Posted by debito on May 31st, 2008
Hi Blog. Here are some very nice words about HANDBOOK from the Daily Yomiuri. Yowza! Debito
Cradle-to-grave guide to the good and bad of life in Japan
You’ve gotten engaged? You’ve decided to start your own business? You’re going to have a baby?
Congratulations! But now what do you do?
You’ve lost your job? Your car has been stolen? You’re getting divorced?
Too bad. But now what do you do?
Live in one place long enough, and sooner or later you will experience a life-changing event there–good or bad, planned or sudden. If you are a foreign resident of the place where it occurs, having to navigate unfamiliar channels of officialdom can make things all the more stressful.
Authors Arudou Debito and Higuchi Akira saw a need and decided to fill it with their Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan (Akashi Shoten, 370 pp, 2,300 yen), published in March.
The book outlines the basic procedures to follow in each of the above scenarios plus many others, from how to give your newborn child a middle name (combine it and the first name into a single word on official forms with space for only first and last names) to how to plan your funeral (if you’re not having your body shipped overseas, prepare to be cremated).
Asked why they had written the book, Higuchi told The Daily Yomiuri last week: “It’s simple. Newcomers don’t have enough information in English. It’s not that easy to find that information in one book.”
Arudou, in another interview the same day, elaborated, saying: “I don’t think the government makes it very clear how people can make a stable life over here. They make it very clear how you can come here, not how you can stay here.”
The book is completely bilingual, with English on one page and the corresponding Japanese text–with hiragana pronunciation guides–on the facing page.
Higuchi, a certified administrative solicitor, explained how he and Arudou came to be writing partners. “I and Debito are in an association called the Hokkaido International Business Association,” he said. “We have meetings every other month, and about two years ago we had a meeting about changes to commercial law. I talked about commercial law and also related issues such as visas and business licenses. And Debito said, right after the meeting, ‘Why don’t we write a book?’”
Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen originally from the United States, was already a published author. His book Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan, traced the progress of an antidiscrimination lawsuit in which he was one of the plaintiffs.
Not surprisingly, the Handbook does contain a section on lawsuits. “Japan is thought of as a ‘non-litigious’ society where going to court is viewed as ‘un-Japanese.’ We do not agree,” the authors write. “In 1998 alone, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, there were 5,454,942 court cases in all levels of Japan’s justice system…People in Japan do sue. We recommend that readers view the Japanese judiciary system as just one more alternative for conflict resolution.”
The book covers the criminal justice system from two perspectives: that of victims wishing to report a crime and that of innocent people wrongly arrested. The authors write that they “assume that readers are not breaking any Japanese laws (if you are, then sorry, we cannot help you).”
Even for readers who never find themselves involved in a criminal case, these sections are educational. If you’ve ever read a news story about the “rearrest” of a person already in police custody, it is helpful to know–as the book explains–that one use of this legal maneuver is to prolong the period for which a suspect can be held for questioning.
There is a surprisingly specific section on what to do if you are asked to display an alien registration card. “Renting a DVD at a video store should not require proof of a valid Immigration visa,” the book states.
Asked why this is an issue, Higuchi explained: “Because on the card there is a lot of information, maybe too much information for average foreigners [to comfortably reveal]. Usually you just don’t want to show your workplace and household and everything…Whenever you can avoid it, you should use a drivers license or other identification.”
And of course, getting a drivers license is one of the other topics covered in the book.
Because the Handbook covers so many issues, it generally gives a bird’s-eye view of each one. Details of your situation may vary, but this little volume should get you off to a good start by recommending what forms to fill out, what government offices to visit and what authorities to consult for specific guidance.
Asked to characterize the reader feedback he has received so far, Arudou summed it up as: “Where has this book been all my life? It’s about bloody time.”