Table of Contents:
THE OPPOSITION FACES OPPOSITION
1) JT: Democratic Party Leader Renho and the “pure blood” mythos (covered in detail in book “Embedded Racism”)
2) JT: Renho nationality furor exposes Japan’s deeply embedded gender bias
A GOOD MONTH FOR MEDIA APPEARANCES
3) Debito panelist on Al-Jazeera program “The Stream”: “The politics of identity in Japan” after Yoshikawa Priyanka’s pageant victory
4) ABC NewsRadio Australia, Japan in Focus: The winner of Miss World Japan, Yoshikawa Priyanka, prompts another racial debate. Interviews Debito
5) Deep in Japan Podcast, Debito Interview Pts. 2 and 3 on book “Embedded Racism” and issues of racial discrimination etc. in Japan
6) Discussion: Should I stay or should I go? What’s your personal threshold for staying in or leaving Japan?
7) Book “Embedded Racism” now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code
… and finally…
8 ) Japan Times column Sept. 5, 2016: “JBC marks 100 columns and a million page views”
Table of Contents:
Colin Jones has come up with another insightful column, with a legalistic spine, in regards to how Japanese nationality has historically been awarded (until 1985, through fathers only, not mothers) until it was challenged. And, true to their nature in Japanese jurisprudence, Tokyo courts sided with the status quo (of discriminating against international children with Japanese mothers), and it wasn’t until the Diet amended the laws before they changed their tune. Yet, as Colin points out, the stigma still remains, especially in light of the debate regarding DP leader Renho’s true “Japaneseness”, a dual-nationality flap that never should have been an issue in the first place, –regardless of whether you are proponent of single nationality or double (I fall in the latter camp). Read the article for a breathtaking tour through Japan’s convoluted legal logic.
Jones: In short, decades after her birth, Renho is still being punished for having a Japanese parent who was female rather than male. Renho’s case thus offers a stark illustration of the deeply rooted structural impediments faced by women in Japan even today.
It also demonstrates the Japanese establishment’s general inability to acknowledge the past. The fact that such blatant government-sanctioned discrimination existed until the 1980s simply disappears into the memory hole, a hole that probably exists because the people who ran Japan back then are essentially the same as those who run it today.
Jeff Krueger’s Deep in Japan Podcast features the last interview of three (the first is here, the second here) with me about the issues of racism and discrimination in Japan, covered in book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination”.
Available at iTunes and Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/deep-in-japan/dr-debito-iii-racism-and-discrimination-in-japan
Jeff Krueger’s insightful Deep in Japan Podcast features the second interview of three (the first is here) with me about the issues of racism and discrimination in Japan, covered in book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination”
Available at iTunes and Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/deep-in-japan/debito-13-embedded-racism
JT: “It’s no coincidence that [opposition party leader Murata] Renho’s detractors are the same people who are against allowing a female emperor. “Pure blood” ideology is at the root of Yawata’s philosophy — the “scoop” about Renho’s dual nationality was merely a delivery device. The law means nothing to them because their faith is invested in an occult mythos about the unbroken Imperial line. [Journalist] Kosugi Misuzu insists these beliefs amount to “racism,” since they limit the rights of some people born and raised in Japan due to genetics. Asahi reported on July 6, 2014 — well before the Renho controversy — that the pure blood faction wants to kick out permanent Korean residents as well as anyone with dual citizenship by making all Japanese sign a loyalty oath. They are not just rightists, said the paper, they are “anachronisms.”
“[Former bureaucrat] Yawata Kazuro says Renho can’t be trusted because she doesn’t use her Japanese married name and gave her children names that “sound Chinese.” These value judgments should mean nothing in a democracy. Zakzak, another Sankei organ, adds to the din by saying that Japanese people do not like the idea of someone with dual citizenship “rising to the top.” What about best-selling Japanese-American singer Hikaru Utada and all those bicultural athletes at the Rio Olympics? For that matter, what about former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who was allowed to settle here and escape prosecution in his native country by asserting his Japanese nationality?”
COMMENT: All of these issues, particularly the “pure blood” conceit, have been brought up passim in book “Embedded Racism: Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. Renho herself features prominently in the book (Chapter Seven), given that Japan’s racist politicians have questioned her loyalty many times before — for example when she was a Cabinet member in the previous DPJ government — simply because she’s to them a mudblood. And they can get away with it because the “pure blood” narrative is so strong.
For the second year in a row, Japan has crowned a biracial woman the winner of a major beauty pageant, reviving a conversation in the island nation about race, xenophobia and what it means to be Japanese. Japan is frequently labeled as one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, but some say this is a myth that discounts the minorities living there and stifles dialogue about discrimination in the country.
In May, Japan passed its first anti-hate speech law in an attempt to curb racism and xenophobia. While critics sceptical about the law’s effectiveness poked holes in the bill, many have applauded the government for taking steps toward addressing what they say is an often ignored issue. Some have viewed Priyanka Yoshikawa’s Miss World Japan win as a sign the country is becoming more open to diversity. Others argue Japan has been open for a long time, and stories suggesting otherwise are reinforcing antiquated stereotypes.
Panelists: Miss World Japan beauty pageant winner Yoshikawa Priyanka, Edward Sumoto, Baye McNeil, Aoki Yuta, and Arudou Debito.
ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan in Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.
This week: For the second year in a row a bi-racial woman has won a beauty pageant in Japan, prompting a racial debate; Japan has issued a warning that its businesses may withdraw from the UK once it leaves the European Union; and the Japanese telecoms giant Softbank has bought the British smartphone chip-designing company ARM for more than $30 billion.
Eleni Psaltis speaks to Dr Debito Arudou from the University of Hawaii; Nigel Driffield, a Professor of international business at Warwick business school in the UK; and Dr Harminder Singh, a senior lecturer in Business Information Systems at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
Some weeks ago a Debito.org Reader posed an interesting question to the Comments Section. Let me rephrase it like this:
What is your threshold for remaining in a society? Are there any conditions which will occasion you to consider an exit strategy?
Caveats: Of course, this can apply to anyone anywhere. But a) since this is a blog about Japan, and b) people who have chosen to live in another society for whatever reason have the experience of moving from one place to another (hence “hometown inertia” is not a factor), let’s make this specific to people who are living (or have lived) in Japan.
What would have to happen (or did happen) for you to have to decide to move out of Japan?
It’s an interesting hypothetical. For some expats/residents/immigrants in history, even a war was not enough (see the interesting case of William Gorham). So it’s all a matter of personal preference. What’s yours?
JBC: The day I proposed this column to my editors back in 2008, I knew it would be a hard sell. Fortunately, I had a track record. I had been writing Zeit Gist articles (45 of them) every two months or so for the Community Page since 2002, and the JT was looking for new ways to serve the community beyond pages commemorating “Swaziland Independence Day” (which is Tuesday, incidentally). International goodwill and advertising revenue are all very well, but what about offering practical information for non-Japanese (NJ) residents making a better life here, or drawing attention to emerging domestic policies that affect them?
So my pitch was that the JT needed a regular columnist on human rights and issues of social justice. And I was convinced there was enough material for a monthly. They weren’t as convinced, and they were especially nonplussed at my suggestion for a column title: “Just Be Cause”!? But shortly afterwards JBC got the green light, and on March 4, 2008, the first column was published — on why activism is frowned upon in Japan (because it’s associated with extremism). And off we went.
