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
As of today (JST), Debito.org has been in action for twenty years. That means two decades of archiving issues of life and human rights in Japan.
After starting out as an archive of my writings as Dave Aldwinckle on the Dead Fukuzawa Society, Debito.org soon expanded into an award-winning website, cited by venerable institutions and publications worldwide, taking on various contentious topics. These have included Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities, The Gwen Gallagher Case, The Blacklist (and Greenlist) of Japanese Universities, The Community in Japan, The Otaru Onsens Case, the Debito.org Activists’ Page and Residents’ Page, book “Japanese Only” in two languages, the Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments (which became the basis of my doctoral fieldwork), racism endemic to the National Police Agency and its official policies encouraging public racial profiling, the “What to Do If…” artery site, our “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” (now in its 3rd Edition), the overpolicing of Japanese society during international events, the reinstitution of fingerprinting of NJ only at the border, the establishment of the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA), the 3/11 multiple disasters and the media scapegoating of foreign residents (as “flyjin”), the archive of Japan Times articles (2002- ) which blossomed into the regular JUST BE CAUSE column (2008- ), and now the acclaimed academic book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books 2016).
I just wanted to mark the occasion with a brief post of commemoration. Thank you everyone for reading and contributing to Debito.org! Long may we continue. Please leave a comment as to which parts of Debito.org you’ve found helpful!
Debito.org Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all “foreign guests” are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact:
Onur: I wrote my Japanese address on the guest registration form during check-in [at Mimatsu Hotel, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture]. However, the reception asked for my passport and said that they must copy my ID. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy, showing me a poster on the wall by the Mito City Police Department Security Division saying that “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us”. I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. I enclose the poster. After visiting both the Public Health Department and the Mito Police, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again.
COMMENT: It would seem that, according to a number of past Debito.org posts on Ibaraki Prefectural Police posters and activities, the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep there. Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center there, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on “people who look suspicious” because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese). Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people? Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study. Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work. I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago. Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.
NHK: According to police, on the afternoon of March 5, police were contacted that “a suspicious foreigner had come in” from an electronics shop in Kawaguchi City. Police arriving on the scene found a foreign male at a nearby street. The male was a foreigner of Southeastern Asian descent. As he was not carrying his passport, police arrested him on the spot under suspicion of violating the Immigration Control Act. However, after further investigation, police realized that as he was less than 16 years old and under no obligation to carry his passport, so they released him from arrest about six hours later after apologizing.
COMMENT: I’ll say. Yet another instance of police overstepping their authority, and arresting someone due to a panicky shopkeep siccing cops on a youth just because the latter looked “foreign”. Last time we had an arrest like this this wasn’t the case — the person even turned out to be Japanese, but it’s hard to believe that police would necessarily come running and arrest someone just because they were acting “suspiciously”. Because there are laws against that — you have to have adequate suspicion that crime has been committed, or is likely to be committed. It’s the “foreign” thing that became the grounds for arrest. Pity it took six hours out of this kid’s life in police custody (something you don’t want to happen to you — you essentially have few rights as a suspect in Japan).
The real thing that’s hard to swallow is that shopkeeps are panicky precisely BECAUSE the Japanese police are encouraging them to see foreigners as criminals and racially profile. So thanks for the apology, Saitama Police, but how about training your cops better, so Japan’s Visible Minorities (particularly impressionable kids) don’t become targets of arbitrary (and traumatizing) arrests? I shudder to think what this officially-alienated kid thinks about life in Japan now.
Once again hosting an international event brings out the worst excesses of Japan’s attitudes towards the outside world. Mutou Toshio, CEO of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan, talked to The Japan Times about Japan’s superiority to Rio 2016 in broad, arrogant strokes. Some highlights:
The CEO of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics says security is his greatest concern but believes Japan will be safe from the kind of mass street protests currently overshadowing this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games.
“If I had to choose just one challenge from many it would have to be security,” Toshiro Muto told The Japan Times in an exclusive interview. “There are many threats of terrorism in the world. […] To combat this, the organizing committee, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and national government need to be able to deal with it at every level. Cooperation is vital.”
COMMENT: Yes, we’ve seen what happens when Japan’s police “cooperate” to ensure Japan is “secure” from the outside world whenever it comes for a visit. Many times. Consider whenever a G8 Summit is held in Japan, Japan spends the Lion’s Share (far more than half the budget) on policing alone, far more than any other G8 Summit host. Same with, for example, the 2002 World Cup. The government also quickly abrogates civil liberties for its citizens and residents, and turns Japan into a temporary police state. (See also “Embedded Racism” Ch. 5, particularly pp. 148-52). I anticipate the same happening for 2020, with relish.
But Mutou goes beyond mere boosterism to really earn his paycheck with arrogance, elevating Japan by bashing current hosts Rio. (Much like Tokyo Governor Inose Naoki, himself since unseated due to corruption, did in 2013 when denigrating Olympic rival hosts Istanbul as “Islamic”.) Check this out:
Terrie Lloyd: After a strong start last year, the ruling LDP government seemed genuinely perplexed when at the end of the year the nation’s annual Real GDP was found to be just 0.5% and for the last quarter a problematic -0.3%. The government’s leadership continue have their collective heads buried in the sand by blaming an unusually warm winter and other external factors for the anemic performance. You kind of feel sorry for them. After all, they have done everything by the textbook (well, the Keynesian textbook, anyway), by expanding the nation’s money supply aggressively, and by implementing various stimulus packages.
