DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DEC 13, 2006

mytest

Hello All. Arudou Debito in Sapporo here. It’s been about three weeks since my last newsletter, with lots of stuff piling up on my blog. I’ll start with the freshest news and work down:

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1) JAPAN TIMES ERIC JOHNSTON MISQUOTED IN NEW BOOK ON IMPERIAL FAMILY
2) ANTHONY BIANCHI RUNNING FOR MAYOR OF INUYAMA, AICHI PREF
3) GOJ’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT AND ANTI-REFUGEE STANCE DRAWS FIRE FROM U.N.
4) TOKYO SHINBUN ON JAPAN’S FOREIGN SLAVE LABOR CONDITIONS
5) YOMIURI: FOREIGN WORKERS CANNOT WIRE MONEY HOME, WRITE LETTERS…
6) SENDAI CITY LOSES LAWSUIT OVER BUS ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION
7) ASAHI: COURT RULES JUKI NET UNCONSTITUTIONAL. HOWZABOUT GAIJIN CARDS?
8) GOJ NOW REQUIRES OVERSEAS “RAP SHEETS” FOR LONG-TERM VISAS
9) QUICK UPDATES TO PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRIES…
and finally… LOSING MY SUGAWARA ON MY KOSEKI
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December 13, 2006. Freely forwardable.
Real time updates (daily) at http://www.debito.org/index.php

1) JAPAN TIMES ERIC JOHNSTON MISQUOTED IN NEW BOOK ON IMPERIAL FAMILY

Before I get to Eric, let me open with a parable. Last Olympics, there was an “activist” of sorts (the type of guy who gives “activists” a bad name, ahem), who decided to draw attention by grabbing the leader of a marathon, Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil, and nearly knocking him out of the race. (http://www.time.com/time/2004/olympics/moments0829/3.html). TIME Magazine had the right approach in its reportage: Something like, “All this guy wants is his name in the paper. So we’re not going to use it in this article.”

The same phenomenon occurs with Eric’s issue. By drawing attention to the book which misquotes him, he’s inadvertently helping it sell. Never mind. Here’s Eric’s beef, in brief:

================ EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
…There is an English book on Princess Masako that was published recently, and I regret to inform you that I am quoted. Or, rather grossly misquoted and misrepresented. If you decide to purchase the book, proceed with caution, as others who were interviewed have stepped forward with complaints about both factual errors and quotes taken out of context.

The book is called “Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysthanthemum Throne”. It is by an Australian journalist named Ben Hills. During his research for the book, Mr. Hills and I spoke by phone. As all of you know, I’m not an expert on the Imperial Family. In fact, I’ve never even written about them for The Japan Times. I simply follow media reports and listen to those have covered them, as I’ve done for as long as I’ve been able to understand Japanese….

At the very least, I expected that if he did quote or cite me regarding such stories, he would keep my qualifiers in–that these were merely stories floating around that I’d heard years ago, not facts or even credible opinions.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hills chose to cite me as somebody who has “reported” on the Imperial Family for 10 years. Obviously, I have not. He also quotes me as saying nasty things about the Princess and her father, saying that I believe such things and implying they are my own opinions based on my “reporting”. They are not. I was simply explaining to Mr. Hills, who cannot speak or read Japanese, that these were things I’d read or heard others saying about her over the years. I have no way of knowing what she’s really like, as I don’t know her…
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
Please read the full disclaimer at http://www.debito.org/?p=111 I’m sorry to have to excerpt it here.

Let’s hope this shabby reportage gets nipped in the bud before Eric suffers any further embarrassment.

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2) ANTHONY BIANCHI RUNNING FOR MAYOR OF INUYAMA, AICHI PREF

Fellow naturalized citizen and friend Anthony Bianchi, after winning a seat in the Inuyama City Assembly some years ago with the highest number of votes in the city’s history, is now running for even higher office:

================ EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
New York-born ex-city assemblyman runs for mayor in Aichi city
Japan Today/Kyodo News
http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/392977 Monday, December 11, 2006 at 07:39 EST

INUYAMA A former local city assemblyman of New York origin and seven others officially filed their candidacy Sunday to run in a mayoral election in Inuyama in Aichi Prefecture slated for Dec 17…

If elected, Anthony Bianchi, a 48-year-old former Inuyama city assembly member originally from Brooklyn, New York, will be the first person born in the West to become a Japanese municipality head, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry….

