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
  • Kyodo: numerical figures on how many NJ took “Nikkei Repatriation Bribe”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 27th, 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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
    UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
    DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

    Hi Blog.  After the GOJ instituted the “Nikkei Repatriation Bribe” last April 1, bribing people with Japanese blood (only) to give up their visas, pension, and whatever contributions they made to Japan for a paltry lump-sum, “get out of our country and be somebody else’s problem” exchange, we have some possible figures coming out on perhaps how many people actually took it.

    On average over the past decade, the registered NJ population in Japan has risen by about 50,000 per year.  According to the figures below, we may have the first fall in the NJ population in more than four decades.  Let’s wait and see, but the GOJ may have in fact succeeded in what I believe are the long-standing plans to keep the NJ labor market on a revolving-door, non-immigrant footing.  As I will be writing next Tuesday in my Japan Times column, this is what happens when you leave immigration policy in the hands of elite xenophobic bureaucrats in the Justice Ministry.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    No. of immigrants applying for repatriation aid hit 16,000 by mid-Nov
    Japan Today/Kyodo News Tuesday 24th November,
    Courtesy of AW

    TOKYO — The number of immigrants of Japanese descent who had applied for government repatriation aid since the program began in April had reached roughly 16,000 by mid-November, welfare ministry officials said Monday. The bulk of the applicants were Japanese-Brazilian workers whose limited-time contracts with manufacturers have been terminated and their families, the officials said.

    While around 370,000 immigrants of Japanese descent from Latin America, including Peru and Brazil, were estimated to be living in Japan as of the end of last year, about 40,000 to 50,000 are believed to have returned home at their own expense. The repatriation aid program is expected to finish at the end of the current fiscal year next March, after only a year, amid cost-cutting efforts by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.


    UPDATE:  As commenter Jeff notes below, note the wording of “about 40,000 to 50,000 are believed to have returned home at their own expense” in the second paragraph above.  Even the media is complicit in defining potential immigrants as outsiders, with the assumption of Japan not being their “home”  That’s how deep this problem runs.  (And, for the record, even I didn’t pick that out when I first posted.  Silly me.)

    17 Responses to “Kyodo: numerical figures on how many NJ took “Nikkei Repatriation Bribe””

    1. Jeff Says:

      “…40,000 to 50,000 are believed to have returned home at their own expense.”

      Why do we let people frame the debate, and thereby drive the agenda, in this way?

      This sentence fragment, uncontested, means the debate is lost, and the rest of the article is moot.

      If you don’t know why, then you’ve made my point for me. You only win if you make the framing of this debate so that it represents the reality of what it means to emigrate. Debito knows, but he didn’t call them out on it… please, look for it and call it out. Every. Single. Time.

      — No I don’t know. Not sure I get you.

    2. Matt at anarchyjapan Says:

      The repatriation program is horribly unjust as it was carried out, so I’d say even just one person taking the bribe is bad news. Having said that, I’m glad the numbers weren’t higher than they could have been.

      I think economic forces are at play here and will have a lot to do with what happens next in the NJ population. The economy took a strong hit, but maybe is beginning to improve. Also the yen is strengthening, which should help.

      The number one economic reason for allowing immigrants into the country would be to help greater diversify the work force. Like the fast typing lawyer who doesn’t have time to type up her own reports uses a secretary who can’t type as fast as she, the Japanese labor force is becoming more and more skilled and educated. So more unskilled labor is needed, so that those with other skills can apply themselves. This then works to give those coming into the country without skills a chance to better themselves. The economic pull will always be in this direction but the policy fails to recognize this in any meaningful way. As you note, they try to keep the unskilled labor pool on a revolving belt, so that they are *not* given an opportunity to better themselves and instead are used up and spit out. The unskilled labor of today could become the new skilled labor of Japan tomorrow if given half a chance. Sadly, they usually aren’t.

    3. Dan Roddy Says:

      I notice that it is interpreted as a cost saving measure, rather than reversing a questionable measure. Is that how the government are actually presenting it?

    4. IGOTCHU Says:

      This is one shread of proof of the past administrations institutional racism. When the world economy went south and the car manufacturers didn’t need the Japanese/Brazilian immigrants anymore instead of the government giving these people unemployment and welfare to help them through the difficult times they gave them a one way ticket out of Japan. Its a good thing Hatoyama decided to cut the benefits to the program, but it would be better if he abolished it all together and offered the Latino community more unemployment benefits and job training in different fields.

    5. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      This sentence fragment, uncontested, means the debate is lost, and the rest of the article is moot.

