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    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 9th, 2011

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    The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
    JUST BE CAUSE column 46 for the Community Page

    For the sake of Japan’s future, foreigners deserve a fair shake

    By ARUDOU DEBITO
    Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111206ad.html

    These past few columns have addressed fundamentally bad habits in Japanese society that impede positive social change. Last month I talked about public trust being eroded by social conventions that permit (even applaud) the systematic practice of lying in public.

    This month, let’s discuss the lack of cultural value invested in “fairness.” Consider these touchstones:

    •”When respondents (to a Cabinet survey) were asked, ‘Should foreigners have the same human rights protections as Japanese?’ 59.3 percent said yes. This is a rebound from the steady decline from 1995 (68.3 percent), 1999 (65.5 percent) and 2003 (54 percent).” (Zeit Gist, Oct. 23, 2007)

    •”We were taught that . . . foreigners have no human rights.” (Hiroshi Ichikawa, Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, May 23, 2011 — see www.debito.org/?p=8997)

    •”(The Japanese Constitution) speaks of defining equality and ‘fundamental human rights’ as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.” (Colin Jones, Zeit Gist, Nov. 1, 2011)

    •”Now that you are a Japanese citizen, we (want to protect your human rights).” (“Japanese Only“, pg. 263)

    I was told the last one on Oct. 11, 2000, the day I naturalized, by two representatives of Japan’s secretive Public Safety Commission, who now thought it appropriate to take action against the threats and harassment I had been getting during the Otaru onsens lawsuit. (Incidentally, they also asked if I knew of any illegal Chinese workers they could investigate.)

    The point is, the authorities indicated that I had rights to protect when I became a citizen, not before.

    This is how I’ve noticed, after two decades of arguing for equal rights and protections under the law, a clear presumption of unfairness in Japan.

    To be sure, mention that something is “unfair” (fukōhei) and people do respond positively and emotively, not merely dismissing the situation with a blithe “Yeah, but life is unfair.”

    But unfairness is systematic — even expected, particularly if (and because) you’re a foreigner in Japan. A few examples:

    Want to live someplace or get a loan? Many landlords, realtors and credit agencies state up front that they will not rent or lend to foreigners; as long as there is no contract signed, there is generally nothing legally you can do about it.

    Want to get a job as a tenured academic in Japan’s universities? Too bad; very often those jobs are explicitly not open to foreigners.

    Want to become a volunteer firefighter, a public-sector food preparer, a family court mediator or a manager in the bureaucracy? Sorry, citizens only. The same goes for the many job opportunities at “Hello Work” with unofficial nationality clauses, simply because bosses presume no foreigner can speak Japanese.

    Want a fair trial in the judiciary? As has been discussed here before (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009, and Aug. 14, 2007), there are different standards in both Japan’s civil and criminal courts if you’re not a citizen. As Colin Jones writes in the aforementioned article, a 2008 Supreme Court decision made it clear that citizenship is essential to enjoying constitutional and human rights in Japan.

    Want to claim your rights as a foreigner in Japan as per United Nations treaty? The Japanese government has repeatedly claimed, through explicit exceptions and caveats (called “reservations”) made when signing, that noncitizens in Japan do not qualify for protection against racial discrimination, or for equal civil and political rights.

    The point is, you are simply less human in Japan without Japanese nationality, and institutional practices back that up.

    One reason these practices can be perpetuated is that the Japanese public tacitly (and not so tacitly) acquiesces to them, instead of reflexively helping foreigners fight against them. I believe the root cause is how little cultural value is generally assigned to “fairness.”

    Allow me to illustrate by comparison: One of my students, after spending a year abroad in North America, remarked with great surprise how much the word “fair” was used, and what kind of effect that had.

    “It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a citizen,” he said. “People said that as a person I had the same rights as everyone else. ‘It just wouldn’t be fair’ otherwise.” Complain that something was “unfair” and people would either seek to rectify it or exert themselves excusing it.

    Not here. The common excuse given glibly, as if it were self-evident, is that you’re a foreigner, thus naturally treated differently. The more eloquent or legally versed proponents of unequal treatment will even argue that if foreigners want equal rights, they should naturalize.

    The thing is, some of us have actually naturalized. And although some barriers do disappear, I can attest from personal experience after more than a decade as a citizen that not all do, meaning that you’re still stuck on a lower rung in a caste system.

    Moreover, even after giving dozens of awareness-raising speeches in Japanese, I have discovered that appealing to public sensitivity is largely ineffectual.

    I have to keep reminding listeners that foreigners are in fact humans with human rights. That sinks in, but people eventually reset to the default mind-set that “foreigners are not the same as Japanese,” and that recognizing difference (kubetsu) does not necessarily equal willful discrimination (sabetsu).

    Except that it does. An unquestioned acceptance of difference between peoples in a society ultimately leads to inequality in practice (recall the machinations of segregation’s “separate but equal“).

