Dr. ARUDOU, Debito's Home Page

From Debito's doctoral research:

Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

  • Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
  • (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield HB 2015, PB 2016)

    Click on book cover for reviews, previews, and 30% discount direct from publisher. Available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle eBook on

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • TIME Mag, Asahi, NY Times: “Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, but go home”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 23rd, 2009

    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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

    Hi Blog. Three articles that echo much of the sentiment I expressed in my April 7, 2009 Japan Times article on the Nikkei repatriation bribe. First TIME Magazine, then a blurb (that’s all) from the Asahi on how returned Nikkei are faring overseas, and than finally the New York Times with some good quotes from the architect of this policy, the LDP’s Kawasaki Jiro (who amazingly calls US immigration policy “a failure”, and uses it to justify kicking out Japan’s immigrants). Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    PS:  Here’s a political comic based upon the NY Times photo accompanying the article below.  Courtesy of creator RDV:


    TIME Magazine, Monday, Apr. 20, 2009
    Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, But You Can Go Home Now
    By Coco Masters / Tokyo,
    Courtesy Matt Dioguardi and KG,8599,1892469,00.html

    When union leader Francisco Freitas has something to say, Japan’s Brazilian community listens. The 49-year old director of the Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers called up the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo April 14, fuming over a form being passed out at employment offices in Hamamatsu City, southwest of Tokyo. Double-sided and printed on large sheets of paper, the form enables unemployed workers of Japanese descent — and their family members — to secure government money for tickets home. It sounded like a good deal to the Brazilians for whom it was intended. The fine print in Portuguese, however, revealed a catch that soured the deal: it’s a one-way ticket with an agreement not to return.

    Japan’s offer to minority communities in need has spawned the ire of those whom it intends to help. It is one thing to be laid off in an economic crisis. It is quite another to be unemployed and to feel unwanted by the country where you’ve settled. That’s how Freitas and other Brazilians feel since the Japanese government started the program to pay $3,000 to each jobless foreigner of Japanese descent (called Nikkei) and $2,000 to each family member to return to their country of origin. The money isn’t the problem, the Brazilians say; it’s the fact that they will not be allowed to return until economic and employment conditions improve — whenever that may be. “When Nikkei go back and can’t return, for us that’s discrimination,” says Freitas, who has lived in Japan with his family for 12 years.

    With Japan’s unemployment rate on the rise — it reached a three-year high of 4.4% in February — the government is frantic to find solutions to stanch the flow of job losses and to help the unemployed. The virtual collapse of Japan’s export-driven economy, in which exports have nearly halved compared to the first two months of last year, has forced manufacturers to cut production. Temporary and contract workers at automotive and electronics companies have been hit especially hard. Hamamatsu has 18,000 Brazilian residents, about 5% of the total in Japan, and is home to the nation’s largest Brazilian community. After immigration laws relaxed in 1990, making it easier for foreigners to live and work in Japan, Brazilians have grown to be the country’s third largest minority, after Koreans and Chinese. But as jobs grow scarce and money runs out, some Nikkei ironically now face the same tough decision their Japanese relatives did 100 years ago, when they migrated to Brazil.

    Japan can scarcely afford to lose part of its labor force, or close itself off further to foreigners. Japan, with its aging population that is projected to shrink by one-third over the next 50 years, needs all the workers it can get. The U.N. has projected that the nation will need 17 million immigrants by 2050 to maintain a productive economy. But immigration laws remain strict, and foreign-born workers make up only 1.7% of the total population. Brazilians feel particularly hard done by. “The reaction from the Brazilian community is very hot,” says a Brazilian Embassy official. The embassy has asked Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to “ease the conditions” of reentry for Brazilians who accept the money. (Paradoxically, the Japanese government had recently stepped up efforts to help Brazilian residents, with programs such as Japanese-language training and job-counseling.) This particular solution to unemployment, however, is perceived as a misguided gift. “Maybe there were good intentions, but the offer was presented in the worst way possible,” says the Brazilian official. The program applies to Brazilians who have long-term Nikkei visas, but restricts their right — and that of their family members — to reentry until jobs are available in Japan. The terms are vague and will probably stay that way. Tatsushi Nagasawa, a Japanese health ministry official says it’s not possible to know when those who accept the money will be allowed back into Japan, though the conditions for reentry for highly skilled positions might be relaxed.

