FARRAH: In late-August, an ALT friend of mine from Kansai told me about this event that was happening in Hamamatsu, called, “Gaijin Day”. Amused and slightly offended by the wording, she was actually interested in coming all the way down to my neck of the woods to attend it. The flyer for the event went viral in many expat groups on social media, and posts were flooded with comments about the title of the event. I figured that the organizers chose to call this event “Gaijin Day” to get lots of attention, and they did.
At first I thought that it would merely be a spectacle of foreigners flying into Japan to perform. But when I looked at the list, it was a bunch of people who were sansei/yonsei, Japanese people of mixed-heritage who lived in the Tokai region. I was immediately offended by the name of the event at that point. This is my fifth year living in Hamamatsu, and I’ve done extensive ethnographic research on Brazilian and Peruvian immigrant communities since November of last year. I know that referring to such an established part of the Japanese diaspora as merely “gaijin” was inaccurate and disrespectful. The worst part of all was that the Hamamatsu City Government and HICE Center (Hamamatsu Foundation for International Communication and Exchange) were the main sponsors for the event. […]
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: First, it is disappointing that the site of Gaijin no Hi is Hamamatsu. Given Hamamatsu’s special history with NJ residents (particularly its very progressive Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001), using exclusionary language such as “Gaijin” (given its history as an epithet as well; see below) feels truly, as Farrah put it, regressive. Have they also learned nothing from the Toyoda Sengen of 2004 and Yokkaichi Sengen of 2006? Second, about that word Gaijin. As I’ve argued before, it’s essentially a radicalized epithet with “othering” dynamics similar to “nigger”. My arguments for that are in my Japan Times columns here, here, and here. Bad form, Hamamatsu. You should know better by now. And if not by now, how much will it take? That’s the power of Embedded Racism: It even overcomes history.
Kyoto Shimbun: On April 10, the [Governor] of Kyoto Keiji Yamada made public his intentions to appeal to the government to award overseas students who graduate from Kyoto [universities] with the right to permanent residence. It is a proposal entitled ‘Kyoto University Special Ward’ and also incorporates other supportive measures for foreign students. With a decrease in student intake within Japan in recent years, it is hoped that by providing incentives for academically skilled overseas students, Kyoto will not only be able to compete with other cities like Tokyo but will also be able to add a new lease of life to its cultural city….
With air of conviction, Kyoto’s [Governor] put his proposition to the panel: “What I’d like to ask you to consider is whether overseas students who graduate from Kyoto [universities] and take part in the city’s job training program can be given permanent resident status. I’d like to work with everyone in producing an effective policy.”
COMMENT: Interesting and very positive proposal, but it will come to naught, of course. Still, it shows how local governments are much more responsive to the needs of NJ than the central government (which is dominated by the control-the-borders-and-police-foreigners-only mindset of the Ministry of Justice). Although the central government occasionally deigns to listen to the locals (especially when they band together and say, “Our NJ residents need this!” as per the Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001), ultimately the regular blind spots prevail, and I think they will in this case too (as awarding PR is the job of the MOJ, not local governments).
John Morris at H-JAPAN: A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL:
The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level). Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development. However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking: a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated. Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below. In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re NJ in Japan. More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.
Been on the road the past few days, giving speeches at Daito Bunka Daigaku in Tokyo on Thursday, and on Saturday at a place quite “in the middle of nowhere” called Kani City in Gifu Prefecture, close to an hour north from Nagoya, in a quite spread-out and leafy area of the country.
I’ll have more details on the speech soon (as soon as I can get to a scanner; I have copious documents) but this is a very, very progressive place regarding the treatment of its high NJ-resident population (it even signed the Hamamatsu Sengen nearly a decade ago), and I was invited to speak on what Japan needs to do as a country to make things better. Good audiences, great fun, more on it later.
We have the news of local governments calling upon the national government to do something to help the NJ residents under their charge. Some things just aren’t amendable without national government directives. Like a dedicated agency to deal with immigration.
