution.

Blatantly revisionist
Critics say its charter is a shopping list of blatantly revisionist causes: applaud Japan’s wartime “liberation” of east Asia from western colonialism; rebuild the armed forces; inculcate patriotism among students brainwashed by left-wing teachers; and revere the emperor as he was worshipped before the war.

Mr Abe has denied that he or his wife were involved in the land sale or that he gave permission for his name to be used, though both have praised the curriculum offered by the kindergarten.

Responding to questions from opposition politicians last Friday, Mr Abe said he did not know that donations were being solicited for a “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe” memorial elementary school.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, adding that he would “quit as prime minister and as a Diet member” if found to have been involved in the scandal.

ENDS

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Japan PM’s wife cuts ties with school at heart of political furor
Reuters, February 24, 2017, By Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg | TOKYO
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-politics-abe-idUSKBN16308L?il=0

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife has cut ties with an elementary school involved in a land deal that provoked opposition questions just as the Japanese leader was basking in the glow of a friendly summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Abe has said neither he nor his wife, Akie, was involved in a murky deal for the purchase of state-owned land by Moritomo Gakuen, an educational body in the western city of Osaka that also runs a kindergarten promoting patriotism.

The affair has energized the often-floundering opposition, offering a reminder of the unexpected pitfalls that could still emerge for Abe’s seemingly stable rule, now in its fifth year.

Abe, grilled about the purchase of the land at a rock-bottom price, said on Friday his wife would scrap a plan to become honorary principal of an elementary school the institution will open in April.

Last year, Moritomo Gakuen paid 134 million yen ($1.2 million), or 14 percent of the appraisal price, for an 8,770-sq-m (94,400-square-foot) plot on which to build the elementary school, official data show.

The difference reflects the cost of waste cleanup at the site, officials have said. Finance Minister Taro Aso told parliament this week there were no problems with the deal.

Abe said his wife had tried to refuse the role as honorary principal, and only accepted after it was announced to parents.

“Despite this, she decided that it would be detrimental for both the students and the parents if she continued, and so she told them she would resign,” he added.

OPPOSITION ENERGIZED

The institution’s president, Yasunori Kagoike, heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to Abe and his cabinet.

On the school’s website, Akie had said: “I was impressed by Mr. Kagoike’s passion for education and have assumed the post of honorary principal.”

Abe said the comments were removed from the website on Thursday at his wife’s request.

Abe reiterated that he had declined to let his name be used when Moritomo Gakuen sought donations for what it called the “Abe Shinzo Memorial Elementary School”.

He has also denied that either he or his wife was involved in obtaining approval for the school, or in the land acquisition, saying last Friday that he would resign if evidence to the contrary were found.

The main opposition Democratic Party has seized on the affair. “The prime minister is talking as if he were the victim, but it is the people who should be angry,” Democratic Party lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto told reporters.

His cabinet this time has lost several ministers to money scandals, but Abe himself has been untainted by scandal.

Abe’s approval rating rose five points to 66 percent in a media survey after his summit with Trump, where the leaders hugged, golfed and reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan alliance.

But his popularity could take a hit if the scandal continues to preoccupy the media, some political analysts said.

“The thing that makes a scandal really serious is when it keeps getting headlines,” said Chuo University political science professor Steven Reed.

ENDS

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BACKGROUND ARTICLE:

Reuters LIFESTYLE | Thu Dec 8, 2016 | 8:25pm EST
Japanese kindergarten teaches students pre-war ideals
By Kwiyeon Ha | TOKYO
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-education-idUSKBN13X1UV

(NB:  Do check out the link for its visuals; must see.)

At first glance, the Tsukamoto kindergarten looks like any other school in Japan, but its unique curriculum is reminiscent of pre-war Japan.

The private school, which has been visited by Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, aims to instil in its 3- to 5-year-old students a sense of patriotism with a curriculum focused on Japanese traditions and culture.

Its mornings start with uniformed children singing the national anthem in front of the country’s flag and reciting in stilted Japanese the pre-war Imperial Rescript on Education, containing commandments set out in 1890 to nurture “ideal” citizens under the Emperor Meiji. These embody Confucian virtues and demanded devotion to the emperor and sacrifice for the country.

“Be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters,” they chant. “Should emergencies arise, offer yourselves courageously to the state.”