    Only an ironclad guarantee of “fairness,” a cornerstone of liberal societies and held in as high regard as “Do unto others . . .” will ensure equal opportunity and essential civil, political and human rights. One has to believe this, and have it promoted constantly in the public arena to raise awareness, until it too becomes an unquestioned given.

    Consider what my student saw as cultural memes overseas: Everyone deserves a “fair deal,” enjoys a “fair playing field,” earns a “fair income” after doing their “fair share,” gets a “fair decision” after a “fair fight” by winning “fair and square.” “Fair is fair,” after all. Fair enough, you get the idea.

    That’s simply not the expectation in a society as rigidly hierarchical as Japan’s, hard-wired to see shades of superior and subordinate in just about every possible interaction (down to the linguistics).

    Thus anyone who’s not seen as belonging to Japanese society, deserving equality and a fair shake just as a human being, is at an insurmountable disadvantage.

    This is but one more fundamental issue that must be dealt with if Japan hopes to provide more opportunities for its people and brighten its future. Thanks for giving me a fair hearing.

    Arudou Debito’s novel “In Appropriate” is now on sale (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Twitter @arudoudebito. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp

    ends

    39 Responses to “My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec. 6, 2011, on the effects of a lack of “fairness” as a strong cultural value in Japan”

    1. Hoofin Says:

      I felt this was one of your better columns, Debito.

    2. Charuzu Says:

      Your article is good.

      An issue that I believe is tied quite strongly is the absolute lack of gender fairness in Japan.

      The latest World Economic Forum report on the gender gap [ http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-2011/ ] just came out, and Japan came below Malaysia (where woman can be lawfully beaten for dressing immodestly) or Senegal.

      That Japan should suffer from such a profound gender gap, not withstanding its great wealth, points to a fundamental lack of fairness for more than 50% of its population.

      Given such fundamental unfairness, I believe that your article is in need of one point of revision.

      Japan does strongly discriminate, but not in favour of Japanese nationals, but rather in favour of Japanese men.

      – Then you’ll get into issues of how some Japanese men are not treated fairly either, and downward we plunge into the disempowered abyss of relativism.

      Let’s stick to the point: Issues of fairness, regardless of whomever is being treated unfairly, are linked to the lack of fairness as a highly-prized cultural value in Japan.

      This column was focusing on one permutation of it. Others are welcome to discuss other variants elsewhere, as you have done above.

    3. Tom Says:

      Outstanding article! Anybody that cant relate to this has never lived long term in Japan, you are in denial, or have an issue with Debito. This is as real as it gets.

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Debito,
      Not trying to go off on a tangent, but just reading Charuzu’s post and thinking that if even the women of Japan don’t have the voice and motivation to fight for fair treatment, then we must be really screwed.

      @Charuzu,
      Perhaps we can see the increasing number of ‘parasite single’ women, and the falling birthrate as a subconscious, uncoordinated, rebellion against this unfairness by J-ladies?

    5. speaking of the sheer insanity of certain aspects of Japanese culture… « the enigma of arrival Says:

      […] full article here — and readers’ comments on Debito’s blog. For the sake of Japan’s future, foreigners deserve a fair shake Debito Arudou The Japan […]

    6. giles Says:

      This is an interesting topic…I also noticed a completely different attitude to hiring disabled people in the workplace.
      In many countries there are effective laws to protect disabled people from being discriminated against in employment, the attitude here is very different and I think it is also about this peculiar attitude towards fairness.
      Companies in Japan are encouraged to employ disabled people with financial incentives (positive discrimination) rather than being prevented from discriminating against people due to stigmatising disabilty (not simply assesing their ability to perform that particular job in the same way as anyone). Rather than eliminate unfair discrimination, the Japanese system is failing disabled people by continuing to treat them differently from everyone else. They should be allowed to get jobs based on their skills just like anyone. Bad recruitment systems that just dismiss disabled people’s or foreign people’s ability to contribute to the workforce on the basis of those labels or assumptions (rather that giving people the respect to assess them on an individual basis) should be stopped from doing so.
      With the “global threat” looming from the rise of asia, lots of japanese companies have created special global recruit systems for employing foreigners….I dont see why japanese companies dont just break open the normal recruit system that is so closely tied up with top tier japanese universities and open up the opportunities to everyone on the basis of their abilities and skills irrespective of which university they went to or their nationality.

    7. TJJ Says:

      Quote: “Want to claim your rights as a foreigner in Japan as per United Nations treaty? The Japanese government has repeatedly claimed, through explicit exceptions and caveats (called “reservations”) made when signing, that noncitizens in Japan do not qualify for protection against racial discrimination, or for equal civil and political rights.”