That’s good news. The problem is, these local governments have been doing this for years now: Consider the Hamamatsu Sengen (2001), Toyoda Sengen (2004) and Yokkaichi Sengen (2006), which demanded just about the same thing. And it will be the same thing I demand in my next Japan Times column, due out next Tuesday, December 1. Have a read.
Local governments want to be nice to their NJ. It’s just that the elite Edokko bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki just don’t care. They don’t want to help NJ settle and make a life here. The people in charge of NJ affairs, mostly the Ministry of Justice, just want to control and police them. And that is pretty short-sighted, given that Japan needs immigration, and the less attractive Tokyo’s mandarins make Japan look to immigrants, the more likely the ones that will help Japan most will pass Japan by for better opportunities in other more open societies. Again, more in my JT article on Tuesday.
ASSIMILATION AND ITS DUES
1) Naomi Osaka’s US Open victory over Serena Williams: Congratulations, but I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into.
2) JT/Kyodo: Immigration Bureau to be upgraded to Immigration Agency April 2019. Baby steps towards Immigration Ministry with actual immigration policy?
3) GOJ sets targets for importing even more NJ temp labor, Kyodo editorializes on how badly Japan needs NJ
ASSIMILATION AND ITS MISINTERPRETATIONS
4) Farrah on Hamamatsu’s city-sponsored “Gaijin Day” event: Problematic wording and execution, esp. given the history of Hamamatsu, and who attended.
5) NYT: Dr. Sacko, Kyoto Seika University’s African-Born President, claims no experience of racism in Japan. Just of “being treated differently because he doesn’t look Japanese”. Huh?
6) Daily Show’s Trevor Noah controversy on French World Cup team: “Africa won the World Cup”. Debito.org disagrees with French Ambassador’s protest letter.
7) Kyodo/Mainichi: Japan increases “nuclear security” before 2019 Rugby World Cup, 2020 Olympics (again, insinuating NJ are potential terrorists)
8 ) TJ on “Doing a Debito”: Gaijin Carded at Nagoya Airport and Airport Comfort Inn
… and finally…
9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 112: “What about we stop it with the ‘whataboutism’?” (July 16, 2018)
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”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
REOPENING THE IMMIGRATION POLICY DEBATE
1) GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them
2) GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre
3) Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”; a little out of date
WHY ANY IMMIGRATION POLICY MIGHT NOT WORK
4) NYT: A Western Outpost Shrinks on a Remote Island Now in Japanese Hands; the overwriting of NJ legacies in Ogasawaras
5) Kyodo: Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt, complete with editorial slant blaming NJ for being fickle
6) The Govinda (Mainali) miscarriage of justice murder case ruled for retrial after 15 years, so Immigration deports him. But there’s more intrigue.
7) Japan Times LIFELINES guest columnist Dr Berger on “Dealing with isolation and exclusion in Japan”. Seems grounded in stereotypes.
8 ) China’s crackdown on foreigners called “xenophobic” by CNN columnist. Yet Japan’s been overtly doing the same to its NJ for generations without similar criticism.
… and finally…
9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 5, 2012: Guestists, Haters, the Vested: Apologists take many forms
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…
One would think that difficult times would occasion people pulling together to help. There has of course been plenty of that, but on balance there has also been, as I wrote last month, a particularly unhelpful tendency to bash and badmouth NJ as cowards and deserters (as neatly demonstrated by the new word “flyjin”).
But this is a mere complement to the perpetually uncooperative nature of many NJ in Japan, particularly in the English-speaking community. Despite its size and stature in this society, this community has not yet fostered a comprehensive interest group to look out for the civil or political rights of NJ.
Not for lack of trying. I personally have led or been part of several groups (e.g., UMJ, The Community, Kunibengodan, FRANCA), but none garnered enough support to be an effective lobbying force. I’ll take my share of the blame for that (I am more an organizer of information than of people), but my efforts did not stop other people from organizing separately. Yet 20 years after a groundswell in the NJ population, and despite the unprecedented degree of connectivity made possible by the Internet, minority interest groups and antidefamation leagues for the English-language community have been lackluster or lacking.
