AFP: “Tarento Rola changing DNA of Japanese pop culture”. I wish her well, but the hyperbolic hype is not warranted

AFP: In celebrity-obsessed Japan with its conveyor belt of 15-minute stars, fashion model and “talent” Rola is blazing a meteoric trail at the forefront of a galaxy of mixed-race stars changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture. Turn on the TV and there’s no escaping the bubbly 24-year-old of Bengali, Japanese and Russian descent—she even dominates the commercial breaks. A marketing gold mine, Rola smiles down celestially from giant billboards, her wide eyes and girlie pout grace magazine covers and she even greets you at vending machines. But Rola, who settled in Japan when she was nine, has done it by turning the entertainment industry on its head, her child-like bluntness slicing through the strict convention that governs Japanese society.

JPN_GUY: The positive reaction to mixed-race models is certainly better than not wanting them on screen. It’s “anti-racist” and to be welcomed. To a certain extent, I guess it does show Japan is becoming more open and tolerant. But like most things, it’s not that simple. For one thing, all these women are stunning beautiful. Everyone loves a good-looking girl. We knew that already! But not all mixed race people in Japan could, or even want to be, celebrities. Kids like mine just want normal lives. They might want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a shipbuilding engineer or a dental technician. As I said, the high visibility of mixed-race people in better than being vilified and ignored, for sure. But it’s also a sign of fetishism, and a refusal to see mixed race people as just “one of us”. Celebrities are “special” by definition. Ironically, that’s why visible minorities have less difficulty breaking into this field.

DEBITO: Of course, most “tarento” blaze and then fizzle without making any real impact, least of all “changing the DNA Japanese pop culture” as this article and its pundits claim. Rola in particular does not seem to be consciously promoting any increase in social tolerance of “haafu” — she’s just doing her thing, entertaining with a new (or actually, not all that new, but for now fresh-sounding) schtick as an ingenue. Of course. That’s her role as an entertainer. This has been the role of so many other entertainers, including the Kents (Kent Derricott made his pile and returned to the US to buy his mansion on the hill in Utah for his family; Kent Gilbert did much the same and lives in Tokyo with a residence in Utah as well), Leah Dizon (remember her?, already divorced from the Japanese guy who made the baby bump the speed bump in her career; she’s trying to make a comeback in Japan while based in Las Vegas), Bob Sapp, Chuck Wilson, and many, many more that I’m sure Debito.org readers will recount in comments below.

Sadly, none of these people have really made or will make a long-term impact on Japan’s mediascape. The best long-seller remains Dave Spector, who is a very, very exceptional person in terms of persistence and media processing (not to mention stellar language ability), but even he makes little pretense about being anything more than an “American entertainer” for hire. Other impactful persons I can think of are Peter Barakan and perhaps these people here. So it’s not non-existent. But it’s not powerful enough to permit “Doubles” to control their self-image in Japan, either.

I wish Rola well. I hope she continues to make the media splash she’s making. But the overhype can be fatal for many an entertainer when people eventually tire of her current incarnation. Even if Rola becomes “successful” by revamping her act to become more substantial, she’ll just be as subsumed and co-oped as Miyazawa Rie or Becky is. Or as forgotten as Leah Dizon within a few years. Let’s hope not, and let’s hope that she becomes a long seller. But I doubt it. Because the ingenue trail she is blazing (or rather, is being blazed for her by her agents) of the “sexy-baby-voice tarento” genre has never really allowed for that.

ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!

It’s times like these when people seem glad that a forum like Debito.org exists. I say this based on the large number of people who submitted information about the new ANA commercial on Haneda Airport’s increased international flights. Seems that somebody, anybody, should express outrage. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here it is:

Well, let’s have a think. With two Asian guys speaking only in English (one saying he’s Japanese — the noticeably shorter guy) noting that Japan will have more international access (Vancouver and Hanoi are mentioned as their destinations), the message of the ad is that the image of Japan will change. “Exciting, isn’t it?”, says the Japanese bloke. The taller dude says, “You want a hug?” When nothing happens (i.e., no hug), he oddly says, “Such a Japanese reaction.” When the tall dude says, “Let’s change the image of Japanese people,” the short dude agrees to it. And this is what happens to him: He turns into Robert Redford!

Yeah, that’ll do it. Put on a wig and a fake nose, and that’ll change Japan’s image. Actually, no it won’t. This in fact is business as usual, given how Japan has a nasty habit of racializing commodities. Check out but a few examples of racist Japanese commercial campaigns from Debito.org’s archives (click on images to see more information). Then I’ll comment about the ANA one:

UPDATE JANUARY 20: Stating that they are now pulling the ad, ANA officially comments in a reply to complaints below (English original): “The intention of this commercial was to highlight how international flights from Haneda Airport will increase from March 30, 2014 and to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens.”

Interesting mindset. Good to know what ANA was thinking. But do you think this advertisement accomplishes that? Are “global citizens” therefore Robert Redford lookalikes? In light of this, the advertisement is to me even more problematic.

SNA Visible Minorities Column 11: Advice to Activists in Japan in general (in the wake of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Japan Movement)

SNA: Within recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a wider range of people are finally decrying, for example, the Japanese police’s racial profiling and violence towards visible minorities. […] This column would like to point out some of the pitfalls that activists may face in Japanese society, based upon my experience fighting against racial discrimination in Japan for nearly thirty years. Please read them in the helpful spirit they are intended.

1) Remember that, in Japan, activists are seen as extremists
2) Keep the debate focused on how discrimination affects everyone in Japan
3) Be wary of being fetishized
4) Be ready for the long haul
5) Control your own narrative

Full writeup on SNA at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/06/22/visible-minorities-advice-to-activists-in-japan/

UPDATE: Kyoto City manga denigrating “foreigners”, produced by Kyoto Seika University, has naturalized African-Japanese citizen Dr. Oussouby Sacko as University President!

A little over a week ago, Debito.org issued a report from a Kyoto NJ Resident who protested an official comic book, issued by the City of Kyoto to local grade schoolers, depicting NJ only as noisy English-speaking tourists, litterers, and loiterers.  And how local residents managed to get Kyoto City to remove that comic with a phone call of protest.  (Even that blog post had an impact:  It smoked out a Gaijin Handler who tried to blame us as a foreign “troublemaking demographic” wasting Japan’s money.) That’s fine.  The irony here was that the people who developed this comic were Kyoto Seika University and the Kyoto International Manga Museum — “international” places you think would know better than to encourage prejudice. 

Well, I’m not sure why this didn’t dawn on me sooner, but as pointed out on FB, Kyoto Seika University just happens to have a naturalized Malian-Japanese named Dr. Oussouby Sacko as its President (see Debito.org posts on him here and here).  I wonder if he was aware of this project, and if he would have anything to say about it now? Given Dr. Sacko’s flawed social science training regarding how racism works, and his apparent obliviousness about his own privilege in Japan, I’m not so sure. (Dr. Sacko’s only apparent public contact is at ksuinted@kyoto-seika.ac.jp.)

Anyway, here is Kyoto Seika University’s statement of principles, undersigned by the man himself.  How does this square with being involved in encouraging prejudice in Japan’s grade-schoolers?

BBC: “Is Japan embracing diversity?” A Pollyannaish article highlighting a few celebrity examples without data on broad public attitudes or government policy re immigration

BBC: Ahead of the Rugby World Cup held in Japan last year, a Japanese sports magazine, asked the national team’s captain, “Why are there so many foreigners in Japan’s squad?” The 31-year-old captain, Michael Leitch, originally from New Zealand, answered (in Japanese), “Because that’s how Japan is today. The rugby national team reflects the reality of current Japan, and also anticipates the future of Japan. As a team, we can embody and show society just how important diversity is.”
[…]
In Japan, rugby is famous for the phrase “no-side”, meaning once the referee blows the whistle to end the match, there are no more foes, only fellow players. While this phrase is no longer widely used, it has lodged itself firmly in the national consciousness of Japan. Athletes there with foreign roots are still called “players from a foreign country”. But in a country where the concept of wa is considered a fundamental virtue, there is hope that an increasingly visible “other” Japan in a changing society can lead it to being the natural state of things.

COMMENT: Here we have another one of those hopeful “Japan is changing” articles we get from time to time. BBC Reporter Okazaki clearly starts from a tack and then works backwards to find evidence to support it. But as Submitter FB pointed out quite succinctly, the article “highlights a few celebrity examples without any data on broad public attitudes or government policy towards immigration. The fact that 3rd generation ethnic Koreans aren’t citizens is the most telling fact of intransigence towards diversity.” Touche.  