But unfortunately Mr. Abe’s crew seem to have forgotten one small thing, they need the public to respond to their pump-priming (the whole point of Keynesian policies), and this means being seen to be making real regulatory reforms for the future, not just recirculating cash among vested interests. Abe needs to make good on his promised third arrow – slashing business regulations and encouraging innovation, liberalizing the labor market, getting tough with the agricultural sector, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing workforce diversity through immigration and improved support of working mothers. But instead the reverse is happening…
Japan Times: The number of foreign residents in Japan reached an all-time high last year, the Justice Ministry reported Friday. There were 2.23 million long-term and permanent foreign residents in Japan as of the end of last year, up 5.2 percent from 2.12 million people at the end of 2014, according to the ministry. It was the highest number since the ministry began keeping data in 1959. […]
Meanwhile, the number of residents who had overstayed their visas has also increased. The ministry reported that there were 62,818 foreign nationals overstaying their visas as of Jan. 1, up 4.7 percent from the same date last year. This marks the second year the figure has risen. Last year’s increase was the first in more than two decades, and the trend comes despite recent efforts by the ministry to crack down on overstayers.
COMMENT: Typically, Debito.org sees a rise in the NJ resident population as good news, and it is: Japan needs them or, as I argue in Chapter 10 of “Embedded Racism”, it won’t survive. But it’s never portrayed as good news in the media, where it counts. Even when it’s put through the lenses of the foreigner-friendly Japan Times, the bias of the Justice Ministry still seeps through: After giving the numbers and some speculation about what is bringing more NJ to Japan again, we get into what NJ are doing here. As “Embedded Racism” Chapters 5 and 7 describe, it’s never a matter of what good NJ residents are doing: It’s always what sort of mischief they’re up to. Because when you have a government with no Immigration Policy Bureau to institute a viable immigration and assimilation policy, and instead have a policing agency solely entrusted with “administrating” foreigners in Japan, naturally you’ll get an embedded mindset that treats everyone as a potential criminal. Read the entire article and see for yourself. Feel the criminality steadily creep in and have the last word.
As PM Abe becomes further emboldened by a lack of organized political opposition, his administration is becoming more reactionary towards Japan’s Left. According to the Japan Times, it will subject the Japan Communist Party to the Anti-Subversive Activities Law (Hakai Katsudou Boushi Hou), reserved for subversives who resort to violence. Of course, the JCP is a legitimate party (in fact, Japan’s oldest political party) with a number of seats in the Diet, and it is allowed to agitate for reforms and even non-violent revolution, as it has for decades now. But Abe seems bent on a return to Japan’s old form, when Leftists were incarcerated, tortured, and killed in custody in Wartime Showa Japan.
Looking forward to him similarly cracking down on Japan’s violent rightists as well, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I presume violent rightists wouldn’t be considered “revolutionaries” by the Abe Administration in the same sense — their form of revolution would take Japan back to a status quo of inter alia Emperor worship, unaccountable elite rule, and military adventurism. To Abe’s clique that is also part of Japan’s history, even if that would “subvert” Japan’s current democratic institutions.
Economist: THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too. It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed.
COMMENT: What’s interesting here is not that Japan protested outside comment about their emperor system (that happens with some frequency), but that the United Nations took it seriously enough to drop the issue. Pretty remarkable that the UN, which faces criticism for many of its human-rights stances, would be cowed by this. It only encourages Japan’s rabid right to become more reactionary in regards to international criticism — because oversight bodies will possibly retreat if the Abe Admin kicks up a fuss.
When I asked the author a bit more about the reasoning of the UN committee members, he said that nobody on the committee would discuss it with him. He said he was told that it became a distraction from the report, so they dropped it. Supposedly they felt this was an issue for Japan, not the UN.
Wow, that’s awfully generous. I can imagine numerous countries making the same argument — this contentious point is merely a “distraction” so drop it. Once again, Japan gets geopolitically kid-gloved. What’s next: Japan protests UN criticism of its “Japanese Only” practices as “totally inappropriate”? Actually, Japan essentially has (see also book “Embedded Racism” Ch. 8), but not to the point of the UN withdrawing its criticism. Yet.
Reuters : Niculas Fernando died at a Tokyo immigration detention center sometime between 9:33 a.m. and 10:44 a.m. on November 22, 2014, according to the coroner. But it wasn’t until shortly after 1 p.m. that day that guards realized something was badly wrong – even though Fernando had been moved to an observation cell monitored via closed-circuit television after complaining of sharp chest pain. An inmate had to alert the guards before they rushed into Fernando’s cell and tried to revive him. […] He was the fourth person to die in Japan’s immigration detention system in 13 months. In total, 12 people have died in immigration detention since 2006, including four suicides. In 2015, 14 detainees tried to kill or harm themselves at the detention center where Fernando died, according to data from the facility.
A Reuters investigation into the circumstances surrounding Fernando’s death, including dozens of interviews with detainees, immigration officials and doctors, revealed serious deficiencies in the medical treatment and monitoring of Japan’s immigration detention centers. Guards with scant medical training make critical decisions about detainees’ health. Doctors visit some of the country’s main detention centers as infrequently as twice a week. And on weekends there are no medical professionals on duty at any of the immigration detention facilities, which held more than 13,600 people in 2014. Three of the four deaths in detention between October 2013 and November 2014, including Fernando’s, occurred when there were no doctors on duty. Like Fernando, another one of the detainees died while in an observation cell.
Japan’s immigration system is under increasing strain. As a torrent of refugees pours into Europe, Japan also has record numbers of people landing on its shores in search of refuge. As of June last year, it had 10,830 asylum applications under review – small by Europe’s standards, but a new high for Japan, a nation that has long been reluctant to take in outsiders. In February, more than 40 detainees went on hunger strike at a facility in Osaka to protest their conditions [As they did in 2010, to little change — Ed.]. Their main complaint: Poor medical care. […]
The Justice Ministry has not made public the findings of the investigation into the case nor released them to Fernando’s family. In response to a public disclosure request, Reuters received a copy of the national Immigration Bureau’s report from March last year. It was heavily redacted. Under a section titled “Problems,” every line had been blacked out.
