J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets

Any good organization wanting public approval (or in this case, approval from its geopolitical “friends”) does outreach. And this very professional online magazine issued yesterday from the Abe Administration, called “We are Tomodachi”, is worth an introduction to Debito.org Readers. It offers fascinating insights into what the PM Abe Administration is thinking (or trying to convince you it is thinking — something few branches of Japan’s governmental organs do in any convincing detail even for its citizens). As The Economist (London) recently noted, Abe is “Japan’s most purposeful prime minister for many years”, and herein many of Abe’s purposes are clearly argued in well-proofed English, albeit in all their stiff transparency. Here’s the Table of Contents: […]

Part travel guide, part geopolitical gaijin handling, part cultural screed (cue those shakuhachis!), “We Are Tomodachi” magazine is a great read to deconstruct how the Abe Administration is trying to march the Post-Bubble discourse on Japan back into the first-generation Postwar discourse. Ah, those were the days, when Japan’s elites had near-total control over Japan’s image in the world, and so few outsiders had any understanding (or or had experienced Japan in great depth) that they would ever be taken seriously by anyone who wasn’t a “real Japanese” (moreover, the handful of NJ who did know something could be co-opted as anointed cultural emissaries; they’re still trying to do it within this very magazine). No, since then millions of people have since experienced Japan beyond the GOJ boilerplate, have lived and invested their lives in Japan, and have learned the Japanese language. So the dialogue is not so easily controlled by the elites anymore. (PM Abe’s Gaijin Handlers: If you’re dropping in on Debito.org again, Yokoso and enjoy our Omotenashi!)

So, Gaijin Handlers, here’s a lesson on what to avoid next time: What irritates people like us who know better is your cultivated mysticism in elite conversations about anything cultural in Japan. Consider this example of bogus social science (depicted as a “secret”) from page 72:

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“The Japanese have a reputation for being taciturn and hard to communicate with. Probably the most difficult part of Japanese communication for people from other countries is the way people here converse wordlessly. When people are standing silently at some natural attraction, they’re using their five senses to feel nature and commune with it. So if you notice some quiet Japanese in such a spot, you might try joining them in their silence, taking in everything around you with all your senses: light, wind, sky, clouds, sounds, smells. Because even when nobody is talking, there is plenty of communication going on in Japan.”
=============================

This is a juicy claim for deconstruction under a number of genres of social science. The biggest confusion you’re going to cause in NJ tourists and newbies will come when they confront the amount of noise at many a tourist trap (especially from those trying to “nigiyaka” the place up with their megaphoned music), and wonder how they’re supposed to use all their five senses like the mystical Japanese apparently do. Logically, this also means the purported J-silence around awkward conversations could be due to the inscrutably “shy” Japanese trying to take NJ in with all their five senses too (I wonder what happens when they get to “Smell”, “Touch”, or “Taste”?). What rubbishy analytical tools. And it’s one reason why so many people (Japanese and NJ) go nuts in Japan, because they’re constantly told one thing yet experience another.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 12, 2014

Table of Contents:

MORE RACIALIZED NASTINESS

1) “Japanese Only” banner in Saitama Stadium at Urawa Reds soccer game; yet media minces words about the inherent racism behind it
2) Immigration Bureau: Points System visa and visual images of who might be qualified to apply (mostly White people; melanin need not apply)
3) SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots
4) YouTube: Police NJ Passport Checkpoint at Shibuya March 3, 2014 (targeted NJ does not comply)
5) Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed

MORE RACIALIZED SILLINESS

6) ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!
7) The consequent Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 72: “Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad”, Jan 25, 2014
8 ) Discussion: How about this ad by COCO’s English Juku, learning English to get a competitive advantage over foreign rivals?
9) Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave”
10) Papa John’s Pizza NY racism case 2012: “Lady chinky eyes” receipt gets employee fired. A case-study template

AS LIFE CONTINUES TO DRAIN OUT OF THE SYSTEM

11) Bloomberg column: “A rebuke to Japanese nationalism”, gets it about right
12) Fun facts #18: More than 10% of all homes in Japan are vacant, will be nearly a quarter by 2028
13) Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!
14) NHK World: Tokyo Court orders Tokyo Metro Govt to compensate Muslim NJ for breach of privacy after NPA document online leaks
(but rules that police spying on NJ is permitted)

… and finally…

15) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 71 January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”

Amazing non-news: Kyodo: “Tokyo bathhouses look to tap foreigners but ensure they behave”

In an amazing bit of non-news completely devoid of historical context, some cub reporter at Kyodo reports that Tokyo bathhouses are taking steps to put up posters to explain Japanese bathing rules to foreigners!! To “ensure they behave” (those rapscallions!) and “avoid embarrassments” (such as being turned away at the door before they have the chance to display any deviant behavior?). Even though these types of posters have been up around Japanese bathing facilities for at least a decade (Introduction: Book JAPANESE ONLY) — thanks in part to the landmark Otaru Onsens Case (which was not even mentioned in the article as background information). Again, it’s not news. It’s in fact recycling news from 2010.

This is another reason that Japan’s obsession with hosting international events (such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) is kinda dumb — the domestic media has to reinforce the “Island Society” narrative by manufacturing yet another round of silly navel-gazing articles about how extraordinarily difficult it is for apparently insular Japan to cope with visitors from the outside world. At least this time the subjects are not hostilely treating all “foreigners” on sight as potential “hooligans” (World Cup 2002) or “terrorists” (2008 Hokkaido G8 Summit), or as the source of discomfort for hotel managers (such as in pre-Fukushima Fukushima Prefecture and other hotel surveys).

Plus these bathhouses are recognizing NJ as an economic force that might help them survive. As opposed to the even more stupid behavior by, for example, Yuransen Onsen in Wakkanai, which booted out foreigners (okay, consigned them to an unlawful unisex separate “Gaijin Bath” at six times the price) until it finally went bankrupt anyway due to lack of customers. Good. But again, Kyodo, do some research.

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources

Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014:

“The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″
By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages

Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:

6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia
5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
4. Visa regimes get a rethink
3. Hate speech turns murderous
2. LDP holds both Diet chambers
1. The state secrets law

Bubbling under:
11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat.
10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.
9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.
8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability.
7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests

UN News: “Independent UN experts seriously concerned about Japan’s Special Secrets Bill” Fine, but too late.

UN News: Two independent United Nations human rights experts today expressed serious concern about a Government-sponsored draft bill in Japan that would decide what constitutes a State secret.

The Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on the right to health requested further information from the Japanese authorities on the draft law and voiced their concerns regarding its compliance with human rights standards…

“Transparency is a core requirement for democratic governance,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue. “The draft bill not only appears to establish very broad and vague grounds for secrecy but also include serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets.”

According to reports, information related to defence, diplomacy, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism will all be classified as a state secret, while ministers could decide what information to keep from the public.

COMMENT: The snowball is rolling and a version of this legislation, even if “watered down” (or perhaps not), will probably be rammed through into law, since both houses of Parliament are in the hands of ultraconservative parties without a viable opposition party anymore. Why wasn’t this seen coming down the pike in the first place before it got to this stage? The warning signs were all there from last December’s election (before that, even, if you read PM Abe’s manifestoes about his “beautiful country”) about Japan’s rightward swing. This consolidation of information control has always been part and parcel of state control — no surprises, especially in Japan. So this public reaction of both naiatsu and gaiatsu is too little, too late. Get ready for the politicized criminalization of public disclosure.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 68 Oct 1 2013: “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right”

Blame news cycles, but I’m coming in late to the discussion on Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. Sorry. The most poignant stuff has already been said, but I would add these thoughts.

Probably unsurprisingly, I was not a supporter of Tokyo’s candidacy. Part of it is because I have a hard time enjoying events where individuals are reduced to national representatives, saddled with the pressure to prove an apparent geopolitical superiority through gold medal tallies. Guess I’m just grouchy about international sports.

That said, this time around, the wheeling and dealing at the International Olympic Committee has been particularly distasteful. Unlike the IOC, I can’t forget Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose’s denigration of fellow candidate city Istanbul for being “Islamic” (conveniently playing on widespread Western fears of a religion and linking it to social instability). This was especially ironic given rising xenophobia in Japan, where attendees at right-wing rallies have even called for the killing of ethnic Koreans who have lived in and contributed to Japan for generations.

Nor can I pretend to ignore the risk of exposing people to an ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. Even if you think the science is still unclear on the health effects of radiation in Tohoku, what’s not in doubt is that there will be incredible amounts of pork sunk into white-elephant projects in Japan’s metropole while thousands of people still languish in northern Japan, homeless and dispossessed. When so much work is incomplete elsewhere, this is neither the time nor place for bread and circuses.

All of this has been said elsewhere, and more eloquently. But for JBC, the most important reason why the Olympics should not come to Japan is because, as I have argued before, Japan as a government or society is not mature enough to handle huge international events…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 1, 2013

Table of Contents:
TOKYO GETS 2020 OLYMPICS
1) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 68 Oct 1 2013 (yes, today) on what I think about that: “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right” (excerpt and link to article)
2) Is Japan ready for Olympics? Kyodo: Hokkaido bathhouse refuses entry to Maori visiting scholar due to traditional tattoos
3) Zakzak: Counterdemos against hate speech in Japan, now supported by Olympic fever

… and finally…
4) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 67 Sept 10 2013 “If you’re jozu and you know it, hold your ground”

Tokyo wins Olympics for 2020. What do you think about that?

Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympics was successful over Madrid’s and Istanbul’s, it was announced earlier today. In lieu of any comments from me (you can probably anticipate that Debito.org did not support Tokyo’s bid, and not least because Tokyo Governor Inose resorted to inappropriate comments about other candidates in public), I’ll just open up this blog entry for discussion. Commenters are welcome to also include articles that present cogent arguments pro and con, and more to the point how Japan could get the Games despite an ongoing nuclear crisis (all that CNN below can speculate were detractors for the other candidates was a neighboring conflict in Syria and continuing economic malaise in Spain — something Japan has plenty of experience with too). Read on:

CNN: Tokyo has been chosen by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2020 Summer Games. In voting Saturday in Buenos Aires, the committee picked Tokyo over the two other contenders, Madrid and Istanbul… Japan’s bid for 2020 billed the city as the safe choice — despite radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally made a presentation to the committee and promised an effective cleanup…

Istanbul would have been “a more emotional choice,” Hula said. But its huge bid would have been needed to fund infrastructure improvements, including modernization of its transportation system. Turkey’s border with Syria also might have troubled some committee members, he said…

Madrid, like Tokyo, was a repeat bidder — making its third consecutive case for the Games, one that was little changed from previous attempts, Hula said.The Spaniards’ $2 billion bid said they had little need for new infrastructure, he said. And they have ample sports experience, having hosted a number of other high-profile, international events. But the country’s economic plight remained a drawback, with one out of four adults unemployed. Though Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted that rate is improving, “the fact is that most reasonable, sensible economists think unemployment is going to linger at a high level for years to come,” Hula said.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 66: “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ”, Aug 5, 2013

Japan Times: Spare a thought for Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first European-born naturalized immigrant parliamentarian. He was voted out in last month’s House of Councilors election.

You might think I’d call it tragic. No. It was a comeuppance.

It needn’t have turned out this way. Squeaking into a seat by default in 2001, Tsurunen was later reelected in 2007 with a reaffirming mandate of 242,740 proportional representation votes, sixth in his party. Last month, however, he lost badly, coming in 12th with only 82,858.

For a man who could have demonstrated what immigrants (particularly our visible minorities) can do in Japan, it was an ignominious exit — so unremarkable that the Asahi Shimbun didn’t even report it among 63 “noteworthy” campaigns.

However, Tsurunen offers lessons in microcosm for his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and on why Japan’s left wing was so spectacularly trounced in the last two elections…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 5, 2013

Table of Contents:
PRELUDE
1) Scholar Morris-Suzuki on the rebranding of PM Abe for foreign consumption, contrasted with his “reverse postwar political reforms” goals set out in his manifesto
2) Anti-Korean Upper House candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki wants Japan closed to immigrants and rearm it with nukes

ELECTION REPORT
3) 2013 Election Brief: The rout of Japan’s Left is complete with a crushing LDP Upper House Victory
4) Assessing outgoing MP Tsurunen Marutei’s tenure in the Diet: Disappointing

AFTERMATH
5) Japan Focus: “Japan’s Democracy at Risk: LDP’s 10 Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change” by Lawrence Repeta (UPDATED with Aso’s Nazi admiration gaffe)
6) Japan Times: Politicians silent on curbing hate speech, and post-election I see no pressure to do so
7) WSJ: Abenomics’ Missing “Third Arrow: The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem”
8 ) Latest addition to Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments: “Japanese Speaker Only” Okinawa Moromisato Karaoke Maimu

…and finally…
9) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 65, “Police ‘foreign crime wave’ falsehoods fuel racism”, July 8, 2013

Latest addition to Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments: “Japanese Speaker Only” Okinawa Moromisato Karaoke Maimu

The Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments, an information site constructed by Debito.org and its supporters to catalog the spread of “Japanese Only” establishments nationwide, has added yet another karaoke parlor to its collection. As per the entry:
http://www.debito.org/roguesgallery.html#Uruma

Okinawa City Moromizato (Okinawa Pref)
Karaoke Hall Maimu
(沖縄市諸見里1−1−2 Ph (098) 931-9114、カラオケの店舗)
Website: http://www.top-music.co.jp/sub_30.html (which does not mention their exclusionary rules)

SIGN: “THIS PLACE IS ONLY FOR JAPANESE SPEAKER!”

Submitter Justin rightly notes: “Shop is located near Kadena US Air Force base. While these signs are a step up from completely discriminating against all NJ, it is ridiculous that they can get a sign saying people who can’t speak Japanese are not admitted, but can’t have someone translate a paper listing the ‘rules and regulations of the shop’ in English.”

Quite. Plenty of hotels (especially the pre-disaster Fukushima ones) use the same excuse. And Maimu’s English translation is quite good, so this “language barrier” feels more like an excuse just to exclude like the ones proffered by Onsen Yunohana back in 2001.

The Rogues’ Gallery Moderator also wonders how Maimu will be testing customers’ language ability, what the sufficient linguistic thresholds are to “pass”, and if it will be only be enforced on people who “look foreign”. Also, since their website also says children are welcome (and has no rules to bar deaf or blind people), I wonder if Maimu is as worried about potential communication problems during emergencies with them? No, I bet it’s just “foreigners” that cause “inconvenience to our customers”.

Another one duly recorded. Any more places like this out there, Debito.org Readers? Submissions welcome as per the parameters up at the Rogues’ Gallery

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013

Table of Contents:

DISINGENUOUSNESS, AS USUAL
1) NYT Editorial: Japan’s “Unnecessary Nationalism”, re the trappings of GOJ’s rightward swing
2) BBC, Yomiuri etc.: LDP now pushing revisionistic, jingoistic and militaristic agenda from above and below, with “Return of Sovereignty Day”, booths at Niconico Douga geek festival
3) JDP: Abe criticizes rise of hate speech in Japan, calls it “dishonorable” and counter to “The Japanese Way of thinking”. My, how disingenuous.
4) NYT: Violating IOC rules, Tokyo Gov Inose bad-mouths other 2020 Olympic bidders, particularly Istanbul for being “Islamic”
5) Tangent on Sexual Minorities: Gay marriage trends worldwide, and how Japan’s Douseiaisha do it: Donald Keene’s marriage by Koseki adoption

MORE STRAWS FOR THE CAMEL’S BACK
6) JT: Japan’s minimum retirement age to increase to 65 by 2025
7) Japan Times: “Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed”, and how NJ tie themselves in mental knots
8 ) RocketNews: Automatic PR Status awarded to grads of Kyoto universities? Positive proposal by Kyoto Governor that will come to naught
9) Harbingers of further insularity: J international marriages way down, as are J students studying abroad
10) TV Tokyo bangumi: “Why did you come to Japan?” interviews NJ arrivals at Narita, reifies mainstream media discourse of NJ as tourists, not residents
11) Discussion: “Bignose” on Cute “Kobito-zukan” comic characters for kids and NJ control fantasies?

… and finally…
12) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 62, Apr 2, 2013: “Tweak the immigration debate and demand an upgrade to denizen class”

NYT: Violating IOC rules, Tokyo Gov Inose bad-mouths other 2020 Olympic bidders, particularly Istanbul for being “Islamic”

We’ve talked about Tokyo’s Olympic bids for 2016 and 2020 before on Debito.org (I see them as basically a vanity project for Japan’s elite ruling class to convince themselves that the outside world is still paying attention to them, especially after successful bids in Beijing 2008 and Pyeongchang (South Korea) 2018). But here’s an interesting development: According to the New York Times, Tokyo Governor Inose Naoki (a good writer and analyst before he became Vice-Governor then Governor, and from whom I expected more intelligence and sophistication) is taking cheap shots at other Olympic bidders, violating IOC rules.

Particularly at Istanbul for its religious and ethnic/economic composition, Inose has said, “Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes”. He also said that other countries lack “Tokyo’s excellent sense of hospitality”. Funny, that. As if Japan does not have classes of its own based upon economic clout or connections to a ruling elite.

And of course, there’s the frequent claim by Japan’s promoters of lack of infrastructure and development elsewhere. Never mind how that infrastructure doesn’t seem to be taking care of its hundreds of thousands of victims and homeless after the Tohoku Disasters more than two years afterwards. But you see, we’re not holding the Olympics in Fukushima. And we’ll take advantage of Fukushima by trying to claim a sympathy vote for Tokyo in their stead. Also never mind that unfettered discrimination against domestic minorities in a society also violates the Olympic Charter. So much to see when you scratch the surface.

There were some subsidiary arguments about Japan’s aging society, which Inose turned on their head to say that healthy seniors are the sign of a healthier society. That’s fine — that’s just boosterism. But then he violates IOC rules again by denigrating: “I’m sure people in Turkey want to live long. And if they want to live long, they should create a culture like what we have in Japan. There might be a lot of young people, but if they die young, it doesn’t mean much.”

See what I mean about a lack of sophistication? I guess the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree (as Inose is an Ishihara Shintaro protege, and Ishihara is a bonafide bigot). Or else Inose has been so steeped in the dominant discourse of Japan being a unique and peerlessly rich, homogeneous, developed society, that he actually has come to believe it himself. Hence the blind spots cluttering his analysis. Put it down to the effects of being steeped in affluence and power.

