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  • Come back Brazilian Nikkei, all is forgiven!, in a policy U-turn after GOJ Repatriation Bribes of 2009

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 19th, 2013

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    Hi Blog.  In an apparent policy U-turn, the GOJ decided last week to lift the ban on certain South Americans of Japanese descent (Nikkei) from re-entering Japan.  This after bribing them to leave in 2009 so that they would not become an inconvenient unemployment statistic (not to mention that it was cheaper to pay their airfare than to pay them their social welfare that they had invested in over the decades, or pay them their pensions in future when reaching retirement age).

    The reasons for this U-turn are being discussed in a recent Japan Times article, excerpted below.  The article speculates that a couple of embarrassing lawsuits and visa-denials might have tipped the GOJ’s hand (I for one doubt it; Japan’s visa regimes, as can be seen for example in its perennial stance towards refugees, are generally impervious to public exposure and international pressure).  I believe it was more an issue of the GOJ facing reality (as happened more than one year ago at the highest policymaking levels, where even the GOJ still maintained the stance that if immigration was an inevitability, they had better bring back people with Japanese blood; after all, the only ones in attendance were all Wajin and one token Nikkei).

    Debito.org has spoken out quite hot-tonguedly about how ludicrous the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe was, not the least because of its inherently racialized paradigms (because they only applied to Nikkei — people who were also in even more dire financial straits due to the economic downturn, such as the Chinese and Muslim factory workers laboring in conditions of indentured servitude, were left to fend for themselves because they lacked the requisite Japanese blood).

    So as a matter of course Debito.org cheers for the lifting of the ban.  But the Bribe and the Ban should never have happened in the first place.  So the GOJ can also take its lumps even if they are ultimately making the right decision.

    Does this mean that the numbers of registered NJ residents of Japan will start to increase again?  I will say it could happen.  I stress: could, not will happen.  But if it did, that statistic, not any asset bubbles and transient stock-market numbers that people keep championing as the putative fruits of “Abenomics”, will be the real indicator of Japan’s recovery.   That is to say, if Japan ever regains its sheen as an attractive place to work for international labor, then an increase in Japan’s NJ population will cause and signal a true leavening of Japan’s economic clout and prowess.  But I remain skeptical at this juncture — as I’ve said before, the jig is up, and outsiders generally know that Japan has no intention or enforceable laws to treat immigrants as equals, no matter how much of their lives and taxes they invest.

    At this time, I believe international migrant labor will continue to vote with their feet and work elsewhere.  So good luck with significant numbers coming to Japan even with this ban lifted.  Arudou Debito

    ==========================
    Referential article:

    Ban lifted on ‘nikkei’ who got axed, airfare
    But Japanese-Brazilians must have work contract before coming back
    BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, The Japan Times OCT 15, 2013
    EXCERPT:
    In what could be a significant change in policy affecting “nikkei” migrant workers from Brazil, the government Tuesday lifted a ban on the return of Japanese-Brazilians who received financial help in 2009 to fly home when they were thrown out of work during the global financial crisis.

    Ostensibly an attempt to help the unemployed and cash-strapped Latin American migrants of Japanese ethnic origin escape the economic woes here, the 2009 initiative offered each an average of ¥300,000 to be used as airfare. It eventually resulted in an exodus of around 20,000 people, including 5,805 from Aichi Prefecture and 4,641 from Shizuoka Prefecture.

    Although some of the migrants were genuinely thankful for the chance to get out of struggling Japan and find jobs back home, others were insulted because accepting the deal also meant they couldn’t come back to Japan at least “for the next three years” under “the same legal status.” This was seen as an outrageous move by the government to “get rid of” foreign workers as demand for their services fizzled out.

    The migrants were initially banned from re-entering Japan for an unspecified period of time, but after a storm of both domestic and international condemnation, the government eventually said it might green-light their return after three years, depending on the economy.

    Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/15/national/ban-lifted-on-nikkei-who-got-axed-airfare/
    ENDS

    9 Responses to “Come back Brazilian Nikkei, all is forgiven!, in a policy U-turn after GOJ Repatriation Bribes of 2009”

    1. DK Says:

      I wonder what the communities of Brazilian nikkei make of this. While there seems to be a certain degree of activism (at least on line) among some of these communities, it’s interesting how all too often they face the very same divisions and conflicts pervasive among western foreigners in Japan: uncritical endorsement of stereotypes of nikkei-as-criminals, mutual accusations mirroring a shocking lack of solidarity with the plight of others, schadenfreude and the typical “get-out-of-my-Japan” attitudes. It’s pretty dismal to have a look at some of their on-line forums, like this one http://www.braznet.org/F%C3%B3rum/tabid/148/forumid/6/postid/111688/scope/posts/language/pt-BR/Default.aspx, which discusses precisely (in Portuguese) the recent issue pointed out by Debito.

      – I say it’s the typical divide-and-conquer attitude encouraged by GOJ authorities by offering rents-seeking opportunities for some (but never all), and forcing competition within the disenfranchisement for the promise of enfranchisement (which is, naturally, almost never granted). But I’m speaking academese, sorry.

    2. DK Says:

      “I say it’s the typical divide-and-conquer attitude encouraged by GOJ authorities by offering rents-seeking opportunities for some (but never all), and forcing competition within the disenfranchisement for the promise of enfranchisement (which is, naturally, almost never granted). But I’m speaking academese, sorry.”

