DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010

Table of Contents:
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INTERESTING VIEWS
1)  Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese
2)  David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective
3)  Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”
4)  Yomiuri, Terrie’s Take offer thoughtful essays on easing language hurdles for NJ on a tight deadline, such as Filipine or Indonesian nurses
5)  Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?
6)  Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”
7)  Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey
8 ) Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)
9)  JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

NEWS YOU CAN USE
10) Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.
11) Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ
12) Japan Times: Housing glut resulting in more assistance for NJ renters, e.g., Japan Property Management Association
13) Matthew Apple on how to take child care leave in Japan. Yes, even in Japan. Sanctioned by the GOJ.
14) Sunday Tangent: Cato Institute on dealing with police racial profiling in general
15) MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008
16) NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

… and finally …
17) DEBITO.ORG BLOG POLL:  “What do you think about the whole Okinawa Futenma Issue?”
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Daily Blog Updates at www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito
Freely forwardable

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INTERESTING VIEWS

1)  Singapore Straits Times: Lee Kwan Yew advises Japan not to accept immigrants who don’t look Japanese

Nothing breeds arrogance like success. It must be nice to have created a rich city-state in your image, so you think you can claim enough legitimacy to bald-facedly tell other countries to do as you say, not as you do. We have elder statesman Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore offering his opinions earlier this week to the GOJ about how to deal with immigration — where he advocates a “homogeneous Japan” solution that chooses people based upon their thoroughbredness:

Lee: “You have the choice to keep Japan homogeneous and shrinking and stagnant economically, or you accept immigrants and grow,” he told the audience… He also advised the Japanese to chose immigrants who can be assimilated more easily.

“If I were Japanese, I would not want to go beyond people who look like Japanese. I will (also) choose people from the high end, so that the children will also be of a higher calibre.”

COMMENT: I wonder if Lee believes his fellow Chinese fall into the category of being “from the high end”? Many of his fellow “homogeneous Japan” proponents in Japan would not think so.

Anyway, on behalf of all of us non-thoroughbred Japanese citizens: nuts to you Lee Kwan Yew.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6752

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2)  David McNeill interviews ultranationalist Sakurai Makoto, lays bare his illogical invective

Untangle an ardent ultranationalist:

Sakurai: “To tell you the truth, Japan is extremely bad at dealing with foreigners,” he says. “Until about 100 years ago, before the Meiji Restoration, there were almost no foreigners here. We’ve only been dealing with them for a little over a century. But with globalization we understand that a lot of Japanese people go abroad, and that naturally a lot of foreigners now come to Japan. We realize we can’t prevent that. But they should obey Japanese rules.”

Japan Times: So he’s not actually against foreigners coming to Japan, just those who break the law?

Sakurai: “No, we oppose immigration. The (ruling) Democratic Party of Japan has proposed allowing 10 million people to come here. According to the ministry of health, by 2050 there will be 80 million Japanese here ● that’s a fall of over 40 million. By 2100 it will be 20 million. If it continues like this our working population will disappear. So people are wondering what we should do. Should be accept millions of foreigners? I don’t think so.”

Japan Times: What about foreigners who have come here, married Japanese citizens, who pay taxes and have children. Would you send them all home?

Sakurai: “That’s different. Those people weren’t invited to come here by the government. The government wants millions of people to come in and work like robots in industrial jobs. They can’t treat foreigners like robots. Are you going to treat them as citizens? The DPJ is not talking about this. They should be allowed in step by step. It should be deliberated.”

Japan Times: Then you support a policy of phased, planned integration?

Sakurai: “If we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s set up schools for these people to help them blend into our society,’ I can understand that a little. But that’s not happening. The government is simply saying, ‘Come to Japan as workers.’ There’s no debate.”

Japan Times: OK, so let’s say there is a debate. Let’s say the government does deliberate this and create a policy that will allow phased mass emigration of 10 million people to come here. Would that be acceptable?

Sakurai: “No, I oppose such a move…”

http://www.debito.org/?p=6747

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3)  Former J employees sue Prada for sexual and power harassment, TV claims “racial discrimination”

In an interesting twist to the whole “racial discrimination” issue in Japan, we have Japanese managers suing their former employer, world-famous luxury brand maker Prada, for alleged workplace sexual and power harassment, and “lookism” (i.e. treating people adversely based upon their “looks”).

