DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2008

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Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi All. It’s been about two months since I sent you a Debito.org Blog roundup of excerpts, and some interesting stuff has piled up. Let me send you two Newsletters this week and get them out of the way. First one:

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2008

Table of Contents:
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GOOD NEWS:
1) Glimmers of hope: New PM Aso does not single out NJ as potential terrorists or agents of crime
2) The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark
3) First Aso Cabinet member resigns — tripped up (inter alia) by comments regarding Japan’s ethnic mix
4) Tangent: JK asks what happens to scandalized Japanese politicians
5) Japan Times on worries about Post-Fukuda immigration policies
6) LetsJapan Blog on new Saitama Pref stickers for NJ-friendly realtors
7) Japan Times Community Page on upcoming movie on divorce and child abduction in Japan
8) Asahi Shinbun on how some NJ are assimilating by joining neighborhood associations

BAD NEWS
9) Mainichi: Female NJ Trainee Visa workers underpaid by Yamanashi company, beaten, attempted deportation
10) Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens
11) Japan Times on how divorce and child custody in Japan is not a fair fight
12) UK now considering introducing Gaijin Cards
13) Reader AS voices concerns re Softbank regulations and Japanese Language Proficiency Test
14) Third Degree given NJ who want Post Office money order

MIXED AND ABSURD NEWS
15) Japan Times: GOJ claims to UN that it has made “every conceivable” effort to eliminate racial discrim
16) IHT/NYT: As its work force ages, Japan needs and fears Chinese labor
17) GOJ announces J population rises. But excludes NJ residents from survey.
18) NJ baby left at anonymous “baby hatch”. Kokuseki wa? Eligible for Japanese! Er, yes, but…
19) Jon Dujmovich speculates on media distractions: PM Fukuda’s resignation vs. alleged NJ Sumo pot smoking
20) 2-Channel’s Nishimura again ducks responsibility for BBS’s excesses
21) First Waiwai, now Japan Times’ Tokyo Confidential now in Internet “Japan Image Police” sights
22) Irony: Economist reports on Chinese Olympic security; why not on similar Hokkaido G8 security?

… and finally…
23) Letter to California Gov. Schwarzenegger on eliminating UCSC English program
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org)
Freely forwardable

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GOOD NEWS:
1) Glimmers of hope: New PM Aso does not single out NJ as potential terrorists or agents of crime

Posted by debito on September 25th, 2008

New PM Aso had a good press conference last night to launch his new cabinet, and good news as far as Debito.org goes is that he didn’t try to bash foreigners and link crime and terrorism to them. Contrast that with his behavior as Public Management Minister in the 2003 Koizumi Cabinet. Perhaps he read a critical Japan Times expose back then and saw sense?
http://www.debito.org/?p=1915

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2) The Aso Cabinet gaffes start from day one: Minister retracts “ethnically homogeneous Japan” remark

Posted by debito on September 27th, 2008

AP: New transport minister Nariaki Nakayama on Friday apologized over his controversial remarks that included calling Japan “ethnically homogenous,” in face of criticism triggered not only from opposition parties but from ruling party members. While Nakayama denied resigning over his verbal gaffes, made just a day after he assumed the post under Prime Minister Taro Aso, opposition parties called for his dismissal and said they will question Aso’s responsibility for appointing the minister…

Similar previous remarks by lawmakers that Japan is a mono-racial society drew protests mainly from the Ainu indigenous people in Japan.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?” referring to the parliamentary resolution that urged the government to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous people and to upgrade their status as they have led underprivileged lives under the past assimilation policy.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1917

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3) First Aso Cabinet member resigns — tripped up (inter alia) by comments regarding Japan’s ethnic mix

Posted by debito on September 28th, 2008

Well, well, what surprising news tonight. Ministry of Transport etc. resigned today over comments he made, among others, about Japan’s ethnic homogeneity. As I wrote two days ago, I’m pleased that comments like these aren’t allowed to pass any more.

Then again, it’s probably not so surprising — given a litany of comments this twit has a habit of making — such as calling Japan’s largest teacher’s union a “cancer for Japanese education”. See article below.