So let’s just draw a line in the sand here with a clear litmus test:  At a bare minimum, until Japan’s historical aberration of “Zainichi” status is finally resolved by the Japanese government, and “generational foreigners” are legally accepted as diverse AND Japanese, Japan can never claim to be truly accepting of diversity.  Full stop.  Do that, and then we’ll start talking about how “Japan is changing” for a news peg.  For one cannot ignore the historical contributions and sacrifices of Japan’s minorities, particularly the Zainichi, no matter what cosmetic overtures one might make in public towards a few token Visible Minorities for the sake of overseas media consumption.

Book “Embedded Racism in Japan”, acclaimed as “important, courageous and challenging” and “a must-read” by prominent academic journals, now discounted to $34.99 if bought through publisher directly, using promo code LEX30AUTH16

Acclaimed book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” has been discounted 30% for a limited time to $34.99 in paperback and Kindle if bought through through my publisher (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield) directly. Use promo code LEX30AUTH16. (Japan residents have reported getting the book for $40 including quick shipping.)

Academic reviews have been positive. Prominent Japanologist Tessa Morris-Suzuki has reviewed it as “important, courageous and challenging”, the Japan Studies Association of Canada has heralded it as “an important contribution to geography, cultural and area studies”, Social Science Journal Japan calls it “must-read text… highly recommended reading to anyone… who is interested in Japan’s future”, and an American Sociological Association journal review notes it as “a brave critique of Japanese society and its failure to look outward in its demographic and economic development … as it makes an important contribution for those wishing to understand racism in Japan better”

According to WorldCat, more than 130 of the world’s major research libraries (including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia…) have made “Embedded Racism” part of their collections. Get your discounted copy by going to https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498513906/Embedded-Racism-Japan’s-Visible-Minorities-and-Racial-Discrimination and use promo code LEX30AUTH16.
More information and reviews on the book at http://www.debito.org/embeddedracism.html.
Download a book flyer and order form at http://www.debito.org/EmbeddedRacismPaperbackflyer.pdf

NYT: Hair policing soon to be treated as “racial discrimination” by NYC Commission of Human Rights. Compare with JHS & HS Hair Police in Japan.

NYT: Under new guidelines to be released this week by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the targeting of people based on their hair or hairstyle, at work, school or in public spaces, will now be considered racial discrimination. The change in law applies to anyone in New York City but is aimed at remedying the disparate treatment of black people; the guidelines specifically mention the right of New Yorkers to maintain their “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

In practice, the guidelines give legal recourse to individuals who have been harassed, threatened, punished, demoted or fired because of the texture or style of their hair. The city commission can levy penalties up to $250,000 on defendants that are found in violation of the guidelines and there is no cap on damages. The commission can also force internal policy changes and rehirings at offending institutions… (The new guidelines do not interfere with health and safety reasons for wearing hair up or in a net, as long as the rules apply to everyone.)

The guidelines, obtained by The New York Times before their public release, are believed to be the first of their kind in the country. They are based on the argument that hair is inherent to one’s race (and can be closely associated with “racial, ethnic, or cultural identities”) and is therefore protected under the city’s human rights laws, which outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion and other protected classes.

COMMENT: Related to our recent posts by Senaiho about the unchecked bullying power of the self-appointed “Hair Police” in Japan’s secondary education system, here’s how a progressive system deals with it, particularly when it comes to hairstyles in the professional world. New York City’s Human Rights Commission will soon be enforcing guidelines dealing with racial discrimination when it comes to how people choose to wear their hair professionally. And these penalties have real teeth: The NYC HRC can levy fines on companies of up to a quarter-mil, plus damages in court afterwards!

This is, of course, absolutely unimaginable in Japan, where their state-sponsored “Bureau of Human Rights” (Jinken Yougobu) is but a Potemkin system (with no ability to levy penalties, and arbitrary guidelines for launching investigations) that only exists to deflect criticism from overseas that Japan isn’t respecting treaty obligations towards human rights. Consequently people of diversity are forced into an absolutist narrative where “looking Japanese” is not only quantifiable as a standard (e.g., hair must be straight and black), but also enforceable under normalized racial profiling by the Japanese police (which has detained people for “looking foreign” while Japanese). This is why “Embedded Racism” remains so unchecked in Japan. So consider the NYC HRC as a template.

Japan Times JBC 114 DIRECTOR’S CUT of “Top Ten for 2018” column, with links to sources

Now that the clicks have died down on my latest Japan Times JBC column of January 28, 2019 (thanks for putting it in the Top Ten trending articles once again), what follows is the first final draft I submitted to the Japan Times for editing on December 29, 2018.  I blog this version because a lot of information is lost (inevitably) as we cut the word count from 2800 to 1600 words. (I generally put everything in the first final draft, then cut it down to fit the page; that way we don’t overlook anything and have to backtrack.)

People have been asking what got cut (and yes, the original version mentions Michael Woodford and Jeff Kingston), so the piece below is quite a bit different from what appeared in the Japan Times here (meaning it shouldn’t draw away any readers from the JT version; in fact, it will probably spur more views from readers wanting to compare). Also, having links to sources matter, so here it all is, including my regular acerbic tone.

Nikkei Asian Review: “In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth”. An optimistic antidote to the regular media Gaijin Bashing

Nikkei: In roughly three decades, the number of foreign residents in Japan has grown to 2.47 million, from just 980,000 in 1989. So while this period will go down in history as the time the country’s population went into decline, it has also brought an unprecedented influx of newcomers from abroad. Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Indonesian: The students at Keiwa Elementary School in the southwestern prefecture of Mie speak nine different languages at home. But at school they use Japanese…

Foreign nationals tend to gravitate to places where their children are likely to receive better education. Mie — home to Keiwa Elementary — is a testament to this. The prefecture is gaining a reputation for supporting students born to non-Japanese parents. “Mieko san no Nihongo,” a textbook for teaching classroom Japanese developed by the Mie International Exchange Foundation, has proved useful in this regard and is now used in elementary and junior high schools nationwide.

According to the Ministry of Education, the number of students requiring additional instruction in the Japanese language at public elementary and junior high schools topped 30,000 for the first time in the year ended March 2017. The central government, too, is looking to bring more foreign workers into the country. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said his government will design a reform plan for this purpose by the summer. Yet Abe is not exactly jumping in with both feet — the policy will not encourage permanent settlement, with a cap to be placed on the maximum stay and restrictions on bringing family members along. Even so, Japan is far more diverse than it was in 1950, when there were only 600,000 residents from overseas. From large cities to tiny villages, Japanese grow ever more accustomed to mingling with their fellow global citizens. And the newcomers are breathing life into communities that looked destined to fade.

COMMENT: As an antidote to the program talked about last blog entry, where hunting NJ for public sport and amusement became yet another TV show, here’s a relatively rare article showing the good that NJ do for Japanese society:  revitalizing communities that are dying, as they age and endure an exodus of their young to more prosperous cities.  The article is a bit too optimistic to be realistic (given that all this progress could be undone with a simple mass cancellation of visas and government repatriation bribes; the former has happened multiple times in Japan’s history), but I’d rather have the article than not.  Have a look and tell us what you think.

Excellent Japan Times feature on dual citizenship in Japan: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy leaves many in the dark

JT: The nationality law officially obliges those who have multiple citizenships by birthright to choose one by the age of 22. But in fact, possibly hundreds of thousands have maintained multiple nationalities and to date the government has never cracked down on any of them. In response to questions over the number of dual nationals, the Justice Ministry confirmed to The Japan Times that some 890,000 people were or are in a position to have dual nationality. This figure is based on official family registries maintained by local municipalities between 1985 and 2016, and includes people who have declared or forfeited Japanese citizenship, as well as people assumed to have multiple nationalities based on their birthright.

“If I were forced to decide which citizenship to retain and which citizenship to relinquish, I would view it as which culture and which nation am I to abandon.” According to a survey conducted by The Japan Times of 1,449 people with dual nationalities, 76.8 percent maintain dual citizenship while 23.2 percent decided to forfeit one of their passports. The same survey showed that 39.5 percent of multiple passport holders “always” switch passports depending on the country they enter, while 37.3 percent “sometimes” switch passports. With the government’s official position becoming more divorced from a globalizing society where a large number of people maintain dual nationalities, many have to rely on word-of-mouth for information on what they see as an important, life-changing decision regarding their citizenship.

