Table of Contents:
1) Wash Post: South Korea’s naturalized athletes in the PyeongChang Olympics; beyond treated as mercenaries?
2) Wash Post: “NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage praising Japan’s brutal occupation”, rightly so
GOOD STATS AT LAST
3) Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated
4) JT: “Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1.28 million with labor crunch”; more grist for the grinder
BAD STATS AS USUAL
5) JT: “Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”; underanalyzed stats posing as media peg
6) Hawaii’s false alarm missile attack of Jan 13, 2018. JT reports: “Hawaii residents spooked but Japanese sanguine”. Poor reporting and social science.
7) Asahi: Japanese living abroad plan unprecedented lawsuit demanding dual citizenship. Bravo!
8 ) New Years Eve 2017 TV Blackface Debate in Japan (again): Referential Links
… and finally…
9) A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”
Table of Contents:
Kyodo reports that there are more NJ laborers in Japan than ever (1.28 million, of the 2.3 million total NJ registered), and this is largely due to the temporary NJ “Trainees” being brought in under Japan’s “no unskilled labor” unskilled-labor visa policy.
The big news is that Chinese and now Vietnamese are the two biggest foreign worker nationalities in Japan (I assume the 338,950 Zainichi Korean Special Permanent Residents were not counted as “foreign workers” here), followed by Filipinos and Brazilians (yes, they’re coming again) and Nepalese.
So all the official transgressions against NJ laborers a decade ago are forgotten, and ever more victims of Japan’s revolving-door visa market are arriving to be exploited and sent home. Seems NJ never learn, but this new crop will find out soon enough.
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.
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.
Nikkei: This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face. According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.
The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam. As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. […]
The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo. Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”
Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent. This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”
Table of Contents:
1) Japan’s National Pension scheme lowers minimum qualification time from 25 years to 10!
2) Book Review in SSJJ journal calls “Embedded Racism” a “must-read text”, “highly recommended reading to anyone interested in Japan’s future”
3) Yomiuri: 4th generation Nikkei to get new visa status. Come back, all is forgiven! Just don’t read the fine print.
4) Asahi: Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’, and shouldn’t. Another recycled hopeful article.
5) Mainichi Editorial on 1-yr anniv. of Hate Speech Law: “To end hate speech, Japan must face its deep-rooted discriminatory thinking”, offers moral support but few concrete proposals
6) Amy Chavez JT obit on “Japan writing giant” Boye De Mente: Let’s not whitewash his devaluation of Japan Studies
7) Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”
8 ) One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist of non-chart album cuts
In the wake of my previous blog entry about a new exploitative visa system for the next generation of Nikkei workers, here’s a hand-wringing article from the Asahi about how people don’t (but really should) accept NJ as part of Japanese society. It seems like these articles are cyclical — I remember them from a good ten years ago (for example here and here and here and here). Fortunately, the Asahi draws the same conclusions I would. Alas, next serious economic downturn, all this will be out of the window and foreigners will be unaccepted again.
Asahi: Foreign workers in Japan are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource amid Japan’s declining birthrate and growing elderly population. However, recent headlines in the media express concern about the influx of immigrants. “Should we accept immigrants?” one publication asked. Another worried that, “What will happen if foreigners become our bosses?” The reality is that the number of foreign workers now totals more than 1 million. Japanese are increasingly coming in contact with foreigners in their daily lives, so they are no longer an “invisible presence.” Acceptance is unavoidable
Ten years after bribing and booting out its Nikkei “Returnee” workers from South America (who had been given sweetheart visas of de facto Permanent Residency, higher-paying jobs than the “Trainee” slaves from places like China (but still lower than real Japanese, natch)), and four years after lifting a ban on their return, the government has officially decided to introduce a new residency status to exploit the next (4th) generation of Nikkei. As long as they a) speak Japanese, b) are young enough to devote their best working years here, c) come alone, and d) only stay three years. Those are some tweaks that makes things less advantageous for the foreigner, so I guess the previous racist policy favoring Wajin foreigners has been improved (as far as the government is concerned) to keep them disposable, and less likely to need a bribe to go home when the next economic downturn happens. That’s how the Japanese government learns from its mistakes — by making the visa status more exclusionary and exploitative.
Table of Contents:
MEDIA NORMALIZING DISCRIMINATION
1) JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets
2) Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”
3) Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.
4) Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!
5) Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.
6) Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
7) Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”
8 ) Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016
We have a really weird conceit going on in the foreign press (see Washington Post and BBC below) regarding sumo wrestler Kisenosato’s rise to yokozuna, the highest rank. (Congratulations, and well done, by the way.) They are portraying it as “Japan’s first sumo champion of 19 years.”
Well, guess what, guys. Wrong. Japan has had other sumo champions in the 19 years, as you mention. Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu. There as also (oddly disgraced and scapegoated) Asashoryu as well. Yes, they were born in Mongolia. But guess what. Who cares?
If you do care, does that mean you are subscribing to the racist theory (widely held in Japan, anyway, dating from the days of Akebono and Musashimaru) that because they aren’t Japanese, they don’t count as “real” sumo champions? (Both Akebono and Musashimaru are naturalized Japanese, by the way, and were when they were yokozuna less than 19 years ago. How ignorant of you not to mention that.)
Or are you subscribing to the tenet, as the Sumo Association does, that even naturalized Japanese sumo wrestlers don’t count as Japanese?
Or are you subscribing to the tenets, as expressed by racist fans below, that sumo has somehow “lost something” because foreign-born wrestlers rose to the top? Is sumo an ethno-sport? The Sumo Association tried to make it into into an Olympic event, by the way. And would that mean if Japanese do not medal, as happens in Japan-originated events such as Judo, that the event has “lost something”?
Foreign reporters, kindly don’t racialize the sport with these types of headlines and reports. Herald the athletes for their physical prowess regardless of origin. Because you know better. Articles like these wouldn’t fly if you were writing about a sport in your home country. Imagine England claiming (and you reporting as such) that soccer has no real champion every time it doesn’t win a World Cup! Don’t succumb to a racist narrative just because it comes from Japan.