      Jeff, is the problem the use of the word ‘home’?

      — Aha. Missed it. Mea culpa.

    6. John (Yokohama) Says:

      And in the opposite direction vis a vis government attitude towards foreigners:

      “Municipalities calls for gov’t agency to help foreigners”, Japan Today, November 27.

      “Representatives from Japanese municipalities holding a large number of foreign residents called for the central government Thursday to set up a new agency aimed at improving the livelihoods of foreign people living in the country.

      The proposal by a group of 28 municipalities in seven prefectures said they have recognized the need for the government to create such an entity so that foreign people in Japan would be better off at a time of economic difficulties. They also proposed that foreigners have the same rights and responsibilities as Japanese nationals and make it mandatory for children with foreign nationality to attend schools in Japan.”

      — This is like the third or fourth time these reps have called upon the national govt. to do something. Every time, deaf ears. Kasumigaseki doesn’t care.

    7. level3 Says:

      Yup. Live and work here 20 years and your “home” is still your gaikoku.

      I confuse most of my Japanese friends when I use the word “kaeru” to refer
      to me coming back to Japan, where I live, from the USA to visit family.

      J: “Why can’t you come to the bounenkai on Dec 24? You said you will “kaeru” on Dec.28!”
      A: “I won’t be here, because I go the USA on Dec. 20 and “Kaeru” on Dec 28!”
      J: “What?!”
      A: “(sigh) What’s on second base…..”
      J: “wakaranai!”
      A: “I don’t know is on third…..”

    8. Taylor Says:

      Most Japanese people living in Tokyo say “kaeru” when refering to their place of birth – as in “jika ni kaeru” – especailly around the end of the year. Even if they have not lived there in decades, it is where they are FROM. Even if they never plan to move back to inaka to live – that never goes away.

      Add to this your non-Japanese appearance, and their confusion is quite understandable. Japan inc. has not let 3rd & 4th generation Koreans call Japan home (they are STILL Koreans, i.e. foreigners), even though they were born in Japan, and fluent in Japanese…in this context, 20 years does not buy you much.

      Put simply, Japan is inherently resistant to change. Don’t give up, but good luck.

      — I also am a stickler when it comes to the word “kaeru”. I stubbornly (and a tad ostentatiously) connect “Sapporo” with “kaeru” in conversation. (My favorite example, when somebody asks “itsu ka kaeru n desu ka” when people obviously mean the USA, I say, “konban”. Gets a laugh almost every time. Try it.)

      The reason is obvious. I have no “jika” in the US to “kaeru” to!

    9. David Says:

      Level3: Don’t forget that, for Japanese people, even when you are forty, married, and have kids, you still “kaeru” back to your parents’ house. The idea that you can never really leave the place where you were born is not exclusively applied to foreigners.

      But yes, the section for “hometown” on the application form for visa extensions and such is a bit irritating. “Where do you live in your country?” I don’t live in the UK, I live in Japan. Has anyone tried writing “none” in there?

      On another angle on the topic story, Ireland is doing pretty much the same thing:

    10. Kimberly Says:

      David, I wrote “none” on my last visa extension application… told the guy who took the application that I didn’t HAVE an address in the US, I could write a relative’s address if they wanted but it wouldn’t be a home that I had ever lived in, he accepted that and said that “none” was better than writing the name of a city I’d never lived in. Might depend on who you talk to, what your visa type is, etc?

      My husband says “kaeru” to talk about his parents’ house too, so in Japanese I think it’s acceptable to use “kaeru” both for the twon you grew up in AND your current home. But “home” in English does not have the same meaning attached to it, and using it that way in the article rubs me the wrong way too.

      Now, what about people like the English student I had who said “I was born in Manchuria, so I don’t have a hometown” or my son… he was born in Iwate so we could get his grandparents’ help, but his registered address has always been Saitama… when Japanese people ask “where are you from” do they mean where were you BORN, or where did you GROW UP (what if your parents moved a lot?), or where your parents live NOW? Sometimes I don’t even think THEY know what they’re asking…

    11. Meat67 Says:

      I know that we are drifting here but my family lived for only six months in the tiny town I was born in. The house I lived in from about 5 to 18 was sold a month after I finished high school. I have lived in this apartment longer than anyone in my family has lived in any of their houses/apartments. No one in my family lives where they grew up. Where would I be “kaeru”ing to exactly?

      At one school I was studying Japanese at, my teacher told me that I would be “kaeru”ing to Canada and I disagreed at first, but then relented because, well, he was a teacher after all. The more I thought about it though, the more irritated it made me, so went back to “iku”ing to see my family.