Bianchi… became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2002 and won a seat in the Inuyama assembly in April 2003 with the largest number of ballots ever cast in the city assembly election of 3,302….
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
http://www.debito.org/?p=110

Very impressive indeed. Not only did he avoid getting burned out, or chewed up and spit out by Japanese politics, he’s going for the next rung on the ladder!

Power to him! Send him your best wishes at inuyamajoe AT excite.com

I mention him briefly at http://www.debito.org/nanporo2003elections.html , which also just happens to be a primer on how to get elected in Japan. We need more people like this. If you’re able to, consider running for office in Japan!

This is how immigration and integration is supposed to happen. Pity the Japanese government isn’t being more cooperative:

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3) GOJ’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT AND ANTI-REFUGEE STANCE DRAWS FIRE FROM U.N.

File this under the “Resistance is Futile” category, entry number 213 or so. The UN has been saying since 2000 (and the PM Obuchi Cabinet has agreed) that Japan must allow 600,000 immigrants per year or else (http://www.debito.org/A.html). Currently Japan is only taking in about 50,000 registered foreigners net per annum. And those they are taking in are given horrendous working conditions and slave wages. More on that in the next section.

On Dec 7, the Japan Times reported UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees officially grumbled about Japan’s lack of acceptance of immigrants:

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Japan can’t stop the tide of people: UNHCR chief
The Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20061207f1.html

As more people migrate worldwide, Japan will not be able to stop
immigration, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees, saying he was concerned with Japan’s restrictive refugee
acceptance program and treatment of asylum-seekers…

Antonio Guterres …said the U.N. agency was troubled with all parts
of the process to become a refugee in Japan.

“I’d say we have three main concerns: first, improvement of the
reception of asylum-seekers and of the procedural mechanisms to make
sure that there is an adequate set of decisions in an adequate time
framework and the forms of assistance that are desirable,” he said.
“And the possibility to open one, even if limited, program of
resettlement.”…

“They are here anyway and refugees are not just here as a burden,”
[said another UNHCR official]. “If we were given the possibility to
train them and give them skills, they could be made to fit the
labor need of the country.”
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
http://www.debito.org/?p=107

Then Kyodo News Dec 7 reported the case of a Myanmar man fighting in court for the right to make a livelihood. Facing deportation, after being caught working full time as a dependent on his wife’s visa, he filed a lawsuit seeking to stay. He argues that it is unreasonable to prohibit immigrant families from having a dual income. Article in full at:
http://www.debito.org/?p=107 Power to him too.

The most interesting (if one can so glibly call it that) case of all is of an Iranian family being deported for overstaying their visa. Why it came to this is a full essay in itself:

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Government tells Iranian family to get out of Japan
Kyodo News, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20061209a7.html

Immigration authorities on Friday denied an application by an Iranian
family for a special residence permit to continue living in Japan,
officials said.

The Justice Ministry gave a one-month extension to Amine Khalil, 43,
his 39-year-old wife and their two daughters, aged 18 and 10, to
prepare for their departure….

Amine, his wife and their elder daughter came to Japan between 1990
and 1991. The younger daughter was born here in 1996. Settling in
Gunma Prefecture, the family sought a special residence permit,
arguing they would face difficulties if they returned to Iran…

Amine said Japanese is his daughters’ first language and they cannot
speak Farsi, adding they cannot live in Iran.
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=107

This inspired a fascinating debate on The Community mailing list, which I have blogged starting from
http://www.debito.org/?p=107#comment-15

Points of interest (written by Matt Dioguardi):

================ EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
Following the Iranian Islamic Revolution (1979) and the Iran-Iraq war
(1980-1988), there was a large diaspora of Iranians to several
different parts of the world. These were basically political refugees.
American took in 280,000 people. Europe took in 170,000. Most of
those people are *still* living in Europe and in America….