COMMENT: This lengthy feature from The Japan Times conducts original research on dual nationality in Japan, and gives vital insights into the game of legal chicken played by the Japanese Government to get people to forfeit their dual nationality (and by extension, part of their identity), all for mere allegiance to the fiction that Japan is monocultural and homogeneous. This suppression of diversity must stop, but few are taking notice. That is, until recently, when it’s become clear that “Japan-Claiming” of diverse Japanese such as Osaka Naomi helps with the other thing the insecure Japanese Government craves: respect and recognition for excellence on the world stage.

That’s why it’s worth revisiting this older JT article. The takeaway is this: As the JT has also recently reported, there is no real penalty from the Japanese Government for not surrendering your non-Japanese nationality:  “There have been no reported instances of dual nationals by birth having their citizenship revoked.” So as Debito.org has always advised: Declare Japanese nationality and quietly keep renewing your foreign passport. The foreign government will not tell the Japanese authorities (it’s none of their business), and the Japanese authorities cannot strip you of a foreign nationality (or even confiscate a foreign passport–it’s the property of the foreign government). Only you can give one up. So don’t.

JT: “Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”; underanalyzed stats posing as media peg

JT: [T]his year more than 1 in every 8 new adults in Tokyo’s 23 wards are not Japanese citizens, figures compiled by The Japan Times show. According to data provided by the 23 ward offices, 10,959 new non-Japanese adults live in central Tokyo, or 13 percent of the 83,764 new adults living in the city. […] Experts attributed Tokyo’s recent surge in the number of young non-Japanese to a flood of foreign residents coming with student and training visas. […] Those with dual citizenship of Japan and another country are counted as Japanese citizens.

COMMENT: This is a positive development, but not something all that headline-grabbing as a bellwether. After all, the article barely mentions the NJs’ visa status. Are these Permanent Residents who can stay here forever, and make a difference without fearing the loss of their visa? or are they on something shorter and thus sweepable (or bribable) with the thud of a bureaucratic stamp of “nonrenewal”? (The article mentions the uptick in student and “trainee” visas; precisely my point. This is not immigration; it’s a reflection of stopgap labor movement.)

And the true measure of internationalization — international Japanese citizens (i.e., Japanese children of international roots) — are not counted at all, once again showing the “embedded racism” of the process (by deliberately reducing Japan’s level of “foreignness” to more comfortable levels by only counting “pure” foreigners in isolation). Then what is a more newsworthy stat?  How about the record numbers each year of NJ residents with Permanent Residency?  That never seem to make much news blip. No wonder. That would actually mean something IS changing.

Instead, we get soft stats in soft newspaper articles like these. Again, fine, but we Old Japan Hands are getting rather sick of hearing prematurely how “Japan is changing” in the media, and getting our hopes up unnecessarily.

A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”

As is tradition, here is JBC’s annual countdown of the top 10 human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan over the past year. In ascending order:

10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record
Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total. In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline. Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.

9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit…
Entire article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/03/issues/2017-japan-woke-issue-discrimination/
Version with links to sources now on Debito.org.

JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets

This is an unintentionally hilarious article written by a Japanese reporter for a Japanese audience. It subconsciously depicts the attitudes of Japanese renters trying to profit from commonplace racist landlords excluding foreign clients: Build a communal household where foreign residents entertain the Japanese and the Japanese residents enjoy themselves. Especially telling is how the reporter contextualizes the issue in terms of more pet-friendly accommodations in Japan — putting foreigners on the same level as pets (with apparently as much power as a pet to be left alone).

Let’s consider this in terms of all the tokenism found in Japanese companies (especially during the Kokusaika Era, which I experienced first-hand) hiring young, genki gaijin to “internationalize” their company, and then putting them to work in temporary, trite, and expendable jobs so that they could give the company smiles but never get promoted to a post with any power. It’s clear that the unequal relationship is so normalized that making NJ into your house pet is unproblematized by the Japanese media. Finally, the reporter completely ignores the fact that racist landlords (not the lack of a guarantor) are the primary reason why “no pets, no foreigners” apartments exist.

Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10) Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org

Kyodo: Japan’s laws against hate speech piecemeal, lack teeth

One more blog entry about hate speech in Japan (because these developments are important and deserve archiving, as they set the tone for how the new law will be enforced and possibly lead to laws against other forms of racial discrimination). The Mainichi articles thus far archived on Debito.org (here, here, and here) have talked about the positive developments of people being called to account for their hateful speech, and the chilling effect (for a change) over anti-foreign public rallies. Yet Kyodo below makes a case that the law does not go far enough:

Kyodo: Japan’s first hate speech law, which took effect in June, was created in line with Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, and Article 13, which guarantees basic human rights. Experts, though, say the law is flawed because it lacks both a stated prohibition of hate speech and carries no punishment for perpetrators.

In July, an ordinance to curb hate speech took effect in the city of Osaka. It helped minimize threatening expressions, including “Die!” and “Kill them,” but did little to curb slurs like “the crime rate among Korean people is high.” Yet the environment surrounding offensive displays appears to be changing. Kawasaki announced on May 31 it would not allow the organizer of a hate speech demonstration to use a park following past remarks and activities. In Osaka, police called for “a society free of discrimination.” But perpetrators of discriminatory behavior have turned their attention to the political arena…

Japan Center for Michigan Universities (Hikone, Shiga Pref.) sponsors July 23 lecture by Japan’s first Muslim lawyer Junko Hayashi, on Islam and issues faced by Muslims in Japan

The Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, is proud to welcome Junko Hayashi, Japan’s first female Muslim attorney, to speak about Islam and the issues faced by Muslims in Japan. In a recent court battle, Ms. Hayashi represented Japanese Muslims that were being watched by the Japanese government for no reason other than they are Muslims. The surveillance of these Japanese citizens came to light after information gathered by police was accidentally leaked on the Internet. Japanese courts ruled that there was no constitutional violation and that the threat of international terrorism outweighed any privacy right held by the plaintiffs.

Muslim culture is an important part of Michigan culture, making JCMU the ideal place to host this event. JCMU is also a place where people from many different cultures come together to learn about culture and language while exchanging ideas that make our world a better place. It is JCMU’s hope that the Islamophobia gripping much of the Western world can be avoided in Japan through education and mutual understanding.

Ms. Hayashi will present at JCMU (1435-86 Matsubara-Cho, Hikone-Shi, Shiga-Ken 522-0002) on July 23, 2016 in both English and Japanese. People interested in attending the lecture can register by email at register@jcmu.org. The English language lecture will start at 17:00, with the Japanese lecture following at 19:00. For further information about JCMU and its programs please see our website English website at jcmu.isp.msu.edu and our Japanese website at www.jcmu.net. Flyer enclosed at this blog entry.

Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo

Reuters: An economic uptick since Abe took office in December 2012, rebuilding after the 2011 tsunami and a construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have pushed labor demand to its highest in 24 years. That has helped boost foreign worker numbers by 40 percent since 2013, with Chinese accounting for more than one-third followed by Vietnamese, Filipinos and Brazilians. But visa conditions largely barring unskilled workers mean foreigners still make up only about 1.4 percent of the workforce, compared with the 5 percent or more found – according to IMF estimates – in most advanced economies.

So far, measures to attract more foreign workers have focused on easing entry for highly skilled professionals and expanding a “trainee” system that was designed to share technology with developing countries, but which critics say has become a backdoor source of cheap labor. This time, the LDP panel leaders’ proposal went further, suggesting foreigners be accepted in other sectors facing shortages, such as nursing and farming – initially for five years with visa renewal possible. They also proposed creating a framework whereby the number of foreign workers would be doubled from around 908,000 currently, and the term “unskilled labor” would be abandoned.

In a sign of the sensitivies, however – especially ahead of a July upper house election – panel chief Yoshio Kimura stressed the proposal should not be misconstrued as an “immigration policy” and said steps were needed to offset any negative impact on jobs and public safety. […] “The government insists it is not adopting an immigration policy, but whatever the word, faced with a shrinking population, it is changing its former stance and has begun to move toward a real immigration policy,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, a former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief.

Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue

Japan Times: A U.S. man seeking access to his daughter said Monday that the case is an opportunity for Japan to prove to the world it no longer tolerates parental child abduction. U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland is suing the mother of his Japanese ex-wife for denying access to his 13-year-old daughter. His former wife left with the child in 2003, at the age of 9 months, after their marriage failed. The woman committed suicide four years later.

Toland said his situation would amount to a “felony crime” in other countries with up-to-date family laws. “In Japan, this abduction by a nonparent is not only accepted, but it is condoned. I’m the only parent in the world to (my daughter),” Toland said, who is in Japan for the first time since the trial at the Tokyo Family Court kicked off in July. Toland said if the case is resolved it would demonstrate to the world that Japan is turning over a new leaf after years of notoriety as a “safe haven” for parental child abduction. If his daughter is not returned to him, he said, it will only alienate the nation further.