      That UN back and forth is a complete joke. The executive summary is this:

      1. We don’t pry into peoples lives so we don’t have exact data on the composition of foreigners in Japan, but we can say there are some distinct groups..
      2. Some people have claimed that there is discrimination against certain of these groups – the Ainu, the Okinawans, the Burakumin and the Koreans (Zainichi).
      3. The Ainu, the Okinawans and the Burakumin are all Japanese citizens and therefore protected against discrimination by the current laws.
      4. We are aware of the Korean problem and we’re on the case.
      5. Q.E.D. There is no discrimination in Japan.

    8. TJJ Says:

      Quote “Want to live someplace or get a loan? Many landlords, realtors and credit agencies state up front that they will not rent or lend to foreigners; as long as there is no contract signed, there is generally nothing legally you can do about it.”

      Oh yes, and it’s not just realtors or banks, even big name automotive rental shops sometimes won’t deal with foreigners. I went to the uehonmachi (Osaka-shi) Toyota rent-a-car shop once and as soon as I walked in the staff at the counter raised his hands in a cross and said in broken English “No car!” “No car!”. I asked him why Toyota had no rental cars, in Japanese, because I know that if one store is out then then can be re-supplied from other stores nearby as is basic practise, and all I got in reply was the broken English “No car!” and crossed arms.

      There is no interpretation of those events, that I swear to be true, that does not show that Toyota rent-a-a-car shops are racist.

    9. Pearse Says:

      I have had enough of it and am packing it in after two decades, nearly half my life, here. I just can’t bear the hostility, ignorance, and racism any more. Short of plastic surgery and and coloring my skin, I don’t know what else I can do to try and fit in here. I have made a lot of effort to learn the language (now have JLPT1), pay my taxes, obey the law, got PR.

    10. Charuzu Says:

      Giles:

      You say:

      “Rather than eliminate unfair discrimination, the Japanese system is failing disabled people by continuing to treat them differently from everyone else. They should be allowed to get jobs based on their skills just like anyone.”

      I believe that your approach will not work and does not work for many disabled.

      It tends to work for those with certain physical disabilities, a limb missing, for example.

      For those with difficult or impossible to treat psychiatric disabilities, or those with cognitive, developmental disabilities, all societies (including Japan’s) by failing to recognise the abilities of these individuals, and seeing only the disabilities.

      However, treating these people like anyone else has not worked well anywhere and will not work in Japan either.

      The disabled are a far from homogenous group, and while it is true that a person with out hearing in one ear can be treated as you suggest, an individual with untreatable schizophrenia or severe executive function deficits overwhelmingly cannot.

      You are quite right that the disables should not be dismissed out of hand as is common in Japan, and that such discrimination should be unlawful.

      However, that would be insufficient for many disabled.

      A wealthy society like Japan, should be imbued with compassion codified in its labour laws, and require more than simply a proscription of hostility towards the disabled, or at least an important portion of the disabled.

    11. Blackrat Says:

      I salute Debito on yet another incisive, hard hitting article that gets to the root of what is wrong in Japan. I am very impressed by his dedication and dogged resolve to continue railing against injustices. Even so, I sometimes get the feeling that he is banging his head against a brick wall of ingrained prejudice and dysfunction that cannot and will not be changed anytime soon.

      Like Pearse, I have lived in Japan on and off for over twenty years and completely understand his feelings. I have made every effort to fit in, compromised as much as possible and just pretended to myself that it will be OK someday for way too long now. Like Pearse, I am determined to leave Japan in the not too distant future, permanently this time, for broadly similar reasons. For me it is the little things that I find it increasingly difficult to endure. One example is the patronizing attitudes of colleagues. Two of the teachers at the junior high school where I teach part-time refuse even to make eye contact with me. I am convinced this is purely down to racial prejudice but I have never raised this issue with anyone at the school. What would be the point? I have gone out of my way to be accommodating, low-key and polite to everyone, and yet I get the feeling that my presence there is resented by at least these two teachers. To others, I am just a novelty act. The students are polite to my face, but treat my English lesson as an excuse to finish off other schoolwork or chatter to each other. My contract forbids me to use Japanese so I just have to implore them pointlessly to shut up and listen. Paradoxically, they rate me reasonably highly in my teacher evaluations. I suspect this is largely because I don’t give them a hard time. I can’t see the point anymore of all this. I need to regain my self-respect and a sense of purpose.

    12. Fly Says:

      @ Pearse and other Japanese exiles; lets learn from other diaspora forced out of their countries by injustice and dictatorship and change it from outside. Obviously as we stayed for so long something must have been good about Japan; I think it is the good points of certain Japanese individuals or things we liked about Japan, whatever. We liked these things in spite of the unfairness and corruption of the entrenched regime, but it became unbearable.
      Movements such as Charter 77 (non clique state-approved artists) have their roles to play within similarly unfair societies but suffered greatly, but those of us in exile can also help apply gaiatsu, which has historically been more effective on the GOJ than change from within.