Nearly 10 years and 100 columns later, it is clear that, like the Debito.org archive (started 20 years ago, one of the oldest continuous personal websites on Japan) and daily blog (now 10 years old), JBC is in it for the long haul. In this special anniversary column, let’s look back at what JBC has covered. The themes have been, in order of frequency:
Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/09/04/issues/jbc-marks-100-columns-million-page-views/
Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times: Celebrating Japan’s multiethnic Rio 2016 Olympians: Meet the athletes challenging traditional views of what it is to be Japanese
2) “Deep in Japan” Podcast interviews Debito on Racism in Japan and book “Embedded Racism” (UPDATED: Goes viral in Poland, more than 8000 listens)
3) Finger Lakes Times: Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences in book on racism in Japan
SAME OLD SHAME OLD
4) Asahi: Japan’s Supreme Court approves police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion: Next up, surveilling NJ residents due to their extranationality?
5) Japan Center for Michigan Universities: Report and video interview of Muslim Lawyer Hayashi Junko on issues faced by Muslims in Japan (surveillance by police, including of Japanese kith and kin)
6) Nikkei: Japan begins clearing path for foreign workers. Really? Let’s analyze the proposals.
7) Nikkei Asian Review wrongly reports “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports”. Corrected after protest, but misreported text still proliferates
8 ) TIME Magazine and Japan Times on how online trolls (particularly Reddit) are ruining the Internet and media in general
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC column 99, “For Abe, it will always be about the Constitution”, Aug 1, 2016
TIME: This story is not a good idea. Not for society and certainly not for me. Because what trolls feed on is attention. And this little bit–these several thousand words–is like leaving bears a pan of baklava.
It would be smarter to be cautious, because the Internet’s personality has changed. Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now, if you need help improving your upload speeds the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself. Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.
The people who relish this online freedom are called trolls, a term that originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. Internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which states they are doing it for the “lulz,” or laughs. What trolls do for the lulz ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats. There’s also doxxing–publishing personal data, such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts–and swatting, calling in an emergency to a victim’s house so the SWAT team busts in. When victims do not experience lulz, trolls tell them they have no sense of humor. Trolls are turning social media and comment boards into a giant locker room in a teen movie, with towel-snapping racial epithets and misogyny. They’ve been steadily upping their game…
Japan Times: This sort of behavior is not new. Trolls — individuals who purposely send insulting and threatening messages to comments sections and social media sites — may be an Internet-specific phenomenon, but the impulses that drive them are general and eternal. Some say the difference is less ideological than psychological: serial harassers hide behind masks to express their grievances with the world, regardless of political leanings. But ideology, or at least the presumption of a “position,” is always the delivery device for the grievance. […] Media outlets should prevent intimidation any way they can, but they’re failing their mission if they don’t stand up to it.
COMMENT: This is dangerous stuff. As the veteran of many years of online death threats myself, Cyberstalking is still stalking, and Japan no longer tolerates it like it used to outside of the Internet. Debito.org reiterates its stance that something should be done to make these anonyms into real people taking responsibility for their statements. To me, that means registering real names under traceable conditions, as has happened (abortively) in South Korea. Short of that, the trolls will continue to sour and soil the online environment, depriving others of the freedom of speech the trolls themselves allegedly cherish (and use as their excuse for abuse) by remaining anonymous, immune to the same critique and exposure they mete out to others.
My old hometown newspaper in Geneva, NY, interviewed me for a local article.
The Economist (London) recently has had a couple of articles on immigration to and even naturalization into Japan (here and here), so it looks like PM Abe’s alleged pushes to liberalize Japan’s NJ labor market (despite these other countering trends here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) are gaining traction in the overseas media. Let’s take a representative sample of the narrative being spun by the Japanese media (in this case the Nikkei, Japan’s WSJ) for overseas consumption, and see if it holds up to scrutiny. For example:
Nikkei: The government looks to ease residency requirements for guest workers. The Justice Ministry will recognize certified foreign care workers as specialists worthy of the corresponding visa status. Japan currently admits care workers through economic partnership agreements, but those are limited to countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The number of guest workers is expected to increase by allowing care givers who learn Japanese or professional skill sets at educational institutions to work in Japan.
Necessary legislation is to be enacted during the extraordinary Diet session this fall, with the measures taking effect next fiscal year. The government also seeks quick passage of legislation to add the care worker category to Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program, which provides support to developing nations.
COMMENT: They tried that before. Until the Indonesians and Filipinas realized they were being exploited by a revolving-door visa system that deliberately set the bar too high for passing, and decided to pass on Japan altogether. So Japan’s policymakers are moving on to the next sucker societies: Cambodia and Vietnam. Which, note, are also not kanji-literate societies; if the GOJ really wanted to get people to pass the nurse literacy test, they would get nurses from China or Chinese-diaspora countries. The fact that they won’t speaks volumes about true policy intentions. As does the final sentence, where they admit that it’s just an expansion of the”Trainee” slave-labor program, exempt from Japan’s labor laws protection.
There is nothing in this policy trial-balloon article that constitutes actual immigration, i.e., bringing in people and making them into Japanese citizens with equal protection guaranteed under the law. Until that happens, there is no discussion here worthy of headlining this as a “cleared path” for foreign workers. It’s merely more of the same exploitation of imported laborers in a weakened position by government design.
JT: Japan is home to 2.2 million foreign residents, and like it or not, a growing number of them are marrying Japanese citizens. The number of international marriages increased tenfold between 1965 and 2007, with registered new multiracial couples peaking at 40,272. Due to tighter immigration rules, the number has since dropped considerably, but marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals still make up roughly 1 in 30 unions — and around 1 in 10 in Tokyo.
However, no matter how common international marriages are today, Japanese society still sets the children of these couples apart. They may have grown up as Japanese citizens or be fluent at the language, but many complain of feeling excluded or discriminated against because of their backgrounds. These individuals’ struggles in dealing with their classification as hāfu (half) have been recounted numerous times in the media, particularly by bicultural figures in the public eye.
Some of these children, however, grow up to be Olympians — flying the flag for Japan and challenging the conventional definition of what it means to be Japanese. At the Rio Olympics, more than any before, multicultural Japanese athletes have been a notable presence in the stadiums. Here are profiles of some of these athletes — those who have given their all in Rio for Team Japan, broken the glass ceiling and possibly even opened up minds in their homeland. (List follows with photos)
Podcast: Deep in Japan, by Jeff Krueger
Title: “Debito: Racism in Japan”
Released: Aug 14, 2016
In this podcast, I interview writer, researcher, activist, Japan Times columnist, naturalized Japanese citizen and, most recently, author of the amazing book, Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination,” Dr. Arudou Debito. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Debito’s books and articles, visit his award-winning blog at www.debito.org.
COMMENT: Jeff did a lot of research for this podcast, including reading 400-page book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” in three sittings, and investigating much of the anti-activist narrative in Japan. I had a listen to it this morning, and think it’s probably the best interview I’ve ever had done.
UPDATE AUGUST 18: Podcast goes viral in… Poland! (Thanks to this popular vlog.) Now at 6700 listens on Soundcloud alone! Thanks!
JCMU: On July 23, 2016 the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone welcomed Junko Hayashi, Japan’s first female Muslim attorney, to speak about Islam and the issues faced by Muslims in Japan. In a recent court battle, Mrs. Hayashi represented Japanese Muslims that were being observed by the Japanese government for no reason other than the fact that they were Muslims. Their surveillance came to light after information gathered by police was accidentally leaked to the public on the internet. Despite this, Japanese courts ruled that there was no constitutional violation and that the threat of international terrorism outweighed any right to privacy held by the plaintiffs. […]
In the interview, Mrs. Hayashi lamented that “all Muslims are equal to criminal suspects” in Japan. She noted that because of prejudice against practitioners of Islam, she and the rest of the Japanese Muslim community are denied personal and privacy rights enjoyed by most other citizens. “Their rights are violated and they can’t do anything about it,” Mrs. Hayashi explained. The stereotypes of Muslims have little factual support, as no acts of terrorism have been carried out by Muslims in Japan to Mrs. Hayashi’s knowledge. To redress this discrimination and support those affected by the government’s continued surveillance, she hopes to start a human rights organization.