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
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org
Table of Contents:
1) Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains
2) MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)
3) Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. But unclear how it’ll be enforced.
4) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices
NOT SO GOOD
5) Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!
6) JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws
7) Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org
8 ) CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ
9) Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)
… and finally…
10) Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016
11) Tangent: James Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College
Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times: Celebrating Japan’s multiethnic Rio 2016 Olympians: Meet the athletes challenging traditional views of what it is to be Japanese
2) “Deep in Japan” Podcast interviews Debito on Racism in Japan and book “Embedded Racism” (UPDATED: Goes viral in Poland, more than 8000 listens)
3) Finger Lakes Times: Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences in book on racism in Japan
SAME OLD SHAME OLD
4) Asahi: Japan’s Supreme Court approves police surveillance of Muslim residents due to their religion: Next up, surveilling NJ residents due to their extranationality?
5) Japan Center for Michigan Universities: Report and video interview of Muslim Lawyer Hayashi Junko on issues faced by Muslims in Japan (surveillance by police, including of Japanese kith and kin)
6) Nikkei: Japan begins clearing path for foreign workers. Really? Let’s analyze the proposals.
7) Nikkei Asian Review wrongly reports “Japanese law requires hotels to check and keep copies of foreigners’ passports”. Corrected after protest, but misreported text still proliferates
8 ) TIME Magazine and Japan Times on how online trolls (particularly Reddit) are ruining the Internet and media in general
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC column 99, “For Abe, it will always be about the Constitution”, Aug 1, 2016
The Economist (London) recently has had a couple of articles on immigration to and even naturalization into Japan (here and here), so it looks like PM Abe’s alleged pushes to liberalize Japan’s NJ labor market (despite these other countering trends here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) are gaining traction in the overseas media. Let’s take a representative sample of the narrative being spun by the Japanese media (in this case the Nikkei, Japan’s WSJ) for overseas consumption, and see if it holds up to scrutiny. For example:
Nikkei: The government looks to ease residency requirements for guest workers. The Justice Ministry will recognize certified foreign care workers as specialists worthy of the corresponding visa status. Japan currently admits care workers through economic partnership agreements, but those are limited to countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The number of guest workers is expected to increase by allowing care givers who learn Japanese or professional skill sets at educational institutions to work in Japan.
Necessary legislation is to be enacted during the extraordinary Diet session this fall, with the measures taking effect next fiscal year. The government also seeks quick passage of legislation to add the care worker category to Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program, which provides support to developing nations.
COMMENT: They tried that before. Until the Indonesians and Filipinas realized they were being exploited by a revolving-door visa system that deliberately set the bar too high for passing, and decided to pass on Japan altogether. So Japan’s policymakers are moving on to the next sucker societies: Cambodia and Vietnam. Which, note, are also not kanji-literate societies; if the GOJ really wanted to get people to pass the nurse literacy test, they would get nurses from China or Chinese-diaspora countries. The fact that they won’t speaks volumes about true policy intentions. As does the final sentence, where they admit that it’s just an expansion of the”Trainee” slave-labor program, exempt from Japan’s labor laws protection.
There is nothing in this policy trial-balloon article that constitutes actual immigration, i.e., bringing in people and making them into Japanese citizens with equal protection guaranteed under the law. Until that happens, there is no discussion here worthy of headlining this as a “cleared path” for foreign workers. It’s merely more of the same exploitation of imported laborers in a weakened position by government design.
Table of Contents:
1) Ten years of Debito.org’s Blog: June 17, 2006. And counting.
2) Book “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Press 2016) now out early in paperback
3) Brief comments on the July 2016 Upper House Election: The path is cleared for Japan’s Constitutional revision
4) Meanwhile back in Tokyo: Gov candidate Koike Yuriko allegedly spoke at anti-foreign hate group Zaitokukai in 2010
5) Zaitokukai xenophobic hate group’s Sakurai Makoto runs for Tokyo Governorship; his electoral platform analyzed here (UPDATED: he lost badly)
6) One reason why human rights are not taken seriously in Japan: Childish essays like these in the Mainichi.
7) Shibuya Police asking local “minpaku” Airbnb renters to report their foreign lodgers “to avoid Olympic terrorism”. Comes with racialized illustrations
8 ) TV “Economist” Mitsuhashi Takaaki on foreign labor in Japan: “80% of Chinese in Japan are spies”: “foreigners will destroy Japanese culture”
9) Overseas online info site Traveloco.jp’s “Japanese Only” rules: “People with foreign-sounding names refused service”
10) Kyodo: Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply [sic]. How about the J employers who employ illegally?
11) CG on increased exit taxes on health insurance and residency when you change jobs and domiciles in Japan
AND ON A HAPPIER NOTE:
12) Ivan Hall’s new book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!” A memoir of his USIS stationing in Afghanistan and East Pakistan. Now available as Amazon Kindle ebook.
Kyoto: The number of foreign laborers working illegally on farms across the nation rose threefold over the three year period ending in 2015, according to government data. The findings highlight the difficulties facing Japan’s agricultural sector, including labor shortages and the advanced age of many of the country’s farmers.
Among all the illegal foreign workers subject to deportation in 2015, the greatest number — 1,744 or 21.9 percent — had worked in the farming sector. That was up from 946 in 2014, 695 in 2013, and 592 in 2012, according to the Justice Ministry. The ministry also found illegal farm workers were “concentrated on farms in Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, which are easily accessible from Tokyo.”
The average age of the nation’s farmers is now 66.4 years old, and the fact so many have no one to succeed them has become a serious social issue. “I just cannot keep my business afloat unless I hire (illegal laborers), even if it means breaking the law,” said a 62-year-old farmer in Ibaraki.
Comment from Submitter BGIO: I love the way that the headline is “Foreign laborers illegally working on farms in Japan increases sharply” when in reality it should have been more along the lines of “Japanese agricultural employers continue to flout trainee laws and illegally exploit foreign workers from developing countries”, or alternatively “percentage of foreign workers from developing countries exploited by Japanese agriculture sector worker rises to 7% (1,744 of 24,000) of those employed in ‘trainee’ scheme”. But then such headlines would require the type of objective and balanced media coverage than has long been missing in what has the temerity to call itself ‘journalism’ in this country.