    The Brazilian community plainly needs some help. The Brazilian embassy normally pays for between 10 and 15 repatriations each year, but in the last few months it has already paid for about 40. Since last September, Carlos Zaha has seen many in his Hamamatsu community lose their jobs. In December, he helped start Brasil Fureai, or “Contact Brazil,” an association to help unemployed Brazilian residents find jobs. He’s thankful to the Japanese government for the offer of assisted repatriation, but says the decision will be a rough one for workers. “I don’t think [the government] thought this through well,” Zaha says. “If someone is over 50 years old and is already thinking of returning to Brazil then it might work. But there are many people in their 20s and 30s, and after two or three years they’re going to want to come back to Japan — and they won’t be able to.”

    Lenine Freitas, 23, the son of the union leader, lost his job at Asmo, a small motor manufacturer, one month ago, but says he plans to stay in Japan and work. Freitas says that there would be no problem if the Japanese government set a term of, say, three years, after which Brazilians who took the money could return. But after nine years working at Suzuki Motor Corp., he thinks that the government should continue to take responsibility for foreigners in Japan. “They have to help people to continue working in Japan,” he says. “If Brazilians go home, what will they do there?”

    And if Nikkei Brazilians, Peruvians and others who have lost their jobs go home, what will Japan do? Last week, Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a long-term growth strategy to create millions of jobs and add $1.2 trillion to GDP by 2020. But the discussion of immigration reform is notoriously absent in Japan, and reaching a sensible policy for foreign workers has hardly got under way. Encouraging those foreigners who would actually like to stay in Japan to leave seems a funny place to start.



    Returnees to Brazil finding it tough


    2009/4/17, courtesy of KG
    SAO PAULO–Many Brazilians of Japanese ancestry returning here from recession-struck Japan are struggling to find work, according to Grupo Nikkei, an NGO set up to support the job-seekers.

    The group said the number of returnees seeking help had more than doubled from 70 a month last year to 150 a month this year.

    Some returnees who performed unskilled labor in Japan have found it difficult to return to old jobs that require specific expertise, according to Leda Shimabukuro, 57, who heads the group. Some youths also lack Portuguese literacy skills, Shimabukuro said.(IHT/Asahi: April 17,2009)

    ENDS (yes, that’s all the space this merits in the Asahi)


    New York Times April 23, 2009

    Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home

    The government will pay thousands of dollars to fly Mrs. Yamaoka; her husband, who is a Brazilian citizen of Japanese descent; and their family back to Brazil. But in exchange, Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband must agree never to seek to work in Japan again.

    “I feel immense stress. I’ve been crying very often,” Mrs. Yamaoka, 38, said after a meeting where local officials detailed the offer in this industrial town in central Japan.

    “I tell my husband that we should take the money and go back,” she said, her eyes teary. “We can’t afford to stay here much longer.”

    Japan’s offer, extended to hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants, is part of a new drive to encourage them to leave this recession-racked country. So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave, Japanese officials said.

    But critics denounce the program as shortsighted, inhumane and a threat to what little progress Japan has made in opening its economy to foreign workers.

    “It’s a disgrace. It’s cold-hearted,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, an independent research organization.

    “And Japan is kicking itself in the foot,” he added. “We might be in a recession now, but it’s clear it doesn’t have a future without workers from overseas.”

    The program is limited to the country’s Latin American guest workers, whose Japanese parents and grandparents emigrated to Brazil and neighboring countries a century ago to work on coffee plantations.

    In 1990, Japan — facing a growing industrial labor shortage — started issuing thousands of special work visas to descendants of these emigrants. An estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians now live in Japan.

    The guest workers quickly became the largest group of foreign blue-collar workers in an otherwise immigration-averse country, filling the so-called three-K jobs (kitsui, kitanai, kiken — hard, dirty and dangerous).

    But the nation’s manufacturing sector has slumped as demand for Japanese goods evaporated, pushing unemployment to a three-year high of 4.4 percent. Japan’s exports plunged 45.6 percent in March from a year earlier, and industrial production is at its lowest level in 25 years.

    New data from the Japanese trade ministry suggested manufacturing output could rise in March and April, as manufacturers start to ease production cuts. But the numbers could have more to do with inventories falling so low that they need to be replenished than with any increase in demand.

    While Japan waits for that to happen, it has been keen to help foreign workers leave, which could ease pressure on domestic labor markets and the unemployment rolls.

    “There won’t be good employment opportunities for a while, so that’s why we’re suggesting that the Nikkei Brazilians go home,” said Jiro Kawasaki, a former health minister and senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    “Nikkei” visas are special visas granted because of Japanese ancestry or association.

