My SNA Visible Minorities 15: “New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist”, on how they are actually a natural outcome of Japan’s bullying bureaucracy (Oct. 19, 2020)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s my latest Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” column 15.  Enjoy.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities: New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist
OCT 19, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/10/19/visible-minorities-new-covid-foreign-resident-re-entry-rules-still-racist/

SNA (Tokyo) — Sometime during your life in Japan, you will probably feel a chilling attitude in Japan’s bureaucracy: as a foreign resident, you don’t really matter. To Japan’s policymakers, you’re at best an existence to be tolerated, at worst an unpredictable element that needs constant policing.

You’ll see it in things like Japan’s special foreign registry systems, or the “Gaijin Cards” that must be carried 24-7 and leave you vulnerable to random street ID checks by racist cops.

But you might not have realized until recently the most dehumanizing tenet of all: That foreigners should have no legal expectation to belong here.

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Japan’s foreign residents have no “right of sojourn,” i.e., to leave Japan temporarily and expect to return. (Japan Times columnist Colin Jones called it a “reverse Hotel California”–you can leave any time you like, but can never check back in.)

That means that even if you invested your entire life in Japan, married a Japanese, had children, paid taxes, bought property, started a business, and even achieved Permanent Residency (which by definition should be a legitimate claim to reside here forever), nothing you did matters. You cross the border, you’re out.

Hypothetically, if push comes to shove, a Permanent Resident will have the same status as any foreign tourist at the border.

Well, that hypothetical came true last April when, due to Covid, Japan decided to bar all foreigners from re-entering Japan–even though Japanese could still return and merely quarantine. No other developed country does this, and there is no science indicating that Japanese passports offer enhanced epidemiological protection. It was purely arbitrary.

So foreign residents found themselves stranded overseas apart from their Japanese families, or watched helplessly from Japan as their overseas kith and kin died. This heartless and explicit racism attracted significant international attention, so from October 1, Japan announced it would open its borders to foreign residents under certain conditions.

But it turns out that, realistically, these conditions are still a ban…. By arbitrarily creating a tight 72-hour hour window requiring special paperwork unattuned to the realities of Covid testing overseas (especially when the test is meaningless if you get infected on the plane), Japan’s bureaucrats merely deflected international criticism from its regular racism by replacing it with new, improved racism.

Read the entire article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/10/19/visible-minorities-new-covid-foreign-resident-re-entry-rules-still-racist/

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30 comments on “My SNA Visible Minorities 15: “New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist”, on how they are actually a natural outcome of Japan’s bullying bureaucracy (Oct. 19, 2020)

  • Meanwhile a Japanese guy I know went to Canada on a working holiday visa last week. You can‘t make this up. Japanese workers enjoy „honorary white“ status wherever they go, NJ immigrants in Japan however are always being treated as second class citizens, especially in times of big crises like covid, or the 2008 economic crisis. The funniest (well not really) thing here is that the Japanese government announced that they will let foreigners (including tourists) into the country again in April next year because of the Olympics. This means that the Olympics are the only reason NJ residents can return back home normally. Who knows how long this „soft ban“ would continue if not for the Olympics. Probably until the end of 2021 or even further.

    Reply
  • David Markle says:

    “The most popular job is being a public official.” I can vouch for this. The most popular jobs are 1. police officer, 2. public official (working in the city office, i.e. tax leach/collector) or last of all working for the fire dept. although hardly anybody who tries for this is accepted because of the physical stamina and strength requirements.

    Here in the inaka, the most popular thing is to be on the “safety patrol” which they get a sign to put on their truck door that says they are officially “protecting the children.” Bunk! All this is is an excuse to go around telling people what they can and cant do. “You cant burn leaves! You cant put out your garbage before 7:00 am! You cant let weeds grow so close to the drainage ditch!” Somebody is always coming around (usually in a group for added confidence and support and self-assumed authority) to tell us what and when we can do this and do that. I have given a lot of trouble to these little emperors over the years which is the only way to deal with them in MHO. If you give in to their demands, it will never end until they feel they own you and have satisfied their need for self assurance and value.