As submitter MH notes about what he calls Inose’s “idiotic, xenophobic and downright racist comments”, “One doesn’t have to extrapolate too far to see how a racist landlord or real estate agency might feel a certain (ingrained) justification for banning foreigners.” Quite. So much for Japan’s “excellent sense of hospitality”.

The 25-year “Special Reconstruction Tax” of Jan 1, 2013 — yet another GOJ leech on the Japan workers’ payroll?

Japan Times payroll: “Thank you very much for contributing your articles to The Japan Times.
We would like to inform you that the special reconstruction income tax, introduced by the government to secure financial resources for reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, took effect on January 1, 2013. This tax is imposed on individuals and corporations – both Japanese and foreign – at a rate of 2.1 percent over a 25-year period through 2037.”

Debito: Have other Debito.org also received word of yet another tax on income to go towards “reconstruction”? We’ve already seen where money earmarked for “disaster relief” has been going — to fund corrupt bureaucratic practices within the GOJ (e.g., “road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling”). I’ve also heard of pay cut after pay cut in the academic communities for “reconstruction”, with little to no accountability over the funds afterwards (one case I’ve heard of is where the gakuchou of a major national university has been sequestering monies into an account to earn interest for his own purposes). So what say you, Debito.org Readers? Are you also seeing more skimming, both GOJ and non-GOJ related, from your paychecks for “reconstruction”? Just how bad do things have to get before people say “enough”?

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 60, Feb 4, 2013: “Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan and Asia will suffer”

Japan Times JBC: On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.

I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.

So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time…

Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”

Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents)…

The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2013

Table of Contents:
WEIRD STUFF
1) Sankei Sports etc: J soccer player Nakamura Yuuki quits Slovakian club, feels victimized by “racial discrimination”; my, how ironic!
2) NYT: Xenophobia in Environmental Ministry re exclusionary Fukushima decontam efforts: “Japanese soil is different”, “NJ assistance might scare local grandmas”
3) NHK on Fukushima: Offering all-expense-paid junkets to NJ journalists, interviews for NJ residents who experienced disasters. What’s the catch?
4) Asahi: Media-fostered xenophobia forces prefectural countermeasures against NJ buying “strategic land”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
5) Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)
6) Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids
7) Interesting lawsuits: French “Flyjin” sues employer NHK for firing her during Fukushima Crisis, 8 US sailors sue TEPCO for lying about radiation dangers
8 ) US Senator Daniel Inouye dies, Mazie Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan; contrast with do-nothing self-gaijinizing Tsurunen
9) Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone
10) Proposal: Establishing a Debito.org YouTube Channel?
… and finally …
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

Sankei Sports etc: J soccer player Nakamura Yuuki quits Slovakian club, feels victimized by “racial discrimination”; my, how ironic!

We have an interesting case of a Japanese sports player quitting an overseas soccer team claiming “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu). Nakamura Yuuki, formerly of Slovak football club MSK Rimaska Sobota, has been reported in the Japanese press as returning to Japan last September, blogging about his treatment. But look closely. I have included three English-language articles and translated two Japanese articles for comparison

AFP: […] In an online blog entry dated Wednesday, Nakamura [Yuuki], 25, said he returned to Japan because of racism that had even involved some of his own teammates. “Unfortunately, I have come home because I was subjected to racism at the club I belonged to, Rimavska Sobota, and could not live there any more,” the footballer wrote.

Calling out his name before and after matches, some club supporters raised their middle finger to Nakamura “with a look of furious anger”. “No teammates helped me. There were even some players who joined in (the harassment),” he added. “It wasn’t normal anymore, and the team even received some sort of threats. They cannot be responsible (for my safety), so I came home,” he said.

Submitter AS: Reading through the article and the blog quoted in the article, I can’t find anything that clearly shows racial discrimination. People giving him the finger? With no context, that could mean anything from racial discrimination to thinking he’s a useless player.

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: I just find it interesting the difference in treatment in the media and public argument. Nakamura essentially has a nervous breakdown due to the taunts, and then both the Japanese and overseas media report it as racial discrimination, put it in a larger context, and don’t question Nakamura’s claims. Yet when we get the same kind of jeering in Japan of NJ (Shimizu S-Pulse’s Coach Ghotbi being accused in 2011 by supporters in a banner of being connected to Iranian nuclear weapons; or official-level jeers: Japan’s Ekiden running leagues justifying extra hurdles for NJ athletes by claiming that sports are only interesting for Japanese fans if Japanese win them; or claims by Japan’s rugby union not winning because they have “too many foreign players” (including naturalized Japanese); and how about Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s 2012 remarks about NJ judo Olympians being “beasts” spoiling “Japan’s sport”?), nobody calls it “racial discrimination” in the Japanese press (if the foreign press pay any attention to it at all). Racial discrimination only seems to happen overseas.

Where is FIFA or any other international sports league to decry racism when this sort of thing happens in Japan? Buried in cultural relativism. You can see that even more strongly in the comments to the Japan Today article cited above, which are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Nakamura. I don’t doubt that Nakamura had readjustment problems and decided not to stay because he wasn’t comfortable overseas. But imagine the reaction if a NJ player in the J-League were to quit, justifying it by saying “fans gave me an angry look” or “people gave me the finger”. He’d be told by commenters to grow a pair, and would have bloggers both in English and Japanese questioning not only the veracity of his claims but also his mental stability. That’s not happening in Nakamura’s case. Now why? Are we that programmed to holding Japan to a different standard?

Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)

“At Home Abroad” is an important, ambitious academic work that offers a survey, both from academics in the field and from people with expertise on living in Japan, of theories on how people can assimilate into foreign culture both on their own terms and through acquisition of local knowledge. Dr. Komisarof, a professor at Reitaku University with a doctorate in public administration from International Christian University in Tokyo, has published extensively in this field before, his previous book being “On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan”. However, this book can be read by both the lay reader as well as the academic in order to get some insights on how NJ can integrate and be integrated into Japan.

The book’s goal, according to its Preface, is to “address a pressing question: As the Japanese population dwindles and the number of foreign workers allowed in the country increases to compensate for the existing labor shortage, how can we improve the acceptance of foreign people into Japanese society?” (p. 1) To answer this, Komisarof goes beyond academic theory and devotes two-thirds of the book to fieldwork interviews of eleven people, each with extensive Japan experience and influence, who can offer insights on how Westerners perceive and have been perceived in Japan.

The interviewees are Japan literary scholar Donald Keene, Japan TV comedian Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, columnist about life in rural Japan Karen Hill Anton, university professor Robin Sakamoto, activist and author Arudou Debito, Japan TV personality Daniel Kahl, corporate managing director of a Tokyo IT company Michael Bondy, Dean of Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies Paul Snowden, Tokyo University professor and clinical psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, politico and business executive Glen Fukushima, Keio University professor Tomoko Yoshida, and Japan scholar Donald Richie…

US Senator Daniel Inouye dies, Mazie Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan; contrast with do-nothing self-gaijinizing Tsurunen

Second in a series of two of prominent passings is American Senator Daniel Inouye, a notable Congressman who held on to his congressional seat longer than even legacy legislator Ted Kennedy. As per the local obit excerpt below, he had a quite glorious career in the military as part of the groundbreaking 442nd (some veterans I’ve even met in Hawai’i), then was a pathbreaker for Asian-Americans as a public servant. But consider how he was able to do this. as least as far back as Franklin Roosevelt (the better part of a century ago), we had the United States at the highest levels of public office attempting to untangle race/national or social origin from nationality.

This is something that Japanese society to this day has never accomplished (Japan’s Nationality Law still requires blood for citizenship, and from that derives the entanglement of race and legal status). Nor is Japan really trying. I speak from personal experience (not to mention court precedent) when I say that civil and political rights in Japan are grounded upon being “Japanese”, and “Japaneseness” is grounded upon phenotype (i.e., “looking Japanese”). This MUST be untangled by Japan if it ever hopes to encourage people to come in and settle down as “New Japanese”, not to mention allow people of mixed heritage to breathe as diverse people. But I neither see it happening soon, nor are progressive steps even being taken towards it (I am in fact arguing that Japan in recent years has been regressing… see here, here and here).

As further proof of the helpfulness of a society with notions of citizenship disentangled from race/national or social origin, we have another Senator from Hawaii who just got elected, Mazie Hirono — and she wasn’t even born in the United States! She was born in Japan.

Now, you might say that, well, Finland-born Caucasian Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei has also been elected to high office in Japan. But Tsurunen has been at his post for more than a decade now, and he’s squandered the opportunity by settling into it like a sinecure — doing just about nothing for the rights of NJ in Japan (such as not even bothering to attend or send a rep to a UN CERD meeting at the Diet on May 18, 2006). In fact, Tsurunen has even gone so far as marginalize and gaijinize himself! If one gives him the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but if), such are the effects of constant pressure of being socially “Othered” in Japan, despite his legal duty to uphold his constitutional status as a Japanese citizen and an elected official.