Mainichi: “Not Japanese Enough?” Bog-standard article about Miss Japan Miyamoto Ariana’s fight against racial discrim in Japan, not in Japanese for J-audience

I’ve been withholding comment on the very good news about Miyamoto Ariana’s ascension to the role of Miss Japan, and for the role that she is taking on of her own volition to fight “racial discrimination” (yes, explicitly jinshu sabetsu — something that the J-media generally refuses to even acknowledge exists in Japan). What I’ve been waiting for is how the J-media (as opposed to the predictable reaction from the J-xenophobes) would react to her activism. And here’s a good example from the Mainichi Shinbun: (A few comments follow the article.)

Mainichi: At first glance, Ariana Miyamoto does not look like an ordinary Japanese woman. But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age. In March, she became the first mixed race contestant to be crowned “Miss Universe Japan,” but not everyone cheered the result…

Debito: Okay, a few points: 1) The opening paragraph, where the article says, “But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age.” Well, she IS a native speaker of Japanese, and she IS a typical Japanese her age. Because she IS a Japanese. 100%. Even she says so. Front-loading the articles to reinforce the narrative that she isn’t a Japanese because she has mixed roots is one major problem in this unnecessary debate about Miyamoto-san’s identity….

Japan Times Just Be Cause 89, “Media redraw battle lines in bid for global reach”, on Fuji network’s acquisition of Japan Today.com, July 6, 2015

Opening paragraphs: Something significant happened in April that attracted only desultory press coverage, so let’s give it some more. GPlus Media Co., which operates English-language websites Japan Today and GaijinPot, was sold to Fuji TV-Lab, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings Inc. The Fuji Media group has the Fuji Television Network under its wing, as well as the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun as an affiliate.

This matters to Japan’s resident non-Japanese (NJ) communities. Fuji TV was recently caught fabricating subtitles falsely quoting South Korean commenters as “hating Japan” (Japan Times, June 29). That’s an incredibly dishonest thing for a nationwide broadcaster to do, especially when it may have a nasty impact on Japan’s Korean minorities.

However, the Sankei Shimbun as a newspaper I believe is no less nasty. Over the past 15 years, for example, they have run articles grossly exaggerating foreign crime (see “Generating The Foreigner Crime Wave”, Japan Times, Oct. 4, 2002), a column claiming that Chinese had criminal “ethnic DNA” (May 8, 2001, written by regular columnist and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro “let’s fight a war with China” Ishihara) and an opinion piece by Ayako Sono on Feb. 11 that praised the racial segregation of South African apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy. The Fuji-Sankei group offers pretty much unwavering support to the country’s right-wing causes and talking points. They are further right than the Yomiuri — and that’s saying something. Before I get to why we should care, let’s look briefly at the existing landscape of the nation’s English-language media…

Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/07/05/issues/media-redraw-battleines-bid-global-reach/

Honolulu Weekly Feb 9 1994: “Prints of Darkness”: Ronald Fujiyoshi, Hawaiian fighter of GOJ fingerprinting of NJ, 20 years ago says prescient things about future Japan

Honolulu Weekly: When civil-rights activist/missionary Ronald Fujiyoshi refused to be fingerprinted in compliance with Japan’s Alien Registration Law in 1981, he launched a personal attack on the Japanese government which still hasn’t ended. […] After waging his own personal battle against the Japanese government for the greater part of the last two decades, [Ronald Fujiyoshi,] the 53-year-old Hilo resident is hopeful that the recent change in government is a sign that the Japanese people have at last begun to fight back against what he contends is a sinister system which has been unjustly subjugating them for centuries.

Fujiyoshi’s personal beef is Japan’s latent racism, which he maintains is knowingly cultivated by the country’s ruling circles in order to foster an “us vs. them” mentality. Japan’s alien-registration laws are widely known to be among the most rigid and strictly enforced in the world. It has long been a complaint among non-Japanese immigrants in Japan that the laws are also part of a greater government scheme to prevent them from feeling completely at ease in their adopted homeland, withhold full citizenship rights and relegate them to positions of permanent underclass status in the overall economic tapestry of the nation. Especially onerous to Fujiyoshi was the Japanese government’s longstanding policy of insisting that all foreign residents and criminal suspects in Japan submit fingerprints for identification purposes.

Being grouped with criminals and thus treated as undesirables created acute resentment in the Korean-Japanese community, over 700,000 strong and representing roughly four out of five of Japan’s foreign residents. Many of them have lived in Japan for several generations; their relatives were originally brought there forcibly during World War II as military conscripts or factory workers. They are still treated as outsiders, and their “alien” status frequently denies them jobs, housing and scholarships. Fujiyoshi contends that the fingerprint policy is both unconstitutional by Japan’s own admitted standards and an abhorrent violation of the United Nations International Covenant of Human Rights, to which Japan is a signatory. […]

For Fujiyoshi, state-sanctioned racism is bad enough, but even more repugnant is the denial of its existence by most Japanese. He maintains that the power structure, for its own purposes, is using its tremendous control over the media (and consequent influence on public opinion) to perpetuate the traditional notion that there are only three major races in the world. “According to this view, all there are are Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid stocks,” says Fujiyoshi, recounting the argument he has heard more times than he cares to remember. This belief is worse than oversimplistic: It makes it possible for the Japanese government to exclude from the category of racial discrimination its dealings with other Asian and Pacific peoples living in the country. Japan can safely perceive itself as a country of only one race and sincerely believe that the racial conflicts plaguing the rest of the world can’t happen there.

Online media outlet Japan Today acquired by right-wing Fuji Media Holdings, meaning Japan Times is last E-media news organization independent of J-media conglomerates

Something rather important happened within Japan’s English-language media landscape last month, and it’s only now starting (after some prodding) to come to light: Another NJ media voice has been absorbed by Japanese conglomerates: Japan Today, an online media outlet founded in 2001 by NJ.

This matters. Back in the 1990s we had a number of other outlets employing NJ reporters and offering a degree of news that served and spoke to the NJ communities in Japan (those that read English, anyway). Since then almost all of them have withered or winked out. Left-leaning Mainichi Shimbun succumbed to economic pressures and made its English-language daily into an online-only outlet that is a mere shadow publication (moreover succumbed to the pressure of online trolls by crucifying their reporters who dared translate scandalous Japanese tabloid media for their popular WaiWai column). The Centrist-Right Asahi Evening News, to bust their unionizing NJ employees, fired all of their reporters and now merely offers a translation service for what they write in Japanese (their presses closed down completely in 2010). Rightist Yomiuri Shinbun whitewashed itself by recently changing its name of its English-language publication from Daily Yomiuri to the anodyne and root-free The Japan News, and since it takes any criticism of Japan by a NJ as a personal affront, it basically marginalized its English-langauge staff into writing book reviews and fluff pieces before Asahi-ing them into proofreaders also. The last major national news outlet, the Sankei Shinbun, never bothered projecting their farther-right views into English. Until now, when it bought up Japan Today.

That just leaves the Japan Times as a serious news outlet outside of Japanese conglomerate control. I am proud to be amongst their ranks as a columnist pushing for media independence from a current political milieu under PM Abe increasingly intolerant of criticism. But even they have seen their Community Pages drop from four days per week to two. So support your Japan Times however and whenever you can, everyone. They’re all that are left, and if they get absorbed, it’s pretty clear that they’ll just become a mouthpiece for the Japanese corporate narrative all over again.

My Japan Times JBC Column 86 April 6, 2015: “Japan makes more sense through a religious lens”

JBC: Ever noticed how Japan — and in particular, its ruling elite — keeps getting away with astonishing bigotry? Recently Ayako Sono, a former adviser of the current Shinzo Abe government, sang the praises of a segregated South Africa, advocating a system where people would live separately by race in Japan (a “Japartheid,” if you will). But that’s but the latest stitch in a rich tapestry of offensive remarks.

Remember former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s claim that “old women who live after losing their reproductive function are useless and committing a sin,” or his attribution of Chinese criminality to “ethnic DNA” (both 2001)? Or former Prime Minister Taro Aso admiring Nazi subterfuge in changing Germany’s prewar constitution (2013), arguing that Western diplomats cannot solve problems in the Middle East because of their “blue eyes and blond hair,” and advocating policies to attract “rich Jews” to Japan (both 2001)? Or then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone declaring Japan to be “an intelligent society” because it was “monoracial,” without the “blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans” that dragged down America’s average level of education (1986)?