In the longer view, however, this resignation isn’t all that earth-shattering. This first Aso Cabinet was always meant to be a stopgap measure until the next election in a month and change. But it can’t help the LDP’s image to have this much “thoroughbredness” (or, in my view, inbredness — the media has talked a lot about Aso and company’s relatives as political giants) — and it will (hopefully) convince the voters that the Tired Old Party needs a break from power.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1919

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4) Tangent: JK asks what happens to scandalized Japanese politicians

Posted by debito on October 3rd, 2008

For discussion: What happens to J politicians tainted by scandal? Do they just leave office, collect a pension, and die ignobly? Or do they get a second chance later for the most part, and stage political comebacks? What do people know about their favorite scandalized politician? I give Yamasaki Taku, Suzuki Muneo, and “Knock” Yokoyama as three examples, with only one ending in no political comeback. More?
http://www.debito.org/?p=1925

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5) Japan Times on worries about Post-Fukuda immigration policies

Posted by debito on September 19th, 2008

Japan Times:  Nakamura faulted the bureaucrats for not creating a warmer society for foreigners. For example, they don’t bring up the poor labor conditions for foreign workers, but when a foreigner is suspected of a crime, the information is spread immediately, Nakamura said.

“Bureaucrats don’t want (many foreigners in Japan),” Nakamura said. “Otherwise, it would be so easy (for bureaucrats) to start an educational campaign on living symbiotically with foreigners.”

Admitting that lawmakers have also dragged their feet, Nakamura said the key to breaking the vertically structured bureaucrat-led administration is to establish an official “immigration agency” to unify the handling of foreigner-related affairs, including legal issues related to nationality and immigration control.

Those problems are currently managed by various ministers. For example, anything related to immigration goes to the Justice Ministry, labor issues to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and livelihood in general to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

“We need to integrate all of the power, and that is why an immigration agency” is necessary, Nakamura said. “If the power is scattered around, we can’t move forward.”
http://www.debito.org/?p=1906

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6) LetsJapan Blog on new Saitama Pref stickers for NJ-friendly realtors

Posted by debito on August 27th, 2008

To make renting an apartment easier for non-Japanese, and deal with discrimination by apartment landlords and owners, one prefecture in Japan is sponsoring an effort to establish a database of “multicultural” real estate agents.

The government of Saitama Prefecture began it’s effort in 2006. There are now 113 multicultural real estate agents registered.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1882

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7) Japan Times Community Page on upcoming movie on divorce and child abduction in Japan

Posted by debito on August 26th, 2008

Japan Times: Imagine the trauma of the mother being permanently denied visitation with her own children in this family court decision handed down by the Tokyo High Court. Being told to pray, watch and love “from the shadows.”…

In January 2006, David Hearn, Matthew Antell and Sean Nichols began research on a documentary film that would dramatically affect their lives over the next few years.

They had heard about high-profile cases of parental child abduction, such as the two children of Murray Wood being abducted from their home in Canada by their Japanese mother, but these filmmakers had not yet realized all the muck they would have to work through in order to gain a clearer understanding of what has increasingly become Japan’s own scarlet letter…
http://www.debito.org/?p=1881

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8) Asahi Shinbun on how some NJ are assimilating by joining neighborhood associations

Posted by debito on August 25th, 2008

Three Indian nationals have been appointed to the board of the community association at the Ojima 6-chome public apartment complex in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, in a rare move among such buildings…

The three joined the residents’ association after veteran board member Yorio Kuramata approached one of their compatriots in an attempt to open a dialogue with Indian residents during the same festival two years ago…

Once they started talking, Kuramata taught Sankar about the roles played by the local community and its residents’ association in locals’ daily lives and emergencies. For instance, he learned that Japanese communities stock water and emergency foods to help each other in case of a major disaster, Sankar recalled.

