Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs

JT: In October 1999, 19 Chinese trainees came to the Takefu city office pleading for help. In their first year in Japan as interns, the women had been promised ¥50,000 a month, but scraped by on ¥10,000. The next year, as technical trainees, they should have received ¥115,000 a month. After health insurance, pension, rent, forced “savings” and administrative fees for the staffing agency in China were deducted, what they got was ¥15,000. The women walked for five hours from their workshop in the mountains of Fukui Prefecture to talk with the director of their placement organization at his home. Instead of receiving answers, they were turned away with harsh words — and even blows.

The incident was discussed in the Diet and became a symbol of the profound problems with the trainee system. Shortly afterwards, citizens’ groups formed to protect the rights of trainees and organizations already working to protect foreigners’ rights found a new focus. More than 10 years later, leaders of these groups say they have seen some positive changes, but abuses of the system are still endemic…

Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated

Finally, a quarter-century into the horrible government-sponsored NJ “Trainee” program, the GOJ is now releasing actual hard statistics about the people it is killing.  And you can see why it took so long–the numbers are shameful enough to warrant a cover-up:  Between 2014 and 2017, 22 NJ died (almost all due to workplace accidents, but at least one was probably being worked to death).  This is more than twice the on-job fatality rate for J workers.  There were also 475 cases of serious accidents to NJ “Trainees”, and, as activists point out below, this figure is probably understated.  

A contrarian might argue that NJ are just accident-prone.  But as the article describes below, working conditions are simply awful, not to mention generally illegal.  And as as Debito.org has pointed out repeatedly over the decades, “the program is rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicide — even slavery and murder. Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.” (From Japan Times, Jan. 3, 2018, Item 4)

Anyway, let’s celebrate that we have some official statistics at last, for without them, it’s easy to see why this program can keep going for a quarter-century with little political traction to improve it.

Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”

The resurgence of Japan’s import labor regime has resumed in earnest, reaching a record at least in the Postwar Era. (Remember that during WWII, Japan’s internal colonial population, as in workers imported from its colonies, was very high; people from the Korean peninsula alone in 1945 were more than two million.) Now as of 2016, the NJ worker total has hit 1 million, according to Reuters below.

There is some fine print this article should have noted. This “record one million” is of workers, not registered residents alone (which is in fact more than twice the number, at 2.23 million as of 2015), since they have dependents (i.e., spouses with non-work visas and children). But within this one million are people who are not technically “workers” (roudousha), but “Trainees” (kenkyuusei or jisshuusei), who aren’t officially protected by Japan labor laws and are exposed to all manner of abuses, including slavery.

So calling them all “workers” is misleading both in terms of terminology and legal status. Especially since, as the article does rightly note, they are making up 20% of the total, or around 200,000 unprotected NJ laborers. Now that their numbers have shot up by 25% over one year alone, we can expect that 70% of all their employers will likely expose them to labor abuses.

These are not happy statistics, and for the article to lack this degree of nuance (especially since Reuters itself has done marvelous exposes in the past, even calling “Trainee” employers “sweatshops in disguise”) is at this point an institutional memory problem.

Another problem is the article implying that there is any actual attempt to, quote, “open gates to immigrants”. Immigration (imin) has never been part of Japan’s policy calculations (and I challenge the journalists researching this article to find that exact word in any of the cited policy directives; their citing a construction company manager, in the unlikely event that he actually used the word imin, is still indicative of nothing) — only temporary stopgap laborers who will give their best working lives and then be sent home at the first economic downturn. As has happened before, most cruelly.

As much as the article might be trying to attract eyeballs by putting a superlative “record number of” in the headline (and once again sneaking in an angle of hope of actual “immigration” happening), the only change that has happened here is that more NJ are being processed by an exploitative system — one that has by design remained relatively unchanged for nearly three decades, and moreover has been expanded to exploit even more. So many misdirected angles here.

Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. Unclear how it’ll be enforced.