Comment from Submitter JDG: If it wasn’t for the LDP letting it’s voters illegally employ NJ, those voters and their farming culture would be over! No wonder Ibaraki police are so crazy; they are being told one thing by the government and then expected to turn a blind eye to the NJ underpinning the local economy! That conflict of interest must be causing them trauma!
Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law. A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.
But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.
What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago. The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.
It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005: “After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”
Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold? Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…
Table of Contents:
1) Out in Paperback: Textbook “Embedded Racism” (Lexington Books) July 2016 in time for Fall Semester classes: $49.99
2) April 15, 1996: Twenty years of Debito.org. And counting.
3) Debito’s latest publication in the Washington University Global Studies Law Review (Vol.14, No.4)
4) Terrie Lloyd on why Abenomics is a “failure”: lack of essential structural reforms
5) Kyodo: Kyoto taxis specializing in foreign tourists begin one-year trial. Separate taxi stands? What’s next: separate hotels?
6) Stigmatization thru “foreign driver stickers”: First Okinawa, now Hokkaido (Mainichi Shinbun)
7) JT Interview: Tokyo 2020 Olympics CEO Mutou picks on Rio 2016, arrogantly cites “safe Japan” mantra vs international terrorism
8 ) Nate Nossal essay on how free enterprise and small-business establishment in Japan is stifled
DIRTY ROTTEN POLITICS
9) Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo
10) MOJ: Japan sees record registered foreign residents, 2.23 million in 2015; but watch J media once again underscore their criminality
11) Onur on continued racial profiling at Japanese hotel check-ins: Discrimination is even coin-operated!
12) Onur update: Ibaraki Pref. Police lying on posters requiring hotels to inspect and photocopy all foreign passports; gets police to change their posters!
13) NHK: NJ arrested by Saitama Police for “not having passport”, despite being underage and, uh, not actually legally required to carry a passport
14) JT: Abe Cabinet says JCP promoting ‘violent revolution,’ subject to Anti-Subversive Activities Law; now, how about violent Rightists?
15) Economist: United Nations fails to stick up for the rights of Imperial female succession, drops issue as a “distraction” from report
16) Reuters: Death toll mounts in Japanese Detention Centers (aka “Gaijin Tanks”) as NJ seek asylum and are indefinitely detained and drugged
17) Roger Schreffler: Fukushima Official Disaster Report E/J translation differences: Blaming “Japanese culture” an “invention” of PR manager Kurokawa Kiyoshi, not in Japanese version (which references TEPCO’s corporate culture) (UPDATED)
… and finally…
18) Japan Times JBC 97 May 2, 2016 excerpt: “Enjoy your life in Japan, for the moments”
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.
Debito.org Reader Onur updates his post here last month about discrimination at Japanese hotels being, in one case, coin-operated (where all “foreign guests” are unlawfully forced to provide photocopies of their passports, moreover at their own expense) at police behest. Now he gets to the bottom of police chicanery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where he catches them in an outright lie. Three lies in one police notice, as a matter of fact:
Onur: I wrote my Japanese address on the guest registration form during check-in [at Mimatsu Hotel, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture]. However, the reception asked for my passport and said that they must copy my ID. I asked the reason. They said that it is the rule of the hotel(!) and also the law of Japan to copy the ID of all foreigners. I said that according to law it is not necessary and they are not allowed to copy my card, but they insisted they must copy, showing me a poster on the wall by the Mito City Police Department Security Division saying that “Japanese law requires that we ask every foreign guest to present their passport, photocopy of which we keep on file during their stay with us”. I said that I will inform this incident to Mito City Public Health Department (保健所), which has authority over the hotels regarding the implementation of laws. I enclose the poster. After visiting both the Public Health Department and the Mito Police, I had phone call from the Public Health Department. They said they went to the Mimatsu Hotel to check it and saw that the poster on the wall of the hotel has changed. It seems that the police department printed a new poster and distributed to all hotels only in a few hours after I left the police department! They said the new poster clearly states “foreign nationals who do not possess an address in Japan”, so complies the regulations. They said they informed the hotel about the laws and regulations and warned the hotel to not to the same mistake again.
COMMENT: It would seem that, according to a number of past Debito.org posts on Ibaraki Prefectural Police posters and activities, the officially-sponsored xenophobia runs deep there. Put a nasty Gaijin Detention Center there, allow the police to project their bunker mentalities by lying on public posters, and you get panicky residents who sic cops on “people who look suspicious” because they look foreign (even if they are Japanese). Are you seeing what happens when you give the police too much power to target people? Ibaraki Prefecture is developing into a nice case study. Well done Onur for doing all this great detective work. I did some investigative work like this more than a decade ago. Remarkable that despite having this pointed out again and again, the NPA continues to lie about the laws they are supposed to enforce.
Japan Times: The number of foreign residents in Japan reached an all-time high last year, the Justice Ministry reported Friday. There were 2.23 million long-term and permanent foreign residents in Japan as of the end of last year, up 5.2 percent from 2.12 million people at the end of 2014, according to the ministry. It was the highest number since the ministry began keeping data in 1959. […]
Meanwhile, the number of residents who had overstayed their visas has also increased. The ministry reported that there were 62,818 foreign nationals overstaying their visas as of Jan. 1, up 4.7 percent from the same date last year. This marks the second year the figure has risen. Last year’s increase was the first in more than two decades, and the trend comes despite recent efforts by the ministry to crack down on overstayers.