“It has made it easier for foreign households who do not have Japanese-speaking members to join community life,” Hemant said…

Thanks to their activities, an unprecedented number of Indian participants joined activities at this year’s spring koinobori festival to hang carp-shaped pennants to pray for healthy growing children.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1880

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BAD NEWS
9) Mainichi: Female NJ Trainee Visa workers underpaid by Yamanashi company, beaten, attempted deportation

Posted by debito on September 5th, 2008

Six Chinese female trainees at a dry-cleaning company in Yamanashi Prefecture got into a row with the company when they complained that they were being paid under the minimum wage, and three of them suffered injuries including a broken bone, it has been learned.

Trouble reportedly erupted when the company, located in Showa, Yamanashi Prefecture, tried to force the six to return to China after they complained about their wages. The three injured workers are considering filing a criminal complaint over their injuries.

The three injured workers were later taken into the custody of the Zentoitsu Workers Union, which supports foreign trainees and apprentices. The remaining three were taken to Narita Airport by company officials and returned home.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1885

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10) Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens

Posted by debito on September 16th, 2008

Guardian: Clarke, a 38-year-old management consultant from West Bromwich, has gone to great lengths to win custody. The Crown Prosecution Service said his wife could be prosecuted in the UK under the 1984 child abduction act.

However, he can expect little sympathy from Japanese courts, which do not recognise parental child abduction as a crime and habitually rule in favour of the custodial – Japanese – parent.

Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed the 1980 Hague convention on civil aspects of child abduction, which requires parents accused of abducting their children to return them to their country of habitual residence. He is one of an estimated 10,000 parents, divorced or separated from their Japanese spouses, who have been denied access to their children. Since the Hague treaty came into effect, not a single ruling in Japan has gone in favour of the foreign parent.

Campaigners say Japan’s refusal to join the treaty’s 80 other signatories has turned it into a haven for child abductors.

The European Union, Canada and the US have urged Japan to sign, but Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University, says international pressure is unlikely to have much impact. “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent,” he said.

Japanese courts prefer to leave it to divorced couples to negotiate custody arrangements, Takase said. Officials say the government is looking at signing the Hague treaty, though not soon.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1904

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11) Japan Times on how divorce and child custody in Japan is not a fair fight

Posted by debito on August 12th, 2008

Michael Hassett: One year ago, The Japan Times (Zeit Gist, Aug. 7) printed some findings of mine that showed that there is a 21.1-percent likelihood that a man who marries a Japanese national will do the following: create at least one child with his spouse (85.2 percent probability), then divorce within the first 20 years of marriage (31 percent), and subsequently lose custody of any children (80 percent). And in a country such as Japan — one that has no visitation rights and neither statutes nor judicial precedents providing for joint custody — loss of custody often translates into complete loss of contact, depending on the desire of the mother.

And if this figure is not startling enough, this year’s calculation using more current data would leave us with an even higher likelihood: 22 percent. Having this information, we must now ask a question that most of us would dread presenting to a friend in a fog of engagement glee: Is it the behavior of a wise man to pursue a course of action that has such a high probability of leaving your future children without any contact with their own father?
http://www.debito.org/?p=1868

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12) UK now considering introducing Gaijin Cards

Posted by debito on September 28th, 2008

Here’s another brick in the wall, alas. The UK will also be introducing Gaijin Cards. Just when you thought you could point to other countries and say, “Look, they don’t do something like this, so let’s not do it here,” they go ahead and do it too. Sigh.

It’s not absolutely the same system at this point — not all foreigners have to get this card. Yet. But I like how the counterarguments to the scheme are similar to ones I’ve made in the past  about how guinea-pigging a segment of the population is the thin edge of the wedge to introducing the scheme for everyone. And no mention as yet in this article as to whether it’ll be a criminal offense, warranting arrest and interrogation after instant street spot checks, if you are not carrying the card on your person 24-7. Meanwhile, let’s wait and see what Japan does with its long-announced intention to Gaijin Chip all NJ with new improved RFID. In the club of developed countries, I don’t think Japan will be outdone in its policing of its foreigners.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1918

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13) Reader AS voices concerns re Softbank regulations and Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Posted by debito on September 10th, 2008

AS: I am long time reader of your blog and a great admirer of you and your work for the foreign community in Japan. I have two concerns that I would like to discuss with you.