Onur: I travel often, so I stay in many business hotels in Japan. Not all but many of them caused many problems due to the passport copy rule. Of course I carry only my residence card, not my passport. In the past I used to allow them when the hotel wants to copy my residence card. I remember that a hotel in Asakusa ward of Tokyo even asked me to copy my residence card by myself! The woman at the reception pointed the coin operated photocopier in the hall and told me to copy my residence card and bring it to the reception. I said it is coin operated, not free and she said pay the money to the machine. I paid the money, copied my residence card by myself and gave the copy to the reception. Even though it was hotel’s photocopier, they did not pay the money back!
Later I learned that as I have an address in Japan, hotels do not have the authority to ask my residence card and started to reject them when they asked to copy it. Still I was showing the card when they asked. Two years ago I had a bad experience at Inuyama Central Hotel in Aichi Prefecture. I wrote my Japanese address to the guest registration form, but two old male receptionists asked my passport. As I don’t carry it, I showed them my residence card and my address on it. They wanted to copy it, but I said no. They said that they must copy my residence card according to the law of Japan. I said copying is not necessary and they did not allow me to check-in! We had a long argument, but they refused me service. […]
Arguing with the hotels on this residence card check and copying is very annoying. Refusing to allow copying the card may not be enough as the hotel may continue asking it to other foreigners. Recently, when I stay in a hotel that asked to copy residence card, I am writing a review on Rakuten hoping that the hotel and checks and learns the real law. I also give a low rating to those hotels in the review. Average rating in on-line reservation sites is somewhat important in Japan, so probably many hotels would take it into account. If many foreigners people do the same thing, more hotels may abide the law.
Just before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Disasters, let’s revisit a topic Debito.org covered some years ago in this blog post: “Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: ironies of different Japanese and English versions” (Debito.org, July 16, 2012).
Veteran journalist Roger Schreffler has contacted Debito.org to release the following information about the snow job that the person heading up the investigation, a Mr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi, carried out when this report was released in English blaming “Japanese culture” for the disasters (he also blamed foreign inspectors, believe it or not). It’s a supreme example of successful Gaijin Handling, and most of the overseas media bought into it. But not everyone, as Roger exposes:
Schreffler: I believe the following information may be of interest to you. The Fukushima commission never concluded that Japanese culture caused the Daiichi plant meltdown. Kiyoshi Kurokawa worked with a PR consultant, Carlos Ghosn’s former speechwriter, and altered the preface to the overseas edition of the report.
More than 100 media organizations, mostly unwittingly, quoted Kurokawa’s introduction as if it were part of the official report. It was not, of course. […] Kiyoshi Kurokawa will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, March 10, the day before the fifth anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident.
Kurokawa spoke at the club in July 2012 as chair of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the causes of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. More than 150 foreign news organizations, government agencies and NGOs attributed blame to ‘Japanese culture’.
It was an invention.
Nowhere in the 641-page main report and 86-page executive summary can one find the widely quoted expressions “Made in Japan disaster” and “ingrained conventions of Japanese culture (including) reflexive obedience, groupism and insularity.” In fact, all references to culture (文化) involve TEPCO – TEPCO’s corporate culture, TEPCO’s organizational culture, and TEPCO’s safety culture. It turns out that Kurokawa retained a PR consultant to hype the report’s English edition for overseas distribution including to foreign media organizations such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Fox News and more than 100 others (see attached list).
UPDATE MARCH 11, 2016 JST, FOLLOWING FCCJ PRESS CONFERENCE, FROM ROGER SCHREFFLER:
Debito, As a followup: The moderator asked Kurokawa [at the FCCJ on March 10, 2016) about the differences in the English and Japanese version of the report’s executive summary. Kurosawa admitted that the ‘content’ was different. What this means is that the content turned over to the Diet on July 5, 2012 (both houses) was different than what he reported to the nonJapanese-speaking world. Listen for yourself to his answer [to a question from the AP, who moderated the meeting, when the audio goes up on the FCCJ website. It’s at minute 34 on the recording] . Later on, Kurokawa equated his Japanese cultural references to Ruth Benedict, Samuel Huntington, Karel van Wolferen and John Dower.
Which leaves one unanswered question: Who wrote it?
[…] [T]he AP was one of only three media organizations, the other being the Financial Times and The New York Times, that pointed out discrepancies in the Japanese and English reports in summer 2012. The rest – even those who attended Kurokawa’s July 6, 2012 news conference where he admitted to there being differences in the ‘translation’, but not ‘content’ – followed like a herd and didn’t report that there was a discrepancy between the ‘official’ and the one for ‘gaijin’.
Here’s something that feels more problematic the more I think about it: “Foreigner-friendly” taxicabs being introduced in Kyoto. As noted below, they are government-sponsored vehicles with multilingual drivers and more space for tourist luggage. Sounds good so far. Until you get to the fact that they have a separate alighting point at one station in Kyoto. Already, we are getting into shades of “separate but equal” (as opposed to equal and undifferentiated), which we are seeing in a number of venues dealing with foreign tourism (for example, here).
While I applaud the effort to improve service, it doesn’t resolve the root problem (mentioned within the Kyodo article below) — that taxi cabs are refusing NJ passengers. So instead of going after miscreant taxis, they’re creating a separate taxi system to equalize things. Except that it won’t. Think about it. Now we’ll have busybody train station ojisan waving “foreign-looking” people over to the foreign taxi stand even when they’re not tourists. Or we’ll have people being told that they have to go to that solitary Kyoto Station stand, regardless of where they are, if they want to get a “foreigner-friendly” cab. And, with the law of unintended consequences, we’ll have even more taxi drivers refusing to pick up foreign-looking people — after all, their logic will go, “There’s already a taxi designated for them, so I don’t have to bother picking them up — they can wait for one.” As if foreign-friendly taxis could ever have the same coverage as regular taxis. See, “separate but equal” essentially never works because, as history demonstrates, it’s too hard to achieve.