COMMENT: Typically, Debito.org sees a rise in the NJ resident population as good news, and it is: Japan needs them or, as I argue in Chapter 10 of “Embedded Racism”, it won’t survive. But it’s never portrayed as good news in the media, where it counts. Even when it’s put through the lenses of the foreigner-friendly Japan Times, the bias of the Justice Ministry still seeps through: After giving the numbers and some speculation about what is bringing more NJ to Japan again, we get into what NJ are doing here. As “Embedded Racism” Chapters 5 and 7 describe, it’s never a matter of what good NJ residents are doing: It’s always what sort of mischief they’re up to. Because when you have a government with no Immigration Policy Bureau to institute a viable immigration and assimilation policy, and instead have a policing agency solely entrusted with “administrating” foreigners in Japan, naturally you’ll get an embedded mindset that treats everyone as a potential criminal. Read the entire article and see for yourself. Feel the criminality steadily creep in and have the last word.
Reuters : Niculas Fernando died at a Tokyo immigration detention center sometime between 9:33 a.m. and 10:44 a.m. on November 22, 2014, according to the coroner. But it wasn’t until shortly after 1 p.m. that day that guards realized something was badly wrong – even though Fernando had been moved to an observation cell monitored via closed-circuit television after complaining of sharp chest pain. An inmate had to alert the guards before they rushed into Fernando’s cell and tried to revive him. […] He was the fourth person to die in Japan’s immigration detention system in 13 months. In total, 12 people have died in immigration detention since 2006, including four suicides. In 2015, 14 detainees tried to kill or harm themselves at the detention center where Fernando died, according to data from the facility.
A Reuters investigation into the circumstances surrounding Fernando’s death, including dozens of interviews with detainees, immigration officials and doctors, revealed serious deficiencies in the medical treatment and monitoring of Japan’s immigration detention centers. Guards with scant medical training make critical decisions about detainees’ health. Doctors visit some of the country’s main detention centers as infrequently as twice a week. And on weekends there are no medical professionals on duty at any of the immigration detention facilities, which held more than 13,600 people in 2014. Three of the four deaths in detention between October 2013 and November 2014, including Fernando’s, occurred when there were no doctors on duty. Like Fernando, another one of the detainees died while in an observation cell.
Japan’s immigration system is under increasing strain. As a torrent of refugees pours into Europe, Japan also has record numbers of people landing on its shores in search of refuge. As of June last year, it had 10,830 asylum applications under review – small by Europe’s standards, but a new high for Japan, a nation that has long been reluctant to take in outsiders. In February, more than 40 detainees went on hunger strike at a facility in Osaka to protest their conditions [As they did in 2010, to little change — Ed.]. Their main complaint: Poor medical care. […]
The Justice Ministry has not made public the findings of the investigation into the case nor released them to Fernando’s family. In response to a public disclosure request, Reuters received a copy of the national Immigration Bureau’s report from March last year. It was heavily redacted. Under a section titled “Problems,” every line had been blacked out.
Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times JBC 93 Nov 2, 2015: “Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan”, summarizing my new book out this week
2) Asahi TV: Police training drill in Tokyo on how to deal with jewelry thieves brandishing knives. Oh, and they’re “foreign” thieves.
3) “Foreign Driver” stickers appearing on Okinawan rental cars
4) Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say
5) Japan moving on to the next sucker societies for cheap or slave labor: Cambodia and Vietnam
6) Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue
7) “Onsen-Ken Shinfuro Video”: Japan Synchro Swim Team promotes Oita Pref. Onsens — and breaks most bathhouse rules doing so. Historically insensitive.
8 ) My Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan
… and in case you thought I was being alarmist with JBC 92…
9) CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology
Table of Contents:
DEFENDING THE NEW STATUS QUO
2) Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)
3) Tangent: Economist on “Japan’s Citizen Kane”: Shouriki Matsutaro; explains a lot about J-media’s interlocking relationship with J-politics
4) JK on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no”
SHINING A LIGHT ON AREAS NEEDING CHANGE
5) Nikkei interview with Japan’s most famous naturalized former Zainichi Korean: SoftBank’s Son Masayoshi
6) Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions
7) Yomiuri: More Japanese public baths OK tattooed visitors (particularly NJ) for 2020 Olympics: suddenly it’s all about showing “understanding of foreign cultures”
… and finally…
8 ) Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust
Debito.org hasn’t talked as much as other topics about the Government of Japan (GOJ)’s attitude towards refugees (in that, the acceptance of refugees is one measure of international contributions by the club of rich, developed countries and UN treaty signatories). But it is safe to say that the GOJ has not been cooperative, accepting fewer people in total over the past sixty years than some countries do in a single year — as the United Nations is aware. So now the Abe Administration is trying a different tack: Accepting refugees as temporary students, and then sending them “home” someday. Debito.org Reader JK parses that to bits by citing articles below.
Mainichi: “The idea is that by accepting refugees as students, Japan could aid in training personnel for the later reconstruction of Syria.” …and… “The plan represents the government’s efforts to think of a way to contribute to solving the Syria issue, without influencing the current refugee authorization system.”
JK: Translation: GOJ doesn’t want to look bad at the UN in front of the other nations who are actually doing something to help refugees, so what to do?…Ah! Accept refugees as students to make it look like Japan is making a difference — Japan trains the Syrians so that one day they can go ‘home’ and fix everything up, and as students, they’re not in a position to stay for good as would be the case if they were accepted as refugees. It’s a win-win!
Mainichi: “As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe told a news conference, according to the official translation of his comments.
JK: Translation: Accepting immigrants is the last thing we should do.
Contrast this situation with the situation of “Trainees” and other visa statuses in Japan:
HCB: It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal. She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m. But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.
In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used. When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear. Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly. Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away. Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work…
According the Japan Times re a new Bill submitted by the LDP to penalize “fraud visa holders”, Immigration and the NPA go beyond merely “resetting your visa clock” and making your visa more temporary due to bureaucratic technicalities. This time they’re going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices:
Consider how you could lose your current visa because you changed jobs from one arbitrary work classification to another? (Or worse yet, because your new employer messes up your paperwork?)
Consider how you could lose your Spouse Visa because, oh, you get a divorce or your spouse DIES! (Yes, people have lost their Spouse Visas because of that; however, until now, you had a grace period, meaning the remaining validity of the visa period to make life adjustments. Not any more, under this new system.)