In comparison, the hurdles Hirono overcame were significant but not insuperable. Even though she was nowhere near as articulate or politically thoroughbred as her Republican opponent, former Hawai’i Governor Laura Lingle, Hirono still grossed nearly double the votes (261,025 to 155,565) last November 6 to clinch the seat. Further, if the legacy of Inouye is any template, I think Hirono will do more than just settle for being a symbolic sphinx in her role as a legislator. Because she can — in a polity which can elect people for life despite their foreign (or foreign-looking) backgrounds, she has more opportunities in society than Tsurunen ever will — or will make for himself.

My point is, the disentanglement of race/social origin from nationality (i.e., rendering clearly and politically at the highest levels of government) is something that every state must do if it is to survive as a nation-state in future. Given its demographics, especially Japan.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
Links to sources included

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 58, Dec. 11, 2012: “Do Japan a favor: Don’t stop being a critic”

JBC Intro: Remember grade school, when the most demanding question put to you was something as simple as “What color do you like?” Choose any color, for there is no wrong answer.

This is the power of “like,” where nobody can dispute your preference. You don’t have to give a reason why you like something. You just do.

In adult society, however, things are more complicated. When talking about, say, governments, societies or complicated social situations, a simple answer of “I like it” without a reason won’t do.

Yet simply “liking” Japan is practically compulsory, especially in these troubled times. With Japan’s swing towards the political right these days (to be confirmed with this month’s Lower House election), there is ever more pressure to fall in line and praise Japan.

“Liking” Japan is now a national campaign, with the 2007 changes to the Basic Education Law (crafted by our probable next prime minister, Shinzo Abe) enforcing “love of country” through Japan’s school curriculum. We must now teach a sanitized version of Japanese history, or young Japanese might just find a reason not to “like” our country…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 10, 2012

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Updated 2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan now on sale

MORE BAD SOCIAL SCIENCE
2) PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms
3) NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time
4) SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy
5) Irony: GOJ pushes citizen ID law despite outcry over J privacy rights. Sadly, never similar concerns for NJ privacy, natch.
6) BBC: Japan’s pseudoscience linking personality traits to blood types. I say it dumbs society down.

DEBATES WITHOUT END
7) Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan
8 ) Interesting debate on martial arts as newly required course in JHS under Japan’s Basic Education Law reforms
9) Archiving Tottori’s 2005 Jinken Ordinance (the first and only one ever passed, then UNpassed, penalizing racial discrimination in Japan) to keep it in the historical record
… and finally…
10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 57, November 6, 2012: “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on”

Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan

The UN Human Rights Council has once again prodded Japan to do something to improve its record on human rights (and this time the GOJ, which must submit a report every two years, actually submitted something on time, not eight years overdue as a combined “Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Combined Report”). Here’s how the media reported on their interplay:

Kyodo: A panel under the U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed some 170 recommendations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including Tokyo’s handling of the so-called comfort women issue, the euphemism for the Imperial army’s wartime sex slaves…

Other recommendations include the safeguarding of Japanese citizens’ right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town of Futaba, which found itself in the center of the nuclear storm since it cohosts the wrecked plant, had actively campaigned for the inclusion of this right. The report also called on Japan to abolish the death penalty after more than 20 countries, including prominent EU member states, objected to its continued use of capital punishment.

COMMENT: As you can see in the HRC’s press brief enclosed in this blog entry, once again the GOJ is avoiding the topic of creating a legal framework to protect people against racial discrimination — claiming it’s already forbidden by the Japanese Constitution (but as we’ve stressed here umpteen times, no explicit law in the Civil or Criminal Code means no enforcement of the Constitution). But all the UN HRC seems to be able to do is frown a lot and continue the talk shop. Further, the UN still chooses the word “migrants” over “immigrants”, which makes NJ (and their J children) who need these rights look like they’re only temporary workers — the “blind spot” continues. Meanwhile, Fukushima and the death penalty seem to have sucked all the oxygen out of the debate arena regarding other human rights issues. In this blog entry is an excerpt of what Japan submitted to the HRC for consideration, and a media brief of the HRC’ s recommendations. It’s basically cosmetic changes, open to plenty of bureaucratic case-by-case “discretion”, and amounting to little promise of fundamental systemic or structural changes.

NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time

I didn’t know the New York Times was in the habit of writing eulogies before their subject dies. But that’s essentially what happened earlier this month with their write-up on Donald Keene.

Frequent readers of Debito.org will remember why I take such a dim view of Keene’s ignominious actions at the twilight of an illustrious career. I’ve devoted a Japan Times column to how a scholar of his standing used poor social science in his public statements alluding to the “Flyjin Myth” and the fiction of foreigners as criminals. Despite this, Keene has still refused to acknowledge any of the good things that NJ residents have done (not only in terms of disaster relief “in solidarity” with “The Japanese”, but also on a day-to-day basis as workers, taxpayers, and non-criminals). Nor has Keene amended his public statements in any way to reflect a less self-serving doctrine — thus elevating himself while denigrating others in his social caste. In essence, Keene has essentially “pulled up the ladder behind him”, stopping others from enjoying the same trappings of what the NYT claims is “acceptance”. Thus, how NJ sempai in Japan (even after naturalization) eat their young to suit themselves is a fascinating dynamic that this article inadvertently charts.

This article represents a missed research opportunity for an otherwise incredibly thorough reporter (Martin has written peerless articles on Fukushima, and I simply adored his report on the Ogasawaras). How about this for a research question: Why else might The Don have naturalized? I say it doesn’t involve the self-hugging cloaked as some odd form of self-sacrifice. How about investigating the fact that while gay marriage is not allowed in Japan, adoption (due to the vagaries of the Koseki Family Registry system) is a common way for same-sex partners to pass on their inheritance and legacies to their loved ones — by making them part of their family. Naturalization makes it clear that there will be no extranationality conceits to interfere with the smooth transfer of claims. This article could have been a fine peg to hang that research on.

Not to mention the fact that even seasoned journalists at the NYT can fall for The Fame: Ever hear of the old adage that enables many a minority to receive the veneer of “acceptance” despite all the racialized reasons to deny it? It’s called: “They’ll claim us if we’re famous.” Yes, so many lovely “thanks” from strangers in coffee shops; but as I’ve written before, The Don sadly won’t be around for any denouement once The Fame inevitably fades.

Anyway, if one gives the NYT the benefit of the doubt here, I think the tack of the article should have been, “A person has to jump through THIS many hoops in order to be considered ‘one of them’ [sic] in Japan? Go through all of this, and you should be ‘accepted’ by the time you are, oh, say, ninety years old.” Instead, this development is portrayed as a mutual victory for The Don and Japan.

Why is this not problematized? Because this article is a eulogy — it’s only saying the good things about a person (not yet) departed, and about a society that will not realize that it needs New Japanese who are younger and able to do more than just feebly salve (instead of save) a “wounded nation”. That’s the bigger metaphor, I think, The Don’s naturalization represents to today’s Japan.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 6, 2012

Table of Contents:
TECTONIC SHIFTS
1) AP: Where Japan’s Post-Fukushima rebuild cash really went: Corruption and coverup on grand scale in a crisis that even TEPCO admits “could have been avoided”
2) Wash Post: A declining Japan loses its once-hopeful champions (including Ezra Vogel!) — as Japan is eclipsed by an ascendant China
3) Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it
INCREDULITY
4) Japan Times: Japan Post Office unilaterally decides old “Gaijin Cards” no longer acceptable ID, despite still valid under MOJ
5) Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service
6) Shuukan Kin’youbi: Protests against NJ businesses in Tokyo turn ugly, yet J media compares Chinese protests against J businesses to Kristallnacht
7) BV: “Victimizing the Young, Featherbedding the Old?” On how Japan’s elite bureaucratic rot is adversely affecting Japan’s children
8 ) ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration
ROUGH DRAFTS
9) Ishihara resigns Tokyo Governorship, seeks Diet seat as new party head. I say bring it on.
10) The first version of my Oct 2012 JT JUST BE CAUSE column (rejected for publication) blogged for your comments, on “sanctioned reality”: Do you “get” it?
… and finally…
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 56 on the Senkakus/Takeshima Disputes: “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 1 2012

Table of Contents:
BAD POLITICS
1) Mainichi: Japan’s only human rights museum likely closing after Osaka Gov Hashimoto defunds, says doesn’t teach Japan’s “hopes & dreams”
2) Discussion: JDG, Harumi Befu et.al on the end of Japan’s internationalization and swing towards remilitarization
3) Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?
4) Diet session ends, Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions endorsement bill not passed
BAD SCIENCE
5) AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Kurokawa defends his report, also apportions blame to NJ for Fukushima disaster!
6) Success, of a sort, as a “Gaijin Mask” maker amends their racist product to “Gaikokujin Masks”. Same racialized marketing, though.
7) Kyodo: J airport “random body searches” start October. On “int’l passengers”, naturally, so not so random, considering police precedents of racial profiling
8 ) Weird “Japanese Only” advertisement in U Hawaii Manoa Ka Leo student newspaper by Covance asking for medical-experiment volunteers
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 55: Toot your own horn — don’t let the modesty scam keep you down