Although their statements invited international and domestic protest, none of these people were drummed out of office or even exiled to the political wilderness. Why? Because people keep passing off such behavior as symptomatic of “weird, quirky Japan,” i.e., “They say these things because they are Japanese – trapped in uniquely insular mentalities after a long self-imposed isolation (sakoku).”

Such excuses sound lame and belittling when you consider that it’s been 160 years since Japan ended its isolation, during which time it has successfully copied contemporary methods of getting rich, waging war and integrating into the global market.

This treatment also goes beyond the blind-eyeing usually accorded to allies due to geopolitical realpolitik. In the past, analysts have gone so gaga over the country’s putative uniqueness that they have claimed Japan is an exception from worldwide socioeconomic factors including racism, postcolonial critique and (until the bubble era ended) even basic economic theory!

So why does Japan keep getting a free pass? Perhaps it’s time to start looking at “Japaneseness” through a different lens: as a religion. It’s more insightful…
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Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/04/05/issues/viewed-religious-lens-japan-makes-sense/. This will be the anchor site, so feel free to comment below.

My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

OPENING: I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on. After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning.

Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. Maybe even governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed, if you happened to be male).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money, and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan…

Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/

Japan Times JBC 81, Nov 5 2014, “Does social change in Japan come from the top down or bottom up?”

Opening: This month I would like to take a break from my lecture style of column-writing to pose a question to readers. Seriously, I don’t have an answer to this, so I’d like your opinion: Does fundamental social change generally come from the top down or the bottom up?

By top down, I mean that governments and legal systems effect social change by legislating and rule-making. In other words, if leaders want to stop people doing something they consider unsavory, they make it illegal. This may occur with or without popular support, but the prototypical example would be legislating away a bad social habit (say, lax speed limits or unstandardized legal drinking ages) regardless of clear public approval.

By bottom up, I mean that social change arises from a critical mass of people putting pressure on their elected officials (and each other) to desist in something socially undesirable. Eventually this also results in new rules and legislation, but the impetus and momentum for change is at the grass-roots level, thanks to clear public support.

Either dynamic can work in Japan, of course…
(Your thoughts on the question welcome here and at the JT site.)

DVB News: Japan’s lack of transparency threatens Burma’s development (as PM Abe seeks to contain China)

A bit of a tangent today. The author of this article asked me for some input some months back, and I steered him towards some resources that talked about Japan’s historical involvement with Burma (and deep ties between the ruling junta and Japan’s WWII government — to the point of using the Imperial Army’s public order maintenance style over its colonies as a template to repress domestic dissent). Even with recent changes in Burma’s government, Japan’s engagement style is reportedly not changing — it’s still up to its old nontransparent policymaking tricks. I put up this article on Debito.org because it relates to the Abe Administration’s perpetual use of China not only as a bugbear to stir up nationalism and remilitarization, but also something to encircle and contain, as Abe visits more Asian countries in his first year in office than any other PM (without, notably, visiting China). Nothing quite like getting Japan’s neighbors to forget Japan’s wartime past (and, more importantly, Japan’s treatment of them as a colonizer and invader) than by offering them swagbags of largesse mixed with a message of seeing China instead as the actual threat to regional stability. Result: Who will agitate for the offsetting of Japan’s historical amnesia if the descendants of their victims (or their governments, lapping up the largesse) will not? These are the “arrows” Abe is quietly loosing, and this time outside Japan in support of his revisionism.

DVB News: Japan’s traditional approach to diplomacy – characterised by “quiet dialogue” – is becoming a threat to Burma’s fragile reform process. In recent weeks, the Japanese government has demonstrated an alarming lack of transparency regarding both its role in Burma’s peace process and land grabbing problems at Thilawa, Japan’s flagship development project near Rangoon. Eleven News also reported on Tuesday that a Burmese parliament member demanded greater transparency about how Japanese financial aid is distributed to Burma’s health sector…

FGU on how Japan’s employers are circumventing new contract law protections: poison pills in contracts

We’ve talked about Japan’s Academic Apartheid at the university level (i.e., NJ on perpetual contracts, J on permanent tenure) for decades now on Debito.org (especially since employment standards of NJ in academia set precedents for employment everywhere). And thanks to decades of pressure, as of April 2013 the GOJ built in safeguards to stop perpetual contracting — where working five years continuously on fixed-term contracts now gives the contractee the option for more stable contract work. But employers are now getting around that by capping their contracts at five years with a “non-renewal clause”, building in a poison pill for employees no matter how hard they work or contribute to the company.

It’s one more reason to reconsider ever working in Japan. For those who have no choice, keep an eye out for the poison pill and don’t sign a contract with one.

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

Crucial to any public discussion is defining the terms of debate. However, often those terms must be redefined later because they don’t reflect reality.

One example is Japan’s concept of “foreigner,” because the related terminology is confusing and provides pretenses for exclusionism.

In terms of strict legal status, if you’re not a citizen you’re a “foreigner” (gaikokujin), right? But not all gaikokujin are the same in terms of acculturation or length of stay in Japan. A tourist “fresh off the boat” has little in common with a noncitizen with a Japanese family, property and permanent residency. Yet into the gaikokujin box they all go.

The lack of terms that properly differentiate or allow for upgrades has negative consequences. A long-termer frequently gets depicted in public discourse as a sojourner, not “at home” in Japan.

Granted, there are specialized terms for visa statuses, such as eijuusha (permanent resident) and tokubetsu eijuusha (special permanent resident, for the Zainichi Korean and Chinese generational “foreigners”). But they rarely appear in common parlance, since the public is generally unaware of visa regimes (many people don’t even know foreigners must carry “gaijin cards”!).

Public debate about Japan’s foreign population must take into account their degree of assimilation. So this column will try to popularize a concept introduced in the 1990s that remains mired in migration studies jargon: denizen…

JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

As our last post talked about labor law issues (and the proposal to abridge Labor Standards in favor of greater “flexibility” to dismiss labor without reasons), here’s an important article that came out in the Japan Times last December that I was waiting to get to, discussing issues once again of employer power over employees: When is a person under the authority of his or her employer, deserving compensation as “work time”? Okunuki talks about important cases in a very enlightening article about just how grey “work hours” are, and underscoring how powerless Japanese employees are regarding all that overtime going unpaid — how many people take things to court or to labor unions to fight under this precedent, or are even aware of “kyakkan setsu vs. nibun setsu”?. And the proposal we discussed last blog entry is to give even more power to employers?

JT: The Labor Standards Law sidesteps a proper definition, and labor law scholars fall into two camps over how a work hour should be defined. One subscribes to what is known as kyakkan-setsu, roughly translating as “objective theory.” This camp argues that work hours are the entire time during which the employee can objectively be considered to be under the authority of her or his employer.

The nibun-setsu (two-part theory) camp, on the other hand, splits work hours into “core” and “peripheral” work hours, with the status of the latter gray area between strictly defined work hours and break time to be determined through agreement between the employer and employed.

The gold standard in case law regarding work hours is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard case. The Supreme Court’s Petty Bench on March 9, 2000, rejected outright the nibun-setsu approach and backed the kyakkan-setsu interpretation. Let’s examine the case.

JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”

Making national news whenever statistics come out is how Japan deals with (i.e., mostly rejects) refugees. I was always curious about why refugee numbers have always been considered newsworthy (when there are many other significant NJ-related statistics that merit more fanfare but don’t, such as the number of “Newcomers” with Permanent Residency overtaking the “Oldcomer” Zainichis with Special Permanent Residency in 2007, representing a sea change in the composition of permanent immigrant NJs in Japan). But then I found something in an academic writing that put things in perspective: Acceptance of refugees are one bellwether of Japan’s acceptance of international norms, as part of its “greater role in international cooperation” and an attempt “to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy”. First the most recent news article, then the academic article to put it in perspective:

Kyodo: In 2011, there were 21 foreigners recognized as refugees, but for 2012, the number fell to 18. Since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees.

Kashiwazaki: Since the mid-1970s, Japan has come into prominence in the international arena as a major player in the world economy. Internationalization became a slogan for the new direction of the country, with demands from both within and abroad to open, to take a leadership role, and to assume international responsibility. For the Japanese government, successful economic development provided the opportunity to assume a greater role in international cooperation and to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy. To do so would require accepting an emerging set of international legal norms, including those in the area of citizenship…

The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 generated refugees from Indochina. In the same year, the G7 Summit meeting was established. As the only Asian country admitted to membership in the G7 Summit, Japan was obliged to take some steps to accommodate refugees… With the acceptance of refugees, the Japanese government was compelled to join relevant international conventions. Japan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural, Rights in 1979, and then ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981.

