Jason’s blog on next employment steps in Japan for NJ


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 Blog. A blog called “Jason’s Random Thoughts” has a thoughtful post for those NJ facing restructuring in Japan. Since it’s a recent theme on Debito.org, I thought I’d post an excerpt and a link here.

I’ve posted (a bit irreverently) before on what sort of jobs are available for NJ, particularly those of the former Eikaiwa ilk. Read that here. As for those of you seriously facing a job loss and a reassessment of your life in Japan with the economic downturn, Jason’s blog post is food for thought. Props to Sendaiben.


For almost two years we have heard how companies are shutting down all over the world in response to a slowing economy. Whether this is the ultimate result of corporate greed, globalization, out-sourcing, or something that can be understood only by leading economists, one thing is clear: our current employment is no guarantee of future security. Of course, facing the prospect of unemployment is scary for everyone, but it’s particularly painful when living in a foreign country.

Here in Japan, a number of private language schools have shut down due to this slowing economy, and others are struggling. The larger companies are starting to offer discounts as high as 40%, and language instructors are beginning to lower their private lesson rates in a bid to stave off their own financial troubles. But how long can a person do this before it’s no longer realistically viable?

This aside; hundreds of thousands of foreigners will be forced to ask one or both of the following questions:

  • Is it time to go back?
  • Am I prepared to take “living in Japan” to the next level if the current job disappears?

I’ve been thinking about the second question far more than the first, as I have no intentions on leaving Japan. Reiko and I are quite happy here, and we hope to stay for at least another quarter century before considering relocating. But many colleagues and acquaintances have been leaving the country in droves since the fall of Nova. Not only has it become more difficult to find work as a language instructor, but it has become next to impossible for many to secure a nice contract position that offers a healthy completion bonus.

So what options do foreign workers have if they wish to continue to live and work in Japan?

Assessing Our Strengths

Rest at http://www.j2fi.net/2008/12/10/unemployed-gaijin/

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

7 comments on “Jason’s blog on next employment steps in Japan for NJ

  • Hmm, the random (kinda off-topic) thoughts of a random guy.

    It’s ironic that it was the Japanese who first tried to get a clause on Racial Equality in the League of Nations, which would later become the UN.

    For those interested:

    “The Japanese had three goals for the Paris Peace Conference after the war:

    * to get a clause on racial equality written into the covenant of the League of Nations,
    * to control the north Pacific islands (the Marshalls, the Marianas and the Carolines), and
    * to keep the German concessions in Shantung, China.”

    It seems that Australia’s “White Australia” policy was the one to blame for that not going further.

    Anyway, I found this very interesting, and wanted to share with you and the blog. I hope this post doesn’t sound like I side with Japanese right-wingers, anti-gaijin, etc. I truly just found it interesting.

    It’s a shame that they were so eager to pass that to the League of Nations, but when the UN asks them to make a law against discrimination in their country, nothing is done. I guess it’s all about interests.

  • Debito, I didn’t notice your response for a while since I didn’t look at my own comment, but I do look forward to seeing your post on it. Quite a lot of people rely on your blog for information in English on various aspects of Japanese immigration, so adding some historical/international comparison would be pretty helpful. While I agree with you that reform would be very positive, I also think that it’s important not to have an overly America-centric (in this case, North AND South American law is jus soli)perspective, and to demonstrate how while Japan’s rules regarding birthright citizenship are actually not at all exceptional by world standards, there has also been some recent movement towards improvement in some European countries (notably Germany) that historically did not grant any rights to locally born children of foreigners, but which now have significant immigrant populations to deal with in some fashion.

    — Hi Roy. If you have the time, please consider writing something up yourself? Please try to avoid Scalise’s tack, where he tries to argue how few countries are like America (which was not my point), instead of how few (or many, it’s your thesis) countries are like Japan. In other words, please let the basis of comparison be Japan. Thanks. Debito

  • Debito,

    I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you mean. I assume you are referring to this essay by Scalise?


    In this piece at least, Scalise barely mentions America, and comes to what I believe to be an accurate conclusion based on my own casual reading on the subject. In terms of citizenship-by-birth law, Japan simply follows the example of mainland Europe and is fairly close in fundamental ways to most of the world, aside from the Americas (North and South) and former English colonies outside of the Americas.

    In what way do you find Japanese law on citizenship by birth to be exceptional or unusual?

    — Look again. Scalise is using jus solis [sic] as the base of comparison. Japan is jus sanguinis. Please use jus sanguinis as the base. That’s the way to decide whether Japanese law on citizenship is exceptional or unusual. What Scalise is doing is debating whether American law (jus soli) on citizenship is exceptional or unusual. That’s not my point.