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 5, 2012

Table of Contents:
SOME PROGRESS
1) Hurrah, the separate Alien Registration System is abolished after 60 years. Now let’s consider the GOJ give & take regarding tracking NJ under this policy
2) Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.
3) Yomiuri: Iwate town sponsors Vietnamese future doctor — and people reportedly react with trepidation
4) Tangent: Louis Vuitton Journeys Award shortlisted J movie short has multicultural couple
NO PROGRESS
5) Suraj Case: Chiba prosecutors decide not to indict 10 Immigration officers in whose custody he died
6) H-Japan on “Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate”, Tohoku U Prof Yoshida’s demographic research methodologically excludes “foreigner births”
7) Japan Times: “Ninjin-san ga Akai Wake” Book is behind bullying of mixed-race children; contrast with “Little Yellow Jap”
MEDIA SKULLDUGGERY
8 ) Tangent: Parliamentary Independent Investigation Commission Report on Fukushima Disaster “Made in Japan”: MD notes ironies of different Japanese and English versions
9) Tangent: Newsweek column on “rising ugly nationalism towards foreign residents” in China. Hm, how about an eye on Japan?
10) Resurrecting Gregory Clark’s embarrassingly xenophobic Japan Times column on “Global Standards” Nov 1, 1999, quietly deleted without retraction from JT Online archives
… and finally…
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 July 3, 2012: “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for NJ”

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for ‘co-existence with foreigners'”, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. I offer summaries of each presenter’s materials below. My overall comment is that despite some fair-to-middling presentation styles (one a bit limply bureaucratic, another full of irrelevant chaff), all of them have their heart in the right place. Two of them I just wanted to hug the presenter afterwards for getting things right all the way down to the proper semantics (of seeing NJ as fellow “resident” with their own sense of “community”; they even overrode the potentially dichotomous “coexistence” meme for seeing NJ as perpetual outsiders to “handle and administrate”, which Japan’s sweaty-handed bureaucrats can never get beyond). How much of this advice will be taken is another issue, but at least the advice is being given. It’s a good Third Act in this political theatre. It’s just a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions thrown in later down the line as an afterthought. And there’s still no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

Iida Yumiko on the nation-state, and how it includes people in the national narrative for its own survival (or in Japan’s case, how it doesn’t)

Simplifying Dr. Iida’s points: Every country has to convince the people who live within it to accept that a) there is a country that they are members of, and b) that there are rules they have to follow in order to be members (obeying the laws, paying taxes, potentially giving up one’s life to defend it, etc.). When power becomes this unquestioned, it becomes (to use Gramsci’s word) “hegemonic”, in other words, normal enough to be invisible and generally unquestioned. Almost all people on this planet, born into a nation-state, accept that they are members of one country of another (by dint of having a passport, a tax home, accountability before the law etc.) and play by the rules because that’s how they were socialized.

But there is a give-and-take here. The nation-state must give its members four things in order for them to adopt the rules of play and pass them down to the next generation. These are, according to Iida above:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all,
2) A sense of community, with moral obligations to it,
3) A world view that makes sense,
4) Hope for the future that other people share.

Fine. Now, as this relates to Debito.org: What do NJ in Japan get? None of this, really. And that’s why NJ are given incentives not to stay: It goes beyond mere “alienation” — it is a fundamental, egregious, and probably fatal flaw in Japan’s nation-state dynamic of eliminating newcomers from the national narrative.

JT Editorial: Tokyo Metro Govt fuels “Flyjin” myth with flawed survey; yet other NJ who should know better buy into it

The Japan Times came out with an editorial last Sunday, entitled “Flyjin rather few,” which talked about a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government survey of NJ in Tokyo, carried out to ascertain how many stayed or left after the disasters of March 2011 and beyond. The survey was trying to see if the “Flyjin” phenomenon really happened, and in doing so, the JT notes, potentially resuscitated the invective of Japanese media and xenophobic pundits branding NJ as deserters.

The JT editorial is a doozy. Not only does it demonstrate that “the vast majority of foreigners in Tokyo stayed right where they were — in Tokyo”, it also castigates the whole thought process behind it: “The survey did little to focus on what can be done to ensure that all residents of Tokyo be given clear information about conditions and constructive advice about what to do in the event a similar disaster strikes in Tokyo in the near future.”

“The ‘flyjin’ issue, besides being a derogatory term, was always a tempest in a teapot. Surveys that find information to help improve communications are important, but it is the actions that follow that really count. The metropolitan government should prepare a means to give all residents of Tokyo, whatever nationality they are, trustworthy information during emergencies so safe, sensible decisions can be made.”

In other words, the JT was easily able to see through the stupid science (e.g., the singling out of NJ, the small sample size, limiting it to Tokyo residents, the lack of clear aim or rigor in methodology, and ultimately its lack of conclusion: “The survey did little to better understand all Tokyoites’ complicated reactions to the crisis.”)

Yet people who should know better, and who should be advocating for the needs of the NJ Communities in Japan, are already citing this survey as somehow indicative. Japan Probe, for example, states that this survey “confirms Post-3/11 “Flyjin” Phenomenon / 25 Percent of Tokyo’s Foreign Residents Fled”, and apparently “deals a major blow to certain bloggers who have claimed that the “flyjin” phenomenon was a myth”.

One of those certain bloggers indeedy would be me. And I gave much harder and rigorous numbers from all of Japan and from the central government and for the entire year, clearly exposing the “Flyjin” phenomenon as myth in my April Japan Times column. Hence, there’s no clearer interpretation of Japan Probe’s conclusion than the will to live in obtuse denial.

But that’s what keeps hatenas hovering around my head. Wouldn’t it be nicer if online resources like Japan Probe (which calls itself “The web’s no.1 source for Japan-related news and entertainment”) would work for the good of the NJ communities it purports to inform? It did do so once upon a time, for example, during the whole GAIJIN HANZAI mook debacle, where Japan Probe was instrumental in helping get the racist magazine on foreign crime off the shelves and the publisher bankrupted. But now, why try so hard, as the Japan Times Editorial above saliently notes, “to exaggerate the extent of foreigners leaving the country and impugn their motives for leaving”?

Yomiuri: J population falls record 259,000 in 2011 (as does NJ pop.); Keidanren think tank sees ROK surpassing J GDP by 2030

Here are two sobering articles regarding Japan’s unsustainability. The first indicates that Japan’s population decrease is, as predicted, accelerating, dropping by a record quarter-million in 2011 alone. Now, let’s acknowledge the caveats: This may be a blip due to the horrendous year that 2011 was for Japan. However, the death toll from the triple disasters is only estimated (highball) at around 20,000, less than a tenth of the overall fall in Japanese population. Moreover, if people say that this is due to people fleeing the country (meaning they’ll come back when the coast is clear, i.e., the fall is but temporary), okay, but then, I can’t help but point out, it’s clear the preponderance of the “flyjin” phenomenon is, once again, not due to NJ fleeing. So I’m not so sure that “fleeing” is the cause either. I’ll just chalk this development as more evidence of Japan’s unsustainability without immigration.

The second article is, I believe, more alarmist and latently jingoistic — appealing to nationalism to get Japan to pull its socks up. A think tank affiliated with Keidanren (and we know how influential they are in the public policy realm — through them we got our new NJ cheap labor visa regimes from 1990 onwards) is saying that, horrors, Japan will not only drop in the world rankings (which we’ve anticipated for quite a while now due to demographics), THEY’LL FALL BEHIND SOUTH KOREA!! Why South Korea (as opposed to, say, Spain)? Because that would be a blow to national pride — a former colony and perpetual rival that we’ve always felt superior to (and who can apparently only use but the simplest cameras) shaming us in the world economy rankings!

Whether or not these predictions come true is irrelevant (after all, as Debito.org Reader Charuzu has pointed out in comments elsewhere, if and when the ROK and the DPRK reunify the costs will be horrendous) — if you don’t want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and have the Koreans lord it over us, DO SOMETHING!!, is basically the underlying call. After all, we’ve had warnings for well over a decade now that Japan’s population is going to fall and cause economic stagnation, and that didn’t change public policy all that much. It seems that only appeals to nationalism (and this time, targeting foreigners outside Japan, not within, as the latter strategy merely eliminated NJ labor and immigration as a possible solution), not appeals to logic, will pull Japan out of an economic nosedive.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 50, April 3, 2012: Donald Keene should engage brain before fueling ‘flyjin,’ foreign crime myths

JBC: The point is, Keene has made his life one of careful, disciplined research, and he should have tapped this wealth of knowledge and reactivated his critical faculties before shooting off his mouth like this.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to impugn Keene’s life choices — he can live where he likes and take out whatever citizenship he desires. But he should not be denigrating other people’s complex and personal life decisions (many made with careers to consider and families in tow) based upon flawed paradigms about NJ — paradigms fabricated by a sensationalist media and grounded in a discourse of prejudice and hypocrisy.

If he does, he should be called out on it like anyone else. And in that spirit, let’s consider a few inconsistencies:

Keene has said that he wants to live out his remaining years in Japan out of respect to the “resilient spirit of the Japanese people in a traumatic situation.” However, Kyodo reported on March 9 that this move was “partly because travel (between his homes in America and Japan) had become physically demanding.” At his advanced age, that’s understandable. But why so much public self-hugging for naturalizing?

Moreover, what sort of support in “solidarity” for the Tohoku victims will Keene be involved in? The Yomiuri on March 9 notes that this month he’s traveling by ship to India and Africa for vacation. As soon as he gets back, he said, “I’ll continue to work more diligently in a suitably Japanese way. I also want to contribute to areas affected by the disaster.”