If they really want to improve service, have the city assign somebody “foreign-looking” to hail taxis in Kyoto, and have him or her officially report misbehaving taxis to the Kyoto Tourist Agency (there is one, and I’ve done this very thing for at least one exclusionary Kyoto hotel; there were repercussions). And tell those taxis (like restaurants hear that they’re being reviewed by reviewers posing as regular customers) that there will be person(s) posing as an evaluator so you better not avoid picking up customers. Monitoring for consumer quality is quite normal, and if Japan is serious about omotenashi, it had better avoid making historical mistakes.
Table of Contents:
TIGHTENING THE NOOSE ON DOMESTIC DISSENT
1) ABC News Australia: Video on PM Abe’s secretive and ultra-conservative organization “Nippon Kaigi”
2) Sankei column by Okabe Noburu suggesting Japanese language tests for foreign correspondent visas, to weed out their “anti-Japan” biases
3) JT on corporate threats to student activists’ futures (SEALDs in particular); this is probably why they suddenly turned craven
4) O’Day in APJ: Japan Focus: “Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan”
5) Suraj Case: Tokyo High Court rules Immigration Bureau not responsible for killing him during deportation
6) ALTs (“outsourced” English teachers) earning slave wages (or less) working for Japanese public schools
7) JT: Sakanaka argues success of ‘Abenomics’ hinges on immigration policy (old article from May 2014; not much has changed)
8 ) JT: Japan’s public baths hope foreign tourists and residents will keep taps running; oh, the irony!
9) Nagoya anonymous neighborhood poster warning of crime that “may have been committed by foreigners”: vigilantism that should be officially discouraged, but no.
10) Tangent: McNeill in No.1 Shimbun: “Into the Valley of the Trolls”: Is ignoring them really an effective strategy?
TRYING TO HELP
11) Asahi: Survey: Discrimination encountered by 42% of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward; Asahi wants NJ resident opinions
12) Asahi and JT: Osaka adopts Japan’s first anti-hate-speech ordinance
13) HJ on Mainichi article on “Preventing Illegal Hires of Foreigners”; what about campaigns to prevent illegal ABUSES of foreign workers?
14) Ben Shearon on RetireJapan, helping people living in Japan learn more about personal finance, investing, readying for retirement
… and finally…
15) My Japan Times JBC 95, “Osaka’s move on hate speech should be just the first step” Feb. 1, 2016
Here’s an interesting column by one of our favorite newspapers, the Sankei Shinbun, famous for its anti-foreigner slants. Their columnist, Okabe Noburu, Senior Reporter for Diplomatic Issues, links a lack of language ability in foreign reporters to their tendency to hold “anti-Japan” biases. In a meandering column that brings in all sorts of anti-immigration slants itself, Okabe finally reaches the conclusion that maybe Japan might make language tests a condition for visas for foreign correspondents. That way they’ll have a “correct” view of Japan. Without any intended irony, it seems that Okabe, who seems to claim competency in English (enough to pick on ethnic accents in English), holds biased views himself despite.
Okabe: After the war, because English people don’t like manual labor, they brought in immigrants from former colonies, such as Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, but recently there has been a huge influx of people from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, so British society’s multiculturalization and multiethnicification has been proceeding. The immigrant problem is one of a history of empire. The English spoken by this variety of races has several “country accents” mixed in, so it’s hard to understand. Even English has been hybridized.
When I applied for my visa I had to take an English test. As language ability had not been demanded of me as an exchange student in the 1990s or during my half-year posting in Russia in the 1990s, this struck me as odd. However, after being dispatched, I came to the painful realization that understanding England meant first acquiring the language.
Before being posted, I was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. I was pained to see foreign reporters who couldn’t function in Japanese broadcasting their “anti-Japan” slants to the world. How about Japan making Japanese language ability a condition for foreign correspondents getting a visa? It might lead to a correct understanding of Japan.
McNeill: For most correspondents, it has become an unpleasant morning ritual: opening the laptop and wading through abusive tweets and mail. One of my recent articles, on Japan’s plunging press-freedom rankings provoked this response: “You’re anti-Japanese scum. Japan grows weaker because left-wing traitors here mix with the likes of you. Get out, moron.”
That’s mild compared to the slurs that percolate on the Twitter feeds of star reporters. Hiroko Tabuchi, former Tokyo correspondent for the New York Times, recalls a stream of invective laced with sexual and ethnic smears (see sidebar).Justin McCurry, Tokyo correspondent for the Guardian has been branded an “ultra-leftist North Korean spy” and repeatedly invited to “Fack off.”
Many reporters trudge the path taken by McCurry, from engagement to frustration, and resignation. “I have tried several different ways to deal with trolls, from snapping back to taking the time to dream up what, in my mind at least, is a rejoinder so withering that it will surely be the final word on the matter. It never is, of course.” Increasingly, he says, he reaches for the Twitter mute button: When trolls send an abusive message now “they are simply pissing into cyberspace.”
But McCurry says it’s important to understand the difference between legitimate criticism and trolling. “I’ve had my share of critical emails, tweets and Facebook postings,” he says. “When the point is made in a temperate manner and, more importantly, with a real name attached, I take in what has been said and, if necessary, respond. But I regard this as reader feedback, not trolling.”
Debito: One thing I might add, as a longtime veteran of being targeted by trolls, is that it’s worse for some of us than you mentioned above. For example, I have numerous online stalkers, who dedicate many electrons on cyberspace (even devote whole websites and hijack Biographies of Living People on Wikipedia) not only to misrepresent my arguments, but also to track my personal life and advocate that I come to harm. I’ve endured death treats for decades, and I can’t conclude that merely ignoring trolls and hoping they’ll go away is an effective answer either. After all, as propaganda masters know, if enough people claim something is true, it becomes true, as long as through constant repetition they gain control over the narrative.
I for one never visit these stalker sites, but lots of people who should know better do look at them without sufficient critique, and (as you noted above) assume that my not commenting about their false allegations is some kind of admission in their favor. What the stalkers actually get out of all this wasted energy truly escapes me…
Submitter PC: “This notification was in my mailbox this morning… It says that there were a number of burglaries in my neighborhood the other day & it is believed that the criminal is a foreigner and to be careful about taking precautions… My first thought: how do they know it was a foreigner?!? My second thought was: what kind of message does this give to the children who live here? Is it only me that thinks this smacks of discrimination?”