Basically, Japan’s tatemae policy was that Iranians would not be
granted refugee status in Japan in contrast to America and Europe.
However, to soften the criticism, Japan’s *obvious* honne policy was
to allow Iranians to come over on a tourist visa, and then *ignore*
them when they overstayed the visa. There was a clear policy that was
never put on paper of *allowing* Iranians to stay in Japan. There was
clearly a lot of to be gained politically from carrying out this
honne policy, so it was done out of self-interest….

I believe that Japan does not have a visa
over stayer problem, but instead had a *de facto* guest worker
program. I think that the people in this program have fundamental
rights and that these rights are being violated.
If you don’t believe this is the case, then I encourage you to…
see a book entitled _Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective_.

[In it,] Wayne A. Cornelius, “Japan: The Illusion of Immigration Control”…
argues and in my opinion effectively demonstrates the
following points:
————————————–
1. Illegal laborers are generally left alone unless they turn
themselves in or cause trouble.

2. There is clear awareness of what’s going on by government
officials on all levels ranging from the police at the local koban,
to the officials in city hall, to the higher level government
officials who aren’t pushing for any reforms of *real* significance…

3. The reason for the above is because of the recognition of the
economic need for the labor.
————————————–

…My opinions are not at all far from international experts
on these issues who have studied this
problem. [See] a short commentary by Keiko Yamanaka [of UC Berkeley]
http://unjobs.org/authors/yamanaka-keiko [where she argues in 1994]:

————————————–
“[Japan] can no longer dismiss its de facto guestworker program as
an ‘overstayer’ problem…

“Local police stations in every Japanese neighborhood keep close tabs
on residents within their jurisdictions. Presumably they have the
knowledge and capability to round up virtually every foreigner living
illegally in their neighborhood and deliver them to the immigration
authorities for deportation. Instead, local police as well as
Immigration Bureau agents operate almost entirely on the basis of
specific complaints lodged by a neighbor or someone else against an
illegal foreign resident. ‘They are far too busy doing other things
to bother with foreign workers,’ one informant told me. In some
cases, the authorities merely ‘apprehend’ illegals who turn
themselves in.”
————————————–
http://www.debito.org/?p=107#comment-17 http://www.debito.org/?p=107#comment-18 ================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================

Plus some research from Matt in Japanese bringing to light the very facts of the case for the Iranian family. Most eye-opening was that after they filed suit:

“…they found out that there was a
policy being put in practice but *never* made explicit, in which
amnesty was being granted to families if they had a child that had
been in Japan more than 10 years and was attending at least junior
high school. The upshot here being that if Mr. Khalil had waited only about six
months more, he would have been granted amnesty. Yet, as the policy
was a secret he had no way of knowing this.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=107#comment-19

Wow. Good work, Matt. Let’s draw more attention to this situation, shall we?

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4) TOKYO SHINBUN ON JAPAN’S FOREIGN SLAVE LABOR CONDITIONS

The Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3, 2006 (thanks to Dave Spector for forwarding) had an excellent article rounding up the problems and the possible policy prescriptions regarding treatment of foreign labor in Japan. Translating for your reference:

================ EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
“The GOJ is facing up to the problems for foreign labor.” Such praise can be found in the new book “Basic Ideas for Accepting Non-Japanese”, issued last September by the similarly-titled Ministry of Justice Project Team headed by Kouno Taro, former Vice Minister of Justice.

“To continue letting them invigorate the economy, the Government should look into expanding the acceptance of foreign labor in specialized and technical fields, and debate more policies.”…

Dietmember Kouno has written on his blog that the current system as it stands is “almost all one big swindle” (ikasama).

A Chinese male worker: “I come from a farming family, so I came to Japan with the promise of doing agrarian research, but was put to work doing sheet metal. As “Researchers” (kenshuusei) we get 50,000 yen a month, with 300 yen per hour for overtime. “Trainees” (jisshuusei) get 60,000 yen a month and 350 yen per hour for overtime.”

Another Chinese female workers echoes the same: “Our monthly salary is 120,000 yen, but the air conditioning in our dorm alone is on a lease and costs about 90,000 yen.”