    Mr. Kawasaki led the ruling party task force that devised the repatriation plan, part of a wider emergency strategy to combat rising unemployment.

    Under the emergency program, introduced this month, the country’s Brazilian and other Latin American guest workers are offered $3,000 toward air fare, plus $2,000 for each dependent — attractive lump sums for many immigrants here. Workers who leave have been told they can pocket any amount left over.

    But those who travel home on Japan’s dime will not be allowed to reapply for a work visa. Stripped of that status, most would find it all but impossible to return. They could come back on three-month tourist visas. Or, if they became doctors or bankers or held certain other positions, and had a company sponsor, they could apply for professional visas.

    Spain, with a unemployment rate of 15.5 percent, has adopted a similar program, but immigrants are allowed to reclaim their residency and work visas after three years.

    Japan is under pressure to allow returns. Officials have said they will consider such a modification, but have not committed to it.

    “Naturally, we don’t want those same people back in Japan after a couple of months,” Mr. Kawasaki said. “Japanese taxpayers would ask, ‘What kind of ridiculous policy is this?’ ”

    The plan came as a shock to many, especially after the government introduced a number of measures in recent months to help jobless foreigners, including free Japanese-language courses, vocational training and job counseling. Guest workers are eligible for limited cash unemployment benefits, provided they have paid monthly premiums.

    “It’s baffling,” said Angelo Ishi, an associate professor in sociology at Musashi University in Tokyo. “The Japanese government has previously made it clear that they welcome Japanese-Brazilians, but this is an insult to the community.”

    It could also hurt Japan in the long run. The aging country faces an impending labor shortage. The population has been falling since 2005, and its working-age population could fall by a third by 2050. Though manufacturers have been laying off workers, sectors like farming and care for the elderly still face shortages.

    But Mr. Kawasaki said the economic slump was a good opportunity to overhaul Japan’s immigration policy as a whole.

    “We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,” he said. “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”

    He said the United States had been “a failure on the immigration front,” and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.

    At the packed town hall meeting in Hamamatsu, immigrants voiced disbelief that they would be barred from returning. Angry members of the audience converged on officials. Others walked out of the meeting room.

    “Are you saying even our children will not be able to come back?” one man shouted.

    “That is correct, they will not be able to come back,” a local labor official, Masahiro Watai, answered calmly.

    Claudio Nishimori, 30, said he was considering returning to Brazil because his shifts at a electronics parts factory were recently reduced. But he felt anxious about going back to a country he had left so long ago.

    “I’ve lived in Japan for 13 years. I’m not sure what job I can find when I return to Brazil,” he said. But his wife has been unemployed since being laid off last year and he can no longer afford to support his family.

    Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband, Sergio, who settled here three years ago at the height of the export boom, are undecided. But they have both lost jobs at auto factories. Others have made up their minds to leave. About 1,000 of Hamamatsu’s Brazilian inhabitants left the city before the aid was even announced. The city’s Brazilian elementary school closed last month.

    “They put up with us as long as they needed the labor,” said Wellington Shibuya, who came six years ago and lost his job at a stove factory in October. “But now that the economy is bad, they throw us a bit of cash and say goodbye.”

    He recently applied for the government repatriation aid and is set to leave in June.

    “We worked hard; we tried to fit in. Yet they’re so quick to kick us out,” he said. “I’m happy to leave a country like this.”


    21 Responses to “TIME Mag, Asahi, NY Times: “Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, but go home””

    1. Ariel Says:

      “We worked hard; we tried to fit in. Yet they’re so quick to kick us out,” he said. “I’m happy to leave a country like this.”

      I think this sums up the whole situation quite well. Japan’s main fear about immigration seems to be the disruption NJ will cause, but how are NJ suppose to become integrated when policies like this appear? I have a solid job over here, so several of my coworkers have wondered why I intend to go back to the US soon, but it’s stories like this that make me wary of putting down roots in this country.

    2. Kimpatsu Says:

      Mr. Kawasaki said, “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”
      There you have it; an admission of racism straight from the man himself. What more do you need?

      — And these people are put in charge of committees connected to immigration…?

    3. jjobseeker Says:

      I think that Mr. Kawasaki guy and all his ilk are really funny, in that sad kind of way. America has its social problems for sure, but Mr. Kawasaki, if America is such a failure, then why does the government and all their industry cronies care so much about the greenback, eh? Extreme inequalities between “rich Americans and poor immigrants”?? You sir, should look at the glaring inequalities between rich Japanese and poor…uh…Japanese. Yeah, you should try and take advantage of Japanese the way you have foreign workers; at least they won’t complain like NJ do.