Here’s a little something that may or may not matter in future. As the Abe Administration seeks to expand the NJ “Trainee” sweatshop and slave-labor program out of the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and fishery industries and into nursing (not to mention the “special economic zones” so that foreigners with college degrees and Japanese language ability will have the privilege of tilling land and weeding crops on Japanese farms; seriously), we finally have a law to prevent the widespread abuses of NJ not covered by labor laws. Abuses so widespread, as the article says below, that “about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws,” according to the GOJ. That’s quite a stat.

Now will this law be enforced? Remains to be seen. I’m not sure how this governmental “body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers” will work in practice. We’ve already seen how ineffectual other human-rights organs for “counseling” (such as the Ministry of Justice’s Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights) are in Japan. And there are all manner of institutionalized incentives (and decades of established practice) for people to turn blind eyes. After all, the only ones being hurt by this slavery program are foreigners, and they can just go back home if they don’t like it. (Except that they can’t.) Debito.org will keep you posted on developments.

Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009. The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation). Kyodo News back then rather ignorantly observed how problematic the “Trainee” system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then: Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle”, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see article below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month. (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

Now sit down for this news: The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it. As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020. And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists. But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers? They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right? So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative. And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.

Terrie’s Take on how Japanese companies are too “addicted” to cheap Chinese “Trainee” labor to hire unemployed Japanese

Received this this morning from Terrie Lloyd. Very much worth reading, as it shows the damage done by the market aberration (if you believe in free markets as the final arbiter of fairness) of holding labor costs artificially low — you get resistance to ever raising them again once business gets used to those costs as being “normal”. As wages and working conditions in Japan continue their race to the bottom, it seems that two decades of NJ “Trainee” near-slave and slave labor will come back to haunt the Japanese economy after all.

Terrie Lloyd: According to an article in the Japan Times on Thursday, quoting numbers from a Labor Ministry report released earlier in the week, there are now 2.02m people in Japan receiving welfare checks, more than any time since 1952. “Welfare” in Japan is apparently defined as financial assistance offered by the government to a household when its total income falls below the national minimum.

Presumably a big contributor to this record number of needy people has been the Great East Japan earthquake in March. The level of joblessness has soared to around 90% of employable survivors in the worst hit areas, and by the end of May about 110,000 were out of work and applying for the dole at various Hello Work offices in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures.

So, one would think that with this excess capacity of workers, many of whom are from the agricultural, fisheries, and manufacturing industries, juxtaposed with the phenomenon of disappearing Chinese trainee workers from factories around the same regions, less than half of whom are yet to return, that there would be a slew of local hirings to make up the shortfall. Certainly after the Chinese trainees fled the disaster areas, there were plenty of news reports of employers grumpily saying, “We can’t trust Chinese employees, next time we’ll hire locals.”

But are they following through with local hiring offers? Our guess is “not”.

The reason is because a Japanese breadwinner from Iwate on unemployment, or even welfare, can still receive 2-5 times more than the Chinese trainees do for the same jobs. The factory and farm operators may grizzle about their “unreliable” Chinese employees, but without this source of ultra-cheap labor, they have no way of being able to compete with the flood of goods and produce coming in from China itself. The fact is that thousands of small companies all over Japan are addicted to cheap trainee labor from China and elsewhere, and to go local they would soon go out of business….

Weekend Tangent: Historical comparison between contemporary social attitudes justifying racial discrimination in Japan and pre-Civil-War slavery in America

Today I’d like to write about something that came to mind when I was listening to National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” podcast of February 21, 2011, which interviewed author and Columbia University professor Eric Foner for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery”. (NPR information site on this show, excerpt from the book, and link to audio recording here.)

It was an excellent interview, shedding insights on just how entrenched unequal treatment towards people was in a system that on paper and in its very declaration of independence proclaimed that all men are created equal. I found similarities in the attitudes that people have towards foreigners in Japan, based not only on recent confessions by a public prosecutor that criminal jurisprudence training seeks to systematically deny human rights to foreigners, but also consequent twitter comments that justified the status quo of unequal treatment for foreigners. It shows just how far Japan as a society (not to mention the GOJ’s Bureau of Human Rights, which itself misunderstands the very concept of human rights in its surveys and awareness raising efforts; see my Japan Times article, “Human Rights Survey Stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science”, of October 23, 2007) has to go before it understands that concepts of human rights are universal, not based upon citizenship.