    This is Honjo and Scalise’s common method you find on their pseudointellectual site. Don’t criticize the point being made by others. Criticize the point they think you made by setting up a straw-man point that was never made, knock it down, then do a Superbowl End-Zone dance and say you trounced your opponent. That’s one way to play the game. But I’ll remain in the bleachers, thanks. It’s an attempt to humiliate, not search for the truth.

    Again, what I find unusual is how strict Japan’s jus sanguinis (plus lack of dual nationality) laws are, to the point where you can have close to half a million “special permanent residents” born and raised here (meaning they would be citizens eventually over generations, if we were to apply other countries’ standards). How many other countries, including your example of mainland Europe, have this many “generational foreigners”, not to mention stateless people? (Thanks also to other vagaries in Japan’s exotic Family Registration rules.) This is an odd duck of a system. And if you want me to try to dig numbers up on SPResque and Stateless people up for other countries around the world, that’s going to take some time.

    Feel free to do so yourself. But please use jus sanguinis as the base of comparison. Thanks.

  • “Again, what I find unusual is how strict Japan’s jus sanguinis (plus lack of dual nationality) laws are, to the point where you can have close to half a million “special permanent residents” born and raised here (meaning they would be citizens eventually over generations, if we were to apply other countries’ standards). ”

    No, if we were to apply most other countries’ standards they would not be citizens “eventually”, not if they did not take the initiative and naturalize. That is what Jus Sanguinus means: if you are not the child of a citizen, then you are not a citizen. There is no such thing as “well, you were born here as a non-citizen, as was your father, as was his father, as was his father… so we will give you citizenship just because”. Doesn’t work that way.

    The Special Permanent Residents could solve their “plight” anytime they chose – all they have to do is naturalize. It is easier now than it ever has been before. The one possible remaining “catch” is that there are some kanji that cannot be used for names in Japan. However since most real Koreans (the ones actually living in Korea) use Hangul all the time, even for personal names, and since you can naturalize and use either of the Kana systems for your name and skip Kanji altogether, grasping at that as an excuse not to naturalize is pretty lame. Basically, it is saying “I refuse to naturalize and take my proper place in society, but I am going to make it look like it is your fault!” It is most emphatically not. I have even met “half” Zainichi, who had a Japanese mother, which meant they were Japanese citizens at birth, who were proud of the fact they renounced it to stay “Korean”.

    [tangent of an argument not raised deleted]

    You seem woefully uninformed about how predominant jus sanguinus and non-recognition of dual-nationality are in the world. Japan is not “unusual”, not by a long shot. I have researched the citizenship laws of the OECD countries, and the result is that when it comes to “recognizing dual citizenship” the OECD countries are split about 50-50. However, we only get those results if we include any form of recognition at all, such as the US State Department’s position that US law does not touch on the issue (even as the USCIS requires all who would naturalize to take an oath renouncing all previous allegiances. Seems incompatible to me…). Or Holland, where someone born a Dutch national remains so pretty much no matter what, while someone who naturalizes in Holland is legally prohibited from continuing to hold their prior citizenship (there are exceptions, such as those naturalizing who had been living in Holland for 5 years or more prior to the age of majority, but nationals of several other European countries are absolutely required to renounce prior citizenship by treaty obligation, regardless). If we cut the “conditional” recognizers of dual-citizenship, and focus only on those that recognize it without reservation, we are down to about 20% of OECD countries. Notably, several of these countries have been moving away from recognizing dual-nationality, while none have been moving towards increasing recognition.

    Jus soli is even rarer among OECD nations than the above. Only 8 out of the 30 recognize it, and of those only 3 recognize it unconditionally (US, Canada and Mexico) – the other 5 (UK, Australia, New Zealand, France and Ireland) attach conditions such as at least one parent having permanent residence status at the time the child is born.

    While I admit I have not researched the citizenship laws of every country on the planet, minimal digging around tells me that dual-nationality or jus soli recognition in non-OECD countries is even rarer than within the OECD. Indeed, as with the OECD, I found several countries that formerly recognized one or the other and have moved away from it. The global trend is clearly against jus soli as the sole basis of citizenship, and against dual- or multiple-nationality.

    Oh, and by the way, the Republic of Korea is an OECD nation, follows strict Jus Sanguinus (even stricter than Japan’s, they have been known to draft into their military visiting natural-born US citizens of Korean descent, even if they can’t even speak the language) and refuses to recognize dual-citizenship, period. Unusual? Not really.

    — Okay, thanks for the arguments. Now if “jus sanguinis” is really not all that unusual, why does Japan have so many generational “Special Permanent Residents”? If, as you mention above, “[jus sanguinis] doesn’t work that way” in application, why don’t we see more SPRs in other countries? That’s the question I keep asking and haven’t yet gotten an answer to, and why I think, in application, Japan’s system is an outlier.

  • ” Now if “jus sanguinis” is really not all that unusual, why does Japan have so many generational “Special Permanent Residents”? ”
    Well, I thought that was covered in the part you snipped: Because the Zainichi choose to keep that status.

