DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 14, 2006
1) GOVT TO LAUNCH PANEL ON FOREIGN WORKERS’ LIVING CONDITIONS
2) J AMBASSADOR TO CANADA ON CHILD ABDUCTIONS TO JAPAN
Gov’t promises to improve livelihood of foreign residents
Friday, April 14, 2006 at 07:07 EDT
TOKYO The government will map out measures to improve living conditions for foreign residents in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said Thursday. A panel of senior government officials from several ministries and agencies will focus on how foreign workers, their families and longtime residents have led their lives in Japan, he said.
The panel will take up various problems facing foreign residents, including economic issues and language and other handicaps their children may face, Abe said. It will also try to ascertain how they have been accepted by local communities, he said.
“Having admitted them into the country, Japan bears a certain degree of responsibility for their well being,” he said.
Courtesy of Tony at The Community (www.debito.org/TheCommunity)
COMMENT FROM DEBITO:
Let’s overlook the misleading headline and focus on the positive. We have Abe, as now the favorite to become the next prime minister in September (and who also has a history of pressuring NHK to censor “unpatriotic” views), saying something as positive as this. Well and good.
However, less hopeful is the typical composition of these types of “panels”. “Government officials from several ministries and agencies”? Hhrum. Let’s see if they let foreign workers represent themselves in any way in these policymaking discussions.
The record of shingikai, letting those affected by policy drives to participate in the process, is pretty spotty. I’ve always been amazed how many panels of “experts” in Japan (particularly those involving “foreign issues”) will all be composed of Japanese, and Japanese elites at that (who’ve never experienced much discrimination, except being seated in a chair they didn’t like in a restaurant overseas…). Moreover few in the media seem to decry this overt lack of balance. I saw on the news recently, for example, a panel on beef imports, sans any clear representative of the US beef industry giving any counterperspective. Regardless of your stance on the BSe issue, I find problematic the lack of *even an attempt* to strike a balance. To me, it’s all part of the process of manufacturing consent, which I find highly irritating when it comes to issues that involve national pride or economic embargoes…
But I digress. Keep an eye on this one–it may mean something if the panel knows what it’s doing…
2) JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TO CANADA ON CHILD ABDUCTIONS TO JAPAN
In an important interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company, broadcast March 31, 2006, three people talked about the issue of how Japan has become a safe haven for child abductions after international marriages break up.
Interview excerpt, a quote from Jeremy Morley, a lawyer in New York City specializing in international family law:
[Morley] Children are not returned from Japan, period, and it is a situation that happens a lot with children of international marriages with kids who are over in Japan, they do not get returned. Usually, the parent who has kept a child is Japanese, and under the Japanese legal system they have a family registration system whereby every Japanese family has their own registration with a local ward office. And the name of registration system is the koseki system. So every Japanese person has their koseki, and a child is listed on the appropriate koseki. Once a child is listed on the family register, the child belongs to that family. Foreigners don’t have a family register and so there is no way for them to actually have a child registered as belonging to them in Japan. There is an international treaty called the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, and Japan is the only G7 country that is not a party to the Hague Convention. I think it’s horrible. It is an international outrage and it is an enormous problem that is not being addressed by the international community.
The interview opens with the plaintiff, Murray Wood, talking about his case, where he won custody of his children from Canadian courts, but was refused custody by Japanese courts essentially because of “who dares wins”: The judges simply refused to uproot the children (currently residing in Saitama where he is denied any access, let alone custody). Regardless of the international arrest warrant out on ex-wife Ayako Wood.
See Canadian Ambassador Sadaaki Numata get all defensive and hint at cultural imperialism in his responses to the interview:
[Numata] That is precisely, precisely, what I am disputing. And to cause suspicions, like saying Japan is a haven for abducted children and so forth, I don’t think it’s just, it’s not the way I go about this business of diplomacy. And, and, and we are considering the question of whether or not to become a party to the convention, but there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Its impact on the Japanese Family Law system, and also what I might call the sociological impact on the question of to what extent it would serve, it would be in the interest of the Japanese people. And we are in the process of studying all of these issues carefully.
Probably by one of those elite “government panels”, no doubt.
See the interview in transcript with links to the original audio file at
(Paste the entire link in your browser if it scrolls to the second line. Thanks as always to the Children’s Rights Network of Japan for all their good works!)
Japan’s unwillingness, both domestically and internationally, to guarantee access to and responsibility for children for BOTH parents, is a tragic shame. One that should be known about before people consider marriage in Japan. More on that in our upcoming book…
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER APRIL 14, 2006 ENDS