COMMENT: Japan basically only acceded to these international norms and agreements as a vanity project — a matter of “not looking like an outlier” in the international community. Not because policymakers had any good-faith interest in helping NJ or outsiders in need come to Japan and settle. That’s why we see honne hiccoughs from time to time (like the one in 2010 when a 78-year-old Zainichi granny was denied social welfare by Oita Prefectural Government — where a court ruled that “Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity”. So much for those international treaties guaranteeing equal treatment being respected by Japan’s judiciary!). We’ve also seen how Japan simply will not pass a law against racial discrimination (despite signing another international agreement, the UN CERD, in 1995) — and will in fact counteract anyone who does. So in this context, Kyodo’s reporting that “since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees,” should come as no surprise. The GOJ has no intention of keeping its international treaty promises. They are merely national self-esteem boosters, not real guidelines or goals.

Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm

Over the years I have gotten from many corners (particularly from people who have not researched things too deeply) how “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) requirements for Japanese citizenship are not all that far from the international norm, and how Japan’s Nationality Law (which requires blood ties to a Japanese citizen for conferral of Japanese nationality) is but one example of many in the community of nations that confer nationality/citizenship by blood.

Well, I knew both from experience and in my gut that there was something wrong with that. I felt that Japan’s method of conferring nationality/citizenship was quite specially exclusive (for example, we’ve had half a million Zainichi former citizens of Empire excluded from full “Denizenship” (see below) in Japanese society for three Postwar generations now, and only a tiny number of people becoming naturalized Japanese citizens every year). This exclusion (which every nation does when deciding national membership, but…) has been done in ways unbecoming of a country with the reputation of being a legitimate, competent, advanced Western democracy — one Japan has had since its emergence as a “rich society” in the 1980s — and thus expected to take on a greater role in international cooperation (such as acceptance of refugees) by accepting international legal norms (such as signing and enforcing international treaties).

Now I’ve found something in writing from someone who HAS researched things deeply, Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako at Keio, and she too finds that Japan’s policies towards the outside world are outside the international norm. Excerpts from one of her writings follows:

Conclusion: It has never been policy in Japan, despite all the promises we heard in the “Kokusaika” 1980s about “getting in, making the effort to work hard in Japanese companies, learning the language and culture, and ultimately becoming Japanese like everyone else”, to let immigrants stay or make it easier for them to stay. So it’s not going to happen (no matter what recent flawed GOJ Cabinet opinion polls claim about the public’s “no longer rejecting” NJ), because of official government policy not to let people settle, and because policymakers don’t trust foreigners to ever be “Japanese”…

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…

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

2012 Election Special: Japan’s lurch to the right has happened, as predicted. DPJ routed, LDP and Ishihara ascendant in Dec 2012 LH Election

It’s been said that people get the democracy that they deserve. Although unduly harsh, that rings true today, as the results of 2012’s election have absolutely routed the DPJ and placed the old-school LDP/Koumeitou alliance and the even older-school Ishihara Party, pardon, Japan Restoration Party (JRP) with a greater than 3/4 majority (LDP/KMT at 324, JRP 54) as a total in the 480-seat Lower House. (Source: Yomiuri 12/17/12) This is well over the 320 votes necessary to override the Upper House’s vetoes, and essentially makes Japan’s bicameral legislature unicameral. This new parliamentary composition could very well squeeze out a revision to the Self-Defense Forces (calling it what it really is: a standing military that should be unconstitutional) as well as force a “revision of the pacifist American-made Japanese Constitution” out of this. My synopsis of this election, and future prospects for the direction Japan is now heading, follow below.

In brief: Keep an eye on what happens from now, folks, because I think that once the sake cups have been drained and hangovers recovered from, these people are going to get to work with a vengeance. Because for this generation of old-schoolers (such as Ishihara), there’s not much time left for the Wartime Generation to undo all the Postwar liberalizations of Japan that have helped make Japan rich without overt remilitarization and aggression. For these fans of a martial Japan, who only value, respect, and covet a world in terms of power and hierarchy, revenge will be sweet.

Japan Times: Japan Post Office unilaterally decides old “Gaijin Cards” no longer acceptable ID, despite still valid under MOJ

MMT: An interesting bit of news that was on the JT homepage this week. It seems that although the alien registration card is considered equal to the new zairyu card until July 2015 by the government, it appears not for certain government agencies. Japan Post has a notice on their homepage stating that foreign residents can no longer use the alien registration card as of July 9th, 2012 (or in other words, the same day the zairyu card became available). How the post office can reject ID which is still valid and basically force longer-term residents into changing over their cards immediately is beyond my comprehension.

As a further bit of news regarding this story, I called the immigration help line on October 1, 2012, to see if they were aware of this development. The staff informed me that yes, the alien registration card is still valid, as stated and acts as one’s zairyu card until July 9th, 2015. When I asked if they were aware that the Japan Post officially began rejecting the alien registration card the very same day the zairyu card became available, they replied that perhaps in cases such as with banks and the post office, you may have to switch over to the new card in order to have acceptable ID. I quickly pointed out that since the government (namely, the Ministry of Justice, no less) has deemed this ID to be equal to the zairyu card for a further three years, shouldn’t it be unacceptable (unlawful?) for any any semi-government agency or private business to reject it? They agreed that my argument “made sense.”

The immigration staff then suggested that if my alien registration card is rejected by the post office or other place of business that I should give them the number for the Tokyo Immigration administration office (03-5796-7250) so that the post office can call them and get a clarification. It was at that point that I hinted that perhaps it was the job of the immigration department to inform all relevant agencies to stop making arbitrary rules regarding which government-issued ID they will choose to accept: to which I got no answer. Strange, indeed.

Discussion: JDG, Harumi Befu et.al on the end of Japan’s internationalization and swing towards remilitarization

There’s a case that can be made nowadays that Japan is not only in decline, it’s falling back on jingoism (beyond the standard nihonjinron and historical revisionism) to support the image of a Japan that was once better when it had fewer foreigners (or none, which was historically never the case). As my current research (more on this in future) has sought to demonstrate, Japan’s (Postwar, not Prewar, cf. Oguma Eiji) national narrative of “monoculturalism, monoethnicity, and homogeneity” has sponsored an ideological ethnic cleansing of Japan, thanks in part to revolving-door visa regimes and all manner of incentives to make sure that few “visibly foreign” foreigners stay here forever (hence the prioritizing of the Nikkei) for they agitate for more rights as generational residents (consider the visas that can be cancelled or phased out pretty much at government whim; we’ve seen it before with, for example, the Iranians in the late 1990s). And if you ever thought “the next generation of younger Japanese will be more liberal”, we now have Osaka Gov Hashimoro Touru (younger than I) also supporting historical revisionism (see below) and forming the “Japan Restoration Party” (the poignantly and ominously named Nihon Ishin no Kai) on September 12, 2012. With the recent saber-rattling (which nation-states indulge in periodically to draw public attention away from larger social problems, in Japan’s case the issues of nuclear power and the irradiating food chain) and the overblown flaps over the Takeshima/Tokdo and Senkaku/Diaoyu ocean specks, we have an emerging vision of Japan as a remilitarized power in Asia, courtesy of Debito.org Reader JDG. I thought we’d have a discussion about that here. Take a look through the resource materials below and consider whether or not you share the apprehension that I (and some major academics overseas, including Ted Bestor and Harumi Befu, at the very bottom) have about Japan’s future.

Tangent: Newsweek column on “rising ugly nationalism towards foreign residents” in China. Hm, how about an eye on Japan?

As a tangent, here’s an article looking at issues of race and ethnicity in China through a veil of vignettes. A lot of the issues raised can be (and have been) applied to Japan. Just not as harshly. I’ve made the point before about how the Western media seems to give Japan a free pass regarding racism as a “friendly” state. Yet, as per the Newsweek article below, Western media couches racism more as representative of the spectre of Chinese nationalism and bad treatment of expats. Compare: When we had the ultimate example of racism in Japan during the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005), the overseas press took it up handily, but we also had oodles of apologists rise up en masse to dismiss or defend it. Including Western toadies like Gregory Clark (see how clumsily Clark took up this USA Today article of March 8, 2000 by Peter Hadfield on racism in Japan back in the day), who defended it as Japanese cultural uniqueness and exceptionalism to “global standards” (said pundit even went so far as to claim “antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” — while in the process getting even the exclusionary onsen’s name wrong). But I digress.

Again, I’m not sure why Japan is so seductive to the Western media (Dower would perhaps claim it’s part of the GOJ’s media savviness, starting with the Imperial duck hunt charm offensive of SCAP that saved the Imperial system (Embracing Defeat, p. 299-301)), while China keeps getting treated as devious. The only theory I can come up is geopolitics (and the fear that the future of democracy and economic growth will have Chinese uniparty characteristics). What say you, Readers?