COMMENT: And from this, it’s but a few steps until approving surveillance of Non-Japanese residents as “criminal suspects”. And from that their kith and kin. Japan’s Police State is returning.
Nikkei: Visitors to Japan will be able to use their fingerprints instead of passports to identify themselves at some hotels thanks to technology introduced by a Tokyo venture. With financial help from the economy and industry ministry, Liquid will start offering a fingerprint-based authorization system by March in a bid to increase travel convenience. Some 80 hotels and Japanese-style inns in major tourist spots like Hakone and Atami, two hot spring resort areas not far from Tokyo, will be among the first to install the system. More inns and hotels will follow. […]
Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports. But the economy ministry and the ministry of labor have decided to treat “digital passports” as legitimate alternatives.
Reader XY to the Nikkei: This article contains an incorrect statement: “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports.” In fact, Japanese law requires hotels to check the passports of foreigners who don’t have an address in Japan. The most important point is that the law does not apply to all foreigners but to foreign tourists who do not have an address in Japan. This is a matter of concern to many who live in Japan and occasionally are asked for passports based on a misunderstanding of the law. A second point is that keeping copies of passports is not mentioned in the law — it is a directive from the police. The law only calls for keeping records.
Nikkei: Thank you so much. We will check the Ryokan Law and see if we need to change the sentence.
Comment: Nikkei corrected it to remove the last paragraph mentioning that sentence entirely — and that’s about as close as we’ll ever get to them admitting they made a mistake. But as we’ve written here many times before, the National Police Agency keeps lying about their lawgiven powers regarding tracking foreign guests at Japanese hotels. XY wonders if somebody at the NPA wasn’t involved in creating this misinformed article. It wouldn’t be the first time, and a recent (and very funny) article came out over the weekend describing how the Japanese Police have historically stretched laws to outlaw public behavior they basically just personally disliked. Just another example of how Japan is actually a mild (or sometimes not) police state. And that’s even before we get to the whole issue of re-fingerprinting NJ and the flawed reasoning behind it.
Asahi: Muslims can still be monitored in Japan solely based on their religion, while in the United States courts are cracking down on granting such approval. An appeal by 17 Muslim plaintiffs accusing police of snooping on them was dismissed by the Japanese Supreme Court in late May, which upheld lower court decisions.
The plaintiffs argued that “carrying out surveillance of us on grounds of our religion amounts to discrimination and is a violation of the Constitution” in the lawsuit filed against the Tokyo metropolitan and the central government. Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department had been keeping close tabs on Muslims solely because of their religion, reasoning it was pre-empting possible terrorism. […]
The recent Japanese case came to light in 2010 after 114 articles from internal MPD documents containing personal information on Muslim residents in Japan were leaked online. Data included names, photos, addresses, employers and friends.
The leaked data showed that the documents were compiled in a style of a resume on each individual, along with a record of tailing them. Compensation of 90 million yen ($874,000) was awarded to the plaintiffs by the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court, which ruled there was a “flaw in information management.” However, the plaintiffs appealed because the courts stated “surveillance of Muslims” was “unavoidable” in order to uncover terror plots. The top court sided with lower court rulings, declaring the surveillance was not unconstitutional.
COMMENT: The obvious extension of this legitimization of racial profiling (defined as using a process of differentiation, othering, and subordination to target a people in Japan; it does not have to rely on phenotypical “looks”) is that for “national security reasons” the next step is to target and snoop on all foreign residents in Japan. Because they might be terrorists. The National Police Agency et al. have already been justifying the targeting of NJ as terrorists (not to mention as criminals, “illegal overstayers”, holders of “foreign DNA”, and carriers of contagious diseases). And Japan’s Supreme Court has now effectively given the green light to that too. The noose further tightens around NJ residents in Japan.
Table of Contents:
1) Ten years of Debito.org’s Blog: June 17, 2006. And counting.
2) Book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Press 2016) now out early in paperback
3) Brief comments on the July 2016 Upper House Election: The path is cleared for Japan’s Constitutional revision
4) Meanwhile back in Tokyo: Gov candidate Koike Yuriko allegedly spoke at anti-foreign hate group Zaitokukai in 2010
5) Zaitokukai xenophobic hate group’s Sakurai Makoto runs for Tokyo Governorship; his electoral platform analyzed here (UPDATED: he lost badly)
6) One reason why human rights are not taken seriously in Japan: Childish essays like these in the Mainichi.
7) Shibuya Police asking local “minpaku” Airbnb renters to report their foreign lodgers “to avoid Olympic terrorism”. Comes with racialized illustrations
8 ) TV “Economist” Mitsuhashi Takaaki on foreign labor in Japan: “80% of Chinese in Japan are spies”: “foreigners will destroy Japanese culture”
9) Overseas online info site Traveloco.jp’s “Japanese Only” rules: “People with foreign-sounding names refused service”
10) Kyodo: Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply [sic]. How about the J employers who employ illegally?
11) CG on increased exit taxes on health insurance and residency when you change jobs and domiciles in Japan
AND ON A HAPPIER NOTE:
12) Ivan Hall’s new book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!” A memoir of his USIS stationing in Afghanistan and East Pakistan. Now available as Amazon Kindle ebook.
JBC: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored a hat trick this election, and it reaffirmed his mandate to do whatever he likes. And you’re probably not going to like what that is.
Of those three victories, the first election in December 2012 was a rout of the leftist Democratic Party of Japan and it thrust the more powerful Lower House of Parliament firmly into the hands of the long-incumbent Liberal Democratic Party under Abe. The second election in December 2014 further normalized Japan’s lurch to the far right, giving the ruling coalition a supermajority of 2/3 of the seats in the Lower House.
July’s election delivered the Upper House to Abe. And how. Although a few protest votes found their way to small fringe leftist parties, the LDP and parties simpatico with Abe’s policies picked up even more seats. And with the recent defection of Diet member Tatsuo Hirano from the opposition, the LDP alone has a parliamentary majority for the first time in 27 years, and a supermajority of simpaticos. Once again the biggest loser was the leftist Democratic Party, whose fall from power three years ago has even accelerated.
So that’s it then: Abe has achieved his goals. And with that momentum he’s going to change the Japanese Constitution.
Amazingly, this isn’t obvious to some observers. The Wall Street Journal, The Economist (London), and Abe insiders still cheerfully opined that Abe’s primary concern remains the economy — that constitutional reform will remain on the backburner. But some media made similar optimistic predictions after Abe’s past electoral victories…
Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/07/31/issues/abe-will-always-constitution/
As Debito.org’s second post on the upcoming July 31, 2016 Tokyo Governorship race, I just wanted to cover the candidacy of the anti-foreign vote, particularly Sakurai Makoto, “former leader” of the officially-certified xenophobic hate group Zaitokukai. Here’s his campaign poster:
While this bullying berk hasn’t a snowball’s chance of winning, thank goodness, it’s still a bellwether of Japan’s general tolerance of hate speech that a person like this would be taken seriously enough to allow a candidate who espouses hatred of whole peoples (and believe me he’s not alone, pre-hate speech law). So let’s take a look at his party platform, since that’s what we do here. Here are the seven points of his platform:
Another quick one as the weather deteriorates. Tropical Storm Darby is about to hit Hawaii. Hopefully the damage won’t be too severe, but we’re anticipating heavy rainfall and flash floods. Will keep you posted as the situation develops.