After World War Two, occupying U.S. forces abolished the rescript, which many saw as a source of the obedience and moral certitude that helped fuel Japanese militarism.

In 1947, the postwar government passed the Fundamental Law on Education to bolster the liberal and democratic values of the postwar pacifist constitution.

Tsukamoto kindergarten, in Osaka, introduced the rescript 15 years ago, although school officials say it is not intended to fuel nationalism.

“What we’re aiming to foster in education is patriotism or ‘Japanese-ism’, expanding Japan’s spirit all over the world, not so-called nationalism. These are totally different,” said Yasunori Kagoike, principal of the kindergarten.

PHOTO:  A student stops to bow to a portrait of Japanese former Emperor Hirohito and Empress Kojun at Tsukamoto kindergarten in Osaka, Japan, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ha Kwiyeon

Kagoike heads the Osaka branch of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, a nationalist lobby group with close ties to Abe and his Cabinet and for which education reform is a key tenet.

PROTECTING THE NATION

Cultural activities at the school, where the walls are lined with images of the imperial family to which students bow throughout the day, include learning traditional Japanese musical instruments, martial arts and board games. Students also take trips to military bases.

Kagoike said he hopes other schools will adopt their curriculum so children are prepared to protect their nation against potential threats from other countries.

“If an imperialist nation is trying to harm Japan, we need to fight against it. For that, revising Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is indeed necessary and should be carried out as soon as possible,” he said.

Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution renounces war and, if read literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces, although Japan’s military, called the Self-Defense Forces, has over 200,000 personnel and is equipped with high-tech weapons.

Revising the constitution is one of the key policy targets of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. His government has already stretched its limits to give the military a bigger role.

Using an analogy of stopping a burglar getting into the house, teacher Chinami Kagoike – the principal’s daughter – said she teaches students it is necessary to fight against such threats to protect themselves and their families.

“Strengthening Japan would be subject to severe criticism from various countries,” she said. “But instead of pulling away from this, I teach children that the Japanese government has clearly demonstrated its will, so you also need to break silence and go forward and say you want to protect your family.”

The kindergarten plans to open a primary school next year and Akie Abe will be the honorary principal, according to school brochures.

Michael Cucek, an adjunct professor at Temple University’s Tokyo campus, said Abe’s wife is often seen as a proxy for the prime minister, who during his first, 2006-2007 term oversaw the revision of the education law to put patriotism back in school curricula.

ENDS

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Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 105: “Media, stop normalizing sumo as an ethno-sport”, Monday, Feb 20, 2017

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

STOP NORMALIZING SUMO AS AN ETHNO-SPORT
Foreign coverage of the new Yokozuna Kisenosato is embedding racism
By Debito Arudou
Just Be Cause Column 105 for the Japan Times Community Page
Monday, February 20, 2017

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/02/19/issues/media-outside-japan-must-stop-normalizing-sumo-ethno-sport/

I know that by now this is old news (blame press holidays and timely Trump articles), but congratulations to Kisenosato last month for ascending to yokozuna, sumo wrestling’s highest rank. After all your efforts, well done.

So what does JBC have to say about it? Nothing to diminish that achievement, of course. But let’s consider how the event echoed overseas. Here are some headlines from prominent news outlets:

BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38721106

Washington Post: “After 19 long years, Japan has a grand champion of sumo once again.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-19-long-years-japan-has-a-grand-champion-of-sumo-once-more/2017/01/25/

New York Times: “For the first time in years, Japan boasts a sumo grand champion.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/world/asia/japan-sumo-champion-kisenosato.html

The Guardian: “Kisenosato becomes Japan’s first homegrown sumo champion in 19 years.”
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2017/jan/25/kisenosato-becomes-japans-first-homegrown-sumo-champion-in-19-years-video

Even our own JT: “Kisenosato becomes first Japanese-born yokozuna in almost two decades.”
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2017/01/25/sumo/kisenosato-becomes-first-japanese-born-yokozuna-almost-two-decades/

Hmm. At least three of those headlines make it seem like Japan hasn’t had a Japanese yokozuna – or any yokozuna – for nearly two decades.

That’s false. We’ve had five yokozuna (Musashimaru, Asashoryu, Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kakuryu) since 1998.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_yokozuna

Unless they’re referring to the fact that the last four champions have been Mongolian, not Japanese. But that means they don’t count?

