DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 31, 2009

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 31, 2009

Table of Contents:

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CHILD ABDUCTION ISSUE STILL HAS LEGS
1) Letter from US Senators Boxer and Corker to Obama re Child Abductions, for his Nov 12 visit to Japan
2) Joint statement by eight governments re Japan’s untenable stance on international child abductions
3) Global Post’s Justin McCurry on Savoie Child Abduction Case. Issue isn’t passe yet.
4) Letter to Prime Minister Hatoyama regarding Child Abductions and legislative lag, from a Left-Behind Parent
5) MSNBC.com/AP on left-behind dads in Japan regardless of nationality

FALLOUT FROM ISSUES OF LABOR, HISTORY, IMMIGRATION, DOLPHIN AND OTHER SLAUGHTERS
6) Mainichi: Numerous foreign trainees forced to work under harsh conditions in Japan, even to death
7) Mainichi: Chinese trainees file complaint with labor bureau over 350 yen per hour overtime
8 ) Sakanaka Hidenori’s latest paper on assimilation of NJ now translated into English, full text
9) Economist.com BANYAN column on DPJ moves to right historical wrongs
10) Fallout from “The Cove”: TV’s “South Park” takes on Japan’s dolphin slaughters and whale hunts
11) Tangent: Microsoft apologizes for photoshopping out black man from its Poland advertising. Contrast with “Mr James”
12) Tangent: Japan Times reporter Eric Johnston on getting freelance reporting jobs in Japan
13) Tokyo International Players present “Honiefaith”, true story of NJ murder, Nov 6-7-8 in Shibuya’s OUR SPACE Theater
14) New Debito.org Poll: “What should be the DPJ’s NUMBER ONE priority policy for helping NJ in Japan?”

… and finally …
15) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Tues Nov 3 on Japan politicization of demographic science
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates, RSS feed, and Newsletter signup at http://www.debito.org
Freely Forwardable

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CHILD ABDUCTION ISSUE STILL HAS LEGS

1) Letter from US Senators Boxer and Corker to Obama re Child Abductions, for his Nov 12 visit to Japan

Letter from two US senators to Obama on Japan’s Child Abductions issue:

“It is particularly troubling that Japan remains the only G-7 industrialized nation that has yet to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Convention has been adopted by more than 70 countries and is an important tool for those seeking access to and/or the return of a child abducted across international borders. We agree that Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention would result in important reforms to Japanese family law and we are grateful that the United States continues to prioritize this issue.

“But while we acknowledge that Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention is an important goal, the United States must also work with Japan to establish a bilateral mechanism to assist with the resolution of current cases. This is critical because the Hague Convention does not pertain to already completed abductions, and therefore cannot be used as a tool to resolve existing cases. We urge your Administration to seriously consider initiatives, including mediation, to foster cooperative and coordinated engagement with the Japanese government on cases of international parental child abduction. Many parents have not seen or heard from their children in years. We cannot sit back and wait while these children grow up without one parent.

“We feel strongly that the recent election of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), under the leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama, is a unique opportunity for the United States to reinvigorate its dialogue with Japan on the issue of international parental child abduction. As such, we urge you to ensure that the United States continues to raise this issue at the highest possible levels in the context of our nations’ close bilateral relationship.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=4874

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2) Joint statement by eight governments re Japan’s untenable stance on international child abductions

Joint Statement on International Child Abduction

By the Ambassadors of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States

Excerpt: “Because parental child abduction involving Japan affects so many of our citizens, we, the Ambassadors to Japan of Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the Deputy Head of Mission from the Embassy of Australia, called on Justice Minister Chiba today to address our concerns.

“We place the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been the victims of international parental child abduction and believe that our children should grow up with access to both parents. Therefore, in our meeting with Minister Chiba we called upon Japan to accede to the Convention. We also urged that Japan meanwhile identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and to visit them.

“Japan is an important friend and partner for each of our countries, and we share many values in common. This makes it all the more important to develop tangible solutions to cases of parental child abduction in Japan. We are eager to work closely and in a positive manner with the new Japanese government on this issue.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=4842

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3) Global Post’s Justin McCurry on Savoie Child Abduction Case. Issue isn’t passe yet.

Excerpt: Savoie’s is one of about 80 cases of international parental child abduction involving U.S. citizens, while France and Britain are dealing with 35 each.