Like how? Collecting and driving supplies up to Fukushima? Volunteering to help out at gymnasiums sheltering displaced people? Organizing international fund drives? Moving rubble around, as so many NJ residents who did not “flee Japan” have already done?

Here’s one thing Keene could do: Publicly retract his denigrating statements with apologies, and acknowledge the good that NJ have done for Japan all along — working here for decades, paying taxes, raising families, and living lives that fly in the face of the hegemonic yet unquestioned discourse that “NJ disrupt Japanese society.”

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column #48: “These are a few of my favorite things about Japan”, Feb. 7, 2012

JT: The Just Be Cause column has been running now for four years (thanks for reading!), and I’ve noticed something peculiar: how commentators are pressured to say “nice” stuff about Japan.

If you don’t, you get criticized for an apparent “lack of balance.” As if one has to pay homage to the gods of cultural relativism (as an outsider) or tribal commonalities (as an insider).

This pressure isn’t found in every society. Britain, for example, has a media tradition (as far back as Jonathan Swift, William Hogarth and George Cruikshank) where critics can be unapologetically critical, even savage, towards authority (for example, Private Eye magazine).

But in Japan, where satire is shallow and sarcasm isn’t a means of social analysis, we are compelled to blunt our critique with pat niceties. Our media spends more time reporting nice, safe things (like how to cook and eat) than encouraging critical thinking.

Likewise, Just Be Cause gets comments of the “If Debito hates Japan so much, why does the JT keep publishing him?” ilk. As if nobody ever criticizes Japan out of love (if we critics didn’t care about this place, we wouldn’t bother).

Moreover, why must we say something nice about a place that hasn’t been all that nice to its residents over the past, oh, two stagnant decades (even more so since Fukushima)? Japan, like everywhere else, has problems that warrant attention, and this column is trying to address some of them.

Still, as thanks to the readership (and my editor, constantly put off his beer defending me in bars), I’ll succumb and say something nice about Japan for a change. In fact, I’ll give not one, but 10 reasons why I like Japan:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 5, 2012

Table of Contents:
TALK OF JAPAN’S FUTURE
1) CNN’s Zakaria: Japan’s economy “has run out of gas”: first trade deficit in 31 years shows J’s decline and “the end of an era”
2) Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future
3) Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito

SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM
4) Nepalese beaten to death in Osaka, 4 assailants arrested in apparent hate crime
5) PS on Gaijin Card Checkpoint at his apartment — Immigration doing door-to-door checks, using physical force (photos included)
6) Shock/Horror on Japanese TV show, where Japanese under new Arizona laws could be treated as foreigners, with ID checks! Kibishii!?
7) Changes to Alien Registration Act July 2012 — NJ to be registered on Juuminhyou Residency Certificates at last

OFFICIAL HARASSMENT OF NJ
8 ) Amnesty International 2002 report on human rights abuses, including extortion and physical abuse, at the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” detention center
9) Chris Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)
10) Mainichi: Transport ministry mulling random body search of 10% of all airport passengers at Narita etc. Random? Not likely.
11) Japan Today: GOJ ministries block foreign firms from helping tsunami-stricken Japanese, using bureaucratic stonewalling

And finally…
12) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 47, January 3, 2012: 2011′s Top 10 Human Rights Issues affecting NJ in Japan

Japan Today: GOJ ministries block foreign firms from helping tsunami-stricken Japanese, using bureaucratic stonewalling

Japan Today: Red tape and rigid adherence to regulations stopped a number of foreign firms from providing help and specialist expertise in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 disasters in northeast Japan, while other firms say their efforts to render assistance to the homeless and destitute were frustrated because the markets here are effectively closed to outsiders.

Among those whose offers of help were dismissed, and who agreed to speak to ACUMEN, are British firms with experience in providing high- quality emergency shelter — that has been gratefully accepted in disaster zones around the world — as tens of thousands of people were living rough in school gymnasiums and municipal offices in the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. In addition, there are at least two UK firms that were eventually successful in securing contracts, after having endured frustrating delays and red tape, but they declined to be identified out of fear of jeopardising future deals.

The experience of trying to meet the demands of government ministries and prefectural authorities has left some British firms irritated or angry — in particular those whose members travelled to areas affected by the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered, and who saw for themselves the misery of the victims. The people who lost out due to officials’ inability to think outside the box, they say, were those who had already lost everything in the disasters.

Chris Johnson on his 2011 experiences in the “Narita Airport Gaijin Gulag”, a complement to Amnesty’s 2002 expose (Amended)

Last blog entry I talked about Amnesty International’s 2002 report on horrendous treatment and conditions of NJ detainees in Narita Airport. As a complement, here is Chris Johnson, photojournalist at venues such as CNNGo and The Japan Times, offering his unexpurgated experiences there last December. Despite having a valid visa, he was denied entry, he believes, due to his critical press coverage of TEPCO and government responses to the Fukushima disasters. He spent 30 hours in the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” (which he calls a gulag) before being forced to buy an overpriced one-way ticket and deported, and it changed his views dramatically on Japan’s legal and policing system.

This issue deserves more attention. Extralegality may be the norm in Customs and Immigration Zones around the world, but extreme treatment is exactly what happens when policing is unfettered and unmonitored. It is, to put it mildly, unbefitting a society such as Japan’s, with official pretensions towards respecting the rule of law. Especially when you read about Chris’s experience with the private security goons, who seem to have gone beyond any plausible mitigation (“just following orders”) by Milgram. Were these the people who killed Abubakar Awadu Suraj in 2010 while deporting him, and to this day have not been charged with any crime?

CJ: When you line up to get your passport stamped at Narita international airport outside Tokyo, look to your right toward a set of “special examination rooms.” That is where the trap door into Japan’s secretive gulag begins.

Most travellers, who regard Japan as a safe country of civilized people, have no idea that thousands of foreign arrivals — just like them — have fallen down that trap door into windowless dungeons in the bowels of the airport. From there, foreigners of all nationalities — seeking a pleasant vacation or a better life in Japan — have vanished into a horrific network of “detention centres” imprisoning thousands of innocent foreigners in appalling conditions.

Most red-eyed foreign arrivals also don’t realize that the immigration officers taking their fingerprints and scanning their passports are working with xenophobic colleagues who have deported on average about 20,000 foreigners every year since 2005, and who have been on trial for themurder of a longtime foreign resident of Japan last year at Narita.

They also don’t realize that airlines, according to the Immigration Bureau, are technically responsible for providing nightmarish dungeons and hiring “security guards” accused of human rights abuses — everything from extortion to theft, torture and denial of rights to call embassies, lawyers or family…

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 47: 2011’s Top 10 Human Rights Issues affecting NJ in Japan

Here’s my fourth annual round-up of the top 10 human rights events that affected Japan’s NJ residents last year. Concluding paragraphs:

Generations under Japan’s control-freak “nanny state” have accustomed people to being told what to do. Yet now the public has been deserted, with neither reliable instructions nor the organization to demand them.

Nothing, short of a major revolution in critical thinking and public action (this time — for the first time — from the bottom up), will change Japan’s destructive system of administration by unaccountable elites.

2011 was the year the world realized Japan has peaked. Its aging and increasingly-conservative public is trapped in a downward spiral of economic stagnation and inept governance. It is further burdened by an ingrained mistrust of the outsider (JBC Oct. 7, 2008) as well as by blind faith in a mythology of uniqueness, powerlessness as a virtue, and perpetual victimhood.

Japan has lost its attractiveness as a place for newcomers to live and settle, since they may be outright blamed for Japan’s troubles if not ostracized for daring to fix them. Now, thanks to the continuous slow-burn disaster of Fukushima, anyone (who bothers to listen anymore) can now hear the doors of Japan’s historically-cyclical insularity slowly creaking shut.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2, 2012

Table of Contents:
END TIMES
1) The System really is irredeemably broken: BBC: Tsunami relief funds diverted to GOJ whaling program
2) Japan’s Broken System Pt 2: H-Japan cites AFP, Reuters, Yomiuri. NYT on how bad GOJ ineptness and obfuscation re Fukushima fiasco is getting
WEIRD AND CAPRICIOUS J BUREAUCRACY
3) Tokyo Reporter: Bust of Gas Panic bars in Roppongi due to “poorly behaving” foreigners allegedly breaking J laws against “dancing”
4) Arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles for registering international marriages in Tokyo Edogawa-ku Ward office. Have things changed?
5) J on how Japan’s Immigration Bureau uses unlegislated bureaucratic guidelines to trump the letter of the law, in this case re obtaining Permanent Residency
6) Gaijinwife blog on her house check — is having authorities visit Permanent Residency applicant’s home and throughly photograph its interior now SOP?
HOLIDAY DIVERSIONS:
7) How “religious” treatment of things Japanese allows for Japan to be kid-gloved through international public debate
8 ) Seidensticker in TIME/LIFE World Library book on Japan dated 1965. Compare and contrast with today’s assessments.
9) End-year Irony #1: Japan cancels free flights for NJ tourists, claims it’s “insensitive”, while funding GOJ whaling expeditions
10) End-year Irony #2: Japanese cast as Roman in “Thermae Romae” despite J complaints about Chinese cast as Japanese in “Memoirs of a Geisha”
11) DEBITO.ORG POLL: Agree or disagree: “2011 was a good year for me.”
… and finally…
12) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec. 6, 2011, on the effects of a lack of “fairness” as a strong cultural value in Japan (full text)

End-year Irony #1: Japan cancels free flights for NJ tourists, claims it’s “insensitive”, while funding GOJ whaling expeditions

As the sands in the 2011 hourglass trickle away, here are a couple of posts to be filed away under Ironies. Today’s deals with how the GOJ sees “Tohoku disasters relief measures” — both in terms of funding foreign tourists and in funding ships killing whales.

