DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

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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
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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:

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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

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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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8 comments on “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    This is priceless!

    https://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/national/japan-sees-sharp-rise-in-number-of-foreign-nursing-care-students

    Japan is giving itself a pat on the back for being so open and international because;
    ‘the number of foreign students nationwide has grown more than seven-fold from 34 in academic year 2011 to 257 in academic year 2016.’

    Wow! In five years Japan’s managed to attract an annual number of 257 NJ to become student nurses! Sounds progressive right? Until you get to this part;
    ‘the overall number of students in Japan aiming to join the nursing care sector is seeing a sharp decline, with the figure standing at 7,752 as of April last year. This comprises only 46.4% of the quota.’

    So really, instead of broadcasting to themselves and NJ that Japan is seeing benefits from bending over themselves to accommodate these NJ student nurses, the real story here should be aimed at the Japanese audience;
    If you don’t want your healthcare system to collapse, get over yourselves and accept we have to do more for NJ nurses.

  • ‘House Zoo’ a Tokyo company that rents out ‘shared houses’, where Japanese can live with their pets, has made a telling next step…

    After all, what’s even more cute than living with people AND their cats and dogs?

    Share with a gaijin! Because, NJ aren’t really people, are they?

    How about just renting to people and laying off the constant focus on nationality?

    I don’t know how many eikaiwa teachers are going to look forward to finishing their day job at the eikaiwa sweatshops to then come home and give housemates constant eikaiwa practice.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/17/national/japans-shared-dwellings-evolving-meet-diverse-needs-tenants/

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Ahh, Japan’s famous ‘omotenashi’ fails again!

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/18/business/apa-chain-takes-flak-china-books-inns-denying-nanjing-massacre/

    APA hotel chain places Japanese/English language WW2 Japanese war crimes denial books in every hotel room, and refuses to remove them ‘just because some guests might feel offended’.

    How considerate! Thank you for forcing right-wing clap trap in us! Excuse me while I take my money elsewhere!

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Seven NJ women held captive at Japanese restaurant and forced to provide sex to restaurant customers.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/18/national/cambodian-women-rescued-sex-slavery-japan/

    Hmm…Japanese men coercing NJ women into being sex-slaves. Seems they haven’t got over that bad habit. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem, and Japan can’t face that it has a problem with, and a history of, sexual exploitation of NJ women.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Bizarre article by JT’s Nicholas Gattig, who has returned to the US after 8 years in Japan;

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/18/voices/re-entry-u-s-can-tough-tokyo-man-drunk-white-privilege/

    Bizarre because he, by his own admission, seems to have bumbled his way through the last 8 years not really understanding what was happening, and by his own admission fell totally into the ‘Charisma Man’ trap. And of course, on that basis is happy to tell anyone that will listen that Japan treated him like royalty and he never experienced any discrimination!

    In fact, he was feeling such a discrimination deficit that he felt obliged to return to the US to get slammed for being white!

    I think he’s making it all up.

    Anyhow, 8 years as a tourist? What was his real job? Why didn’t they give him a promotion? Not Japanese enough?

  • Thanks for sharing that post by Gattig, JDG. Truly bizarre writing there. Every now and then I read nonsense like that article and feel completely baffled. The experience he describes is so completely different from mine, I can’t believe he’s even talking about the same country. Maybe it is a perspective unique to Japanese-illiterate expats who make no effort to integrate into society, living in a little English bubble? I can’t make sense of it.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Tokyo park worker punished for giving NJ free entry to park (sounds like a kind guy), but his excuse is that he ‘was traumatized by foreigners’ (what does that even mean?).

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/20/national/shinjuku-gyoen-worker-punished-not-collecting-fees-foreign-nationals/

    No explanation, just ‘traumatized by foreigners’ is enough now, everybody nods and says ‘Ah, I see’?

    — Again, no matter what happens, it’s the foreigners’ fault. Even when Japanese bureaucrats make conscious decisions to break their own rules.

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