Contrast this with the efforts of other ethnic or language groups in Japan. The Zainichi Koreans alone have three different organizations, which over the past 60 years have wrung political concessions from the Japanese government. The Chinese too have powerful information networks, not to mention a neighboring economic hegemon often speaking on their behalf. Even the Nikkei South Americans have their own newspapers, grass-roots schools and local human rights associations.
It’s an important question: Why are some minorities in Japan less able to organize than others? Let’s focus on the English-language community, since this very forum is part of it…
JBC: The past two months have been uncomfortable for Japan, and for the country’s foreign residents. Non-Japanese (NJ) have been bashed in the media, unreservedly and undeservedly, as deserters in the face of disaster.
Consider the birth of the epithet “fly-jin.” A corruption of the racist word gaijin for foreigners, it appeared in English-language media as a label for NJ who apparently flew the coop in Japan’s time of need. The Japanese media soon developed its own variants (e.g., Nihon o saru gaikokujin), and suddenly it was open season for denigrating NJ…
I saw no articles putting things into perspective, comparing numbers of AWOL NJ with AWOL Japanese. Cowardice and desertion were linked with extranationality.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt that many NJ did move due to the Tohoku disasters. But my question is: So what if they did?… Why should Japan care if NJ are leaving? Japan hasn’t exactly encouraged them to stay…
Director’s Cut with excised text from published version and links to sources:
Top Five for 2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) RENHO BECOMES FIRST MULTIETHNIC CABINET MEMBER (June 8 )
4) P.M. KAN APOLOGIZES TO KOREA FOR 1910 ANNEXATION (August 10)
3) TOURIST VISAS EASED FOR CHINA (July 1)
2) NJ PR SUFFRAGE BILL GOES DOWN IN FLAMES (February 27)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
Top Five for 2000-2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)
4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
3) THE SECOND KOIZUMI CABINET (2003-2005)
2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
Here’s something I received the other day from Debito.org Reader XY. It’s a flyer he found in his mailbox from the Tokyo Edogawa-ku LDP, advising people to “protect Japan and vote their conscience” (although they can’t legally use the word “vote” since it’s not an official election period). It talks about how “dangerous” it would be to grant NJ PR local suffrage.
I’ve given some of the con arguments here before (from radical rightists loons like Hiranuma and co.), but this time it’s seventeen more mainstreamers (from a party which would otherwise be in power but for people voting their conscience last August) offering a number of questionable claims…
My favorite bit is the illustration at the bottom. “JAPAN, LET’S PROTECT OURSELVES!!” Love how it’s an angry-looking alien ship with its sights on our archipelago. NJ as invading alien!! And I remember back in the day when we had a UFO Party waiting to cart us all away! How times change when there’s a real policy up for debate.
But seriously folks, this isn’t some podunk backwater like Dejima Award Winner Setaka Town in Fukuoka. This is Edogawa-ku, the easternmost ku of Tokyo proper, right across the river from Chiba, with more than half a million registered residents. It’s not the type of place for xenophobic alarmist politicians to immaturely paint the spectre of an alien invasion in a serious debate.
Kyodo: Local assemblies in 14 of Japan’s 47 prefectures have adopted statements in opposition to giving permanent foreign residents in Japan the right to vote in local elections since the Democratic Party of Japan took power last year, a Kyodo News tally showed Monday.
Before the launch last September of the new government under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who supports granting local suffrage, 31 prefectural assemblies took an affirmative stance, but six of them have turned against it since then.
(Those open-minded prefectures are: Akita, Yamagata, Chiba, Ibaraki, Toyama, Ishikawa, Shimane, Kagawa, Oita, Saga, Nagasaki and Kumamoto, plus Saitama and Niigata)
Table of Contents:
PUSHES ONE WAY
1) Kyodo: Municipal govts call for GOJ agency to help foreigners. Again.