      Japan cares about its image overseas Vs “Early Japanophiles who tend to leave as detractors”- I would say in the last ten years word has got round the world and Japan gets away with far less than it used to in the Eighties. The diaspora can continue this trend. Does Japan have an international image as a “fair” country? No, its perceived as weird, whaling, racist, anime hentai dealing with a nuclear disaster due to corruption.

      We, the diaspora, can work with progressive elements of J society both within, and without, to finally bring freedom from the Iron Cage and true democracy to these imprisoned isles.

    13. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Fly

      You certainly raise an interesting point about the power of gaiatsu applied by those who felt exasperated, and had their love of Japan abused. How to mobilize that army of disenchanted former Japanophiles?

    14. snowman Says:

      Debito, absolutely fantastic article! What you write is so true.

    15. Charuzu Says:

      Fly,

      A challenge that I foresee is that unlike other exiles from unjust places (Vietnam, China, Burma,, etc.) who seek to have access to the mechanisms of democracy, that is not as meaningfully the case in Japan.

      The Japanese government does not forbid exiles from speaking to others, holding a discussion, etc.

      Rather, Japanese societal conformism is what limits change, not Japanese overt dictatorial controls, such as occurs in Burma.

    16. Fly Says:

      @ Jim

      How to mobilize that army of disenchanted former Japanophiles?

      Love of Japan will motivate them, if not moblize them. Dont expect a unified army, rather thousands and thousands of little pinpricks.

      Alternatively, if they want to go the “army” way, simply sign up for Sea Shepherd and Greepeace.

    17. giles Says:

      @Charuzu

      I think people deserve be assessed on an individual basis, like you say “disabled” covers a huge variety of people. Just like foreigners covers a huge variety of people with a huge variety of skills (for example we dont all speak english and not speak japanese as most employers assume). We cant decide some special system of employement that covers ALL disabled people it is just ridiculous. Of course if people are completely unable to work due to their disability, then the government has to step in with benefit to support them. However the vast majority of disabled ARE able to perform work and are sensible enough to know where their strengths lie and where their disabilty could cause difficulty, the problem is that disabled people are stigmatised in Japan, more than in most societies. The governments attitude to fairness is part of the problem as disabled people are treated so differently from the rest of society. I know this from experience of working with a disabled co-worker in a Japanese company.

    18. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Only anecdotal, but I know of one very large company in the J-city where I live that employs a very high ratio of people with disabilities. I am not an expert on the way the J-gov supports employers and employees in these situations, but in my research into job satisfaction last year, there was no way to tell who was suffering from a disability, and who wasn’t, by looking at the completed questionnaires. It wasn’t the object of my research, but I considered that it was likely that in that case, workers generally had the same gripes whether they were able-bodied or not.

    19. fly Says:

      @ Charazu
      Its not so black and white; when it comes to whaling, the GOJ powers that be act the same as their dictatorial Burmese friends;

      http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/activists-arrested-200608/
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Two
      “they were detained by police for 26 days, and were held without charge for 23 days.[1][2] During that time, they also said they were questioned without a lawyer, tied to chairs, and interrogated for up to 12 hours a day. According to a United Nations human rights group, their treatment by Japanese authorities was arbitrary and contravened elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[3] Also Amnesty International expressed their concern about the treatment and stated that they believed that the detention and charges of Sato and Suzuki may have been aimed at intimidating activists.[4] ”

      Sounds like the tactics of certain communist regimes in Eastern Europe that had signed various treaties on human rights as has Japan, but in which harrassment, detention without trial, intimidation of activists, etc all went on. Sure, this was post Stalinist, so private jokes and conversations/opinions were allowed to a point, again, a bit like Japan. They had elections too, and the same party always won, now that sounds a bit like…..

      Don`t mention the whales.

    20. Philip Says:

      A short anecdote to illustrate your point differently. While pointing out to college English students that a local club in Kagoshima, Japan refused entrance to a British acquaintance of mine on grounds that only Japanese are allowed entrance, I asked if they thought this was a problem. One student said, “No, it’s not a big problem in Japan.” I then asked if a law should prohibit it. Same student: “No, because it almost never happens.” I then asked the same student, who had been to Hawaii on our exchange program, how she would feel if she had been held back from an establishment in Waikiki because she does not “look American” (uh-hum). She immediately said she would be mad. “Should there be a law against it?,” I pursued. “Yes, it’s unfair.” It was as if the student had not blinked once in making those two responses within a single minute. Should I be shocked that people embrace a double standard that openly and thoughtlessly?

      – No, because Japanese and foreigners are different. And Japanese are still Japanese even when they’re foreigners overseas.

    21. Charuzu Says:

      Giles:

      I believe that you are expressing two thoughts in opposition to one another:

      “I think people deserve be assessed on an individual basis, like you say “disabled” covers a huge variety of people. ”

      Yes, the disabled in Japan must be treated on an individual basis.