1) Questioning the request of the Japanese Proficiency Test to show a passport or a gaikokujin card as an ID.

2) Questioning the policy at Softbank requiring long term foreign residents to pay a lump-sum payment for a cell phone if their period of stay in Japan is less then 27 months.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1899

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14) Third Degree given NJ who want Post Office money order

Posted by debito on August 18th, 2008

Difficulties with changing money orders for NJ at the Post Office: “And, then when all finished, and I spent just under 10,000 yen for the $65 money order (recall that extra 2000 yen charge) and wasted over 90 minutes. Then came the question. That QUESTION . They asked me what the cash was for. I said it was for a watch.

They then said to me: “Is it a North Korean watch?” (while making the cross sign meaning this would be illegal if it were). “WHAT !!” I screamed. I was FURIOUS! First, the person getting the MO was located in Texas, USA, as they checked the name and location on their money order perhaps over a thousand times. Second, the person’s name was “Johnson”, hardly a Korean name. And finally, even if the watch belonged to Kim Jong Ill himself, this is only for a damn $65 to purchase a friggin watch !!!!!”
http://www.debito.org/?p=1874

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MIXED AND ABSURD NEWS
15) Japan Times: GOJ claims to UN that it has made “every conceivable” effort to eliminate racial discrim

Posted by debito on August 30th, 2008

Read and guffaw: “In a new report to the United Nations, the government outlines the situation of ethnic minorities and foreign residents in Japan, claiming it has made “every conceivable” effort over the past several years to eliminate racial discrimination.

“The government has long held that Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, makes any antidiscrimination legislation superfluous, a point reiterated in the report.

“Japan has taken every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination,” the report’s introduction says, later adding that apartheid is unknown in Japan.”

COMMENT: Entitled “the third, fourth, fifth and sixth combined periodic report” [Japanese pdf, English pdf]indicating just how late they’re filing a report that is actually due every two years. What bunkum. More on the GOJ’s relationship with the UN here. And more here about how the GOJ seeks input from human rights groups but not really (when they allowed right-wingers to shout down a meeting last year).

Finally, just a point of logic: If the GOJ had taken “every conceivable measure” as it claims below, that would naturally include a law against racial discrimination, wouldn’t it? But no. And look what happens as a result…
http://www.debito.org/?p=1887

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16) IHT/NYT: As its work force ages, Japan needs and fears Chinese labor

Posted by debito on August 18th, 2008

NYT: “The foreign trainee system was established in the mid-1990s [sic], in theory to transfer technical expertise to young foreigners who would then apply the knowledge at home. After one year of training, the foreigners are allowed to work for two more years in their area of expertise. But the reality is that the foreign trainees — now numbering about 100,000  have become a source of cheap labor. They are paid less than the local minimum wage during the first year, and little emphasis is placed on teaching them technical skills. Advocates for the foreign workers have reported abuses, unpaid wages and restrictions on their movements at many job sites. Nakamura, the Liberal Democratic politician, said the foreign trainee system was “shameful,” but added that if it were dismantled, businesses would not be able to find Japanese replacements.”
http://www.debito.org/?p=1871

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17) GOJ announces J population rises. But excludes NJ residents from survey.

Posted by debito on August 2nd, 2008

Here’s something quite odd. We have the GOJ saying that the population of Japan is rising (ii n ja nai?). Then they make it clear that the figures doesn’t include foreign residents. Now why would any government worth its salt decide to exclude taxpayers thusly? Aren’t registered foreign residents people too, part of a “population”?
http://www.debito.org/?p=1860

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18) NJ baby left at anonymous “baby hatch”. Kokuseki wa? Eligible for Japanese! Er, yes, but…

Posted by debito on September 12th, 2008

(Kyodo) _ A baby with foreign nationality was left at Japan’s first “baby hatch” at a Kumamoto hospital, according to a report on Monday by a panel examining the practice.