2) Way cool Coldwell Banker SAPPORO SOURCE advertisement offering assistance with NJ apartment searches
3) Aly Rustom on how he got out of a Gaijin Card Check by J-cops
4) Michael Moore lambastes GOJ for being fingerprinted at border during his first Japan trip
5) Anti-NJ suffrage protests in Shibuya Nov 28 2009. The invective in flyers and banners: “Japan is in danger!”
6) Int’l Child Abduction issue update: Chinese found guilty in J court of abducting daughters, MOFA sets up panel on issue
7) ADDENDUM: Paul Toland on US Congressional side of Japan Child Abductions Issue
8 ) Kyodo: numerical figures on how many NJ took last April’s “Nikkei Repatriation Bribe”
SOME PERSONAL PROJECTS
9) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST NOV 30, 2009 (listen at Debito.org or download from iTunes)
10) Advice re Japan Law Society, Tokyo/Osaka association of NJ lawyers: they really won’t pay you if they invite you to speak
11) Co-authored chapter in new Akashi Shoten book on “American Diaspora” (English text)
12) Letter to 4 Dietmembers re my recent JT article on immigration policy (see immediately below)
… and finally …
13) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Dec 1 2009 on making Japan more attractive to immigrants (with links to sources)
Today is the tenth anniversary of our visit, on September 19, 1999, to “Japanese Only” Yunohana Onsen et al in Otaru, a life-changing event that to this day has not been fully resolved — mainly because we still don’t have a law against racial discrimination in Japan. This situation remains more than 13 years after Japan effecting of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, where it promised to take “all measures, including legislation” to effectively eliminate all forms of RD. And it deserves comment and reflection after years of protests, two books, countless articles, and successful lawsuits against the onsen (albeit not against the negligent City of Otaru).
My thoughts on this day are bittersweet. I know we did the right thing (as Olaf noted, when I called him today, people are still talking about the case), and we had a good outcome in court. But I judge things like this based upon whether or not they could ever happen again. The answer is, unfortunately, yes. After all, all Yunohana Onsen has to do is put up another “Japanese Only” sign and we’d have to take them to court all over again just to get it down. There is no law to stop it, nothing for authorities to enforce. Ten years later, it feels more overdue now than in 1999.
TITLE: THE OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT: TEN YEARS ON
What has and has not changed regarding human rights for Non-Japanese in Japan…
Warm-fuzzy article from the Washington Post: “Hamamatsu was a natural magnet for the newcomers because its many factories offered entry-level employment and required virtually no language skills. Officials here like to brag that their community became the most “international” of Japan’s cities. About 30,000 of its residents, or 4 percent, are foreign-born. That’s almost twice the proportion of foreign-born residents in Japan as a whole. (About 13 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.) Most newcomers are from Brazil and Peru. They are offspring of Japanese who immigrated to South America in the early 1900s to work in coffee fields and take other jobs…”
1) ANSWER FROM ALEX KERR re HIS JAPAN TIMES COMMENTS
2) TAKAHASHI SPEECH ON REMILITARIZING JAPAN AT U OF CHICAGO
3) LATEST CRAZINESS FROM J JUDICIARY: SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD
4) NATURALIZED KOREAN-J RUNS FOR OSAKA PREF ASSEMBLY
5) PROTEST RE LABOR BILL: COMPANIES MUST REPORT THEIR FOREIGN WORKERS
6) SUCCESSFUL PROTEST: CHANGING “TORUKO” TO “SOAPLAND”
7) JAPAN TIMES: SHIGA GOVERNOR BACKS ANTI-DISCRIM LAW
NORTHERN TERRITORIES DISPUTE… OVER A CASE OF BEER
Article uncovered from the archives: Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada said August 23, 2006, that she generally supports the creation of a national law to ban racial discrimination. However, many people in the central government and business who are pushing for more foreign labor oppose legislating against discrimination. Some say it would be better to change the attitude of society to be more tolerant of foreigners.