Noting that these cases of abuse of the Trainee and Researcher visa system are too numerous to mention, Solidarity for Migrant Workers Japan’s leader Watanabe Hidetoshi angrily points out:

“This is a slavery system making up for the shortfall in Japan’s labor market.”
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=105

Glad to see we have a Dietmember (Kouno Taro) still speaking out about them. And not before time, to be sure, given this plum example of abuse:

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5) YOMIURI: FOREIGN WORKERS CANNOT WIRE MONEY HOME, WRITE LETTERS…

Factory denies Muslim basic human rights
The Yomiuri Shimbun Dec 5, 2006
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20061205TDY02007.htm

In this case, a Muslim trainee worker has had to sign a “seiyakusho” (a written oath, mildly translated in the article as merely a “note”) promising not only to not pray on the premises or engage in Ramadan fasts, but also not ride in a car, use a cellphone, wire money home, or stay out past 9PM.

These are all violations of Japanese labor laws, not to mention international covenants as mentioned in the article, also available at
http://www.debito.org/?p=99

The GOJ has already taken some measures (such as practically abolishing the “Entertainer Visa”, used for the sex trades) to abolish some forms of slavery in Japan–but of course only after a lot of prompting from overseas (not an exaggeration, see http://www.debito.org/japantimes110706.html).

Now let’s see if the government can hold more employers accountable for these emerging abuses, which they probably couldn’t foist on Japanese workers.

Meanwhile, some people are fighting back:

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6) SENDAI CITY LOSES LAWSUIT OVER BUS ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION

================ EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
JAPAN TIMES Friday, Dec. 1, 2006
Disabled man left at bus stop wins bias suit
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20061201a7.html

SENDAI (Kyodo) The Sendai District Court ordered the city Thursday to pay 550,000 yen in redress to a Pakistani-born disabled man who was denied a ride on a city bus in 2003, ruling the snub constituted discrimination against his race and disability.

“The driver treated him implicitly in a discriminatory manner on the grounds of a difference in ethnicity and the handicap,” Judge Yoshiko Hatanaka said, ruling the treatment hence violates the Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law, and the international treaty against racial discrimination that Japan has ratified.

The Sendai government is considering appealing the decision, city officials said….
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
http://www.debito.org/?p=95

The gentleman is also a Japanese citizen. There are more of us nowadays, so watch out. Especially when doing “Gaijin Card”Checks…

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7) ASAHI: COURT RULES JUKI NET UNCONSTITUTIONAL. HOKAY, HOWZABOUT GAIJIN CARDS?

================ EXCERPT BEGINS =======================
Court, citing privacy, orders data cut from Juki Net
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 12/01/2006
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200612010166.html

OSAKA The high court here ruled Thursday that the “Juki Net” residence registration network infringes on people’s right to privacy if they oppose the system.

For four plaintiffs, it ordered the code that allows access to their data to be taken off the network.

However, it rejected claims for individual compensation of 50,000 yen by 12 other plaintiffs.

Presiding Judge Shogo Takenaka said: “The Juki Net has defects that cannot be ignored in terms of protecting personal information. Applying it to residents who don’t want their personal details on the network is against Article 13 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to privacy.”
================ EXCERPT ENDS ========================
http://www.debito.org/?p=97

Interesting legal precedent set here about constitutional rights. Hm. Funny thing about this is that what the plaintiffs probably fear happening to them already happens on a daily basis to foreigners in this country. Foreigners, by the way, are also covered by the Japanese Constitution.

Would be interesting if somebody were to take this to court and let them decide. (Hey, don’t look at me! I don’t even have a Gaijin Card anymore.)

More discussion of the issues and comments about privacy rights in Japan at
http://www.debito.org/?p=97

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8) GOJ NOW REQUIRES OVERSEAS “RAP SHEETS” FOR LONG-TERM VISAS

As of April 2006, Japan is now requiring fingerprints and criminal records for long-term visas, yet now refusing to provide police cooperation in getting the former. US citizens, for example, are now told to give their fingerprints to the FBI and get a Rap Sheet (a copy of your US criminal record). And pay for the privilege!

Nice little money spinner for the USG on the behest of the GOJ, which requires compliance without domestic assistance. This is what people pay taxes for? Glad to be exempt.