The flyer reads (translation by Debito):
!! URGENT MESSAGE !!
! BREAK-INS WHEN YOU’RE NOT HOME ! (akisuu)
!! BE ON CLOSE GUARD !!
Today (January 29, 2016), there were several break-ins at our apartment complex.
It is thought that the culprits were foreigners, and there is a danger of them returning to commit more crimes.
Anti-crime measures by each family are a matter of course, but it is also very important for residents to watch out for each other and ask around.
Be on guard at all times.
COMMENT: I’m not sure which is worse: The thefts themselves, the anonymous warning, or the accusation that foreigners are behind it. Especially given that theft is the most common crime in Japan by far and it is almost always committed by Japanese. Again, these sorts of vigilante moves without anyone taking responsibility for spreading rumors are precisely what stir up passions and target people (sometimes with fatal consequences). This should be discouraged by the authorities, but unfortunately it isn’t. In fact, it’s precisely the same tactics the Japanese police use (see Arudou “Embedded Racism” Ch. 7).
Here is an excellent bit of investigative journalism done by the Australians on an organization that the USG would do well to do their own research on (and the US media pay due attention to): PM Abe’s Nippon Kaigi, which threatens to undo just about everything The Occupation did to demilitarize Postwar Japan and defang its self-destructive ultranationalism. Why hasn’t anyone else done a good in-depth report on them, even after this report came out over a year ago? Because it’s probably not something people want to believe–that the belligerent elements of Prewar Japan are not only ascendant, they are already well-organized within Japan’s highest echelons of government. A transcript follows, but I strongly recommend people click on the link and watch the video at the ABC News Australia Lateline program to get the full effect. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4364818.htm
LATELINE: It’s been described as one of the most influential political organisations in Japan. Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, has an impressive list of members and advisors, including the Prime Minister and much of his cabinet. But very little is known about this right-wing nationalist lobby group which aims to reshape Japanese politics and policies and even change the Constitution. It operates mostly out of the public eye, but North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney gained rare access to file this exclusive story for Lateline.
This post deals with Government-sponsored slave wages (or worse) for NJ educators within the Japanese public school system through the cost-cutting “Assistant Language Teachers” (ALTs) “outsourcing” system–a backdoor way for local governments to get cheaper JETs than having to go through the national government’s JET Programme (where wages and work conditions are more fixed at a higher standard). The cost-cutting for the ALTs has gotten to the point (inevitably) where the ALTs are no longer being paid a living wage. Here’s the math in video form, courtesy of the Fukuoka General Union:
CAPTION: This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food and nothing else. They just can’t survive on this low wage.
As further background to the ALT issue, here is a Japan Times Letter to the Editor by Chris Clancy:
Ben Shearon: I’ve been living in Japan for fifteen and a half years working as an English teacher. A few years ago I became interested in personal finance, and in December 2013 I started a website called RetireJapan. RetireJapan exists in order to help people living in Japan learn more about personal finance, investing, and getting ready for retirement in English.
Personal finance can seem complex and intimidating, and there are a lot of companies that would love to take your money. The only way to make good choices is to learn as much as you can. RetireJapan includes information about Japan-specific resources, including NISA tax-sheltered investing accounts, kyoshutsu nenkin ‘J401k’ accounts, and the national pension scheme, as well as more general personal finance topics such as how to find money to save and what to do with it once you have some. As well as the website and blog I also conduct seminars and workshops around Japan. Check out the site and get in touch if you would like me to speak to your group. You can also send me questions via the site: http://www.retirejapan.info/blog/blog-101
In yet another example of how Japan’s economy is not going to save itself unless it allows in and unlocks the potential of its foreign residents, here we have the flashpoint issue for “Japanese Only” signposted exclusionism: public baths (sento or onsen). As per the Otaru Onsens Case (which has inspired two books), we had people who did not “look Japanese” (including native-born and naturalized Japanese citizens) being refused by xenophobic and racist bathhouse managers just because they could (there is no law against it in Japan).
Now, according to the Japan Times below (in a woefully under-researched article), the bathhouse industry is reporting that they are in serious financial trouble (examples of this were apparent long ago: here’s one in Wakkanai, Hokkaido that refused “foreigners” until the day it went bankrupt). And now they want to attract foreign tourists. It’s a great metaphor for Japan’s lack of an immigration policy in general: Take their money (as tourists or temporary laborers), but don’t change the rules so that they are protected against wanton discrimination from the locals. It’s acceptance with a big, big asterisk.
Admittedly, this is another step in the right direction. But it’s one that should have been done decades ago (when we suggested that bathhouse rules simply be explained with multilingual signs; duh). But alas, there’s no outlawing the racists in Japan, so this is one consequence.
Asahi: Around 42.3 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward “often” or “sometimes” feel discriminated against by Japanese people, particularly during searches for a home, a survey showed. In comparison, 47.2 percent of non-Japanese in the ward said they “never” or “not too often” experience such discrimination, according to the survey by the Shinjuku Ward government.
The situation most cited for prejudice or discrimination against foreign residents was “when they were searching for a place to live,” at 51.9 percent, followed by “when they were working,” at 33.2 percent, and “when they were going through procedures at a public agency,” at 25.6 percent.
COMMENT: Note that the Asahi is also asking for feedback from NJ readers: “The Asahi Shimbun is also seeking opinions from foreign residents about life in Japanese communities at the AJW website. Please send in your contributions in English to email@example.com”. Please do so. Many of you are already, like it or not, Visible Minorities. Now be Visible Residents.
On Jan. 15, the Osaka Prefectural Assembly passed the first local ordinance against hate speech in Japan. JBC sees this as a step in the right direction.