Consider how vulnerable NJ become to any Japanese employer (or neighbor, ex-lover, or jilted person in a love triangle, for that matter), who can easily report you as a criminal (or at least put you through the horrible experience of criminal investigation in Japan) via anonymous Government “Snitch Sites” empowering the general public to bully NJ residents?
Which means you’re likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy). For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can’t renew your visa while in jail). Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan — simply because of an oversight or subterfuge. Yet more human rights being taken away from NJ residents.
Table of Contents:
HOW BAD IT’S GETTING
1) Arimura Haruko, Minister for the Empowerment of Women: Immigration is a “Pandora’s Box”, offers weird Team Abe arguments to justify
2) 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
3) J Times Kingston on Abe’s intimidation of media: You know it’s getting bad when even apologist bigot Gregory Clark complains about Rightists targeting him
4) Debito.org Dejima Award #6 to Mishima Village, Kagoshima Prefecture, for subsidizing outsiders to move and live there — unless they are foreign
5) Japan at Expo Milano 2015: Official display claims Japan is a land of “harmonious diversity” (in English). SRSLY? Yep. Let’s parse.
6) Tangent: NYT Op-Ed: Foreigners Are Attacking … American TV, within US TV programs. Contrast with Japan.
… and finally …
7) Japan Times JBC 87 May 4, 2015: Interview with M.G. Sheftall: “Japan-U.S. effort to tell Kamikaze suicide pilots’ stories dodges controversy, wins praise”
Now let’s get to the narrative by Team Abe on immigration. Despite calling for the expansion of the officially-sanctioned system of often-slavery that the “Trainee” Program constitutes (even cynically saying that we need cheap temporary foreign labor for constructing the 2020 Olympics), and the recognized need for caregivers below, we have a government official below charged with empowering people (a worthy goal in itself) also advocating the disempowerment of others — not giving people who would be contributing to Japan any stake in its society.
That’s one thing. Another is how this Minister for the Empowerment of Women Arimura Haruko is justifying this organized disenfranchisement of NJ. Despite being married to a NJ herself, she uses him as a fulcrum (his family in Malaysia forcing their Indonesian nanny to sleep on the floor), alleging that mistreatment of immigrants is something that naturally happens (okay, without their proper enfranchisement, yes) and that it would be “unthinkable in Japan” (oh, is she as a government official ignorant of the much bigger abuses of that “Trainee” program that have been going on for more than two decades)?
Completing the effect of working backwards from preset conclusions, Arimura then brings the song home by blaming foreigners for their own disenfranchisement: alleging their terroristic tendencies (a common trope for the past decade since PM Koizumi in 2005), and how bringing them here would be a “Pandora’s Box”:
Bloomberg: Japan should fix its shrinking workforce by enabling women to work, before turning to the ‘Pandora’s box’ of immigration, the country’s minister for the empowerment of women said in an interview last week. Haruko Arimura, a 44-year-old mother of two, said Japan must act fast to change a trend that could otherwise see the workforce decline by almost half by 2060. But she warned if immigrants were mistreated — something she’d witnessed overseas — it raised the risk of creating resentment in their ranks.
“Many developed countries have experienced immigration,” she said in her Tokyo office. “The world has been shaken by immigrants who come into contact with extremist thinking like that of ISIL, bundle themselves in explosives and kill people indiscriminately in the country where they were brought up,” Arimura said. “If we want to preserve the character of the country and pass it on to our children and grandchildren in better shape, there are reforms we need to carry out now to protect those values.”
Table of Contents:
1) Sankei columnist Sono Ayako advocates separation of NJ residential zones by race in Japan, cites Apartheid South Africa as example
2) Japan Times: Inflammatory articles (such as Sono Ayako’s “Japartheid” Sankei column) aren’t helping mags’ circulation numbers
3) Debito.org quoted in South China Morning Post about Sankei Shinbun’s Sono Ayako advocating Japartheid
BLACKFACE AND BLACKOUTS
4) Good JT article on historically-ignorant blackface on Japanese performers and “modern-day minstrel shows” in Japan
5) Kyodo: Foreign trainee slain, colleague wounded in rural Ibaraki attack, in oddly terse article
6) Japan Times: UK inspectors say Japan’s Immigration Detention Centers are like “prisons”. In fact, they’re worse.
7) Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable
… and finally…
8 ) Japan Times JBC 84 Feb. 5, 2015, “At age 50, seeing the writing on the wall”
Table of Contents:
1) United Nations demands Tokyo introduce anti-discrimination law to counter hate speech (HRC report CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6 text included in full, citing “Japanese Only” signs, thanks)
2) UN: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Japan 2014: Little progress made
3) Nikkei: Another Japanese nabbed for being like a “suspicious foreigner” in Ibaraki. Adding it to the collection
4) “No Foreigners” (and no women) Capsule Inn Omiya hotel in Saitama (UPDATE AUG 21: No-foreigner rule withdrawn, but lots more exclusionary hotels found on Rakuten)
Good news. The United Nations has once again reviewed Japan’s human rights record (preliminary report below), and found it wanting. Here’s the bit that has been cited in Japan’s news media (also below):
Human Rights Committee
Concluding observations (2014) CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6
ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION
Human Rights Committee
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Japan (excerpt)
Hate speech and racial discrimination
12. The Committee expresses concern at the widespread racist discourse against members of minority groups, such as Koreans, Chinese or Burakumin, inciting hatred and discrimination against them, and the insufficient protection granted against these acts in the criminal and civil code. The Committee also expresses concern at the high number of extremist demonstrations authorised, the harassment and violence perpetrated against minorities, including against foreign students, as well the open display in private establishments of signs such as “Japanese only” (arts. 2, 19, 20 and 27).
The State should prohibit all propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred that incites to discrimination, hostility or violence, and should prohibit demonstrations that intended to disseminate such propaganda. The State party should also allocate sufficient resources for awareness-raising campaigns against racism and increase its efforts to ensure that judges, prosecutors and police officials are trained to be able to detect hate and racially motivated crimes. The State party should also take all necessary steps to prevent racist attacks and to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions.