Proof from the USG Embassy website blogged at
http://www.debito.org/?p=90

The more important point is how your behavior in Japan alone is no longer a factor in whether or not you can get a long-term visa. You must also have had your nose clean abroad too. To you people who had bad childhoods–growing up and reforming yourself makes no difference. You still can’t become a Permanent Resident in Japan anymore. Presidents with colored pasts (Alberto Fujimori, ahem, who even managed to naturalize, and Bush II) had better not emigrate either.

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9) QUICK UPDATES TO PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRIES…

YAMANASHI ENGLISH SCHOOL WANT AD:
“BLONDE HAIR BLUE OR GREEN EYES AND BRIGHTLY CHARACTER”
(debito.org Nov 28, 2006)
http://www.debito.org/?p=92 This laughably overt racist job advertisement (with odd English to boot) is currently being investigated by the place which put it up–the Yamanashi International Association, according to OASIS, a local human rights organization. Will update this blog when I know more.

* * * * * * * * *
ODD MOCK TRIAL OF FOREIGNER TO TEST NEW JURY SYSTEM
(Kyodo News Nov 23, 2006)
Turns out this is actually based upon a real case, where a foreign karate master was convicted of using excessive force on a drunk back in 1982 (i.e the drunk fell over and died). Reporter friends managed to track down the story, which is blogged at
http://www.debito.org/?p=83

* * * * * * * * *
KYUSHU EXCLUSIONARY RESTAURANT (debito.org Nov 6, 2006)
“No foreigners allowed cos the manager is afraid of English”
http://www.debito.org/?p=81

UPDATE NOV 19 AND 27 2006
The Bureau of Human Rights at the Fukuoka Houmukyoku Jinken Yougobu Kitakyushu Shikyoku (Fukuoka Ministry of Justice Kitakyushu Division of the Bureau of Human Rights–093-561-3542) also phoned me to get details on exactly who was refused and to clarify details. I told them the exact name on Nov 27 after receiving permission from the victim. So there you go. All we need now is a letter from the Mayor’s office or from JALT and we’ve got a hat trick.

===============================
UPDATE DEC 11 2006
(Sent this to the person who originally got refused at the restaurant.–Debito)

I just got another call from the BOHR, and talked to a Mr Uehara.

He says he wants to talk to you directly about what happened. I told him I didn’t know your language level etc. or exactly where you live. But his contact details are 093-561-3542. Call him if you like and he will call you back.

In the course of our conversation, it became clear that he hadn’t talked to the restaurant yet, more than a month after this whole thing happened. He wanted to get our story straight before he approached them. I told them that I was too initially refused, so whether or not you talked to the Bureau directly should be irrelevant. He’s talking to me, and I was refused too, so talk to the restaurant if you need to confirm our story. It’s been a month already. He said that he wanted to talk to you first too. This went on for about twenty minutes or so, so I at least said I would pass this information on to you. Thus served.

I hate dealing with bureaucrats who have no stomach for their job. They say they need to hear both sides. But then they indicate they won’t hear the other side until they are satisfied that they heard all of one side. I said I should suffice as one full side, in any case. They disagree. So there you go. Please let me know whether or not you are amenable to talking to these bureaucrats?

Don’t worry–they’ll hold your name and information in confidence. Trust me–the BOHR has even refused to let me see my own file for a separate case cos they argued that I would violate my own privacy!
http://www.debito.org/policeapology.html

Absolutely useless organization, this Jinken Yougobu.

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…and finally… LOSING MY SUGAWARA ON MY KOSEKI

This might come as news to some (but not those who follow the biased axe-grinding Wikipedia entries on me), that my official name on my koseki (the Family Registry, which is what all Japanese citizens must have to be) is in fact Sugawara Arudoudebito (meaning “Arudou Debito” is in fact officially my first name).

See why at http://www.debito.org/kikaupdate3.html

Well, that will be changing. Three Wednesdays ago, I took this up with Family Court to get my name officially changed to Arudou Debito (thus losing the Sugawara).

Two Fridays ago, the Sapporo Family Court judge came down in my favor. That’s it. Done. Fastest I’ve ever seen a Japanese court move–a decision within TWO days!

Bigger report to follow on the procedure. Fascinating journey, that.
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Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito (for real at last) in Sapporo
debito@debito.org
http://www.debito.org NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 13 2006 ENDS

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