Good, in the sense that people who are treated badly by employers don’t just take it on the chin as usual. But what makes this a Debito.org issue is the allegation, made by at least one morning Wide Show (“Sukkiri” last Monday, May 17), is that the companies are practicing “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu).

Funny thing, that. If this were a Japanese company being sued for harassment, there would be no claim of racial discrimination (as race would not be a factor). But this time it’s not a Japanese company — it’s Prada. Yet when NJ or naturalized Japanese sue for racial discrimination (as they did in the Otaru Onsen Case), the media would NEVER call it “racial discrimination”, merely “cultural misunderstandings” and the like.

Another example of the Japanese media saying racism is only something done TO Japanese, never BY Japanese?

http://www.debito.org/?p=6726

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4)  Yomiuri, Terrie’s Take offer thoughtful essays on easing language hurdles for NJ on a tight deadline, such as Filipine or Indonesian nurses

Here is a slew of articles regarding the Japan-Asian countries’ EPA program to import health care workers to Japan, which we have discussed on Debito.org before.

First up, some background FYI on the issue from the Japan Times, then an article by the Yomiuri on the language barrier faced by NJ nurses over here on the nursing visa program — once just Filipinos/Filipinas and Indonesians, perhaps being expanded to Thais and Vietnamese. Then a thoughtful essay by Terrie Lloyd on the prospects of overcoming the language barrier in a decent amount of time. And finally, a Japan Times article calling for a serious revision of the program to give people more time to come up to speed in the Japanese language.

Unsaid (so I’ll say it) is the quite possible goal of setting a hurdle too high in the first place, so that few NJ will qualify to stay longer than three years, and the visa status remains a revolving-door employment program. It wouldn’t be the first time the GOJ has acted in such bad faith towards NJ labor.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6692

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5)  Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?

Here are a few articles that have sat in my “Drafts” section for months, waiting for the right time to be posted on Debito.org (it happens sometimes, sorry). Their point is that we have plenty of voices saying that the NJ nurses brought under the special visa program ought to be given a bit more of a break when it comes to language training (again, these people are qualified nurses — it’s only a language barrier), and yet the GOJ intransigently says that these people don’t deserve one — they should pass the same exam that only about 50% of native Japanese speakers pass anyway. Can’t you at least simplify the language and add furigana? Noooo, that would be unfair! As if it’s not unfair already.

I understand the argument that in emergency situations, people should be able to be communicated with without error, but surely there’s some grey in there. My belief, as I said yesterday and numerous times before, is that this is just taking advantage of fear to mask the program’s true intention, of keeping NJ on a short-term revolving door visa program so they don’t come here to stay permanently. These articles below are further evidence I believe of the subterfuge. Sorry to have taken so long to get to them. One-two punch for this week.

http://www.debito.org/?p=5258

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6)  Times London on “Peter Rabbit Tax”: Optional 5GBP surcharge for Japanese tourists in England derided as “discriminatory”

Times (London): Peter Rabbit, who has appeared on everything from tea towels to crockery, has now inspired a tax. A party of Japanese tourists posing for photographs yesterday at the Cumbrian cottage made famous by Beatrix Potter’s stories became the first to be asked to make a GBP 5 donation for the preservation of the local landscape.

Now Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute GBP 5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

Atsuhito Oikawa, 35, an academic in medical research, said that GBP 5 would not be prohibitive to most Japanese but they should not be the only ones to pay. “Everyone is equal in Japan,” he said. “If you distinguish between Japanese and others, you run the risk of appearing discriminatory.”

COMMENT:  That’s kinda rich…!

http://www.debito.org/?p=6655

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7)  Meat67 on “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines” Survey

Meat 67: I received the following survey in the mail from the City of Urayasu (see below). While I have many friends and acquaintances in Japan and Urayasu, I sometimes feel alienated from “official” Japan, so I was pleased to see that the city wanted my opinion on their “City of Urayasu Globalization Guidelines”. Like most things from governments there are good and bad things about this survey.