COMMENT: Happy to see the generally-overlooked aftermath of the Otaru Onsens Case and the information on Debito.org’s Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments is still being cited. Keep the pressure on, UN. The media reaction and the UN report in full follows, and there’s lots more important stuff (including issues of “Trainee” NJ slave-wage work, Japan’s historical wartime sexual slavery, abuses of police power, and even Fukushima irradiation!)
Table of Contents:
FOREVER UNDER THE RADAR:
1) Japan’s population tally in media still excludes NJ residents; plus J political misogyny and appeals to gaiatsu
2) Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage
ON THE RADAR AND INFLUENCING PUBLIC OPINION:
3) World Cup 2014: Held in Brazil, but causes tightened police security in Tokyo due to alleged possibility of “vandalism”
4) J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets
5) MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.
6) Fodor’s Travel Guide on Japan 2014 features two chapters on Hokkaido and Tohoku written by Debito
… and finally…
7) My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014
Opening: Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.
However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!
And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.
Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work….
Table of Contents:
1) Asahi: ‘Japanese Only’ banner at soccer stadium a microcosm of discrimination in Japan (E&J)
2) Asahi & Kyodo: Japan’s soccer leagues taking anti-discrimination courses, meting out punishments for racism
3) Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012
4) Counterdemos against racist rally by Zaitokukai in Osaka Nanba May 11, 2014: Brief on emerging narratives fighting fire with fire
5) Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program
6) SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role
STEPS OF UNKNOWN VALUE
7) Scholar Majima Ayu on how the racial discrimination inherent in America’s Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 caused all manner of Japanese craziness
8 ) Economist: China to become world’s largest economy by end-2014. Will USA react to being overtaken similar to Japan?
… and finally…
9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 75, May 1, 2014: “Tackling Japan’s ‘Empathy Deficit’ Towards Outsiders”
Table of Contents:
THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED
1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.
2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter
3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”
4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues
THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY
5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm
6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles
7) 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”
8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces
9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan
… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”
PLUS bonus follow-up:
11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.
Asahi: Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth. Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.” The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
COMMENT: Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig”, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners. For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997. More examples here. Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at. Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections. Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody? Again, deserves to be known about.
Asahi: A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned. In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced. […] According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.
COMMENT: We’ve talked about Japan’s “Points System” before on Debito.org, where I took a dim view of it as just another “revolving door” labor visa regime to bring people over, leech off their prime working lives, and then boot them back home without letting them settle and reap the rewards for contributing to Japanese society (cf. the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “foreign caregivers“, all of whom I have written about for the Japan Times). Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications. As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high. Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit. Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”. These policy failures will keep happening again and again until NJ are treated as “people”, and given a fair chance by the GOJ at becoming “Japanese” (with transfers of political, economic, and social power — and that includes input at the policymaking stage too). But I still don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Table of Contents:
1) Amazing new Cabinet survey finds “81% welcome ‘foreigners’ of Japanese descent”. Festival of cognitive dissonance!
2) Another racist flyer from Osaka Pref Police, this time with stereotypical drawings of black people
3) Another genre of discriminatory sign: Genky Stores in Gifu threaten NJ shoplifters with arrest and employment reprisal. Odd, what with J shoplifting increasing
4) Wash Post: US teacher in Japan under attack from Internet bullies for lessons on Japan’s history of racial discrimination
5) Quoted in Die Zeit newspaper: “Japan: Old and Xenophobic” (German with machine translation)
6) BBC on Japan’s remilitarization: Island disputes justifying quiet buildup in Japan’s aircraft carriers, xenophobia in J youth
7) The 25-year “Special Reconstruction Tax” of Jan 1, 2013 — yet another GOJ leech on the Japan workers’ payroll?
8 ) Mainichi: NJ medical intern death from overwork finally officially recognized as karoushi after 2 years
9) Donald Richie passes away at age 88. Saluting one of our pioneering Japanologist brethren
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 60, Feb 4, 2013: “Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan and Asia will suffer” (full text)
In a sad precedent, we have a clear case of death through overwork being officially recognized as such for a NJ doctor. It’s sadder that it has taken so long (more than two years) for that official recognition to come through. I’ve long realized that Japan has at times some pretty crazy work ethics (and a peer group atmosphere that encourages people to give their all, even until they die), but it seems even more crazy for NJ to leave their societies to come to a place that will work them to death. Especially as a NJ “trainee”, where they have even fewer labor-law rights than the locals who are in similar work circumstances. This situation has to be known about, since Japan’s immigration laws aren’t allowing a labor market where enough doctors (even imported ones) can satiate the perpetual labor shortage being referred to below. Only when GOJ authorities realize that the jig is up, because the international labor force is avoiding Japan as a harsh labor market to work within, will things change.
Mainichi: A regional labor standards inspection office in Aomori Prefecture has recognized that a Chinese trainee doctor who was working at a municipal hospital died from overwork, a lawyer representing the victim has disclosed. It is reportedly the country’s first case in which a foreign doctor working in Japan has been recognized by a labor standards office as having died from overwork. The Hirosaki Labor Standards Inspection Office in Aomori Prefecture acknowledged that the 2010 death of Lu Yongfu, a Chinese trainee doctor at a municipal hospital in Hirosaki, was work-related, in a decision on Dec. 20. Lu died at the age of 28 after working up to 121 hours overtime a month…
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
Table of Contents:
1) Mainichi: Japan’s only human rights museum likely closing after Osaka Gov Hashimoto defunds, says doesn’t teach Japan’s “hopes & dreams”
2) Discussion: JDG, Harumi Befu et.al on the end of Japan’s internationalization and swing towards remilitarization
3) Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?
4) Diet session ends, Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions endorsement bill not passed
5) AP Interview: Japan Nuke Probe Head Kurokawa defends his report, also apportions blame to NJ for Fukushima disaster!
6) Success, of a sort, as a “Gaijin Mask” maker amends their racist product to “Gaikokujin Masks”. Same racialized marketing, though.