      I guess you’re right. The forum I mentioned above, for example, is a cascade of mutual accusations and insults, with the GOJ coming out of it smelling of roses. Typical.

    3. dude Says:

      DK: nice link.

      In the 90’s, when I lived in Japan, I met hundreds of Brazilian Nikkei (and a couple from Argentina & Peru). I found them to be mostly nice people (I am biased, because they are my friends), who, before coming to Japan, were unemployed, underemployed, or were barely getting by. When the opportunity to make 10 times + their Brazil salary arose, they jumped at the chance.

      The people I met were not academics. They were laborers. So for them, the opportunity to make, save, and send home large sums of money was too good to pass up. When jobs dried up, and they got ‘repatriated’, they understood – Japan puts Japanese people first. And they are not Japanese.

      Now that Tokyo is gearing up for the 2020 Olympics, there is a growing need for laborers (construction)- so the Nikkei will be called upon to fill the void. They will get the short end of the stick (by Japan standards), but will make much more in Japan than in Brazil. Some will pass, but the demand will be filled, largely with Brazil nikkei. And again, when the jobs dry up (again), they will be sent home (again).

      Debito – I recently had a discussion with a member of the upper house. He and several other Japanese corporate leaders were discussing Japan’s labor shortage. The consensus: Japan needs young immigrants to fill the jobs currently left vacant by the lack of younger Japanese people. As Japan ages, they need more laborers – to work in farming, fishing, construction, etc. And Japan’s low birth rate is just not helping. They agreed that the GOJ, and most Japanese people, do not want, and will not tolerate the kind of immigration policy needed to fill the void. In the near term, at least, they will continue with short-term fixes.

      I managed to get a few questions in, and to sum it up:
      They know there is a growing problem. They see the obvious (easiest) solution.
      But Japan does not want to give foreigners the right to live and work in large numbers in Japan.
      They don’t want want a large, organized group of people who think they have the right to speak out.
      They don’t want schools flooded with non-Japanese children, questioning the status quo, and disturbing harmony.
      They especially do not want foreigners to come to Japan, and employ Japanese people (they think they have this covered). They only want laborers, and only short term. In other words, come, but don’t plan on staying. As long as the ‘right’ Japanese people are on top, they can control the ‘unruly’ foreigners.

      Essentially, from their point of view, the available cure is worse than the illness. Until this changes, nothing will change regarding Japanese immigration policy.

      PS:
      -the caregiver visa program, that you have discussed in detail – is everything you have been saying it is. Designed to let in a few, but not too many. Window dressing.
      – Tenure to NJ Professors – no change in sight.
      – I could go on, but you get the idea.

    4. Markus Says:

      @Dude (#3) “They don’t want schools flooded with non-Japanese children, questioning the status quo, and disturbing harmony.
      They especially do not want foreigners to come to Japan, and employ Japanese people (they think they have this covered). They only want laborers, and only short term. In other words, come, but don’t plan on staying. As long as the ‘right’ Japanese people are on top, they can control the ‘unruly’ foreigners.”

      I tend to think the fear of having foreigners enter institutions or becoming bosses of Japanese people is about image as well. Just imagine a bunch of “dark skinned foreigners” doing better in school than the native kids, or foreign bosses discovering that their Japanese employees’ effectiveness and flexibility don’t live up to the myth.
      Japan so far has been able to control the revelation that “the Emperor has no clothes” through keeping the playing field tilted. If the numbers get too big, it will be impossible to deny that much of what makes up the self esteem of modern Japan is just myth.

    5. Baudrillard Says:

      @Dude, you gotta love the GOJ’d “have cake and eat it” thinking!

      -But Japan does not want to give foreigners the right to live and work in large numbers in Japan.

      so they need workers, but don’t want to give them rights to work! Or any rights at all. In other words, illegal workers who can be got rid of at a moment’s notice, I suppose.

      -They don’t want want a large, organized group of people who think they have the right to speak out.

      I get the feeling they don’t want anyone to speak out.

      -They don’t want schools flooded with non-Japanese children, questioning the status quo, and disturbing harmony.

      So you can only come if you are single? Of course then what happens if you marry a Japanese and have-Amaterasu forbid- “haafu” children!

      Actually in the ELF industry married NJ teachers were preferred, as they would not do a “runner” suddenly and would stay till the end of a course.

    6. Peter McArthur Says:

      @Dude

      You sum it up beautifully.

      They seem to be groping their way towards a mass guest-worker apartheid system. No surprises there, I guess. Japan already has the necessary building blocks in place. And the sad thing is: it might even work.

    7. Jim di Griz Says:

      @ DK

      I wish I could read the comments on that page you linked. Looks like a lot of interest.

      – Plug it into Google Translate.

    8. Welp Says:

      @#5
      so they need workers, but don’t want to give them rights to work! Or any rights at all. In other words, illegal workers who can be got rid of at a moment’s notice, I suppose.

      They have no problem filling this void with the “trainee workers” from China whom they can treat as literal human slaves, and legally at that.

    9. GS Says:

      Well, one thing I wonder is if the mentioned Nikkei are willing to play along, in other words, risk repeating the previous experience…

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