    Japanese strive to have anything they can get to lord over anyone they can. An ant hive mentality, with chicken brood, pecking orders. Foreigners upset this which is one reason they are not welcome.

    Reply
  • Here’s the proof that Japan’s entry restrictions are based on racism not medical science (although, frankly, that’s ALREADY proved by the lack of restrictions on Japanese re-entering Japan, but whatever).

    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/10/20/national/japan-china-restart-business-travel/

    ‘Short term visitors’ (tourists, business trips) will be exempt from 14 day quarantine! (Because Covid ONLY affects NJ who aren’t on holiday or in business). Really?!?

    Oh, come on. What a joke. Japan is clearly using this to enforce its long running prejudice; NJ who visit will be ‘wowed’ by Japan, so they can come and go. Whereas NJ residents have been here long enough to know the truth, anyways, Japan doesn’t want NJ as residents, only as impressionable visitors.

    Perhaps they do have a plan (contrary to my earlier deductions). Perhaps policy makers are anticipating a ‘Covid recession’ and have decided that farms, factories and combinis won’t be needing all that minimum wage NJ labor? They are certainly prioritizing big business and the tourism industry…

    Everyone else can just F-off, it seems.

    Reply
  • Anyway, this whole discussion is moot.
    NJ residents pay Health Insurance in Japan, by law.
    If they arrive Covid positive in Japan, why are they denied the health care for which they are forced to pay?
    This *should* be a breach constitution except that Japanese judges and prosecutors have already set the precedent that ‘NJ have no [legal] rights’ and that NJ can be denied social welfare for which they have already paid.
    This is a human rights issue, surely?

    Reply
  • Debito-san;

    Great ending…..

    “With a status this tenuous, is it really worth trying to make a go of it in Japan anymore? Covid has made that choice much clearer.”

    I have been reading your blog almost since its inception and I believe this is the most significant issue to face the foreign population in Japan since.

    The last line of your article is perfectly stated (I almost never use the word perfect). It is like the final curtain call for the era of foreigners and expats in Japan.

    My answer to the question is a resounding “No”. Some of us here are “locked in” (at least for a certain period of time) but to those thinking of coming here to “give it a go” I suggest heeding Debito’s advice. If you do come I would suggest looking at it as a “working holiday” and nothing more than that.

    Reply
    • @Dave

      The only thing that shocks me is that some gaijin in Japan have willfully ignored the growing tide of racism. I’m no mastermind myself, but it became obvious to me around the time that fingerprinting of foreigners at the border started. The PR message was that it was just keeping up with global security measures, but no one really believed that. One celebrity brought out to demonstrate the new fingerprinting devices actually said “This will stop the foreign terrorists now!”, to the surprise of no one.

      Where are the apologists now?

      ………..

      Reply
    • David Markle says:

      It is sad to see how Japan has changed for the worse over the years. It would be easy to point to this or that as a reason, but there really isn t one that can be verified.

      What has not changed is the naivety of young people from many places who regard Japan as some kind of land over the rainbow. They think old fogies like us who dish out negative advice re coming here, are just party poopers, or have entrenched interests in wanting to keep the newbies out, like not wanting the competition for all the lucrative goodies. Ha! Most of them wont listen anyway.

      Reply
    • Simply dont pay into Kokumin Kenko Hoken in your first year, thereby dooming on purpose your stay to one year as now a renewal is tied to that….I wonder how any employer would react though, to this Fait Accompli.

      Reply
  • The exclusion thing was always there; its like a stock market oscillator, it will go high during times like these, then go low during the olympics, but its always there. People come and go, lecturing that “its changing’ No its not, and a more realistic approach is to acknowledge what it is and develop work arounds. The busy body squads seem to patrol/control deep in the neighborhoods, even have committees with “leaders” which I avoid. I lived near the main road seems they were absent, also if you live remotely, seems they are less in numbers. As a gaijin you will become the obsession of these squads, as you give them a feeling of importance. Clowning them in front of others gives a temp shoo shoo but they might return. Just avoid it if you can.