7) Kyodo: J airport “random body searches” start October. On “int’l passengers”, naturally, so not so random, considering police precedents of racial profiling
8 ) Weird “Japanese Only” advertisement in U Hawaii Manoa Ka Leo student newspaper by Covance asking for medical-experiment volunteers
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 55: Toot your own horn — don’t let the modesty scam keep you down
Let’s have a look at what’s becoming of Japan’s latest “revolving door” labor visa regime scam (after the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “Points System”): the “foreign caregivers”, which has ground to a halt due to the (otherwise fully-qualified) NJ health professionals themselves realizing that the systematic barriers were creating an exploitative regime. So now according to Kyodo News it looks like it’s being scaled back. But not without kicking someone in the ribs first. As submitter JDG notes:
“The foreign caregiver program was launched because there was a realization that the looming shortage of caregivers to meet Japan’s aging population had already arrived. However, as you have documented, from it’s inception it has been riddled with unrealistic expectations, low pay, harsh conditions, few incentives, and subject to some strange accounting.
“Well, here is the logical conclusion: foreign caregivers are ‘gaijin criminals taking advantage of the system’. Rather than examining what is wrong with the system, the (of course) natural response by officials is to make the program even tougher to live with for caregivers. Only a Kyoto University Prof. seems to have any sense about him. I would say that this development will mark the end (in real terms) of the program. Of course, it’s all the NJ’s fault…”
In light of how NJ nurses under a national visa program have been treated in the face of a chronic careworkers shortage, here we have a case where even local sponsorship of a NJ doctor is also viewed (according to the Yomiuri, which may indeed in the interest of “balance” be conjuring up a tempest in a teapot) with suspicion because she is a foreigner. After all, she might not stay! Then again, so might not anyone else being trained on that scholarship program regardless of nationality. Ah, but foreigners are different, you see. They always represent a flight risk… Anyhoo, good news tainted with an editorial bias of caution and trepidation just because the subject is NJ.
Yomiuri: Facing a serious and chronic shortage of doctors, the town of Ichinohe felt it necessary to look overseas to find medical staff willing to live and work in the rural area. The town plans to spend more than 10 million yen on school and living expenses for a Vietnamese woman on the condition that she will practice medicine in the town for at least seven years after obtaining her license.
The unusual plan raised eyebrows when the town ran it by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and some residents have questioned why the town is sponsoring a foreigner. However, Ichinohe Mayor Akira Inaba believes the unprecedented plan is just what the town needs. “The scholarship program for Japanese medical students hasn’t attracted enough applicants to meet its quota,” he said. “We have no other choice but to secure our doctors on our own.”
The Kyodo article below, on how Indonesian and Filipina nurses and caregivers (even those who have passed the arduous qualifying exam) are leaving Japan anyway, has been featured within the comments section of another Debito.org blog entry (here). It seems to be gathering steam there, so let me post the article here as a stand-alone, and repost below it the subsequent replies from Debito.org Readers (the really good ones start doing the math, revealing there’s something fishy going on at the administrative level, beyond just blaming the NJ caregivers for not doing what they’re told after all the GOJ bullshit they’ve put up with).
My take on this Kyodo article is about the nasty little editorial slants and needles within. Particularly nasty is how all otherwise qualified NJ caregivers are suddenly unworthy of emptying Japanese bedpans just because some decide they have a life outside Japan. Quoth one professor with a PhD in nastiness at Todai (Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education): “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”
Moreover, Kyodo, is this news, or editorializing? “Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia ‘for personal reasons,’ bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.” Awww, diddums!
John Morris at H-JAPAN: A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL:
The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level). Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development. However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking: a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated. Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below. In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re NJ in Japan. More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.
The Japan Times came out with an editorial last Sunday, entitled “Flyjin rather few,” which talked about a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government survey of NJ in Tokyo, carried out to ascertain how many stayed or left after the disasters of March 2011 and beyond. The survey was trying to see if the “Flyjin” phenomenon really happened, and in doing so, the JT notes, potentially resuscitated the invective of Japanese media and xenophobic pundits branding NJ as deserters.
The JT editorial is a doozy. Not only does it demonstrate that “the vast majority of foreigners in Tokyo stayed right where they were — in Tokyo”, it also castigates the whole thought process behind it: “The survey did little to focus on what can be done to ensure that all residents of Tokyo be given clear information about conditions and constructive advice about what to do in the event a similar disaster strikes in Tokyo in the near future.”
“The ‘flyjin’ issue, besides being a derogatory term, was always a tempest in a teapot. Surveys that find information to help improve communications are important, but it is the actions that follow that really count. The metropolitan government should prepare a means to give all residents of Tokyo, whatever nationality they are, trustworthy information during emergencies so safe, sensible decisions can be made.”
In other words, the JT was easily able to see through the stupid science (e.g., the singling out of NJ, the small sample size, limiting it to Tokyo residents, the lack of clear aim or rigor in methodology, and ultimately its lack of conclusion: “The survey did little to better understand all Tokyoites’ complicated reactions to the crisis.”)
Yet people who should know better, and who should be advocating for the needs of the NJ Communities in Japan, are already citing this survey as somehow indicative. Japan Probe, for example, states that this survey “confirms Post-3/11 “Flyjin” Phenomenon / 25 Percent of Tokyo’s Foreign Residents Fled”, and apparently “deals a major blow to certain bloggers who have claimed that the “flyjin” phenomenon was a myth”.
One of those certain bloggers indeedy would be me. And I gave much harder and rigorous numbers from all of Japan and from the central government and for the entire year, clearly exposing the “Flyjin” phenomenon as myth in my April Japan Times column. Hence, there’s no clearer interpretation of Japan Probe’s conclusion than the will to live in obtuse denial.
But that’s what keeps hatenas hovering around my head. Wouldn’t it be nicer if online resources like Japan Probe (which calls itself “The web’s no.1 source for Japan-related news and entertainment”) would work for the good of the NJ communities it purports to inform? It did do so once upon a time, for example, during the whole GAIJIN HANZAI mook debacle, where Japan Probe was instrumental in helping get the racist magazine on foreign crime off the shelves and the publisher bankrupted. But now, why try so hard, as the Japan Times Editorial above saliently notes, “to exaggerate the extent of foreigners leaving the country and impugn their motives for leaving”?