Then what about Musashimaru? He’s a naturalized Japanese, and was one (as the Japan Times duly noted) when he became yokozuna in 1999.

So he’s not counted because he’s not a “real” Japanese? Apparently. That’s why the JT and Guardian slipped in qualifiers like “homegrown” and “Japan-born”. As if that matters.

It shouldn’t. Except to racists.

And it matters in Japan because of the embedded racism of the sport…

Read the rest at

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/02/19/issues/media-outside-japan-must-stop-normalizing-sumo-ethno-sport/

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 19, 2017

mytest

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 19, 2017
Table of Contents:
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MEDIA NORMALIZING DISCRIMINATION
1) JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets
2) Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”
3) Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.
4) Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!
5) Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.

MISC
6) Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
7) Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”
8 ) Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”

… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016
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By Dr. Debito Arudou (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletter Freely Forwardable

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MEDIA NORMALIZING DISCRIMINATION

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

This is an unintentionally hilarious article written by a Japanese reporter for a Japanese audience. It subconsciously depicts the attitudes of Japanese renters trying to profit from commonplace racist landlords excluding foreign clients: Build a communal household where foreign residents entertain the Japanese and the Japanese residents enjoy themselves. Especially telling is how the reporter contextualizes the issue in terms of more pet-friendly accommodations in Japan — putting foreigners on the same level as pets (with apparently as much power as a pet to be left alone).

Let’s consider this in terms of all the tokenism found in Japanese companies (especially during the Kokusaika Era, which I experienced first-hand) 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. It’s clear that the unequal relationship is so normalized that making NJ into your house pet is unproblematized by the Japanese media. Finally, the reporter completely ignores the fact that racist landlords (not the lack of a guarantor) are the primary reason why “no pets, no foreigners” apartments exist.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14463

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

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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14474

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3) Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.

Kyodo: Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya. It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers. Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future. “I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said. […]

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam. “I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

COMMENT: I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same. And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted in the article) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14484

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

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 scapegoated) Asashoryu 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14468

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5) Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.

TG: “Chizuko Ueno, Japan’s most famous academic feminist, says [in a Chunichi Shinbun column on Feb. 11, National Foundation Day] there is no chance of reversing the decline in the birthdate; that at the same time Japanese society is inherently incapable of inter-cultural understanding; that therefore she opposes any move to liberalize immigration policy; and that the Japanese people should accept that they are going to gradually decline into poverty over the years to come.

“Hmm. I wonder what Hidenori Sakanaka, Arudou Debito and other FB friends think about this. She is a gadfly who likes to provoke, and you could read this as an attempt at satirical pessimism possibly. Or has she just lost the plot?”

Here’s what I say: I have often noticed that feminism in Japan is not “equality between the sexes” but “separate but equal” status between the sexes, inherently accepting that inequality is inevitable due to purported physical and emotional differences between men and women. Some things are “women’s work”, for example, and some things are men’s, and you’d better respect that order or else woe betide you for intruding.

Once you accept this kind of natural status quo, it becomes just as easy to accept that there should be “separate for foreigners in Japan” too, however “a foreigner” is defined. The problem is that most people accept without much question the “necessarily separate but unequal” mantra as well, since foreigners are not Japanese, by definition, and Japanese are told on a daily basis (no exaggeration) about the inherent differences between them. And therein lies the slow-drip mindset that over the years will eventually affect even the most intellectually-rigorous, as they get older and fossilized in their beliefs. You even find it in many very long-term foreigners in Japan, who will even argue that they deserve their own unequal status. Rigor becomes rigid. So to me, Ueno’s pontificating on the natural order of separation is a natural outcome of living in a society as hierarchical and segregated as Japan’s. I think with this article, she’d have a more comfortable cup of tea with the likes of Sankei columnist Sono Ayako, who on National Foundation Day exactly two years ago expressly praised South African Apartheid and advocated a similar system for Japan’s foreigners.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14486

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MISC

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

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.