    Reply
    • -Clowning them in front of others gives a temp shoo shoo
      can you give more details on how to clown them? I am having trouble with one or two locals right now. basically they dont want a gaijin in their village, but I live there too, have done for many years, am permanent resident.

      Reply
      • David Markle says:

        I am still having problems with: “If you live remotely, seems they are less in numbers.” Well….Yeah isnt everything less in numbers if you live remotely? Maybe more hungry bears to deal with though. If I lived on a deserted island then there would be nobody to have to deal with. Not much job prospects or pizza delivery on the mountain tops. Commuting would be a bummer.

        “Develop work arounds” is another suggestion I have to admit I fail to grasp. Dont you think developing work arounds is something everyone has thought of already? If there were doable “workarounds” then life would be peaches and cream wouldnt it? Maybe a fairy god mother or a genie in a bottle is a good workaround?

        “People come and go” well, here is one I can wrap my head around. Yes they do. And they live and die, eat and sleep, and a lot of other things. Profound. Maybe Tim should write a book or something explaining to us how we have had it wrong all these years.

        Reply
        • my work around was giong home the long, inconvenient way. Then I thought, “screw this” but I saw the bullying busybodies from afar and could work out the approx time they would be there, blocking my way. so then I just would take a bus if my home arrival time was coinciding with the time they were usually out nosying. I guess thats what he means by work arounds.
          “Clowning them’, I dunno. Act the fool? urban dictionary Also known as “To Clown” and “The Clowning” – To make fun of, to make an absolute fool of, or to school someones dumb @$$.
          Would that work in Japan? Laugh at them?

          Reply
          • No, not that kind of clowning. Like ojisan starts the noise about gomi separation or don don ursai sound; just something to complain about, set the hook to keep me in control. I just got to the point, where I thought it was all too funny and there was a change, but I cant tell you to do that. I had a song I would sing when I saw him.

      • @baud

        How are they making your life miserable? I had the local police come and visit me recently, which I have never had happen before. Coincidentally or not, it was just when my wife was out (in a two-hour predictable window) and I was home alone. They said they wanted to take stock of who was living where and their contact details just in case of a natural disaster or such.

        I moved in here (a large apartment complex, in the top edge apartment) about 4 years ago and it caused some consternation (English signs appeared “no airbnb!” for the first time). Now I have an adopted Japanese daughter, some more knickers have been twisted, I think.

        Reply
        • Jim Di Griz says:

          I had this kind of police visit once. I wrote about it on Debito.org.
          The police rang our doorbell and asked who we were, and if we lived here. They wanted to know who we worked for and when our birthdays are, and what my nationality was.
          All under the pretext of ‘in case there’s a disaster, so we can help you’. Yeah, right.
          If the police actually needed this information they could get it from other government agencies (the ward office, tax office, immigration etc) but they can’t legally do that, so they are doorstepping people to collect information like the gestapo.

          —- How did you answer?

          Reply
          • Jim Di Griz says:

            My wife and I both met him at the garden gate after he rang the doorbell.
            We asked what he wanted. He said he was collecting information about local residents so the police could help people better in an emergency.
            He wanted names, ages, birthdays, employment and employers info, the lot. My J-wife conditioned by years of indoctrination into vertical hierarchies was going to give it all up, but at every stage I just kept asking him ‘why?’ in Japanese, and every time he would ignore me and ‘explain why’ to my wife. And then I would tell her she shouldn’t answer any police questions voluntarily, and that if he needed to legitimately know all this stuff, he’d be able to legally get the info from government sources, but the police can’t do they’re relying on blind obedience to authority.
            He was clearly frustrated (the life of a fascist is so hard).
            When he asked my wife what country I was from, I asked him if that would affect how the police ‘helped me in an emergency?’
            When he asked my wife when her birthday was, I asked him ‘why? Are you going to send her a birthday present?’
            Before he left, he asked us if we could provide any of the same information about the residents next door (ratting our our neighbors to the gestapo isn’t my style) and I told him that I’d like to know what (presumably incorrect) information they would give him about us when he went next door and asked them the same questions, and would the police just accept whatever our neighbors said about us as fact and keep it on police records?
            He was deeply apologetic for ‘having to ask’ (again, those poor fascists, eh?) and went off.
            It was bogus, unethical, and clearly he was misleading us about why the police needed this information and the legality of doorstepping us for information other arms of the government already has but is unable to legally share with the police.
            If I was being generous, I might say that overstaffed underworked police are just fishing for crimes, but the truth is that I believe this is a neo-Confucian vertical social hierarchy mindset prevalent in Japan that dictates that EVERYTHING can be measured, recorded, catagorized, known, and out in its ‘correct’ place/order.
            It’s a symptom of postwar Japan’s inability to ‘get over’ its imperial era ideology that demands everything must be controlled- no diversity, no unpredictability, no freedom, played out in daily life.

          • ironically, this is what the police do in Communist China. I wonder if Pot and Kettle are perhaps related?

        • -I had the local police come and visit me recently, which I have never had happen before.
          its well documented here on another thread about immigration officials or cosplayers turning up at the rickety gaijin house in Shinagawa Ku., And wrenching the door off its rails. But at the same place the police often used to come round “To take stock of who lived there and contact details in case of a disater” Yeah right. They pulled the same sht at the gaijin house in shangawa regularly but get this, two days later I visited my GFs place at midnight and the owner saw me and said “you might be ayashii hito”. By sheer coincidence (not) a couple days later as I lay in bed there, the police came round to HER door “to check who is living there in case of a disaster, there have been crimes in the area etc” It was most amusing when they asked more than once if she lived alone to which she replied “yes” as she does, while I laid there listening. Of course we know what they were REALLY checking (do you have a NJ boyfriend who visits?)

          So your mistake was to get out of bed and actually answer the door. No Japanese people do that these days in Tokyo if they dont expect a visitor so why should you?
          Theres a lot of paranoid mistrust, but its contagious.

          Reply
      • that just means, not taking it seriously, perhaps a little song and dance, but thats my lane or my solution, might not work for others.. I do know exactly what your experiencing. The point was, its never going to go away, you have to go away (move) or avoid that area etc. Ive just found, the deeper in the kinjo you reside, the more these groups seem to be. Ive lived in areas where there were none, or they just didnt bother.

        Reply
        • Tim, about your song to the troublesome Ojisan, this got me thinking. I have noticed people who act the fool get a free pass or are excused from responsibility; theyre too much trouble to deal with I guess. I am thinking my ex, who on cycling over one night said the police stopped her so she said she switched to “baka mode”. I.e. act dumb. So the police let her go faster as she;s seemingly kawaii and harmless. Ditto this weird relationship I saw, in which I lost out to this really goofy guy who acted the fool and had a dumb smile on his face, but somehow this impressed the qualified dentist lady we were competing for. She said “This naive boy can do no wrong”.
          Third case, French company, exasperated with a goofy middle manager they had promoted- he got on well with the junior local staff as he was “funny”. This did not cut it with the foreign execs who had flown in for the board meeting; they actually locked him out of the room.
          But actually this was how he evaded extra responsibility. So, be clever and dumb down, Act stupid. You know it makes (non)sense!

          Reply
  • Di Griz – Thank you for sharing this.

    This article is beyond belief; even for Japan. So foreigners residences are equivalent to entertainment districts?

    This just gets worse and worse. Possibly the most racist and xenophobic thing I have heard.