      However, you seemingly provide only 2 choices for the disabled.

      Either:

      Japanese disabled must be treated like all others, where you say:

      “the Japanese system is failing disabled people by continuing to treat them differently from everyone else”

      or alternatively:

      Japanese disabled who are completely unable to work due to their disability, should be given extra care

      “if people are completely unable to work due to their disability, then the government has to step in with benefit to support them.”

      There are many, many Japanese disabled who are neither able to achieve self-sufficiency by merely competing against all other Japanese, nor are they COMPLETELY unable to work.

      Rather, their disability requires special consideration. This is especially true of those with untreatable psychiatric illness, whom Japanese generally shun and avoid.

      For example, those with the Disorder of Gilles de la Tourette [http://tourette.jp/] often require special understanding, especially those whose symptoms include verbal expressions. A workplace may well insist that generally workers do not use obscene expressions, and yet permit that for sufferers of this disease.

      As such, I believe that rather than a binary logic, that the wide spectrum of disabilities requires a correspondingly broad spectrum of ways that employers consider those with disabilities.

      – I sense a good debate brewing here. Let’s try, in the process of future responses, to keep it relating back to issues of “fairness”, as that’s the aegis under which this debate is falling. Thanks.

    22. Charuzu Says:

      Debito:

      You are exactly right when you say:

      “Japanese and foreigners are different. And Japanese are still Japanese even when they’re foreigners overseas”

      I am reminded of an anecdote that I heard from a WW2 Dutch POW of the Japanese, who spoke with a J soldier who was a POW held in Australia.

      The Japanese ex-soldier complained of the treatment that he received, with a very bland and dreary diet and monotonous surrounding.

      The J indicated that while he understood why the Dutchmen disliked the infinitely more brutal treatment that the Dutchman had received, he could not truly be sorry, because the cases were different, in that in one case a J was assertedly being maltreated, while in the other an NJ was being maltreated.

      Many Japanese hold such racist views.

      Reports such as this: http://www.hurights.or.jp/archives/asia-pacific/section1/11Assogba.pdf

      hold true.

    23. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Phillip,
      Your comment reminds me of a TV show where J-talento watched a video cilp of checking for illegal immigrantsJ in the USA, and were shocked that Japanese tourists could be asked to show I.D. ‘like a gaijin!’ with no sense of irony that in the US it is the Japanese who are ‘outsiders’. And Debito’s comment above is correct, and shows the implicit racism in the use of the term ‘gaijin’. Even when Japanese go abroad, they are still ‘Japanese’, and the rest are still just ‘gaijin’, even our own country.

      http://www.japanprobe.com/2010/10/29/japanese-tv-show-looks-at-arizona-illegal-immigration-id-check-controversy/

    24. Anonymous Says:

      You keep talking about “fairness” as if we care about fairness to you.

      Look, listen, learn: there are Jews, and there are goyim (non-Jews).
      Goyim can convert to Judaism, but still aren’t considered real Jews.
      Gaijin can become Japanese nationals, but still aren’t real Japanese.

      Do you really think we Jews or Yamato should admit this fact officially?
      We have nothing to gain by admitting this fact officially, so, we don’t.
      We’re adhering to the “Selfish-gene program” for long-term DNA survival.
      We’re doing what is in the best interests of ourselves: pure Selfish-ism.

      Jews are superior to goyim. Yamato are superior to gaijin. Period. The End.

    25. giles Says:

      Charazu:
      I dont think there are just 2 choices for disabled people…unless you mean work or not work?… but is that so different from all of us?? for any of us that cannot work an some point in our life may require the help and support of other members of society.
      My point was that we must assess people on an individual basis and I think that still makes sense, if an individual has some severe disability that means they are completely unable to work in any job (which I suggested is rare) then yes just like any of us when we get elderly or sick or whatever they would need to be financially supported.
      Employers I believe have a responsibilty to make their places of work “barrier free” so that a wide spectrum of society are able to work in them…that may mean providing language support for non japanese speakers or making ramps to enable wheelchair access or offering support to staff with specific medical needs, maternity leave, or even small things like making long tall mirrors in the bathroom so that both tall people and short people can use them!…these are of course difficult to implement and to what extent you do these will depend on the type of work and size of the business so I am not saying it is easy or perfect system, but we are all disabled to a certain extent so the government need to help us lower the barriers rather than keeping us all in separate boxes. That is what we should expect from a “fair” and civil society.

    26. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ #24
      ‘ Yamato are superior to gaijin. Period. The End.’
      A perfect example of the ‘can’t change, won’t change’ stubborn mentality that is holding Japan back. South Africa and the USA both held similar opinions about race, but saw the light, and became ‘modern’ nations.

    27. Anonymous Says:

      Actually, the selfish “unfair, closed to outsiders” technique produces comparatively better results.