JT: 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.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=14447

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

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 teach NJ how to drive all over again). How presumptuous. Let’s see what submitter XY has to say:

XY: my initial thoughts are:
– There are assumptions galore. The linked article about this issue 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14174

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

Opening paragraph: 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.

http://www.debito.org/?p=14456

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… and finally…

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

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:

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

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org at
http://www.debito.org/?p=14441

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 19, 2017 ENDS

Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  On Japan’s National Foundation Day, a time where Japan’s patriots often come out and make statements on what it means to be a “Japanese”, fabled feminist Sociology Professor at Tokyo University Ueno Chizuko wrote something for the Chuunichi Shinbun. As the headline proclaims, “Let’s become equally poor together”.

Here’s a bit more about her in an interview with the Japan Times (2006).

As TG, the person who tipped me off to this article writes, “Chizuko Ueno, Japan’s most famous academic feminist, says there is no chance of reversing the decline in the birthrate; that at the same time Japanese society is inherently incapable of inter-cultural understanding; that therefore she opposes any move to liberalize immigration policy; and that the Japanese people should accept that they are going to gradually decline into poverty over the years to come.

“Hmm. I wonder what Hidenori Sakanaka, Arudou Debito and other FB friends think about this. She is a gadfly who likes to provoke, and you could read this as an attempt at satirical pessimism possibly. Or has she just lost the plot?”

Provoke indeed.  It’s caused a stir on Japanese debate fora (it took more time than usual to find where this article appeared — people were too busy debating this on online fora to even disclose that). And on FB, where I was fortunately tagged, we had some interesting comments:

AB: “I read this yesterday and wondered about 平等に貧しくなろう。She also talks about a soft crash landing, if I recall correctly. Resigned pessimism of the wartime 「まだ焼き出されていないのか」type was my interpretation, but I don’t suppose I’m right.”

CD: >こういう「もう経済成長しなくていい」「一緒に衰退していこう」みたいなことを言う似非リベジジババ結構いるんだけど「アンタの人生の終焉に国を巻き込むな」と言いたい。老いて衰退してくのはアンタ自身だ、若い子には「アンタらにはない」可能性がある。世の中の若いヒト全てに対して失礼だ。
“Boom. Couldn’t say it better myself in either language. The myopic narcissistic “L’etat, c’est moi” conflation of self and cultural space in this woman’s train of thought are simply staggering in someone who dares to parade her ideas in the media as a purported “public intellectual”.”

CD(2): “Note that while I am suspicious of her psychological motivations for framing the situation thusly, that does NOT mean that I don’t think it may very well go down the way she lays it out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people this age and older whose symbolic immortality is so tied up with the idea of “Japan for Japanese only and only the kind of Japan I’ve known” that they would rather “die than switch”, so to speak. Young people had better light a political fire under their butts here, or the whole shebang will slide down in a long, slow geriatric national/cultural kamikaze dive. The event horizon for this is coming up fast.”

EF: “Setting aside the point about having children, many of our students counter her comments regarding the inability of Japanese to gain multi-cultural understandings.”

GH: “I still remember her ‘feminist’ paper given years ago at SOAS, it was premised on two points: western feminism was not a perfect fit to Japan (fair enough, other non-white feminists make similar points), but then everything she said about being a feminist in Japan seemed to contradict her own very existence as a single female academic: it seemed to be about being a better housewife or being happy with different work conditions because of the fragility of the female body (menstrual leave days for example). It only made some sense to me years later, when I saw her speak at a big feminist history conference in Tokyo: her position is against the old hardcore Marxist feminist ideology of the generation just before her (and dating back to before the war). So she’s fighting an ideological battle that pushes her to say the most incredibly bizarre things sometimes: we are not all equal, but equivalent, this was her mantra. Of course equivalences can be very arbitrary…”

And GH is where I came in:

DEBITO: I very much agree with [GH’s] insight, and I think it sheds light into the mentality behind this article. I have often noticed that feminism in Japan is not “equality between the sexes” but “separate but equal” status between the sexes, inherently accepting that inequality is inevitable due to purported physical and emotional differences between men and women. Some things are “women’s work”, for example, and some things are men’s, and you’d better respect that order or else woe betide you for intruding.

Once you accept this kind of natural status quo, it becomes just as easy to accept that there should be “separate for foreigners in Japan” too, however “a foreigner” is defined. The problem is that most people accept without much question the “necessarily separate but unequal” mantra as well, since foreigners are not Japanese, by definition, and Japanese are told on a daily basis (no exaggeration) about the inherent differences between them. And therein lies the slow-drip mindset that over the years will eventually affect even the most intellectually-rigorous, as they get older and fossilized in their beliefs.