UPDATE: The storm hit us during yesterday afternoon and dumped in some places 2-4 inches of rain per hour. Downtown Honolulu, particularly Ala Moana, Chinatown, and the main road arteries were flooded to the point of cars floating. I personally received reports of people stranded in traffic between exits for hours on the H1. That said, it was far more rain than wind, and life is getting back to normal already on this sunny Monday morning. This rare hit of Oahu by a tropical was nothing like Iniki’s hit of Kauai in 1992, which damaged several areas beyond repair. Nor is it like the storm that flooded UH Manoa in 2004 and almost killed several library students attending class in the basement.
For those who haven’t been following Japanese politics (recently it’s been a pretty dismal science), there’s another race you might want to follow — that of the race for Tokyo Governorship on July 31, 2016. This matters, because Tokyo is 1) Japan’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, one of few with a still-growing population (as Japan’s countryside continues to depopulate and die) and even significant foreign resident enclaves; 2) a world city, cited by at least one international ranking system (Monocle, incidentally partially owned by a Japanese publisher) as the world’s “most livable city”; and 3) the city with the highest GDP (according to the Brookings Institution, even adjusted for PPP) in the world — in fact, according to the IMF, Tokyo alone is the ninth-largest economy in the world, larger even than Brazil, and easily over a third of Japan’s entire GDP (at 36%).
So who gets elected governor of this capital city area should matter to the world. And it has, at least to the world’s third-largest economy. Tokyo set the trend for electing far-right xenophobic governors by electing (several times) Ishihara “I wanted a war with China” Shintaro, who legitimized a xenophobic program within Tokyo environs to the point where bullying of foreigners became normalized throughout Japan (see also book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 7). And with that, far-right hate group Zaitokukai and similar groups became emboldened to hold anti-foreign rallies (some that advocated the “killing of all Koreans”) on a daily basis in recent years. Not to mention that Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympics. Given the degree of centralization of, well, everything that matters in Japan in Tokyo, as Tokyo does, so does the rest of Japan.
That’s why the Tokyo Governorship has been a controversial seat this century. First, Governor Ishihara used it as a bully pulpit to justify destabilizing the rest of Asia. Then his hand-picked successor, former Vice-Governor and investigative writer Inose Naoki resigned after a payola scandal. His successor, TV personality and pundit Masuzoe Yoichi similarly recently resigned after a payola scandal. Now the seat has become a referendum of the two leading parties, the waxing and right-shifting Liberal Democratic Party of PM Abe Shinzo, and the waning leftist Democratic Party still trying to recapture some momentum. And into the breach has dived LDP former cabinet member Koike Yuriko, who may even be a favorite to win.
But not so fast. According to Zaitokukai, Koike spoke at their organization back in 2010. Koike is known as a person who flip-flops between parties and positions often, but this is a bit too far for Debito.org’s comfort. Is this the type of person that Tokyoites want?
The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, is proud to welcome Junko Hayashi, Japan’s first female Muslim attorney, to speak about Islam and the issues faced by Muslims in Japan. In a recent court battle, Ms. Hayashi represented Japanese Muslims that were being watched by the Japanese government for no reason other than they are Muslims. The surveillance of these Japanese citizens came to light after information gathered by police was accidentally leaked on the Internet. Japanese courts ruled that there was no constitutional violation and that the threat of international terrorism outweighed any privacy right held by the plaintiffs.
Muslim culture is an important part of Michigan culture, making JCMU the ideal place to host this event. JCMU is also a place where people from many different cultures come together to learn about culture and language while exchanging ideas that make our world a better place. It is JCMU’s hope that the Islamophobia gripping much of the Western world can be avoided in Japan through education and mutual understanding.
Ms. Hayashi will present at JCMU (1435-86 Matsubara-Cho, Hikone-Shi, Shiga-Ken 522-0002) on July 23, 2016 in both English and Japanese. People interested in attending the lecture can register by email at email@example.com. The English language lecture will start at 17:00, with the Japanese lecture following at 19:00. For further information about JCMU and its programs please see our website English website at jcmu.isp.msu.edu and our Japanese website at www.jcmu.net. Flyer enclosed at this blog entry.
Commentators have talked about the deception behind this election (that Abe kept the talk on economics instead of his pet project of reforming Japan’s American-written 1945 Constitution in ways that are neither Liberal nor Democratic), about how Japan’s opposition have been so disorganized that they haven’t put up much more than an “anyone-but-Abe” policy stance, and about how PM Abe probably won’t go after the Constitution for a while.
But I would disagree. What more does Abe need in terms of confirmed mandate? As I said, he’s won three elections solidly (probably better than even former PM and LDP party-leader template Koizumi did), he’s essentially gotten a supermajority in both houses of Parliament, and these wins will be seen as public affirmation that Abe’s on the right track (especially within the ranks of the LDP itself; he already regained the LDP presidency running unopposed). Abe has made it quite clear constantly since he’s been anywhere close to power that he wants a return to Japan’s past (foreigner-uninfluenced) glories. Now nothing is really stopping him, short of a national referendum.
And despite opinion polls saying that people don’t want bits or all of Japan’s Constitution changed, I don’t think the Japanese public is all that scared of that happening anymore. Not enough to vote significantly against him at election time. My take is that Japan is becoming a more geriatric society, and with that more politically conservative. That conservatism I don’t think extends to old documents seen as imposed as part of Victors’ Justice. As of this writing, I will be surprised if a) Abe doesn’t push for Constitutional revision, and b) it doesn’t succeed. Clearly the Japanese public keeps handing Abe the keys to do so.
Sales of book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, November 2015) in hardcover have been outstanding. In less than a year after being published, WorldCat says as of this writing that 83 of the world’s major academic libraries worldwide (including Stanford, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) already have it in their collections.
Now my publisher has brought it out in paperback early for classroom use (it usually takes a year or two before that happens). Price: Less than half the hardcover price, at $49.99. It currently occupies the first spot of Lexington’s Sociology Catalog this year under Regional Studies: Asia (page 33).
Now’s your chance to get a copy, either from the publisher directly or from outlets such as Amazon.com. Read the research I spent nearly two decades on, which earned a Ph.D., and has for the first time 1) generated talk within Japanese Studies of a new way of analyzing racism in Japan (with a new unstudied minority called “Visible Minorities”), and 2) applied Critical Race Theory to Japan and found that the lessons of racialization processes (and White Privilege) still apply to a non-White society (in terms of Wajin Privilege).
Get the book that finally exposes the discrimination in Japan by physical appearance as a racialization process, and how the people who claim that “Japan has only one race, therefore no racism” are quite simply wrong. Further, as the book argues in the last chapter, if this situation is not resolved, demographically-shrinking Japanese society faces a bleak future.
Here we have an online information site called Traveloco.jp, which apparently reserves its services “for Japanese Only living abroad”. This is another permutation of Japanese corporate practices erecting arbitrary firewalls between people due to their nationality, ethnicity, etc., or, in Traveloco.jp’s case, “having a name that does not appear to be Japanese”. I wonder how “Arudou Debito” would fare. And as MT says below, why can’t anyone who can read and write Japanese be allowed service?
I want them to review their policies, so that everyone (regardless of race) who is capable to communicate in Japanese could use the site with no discrimination against them – especially not based on their western-like names (if it is not a “Japanese” name)! My correspondence with them speaks for itself. And these are young entrepreneurs, not just some old folks, but the Y-generation!!! This sentiment and notion of Japaneseness is routed very very deeply even in these young men, who are getting their foot in the door of the start-up world.