Newsweek: In recent months, tensions over the unsavory behavior of some of Beijing’s foreign residents have come to the fore. In May there was a furious public reaction after footage was posted online showing the aftermath of an alleged attempted sexual assault on a young Beijing woman by a drunken British man. The pictures showed angry locals beating up the supposed perpetrator. This was soon followed by film of an incident on a train in which a Russian cellist from the Beijing Symphony Orchestra insulted a Chinese passenger who asked him to take his feet off the back of her chair. The cellist eventually made a public apology, but still had to resign his post.

Amid a mood of public anger, at least in online forums, the Beijing police announced a three-month campaign to crack down on “foreigners illegally staying in the capital”—including those who had jobs but no work permit or who had overstayed their visas. They also set up a hotline and encouraged locals to “report such violations,” according to Chinese media. Several other cities, including Shanghai, also stepped up spot-checks on the documents of foreigners, in the most visible campaign of its type since the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

Rustom: It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done. So without further ado, let’s start:

Discussion: Reader Eric C writes in with an argument for “giving up on Japan”. What do you think?

I was going to write on something else today, but I got this letter as a post comment this morning. It’s considered and considerate — usually letters on this topic are nasty flames, criticizing me personally for ever doing what Debito.org has been doing for (as of next month) fifteen years now. And it’s also a useful exercise to think about why we do the things that we do. I won’t answer it, for now. I’ll open it up for discussion here on Debito.org and see how other people think.

Eric C: Thank you on behalf of all NJ who have lived in Japan or are living in Japan. You are doing brilliant work. I agree with almost everything you say and do and I am in awe of your energy, perseverance and spirit.

However, the more I read your site and columns and learn about your story, the more I find myself wondering why you keep trying. I lived in Japan for years and I did what you did, but on a lesser scale: I fought discrimination, xenophobia and racism as hard as I could. I like to think I gave as good as I got, if not better. I caused a fair bit of hell at my local kuyakusho, at immigration, with the police and with various random racist folks. That’s not to say I went around with a chip on my shoulder: I had a lot of Japanese friends, spoke the language well and really tried to fit in. But, finally, I decided to leave Japan and I don’t regret it. Not for a second. Every day I’m out of there, I give thanks that I had the balls and foresight to leave.

My question to you is why do you keep trying? I don’t want to be negative, but I think even you have to admit that Japan and the Japanese are not really going to change…

Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future

Last month I had an extensive interview with Victor Fic of the Asia Times on me, the Otaru Onsens Case, human rights in Japan, and the future. It went up last week. While long-term readers of Debito.org might not find much they haven’t heard before, it’s a good “catch-up” and summary of the issues for interested newbies.

Asia Times: When US-born Dave Aldwinckle became a Japanese citizen named Arudou Debito in 2000, two Japanese officials told him that only now did he have human rights in Japan. Such prejudice galvanized him into becoming a crusader against anti-gaijin(foreigner) discrimination after braving death threats to him and his family. Is Arudou throwing the egg of morality and legality against the rock of ancient bias? In this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic, he sees Japan turning inward.

Victor Fic: Did you ever think that you would become a Japanese citizen?

Arudou Debito: Hell no! I wasn’t even interested in foreign languages as a child. But I moved from my birthplace, California, to upstate New York at age five and traveled much overseas, learning early to communicate with non-native English speakers. I’d lived a lot of my life outside the US before I graduated from high school and wasn’t afraid to leave home. But changing my citizenship and my name, however, was completely off the radar screen. I didn’t originally go to Japan to emigrate – just to explore. But the longer I stayed, the more reasonable it seemed to become a permanent resident, then a citizen. Buying a house and land was the chief reason that I naturalized – a mortgage means I can’t leave. More on me and all this on my blog [1]…

VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe?

AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column [2] I discuss the lack of “fairness” as a latent cultural value in Japan. Japanese tend to see foreigners as unquestionably different from them, therefore it follows that their treatment will be different. Everything else stems from that. My column gives more details, but for now let me note that a 2007 Cabinet survey asked Japanese, “Should foreigners have the same human-rights protections as Japanese?” The total who agreed was 59.3%. This is a decline from 1995 at 68.3%, 1999 at 65.5% and 2003 at 54%. Ichikawa Hiroshi, who was a Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, said on May 23, 2011, that people in his position “were taught that … foreigners have no human rights ” [3]. Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement…

VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life?

AD: Sure…

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?…

Weekend Tangent: Sensationalistic U of Sheffield/Routledge academic book cover: “Japan’s International Relations” (pub Aug 2011)

Amanda Harlow: Dear Professor Dobson, I am writing to you to complain about the choice of cover design for the third edition of “Japan’s International Relations”.

This cartoon panders to the worst stereotyping of Japanese people and I feel this is a surprising choice for a respected British institution such as the University of Sheffield. If this was a mob of Japan-bashers on the streets of China, or a crazy nationalistic website I would not be surprised. But the School of East Asian Studies? Really?

Is it meant to be ironic? If so, I think this illustration would be better as an inside picture and not used on the cover of a book that is supposedly about international relations.

Here in Japan (I live in Sapporo with my Japanese husband and family) there are endless gaijin-bashing images and Debito Arudou, a friend of mine, is a well known activator on discrimination issues – if he found this image of a non-Japanese on a Japanese book cover we would all shake our heads and groan.

Can you possibly think again before publication? Sincerely, Amanda Harlow, Sapporo

Donald Keene to naturalize, in a show of solidarity with the Japanese people, at age 88.

Octogenarian scholar and Japan specialist Donald Keene has announced his intention to become a Japanese citizen, and move to Japan in light of the Tohoku Disasters. Well, good for him.

Submitter JK notes, “While I respect Keene’s accomplishments as an academic, I can’t help but feel that his writings are a reflection of a person inhabiting a self-constructed bubble Japan whose universe is made up of haiku masters, poets, and scholars.” There are also a few comments on Japan Probe that make light of his (in)decision given his advanced age.

A bit harsh, but I do find the logic — of linking a show of solidarity in the face of a crisis with a decision as personal as changing one’s nationality (and in Japan’s case, abrogating one’s former nationality) — a bit discomfiting. As per Keene’s comments below, he’s basically falling into the ancient bad habit (a la Lafcadio Hearn’s day) of treating the Japanese people as monolithic. Plus he won’t have to live quite as long with his (last-minute) decision compared to younger people who really plighted their troth here and naturalized. A nice, but oddly-reasoned, gesture on Keene’s part.

AOL News: WikiLeaks: Cables Show Japan Was Warned About Nuclear Plant Safety

AOL News: The Japanese government has said it is doing all it can to contain the crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was critically damaged in last week’s earthquake. But according to U.S. diplomatic papers released by WikiLeaks, that atomic disaster might have been avoided if only the government had acted on earlier safety warnings.

An unnamed official from the International Atomic Energy Agency is quotedin a 2008 cable from the American embassy in Tokyo as saying that a strong earthquake would pose a “serious problem” for Japan’s nuclear power stations. The official added that the country’s nuclear safety guidelines were dangerously out of date, as they had only been “revised three times in the last 35 years.”

Following that warning, Japan’s government pledged to raise security at all of its nuclear facilities,reports The Daily Telegraph, which published the cable. But questions are now being asked about whether authorities really took the nuclear watchdog’s worries seriously…

NYT: Japan society puts up generational roadblocks, wastes potential of young

Continuing with the recent theme of what reforms Japanese society needs to face the next century, here’s Martin Fackler from the NYT making the case about the structural barriers that waste the potential of youth in Japan. Bit of a tangent, but not really. Fresh ideas and entrepreneurial energy (regardless of nationality) should be welcomed as revitalizing, but as Fackler writes, the sclerotic is turning necrotic and people are seeking opportunities elsewhere.

NYT: An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

A nation that produced Sony, Toyota and Honda has failed in recent decades to nurture young entrepreneurs, and the game-changing companies that they can create, like Google or Apple — each started by entrepreneurs in their 20s.

Employment figures underscore the second-class status of many younger Japanese. While Japan’s decades of stagnation have increased the number of irregular jobs across all age groups, the young have been hit the hardest.

Last year, 45 percent of those ages 15 to 24 in the work force held irregular jobs, up from 17.2 percent in 1988 and as much as twice the rate among workers in older age groups, who cling tenaciously to the old ways. Japan’s news media are now filled with grim accounts of how university seniors face a second “ice age” in the job market, with just 56.7 percent receiving job offers before graduation as of October 2010 — an all-time low.