You even find it in many very long-term foreigners in Japan, who will even argue that they deserve their own unequal status. Rigor becomes rigid.

So to me, Ueno’s pontificating on the natural order of separation is a natural outcome of living in a society as hierarchical and segregated as Japan’s.  I think with this article, she’d have a more comfortable cup of tea with the likes of Sankei columnist Sono Ayako, who on National Foundation Day exactly two years ago expressly praised South African Apartheid and advocated a similar system for Japan’s foreigners.  –Dr. Debito Arudou

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Debito is finishing up a few projects. Will be back shortly.

mytest

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Hi Blog. Sorry for the silence recently. I’ve got a few projects coming to fruition recently, and have been too busy to write or comment much. More later. Meanwhile, my next JBC will be out in about a week due to a press holiday falling on Monday this week. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading! Debito

(As always, feel free to post articles and events you think are worth commenting on in the Comments Section below. The DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER will also be out next week.)
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Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.

mytest

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Hi Blog. I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, but they already have one:  how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same.

And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted below) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out. Dr. Debito Arudou

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Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers
KYODO/JAPAN TIMES FEB 7, 2017
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/07/national/trainee-program-small-firms-drive-rise-japans-foreign-worker-numbers/

The official number of foreign workers in Japan has surpassed 1 million for the first time, thanks in part to aggressive employment by regional companies and small businesses to cope with the labor shortage.

While these firms, though few and far between, are breaking new ground with their hiring, it remains unclear how the government wants to go about allowing in more foreign workers as it works out a new policy.

Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya.

It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers.

Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future.

“I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said.

A manager in the bank’s personnel section said: “The two of them had the power to carve out a life in Japan from scratch, and we have expectations that they will prosper in various ways.”

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam.

“I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

“It is difficult for a company of our size to employ Japanese students in science and technology, and recently it has been especially tough,” said the company’s president, Makoto Yoshimoto, adding that it’s hard to compete against larger companies for the most talented graduates from Japanese universities.

Yoshimoto noticed many diligent and outstanding students when the company started conducting business in Vietnam several years ago. Twenty applicants responded to the company’s job listings, but only two, including Kien, were hired.

Many foreign workers have also been working at small businesses but for low wages, brought to Japan under the government’s skills acquisition program that critics say is a cover for hiring cheap labor. These workers often return home just when they get used to their jobs, which are usually based on three-year contracts.

Yoshimoto said: “For the two Vietnamese this is regular employment with the same salary as for Japanese. I won’t mind if they work here until they retire.”

According to a survey by employment information company Disco that covered 630 firms nationwide, 38.1 percent employed or planned to employ foreign students in fiscal 2016, while more than half — 59.8 percent — expect to hire such workers in fiscal 2017.

The percentage of foreign workers who were recruited after graduating from overseas universities is expected to rise from 18.9 percent in fiscal 2016 to 32 percent in fiscal 2017. Disco said small and medium-size domestic companies that are little known to students are starting to recruit college graduates from abroad.

There were 1.08 million foreign workers on the official books at the end of October, up 19.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey by the labor ministry.

This was the first time the 1 million milestone was passed since 2008, when the ministry first started collecting statistics based on hiring reports by businesses.

The government has been promoting employment of foreign nationals with advanced skills and knowledge, but in reality, trainees under the skills acquisition program have been fueling the growth.

The latest ministry data show that program trainees grew by 25.4 percent to 211,108, outstripping specialized professionals, who increased 20.1 percent to 200,994. The number of students working as part-timers jumped by a robust 25 percent to 209,657.

The government, faced with a declining and graying population, is exploring the ramifications of accepting more foreign workers.

A debate is underway among lawmakers and bureaucrats over whether to expand the scope of businesses that can hire foreign nationals as regular workers to cover glaring shortfalls in the agricultural and construction industries, not just highly skilled professions.

But many in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition have expressed concern that throwing the doors open further for foreign workers would lift the lid on a Pandora’s box of immigration troubles.

Even labor unions, despite a desire to defend the rights of foreign workers, are wary of their influence on domestic employment and are against their easy acceptance into the workforce.
ENDS
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