    It appears however that the Vienna Philharmonic can enter Japan without having to quarantine; a luxtury not granted foreign residents of Japan

    https://japantoday.com/category/entertainment/Vienna-Philharmonic-to-perform-in-4-Japanese-cities-from-next-week

    Reply
    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Japan’s basically going for ‘herd immunity’ by restricting free testing only to those symptomatic for several days, and by now conducting widespread testing to check the extent of asymptotic spread.
      Apologists ask ‘but where are the untested people who die from Covid?’ but the truth is that Japan doesn’t carry out autopsies in regular times, so no doubt many covid deaths are put down to ‘pre-existing conditions’.
      It’s interesting that ‘famous’ NJ don’t have to quarantine.
      It seems that famous Japanese don’t need to isolate even when they test positive;
      https://japantoday.com/category/sports/update-2-olympics-japanese-gymnast-uchimura-tests-positive-for-covid-19-ahead-of-key-meet

      Dr.Debito wrote a few years ago about the Japanese cultural inability to face bad news squarely and deal with it (something about stinky pots and lids). It seems quite clear that Japan is prioritizing big business (and the Olympics) and ignoring the reality of this situation. Seriously, Japan is the ONLY country in the world that hasn’t tracked down and isolated every case, and yet NEVER sees exponential growth in infection rates? That’s not plausible. No country reports months of daily cases between 100-200 people; the number grows or you take action to reduce it.
      Japan is trying to ignore it and blame it on vulnerable people in society; sex industry workers and NJ.

      Reply
    • David Markle says:

      The inhuman entry restrictions, the quarantines, the ostracism, the curfews, the bans, the endless testing, the soon to be mandatory vaccinations that will be coupled with severe penalties for non compliance…these are all punishments for not being born of the superior pure Yamato bloodline, and for bringing this endless filthy scourge of a pandemic into the sacred beautiful land.

      It is all your fault you foreign impure breeders of alien viruses! For this vile offence you must all be made to pay!

      Reply
  • Japan is a brand, a tourist destination, or as Dr D said before “if they are famous, we will claim them”- “Vienna Philharmonic can enter Japan without having to quarantine; a luxury not granted foreign residents of Japan’
    Fame and celeb status trumps all in Japan. I mean, we’re talking about a country whose emperor’s prize possession was a Mickey Mouse watch from Disney.
    The ultimate “relationships between images”

    Reply
  • Jim Di Griz says:

    NJ athletes coming to Japan for, or to train for, the Tokyo Olympics will be exempted from the entry Kafka-esque requirements the effectively keep NJ residents out, thus (by their own admission!) allowing the J-government to continue with Olympics preparations whilst not having to review the restrictions on NJ resister-entry BEFORE the Olympics:

    https://japantoday.com/category/sports/japan-to-make-special-allowance-for-entry-of-athletes-before-olympics

    There it is- they have no plan to review the restrictions for NJ tax payers until after August 2021 at the earliest.

    I would encourage every NJ to contact the Olympic Committee of their home nation requesting a boycott in support of NJ residents.

    Reply
    • Jim, perhaps I’m misunderstanding something here, but it appears the article explicitly states, “The organizers are expected to…require foreign athletes and staff to take virus tests within 72 hours prior to their departure and obtain certificates showing that they are not infected with the virus.

      They are also required to monitor their health for 14 days before entering Japan and take virus tests upon their arrival at Japanese airports.”

      Aren’t these the same conditions imposed on returning non-citizen residents? Am I missing something?

      Reply
      • Well, I guess you’re missing the part where National sporting teams have their national governments organize, lay on, and pay for all of this for them (as well as chartering jets the athletes don’t have to buy tickets for), whilst ‘Joe NJ’ has to do all the legwork, running around like he’s/she’s at a stamp rally, whilst paying either through the nose for a last minute flight or taking the risk of paying for a ticket they might not be able to use…

        Meanwhile, the J-Government is deciding to relax requirements for NJ coming to see the Olympics, but not for NJ seeking re-entry to their homes;

        https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/11/11/national/japan-quarantine-olympics-spectators-overseas/

        Again, NJ residents have no voice, and there is no international pressure for Japan to get with the 21st century and respect people’s inalienable human rights.

        Reply

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