CG: I was hoping to ask you a question. I’ve done a fair amount of searching online and haven’t found an answer, and the people directly involved in the issue can’t (or won’t) give a plausible answer either. Recently I switched jobs and moved to a new town here after over ten years working for the previous town’s 教育委員会 [BOE]. When I received my final paycheck, they deducted twice the normal tax amount for 社会保険 [shakai hoken; health and pension insurance] and three times the normal amount for 住民税 [juuminzei; local residency taxes]、helping themselves to an extra over ８万円 [80,000 yen]。 Have you heard of such a situation before? The fact that I can’t find any information about such a “moving tax” or get clear answers strikes me as very strange. If you have a moment, I’d be very glad to know your thoughts.
MY THOUGHTS: Not sure. Anyone out there with this experience who figured out what was going on?
A Shibuya Police poster reads:
WE ARE ASKING FOR INFORMATION FROM MINPAKU HOSTELERS
“Minpaku” is defined as the service of offering paid accommodation using empty rooms etc. from individual homes.
To prevent terrorism and for the success of the Olympics, we need information from everyone
We are especially asking for information from individually-standing homes doing Minpaku.
Please call the Shibuya Police Department, Head of Crime Prevention, at 3498-0110 ext 2612.
That’s the literal translation of the text. Note how there is no reference whatsoever textually about foreigners. However, contextually, in the margins there are illustrations of eight racialized “foreigners” of ostensibly European, African, and Middle-Eastern extractions complete with differentiated eye color, hair color, skin color, and facial hair. Note how there is no representation of “Asian” foreigners, even though they make up the majority of Japan’s tourists. I guess they’re not the type that Shinjuku cops are looking for.
My comments about this are seasoned to the point of predictably: 1) Once again, Japan’s police are using racial profiling to determine who is a foreigner as well as a terrorist. 2) Japan’s police are rallying the public to do their bidding on unlawful activities (i.e., scaring them with the threat of terrorism into reporting their foreign lodgers to the police, which neither minpaku nor actual hotels are required to do). 3) The use and proliferation of racialized caricature seems to be normalized standard operating procedure with Japan’s police. (Why not? Nobody’s going to stop them when they keep Japan’s public constantly afraid of foreigners to the point of normalized targeting.) And 4), as I have written before, Japan is not mature enough as a society to host these international events, for the National Police Agency whips everyone up into a frenzy about foreign crime, hooliganism, and/or terrorism. And then the NPA uses the events to clamp down on civil liberties for everyone. Thus there is insufficient check and balance to keep these bunker-mentality bureaucrats from exaggerating their mandate. The Tokyo Olympics are still more than 4 years away. Expect even more of this embedded racism to surface into full-blown state-sponsored xenophobia in the meantime.
Watch this short video about Mitsuhashi Takaaki, a commentator, writer, TV personality, seminarist (juku), failed LDP candidate, and blogger about things he considers to be politics and economics. It shows how normalized bigotry is in Japan — to the point of silliness. Once you get past the stupid tic Mitsuhashi has with pushing up his eyeglasses (redolent of aspiring Hollywood wannabes of the 1910s-1930s who thought their cute catchphrase, gesture, or sneeze would fuel an entire career), you realize what he’s enabling: Japanese media to espouse xenophobia.
In the video he’s critical of PM Abe’s policies (ignorantly portraying Abe as a proponent of importing foreign labor in order to undercut Japanese workers’ salaries), but he goes beyond economics and into bigotry: about Chinese (depicted as invading hordes with queue hairstyles, where he claims that “80% are spies” [source, please?]) and foreigners in general (they will “destroy Japanese culture”). The research gets so sloppy that it reaches the point of silliness (they even misspelled TPP as “Trance Pacific Partnership”). Watch the video yourself, but not as a lunch digestion aid.
In the end, Mitsuhashi is just an IT dork relishing his time in the sun, riding a patriotic wave while dividing, “othering”, and bullying minorities for his own financial gain. Again, it’s one more indication that the long-awaited next generation of “more liberal Japanese” will be just as narrow-minded as the previous one.
Mainichi: The new hate speech law is what you might call a “principle law,” as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects “those originally from nations outside this country” who are “living legally in Japan.” As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, “It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable.” I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, “Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan.” […]
I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.
So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that’s impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It’s time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, “We will not tolerate discrimination.”
COMMENT: While this article is well-intentioned, and says most of the things that ought to be said, the tone is pretty unsophisticated (especially if you read the Japanese version — the English version has been leveled-up somewhat). I have always found it annoying how discussions of human rights in Japan generally drop down to the kindergarten level, where motherly homilies of “we’re all human beings”, “let’s just get along” and “talking to somebody different will solve everything” are so simplistic as to invite scoffing from bigots who simply won’t do that…
Today (June 17, 2016) marks the Tenth Anniversary of founding of the Debito.org Blog (as opposed to the Debito.org Website, which has been in existence this year for 20 years).
We’ve done a lot. As of today, Debito.org has 2605 blog posts, 29,537 read and approved comments from Debito.org Readers, and probably around a hundred published articles archived with links to sources here. It has been the archive for at least one Ph.D. research, and cited as the source for many more publications by independent scholars, researchers, and journalists.
The award-winning Debito.org website remains the online domain of record concerning human rights for Non-Japanese residents and Visible Minorities in Japan, and long may it continue.
Kyoto: The number of foreign laborers working illegally on farms across the nation rose threefold over the three year period ending in 2015, according to government data. The findings highlight the difficulties facing Japan’s agricultural sector, including labor shortages and the advanced age of many of the country’s farmers.
Among all the illegal foreign workers subject to deportation in 2015, the greatest number — 1,744 or 21.9 percent — had worked in the farming sector. That was up from 946 in 2014, 695 in 2013, and 592 in 2012, according to the Justice Ministry. The ministry also found illegal farm workers were “concentrated on farms in Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, which are easily accessible from Tokyo.”
The average age of the nation’s farmers is now 66.4 years old, and the fact so many have no one to succeed them has become a serious social issue. “I just cannot keep my business afloat unless I hire (illegal laborers), even if it means breaking the law,” said a 62-year-old farmer in Ibaraki.
Comment from Submitter BGIO: I love the way that the headline is “Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply” when in reality it should have been more along the lines of “Japanese agricultural employers continue to flout trainee laws and illegally exploit foreign workers from developing countries”, or alternatively “percentage of foreign workers from developing countries exploited by Japanese agriculture sector worker rises to 7% (1,744 of 24,000) of those employed in ‘trainee’ scheme”. But then such headlines would require the type of objective and balanced media coverage than has long been missing in what has the temerity to call itself ‘journalism’ in this country.
Comment from Submitter JDG: If it wasn’t for the LDP letting it’s voters illegally employ NJ, those voters and their farming culture would be over! No wonder Ibaraki police are so crazy; they are being told one thing by the government and then expected to turn a blind eye to the NJ underpinning the local economy! That conflict of interest must be causing them trauma!
Debito.org is proud to announce that longtime friend and colleague Dr. Ivan P. Hall, author of the landmark books “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan”, has just come out with his latest book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!: Afghanistan: Then a Land Still at Peace. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh): There, an Island of Toleration, 1958-1961”. It is his long-awaited memoir of being stationed as a young man with the USIS as a cultural attache.