      “Unfairness” harms those on bottom: the outsiders. “Unfairness” BENEFITS those on top: the insiders.
      Imagine the enslaved whining, “Give us equal rights!” as if the enslavors would benefit from that.

      Seriously, this material limited supply world is a daily competition for resources, not a cooperation.
      “Fairness” to YOUR team means LESS resources for MY team. My family’s wealth is more important than “fairness”.

      Since my race is on top of your race, enjoying relatively higher material comfort, why should I care about “fairness”?

      – Perhaps because:
      1) the people on the bottom have something to offer the people on the top, and by giving them better opportunities they can give even more to society, and
      2) Japan has promised to be fair in the spirit of the international treaties they have signed. If that won’t be made clear by those people being unfair, it is up to those being treated unfairly to say how and to say stoppit. If even that doesn’t work, that dynamic should be exposed so people can make informed choices about whether or not to be a contributor to that society.

      Anyway, fair enough. Make the Devil’s Advocate Case against fairness. It’s a reasonable question illuminating self-justifying power dynamics. But I won’t approve further comments from you if you continue insinuating that racism by nature prevents crime and increases productivity (as you state in portions of this comment deleted).

    28. fly Says:

      Adding to Debito`s comments above, why should Japan be fair? Or be seen to be fair, as it is largely about perception. If Japan is seen to be racist and unfair, it stops international cooperation when Japan needs it, thus we see America stating it difficult to support Japan vis a vis N. Korea over the rachi mondai issue, when Japan is odds with America over child abduction. Clearly a case of unfairness with Japan trying to have their cake and eat it.

      About being fair to the people on the “bottom”; treat them too badly and they will just leave, or in the case of NJs, not bother coming here, even on an ex-pat deal. Or, more disadvantaged Japanese turn to crime and the so-called “safety Japan” myth is consigned to the dustheap of history as it starts to resemble just another westernized, post industrial country. Teaching in Higashi Tachibana Junior High School in Kawasaki is becoming not that different from teaching in inner city London; some kids are from deprived families and there is petty crime in the area, places like Kawasaki.
      Behind the facade of shiny new apartments on the main streets, walk a couple of blocks and you will find yourself in a garbage strewn wasteland of crumbling old flats not unlike the Projects.

      Japan`s “golden age” was in the 70s and early 80s, when it was famously pointed out that the president of Sony only made four times more than the cleaning staff. That has gone now to be replaced by growing social ills that always accompany unfairness.

      Unfairness in Japan to foreigners and other disadvantaged groups is just the thin end of the wedge of exploitation of the vast majority of the Japanese themselves.

    29. Anonymous Says:

      Glad you understand that I’m simply stating the unspoken internal rationalization of those on top.

      I’m stating, brutally honestly, it is not in the best interests of the rich to “be fair” to the poor.

      Realistically, will giving slaves better wages and rights increase the material comfort of the enslavors?
      “No, it will merely increase the material comfort of the enslaved, at the EXPENSE of the enslavors.”

      It is not in the best interests of the lion to “be fair” to the gazelle: food chains DEPEND on victims.
      Rich that dine out frequently are able to do so BECAUSE the slaves (waiters, cooks, dishwashers) are poor.

      EJ give the easiest, highest-paying jobs to themselves: EJ give the hardest, lowest-paying jobs to NEJ.
      EJ could start giving equality to NEJ, but that would lead to a major problem: NEJ having equal money.

      If NEJ in Japan were to have equal money, who would do the “Kiken, Kitsui, Kitanai” work: EJ? (oh no!)
      If SOMEONE in a country has to do the dangerous, difficult, dirty work, it should be the foreigners!

      It would be great if everyone could be a part of the “dining-out class”, but the truth is we NEED slaves.
      And the truth is we prefer the slaves to be folks who look relatively LESS like family, thus: foreigners.
      Animals are instinctively LESS inclined to eat family: and instinctively MORE inclined to eat non-family.

      If you are currently a gazelle being victimized by a lion: asking the lion to “be fair” doesn’t work.
      What works is becoming strong enough to damage the lion, so that the lion chooses a different victim.

      Equal wages and equal rights are not given, they are TAKEN by groups who have enough strength to take them.
      Currently, the NEJ in Japan have proven they do not have enough strength to force the stop of victimization.
      Hopefully, the NEJ in Japan in the near future WILL gain enough strength to take equal wages and equal rights.

      Hmmm, who will the EJ choose to victimize then: I guess they will go back to victimizing the Ainu, Burakumin, and Ryuukyu.

    30. giles Says:

      Anonymous just fails to understand what it means to be human…I mean by that twisted theory why not just have one “winner” dictator with all the resources and power for his family and let the rest of the world rot. It is through the means of sharing, collaboration and fairness that we can achieve our greatest accomplishments. By lowering the barriers for people to achieve in life regardless of if they are male or female, black or white, foreign or Japanese, disabled, old, rich or poor etc is the only sensible way we can progress as human beings…your world sounds pretty bleak and devoid of opportunity…I don’t want to live there.