Now for the disclaimers: I am aware that apparently linking the treatment of NJ in Japan to slaves in America is not an apt comparison (although Japan’s “Trainee/Researcher” system for importing cheap NJ labor has encouraged widespread labor abuses, child labor, and, yes, even slavery). I am aware that most NJ are in Japan of their own free will (if one ignores the forced labor of many Zainichi ancestors), whereas slaves were brought to the US by force. Et cetera. But the two concepts are related if not co-joined, as racial discrimination and justified unequal treatment is common to them both. What I want you to think about as you read the interview is how the contemporary debate arena and concepts of fundamental equality were blurred in both Pre-Civil-War USA and are still being blurred in contemporary Japan, tying the hands of even someone as able and firm in his convictions as Abraham Lincoln.

Excerpt of the interview follows. Quick comment from me below.

Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3 06, article on abuses of foreign Trainees and GOJ’s Kouno Taro policy prescription proposals

From the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3, 2006. Excellent article rounding up the problems and the possible policy prescriptions regarding abusive treatment of foreign labor in Japan. NGO’s are even using the word “slave labor” (appropriately) to describe the situation.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 27, 2019

Table of Contents:
THE FAULTY DYNAMIC OF “NIPPON CLAIMING”
1) Japan Times JBC Col 113: “Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing tennis for Japan can seriously shorten your career” (Sep. 19, 2018)
2) SCMP: “Tennis queen Naomi Osaka a role model, says ‘Indian’ Miss Japan Priyanka Yoshikawa”. A little more complex than that.
3) “Nippon Claimed” multiethnic tennis star Osaka Naomi gets “whitewashed” by her sponsor. Without consulting her. Compare with singer Crystal Kay.

SHENANIGANS
4) Fuji TV’s “Taikyo no Shunkan”: Reality TV targeting NJ as sport. Again.
5) Japan Times officially sanitizes WWII “comfort women” and “forced laborers”. Pressure on my JT Just Be Cause column too.
6) Excellent Japan Times feature on dual citizenship in Japan: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy leaves many in the dark

GOOD NEWS?
7) Nikkei: Japanese-Brazilians snub Tokyo’s diaspora residency program, attracting exactly ZERO applications after starting 3 months ago
8 ) BBC: Fukuoka Hilton Hotel refuses entry to Cuban Ambassador due to “US sanctions”. J authorities call action “illegal”. How quaint.

HOT DISCUSSIONS ON DEBITO.ORG
9) Nikkei Asian Review: “In rural Japan, immigrants spark a rebirth”. An optimistic antidote to the regular media Gaijin Bashing
10) Senaiho on criminal complaint against Jr High School “Hair Police” in Yamanashi
11) SendaiBen on “Anytime Fitness” Sports Gym Gaijin Carding him, and how he got them to stoppit
12) JT: GOJ Cabinet approves new NJ worker visa categories. Small print: Don’t bring your families. Or try to escape.
13) Surprising survey results from Pew Research Center: Japan supportive of “immigration”

… and finally…
14) Pop Matters.com: Interview with Activist and Writer Debito Arudou on Foreigners’ Rights in Japan

JT: GOJ Cabinet approves new NJ worker visa categories. Small print: Don’t bring your families. Or try to escape.

JT: The Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would overhaul the nation’s immigration control law by introducing new visa categories for foreign workers, in an attempt to address the graying population and shrinking workforce. “Creating a new residence status to accept foreign workers is of utmost importance as the nation’s population declines and businesses suffer from lack of personnel,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference on the day.

Although details remain hazy, the new bill marks a departure from previous policy in allowing foreign individuals to work in blue-collar industries for a potentially indefinite amount of time if certain conditions, such as holding a valid employment contract, are met. Yet amid concerns over whether the nation has the infrastructure and environment to accommodate an inflow of foreign workers, the government has categorically denied that the overhaul will open the doors to immigrants. “We are not adopting a policy on people who will settle permanently in the country, or so-called immigrants,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Thursday. “The new system we are creating is based on the premise that the workers will work in sectors suffering labor shortages, for a limited time, in certain cases without bringing their families.”…

COMMENT: As the JT notes, the next wave of NJ temp labor has been officially approved by the Abe Cabinet. The new statuses mostly still have the caveat of being temp, unrooted labor (bringing over families is expressly verboten).  And you can qualify for something better if you manage to last, oh, ten years — around one-fifth of a person’s total productive working life.  Because, as the JT reported in a follow-up article days later, time spent working under these visa statuses in particular does NOT count towards their required “working period” when applying for Permanent Residency.