The unofficial number is much higher, particularly when failed marriages between Japanese and people from other Asian countries are included. The Assembly for French Overseas Nationals for Japan estimates that 10,000 children with dual citizenship in Japan are prevented from seeing their foreign parent after separation or divorce.

Japanese courts habitually award custody of children to the mother. In many cases, they say they are simply trying to protect the rights of women fleeing abusive former husbands, a claim vigorously disputed by campaigners.

The country’s courts will be tested again later this week when Shane Clarke appeals in a custody battle with Japanese ex-wife…

http://www.debito.org/?p=4857

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4) Letter to Prime Minister Hatoyama regarding Child Abductions and legislative lag, from a Left-Behind Parent

Conclusion: While I believe you, Prime Minister Hatoyama, are sincere about resolving this issue, the facts lead me to distrust the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign Ministry. The Judicial Review Council and the Supreme Court knew about these problems in the first Judicial Reforms that began 10 years ago but chose not to face the tough issue of Parental Rights head on. Now, Mr. Hatoyama, are you relying on these same bureaucrats again? Why, is it that Professor Nishitani refers to a draft statute created by Japanese Scholars that would have paved the way for Japan to implement the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the bureaucrats are sounding as though we have to start from scratch? If the Judicial Reform Council is drafting this legislation then who are the current members? I hope it is not any of the retired Supreme Court Justices that made the 2000 ruling. Furthermore, the Democratic Party of Japan’s Manifesto states the cabinet will be the center of policy-making. What happens if the DPJ loses power in the next election, which will be in two years, do we start from scratch again? Let’s see what Professor Yuko Nishitani and the Japanese Scholars proposed; maybe the cabinet can start from there. If the government wants the international community and all left-behind parents to cooperate while reforms are being created we need to know, What Are We Bargaining For?

http://www.debito.org/?p=4838

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5) MSNBC.com/AP on left-behind dads in Japan regardless of nationality

Slightly dated article recently published again in the South China Morning Post, but still worth a read, for how the issues of Japanese family law and child abductions affect Japanese too:

AP: [Left-behind father] Yoshida has banded together with other divorced fathers to form a support group, one of several that have sprung up in recent years.

A few lawyers and lawmakers have showed support for their cause. A bar association group is studying parenting and visitation arrangements in other countries such as Australia.

Japan also faces a growing number of international custody disputes. The U.S., Britain, France and Canada have urged Japan to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which has been signed by 80 countries. It seeks to standardize laws among participating countries to ensure that custody decisions can be made by appropriate courts and protect the rights of access of both parents.

Japan’s government has argued that signing the convention may not protect Japanese women and their children from abusive foreign husbands. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said this week that officials were reviewing the matter.

Divorced fathers say that joining the Hague convention would be a major step toward bringing the possibility of joint custody to Japan because it would require a major overhaul of the country’s family laws.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4803

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FALLOUT FROM ISSUES OF LABOR, HISTORY, IMMIGRATION, DOLPHIN AND OTHER SLAUGHTERS

6) Mainichi: Numerous foreign trainees forced to work under harsh conditions in Japan, even to death

Mainichi: The Justice Ministry has confirmed that a record 452 companies and other organizations that accepted foreign trainees were involved in illegal practices last year. About 60 percent of them involve violations of labor-related laws, including unpaid wages and overtime allowances.

A survey conducted by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO) has found that a record 34 trainees died in fiscal 2008. Nearly half, or 16 of them, died of brain and heart diseases that are often caused by long working hours. Experts say that there is a high possibility that they died from overwork.

With the amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, labor related laws, which had applied to foreign trainees from their second year, now apply to those in their first year of training. As a result, it is now guaranteed that foreign trainees can sign proper employment contracts with their employers, just like Japanese workers.

The government is poised to revise its regulations to inspect companies that accept foreign trainees at least once a month to see if their working conditions are legal as well as stiffen penalties for businesses involved in illegal labor practices and strictly examine the terms of contracts between foreign trainees and employment agencies in their home countries.