    31. Charuzu Says:

      Giles:

      When you say:

      “Employers I believe have a responsibilty to make their places of work “barrier free” so that a wide spectrum of society are able to work in them…that may mean providing language support for non japanese speakers or making ramps to enable wheelchair access or offering support to staff with specific medical needs, maternity leave, or even small things like making long tall mirrors in the bathroom so that both tall people and short people can use them!…these are of course difficult to implement and to what extent you do these will depend on the type of work and size of the business so I am not saying it is easy or perfect system, but we are all disabled to a certain extent so the government need to help us lower the barriers rather than keeping us all in separate boxes.”

      I agree that Japanese employers have a duty to eliminate barriers.

      But, I disagree when you say that the choice should be either work or:

      “if an individual has some severe disability that means they are completely unable to work in any job (which I suggested is rare) then yes just like any of us when we get elderly or sick or whatever they would need to be financially supported.”

      I see that there are situations in which an individual can work (with support from the State) AND receive some financial support.

      There are individuals who due to their disability will always need financial support, because the value of their labor will always be grossly insufficient to support a decent life.

      Japanese society stigmatizes the disabled, and often foists responsibility for them on families that are not well equipped to be the sole support for such disabled individuals.

      Anonymous is simply making outrageous statements to provoke a reaction.

      He likens Japanese governmental policies and the actions of some racist Japanese to the views of Jews. By being provocatively racist, I assume that he feels this will engender some form of health discussion.

      And, he makes ill-founded assertions that “it is not in the best interests of the rich to “be fair” to the poor”. One assumes that he means economically, (rather than morally) although even there the data do not support his thesis.

      Societies in which there is little pretense about fairness (countries that scored the worst on this Index http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/ would be a good representative group for that), show the opposite.

      The rich in Irag or Turkmenistan, who are among the most corrupt and offer very little pretense of being fair to the poor, do not lead better lives than the rich in the Netherlands or Australia.

      Being fair to the poor and thereby creating a credible judiciary, and rule of law, and a society with wealth inequalities that are not excessive actually assists with building wealth and making everyone — including the wealth — wealthier.

      It is actually in the long-term best economic interests of the rich to be fair to the poor.

      It is not in the best self-perceived self interests of those with pathological mental illness to be fair to anyone. So, for those who suffer from severe narcissistic personality disorder, they will view it to be harmful to be fair to anyone, because their ego values unfairness. Similarly, those suffering from psychopathy devalue fairness.

      Nevertheless, fairness is actually beneficial to the wealthy.

      For one study among many, see: http://hss.cmu.edu/departments/sds/media/pdfs/tabibnia/fair-coop-rewarding.pdf

      As such, offering an assertion not supported by facts, and only appealing to the aberrant, is not useful discourse.

    32. john k Says:

      Depending upon your point of view, perhaps this is also related to how Japan views “others” too.

      The Charitable Index, or World Giving Index, lists or ranks countries in the amount of donations given.

      The US is #1…and guess where Japan is??….ranked 119!!
      http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/worldgivingindex28092010print.pdf

      War torn Sierra Leone is ranked 11th!

      Does this suggest that Japanese link giving money with “fairness”, since the index is about helping a stranger. Ergo what is THAT stranger going to do for me…?? With no quid pro quo…why help…is that a measure of ‘fairness’ in Japan, how much kick back they can get?

      3rd largest economy in the world….shame on Japan!

    33. John (Yokohama) Says:

      A followup to the Rugby issue discussed recently. Certainly not fair either.

      http://www.japantoday.com/category/sports/view/japansnew-rugby-coach-jones-aims-for-top-10-spot

      “Jones said he might not use so many foreign-born players in his squad as Kirwan did.

      Kirwan picked a record 10 foreign-born players, half of whom have obtained Japanese nationality, for his World Cup squad. The previous highest was seven, also selected by the New Zealander for the tournament’s 2007 edition.

      “The color of the team is going to be Japanese,” Jones said, adding he would still use foreign talent if they proved useful.”

      – Yup. Useful, but foreign. I wonder if it’s possible to award a double Dejima Award.

    34. fly Says:

      About this;
      “Does this suggest that Japanese link giving money with “fairness”, since the index is about helping a stranger. Ergo what is THAT stranger going to do for me…?? With no quid pro quo…why help…is that a measure of ‘fairness’ in Japan, how much kick back they can get?”

      Actually my degree in the 80s was partly about Japanese war reparations after WW2; a required subject, I was not particularly interested in Japan at the time, but the findings were that most of Japan`s so-called “reparations” to e.g. Malaysia, were in fact investments or building Japanese factories,and alot of the money went back to Japan.

      Ditto Okinawa; it is a statistic that of the money invested in Okinawa by Japan, three fourths flows back to the Mainland. Sorry, do not remember the source, but its legit.