    4. norik Says:

      Some years ago, Japan and the government of my country (certain country in East Europe) were negotiating on accepting large numbers of retired Japanese to live in healthy environment and enjoy cheap health care in homes for elrely people built especially for Japanese, with Japanese supervisor and non-Japanese staff.It was some 5 years ago and I haven’t heard much about that project anymore,but it gives me an idea how Japan is going to keep the workforce ballance without immigrants.
      They’re going to export their elderly to countries with cheap and good health care, good nature,cheap food and services. Soemthing like “obasute yama”, only here the yama is not in Japan.

      — Would like to know more about this. Any links?

    5. Jcek Says:

      This Kawasaki guy is the type of person who I really can’t understand. Blanket statements like the ones he is spewing sound illogical and ignorant of statistics and any actuall knowledge of anything about multi-ethnic studies. Japanese politicians love to make cross-country examples but rarely do I see them back it up with any substantial data. Why do people let these sytematic robots “lead” them? He’s right about one thing Japan will never be a multi-ethnic nation, it will take a “a better Japan” to do that.

    6. Colin Says:

      Despite the media attention, I don`t think Japan gives a rats ass about what anyone says about their primitive Human Rights policies/actions. And I think they are quite proud of that. Just look at what a major public official such as Kawasaki can say and get away with. I bet you his head was held high when he said it too. Makes me wonder.

    7. iago Says:

      “He said the United States had been “a failure on the immigration front,” and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.”

      I’m pretty sure a lot of those rich Americans are descended from poor immigrants.

    8. debito Says:

      Here’s Kawasaki Jiro’s home page, so you can get a load of what kind of person makes these kinds of policy decisions.

      (He doesn’t update it all that often, judging by his メッセージ page)

    9. darridge Says:

      “We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,” he said

      No doubt the Japanese he wants to fill the 3 K positions are the ones who traditionally used to do it, bringing Japan full circle and back into its glorious feudal samurai bushido past.

      — More to the point, it’s these prototypical Japanese workers who deserted the 3K jobs in the first place. And pay is not the issue (well, it is, as long as it’s low, since that’s the only model that works, hence the visa regimes in the first place). Statements like Dietmember Kawasaki’s indicate a tenuous grasp of economics and history.

    10. level3 Says:

      You know, when I theorized that this $3000 to go home and don’t come back policy was not really altruistism, but just a ploy by racist old Japanese men to get rid of gaijin, I thought I was being a bit extreme. And then I see that the leader of the task force that made the policy said,

      “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”

      Why does the J government keep meeting my terrible expectations?

      Wonder what this ass thinks about the Ainu?
      Wonder if he thinks the 442nd Infantry is a prime example of the “failure” of US immigration?
      Or letting Leo Szilard carry out research and become a US citizen in 1943?

      What’s the opposite of “multi-ethnic”? Uniformly-moronic? Culturally-inbred? Or just plain, Society-Doomed-to-Failure-as-its-Racist-Leaders-Ignore-Reality-and-Do-Nothing in some sort of long-term socio-economic suicide plan for the nation?

    11. Anonymous Says:

      “Mr. Kawasaki said, “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”
      There you have it; an admission of racism straight from the man himself. What more do you need?

      – And these people are put in charge of committees connected to immigration…?”

      The problem is that vast sectors of japanese society and many politicians think this way. I am strongly against discrimination in Japan, but sadly, if they dont want immigrants, then let it be. Please notice, what I mean is, if they dont want them in, then they have all the right to not allow immigrants get into the country in the first place. But once the immigrants are in Japan, their rights should be protected. If Japanese are against immigration, it is Japanese people and society also the ones who will have to face the consequences.

      — Two very loaded operative words in the above paragraph: “If”, and “they”.

    12. norik Says:

      I don’t have a link, because the story is pretty old, and I haven’t been home for years, but I’m going to ask my family for updates.
      BTW, I found this article at
      As you can guess from its title “And don’t come back” it also discusses the problem with the NIkkeis.

    13. Justin Says:

      Not only are many of today’s rich Americans descended from poor immigrants, but sometimes the immigrants themselves do all right. Sergey Brin, anyone? The narrow-minded, racist, obsolete thinking that motivates some Japanese officials and politicians is staggering.