Book Summary: As a fragile peace in Afghanistan breaks down once again in 2016, and as machete murders in broad daylight of progressive intellectuals by radical zealots erode the rare heritage of religious toleration in secularist Bangladesh, Ivan Hall with grace and wry wit brings back to life for us today – in a chronicle penned then and there – the now totally counterintuitive “Happier Islams” he experienced as a young cultural officer with the U.S. Information Service, sent out in 1958-1961 to promote America’s good name in Muslim South Asia.
In Kabul a half century ago Islam though forbiddingly traditional was still politically quiescent. In Dacca, East Pakistan (today’s Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh) a less rigid type of Islam had long accommodated its large Hindu minority. And a “Happier US,” too, as American diplomats worked in lightly guarded embassies, personal safety taken for granted, enjoying an individual and political popularity unthinkable throughout the Muslim world today.
Rare as a memoir by an active embassy officer (rather than scholar or journalist) about a still dictator-run Afghanistan totally at peace in the late 1950s, Hall’s story also offers a unique glimpse into Dacca’s lively America-savvy intelligentsia as of 1960. Illustrated by 200 color photos taken at the time, and updated with geopolitical backgrounders for his two posts then and now, Hall’s narrative also casts a critical eye on the bent of his USIS employer at the height of the Cold War for short-term political advocacy at the expense of long-term cultural ties. By way of contrast his prologue and epilogue limn the heartwarming American genius for private sector “cultural diplomacy he witnessed or took part in during his years “before and after,” in Europe and Japan.
Table of Contents:
1) “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” a mockumentary film by Primolandia Productions starring Debito Arudou, seeking Kickstarter funding for the next 30 days.
2) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 98: “Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth.” June 6, 2016.
POLICING EVER TIGHTENING IN JAPAN
3) Telegraph: Tourists in Japan to use fingerprints as ‘currency’ instead of cash; another case of Gaijin as Guinea Pig
4) YouTube video of Tokyo Police using excessive force to subdue a Non-Japanese in public
5) Mainichi: LDP new Constitution draft differentiates between ‘big’ and ‘small’ human rights, the latter to be subordinated “in times of emergency”. Yeah, sure.
UPDATES BOTH GOOD AND BAD TO PAST ISSUES
6) JT: Diet passes Japan’s first law to curb hate speech. Hurrah, but.
7) The 2nd Great Gaijin Massacre in Japan’s education system, with 5-year contracts coming due in 2018 (2023 for uni profs).
8 ) GOJ busybodies hard at work alienating: Shinjuku Foreign Residents Manual assumes NJ criminal tendencies; Kyoto public notices “cultivate foreign tourist manners”
9) “Japan’s Under-Researched Visible Minorities: Applying Critical Race Theory to Racialization Dynamics in a Non-White Society”. Journal article in Washington University Global Studies Law Review 14(4) 2015
10) My previous Japan Times column JBC 97: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments” (May 2, 2016)
Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law. A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.
But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.
What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago. The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.
It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005: “After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”
Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold? Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…
The story: “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” is a mockumentary that focuses on a Caucasian expat living in Japan who, after receiving a blow to the head, wakes up believing that he is a member of an ultranationalist right wing group (the “uyoku dantai”). An idealistic amateur “director” (in the scheme of the mockumentary) is making a documentary film about this odd character because he believes that it will propel his own filmmaking career towards prominence. As the director and his subject’s views begin to diverge though, things begin to fall apart. “Go! Go! Second Time Gaijin” is a story about identity, delusion, myopic nationalism, ascendent conservative trends in Japan’s current government, other big words, and how those beliefs do not accurately reflect the political and social reality of Japanese society. Only the best ingredients for a controversial comedy. Starring Debito Arudou. Kickstarter funding support page link enclosed.
Telegraph: Visitors to Japan may soon be able to forget the hassle of having to change money – with the launch of a new system enabling fingerprints to be used as currency. The system, which will launch this summer, aims to make shopping and checking into hotels faster and more convenient for overseas visitors, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.
It will involve foreign visitors first registering their details, including fingerprints and credit card information, in airports or other convenient public locations. The new system will also enable the government to analyse the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists.
Registered tourists will then be able to buy products, with taxes automatically deducted, from select stores by placing two fingers on a small fingerprint-reading device. The fingerprint system will also be used as a speedy substitute for presenting passports when checking into hotels, which is currently a legal obligation for overseas tourists, according to reports.
COMMENT: This article seems a bit too much in thrall to the possibilities of the new technology to pay sufficient attention to the possible abuses of fingerprinting (and no attention to the history of fingerprinting in Japan in particular). Culturally speaking, fingerprinting in Japan is associated with criminal activity, which is why so many Japanese (and let alone other NJ and Zainichi Korean minorities) are reluctant to have their fingerprints taken (let alone be forced to carry ID) and stored in a leaky government database. That’s why once again, the Gaijin as Guinea Pig phenomenon is kicking in — where it’s the powerless people in a society who are having government designs for social control being foisted upon them first, before it gets suggested as policy for the rest of the population.
Mainichi: How puzzling. A question-and-answer booklet that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has created to explain its draft revision of the Constitution claims there are two types of human rights: the big ones and the little ones.
The concept of “big human rights” and “small human rights” appears in the booklet’s section on the LDP draft Constitution’s controversial “state of emergency” provision, which allows for temporary restrictions on human rights and concentration of authority in the Cabinet in the case of an emergency such as an armed attack from external forces, disturbances in social order due to domestic turmoil, or major disasters. Following the massive earthquakes in Kumamoto and its surrounding areas in mid-April, the government and the LDP have ramped up their argument that such a provision is necessary to carry out rescue and recovery efforts as smoothly as possible.
The Q&A booklet states that protecting the lives, bodies and properties of the people is the state’s utmost priority not only in times of peace but also in times of emergency. So far, so good. But it’s what follows that throws me for a loop. “Some are of the opinion that fundamental human rights should not be restricted even in times of emergency,” the booklet reads. “But we believe that it is possible that in order to protect big human rights such as people’s lives, bodies and properties, we could be forced to place restrictions on smaller human rights.”
It’s pretty clear what the LDP means by “big human rights.” But what are the “smaller human rights” that the party refers to? I contacted the LDP Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution. The person who responded, however, simply kept repeating that “it would be helpful if you could read it as it is written.” That was precisely the problem, though. I couldn’t understand what had been written. […]
The LDP’s Q&A booklet notes that the LDP draft Constitution does not deviate from the party’s understanding that fundamental human rights are inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. If that is actually the case, however, the concept of a “big” or “small” human right should not even come up.
JT: Japan’s first anti-hate speech law passed the Diet on Tuesday, marking a step forward in the nation’s long-stalled efforts to curb racial discrimination. But the legislation has been dogged by skepticism, with critics slamming it as philosophical at best and toothless window dressing at worst.
The ruling coalition-backed law seeks to eliminate hate speech, which exploded onto the scene around 2013 amid Japan’s deteriorating relationship with South Korea. It is the first such law in a country that has long failed to tackle the issue of racism despite its membership in the U.N.-designated International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Critics, however, have decried the legislation as ineffective. While it condemns unjustly discriminatory language as “unforgivable,” it doesn’t legally ban hate speech and sets no penalty.
COMMENT: Debito.org cannot wholeheartedly support this law for the reasons noted in the JT article: It defines “hate speech” only narrow-band (only covering legal residents of Japan), it doesn’t actually encode punishments or penalties, and it joins all of Japan’s other laws that ineffectually ban things only in principle and get ignored in practice (such as Japan’s Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which has not curbed male-female wage and promotion differentials one whit outside of a lengthy and risky Japanese court process). It is, as critics say below, mere window-dressing to make Japan look like a “civilized” country to its neighbors. That said, I’m going to opt that it’s better to have some law that acknowledges the existence of a problem (as opposed to what’s been going on before; even the article indicates below there was a hate rally on average more than once a day somewhere in Japan). Let it potentially chasten xenophobes and indicate that minorities in Japan are here to stay and deserve dignity, respect, and the right to be unstigmatized.