Looks like one ministry is more prone to feeling public shame than the other, so, according to the announcements below, the suddenly “insensitive” proposal to give free plane tickets to foreign visitors to visit Japan has been cancelled. The Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Ministry, however, is singularly shameless, so I doubt that will happen to whaling. Now, sooner or later, we’ll have to show sensitivity somehow to those afflicted by the Tohoku disasters. I wonder which ministry that falls under. Probably a lot of it under the former Construction Ministry arm of MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism), which has a long history of being even more shameless in ripping off the Japanese public than MAFF. Once again, evidence of just how out of touch Japanese bureaucrats are with the public they purportedly serve. I guess the next disaster, sadly, will have to happen in Tokyo.

JNTO: This autumn there were many reports about the Japan Tourism Agency proposing to give away 10,000 free flights to Japan in 2012. After the proposal was reported, people from around the world sent messages to Japan National Tourism Organization saying they would like to participate in the programme to visit Japan and to help revitalize Japan’s tourism industry following the March 2011 earthquake. So it is with regret that the Japanese Government announced the budget for this proposal has been declined, so the flight give away will not be going ahead.

Thanks to the support of the international community, Japan is making vigorous progress towards reconstruction in the earthquake and tsunami affected northeast of Japan, but recovery from the earthquake continues to be a pressing issue.

“We realise that this announcement is going to disappoint thousands of people around the world, but we hope people will understand how insensitive it would appear for the Japanese Government to give people free flights to Japan when the cities, towns and villages devastated by the tsunami are still in desperate need of funding for reconstruction. We also would not want people thinking that the generous donations given from around the world to aide [sic] those affected by the disaster was being spent on giving people free flights,” said Kylie Clark, Head of PR & Marketing, Japan National Tourism Organization.

The System really is irredeemably broken: BBC: Tsunami relief funds diverted to GOJ whaling program

A bit of a tangent, but an important one, as it’s a watershed moment. I saw some news three days ago that made me say out loud, “That’s torn it. The System is irredeemable.” According to the BBC and the SMH below, we have relief efforts that should be going towards helping its own citizens recover from a tsunami and botched corrupt nuclear disaster going towards a GOJ pet project, a corrupt one that essentially exists to thumb its nose at the world: whaling. Yes, whaling.

People might have excused the GOJ for botched relief efforts up to now because a) the scale of the disaster is unprecedented or facing too many unknowns, b) the infrastructure was too damaged for efficient cleanup and rescue, c) things just take time and money to fix. But there is NO excuse for diverting money away from relief efforts for this kind of vanity project. It’s porkbarrel at the expense of a slowly-poisoned public.

And do you think the domestic media would have exposed this if activists and the foreign media hadn’t? The System is broken, and the Japanese public, cowed by a forever-fortified culture of submission to authority that punishes people for ever trying to do something about it, will not fix it. As I have argued before, Japan has never had a bottom-up revolution. And I don’t see it happening at this time no matter how corrupt and poisoned things get.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 5, 2011

Table of Contents:
1) David Slater and Yomiuri on how activism re Fukushima is being stifled, contamination efforts stymied
2) Movie about Ichihashi Tatsuya, convicted killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, already in the works — based upon his book. Ick.
3) MOFA offers public comments on signing Hague Convention on Child Abductions; not much there
4) UPDATE: Post-divorce J child abductor Inoue Emiko DOES get book thrown at her in Milwaukee court, will return abducted child to custodial NJ father
5) Thai flood victims getting 6-month visas into Japan to maintain Japan Inc.’s supply lines, then booted back home
6) The tug of war continues: Fukuoka High Court overrules Oita District Court that doubted, then affirmed, Oita Prefectural Govt’s denial of welfare benefits to superannuated NJ Permanent Resident
7) Debito.org Dejima Award to Japan Rugby Football Union, blaming J losses on “too many foreign players”, including naturalized former NJ
8 ) Japan Times: Colin Jones on schizophrenic J constitution regarding civil and human rights of NJ residents
9) Japan Times: More NPA behavioral oddities re alleged murders of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases
10) Suraj Case of police brutality and death during Immigration deportation in Japan Times Nov 1, 2011
11) Have Your Say: Letters to the Editor re my Oct 4 2011 Japan Times JBC column, “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action”

…and finally…
12) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 45 Nov 1, 2011: “The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit”

Thai flood victims getting 6-month visas into Japan to maintain Japan Inc.’s supply lines, then booted back home

JT: Several thousand Thai workers at Japanese firms operating in Thailand will be allowed to work in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, as companies shift their production in light of the impact of the massive floods in the Southeast Asian country…

Fujimura said the government is looking to accept thousands of Thai workers from about 30 firms for a fixed time frame of roughly six months. Among the conditions the government will impose on the firms is to make sure the Thai workers return to their home country…

COMMENT: File this yet again under Japan Inc. having its cake and eating it too. We wouldn’t want to have Japanese corporations losing out because of natural disaster overseas impeding our supply lines, now, would we? (And as a petty but definitely related tangent, where is the Japanese media when you need them to criticize the Japanese “fly-jin” fleeing the country instead of staying behind to help Thailand recover? They certainly did their bashing when NJ, and apparently only NJ, allegedly flew the coop post-Fukushima.) So we’ll temporarily export the workers to Japan, have them keep up with the conveyer belts for the apparent honor of being extant in our safe, clean, modern society (while no doubt working cheaper than native Japanese, as usual), then boot them back as soon as we can so they cause no disruptions to our safe, clean, modern society (like we did our Brazilian cousins back in 2009 when they outlived their usefulness; we get to keep their investments anyway and need show no gratitude). Good ole foreign workers. Under Japan’s visa regime, they’re just widgets in the Grand Scheme.

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 45 Nov 1, 2011: “The costly fallout of tatemae and Japan’s culture of deceit”

JT JBC: There is an axiom in Japanese: uso mo hōben — “lying is also a means to an end.” It sums up the general attitude in Japan of tolerance of — even justification for — not telling the truth.

First — defining “telling the truth” as divulging the truth (not a lie), the whole truth (full disclosure) and nothing but the truth (uncompounded with lies) — consider how lies are deployed in everyday personal interactions.

Let’s start with good old tatemae (charitably translated as “pretense”). By basically saying something you think the listener wants to hear, tatemae is, essentially, lying. That becomes clearer when the term is contrasted with its antonym, honne, one’s “true feelings and intentions.”

Tatemae, however, goes beyond the “little white lie,” as it is often justified less by the fact you have avoided hurting your listener’s feelings, more by what you have gained from the nondisclosure.

But what if you disclose your true feelings? That’s often seen negatively, as baka shōjiki (“stupidly honest”): imprudent, naive, even immature. Skillful lying is thus commendable — it’s what adults in society learn to do.

Now extrapolate. What becomes of a society that sees lying as a justifiably institutionalized practice? Things break down. If everyone is expected to lie, who or what can you trust?…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 30, 2011

Table of Contents:
CRIMINALITY DEFENDED AS CULTURAL DIFFERENCE

1) Reuters on Olympus Japan corruption issue: It takes a NJ whistleblowing CEO to uncover it, yet he gets sacked for “cultural reasons”
2) Mainichi & Yomiuri: Japanese ex-wife arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of abducting child from custodial father
3) GOJ wants seat on the UN Human Rights Council for 2013-2015. Here’s MOFA’s formal pledge of Japan’s commitments to human rights. Note what’s missing.
4) History: Witness the GOJ’s negotiating tactics during WWII with its allies, according to W.L. Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of The Third Reich”. Not much different today.

POST-FUKUSHIMA INDEFENSIBLES

5) GOJ Ministry of Environment is dispersing Tohoku debris, including Fukushima nuclear debris, around Japan despite objections of prefectural govts
6) Health and Education Ministries issue directive to place controls on research going on in Tohoku tsunami disaster zones
7) From Yokoso Japan to Kawaisou Japan: GOJ to offer free roundtrip flights to NJ tourists to offset fallout fears
8 ) More GOJ greenmailing: JET Alumni Assocs call on 20 ex-JETs for all-expenses paid trip to tsunami areas, to “let people know what they experienced when they return to their home countries”

PLUS CA CHANGE AND MISCELLANY

9) Korea Times: Naturalized Korean decries refusal of entry to sauna, parallels with Otaru Onsens Case
10) Japan Times: Ichihashi trial bares translation woes: Courts refuse to admit that interpreters often lack the necessary skills
11) BLOG BIZ: Welcome to the future of blog wars: Debito.org temporarily felled by DMCA notice against this site’s critique of Lance Braman’s Japan Times Letters to the Editor
12) Weekend Tangent: Saturday Night Live skit on Japan-obsessed American youth; scarily accurate?