Until now, there was no way to define what “hate speech” was, let alone take any measures against it. Defining a problem is fundamental to finding a solution.
Moreover, passing an ordinance makes a general statement to society that the existence of hate speech is not only undeniable but also impermissible. This matters, given Japan’s high tolerance for racist outbursts from public officials, and clear cases of bullying and intimidation that have otherwise been protected under “freedom of speech” (genron no jiyuu). Osaka has made it clearer that there is a limit to what you can say about groups of people in public.
However, this still isn’t quite at the stage where Osaka can kvell. There are no criminal or financial penalties for haters. An earlier version of the ordinance offered victims financial assistance to take their case to court, but that was cut to get it passed. Also, an adjudicating committee (shinsa-kai) can basically only “name and shame” haters by warning and publicizing them on a government website — in other words, it can officially frown upon them.
Even the act of creating a law against hate speech has invited criticism for opening up potential avenues to policymaker abuse. They have a point: tampering with freedom of speech invites fears, quite reasonably, about slippery slopes to censorship. So let’s address the niggling question right now: Should there ever be limits put on what you can say? JBC argues yes…
Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/01/31/issues/osakas-move-hate-speech-just-first-step/
O’Day: SEALDs is suggesting that students can use some of the freedom that their positioning affords for political engagement, instead of channeling it into more traditional activities like sports clubs and social circles, that tend to dominate students’ leisure time. Yet SEALDs is also proposing something more significant than a reallocation of students’ time—they are also attempting to construct a different kind of political identity among college students. Another SEALDs member explained it this way:
“Our movement is not our life; it is a part of our life not our whole life. I went to class yesterday as usual, and we have rappers, people who do music, people who just study, people who are trying to be teachers, we have all kinds of people, and our movement is a part of what we do in our life but not our whole life. If you focus on the movement and movement only, you will become narrow.”
What this SEALDs member is suggesting is a reconfiguration of what constitutes student political identity. SEALDs is essentially showing other students that it is acceptable to seriously engage political ideas, without become radical, or having to completely devote themselves to the cause. SEALDs is challenging an all-or-nothing orientation to politics that tends to cleave most students into taking either an apolitical stance, or fully committing to a cause that will likely marginalize them. Instead, SEALDs is coming up the middle with a proposition that you can be a regular student, have conventional ambitions, aspire to a middleclass life, and still carve out a piece of yourself that is informed and engaged with political issues. If this proposition is hardly radical, it is currently resonating with a broad spectrum of students.
JT: Opposition to the government’s aggressive push to loosen restrictions on the use of military force is being heard from many corners. The beacon for students opposing the bills has been the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs. Under the slogan of protecting “freedom, peace and democracy,” these students have loudly voiced their opposition to the government’s push for militarization at protests around the country.
SEALDs have put paid to two tired tropes that have been regularly trotted out over the years about Japan’s students: first, that they have no interest in politics, and second, that student social movements here are a thing of the past. Inspired by SEALDs, even high schoolers and mothers who had never before engaged in social activism have taken to the streets to demand that our country commit to never again waging war, and that our youths are never asked to kill those of other countries. Jumping on the bandwagon have been the elderly, under the collective banner of OLDs, and even the middle-aged, or MIDDLEs.
This resolute, relentless movement has already begun to have a clear impact on our society. The recent drop in support for the Abe government is at least in part a result of grass-roots movements such as SEALDs. One Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House tweeted: “SEALDs members just don’t want to go off to war, i.e., their actions are based on extreme selfishness.” […]
For politicians chomping at the bit to deploy Japan’s forces overseas, SEALDs are apparently quite an irritant. An independent member of the Yukuhashi city assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture also stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he riffed on a comment by one SEALDs member that “we tremble at the thought of going to war.” Shinya Kotsubo parodied it on his blog on July 26, titling his article “SEALDs members should tremble at the thought that they’ll never get a job.” He explained further, writing, “You are demonstrating now while you’re students, so don’t come crying when no one will hire you later on.”
In a reversal, the Tokyo High Court determined Monday that the government was not responsible for the 2010 death of a Ghanaian alledgedly subjected to excessive force by immigration authorities while being deported. In overturning a lower court’s ruling, presiding Judge Izumi Takizawa said the level of physical force used by officials to restrain Abubakar Awudu Suraj, who was 45 years old at the time of his death, was “not illegal” and even “necessary.” “Immigration authorities’ effort to subdue him was necessary to ensure his deportation would go smoothly,” Takizawa said. “They are not culpable” for his death, the judge concluded.
COMMENT: This case has become a farce. The Tokyo High Court has just ruled that nobody is responsible for killing him. In the ultimate blaming of the victim, the judge, named Takizawa Izumi, essentially ruled it all an issue of heart failure. Just an accident. It was even, quote, “necessary.” Despite the Japan Times calling his death “brutal” back in 2011. Clearly human life is cheap if it’s foreign in a Japanese Gaijin Tank. Once again, NJ in Japan can be killed with impunity (more in “Embedded Racism”, Chapter Six).
ILLEGAL EMPLOYMENT OF FOREIGNERS
Demanding Prevention with Handbills
Mainichi Shinbun, December 8, 2015 (translation by HJ)
Hoping to prevent illegal employment of foreigners and illegal foreign residency, on December 7th the Akabane police department held a flyer-distribution campaign around JR Akabane station, distributing handbills, which urge the proper hiring of foreigners, to restaurant owners and area residents. Other than police officials, city officials and Tokyo immigration bureau officals also participated, for a total of about 20 participants. They also distributed a ‘Foreign Laborers’ Employment Manual,’ created by the city, and introduced the penal regulations for business owners who knowingly employed illegal foreign laborers. A police official stated that in light of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, more foreigners are expected to be visiting Japan, so ‘from here on out we want to regularly urge caution’ [in regards to illegal foreign residency/employment].