This is an update to the Ninkisei Issue within Japan’s Academic Apartheid Education System, where foreign educators are given perpetual contracts. A contracted position may not sound bad to Western ears, but Japan’s tertiary education system (the second largest in the world) generally does not contract full-time Japanese educators. Since most full-time Japanese enjoy permanent tenure from day one of hiring, a contract becomes a term limit only for foreigners. Abuses of the system include “The Great Gaijin Massacre” of 1992-1994, where most foreign faculty above the age of 35 in National Universities (kokuritsu daigaku) found their contracts were not being renewed — in a successful attempt by the Ministry of Education to bring in younger, cheaper foreigners. Since these veteran teachers had not paid into overseas pension plans (and decades of Japanese pension payments are nonrefundable), they could not simply “go home”. They got stuck with part-time work with no benefits to pay house loans, kids’ college tuition, or fulfill pension plans. According to Ivan Hall’s CARTELS OF THE MIND (WW Norton, 1998), there are more full-time foreign faculty with permanent tenure in one American university than in all of Japan! Not to mention a systemwide disdain (“academic apartheid”) towards foreign educators regardless of qualification, seeing them merely as cheap disposable labor. See the Blacklist of Japanese Universities, a list of institutions with breathtakingly unequal employment policies, at www.debito.org/blacklist.html
Now for the update. Let’s see what happened to the survivors a quarter century on. The upshot is that their turn to be fired is now coming. According to labor union expert CF:
“I have given it a nickname – the “2018 Cliff” If you have been working from (April) 2013 continually on renewable contracts, then (March) 2018 will be 5 years of employment, therefore on April 1 2018, if you demand permanent employment, the company must keep you on as permanent – until retirement (albeit on the pre-2018 conditions) from April 2019. To avoid this, companies will be dumping staff before the end of March 2018 to avoid the transfer to permanent status （無期転換）. For better or worse, universities and research facilities deadline is 2023, so employees have an extra 5 years’ grace. The Cliff is coming, and many will be pushed off.
COMMENT: So this is what NJ who persevered and contributed the bulk of their working lives to Japanese society, get at the end: An unceremonious dumping onto the job market, with no new place to go, and skills that will not easily transfer to their country of origin. And often before their MINIMUM 25 years (yes!) of required Japan-pension contributions are fulfilled. People seeking to make a life in Japan: Beware!
Despite all the campaigns to increase foreign tourism and “prepare” Japanese society for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, sometimes Debito.org feels like suggesting people just avoid Japan’s sweaty-headed public-servant busybodies, who spend our tax monies to further alienate NJ residents and tourists from the rest of Japanese society. Check these out:
Yomiuri: With breaches of etiquette by foreign tourists becoming a problem in tourist spots nationwide, local communities are using signboards featuring illustrations, pictograms and manga to inform visitors of how best to behave. These moves are aimed at helping foreign tourists understand Japanese etiquette and rules, in order to prevent such trouble, but some are concerned that the signs could spoil the scenery at tourist spots.
Shinjuku Foreign Resident Manual: “Helping you avoid getting caught up in criminal activity and have a peaceful and safe time in Japan.” With pages on how to avoid “criminal activities” such as not sorting your garbage properly, smoking outside of designated areas, and talking loudly on the phone while on the train or bus.
Submitter Concerned NJ says: This guide still has me angry that this sort of view of “foreigners” is still persisting—maybe even growing—as the Olympics approach; worse, it is being promoted by a government agency. I have been stopped by the Japanese police many times (for no reason other than being “foreign-looking”) and treated like a criminal when I simply pass through the train station, and I’ve seen similar treatment at the station of other “foreigners.” So after those experiences, pamphlets like this that further the view of non-Japanese in Japan as criminal-prone imbeciles really rub me the wrong way. There are plenty of guides for residents of Japan that do NOT take this approach with non-Japanese residents when explaining laws and helpful services that have been translated to other languages.
Comment from Debito: I understand full well the need for cautioning people when tourists, or anyone, are disrespectful towards local sights and environments. But creating reactionary media that stigmatizes foreigners as if they are natural-born criminals or incorrigible rule-breakers (i.e., naturally unable to follow rules because they are foreigners) is equally disrespectful. Care must be taken and tact used to avoid belittling guests, not to mention alienating NJ residents, and busybodies who get paranoid about any strangers darkening their doorsteps must not have free rein to overthink countermeasures (for it soon becomes an invitation to xenophobia).
Abstract: Critical Race Theory (CRT), an analytical framework grounded in American legal academia, uncovers power relationships between a racialized enfranchised majority and a disenfranchised minority. Although applied primarily to countries and societies with Caucasian majorities to analyze White Privilege this Article applies CRT to Japan, a non-White majority society. After discussing how scholarship on Japan has hitherto ignored a fundamental factor within racialization studies—the effects of skin color on the concept of “Japaneseness”—this Article examines an example of published research on the Post-WWII “konketsuji problem.” This research finds blind spots in the analysis, and re-examines it through CRT to uncover more nuanced power dynamics. This exercise attempts to illustrate the universality of nation-state racialization processes, and advocates the expansion of Whiteness Studies beyond Caucasian-majority societies into worldwide Colorism dynamics in general.
Citation: Debito Arudou, Japan’s Under-Researched Visible Minorities: Applying Critical Race Theory to Racialization Dynamics in a Non-White Society, 14 Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev. 695 (2015).
Al: In the wake of the case of Mr. Suraj, the Ghanian who was killed by Japanese immigration during a botched deportation, I’d like to share a video of clear use-of-excessive-force by Tokyo police on NJ [video]. Though we don’t know what the NJ did or how they took him to the ground, clearly he is already on the ground, subdued with 3 officers on top of him.
The disturbing part is the officer who is sitting on his lower back, applying unnecessary and excessive pressure to bend his spine. Why was this necessary?? He’s already on the ground, with his hands behind his back, and poses no threat to any of the officers. He’s clearly in a lot of pain, which shows in his voice. The officer sitting on his lower back could have simply just pinned his legs to the ground rather than bending his spine the way he does in the video. The officers are from Tokyo as can be seen by the 「警視庁」emblem on their uniforms.
Please get this video out as it is a disturbing case of excessive use-of-force on an NJ. Additionally, I find that use-of-force by Japanese police tends to be very arbitrary, without any clear goal or regulating doctrine. I myself have had my arms grabbed and pulled out of a department store for an ID check.
Table of Contents:
1) Out in Paperback: Textbook “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books) July 2016 in time for Fall Semester classes: $49.99
2) April 15, 1996: Twenty years of Debito.org. And counting.
3) Debito’s latest publication in the Washington University Global Studies Law Review (Vol.14, No.4)
4) Terrie Lloyd on why Abenomics is a “failure”: lack of essential structural reforms
5) Kyodo: Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial. Separate taxi stands? What’s next: separate hotels?
6) Stigmatization thru “foreign driver stickers”: First Okinawa, now Hokkaido (Mainichi Shinbun)
7) JT Interview: Tokyo 2020 Olympics CEO Mutou picks on Rio 2016, arrogantly cites “safe Japan” mantra vs international terrorism
8 ) Nate Nossal essay on how free enterprise and small-business establishment in Japan is stifled
DIRTY ROTTEN POLITICS
9) Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo
10) MOJ: Japan sees record registered foreign residents, 2.23 million in 2015; but watch J media once again underscore their criminality
11) Onur on continued racial profiling at Japanese hotel check-ins: Discrimination is even coin-operated!
12) Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!
13) NHK: NJ arrested by Saitama Police for “not having passport”, despite being underage and, uh, not actually legally required to carry a passport
14) JT: Abe Cabinet says JCP promoting ‘violent revolution,’ subject to Anti-Subversive Activities Law; now, how about violent Rightists?
15) Economist: United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of Imperial female succession, drops issue as a “distraction” from report
16) Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged
17) Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)
… and finally…
18) Japan Times JBC 97 May 2, 2016 excerpt: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments”
JBC 97: After more than 30 years of studying Japan, I’ve learned to appreciate one thing people here do well: living in the moment.
By that I mean there seems to be a common understanding that moments are temporary and bounded — that the feelings one has now may never happen again, so they should be enjoyed to the fullest right here, right now, without regard to the future.
I can think of several examples. Consider the stereotypical honeymooning couple in Hawaii. They famously capture every moment in photographs — from humdrum hotel rooms to food on the plate. They even camcord as much as they can to miss as few moments as possible.
Why? Safekeeping. For who knows when said couple will ever get back to Hawaii (or, for that matter, be allowed to have an extended vacation anywhere, including Japan)? Soon they’ll have kids, demanding jobs, meticulous budgets, and busywork until retirement. No chance in the foreseeable future to enjoy moments like these.
So they frame a beachside photo atop the TV, preserve a keepsake in a drawer, store a dress or aloha shirt far too colorful to ever wear in public — anything to take them back to that precious time and place in their mind’s eye. (Emperor Hirohito reputedly treasured his Paris Metro ticket as a lifetime memento, and was buried with his Disneyland souvenir Mickey Mouse watch.)
Another example: extramarital love affairs. Sleeping around is practically a national sport in Japan (hence the elaborate love hotel industry), and for a good reason: the wonderful moments lovers can surreptitiously capture. It’s a vacation from real life. For chances are their tryst is temporary; it fills a void. But how pleasant their time is in their secret world!
Reuters: An economic uptick since Abe took office in December 2012, rebuilding after the 2011 tsunami and a construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have pushed labor demand to its highest in 24 years. That has helped boost foreign worker numbers by 40 percent since 2013, with Chinese accounting for more than one-third followed by Vietnamese, Filipinos and Brazilians. But visa conditions largely barring unskilled workers mean foreigners still make up only about 1.4 percent of the workforce, compared with the 5 percent or more found – according to IMF estimates – in most advanced economies.
So far, measures to attract more foreign workers have focused on easing entry for highly skilled professionals and expanding a “trainee” system that was designed to share technology with developing countries, but which critics say has become a backdoor source of cheap labor. This time, the LDP panel leaders’ proposal went further, suggesting foreigners be accepted in other sectors facing shortages, such as nursing and farming – initially for five years with visa renewal possible. They also proposed creating a framework whereby the number of foreign workers would be doubled from around 908,000 currently, and the term “unskilled labor” would be abandoned.
In a sign of the sensitivies, however – especially ahead of a July upper house election – panel chief Yoshio Kimura stressed the proposal should not be misconstrued as an “immigration policy” and said steps were needed to offset any negative impact on jobs and public safety. […] “The government insists it is not adopting an immigration policy, but whatever the word, faced with a shrinking population, it is changing its former stance and has begun to move toward a real immigration policy,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, a former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief.
Nossal: Japan is a country which is largely opposed to free enterprise. As one who has studied economics and subscribes to the notion that the ability for individuals to do business is integral to a society’s wealth and commerce, as well as that society’s ability to solve problems generally, I find this condition amusingly shortsighted. As one who is living in and attempting to do business in Japan I find this condition depressing. After all, what is it that individuals can do best as entrepreneurs? We stand to make money by solving problems for other people. I will discuss some extraordinary barriers to business created by just a few layers of legal or bureaucratic excess which discourage or disable free enterprise in two examples of personal experience. It is assumed that there is some reason that people have gone through such troubles to erect these legal barriers, and I can only speculate what some of those possible reasons might be. On the microeconomic level, the effects of the clearly anti-business atmosphere created by those specific barriers are devastating. Businesses which could and should be thriving, multiplying, growing, and revolving multiples of yen back out into the local economy are stopped dead. Theoretically, all money gets spent somewhere, but inevitably some of that money which would have been spent in the local Ishikawa ken economy (where these stories take place) gets saved, sent away, or spent elsewhere and the greater Ishikawa ken economy suffers for this.
Mainichi: The Hokkaido Prefectural Government has prepared 2,500 stickers for use by foreigners driving rent-a-cars, in order to identify them to other drivers and prepare against on-the-road trouble. The stickers, which read “A person from a foreign country is driving,” were distributed to rent-a-car companies in Hokkaido. In fiscal 2014, around 24,000 rent-a-cars were used by foreign tourists, around 14,000 more than in fiscal 2012. Accidents and driver arguments are expected, so the stickers were created to warn other drivers, similar to stickers for new drivers. The magnetic stickers are 14.5 centimeters square and carry Hokkaido’s tourism character “Kyun-chan,” a Japanese pika. A prefectural government official says, “When people see (a car with the sticker), we want them to act kindly.”
Comment: It would seem that the Japanese reflex of pointing out differences over similarities (a byproduct of the quest to keep Japan “unique” in the world narrative) has created perennial blind spots towards the effects of “stigmatization”. That is to say, if you keep pointing out how different a group of people is (in this case, “foreign drivers”, even if you say you are doing it “out of kindness”), it still differentiates and “others” people — with the inevitable subordinating presumption that foreign drivers are somehow more prone to accidents, need to be taken notice of, or treated with special care. Why else would the public be notified (if not warned) that a foreign driver is present?
Shoe on the other foot: How would people like it if females behind the wheel had to bear a “women driver” sticker? What if the “foreign driver” (for example, somebody who has been driving in Japan not as a tourist for years, or on the British side of the road the same as Japan?) would rather opt out of all the special attention? And what of the Japanese tourists from the metropolises who are “paper drivers” and probably have much less road experience than average compared to any motorized society in the world? Let’s see how a “tourist driver” sticker (slapped on Japanese drivers too) would fare. This sticker is, to put it bluntly in Japanese, 有り難迷惑 (arigata meiwaku), or “kindness” to the point of being a nuisance. And it is not even the first “foreign driver” sticker Debito.org has heard of — last October we reported on similar stickers in Okinawa with the same purpose.
“Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield 2016) will also be released as a paperback version in July/August 2016. This is good news. Usually when an academic book comes out in hardcover, the paperback version is not released for a year or two in order not to affect sales of the hardcover. (The hardcover is, generally, intended for libraries and must-have buyers). However, sales of the hardcover have been so strong that the publisher anticipates this book will continue to sell well in both versions.
So, just in time for Fall Semester 2016, “Embedded Racism” will be coming out over the summer for university classes, with an affordable price of $49.99 (a competitive price for a 378-page textbook, less than half the price of the hardcover).. Please consider getting the book for your class and/or adding the book to your library! Academics may inquire via https://rowman.com/Page/Professors about the availability of review copies and ebooks. Full details of the book, including summary, Table of Contents, and reviews here (weblink).
Hardcover version: 2015/2016, 378 pages
Subjects: Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations, Social Science / Ethnic Studies / General, Social Science / Minority Studies, Social Science / Sociology / General