… and finally …
13) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of October 4, 2011: “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action”

Reuters on Olympus Japan corruption issue: It takes a NJ whistleblowing CEO to uncover it, yet he gets sacked for “cultural reasons”

This is still a growing issue, and there’s an excellent Reuters article below to hang this blog post on. Consider the case of Michael Woodford, a Brit hired more than thirty years ago by Japanese firm Olympus, with the superhuman tenacity to work his way up to the post of CEO (not hired, as are many of the famous NJ executives in Japanese companies, as an international prestige appointment). The presumption is that his appointment was because Mr Woodford would be different — there are plenty of Japanese corporate drones who would have gladly not rocked the boat for a quiet life and comfortable salary. But when he actually does something different, such as uncover and question possible corporate malfeasance, he gets fired because “his style of management was incompatible with traditional Japanese practices”. This of course, as further investigations finally gather traction, calls into practice the cleanliness of those traditional Japanese corporate practices. And it looks like the only way to get them investigated properly in Japan is to take the issue to overseas regulators (this is, after all, an international company, if only in the sense that it has international holdings, but now beholden to international standards). Not to mention the Japanese media (which, as the article alludes to below, is once again asleep at its watchdog position). None of this is surprising to the Old Japan Hands, especially those let anywhere close to Japanese corporate boardrooms, who see this nest feathering as a normal, nay, an obvious part of Japanese corporate culture the higher and richer you go. But woe betide the NJ whistleblower — perpetually in a vulnerable position for being of the wrong race and for not doing what he’s told like a good little gaijin. After all, there’s peer pressure behind membership in “Team Japan”, and as soon as it’s convenient, the race/culture card gets pulled by the crooks to excuse themselves. I’m just glad Mr. Woodford had the guts to do what he did. I doubt it’ll result in a system-wide cleanup (the rot is too systemic and entrenched, and few watch the watchers in corporatist Japan). But you gotta start somewhere, since exposure of corruption must be seen to be becoming commonplace in post-Fukushima Japan. Bravo Mr. Woodford, and expose away.

Health and Education Ministries issue directive to place controls on research going on in Tohoku tsunami disaster zones

The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare Ministry has issued a directive, written by the Education Ministry’s Department of Life Sciences, Bureau for the Promotion of Research, to all related research industries, universities, and tertiary-education associations regarding health surveys and research conducted within the Tohoku disaster area.

Dated May 15, 2011, a little more than two months after the tsunami, the directive (full Japanese text below) essentially tells academic researchers 1) there are “ethical guidelines” (rinri shishin) for epidemiologists to follow, and that research guidelines must be passed by ethics committees and approved by their research institution’s head; 2) these health surveys and research must also sufficiently (juubun) be run by the local governments (jichitai) in the disaster areas beforehand, and afterwards the results of the research (if I’m reading this odd and rather vague sentence right) must “take into due consideration” (hairyo) the disaster victims and the appropriate systems providing them health and welfare (better translations welcome); 3) in order to not to cause any undue stress to the disaster victims, health surveys and research must avoid repetition by “not surveying and researching in more detail than necessary”, and with sufficient understanding of the situation on the ground.

Well, it might sound sensible at first read. But given the history of lack of accurate and timely information being issued by the Japanese authorities concerning the whole Fukushima debacle, there is another way to read this ministerial directive: 1) All research must be tracked and approved by somebody above you in the research workplace, 2) All research must be tracked by the local governments and health departments before and after, and 3) All research must not ask too many questions.

The point is, in the name of “ethics”, the government is inserting veto gates into what might become research independent of the GOJ, and making sure that information tracked before and afterwards stays under central control. Which means, in practice, that if there are research lines or inquiries or results unpalatable to the GOJ, they might not be seen by the public.

My read of this document is that this is primary-source evidence of GOJ central control over the scientific method regarding a politically-sensitive issue. And this will control the information flow out to the world regarding the effects and aftermath of Fukushima.

More GOJ greenmailing: JET Alumni Assocs call on 20 ex-JETs for all-expenses paid trip to tsunami areas, to “let people know what they experienced when they return to their home countries”

In a continuation of yesterday’s theme of the GOJ greenmailing away Japan’s negative images, here we have a more overt use of public funds to turn a frown upside down over a disaster: The JET Programme calling on ex-JETs to come back and reprise their role as de facto cultural lobbyists overseas. Except this time there’s an update — the clear aim of sexing up Japan’s image abroad in the wake of the March 11 disasters by dangling an all-expenses-paid trip to the stricken areas.

I have done research on the JET Programme’s role of producing cultural ambassadors before (and its role as a domestic educational force, which I came out in support of in this Japan Times column). But this is the most overt (and in my view, cynical) demonstration I’ve seen yet unmasking the JET Programme’s fundamental intention of burnishing Japan’s image abroad at all costs. As if this is a kind of aid package for the stricken areas: Let them eat good publicity. Kinda takes the air out of the argument of JET as a program first and foremost promoting domestic education.

JET Alumni Assoc: The Japan Tourism Agency, MOFA, and other local governments in Japan want to sponsor 20 ex-JETs — who were placed in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima or Sendai — to go back to Japan for one week in order to see the damages in the afflicted areas, so that when they return to their home countries, they can let people know what they experienced there. All expenses are paid (food, travel, insurance, etc.), except personal expenses.

From Yokoso Japan to Kawaisou Japan: GOJ to offer free roundtrip flights to NJ tourists to offset fallout fears

In one of the more hare-brained schemes I’ve seen devised to stimulate Japan’s economy (it ranks among the bigger boondoggles spun together when you give a political elite too much power over public money, including the LDP’s public bribe/tax kickback coupon campaigns in 1999 and 2008, PM Obuchi’s creation of the 2000 yen note, and the many, many construction projects that take a generation or so to complete, examples here and here), we have the Tourism Agency bribing, excuse me, offering to pay the round-trip airfares of 10,000 NJ tourists to visit Japan — as long as they do a homework assignment presumably saying how nice a time they had here, and that the world should stop worrying and love Japan’s increasingly irradiated food chain.

It takes about ten seconds before the obvious begins to sink in: Shouldn’t this money be going instead towards helping Japanese who are suffering from these disasters?

Naw, that would be too selfish — (SARCASM ALERT!:) the whole country is suffering due to Fukushima, so everyone worldwide should realize that the troubles are confined to that one area and just come here and stay away from there.

Yeah, that’ll fix things! Hope they don’t get turned away from too many xenophobic Japanese hotels (the costs of which are not covered under the bribe, of course), or if they do, they have the ‘nads to mention to the GOJ in their homework that inviting them over here, without protecting their rights as consumers and humans, puts a damper on the feelings of hospitality. But I digress.

JT: The Japan Tourism Agency said Tuesday that 10,000 foreigners will be given free round-trip tickets to the country in the next fiscal year as part of a campaign to reverse the plunge in tourists since the March 11 disasters and amid a prohibitively high yen… The successful applicants will receive return air tickets but will have to pay for their accommodations and other expenses, said Shuichi Kameyama, head of the agency’s international tourism promotion division. The agency has requested ¥1.1 billion in the fiscal 2012 budget to cover the campaign, he said…

“First and foremost, we will need to show (the world) that Japan is a good place to visit,” Kameyama said.

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of October 4, 2011: “Japan needs less ganbatte, more genuine action”

JT JBC: Ganbatte kudasai!

You hear this expression every day in Japan. “Do your best!” “Try harder!” “Stick to it!” “Don’t give up!” are but a few of the positive messages conveyed. It offered succor 25 years ago when I was in university bushwhacking through the Japanese language: One “ganbatte!” from Sensei emboldened me for the rest of the week.

However, recent events have exposed a problem with ganbatte.

It’s gone beyond being a harmless old saw, platitude or banality. It’s become at best a sop, at worst a destructive mantra or shibboleth. It creates a downward cycle into apathy in the speaker, indifference in the afflicted…

Allegations of more rough stuff from Rightist Zaitokukai against anti-nuclear demos, yet anti-nuclear demonstrators get arrested

There have been demonstrations against nuclear power recently in Japan (one in Tokyo that at one estimate attracted 60,000 demonstrators). And of course there have counter-demonstrations against the demonstrations. However, one group, claimed to be Zaitokukai in a video below (with its own history of violent and property-damaging demonstrations) gave exhortations to police to inflict violence on the anti-nuke protesters (if not getting rough with the protesters themselves). Yet as usual the Japanese police do not arrest or hinder the Rightists, instead taking action against the Leftists — arresting two in the following video. One Japanese woman and one French man. The two arrested offer their account of what happened here. FCCJ Press Conference on this issue today, along with an eyewitness account of the demonstration from the H-Japan listserv reproduced below.

FCCJ: Are the Japanese police trying to silence political dissent through a systematic campaign of intimidation against the young in particular? Are the democratic rights to protest being observed in practice by those who claim to be protecting Japan’s social order? This event is an opportunity to reflect upon these crucial issues.

Scholars, writers and political analysts have issued a joint statement denouncing police suppression of the September 11 rally. The harsh measures against a peaceful protest may have enormous implications for the future in Japan.