Comment by HJ: What I noticed particularly is the lack of any effort to cite any statistics that might justify this blatantly fear-mongering use of taxpayer money. No citation of illegal foreign employment statistics, or what harm such infractions might meaningfully bring on society, or really any attempt to establish any reason for this “campaign” at all. It’s as if there’s no need at all to demonstrate why this behavior is necessary or what occasioned it in the first place. We want to urge caution about illegal employment practices…because why? They’re on the rise? They cost taxpayers lots of money last year? There’s a lack of procedural knowledge? Where’s the handbilling to remind employers not to abuse their foreign employees? Haven’t we already seen many instances where that factually does occur? Where’s the “regular cautioning” about that? The whole thing is just completely disgusting.
Good news. Japan finally has something on the books that deals with hate speech in Japan, giving it definition and scorn: A local ordinance (jourei) in Osaka. The bad news is that this ordinance does not criminalize or penalize the perpetrator, or give much support to the victim. As Eric Johnston notes below, there are no fines for haters, insufficient help for victims, and little more than an official frowning-at (a “naming and shaming”) of people who are probably beyond shame.
However, one bright side is that naming and shaming is precisely what Debito.org does to racist exclusionary “Japanese Only” businesses (that is basically all Debito.org can do, of course). The reason why this is a source of brightness is that our naming and shaming has occasioned criticism from apologists for being “un-Japanese” in approach. This ordinance now officially makes the approach Japanized. So there.
And given that the last attempt to do something like this, a decade ago, ended in dismal failure (where anti-discrimination legislation in Tottori was passed and then UNpassed), I have the feeling that this time the legislation will stick. It’s a step in the right direction, and Debito.org salutes Osaka for finally getting something on the books.
As Debito.org celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year in March, I want to thank Readers for all of their support throughout the decades. The research and archiving done here has helped thousands of people and enabled me to create books, including my recent magnum opus, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Press / Rowman & Littlefield, 2015/2016)
This year, and I would like to do something unprecedented: Launch a 20th Anniversary Fundraising Drive.
Naturally, there are costs of hosting and safeguarding against online elements who would sooner see Debito.org taken down (they succeeded in doing so once). There are also projects I would like to support if possible, and having funds available under the aegis of Debito.org would be beneficial for supporting this website further. So if over the years you have found the thousands of documents and information sites on Debito.org helpful, please consider giving something back for all the volunteer work. Donations by Paypal accepted. Please remit to firstname.lastname@example.org at Paypal, and please indicate in a message there whether or not you would like your gift acknowledged on Debito.org (and if so, using what moniker). Thank you all again for reading and supporting Debito.org!
Here’s an article that is about a year and a half old, but it’s remarkable how much the landscape of the debate on immigration into Japan has not changed since. We have immigration proponent Sakanaka Hidenori (of whom I am a fan: I cite him extensively in book “Embedded Racism”, and deal with the arguments below in Ch. 10) meeting with people who are only concerned about money, and arguing that immigration is also important for them to keep their fix. Meanwhile, from a political standpoint, it is clear in the article below that Abe and his power elite aren’t really going to budge on the issue either: To them, foreign residents are merely temporary workers, who should come here and contribute but not expect a stake in their investments into this society. Not really news, I guess, but the issue is laid out so nakedly clear here, especially in the last half of the article.:
JT: “What are immigrants? The U.S. is a country of immigrants who came from all around the world and formed the (United States). Many people have come to the country and become part of it. We won’t adopt a policy like that,” Abe said on a TV program aired April 20,  “On the other hand, it is definitely true that Japan’s population will keep shrinking and Japan will see a labor shortage in various production fields,” Abe said, adding he will consider easing regulations on issuing three- to five-year visas. “It’s not an immigrant policy. We’d like them to work and raise incomes for a limited period of time, and then return home,” Abe said.
Among the core supporters of LDP lawmakers, including Abe himself, are nationalistic voters opposed to welcoming large numbers of unskilled foreign laborers, who are now barred from Japan. They fear that bringing in such people would increase the crime rate and deprive Japanese of job opportunities in the still-sluggish economy. This concern seems to be shared by a majority of Japanese. According to a poll by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun in April, while 74 percent of the 1,512 polled said they believe population decline will hurt Japan’s economy and contribute to its decline, 54 percent said they opposed bringing in more foreigners versus 37 percent who backed the idea.
Table of Contents:
1) Asahi: Immigration Bureau inundated with e-mails “snitching on” Korean nationals, suspends program after nearly 12 years of snitching
2) Asahi: Justice Ministry issues first-ever hate speech advisory to Sakurai Makoto, ex-leader of xenophobic Zaitokukai group
3) JT on Japan’s Brave Blossoms rugby team: “Imagining a Japan that thinks beyond blood and binary distinctions”
NOT SO GOOD
4) Saitama Pref. Kawaguchi City Assemblyman Noguchi Hiroaki (LDP): “We have more foreigners registered than dogs,” querying about potential NJ tax dodgers
5) JT: Anti-war student organization SEALDs to disband after Upper House poll in 2016
… and finally …
6) The Year in Quotes: “Much jaw-jaw about war-war” (2015 Roundup), Foreign Element column, Dec. 23, 2015
2015 was another year of a few steps forward but many steps back in terms of human rights in Japan. The progressive grass roots consolidated their base and found more of a voice in public, while conservatives at the top pressed on with their agenda of turning the clock back to a past they continue to misrepresent. Here are the top 10 human rights issues of the year as they affected non-Japanese residents:
10) NHK ruling swats ‘flyjin’ myth
In November, the Tokyo District Court ordered NHK to pay ¥5.14 million to staffer Emmanuelle Bodin, voiding the public broadcaster’s decision to terminate her contract for fleeing Japan in March 2011. The court stated: “Given the circumstances under which the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima No. 1 plant’s nuclear accident took place, it is absolutely impossible to criticize as irresponsible her decision to evacuate abroad to protect her life,” and that NHK “cannot contractually obligate people to show such excessive allegiance” to the company.