Another interesting part of this article is the bit about how many Indentured “Trainee” NJ workers had “gone missing” from their generally harsh modern-slavery working conditions (4,279) so far this year, and how it might even exceed last year’s record total of 7,089.  Anyway, with the news above, the GOJ looks set to invite in even more people, in even more work sectors, and with the regular “revolving-door” work status (i.e., not make immigrants out of them).  Some people have gotten wise to this practice and are staying away from Japan, but I bet many won’t.  Unless we let them know in venues like Debito.org.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 7, 2018

Table of Contents:
OLYMPICS ISSUES
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.
FIGHTING BACK
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”

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.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER AUGUST 23, 2017

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
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”
FAUX NEWS
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”
…and finally…
8 ) One more Bucket List item removed: Meeting Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran; here’s my playlist of non-chart album cuts

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 19, 2017

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.
MISC
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

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

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
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

Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions

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…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 31, 2015

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”

Arimura Haruko, Minister for the Empowerment of Women: Immigration is a “Pandora’s Box”, offers weird Team Abe arguments to justify

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.”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 3, 2014

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)

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)

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!)

My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014, with links to sources

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….

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 3, 2014

Table of Contents:
POSITIVE STEPS
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

NEGATIVE STEPS
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”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 12, 2011

Table of Contents:
EXCLUSIONISM AND RACIAL PROFILING
1) “Japanese Only” bar in Kobe, “Soul Bar”, Nishinomiya Yamanote Doori. Advertises the music of people they would no doubt exclude
2) Rpl on Police Gaijin Card Check in Chitose Airport yesterday — with cops refusing to identify themselves and even getting physical
3) Exclusionary pottery shop in Doguyasuji, Osaka, refuses service to non-Asian NJ
4) Yomiuri: Muslims file suit over National Police Agency antiterror investigations
5) Fukushima Japanese refused service at hotels etc., plus famous excluder/embezzler Toyoko Inn up to old tricks; requires guests unlawfully sign waivers just to stay
6) Tangent: Historical comparison between contemporary social attitudes justifying racial discrimination in Japan and pre-Civil-War slavery in America
7) Foreign Minister Maehara resigns due to donations from a “foreigner” (a Zainichi, that is)

INJUSTICE
8 ) NCN: Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”
9) GOJ says it will schedule joining Hague Convention on Child Abductions this month. Wowee. Why I doubt that’ll mean anything even if signed.
10) Chris Savoie wins US court award of $6.1 million against ex-wife for breach of contract, emotional distress, and false imprisonment of his children in Japan
11) Yomiuri: Govt eyes international human rights complaint framework, where domestic claimants can take their issue to the U.N.
12) AFP: Britain now supports Japan’s bid for UN Security Council seat: How eyeblinkingly blind of GOJ history re unfollowing international agreements.
13) Tangent: Kyodo: 2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison

… and finally …
14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column June 7, 2011: “‘English-speaking diaspora’ should unite, not backbite”

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 18, 2010

Table of Contents:

IMMIGRATION AND HEADS IN THE SAND
1) Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)
2) Economist.com special report on Japan: How it all comes back down to demographics
3) Economist.com podcast on costs and benefits of immigration
4) WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration
5) Japan Times Community Page on issues of dual citizenship: “Japan loses, rest of the world gains from ‘one citizenship fits all’ policy”
6) CNNGo.com: “Will there ever be a rainbow Japan?”
7) Tangent: LA Times: PRC Census also measures for ethnicity, unlike Japan’s Census

WORKPLACE ISSUES
8 ) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST SPECIAL: Speech by Neo Yamashita of EWA Osaka union on your contract labor rights
9) Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs
10) McNeill in Mainichi on how Japan Inc. needs to loosen up to women and NJ executives
11) Tangent: NHK: GOJ enshrining more rights for handicapped. Hope for same for NJ?

SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY
12) Japan Times: “Darling foreigner” Tony Laszlo is “less passionate today” about discrimination against foreigners
13) “Black Melon Pan” Afros as food: Insensitive marketing by Mini-Stop Konbini
14) YouTube video showing NPA Bicycle Instant Checkpoint supersedes attention to car accident
15) Yomiuri: ‘Leaked MPD data’ out as book / Documents published as is; names of police, NJ informants revealed

… and finally …
16) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE, Dec 7, 2010: “MOFA gets E for effort in ‘with or without U’ farce”

Latest numbers on Japan’s registered NJ population from MOJ (November 2010)

I gave two lectures a couple of weeks ago at Hokudai’s International Student Center on Japan’s multicultural future (a prognostication I find a bit weaker in recent years, what with the drop in NJ numbers in 2009 in all honesty, especially after the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe). So I went on a dig for the most recent GOJ stats on NJ residents, and think it appropriate for this weekend’s blog entry. Have a look. Six screen captures with commentary. For example:

COMMENT: Here we have the number of resident NJ by nationality. As of 2007, the Chinese residents overtook the Koreans (North and South and Zainichi) for the first time in history, and are significantly more numerous than before. Their numbers are not abating, whereas the Koreans and Brazilians are going down significantly. Up also are people from The Philippines. Peruvians and Americans down slightly, while people from “sono ta” other countries are increasing their percentage of the population by a few fractions of a percent every year. Vietnamese, Thais, Subcontinental Indians, and Nepalese are the most significant gainers in this categories, growing by more than 10,000 souls over the past decade.

COMMENT: Here we have registered NJ by Status of Residence again, showing us how the numbers have changed over time. Permanent Residents have increased significantly unabated, except that the Special PRs (Zainichis) keep dropping significantly, while the Regular (immigrants) keep increasing significantly both in number and percentage (8.4%) over 2009 (they crossed lines in 2007; there are now significantly more “Newcomer” immigrants than “Oldcomer” Zainichis). Meanwhile, the non-Permanents have dropped by nearly 5% over the past year. The largest drop percentages are the “Trainees” (generally Chinese working in factories, allegedly receiving training but often being used as slave laborers) by nearly a quarter, and the Long-Term Residents (Nikkei workers, again being offered bribes to go “home” and be somebody else’s unemployment statistic). Also significantly dropping are the “Entertainers” (often people working in the sex trades, again slavery except this time sexual), at 15.8% which to me is good news.

Mar 31 UN Rep Bustamante’s Full Press Release on Japan’s Human Rights Record

PRESS RELEASE MARCH 31, 2010: UN MIGRANTS RIGHTS EXPERT URGES JAPAN TO INCREASE PROTECTION OF MIGRANTS (excerpt)

TOKYO – The UN expert on migrants’ human rights on Wednesday praised Japan for some of the measures it has taken to alleviate the impact of the economic crisis on migrants, but, based on information provided by civil society, he noted that it is still facing a range of challenges, including racism and discrimination, exploitation, a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights and the overall lack of a comprehensive immigration policy that incorporates human rights protection…

The Special Rapporteur said, many challenges still need to be addressed by the Government in order to protect the human rights of migrants and their children. He listed some of the most important, along with some preliminary recommendations on how to improve the situation:

Audience reactions to documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES roadshow March 21-April 1

Some various and sundry thoughts on audience reactions to the excellent SOUR STRAWBERRIES documentary as we finish up the last screenings (thinking about another August-September tour, so book me if you’re interested), and consider what the movie may mean in the context of international labor migration. In sum, SOUR STRAWBERRIES may be a testiment to the last days of Japan’s internationalized industrial prowess, as people are being turfed out because no matter how many years and how much contribution, they don’t belong. Have to wait and see. But to me it’s clear the GOJ is still not getting beyond seeing NJ as work units as opposed to workers and people. Especially in these times of economic hardship. I’m seeing it for myself as the movie tours.