“Japan has the worst generational inequality in the world,” said Manabu Shimasawa, a professor of social policy at Akita University who has written extensively on such inequalities. “Japan has lost its vitality because the older generations don’t step aside, allowing the young generations a chance to take new challenges and grow.”..

NYT: “New Dissent in Japan Is Loudly Anti-Foreign”

NYT: The [xenophobic] protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations.

Since first appearing last year, their protests have been directed at not only Japan’s half million ethnic Koreans, but also Chinese and other Asian workers, Christian churchgoers and even Westerners in Halloween costumes. In the latter case, a few dozen angrily shouting demonstrators followed around revelers waving placards that said, “This is not a white country.”

Local news media have dubbed these groups the Net far right, because they are loosely organized via the Internet, and gather together only for demonstrations. At other times, they are a virtual community that maintains its own Web sites to announce the times and places of protests, swap information and post video recordings of their demonstrations.

While these groups remain a small if noisy fringe element here, they have won growing attention as an alarming side effect of Japan’s long economic and political decline. Most of their members appear to be young men, many of whom hold the low-paying part-time or contract jobs that have proliferated in Japan in recent years.

Though some here compare these groups to neo-Nazis, sociologists say that they are different because they lack an aggressive ideology of racial supremacy, and have so far been careful to draw the line at violence. There have been no reports of injuries, or violence beyond pushing and shouting. Rather, the Net right’s main purpose seems to be venting frustration, both about Japan’s diminished stature and in their own personal economic difficulties…

Summer Tangent: DailyFinance.com on Japan’s generation-long economic stagnation leading to a lost generation of youth

Daily Finance.com: What happens to a generation of young people when:

They are told to work hard and go to college, yet after graduating they find few permanent job opportunities?
Many of the jobs that are available are part-time, temporary or contract labor?
These insecure jobs pay one-third of what their fathers earned?
The low pay makes living at home the only viable option?
Poor economic conditions persist for 10, 15 and 20 years in a row?

For an answer, turn to Japan. The world’s second-largest economy has stagnated in just this fashion for almost 20 years, and the consequences for the “lost generations” that have come of age in the “lost decades” have been dire. In many ways, Japan’s social conventions are fraying under the relentless pressure of an economy in seemingly permanent decline.

While the world sees Japan as the home of consumer technology juggernauts such as Sony and Toshiba and high-tech “bullet trains” (shinkansen), beneath the bright lights of Tokyo and the evident wealth generated by decades of hard work and Japan Inc.’s massive global export machine lies a different reality: increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity for the nation’s youth.

Suddenly, It’s Haves and Have Nots

The gap between extremes of income at the top and bottom of society — measured by the Gini coefficient — has been growing in Japan for years. To the surprise of many outsiders, once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

The media in Japan have popularized the phrase “kakusa shakai,” literally meaning “gap society.” As the elite slice prospers and younger workers are increasingly marginalized, the media has focused on the shrinking middle class. For example, a best-selling book offers tips on how to get by on an annual income of less than 3 million yen ($34,800). Two million yen ($23,000) has become the de-facto poverty line for millions of Japanese, especially outside high-cost Tokyo.

More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system, nudged along by government legislation that abolished restrictions on flexible hiring a few years ago. Temp agencies have expanded to fill the need for contract jobs as permanent job opportunities have dwindled.

Wash Post: “Strict immigration rules may threaten Japan’s future”, focus on nursing program

Here’s more information that we’re making public seeping into overseas media. Nothing terribly new to regular readers here (but no doubt new to many readers overseas). But brace yourself for the Comments section of this article, full of the nastiness that goes beyond cultural relativity. Amazing how immigrants are the eternal bashables, told to abide by whatever vague rules the nativists come up with (and don’t always follow themselves), told to accept inferior wages and working conditions, and told to go home if they have any problems or complaints. Worse yet is when the government is essentially saying the same thing by setting up hurdles that are nearly insurmountable. As the article gets into below. Enjoy.

Wash Post: “There’s a lack of urgency or lack of sense of crisis for the declining population in Japan,” said Satoru Tominaga, director of Garuda, an advocacy group for Indonesian nurse and caretaker candidates. “We need radical policy change to build up the number” of such workers. “However, Japan lacks a strong government; if anything, it’s in chaos.”

When Japan struck economic partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, attracting nurses and caretakers wasn’t the primary objective. Japan sought duty-free access for its automakers to the Southeast Asian market. Accepting skilled labor was just part of the deal.

But by 2025, Japan will need to almost double its number of nurses and care workers, currently at 1.2 million. And because of the test, substandard language skills, not substandard caretaking skills, are keeping the obvious solution from meeting the gaping need.

The 998 Filipino and Indonesian nurses and caretakers who’ve come to Japan since 2008 all have, at minimum, college educations or several years of professional experience. Nurses can stay for three years, with three chances to pass the test. Other caregivers can stay for four years, with one chance to pass. Those who arrive in Japan take a six-month language cram class and then begin work as trainees.

They are allotted a brief period every workday — 45 minutes, in Paulino’s case — for language study. Many also study for hours at night.

“The language skills, that is a huge hurdle for them,” said Kiichi Inagaki, an official at the Japan International Corporation for Welfare Services, which oversees the program. “However, if you go around the hospital, you understand how language is important. Nurses are dealing with medical technicalities. They are talking to doctors about what is important. In order to secure a safe medical system, they need a very high standard of Japanese.”

Advocates for foreign nurses and caregivers do not play down the importance of speaking and understanding Japanese. But they emphasize that the Japanese characters for medical terminology are among the hardest to learn; perhaps some jargon-heavy portion of the certification test, they say, could be given in English or workers’ native language.

Kyodo: NJ crime down once again, but NPA spin says NJ crime gangs “increasingly” targeting Japan, whines about difficulty in statistically measuring NJ crime

Kyodo reports the semiannual NPA NJ crime propaganda campaign, claiming once again some kind of “increase”. Before, we had decreases in crime depicted as an increase, depending on what crime you looked at or what language the article was in. Now it’s the NPA, in the face of a 40% admitted drop in “NJ criminals rounded up” since 2004, giving the spin of doubting its own statistics. What’s next, saying NJ are more likely to commit crime because of their criminal DNA? (Actually, Tokyo Gov Ishihara beat them to that nearly a decade ago.)

Here’s the report being referred to in pdf format:
http://www.npa.go.jp/sosikihanzai/kokusaisousa/kokusai6/rainichi.pdf

Note how on the bottom of page two, they give a definition that the “gaikokujin” they’re referring to do not mean those here with PR status, the Zainichi, the US military, or “those with unclear Statuses of Residence” (what, refugees? certainly not visa overstayers). Okay. Pity the media doesn’t mention that. Nor is it mentioned that although this report is supposed to deal with “international crime”, it is just titled “Rainichi Gaikokujin Hanzai no Kenkyo Joukyou” (lit. The Situation of Cases of Crimes by Foreigners Coming to Japan). I guess just talking about garden-variety crime by NJ (back in the day when it was allegedly going up) isn’t convenient anymore. You have to narrow the focus to find the crime and shoot the fish in the proverbial barrel — it gets the headlines that attribute crime to nationality, even somehow allows you to doubt your own statistics. Moreover enables you to claim a budget to “establish a system in which investigators across the nation would be able to work in an integrated manner to counter crimes committed by foreigners” (as opposed to an integrated manner to counter crimes in general).

Let’s see what the NPA spin is next time. Fascinatingly bad science.

NYT guest column on racial profiling of Japanese for “looking too tall and dark”. Just like arrest of “foreign-looking” Japanese back in 2006.

Here we have a good opinion piece in the NYT (the overseas paper the GOJ takes most seriously) from a Japanese (not a NJ, so there’s no possible excuse of a “cultural misunderstanding”) who looks suspicious to Japanese police simply because she is taller and darker than average. So she gets zapped for racial profiling (a word, as she acknowledges, is not in common currency in nihongo). Well, good thing she didn’t get arrested for looking “too foreign” and not having a Gaijin Card, which happened back in February 2006 (article enclosed below).

As I have said on numerous occasions, racial profiling by the NPA is a serious problem, as it will increasingly single out and multiethnic Japanese as well. I am waiting one day to get leaked a copy of the NPA police training manuals (not available to the public) which cover this sort of activity and scrutinize them for latent racist attitudes (we’ve already seen plenty of other racism in print by the Japanese police, see for example here, here, and here). But scrutiny is one thing the NPA consistently avoids. So this is what happens — and victims have to take it to outside media to get any attention.