    My understanding of what happened just after the war was that Koreans in Japan, who were Japanese citizens up to that point, were stripped of Japanese citizenship in part at least at the urging of GHQ. But since they were so well established in Japan already, a “special permanent resident” status was created to cover them. Perhaps the idea originally was that having this status would smooth things over until the SPR’s naturalized and “returned” to Japanese nationality of their own volition, that I don’t know. The problem is, an awful lot of them refused (and continue to refuse) to naturalize.

    Personally, and I think we’re getting off topic here but I’ll beg your forgiveness, I think SPR status needs to be scrapped. Give current SPR status holders a “fast track” to citizenship – basically, if someone has SPR status they are the descendant of a Japanese citizen and therefore should be entitled to citizenship under jus sanguinus rules. Waive the Kanji limitation. Germany actually has a pretty good precedent here: under the German family register system (so I have been told by Germans) only certain names are “allowable”, however there are regional variations in the lists. If the name you want to use for your child is not on the local list, but you can show you come from another area of Germany where the name is on the list, or can show that the name has been traditionally used in your family, you can use the name. A similar exception should be possible for the Zainichi. Open the door for a year, any Zainichi that walks in and says “I want citizenship” gets it. Those that do not become regular Permanent Residents and the Special Permanent Resident status gets wiped off the books.

    “If, as you mention above, “[jus sanguinis] doesn’t work that way” in application, why don’t we see more SPRs in other countries?”
    Probably because 1. no other country faced this situation where they had a colony, gave everyone in it citizenship (or colonial citizenship), then lost a war and had that colony stripped away by the victor and were also made to strip people from that colony, including those living in the home country, of citizenship. I certainly can’t think of another such example in recent history. Countries losing colonies after fighting with the colonized, yes, but then those affected were allowed to keep citizenship if living in the home country. And 2. ex-colonial subjects who were living in their former colonizer often chose to naturalize. I think this second point is the main reason why other countries don’t have SPRs: most people who have a strong attachment to the country they are living in, and want to fully partake of that country’s society, choose to become citizens. Why people who are third, fourth or even fifth-generation born and raised in Japan continue to choose to live here and also choose to refuse to become citizens is frankly beyond me. By now many if not most can only speak Japanese, are fully acculturated in Japan, have few if any ties to the Korean peninsula, and would be completely out of their depth if they tried to live there, and yet they insist they are “Korean”. To me, that mindset is an “outlier”.

    — Okay, thanks. And thanks for giving arguments without getting nasty.

  • I’ve been studying about the Zainichi legal situation recently, and while I don’t have time to answer right now, the short answer is that their legal status is a result of negotiations between the Japanese and Korean governments, which they were not party to. (There was also a much smaller number of Taiwanese SPR, but I am not sure if they were discussed in negotiations, or simply fell under the criteria agreed upon re: Koreans.) Of course it is a result of Japan’s pre-war Imperial colonialism, but the special permanent residence status is a contrivance of negotiations between Japan and Korea, with some interference by the United States. Some have argued that the “special” status is actually more generous than that offered to refugee or semi-refugee groups in many other countries, but that claim would take some real research for comparison. The world has seem plenty of other refugee groups, but as Murphy pointed out above, Japan was actually forced to remove citizenship from all former colonials, even if they were in Japan at the end of the war. SPR status was negotiated later on between governments, and is a unique case as far as I know. One very different, but similarly post-colonial case is British “Overseas Citizenship”, a bizarre creation for former colonial subject who retain British affiliation for travel purposes overseas, but are NOT granted right of abode in Britain! Then there are also refugee populations such as the ~100k Tibetans in India, who are officially stateless but are granted special irregular overseas travel documents by the Indian authorities.

    There have been certainly been many problems in Japan’s treatment of SPR, both legal and social, over the roughly 60 years that status has existed, but few if any of them are related to jus sanguinis issues per se, which is the one specific point I was trying to address.

    There is actually one other major peculiarity regarding Zainichi, which is “朝鮮籍”, i.e. those who have chosen not to obtain Republic of Korea (South Korea) citizenship and therefore, as Japan does not recognize North Korean citizenship as an option, are listed under the pre-Korean War designation of Chosen. This therefore causes various problems such as lack of access to ordinary passports, but Japan will issue such people irregular regular documents which I believe are similar to those of truly stateless persons. Chosen-seki persons can however switch to either ROK or Japan citizenship quite easily, and over the decades the population has gone from majority Chosen to majority ROK.

    As for why many Zainichi have chosen not to naturalize as Japanese, that is a very complicated issue but I have some brief comments based on conversations I have had that I posted on my blog just the other day: http://www.mutantfrog.com/2008/12/14/anecdotal-evidence-that-the-axis-of-evil-isnt-really-all-that-tight/#comment-311822

    — Thanks for all the information and engaged discussion.


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