Comment: According to a friend of mine, the baby just might be eligible for Japanese citizenship! Er, but…
http://www.debito.org/?p=1900

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19) Jon Dujmovich speculates on media distractions: PM Fukuda’s resignation vs. alleged NJ Sumo pot smoking

Posted by debito on September 4th, 2008

Jon Dujmovich guest comments: “In the Japan Times article (Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, “Aso gets set for run at LDP presidency: Party election slated for Sept. 22, by Jun Hongo and Setsuko Kamiya) there is a line that reads “senior members of the LDP scrambled from early Tuesday to control the damage in the wake of Fukuda’s hasty departure.”

“Is this coincidence? Does “control damage” include media censorship? “Hmmm… I wonder.”

“Now I am not qualified enough to speak officially on the subject, nor do suggest this is good social science, I am merely pointing out a very suspicious coincidence where smoke and mirrors seem to be employed to deflect media attention from the LDP and government woes, to an easy minority group target. For heaven’s sakes why does a story about two foreigners who may or may not have smoked pot trump a story (that is less than 48 hours cold I might add) about the nation’s prime minister resigning!?!”

Plus a quick subsidiary comment from me on how the media has generally been careful to not presume guilt, and avoid making the sumo thing into a “foreigner issue”. Good. That’s progress.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1893

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20) 2-Channel’s Nishimura again ducks responsibility for BBS’s excesses

Posted by debito on August 28th, 2008

Yet another interview with BBS 2-Channel’s Nishimura, where he claims that what goes on at 2-Channel is not his responsibility.

Love the section below where he says, “Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages.” That’s a lie. He’s had a court order since January 2006 to delete the posts on me judged by a court to be libelous. More than two and a half years later, they’re still there…!

I don’t think this guy realizes that sooner or later, there’s going to be legislation passed that will ultimately deprive the Internet of the privacy he allows his BBS to so wantonly abuse.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1883

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21) First Waiwai, now Japan Times’ Tokyo Confidential now in Internet “Japan Image Police” sights

Posted by debito on August 5th, 2008

Here we have an article talking about how the sights are turning from the Mainichi Waiwai to the Japan Times “Tokyo Confidential” column — in the same spirit of making sure outsiders don’t “misunderstand” Japan (by reading potentially negative stuff already found in the domestic press). The Japanese language is only supposed to be for domestic consumption, after all, right? How dare non-natives translate the secret code? Anyway, it’s one more good reason why you don’t deal with anonymous Internet bulliesgiving in to them only makes them stronger — and more hypocritical given press freedom and the freedom of speech they wallow in. Let’s hope the Japan Times has the guts to stand up to them.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1857

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22) Irony: Economist reports on Chinese Olympic security; why not on similar Hokkaido G8 security?

Posted by debito on July 31st, 2008

The Economist: “FOREIGNERS deemed potential protesters are being kept out of China during the Olympic games (August 8th-24th). Beijing is ringed with police checkpoints to keep troublemakers at bay. But the authorities have named three city parks where demonstrations, in theory, will be allowed. They are well out of earshot of the main Olympic venues and police permits will be needed (five days’ notice required). Chinese rules ban any protest that threatens public security or social stability. This is routinely used to block any demonstration that citizens have the temerity to propose.”

Er, sounds a lot like the G8 Summit in Hokkaido this month. Now why wasn’t that as newsworthy to The Economist?
http://www.debito.org/?p=1854

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… and finally…
23) Letter to California Gov. Schwarzenegger on eliminating UCSC English program

Posted by debito on August 15th, 2008

I’m on vacation, I know, but duty calls. My school has a tie-up with a (very good) English-language program here in Santa Cruz, California. And yet budget cuts are eliminating it. First an article that came out in the local newspaper, The Santa Cruz Sentinel (which, despite the reporting, sees a lot more than three jobs affected). Then my letter from the perspective of a participant to the people in charge, including the University of California Regents and California Governor Schwarzenegger. Then an article which appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel as a follow up.
http://www.debito.org/?p=1870

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That’s all! Thanks for reading, as always.
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
www.debito.org, debito@debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2008 ENDS

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