Japan Times: Last December, the Japanese government announced that a new visa regime with a “points system” would be introduced this spring.
It is designed to attract 2,000 non-Japanese (NJ) with a “high degree of capability” (kōdo jinzai), meaning people with high salaries, impeccable educational and vocational pedigrees, specialized technical knowledge and excellent managerial/administrative skills.
Those lucky foreign millionaire Ph.Ds beating a path to this land of opportunity would get preferential visa treatment: five-year visas, fast-tracking to permanent residency, work status for spouses — even visas to bring their parents and “hired housekeepers” along.
Sweet. But then comes the fine print: You must get 70 points on the Justice Ministry’s qualifying scale (see www.moj.go.jp/content/000083223.pdf) And it’s tough, really tough. Take the test and see if you qualify (I don’t). Symptomatic of decisions by committee, it’s a salad of idealized preferences without regard for real-world application. There’s even a funny sliding scale where you get more points the longer you’ve worked, yet fewer points the older you get.
Interesting is how low Japanese language ability is weighted: only 10 points — in a “bonus” category. One would have assumed that people communicative in Japan’s lingua franca would be highly prized (especially when the call for kōdo jinzai is in Japanese only).
However, I would argue the opposite: Crowds of NJ completely fluent in Japanese are exactly what the government does not want. Visa regimes with illiterate foreigners facing insurmountable hurdles are what maintain Japan’s revolving-door labor market.
For example, consider 2008’s visa program to import elderly-care nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia…
Table of Contents:
DEEP THOUGHTS FROM DEEP THINKERS
1) M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall academic paper on “Shattered Gods” and the dying mythology of “Japaneseness”
2) Peter Tasker in Foreign Policy Magazine: “Japan will rebuild, but not how you think”.
Takes opportunity of Japan’s worst postwar disaster to re-advance outmoded Chrysanthemum Club-ism.
3) Terrie’s Take on how Japanese companies are too “addicted” to cheap Chinese “Trainee” labor to hire unemployed Japanese
4) Donald Keene prattles on about why he’s naturalizing in SAPIO, even takes a cheap shot at NJ
5) Tokyo Gov Ishihara bids for 2020 Olympics through earthquake sympathy vote; also calls for Japan to have nukes, military conscription, and military-led government
THE MONTHLY MODICUM OF BAD SOCIAL SCIENCE
6) Bad social paradigms encouraging bad social science: UC Berkeley prof idiotically counts “flyjin” for H-Japan listserv
7) Reuters Expose: Japan’s ‘throwaway’ nuclear workers, including NJ “temporary temps”
8 ) 2011’s annual GOJ Spot the Illegal Alien campaign enlists Tokyo Metro, deputizes general public with posters of cute and compliant NJ
LET’S NOT LEAVE OUT EXCLUSIONISM
9) Zaitokukai Neonazis march in Tokyo Shibuya July 9, 2011, with ugly invective
10) BV inter alia on J bureaucrat exclusionary attitudes when registering his newborn multicultural child at Shibuya Kuyakusho
11) Mark Austin reports that Otaru, site of the famous onsen lawsuit, still has a “Japanese Only” establishment, “Monika”
12) Kyodo: Soccer S-Pulse coach Ghotbi wants to meet banned fans over racial banner
13) Joel Legendre-Koizumi on the J media’s blackout on PM Kan’s proposals
PORTENTS OF THE FUTURE
14) Adidas assesses the “history of poor treatment of migrant workers in Japan”, now monitoring JITCO in conjunction with other major overseas outsourcers
15) US State Department report 2011: “Japan’s Foreign trainee program ‘like human trafficking'”
16) Asahi: NJ Nurse trainees leave Japan despite 1-year extension to taking qualifying test
17) Quoted in Asia Weekly: “Falling birthrate, rising life expectancy afflict Japan”
18 ) Child Abductions Issue: How Japan’s debate on defining “Domestic Violence”, the loophole in enforcing the Hague Treaty, is heading in the wrong direction
19) Weekend Tangent: The euphoria of collective attack and parental alienation syndrome
20) PODCAST: KQED-FM Pacific Time broadcast 14 Dec 2000, Arudou Debito reports on naturalizing in Japan (part 1 of 3)
21) PODCAST: KQED-FM Pacific Time broadcast 21 Dec 2000, Arudou Debito reports on J naturalization process (part 2 of 3)
22) PODCAST: KQED-FM Pacific Time broadcast 28 Dec 2000, Arudou Debito reports on naturalizing and name changes in Japan (part 3 of 3)
23) PODCAST: NPR All Things Considered on Arudou Debito’s naturalization July 3, 2003
24) PODCAST: NPR All Things Considered on Brooklynite Anthony Bianchi’s election to Inuyama City Council, April 30, 2003
25) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JULY 1, 2011: FCCJ Book Break on IN APPROPRIATE, June 28, 2011
… and finally…
26) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column July 5, 2011: “Lives such as Daniel’s deserve to be honored in these pages”
China Daily/Asia Weekly: An obvious concern is whether fewer tax-paying workers will be able to support more benefit-claiming retirees. Japan’s healthy personal savings may help in that regard. A more human question is, “Who will provide the daily care the elderly require?”…
In 2010, of the 257 Filipinos who took the [qualifying exam to become a healthcare worker in Japan], only one passed. The success rate for Filipinos and Indonesians over the first two years of the program was also less than 1 percent, prompting some to regard the exam as a contrivance designed to restrict foreign professionals’ period of stay.
“Japan has long maintained a tacit revolving-door policy for migrant labor,” says Arudou Debito, a naturalized- Japanese human-rights activist and researcher on internationalization.
“The Japanese government imports cheap young workers during their most productive labor years, but under short-term work visa regimes to ensure they don’t settle here. In that sense, what is happening to the caregivers and nurses is completely within character.”