This ruling legally reaffirmed the right of employees to flee if they feel the need to protect themselves. So much for the “flyjin” myth and all the opprobrium heaped upon non-Japanese specifically for allegedly deserting their posts…
Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/01/03/issues/battles-history-media-message-scar-2015/
Happy New Year 2016 to all Debito.org Readers and their families. I wish you all health and happiness as we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Debito.org this year, and continue onwards to discuss life and human rights in Japan.
One very pleasant news that happened at the end of last year was Dr. Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, mentioning “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” as one of his “Recommended Readings” in The Japan Times. Thank you.
That book would not have come about without Debito.org cataloging events and issues in real time over the decades, and a good chunk of that research was done with the assistance of people reading and writing for Debito.org. Thank you all very much for helping me to write my magnum opus.
And just to tell you: my publisher has kept me appraised in real time of the sales, and it is selling far better than anticipated (and it’s about to be released in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America). I hope you will ask your library to get a copy.
Hello Readers of the Debito.org Blog. I created this blog in 2006 (as an offshoot of the Debito.org Web Archive, established 1996) not only as an information source, but also as a potential forum for readers to comment upon issues raised. I read every comment on this blog and consider them all for approval. Not all of them will make it through (in fact, about a quarter don’t, on both sides of the political fence). This page outlines the basic policy guidelines I use.
Let’s keep the good news coming, on the heels of the suspension of the anti-foreigner government online “snitch sites”. Anti-Korean hate group Zaitokukai’s activities have been singled out for official frowning-at for some time now, including being put on the National Police Agency watch list, being publicly berated by the Osaka Mayor, and losing big in court–setting a good anti-defamation precedent recognizing hate speech as an illegal form of racial discrimination.
Now the “former leader” of Zaitokukai, Sakurai Makoto, has been issued Japan’s first ministerial warning that his activities are unlawful and violate human rights. And that individuals (not just groups) are also covered against hate speech. Good. But let’s take into account the limitations of this “advisory”. One is that it has no legal force (it’s basically, again, an official frowning-at). The other is that it can only claim this is unlawful, not illegal, because even after twenty years of signing the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Japan still has no laws against racial discrimination. And, as noted below, the GOJ declined to pass any laws against hate speech in 2015. Thus, the debate in Japan can only focus on abstract issues of victim reaction such as “dignity” and “personal agony”, which are much harder to proactively enforce in a legalistic manner. All the GOJ can do is run on fumes and frown–not actually arrest these extremists for encouraging violence against an entire ethnicity within Japan, or even stop the police for selectively keeping order in favor of the rightists.
Asahi: The Justice Ministry for the first time issued a hate speech advisory, warning the former leader of a group against ethnic Koreans on Dec. 22 that its activities are unlawful and violate human rights. The advisory was issued to Makoto Sakurai, former chairman of Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for ethnic Korean residents in Japan). The group is more commonly known as Zaitokukai, and it has gained international attention for blaring discriminatory and menacing taunts at its street rallies in ethnic Korean neighborhoods. Although the advisory does not carry legal force, the ministry deemed Zaitokukai’s actions to be unlawful. The advisory also recognized individuals as victims of hate speech for the first time.
Asahi: Baffled by a surge of e-mails snitching on resident Koreans as “illegal aliens,” the Immigration Bureau shut down its tipster program on people overstaying their visas and contacted the police for assistance. “This is a highly regrettable situation,” said an official with the bureau’s general affairs division. “Sending e-mails to slander foreigners does not meet the purpose of the system to inform on illegal residents.”
The bureau, an arm of the Justice Ministry, said that since May it had received more than three times as many e-mails informing on supposed illegal residents than in fiscal 2014. It attributed the surge to misinformation that spread on the Internet claiming Korean nationals would become illegal aliens as of July 9.
The Immigration Bureau adopted the tipster system in 2004 to crack down on people overstaying their visas. It received 460 or so e-mails on a monthly average on the topic last fiscal year. But in May of this year, the figure jumped to 1,821, with 1,562 in June. The number of e-mails received in July through September is still being tallied, but could exceed 10,000, according to the official.
Comment: Good news. After the Immigration Bureau instituted this easily-abusable program of “snitch sites”, where the general public can anonymously rat on “foreigners” for any reason whatsoever, it has finally been suspended (not abolished) after people really began abusing it. Pity it only took nearly twelve years (it was instituted on February 16, 2004) before Immigration realized it. Yet another example of callous disregard by the bureaucrats towards the very people they are charged to serve.
I love year-end roundups, and this year I was given the privilege of compiling the year in quotes. Fuller version follows with more quotes that didn’t make the cut and links to sources:
JT: The past year has seen a number of tensions and tugs-of-war, as conservatives promoted past glories and preservation of the status quo while liberals lobbied for unprecedented levels of tolerance. This year’s Community quotes of the year column will break with tradition by not giving a guided tour of the year through quotations, but rather letting the words stand alone as capsule testaments to the zeitgeist. Quotes follow:
“I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours. In a world of intense international engagements, few visits are truly historic or change the course of a relationship. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, is one.”
— Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s December trip to India, where agreements were reached on infrastructure investment (including a much-feted high-speed train), nuclear energy cooperation, classified intelligence sharing and military hardware sales to deter China from encroaching upon the Indian Ocean.
“Since taking office, I’ve worked to rebalance American foreign policy to ensure that we’re playing a larger and lasting role in the Asia Pacific — a policy grounded in our treaty alliances, including our treaty with Japan. And I’m grateful to Shinzo for his deep commitment to that alliance. He is pursuing a vision of Japan where the Japanese economy is reinvigorated and where Japan makes greater contributions to security and peace in the region and around the world.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference marking Abe’s visit to the United States in April, during which he became the first Japanese leader to address both houses of Congress.
“If Japan gets attacked, we have to immediately go to their aid. If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us.”
— Donald Trump, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, on the stump.