The first nice thing about the survey was the option of doing it in English and Japanese. For those people whose Japanese is at a low level the option of doing it in English is nice, while the option of Japanese acknowledges that many immigrants, can, in fact, read and write Japanese. That being said, just from my own personal observation from living in Urayasu for the past seven years, the inclusion of Chinese and Tagalog versions as well would have made it even better.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6046

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8 ) Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)

Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas. The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau. I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically. But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.

Economist excerpt: Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The Special Residency Permit system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6714

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9)  JALT PALE NEWSLETTER May 2010 (pdf file)

The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) SIG group Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education (PALE) has just put out its next semiannual newsletter for the season.

Contents include 2010 average salary scales for university educators in the Kansai region (see how your salary stacks up; I’m about 300 man below average), a report on JALT’s advertising policies for unfair workplaces, a quick look at teaching licenses in Japan, MEXT scholarships and how international students are adversely treated, and how a university educator stopped his contract termination by hiring a lawyer.

Download PDF file of the newsletter here:

http://www.debito.org/?p=6663

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NEWS YOU CAN USE

10) Terumi Club refuses NJ for travel fares and tours, has cheaper fares for Japanese Only. Like H.I.S. and No.1 Travel.

Speaking of “Peter Rabbit Taxes” for Japanese tourists: Here we have more information about Japanese travel agencies overcharging, surcharging, or refusing to sell tickets at all to NJ. Tellmeclub.com is offering different prices based upon nationality, according to A and J below. Contrast with H.I.S. and No.1 Travel doing the same thing back in 2006, despite their claims that they would stop.

Do watch yourself when dealing with travel agents in Japan. Check pricing at the agency’s website after you get an estimate, and don’t buy on the spot. Charging different fares by nationality, according to my investigations back in 2006, is not allowed by the Ministry of Transport. But it happens in Japan, it seems quite unabated.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6430

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11) Takasago Hotel, Fukushima-ken, has “rooms all full” if lodger is NJ

As a follow-up with the exclusionary hotels (and the prefectural tourist agency that promotes them) in Fukushima-ken, here we have one person’s experience the other day getting refused at one of them, by being told that there were no rooms available (meaning they get around the Hotel Management Law that forbids refusing people for reasons such as being a customer while NJ). Discriminators are getting more sophisticated, so it looks like we have to have native Japanese make reservations at some Japanese hotels on our behalf. Sheesh.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6690

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12) Japan Times: Housing glut resulting in more assistance for NJ renters, e.g., Japan Property Management Association

Debito.org Reader Kevin submitted this Japan Times article (thanks!) on how The Japan Property Management Association, which covers more than a thousand real estate agencies, is offering information to NJ renters and recourse to fearful landlords. They’re even suggesting hiring NJ to bridge communication gaps! Bravo. If you’re in the market for new digs, check this association out and give them your business.

After all, one of the first nasty things a NJ experiences is the pretty ubiquitous housing discrimination in Japan — where a renter can be refused by the mere whim of a landlord, and tough titties if that landlord has a “thing” about foreigners (due to, say, envisioned phobias about “differing customs”, “communication troubles”, or just plain visceral xenophobia). Sadly, there is no way, outside of a courtroom (which will probably, experience and word-of-mouth dictates, not rule in the NJ’s favor unless the landlord changes his or her mind AFTER a rental contract is signed). ‘Cos, as y’all know so well, there ain’t no law against racial discrimination in this part of the world.

One more thing, and this is a tangent but I’m feeling chatty today: Before we get all Pollyanna and flout any economic theories that “the marketplace will correct all if left to its own devices” (i.e. Japan’s housing glut is forcing the buyer’s market to find ways to be more accommodating to NJ), remember that there is no way economics is going to “fix” illogical or irrational behavior, such as fear and hatred of foreigners or other races that exist in every society. If anything, as seen in the course of the Otaru Onsens Case, bathhouse managers (and apologist bigots like Gregory Clark) have even made economic arguments to justify the status quo (“our customers don’t want to take baths with foreigners, so we have to give them what they demand”; some even created flawed surveys of customers to “prove” it, which got widely reported by unanalytical Japanese media. In any case, the market CAN break down (in classic cases like farmers dumping surplus crops in the ocean to keep the market
price up), and needs laws to govern it. In this case, laws against the effects of the dread mental disease that is xenophobia.