    35. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I just read the feedbacks from your article on the Japan Times website. See http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111227hs.html As predicted, the editor selected 7 comments—6 of those critical– including some sort of accusations from hostile readers and sarcasm from an arrogant Team-J sympathizer. I don’t believe these detractors are the representatives of your readers, since most of them do not respond to your arguments but bicker on the way you bring up the issues—or your trans-national/cultural identity. It’s amusing to see some crackpots making clueless comments, but sometimes it bothers me when I look into the lines of responses selected by Japan Times editor. It looks like the editor is conveniently controlling your audience to instigate the readers for gaining popularity by framing you as the public enemy #1 in most cases. Wonder if the same treatment will ever be applied to other writers in The Zeit Gist or any category dealing with Japan or Japanese culture.

    36. Yaba Says:

      The article and many of the subsequent comments confirm most of my son’s views of a foreigner’s life in Japan. He has been living there for more then 10 years, married a very sweet Japanese lady and has a reasonably good job. I visited Japan a number of times and enjoyed the safety and civility of the country and marvelled over its technical achievements. By living in North America I may have an advantage of being a more detached viewer of Japan and its practices that allows me to take a “global” view.

      Yes, “fairness” of Japanese society has many failings and not only to its NJ. The world around us is full of inequality and unfairness. Most homogenous old nation states other than immigrant states such as the US, Canada and Australia, have similar unfair attitudes to foreigners. I heard many embittered comments from foreigners living even in such highly liberal and civil countries as Norway. Then, there are the millions living in countries which reek of unfairness and discrimination.

      This does not mean that Japan should not strive for improvement. However, we should acknowledge, that attitudes that are ultimately ingrained in human nature, need generations to change.

      Before Japanese society is completely condemned by the above “Fairness Tribunal” I submit an admittedly old and weak mitigating circumstance that should not be forgotten. During WW2 Japan refused to round up its Jewish foreigners in spite of aggressive demands from its Nazi allies.

      – Thanks. Source on the last claim, please, just for completeness’s sake.

    37. Yaba Says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Japan
      “As Japan was allied with Nazi Germany in World War II, Nazi ideology and propaganda regarding the Jewish people came to be circulated within Japan as well, contributing to the development of Japan’s particular brand of antisemitism. However, while various theories about the Jewish people may have gained a degree of acceptance among the Japanese people as a whole, the Japanese government and military never gave in to Nazi recommendations that extermination programs or the like be undertaken.”

      http://xenon.stanford.edu/~tamar/Kobe/Kobe.html
      “The Japanese accepted a large influx of Jews into Kobe during World War II. Even though Japan was allied with Nazi Germany, the community of Kobe helped save Holocaust refugees from 1940 to 1941. Japan’s policy toward the Jews was much different than that of their allies.”

      – Sorry, but that Wikipedia section has no citation, and the second quote doesn’t quite substantiate your claim. Something a bit better, please?

    38. Becky Says:

      Yaba, thank you very much for posting the article about Kobe. I live very near that particular synagogue and walk past it all the time, and never gave it a second thought until now. (Pardon my ignorance, but you may not realize that within easy walking distance are various long-established places of worship, such as a Muslim mosque, a Catholic church, a Jain temple, a Chinese temple, a Russian Orthodox church, and various Protestant churches, not to mention the usual line-up of Japanese Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. It’s easy to get complacent about world religions when you are surrounded by them! We all seem to getting along just fine in this tiny little corner of Japan.) Thanks again.

    39. Yaba Says:

      http://www.jcpa.org/jl/jl425.htm\
      Please read above, particularly para # 5 & 6 in the Holocaust section together with a quote from Japanese Foreign Minister of the time Matsuoka Yosuke.

      “The refugees lived peacefully in Japan for some three to eight months, beginning in the winter of 1940-41. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor half of them were able to move to the United States, Canada, and other areas in the Western Hemisphere. With no other place to turn, the remainder, including the entire Yeshiva of Mir, relocated to Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Here, too, the Japanese record proved exemplary, as the government resisted determined and repeated requests from Nazi German officials for assistance in the relocation and extermination of the Jews in the Shanghai ghetto.

      Explicit anti-Jewish activity in Japan has been minimal. There are some accounts of Jews losing jobs during World War II. Music schools where Jewish performers taught were closed. On the whole, however, German advice and encouragement for the Japanese to establish anti-Jewish policies met with resistance from Japanese officials. Some of this reluctance may have been influenced by hopes of access to Jewish capital. Nevertheless, on December 31, 1940, Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke told a group of Jewish businessmen, “I am the man responsible for the alliance with Hitler, but nowhere have I promised that we would carry out his anti-Semitic policies in Japan. This is not simply my personal opinion, it is the opinion of Japan, and I have no compunction about announcing it to the world.”

      – Much better. Thanks!

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