      Today I made a point of telling my vice-principal that I would be “iku”ing to Canada on the 19th and “kaeru”ing on the 7th so I could be at work on the 8th. She had no problem with that.

      As my departure date gets closer my girlfriend is constantly telling me I should “motto hayaku kaette” because she will be lonely when I’m gone. I tell her that if she actually took the vacation provided to her by law she could come with me for at least some of the time, but, well, that’s a whole other topic, isn’t it.

      I still occasionally have people try to correct my Japanese when I “iku” to see my family every Xmas, and I just tell them I live in Japan and that’s where I will “kaeru”.

    12. David Says:

      Kimberley: Thanks. I’ll have to do that next time.

      But will they let you leave section (13) blank on your gaijin card?

      “Where do you come from?” is always an ambiguous question; I know that non-white Britons are very sensitive about it, and prone to saying “Britain!”. Of course, I got asked that in the UK as well, and the best answer wasn’t always clear. When people in Japan ask me which country I’m from, I usually say “motomoto Igirisu”, “originally England”.

    13. Nadrew Says:

      # 4

      Although reprehensible and myopic, can “the repatriation aid program” program be called racism? The Nikkei are by definition of “Japanese descent.” And although it is a manifestation of the “we-they” problem that is also deeply ingrained in Japanese society, the lines between ethnicity and nationality and race as a concept are dependent upon which philosophy you happen to subscribe to and in fact subjective and fluid. So perhaps this isn’t racism per se, but nationalism.

      That said, Japan does have deeply ingrained institutional racism.

      Here is a link to an informative tutorial on Ethnicity and Race created and maintained by Dr. Dennis O’Neil,Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California,

      No more time to spend on this now, but I look forward to reading further comments on this subject.

      — I argue the bribe (and the entire program that ultimately occasioned it) is based upon principles of race. After all, it’s only awarded to those with Japanese blood. Not Japanese nationality. The Chinese Trainees, for example, don’t receive it. See the arguments I made in my JT column of April 4, 2009 at

    14. Kimberly Says:

      But will they let you leave section (13) blank on your gaijin card?

      I don’t know, but I will in a month or so when I have to renew mine. I’ve still got the one I made 5 years ago… at the time, my parents still lived in the house I grew up in and I didn’t feel weird claiming that as my hometown, so my gaijin card is still as-is. The main reason I even thought about leaving it blank wasn’t really for protest… just that my parents and sister had both moved to cities I’d never even been to, and the house I grew up in belongs to someone I don’t know, so I really didn’t know WHAT to write… where m,y relatives lived, or the last place I lived, or “none.” None, according to the Immigration office in Kita-Yono anyway, was the correct answer. We’ll see if city hall feels the same way.

    15. Taylor Says:

      Meat67: As you point out, your vice-principal and girlfriend understand that your home is in Japan, thus they understand what you mean by iku/kaeru. Meanwhile, average Japanese people (who don’t know you well) correct you. I too have found that younger Japanese people, (and Japanese people that I worked with) are more open minded and accepting.

      I find it frustrating that the old guard in Kasumigaseki is so entrenched, and resistant to change. Despite Debito bringing the Brazilian repatriation bribes to light, (like the McDonalds Japan tasteless ad compaign) the people in charge don’t want (or need) to listen to calls for change.

    16. Paul Says:

      As an aside on use of Kaeru for the destination a place of your choosing instead of a place that holds little meaning for you, I recall a conversation I had with the US Immigration officer on my last visit to the US. I use “visit” for all locations outside of Japan, since I have lived here for so long that Japan is now my home. He would not accept “visit”, and wanted to know how long I had been away before my “return”. We restated our respective lines twice before I caught on. When I finally understood the issue and changed wording to “having been away” from my previously stated “here for a brief visit”, I then got a “welcome home” and was allowed in.

      On my next official form, I think I will try using my current address for permanent address and see how I fare.

    17. Simon Says:

      >I argue the bribe (and the entire program that ultimately occasioned it) is based upon principles of race. After all, it’s only awarded to those with Japanese blood. Not Japanese nationality.

      I would argue that the payment (A) is only awarded to those with a Nikkei visa (B). You can then follow on that that visa is only given to those “with Japanese blood” (C) (you think one Japanese ancestor three generations back is enough?) but you can’t connect A to C without going through B.

    Leave a Reply

    404 Not Found

    Not Found

    The requested URL /sites/debito.txt was not found on this server.

    Not Found

    404 Not Found404 Not Found