Anyway, again, bravo Japan Property Management Association. JT article about them follows.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6733

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13) Matthew Apple on how to take child care leave in Japan. Yes, even in Japan. Sanctioned by the GOJ.

Excerpt: “My child care leave officially started on April 1, 2010, but the process of applying for leave started about half a year prior to that. Technically, I was required to give about one month’s notice before applying for leave, according to the Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave (one of the longest names on record, perhaps?). However, I was asked in November, 2009, by the General Affairs Office of my school to check with my department head for “permission” to take child care leave.

Said permission notwithstanding, the General Affairs Chief promised me at the time that, in the event the Department Head refused or evaded, he was prepared to support me in my claim as to the legality of taking child care leave. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, and I was given permission to apply for the leave.

At any rate, the conditions of the leave were that I had to be already employed for over 12 months, that I had to be able to continue working at the same company after the leave ended, and that I would not be paid at all during the leave. The last condition hurt; I was even told that not being paid during leave would additionally impact on my retirement pay from the school as well as national pension● Last week, I was further informed that I could receive some financial support from the government to help care for my daughter. The official form is administered by Hello Work (surprisingly), and all funds come from unemployment insurance. Basically, I get 30% of my base salary until my daughter turns one year old, and then six months after I go back to work, I get an additional 20% as a bonus.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=6739

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14) Sunday Tangent: Cato Institute on dealing with police racial profiling in general

As a Sunday Tangent, here is a Cato Institute webcast on Ten Rules for Dealing with Police, especially when you’ve become a target of racial profiling. Not completely applicable to Japan, but some lessons are, and it’s worth a viewing.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6445

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15) MOJ: Numbers of people naturalizing into Japan 1999-2008

Dovetailing with the article below talking about Americans who give up their US citizenship, here are some statistics for people taking out Japanese citizenship from the MOJ.

These are all the numbers of people who applied between 1999 and 2008. The numbers have been up and down like a sine curve, but about 15,000 per year (which will add up to quite a substantial number over time). Most of them are of Korean descent (probably Zainichi). The trend is for fewer Koreans, about the same Chinese, but a doubling in the “other countries” column (I am one of the 725 in 2000). The numbers rejected are very small (about one or two percent), but as I argue in an old discussion on Mutantfrog (thanks to them for this link), this is unindicative of a lax system, since the entrance interviews weed out obviously most of the unsuitable candidates before they even apply. More on my experience with Japanese naturalization more than a decade ago here.

Anyway, no booms here. Yet.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6709

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16) NYT: More American Expatriates Give Up US Citizenship

NYT: Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”…

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad…

Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.

Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.

http://www.debito.org/?p=6706

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… and finally …

17) DEBITO.ORG BLOG POLL:  “What do you think about the whole Okinawa Futenma Issue?”

Here are the possible responses, in no particular order:

  • Having the Americans there is crucial not only to the Okinawan economy but also regional stability. Not to mention keeping the Genie in the Bottle.
  • Futenma should be given back and those US troops withdrawn to Guam.
  • This whole issue is a relic of Cold-War thinking. Japan should reassert its sovereignty and all US troops should withdraw from Japanese soil.
  • Hatoyama should follow US-J agreements even if signed under LDP rule. Bite the bullet.
  • I’m happy to see some US troops and bases leave, but having a complete withdrawal is too much to take in. Baby steps.
  • I can accept a compromise, where US Futenma troops are relocated piecemeal within Japan.
  • I’m all for more secure borders and the status quo, but we need more strict policing of the US troops.
  • I don’t know what to say, but the stalemate where the US keeps threatening “separation anxiety” is disrespectful towards Japan. Cut it out!
  • I’m neutral on the subject. Issue is too complicated.
  • Don’t know, don’t care, not sure etc.
  • Something else.

Nearly 250 people have voted so far.  Cast your vote at any blog page at http://www.debito.org

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All for this month.  Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
Daily Blog Updates at www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 24, 2010 ENDS

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