However, support groups question the effectiveness of these measures, pointing out that many of those in their second year of training are subjected to illegal labor practices.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4436

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7) Mainichi: Chinese trainees file complaint with labor bureau over 350 yen per hour overtime

Mainichi: According to the complaint and other sources, the [Chinese “Trainee”] women each worked as many as 209 overtime hours per month, and about 2,000 hours per year. The 350-400 yen per hour the women claim they were paid for that overtime falls short of Nagasaki Prefecture’s minimum wage of 629 yen per hour, and well below the standard set by the Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay 1.25-1.6 times the regular wage for overtime.

The women claim that during busy periods they each worked from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., and sometimes did not have a single day off per month. They apparently signed a contract paying them a monthly salary based on the minimum wage, but that excluded provisions for overtime. Working an average of 173 hours per month at the minimum wage would equal a monthly paycheck of about 110,000 yen.

However, the women claim that the company told them their pay was being directly deposited in their bank accounts and did not show them the payment details. Furthermore, the company held both the women’s bankbooks and passports. The company president also apparently checked the clock whenever one of the women went to the washroom and deducted that time from their breaks.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4867

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8 ) Sakanaka Hidenori’s latest paper on assimilation of NJ now translated into English, full text

Sakanaka Hidenori, head of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute and author of Nyuukan Senki (his experiences within Japan’s Immigration Bureau), has just had his most recent paper translated into English. Debito.org is proud to feature this paper downloadable in full here, with an excerpt immediately below.

Sakanaka-san has written for Debito.org before, and his 2007 work, “A New Framework for Japan’s Immigration Policies” can be found here. He has taken great efforts to encourage immigration policy within Japan (his prognosis on “Big Japan vs. Small Japan” is worth considering).

Now for his latest, translated by Kalu Obuka. Excerpt, then full download:

http://www.debito.org/?p=4832

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9) Economist.com BANYAN column on DPJ moves to right historical wrongs

Here’s The Economist’s Asia-focus “Banyan” column last week, on the DPJ’s attempt to try and redress the historical running sores that pass for diplomatic relations between Japan and the rest of Asia.

As I voted in the last Debito.org blog poll, the DPJ keeps surprising me with their progressive plans and policies. The proposal for a definitive joint-edited history book of the Asian region is precisely what UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene recommended as a salve years ago.

The Economist is right to express a certain degree of skepticism: so many hopes for countries to act like adults, and own up to the bad parts of history (viz. former PM Abe’s call for official whitewashing in the name of promoting Japan as “beautiful” — i.e. shame about the past just gets in the way of training Japanese to love their country), have been dashed time and time again. But as long as the DPJ can maintain the momentum of “not quite business as usual, folks”, I think we just might see decades of regional rhetorical logjam broken, and Japan discovering that international goodwill might be worth as much as good trade relations.

Economist.com: Yukio Hatoyama, Japan’s new prime minister, has pleased the neighbours by promising that rule by his Democratic Party of Japan would transform Japan’s relations with them. He made the pledge in both Seoul, where he met South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, on October 8th, and then in Beijing at a three-way summit with China’s leaders. Unlike the weasel-worded Liberal Democratic Party, which long ran the country, Mr Hatoyama’s new government, he says, “has the courage to face up to history.”

Both Mr Lee and China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, were delighted. Dealing honestly with historical matters, they affirmed, would make it much easier to tackle contemporary challenges together●notably, getting North Korea to give up its nukes, and deepening economic co-operation. Mr Lee said Mr Hatoyama had opened the way for “future-oriented relations”. The talk now is of reviving old plans for an undersea tunnel linking South Korea and Japan. Emperor Akihito may visit South Korea, a first. Both South Korea and China have applauded Japan’s proposal for a jointly compiled history textbook…

http://www.debito.org/?p=4776

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10) Fallout from “The Cove”: TV’s “South Park” takes on Japan’s dolphin slaughters and whale hunts

I’m not kidding. This is making the rounds of the blogoverse. South Park takes on the Japanese dolphin culls and whale hunts, thanks to the publicity from “The Cove”. It’s worth seeing. As a South Park fan, I must say this is all within character for the show… and it as usual ties the issue up into large intellectual knots, and pushes the frontiers of “taboo humor”. Enjoy, I guess.

http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/251888/

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11) Tangent: Microsoft apologizes for photoshopping out black man from its Poland advertising. Contrast with “Mr James”

Bit of a tangent but not really. Here’s what happens when another multinational apparently caters to “regional sensibilities” — this time Microsoft photoshopping out an African-American in one of its ads to cater to a Polish audience.