Japan Times 4th JUST BE CAUSE column on “Good Grass Roots” June 3 2008

GOOD NEWS FROM GRASS ROOTS
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 4
By Arudou Debito, Japan Times June 3, 2008
Reader Rodney in Vancouver recently emailed: “I’ve often found your articles informative and useful, but they tend to take a tone of complaint. Please tell us about some face-to-face, grassroots efforts that have helped make Japanese more considerate and respectful of those who are different.”

Thanks. Yes, my essays sound like “complaints” because I focus on ongoing issues that need redress. That doesn’t mean I don’t see the good news too. Here are 700 words to prove that…

US State Dept Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2007, Japan

Although the US is certainly no paragon of human rights worldwide (what with torture, renditions, abuses under SOFA, denial of Habeas Corpus to non-citizens, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the largest arms sales worldwide, to name but a few caveats under this administration), here is their annual report on human rights in Japan in full. For what it’s worth. Note how the situation of “Japanese Only” signs nationwide is no longer mentioned, like it was in previous reports. I guess the US State Department considers the situation resolved. I beg to differ.

Terrie’s Take 456 on Immigration’s looming crackdown on NJ residents

Terrie’s Take: “Over the last 2 years, there have been a number of legislatory submissions and trial PR balloons floated that indicate that the government is intending to significantly increase its control over foreigners living here. Given that many other countries also impose strict tracking and controls on foreign residents who are not migrants, this wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing providing that there was some upside offered such as by those other countries. In particular, Japan needs to make laws and apply the proper enforcement of UN human rights to foreign residents. Rights such as anti-discrimination, right to impartial justice, fair treatment of refugees, proper criminalization of human trafficking, and rights of children are all severely lacking. But these unfortunately don’t seem to be part of the agenda at this time.”

Yomiuri: GOJ to forbid employers from confiscating NJ passports

After much trouble with employers confiscating NJ worker passports (held as a Sword of Damocles to abuse workers), the GOJ is finally making it expressly illegal. About time–the passport is the property of the issuing government, and not something a foreign government (or another person) can impound indefinitely. The fact that it’s been used as a weapon to keep the foreign laborer in line for so long speaks volumes about the GOJ’s will to protect the imported laborer’s rights after he or she got here. Glad this is finally coming on the books. Now let’s hope it gets enforced.

Shuukan Kinyobi/J Times: Vietnamese worker lawsuit against JITCO & Toyota-related company

Hi Blog. Another lawsuit against an employer for bad work practices. This time around, however, the plaintiffs are NJ. Let’s hope their efforts both make the labor laws more clearly enforceable, and highlight more of the problems created by treating NJ laborers as inferior. Thanks to Shuukan Kin’youbi and people at the Japan Times for …

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DEC 13, 2006

1) JAPAN TIMES ERIC JOHNSTON MISQUOTED IN NEW BOOK ON IMPERIAL FAMILY
2) ANTHONY BIANCHI RUNNING FOR MAYOR OF INUYAMA, AICHI PREF
3) GOJ’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT AND ANTI-REFUGEE STANCE DRAWS FIRE FROM U.N.
4) TOKYO SHINBUN ON JAPAN’S FOREIGN SLAVE LABOR CONDITIONS
5) YOMIURI: FOREIGN WORKERS CANNOT WIRE MONEY HOME, WRITE LETTERS…
6) SENDAI CITY LOSES LAWSUIT OVER BUS ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION
7) ASAHI: COURT RULES JUKI NET UNCONSTITUTIONAL. HOWZABOUT GAIJIN CARDS?
8) GOJ NOW REQUIRES OVERSEAS “RAP SHEETS” FOR LONG-TERM VISAS
9) QUICK UPDATES TO PREVIOUS BLOG ENTRIES…
and finally… LOSING MY SUGAWARA ON MY KOSEKI

Yomiuri: Factory has foreign worker sign oath not to pray, fast, use cellphone, write letters, wire money home, ride in a car…

Hello Blog. Interesting article on how Japan’s factories’ abusive practices towards foreign “trainee” workers are coming to light. (I have another article on this subject on this blog at http://www.debito.org/?p=105) In this case, a Muslim trainee worker has had to sign a “seiyakusho” (a written oath, mildly translated in the article as merely a “note”) …