    14. Gary Says:

      What about the person whom the japanese media love, and his immigrant background, ” President Obama”

      what a disgrace this policy is, the J- government is basically saying:
      you’ve paid your taxes, filled roles that other people couldn’t or aren’t willing to do , You have made a life for yourself but frankly we don’t need you or feel any need to look after you ,now the hard times are here. You are not our problem , heres some money now go home .

      I shake my head in disbelief at the open contempt for immigrants in this country. When you invite people to your country to HELP your economy , you have a duty to Help them when things go bad.

    15. adamw Says:

      i havent done the maths so i cant give them numbers,but im sure japan is making a huge profit even if they are paying for these people and their families to go back..

      they dont have to pay benefits etc,and of course they can keep everything but 3yrs of their pension contributions without giving anything in return..


      — Actually, it’s half of the three years. See HANDBOOK page 286.

    16. darridge Says:

      Anyone else spot what looks like another 250 year period of self enforced isolation coming up? Wonder who will act as Commodore Perry this time, dragging Japan kicking and screaming back into the rest of the world. Someone seems needs to tell these guys that they have an EXPORT BASED ECONOMY. If you piss people from other countries off they WON’T BUY YOUR STUFF.

    17. Alexander Says:

      Let’s not forget although immigrants have few friends in the LDP, that should not represent the sentiment of the whole country. There is a great deal of sympathy from the general public as well as parts of the media (Mainichi/TBS and Asahi) for even illegal immigrants like the Calderon family from the Philippines.

    18. oioooioi Says:

      Well, they don’t have to take the money or leave. Japan uses this opportunity to get rid of unproductive members of society.

      If they take the money, they probably weren’t doing very well in the first place.
      Immigration is only positive when things go well, once things bend, those that were supposed to feed your aging population become leeches to feed. Immigration is like breaking a window.

      Have you seen Europe? They started getting massive immigration from Africa to help with the 高齢少子化 problem. Their economies skyrocketed, their population boomed and started to build things like mad. But oops, now the world economy is not that good. The bubble burst. Roads leading to nowhere, abandoned towns and amusement parks. Unemployment rate is over 20% in some countries, it might be a lot more with uncontrolled illegal immigrants. Most of these will be near retirement age when the economy recovers, and poor and westernized they won’t have had kids to support them. How is that desirable? The problem is only deeper now. They have the same situation *and* a broken window.

      Japanese politicians are just trying to avoid that for Japan keeping mass immigration out and easing emigration for those more likely to emigrate. After all, the baby-boom generation will die off in two decades, why worsen things, when you just have to wait? They might give up in the end, but that they are trying not to shows that they are not completely stupid.

    19. Ed Says:

      I agree that wanting Nikkei to leave and never come back is inhumane and foolish. On the other hand,

      “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”

      I don’t think this is actually racist. I think racism usually means treating or regarding people worse because of their race. But this is different, surely. Countries do have the right to set their own immigration policies. (Of course, Japan already is multi-ethnic, but I think we can assume he means “more multi-ethnic”, like Western Europe or the USA.)

      Also, we should remember that the Nikkei are being offered a choice. People who decline will be no worse off then they would have been if the choice had never been offered. So, in a sense, no one has anything to complain about.

      (… I just get the urge to play devil’s advocate sometimes.)

    20. STP Says:

      “When you invite people to your country to HELP your economy , you have a duty to Help them when things go bad.”

      To be fair, I don’t think the Nikkei’s came to Japan with the mindset of “We’re going to help Japan!”

      This arrangement was beneficial to both parties. The Japanese manufacturers benefited from ample labor. Nikkei’s benefited by earning way more they can earn in their home country and thus help their relatives back home. (Hence, the term “Dekasegi”. The amount of overseas remittance by Nikkei Brazilians at one time exceeded the monetary amount of coffee exports)

      As I see it, Nikkei’s have choices which is 1)take the govt. money and go home. 2)use your own money/or borrow and go home (which entitles them to come back to Japan) 3) or simply ride it out with the rest of the unemployed 3K Japanese workers.

    21. Bano Says:

      What about the millions of yens that we paid in taxes all these years living in this country, in my case almost 20, do you think is fair to scam this money out of our pockets and now throw a tip and let us go like that? That money that was in no way a penny was our contribution to this society for a better future in this country, we paid our duty here and now we are treated like scam, really makes me feel shame of my ancestry.

    Leave a Reply

    404 Not Found

    Not Found

    Not Found

    Not Found

    Not Found

    404 Not Found