Contrast with “Mr James”. We see none of the cultural relativity that the whole McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” issue got (or even claims of “just-deserts” from certain parties). And Microsoft even apologizes — something McDonald’s Japan has steadfastly refused to do (and still runs the “Mr James” campaign to this day; fortunately it finishes shortly). Any theories behind the difference?

http://www.debito.org/?p=4438

BTW, “Mr James” is saying goodbye to everyone on his “blog” today. Leaving behind such fond memories, boo hoo. He’s in Kushiro now, seems to be avoiding Sapporo. Wonder why.
http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/2009/10/091030.html

He’s also suddenly sprouted the ability to write in kanji, hiragana, and katakana. What a quick study!

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12) Tangent: Japan Times reporter Eric Johnston on getting freelance reporting jobs in Japan

I attended the Japan Writers’ Conference last weekend in Kyoto (even presented, handout here). A very good time with some very good presentations, one of which was Eric Johnston’s excellent presentation on how to find freelance journalist jobs in Japan. There was so much information in his powerpoint that I asked if I could blog it here for wider consumption. Yeppers, he said, so here are some excerpts. Download the whole powerpoint below for the full story.

REPORTING OPPORTUNITIES IN JAPAN:
A Practical Guide
By Eric Johnston, Deputy Editor, The Japan Times, Osaka bureau…

http://www.debito.org/?p=4802

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13) Tokyo International Players present “Honiefaith”, true story of NJ murder, Nov 6-7-8 in Shibuya’s OUR SPACE Theater

BY POPULAR DEMAND, TOKYO INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS PRESENTS A SECOND PRODUCTION OF “HONIEFAITH”
Written and directed by Monty DiPietro

When a Filipino hostess’ dismembered body is discovered in a Tokyo coin locker, Manila newspaper reporter Victor Balmori is dispatched to Japan. Balmori is looking for a story, he finds a nightmare.

Written by Monty DiPietro, “Honiefaith” is a three-act play based on real events. The premiere of “Honiefaith” opened Tokyo International Players’ “Second Stage” series in June, playing to full houses at a ‘black box’ theater in Hatagaya. The November production is being directed by the author, and features Filipino television and film actor Percival Florendo Bugayong in the lead role. The play is in English, and runs about two hours with intermission.

November 6-7-8, 2009 at Our Space Theater:
Fri. Nov. 6 ● 7:00 pm
Sat. Nov. 7 ● 2:00 pm
Sat. Nov. 7 ● 7:00 pm
Sun. Nov. 8 ● 2:00 pm
Sun. Nov. 8 ● 7:00 pm
More details, flyer, and link to actual case history in this blog entry.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4826

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14) New Debito.org Poll: “What should be the DPJ’s NUMBER ONE priority policy for helping NJ in Japan?”

Choices:

Allowing Dual (or multiple) Nationality
Allowing noncitizen suffrage in local elections
Creating an Immigration Ministry to draft policies
Stamping out labor abuses of Trainees, NJ workers and educators
Creating stronger labor laws for everyone
Signing the Hague Convention on Child Abductions
Allowing NJ to register residency the same way as Japanese
Allowing joint custody and visitation after divorce
Creating clear guidelines preventing the Japanese police from racial profiling
Granting citizenship from birth, not blood
Easing naturalization requirements
Easing Immigration Bureau’s visa requirements
Passing a law against racial discrimination
Strengthening the MOJ Bureau of Human Rights
Easing credit and loan requirements for NJ
Making clear public statements praising and encouraging immigration
Abolishing the “Re-Entry Permit” system
Something other than the above
Don’t know / Can’t say / Don’t care etc.

Vote at any Debito.org page
http://www.debito.org

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… and finally …

15) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Tues Nov 3 on Japan politicization of demographic science

Last June I went to a forum on Japan’s future as an elderly society. All the Japanese scientists, however, refused to discuss the issue of immigration as a possible alternative to Japan’s economic decline. Seriously. Demographic studies had become so riddled with politics that Japanese scientists were resorting to bad science. More in my column next Tuesday (Wednesday in the provinces).

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All for this week. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Daily blog updates, RSS feed, and Newsletter signup at http://www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 31, 2009 ENDS

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