THOUGHTS ON THE APRIL 8, 2007 ELECTION
1) WHAT’S IT LIKE TO VOTE IN JAPAN?
2) SOME UNOBVIOUS TRENDS THIS ELECTION
3) RESULTS WE CARE ABOUT AT DEBITO.ORG
1) “DANGER! HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION LAW” MANGA TRANSLATED
2) “ILLEGAL FOREIGN LABOR MONTH” SIGNS UP AGAIN IN SHINAGAWA STN
3) TOKYO PRESS CONF JUNE 22: HAMAMATSU MAYOR KITAWAKI
4) JT ON REINSTITUTION OF FINGERPRINTING, AND RESPONSE
5) KOFI ANNAN ON JAPAN’S NEW IMMIGRATION LAW
6) KOFI ANNAN ON MIGRANTS
7) JOHN EDWARD PHILIPS ON ACADEMIA AND MONOCULTURALISM IN JAPAN
Japan Times: I mentioned that embedded computer chip. The new Gaijin Card is a “smart card.” Most places worldwide issue smart cards for innocuous things like transportation and direct debit, and you have to swipe the card on a terminal to activate it. Carrying one is, at least, optional.
Not in Japan. Although the 2005 proposal suggested foreign “swiping stations” in public buildings, the technology already exists to read IC cards remotely. With Japan’s love of cutting-edge gadgets, data processing will probably not stop at the swipe. The authorities will be able to remotely scan crowds for foreigners.
In other words, the IC chip is a transponder — a bug.
Now imagine these scenarios: Not only can police scan and detect illegal aliens, but they can also uncover aliens of any stripe. It also means that anyone with access to IC chip scanners (they’re going cheap online) could possibly swipe your information. Happy to have your biometric information in the hands of thieves?
Moreover, this system will further encourage racial profiling. If police see somebody who looks alien yet doesn’t show up on their scanner (such as your naturalized author, or Japan’s thousands of international children), they will more likely target you for questioning — as in: “Hey, you! Stop! Why aren’t you detectable?”
I last reported on this issue here last August 30, when the Japan Times covered it. Long-time readers may find the following guffaw-worthy, from it’s very title: “The third, fourth, fifth and sixth combined periodic report” to the United Nations Human Rights Council — indicating just how late the GOJ is filing a report, on what it’s doing towards the promotion of human rights in Japan, that is actually due every two years.
Then get a load of the bunkum the GOJ reports with a straight face. Most glaring lapse of logic: If the GOJ had taken “every conceivable measure” as it claims in its introduction, that would naturally include a law against racial discrimination, wouldn’t it? Like South Korea did in 2007. But no. And look what happens as a result. Excerpts and critique of the GOJ UN report follow. Dig through it, and you’ll find self-evident weaknesses and contradictory claims throughout.
GOOD NEWS FROM GRASS ROOTS
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 4
By Arudou Debito, Japan Times June 3, 2008
Reader Rodney in Vancouver recently emailed: “I’ve often found your articles informative and useful, but they tend to take a tone of complaint. Please tell us about some face-to-face, grassroots efforts that have helped make Japanese more considerate and respectful of those who are different.”
Thanks. Yes, my essays sound like “complaints” because I focus on ongoing issues that need redress. That doesn’t mean I don’t see the good news too. Here are 700 words to prove that…
During one of my recent speech tours, I was told by a Nikkei Brazilian student (I will call her Maria) that her sister (call her Nicola) had been victimized by a Japanese high school’s rules. According to Maria, Nicola had been forced by her school to dye her hair weekly because it was not as dark as her peers’. Maria said she herself escaped the Hair Police (she looks more phenotypically “Japanese” than her sister), but Nicola was told to darken and even straighten hers. Although graduated from the high school, Nicola still has not only mental trauma from the ordeal, but also damaged hair which to this day has not recovered. An example of how Japan’s cookie-cutter educational rules are doing a disservice to Japan’s imminent internationalization…